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of the Legislature (in 1579), classed with rogues and vagabonds, and attempted to be suppressed. Knox and his disciples influenced the Scottish Parliament, but contended in vain with her rural muse. Amidst our Arcadian vales, probably on the banks of the Tweed, or some of its tributary streams, one more original geniuses may have arisen who were destined to give a new turn to the tastes of their countrymen. They would see that the events and pursuits which chequer private life were the proper subjects for popular poetry. Love, which had formerly held a divided sway with glory and ambition, became now the master passion of the soul. To portray in lively and delicate colours, though with a hasty hand, the hopes and fears which agitate the breast of the lovesick swain or forlorn maiden, affords ample scope to the rural poet. Love songs, of which Tibullus himself would not have been ashamed, might be composed by an uneducated rustic with a slight tincture of letters; or if in these songs the character of the rustic be sometimes assumed, the truth of character and the language of nature are preserved. With unaffected simplicity and tenderness topics are urged most likely to soften the heart of a cruel and coy mistress, or to regain a fickle lover. Even in such as are of a melancholy cast a ray of hope breaks through and dispels the deep and settled gloom which characterises the sweetest of the Highland luenings or vocal airs. Nor are these songs all plaintive; many of them are lively and humorous, and some appear to us coarse and

indelicate. They seem, however, genuine descriptions of the manners of an energetic and sequestered people in their hours of mirth and festivity, though in their portraits some objects are brought into open view which more fastidious painters would have thrown into shade.

“As those rural poets sung for amusement, not for gain, their effusions seldom exceeded a love song or a ballad of satire or humour, which, like the works of the elder minstrels were seldom committed to writing, but treasured up in the memory of their friends and neighbours.

Neither known to the learned nor patronised by the great, these rustic bards lived and died in obscurity; and by a strange fatality, their story, and even their very names, have been forgotten.* When proper models for pastoral songs were produced, there would be no want of imitators. To succeed in this species of composition, soundness of understanding and sensibility of heart were more requisite than flights of imagination or pomp of numbers. Great changes have certainly taken place in Scottish songwriting, though we cannot trace the steps of this change; and few of the pieces admired in Queen Mary's time are now to be discovered in modern collections. It is possible, though not probable, that the music may have remained nearly the same, though the words to the tunes were entirely new modelled." +

These conjectures are highly ingenious. It cannot, however, be presumed that the state of ease and tranquillity described by Mr. Ramsay took place among the Scottish peasantry immediately on the union of the crowns, or, indeed, during the greater part of the seventeenth century. The Scottish nation, through all its ranks, was deeply agitated by the civil wars and the religious persecutions which succeeded each other in that disastrous period; it was not till after the Revolution in 1688, and the subsequent establishment of their beloved form of church government, that the peasantry of the Lowlands enjoyed comparative repose; and it is since that period that a great number of the most admired Scottish songs have been produced, though the tunes to which they are sung are in general of much greater antiquity. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the peace and security derived from the Revolution and the Union produced a favourable change on the rustic poetry of Scotland; and it can scarcely be doubted that the institution of parish schools in 1696, by which a certain degree of instruction was diffused universally among the peasantry, contributed to this happy effect.

* In the Pepys Collection there are a few Scottish songs of the last century, but the names of the authors are not preserved.

+ Extract of a letter from Mr. Ramsay of Ochtertyre to the Editor, Sept. 11, 1799. In the Bee, vol. ii., is a communication to Mr. Ramsay, under the signature of J. Runcole, which enters into this subject somewhat more at large. In that paper he gives his reasons for questioning the antiquity of many of the most celebrated Scottish songs.

Soon after this appeared Allan Ramsay, the Scottish Theocritus. He was born on the high mountains that divide Clydesdale and Annandale, in a small hamlet by the banks of Glengonar, a stream which descends into the Clyde. The ruins of this hamlet are still shown to the inquiring traveller.* He was the son of a peasant, and probably received such instruction as his parish school bestowed, and the poverty of his parents admitted. Ramsay made his appearance in Edinburgh in the beginning of the present century in the humble character of an apprentice to a barber or peruke maker; he was then fourteen or fifteen years of age. By degrees he acquired notice for his social disposition, and his talents for the composition of verses in the Scottish idiom; and, changing his profession for that of a bookseller, he became intimate with many of the literary, as well as of the gay and fashionable characters of his time. Having pub

I lished a volume of poems of his own in 1721, which was favourably received, he undertook to make a collection of ancient Scottish poems, under the title of the Ever Green, and was afterwards encouraged to present to the world a collection of Scottish songs.

* From what sources he procured them,” says Mr. Ramsay of Ochtertyre, “whether from traditions or manuscript, is uncertain. As in the Ever Green he made some rash attempts to improve on


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See Campbell's History of Poetry in Scotland, p. 185. + The father of Ramsay was, it is said, a workman in the lead mines of the Earl of Hopetoun at Leadhills. The workmen in those mines at present are of a very superior character to miners in general. They have only six hours of labour in the day, and have time for reading. They have a common library, supported by contribution, containing several thousand volumes.

When this was instituted I have not learnt. These miners are said to be of a very sober and moral character. Allan Ramsay, when very young, is supposed to have been a washer of ore in these mines.

I“ He was coeval with Joseph Mitchell, and his club of small wits, who, about 1719, published a very poor miscellany, to which Dr. Young, the author of the Night Thoughts, prefixed a copy of verses." _Extract of letter from Mr. Ramsay of Ochtertyre to the Editor.


the originals of his ancient poems, he probably used still greater freedom with the songs and the ballads. The truth cannot, however, be known on this point till manuscripts of the songs printed by him, more ancient than the present century, shall be produced; or access be obtained to his own papers if they are still in existence. To several tunes which either wanted words or had words that were improper or imperfect, he, or his friends, adapted words worthy of the melodies they accompanied, worthy, indeed, of the golden age.

These verses were perfectly intelligible to every rustic, yet justly admired by persons of taste, who regarded them as the genuine offspring of the pastoral muse. In some respects Ramsay had advantages not possessed by poets writing in the Scottish dialect in our days. Songs in the dialect of Cumberland or Lancashire could never be popular, because these dialects have never been spoken by persons of fashion. But till the middle of the present century every Scotsman, from the peer to the peasant, spoke a truly Doric language. It is true the English moralists and poets were by this time read by every person of condition, and considered as the standards for polite composition. But, as natural prejudices were still strong, the busy, the learned, the gay, and the fair continued to speak their native dialect, and that with an elegance and poignancy of which Scotsmen of the present day can have no just notion. I am old enough to have conversed with Mr. Spittal of Leuchat, a scholar and a man of fashion, who survived all the members of the Union Parliament, in which he had a seat. His pronunciation and phraseology differed as much from the common dialect as the language of St. James' from that of Thames Street. Had we retained a Court and Parliament of our own, the tongues of the two sister kingdoms would, indeed, have differed like the Castilian and Portuguese; but each would have had its own classics, not in a single branch, but in the whole circle of literature.

“Ramsay associated with the men of wit and fashion of his day, and several of them attempted to write poetry



in his manner. Persons too idle or too dissipated to think of compositions that required much exertion succeeded very happily in making tender sonnets to favourite tunes in compliment to their mistresses, and, transforming themselves into impassioned shepherds, caught the language of the characters they assumed. Thus, about the year 1731, Robert Crawford of Auchinames wrote the modern song of Tweed Side,* which has been so much admired. In 1743, Sir Gilbert Elliot, the first of our lawyers who both spoke and wrote English elegantly, composed, in the character of a love-sick swain, a beautiful song, beginning, My sheep I neglected, I lost my sheep-hook, on the marriage of his mistress, Miss Forbes, with Ronald Crawford. And about twelve years afterwards the sister of Sir Gilbert wrote the ancient words to the tune of the Flowers of the Forest,t and supposed to allude to the battle of Flowden. In spite of the double rhyme, it is a sweet and, though in some parts allegorical, a natural expression of natural

The more modern words to the same tune beginning, I have seen the smiling of fortune beguiling, were written long before by Mrs. Cockburn, a woman of great wit, who outlived all the first group of literati of the present century, all of whom were very fond of her. I was delighted with her company, though, when I saw her, she was very old. Much did she know that is now lost.”

In addition to these instances of Scottish songs produced in the earlier part of the present century may be mentioned the ballad of Hardiknute by Lady Wardlaw; the ballad of William and Margaret; and the song entitled The Birks of Endermay, by Mallet; the love song beginning, For ever, Fortune, wilt thou prove, produced by the youthful muse of Thomson ; and the exquisite pathetic ballad, The Braes of Yarrow, by Hamilton of Bangour. On the revival of letters in Scotland, subsequent to the Union, a very general taste seems to have prevailed for the national songs and music. “For many years," says Mr. Ramsay, “the singing of songs was the great delight of



Beginning—“What beauties does Flora disclose ? " † Beginning—“I have heard a lilting at our ewes milking.”

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