« 上一頁繼續 »
speculation (having suffered what the Scotch law denominated a “ damnum sine injuria,”) but he was assailed with libels on his moral character, for having endeavoured to introduce the “hell-bred playhouse comedians.”
He spent some of the last years of his life in a house of whimsical construction, on the north side of the Castle hill of Edinburgh, where the place of his residence is still distinguished by the name of Ramsay garden.
A scurvy in his gums put a period to his life in his seventy-second year. He died at Edinburgh, and was interred in the Grey Friars church-yard. Ramsay was small in stature, with dark but expressive and pleasant features. He seems to have pos. sessed the constitutional philosophy of good humour. His genius gave him access to the society of those who were most distinguished for rank and talents in his native country, but his intercourse with them was marked by no servility, and never seduced him from the quiet attention to trade by which he ultimately secured a moderate independence. His vanity in speaking of himself is often excessive, but it is always gay and goodnatured. On one occasion he modestly takes precedence of Peter the Great, in estimating their comparative importance with the public.-"But ha'd', proud Czar (he says) I wad na niffer? fame.” Much of his poetry breathes the subdued aspirations of Jacobitism. He was one of i Hold.
those Scotsmen who for a long time would not extend their patriotism to the empire in which their country was merged, and who hated the cause of the Whigs in Scotland, from remembering its ancient connexion with the leaven of fanaticism. The Tory cause had also found its way to their enthusiasm by being associated with the pathos and romance of the lost independence of their country. The business of Darien was still “ alta mente repostum.” Fletcher's eloquence on the subject of the Union was not forgotten, nor that of Belhaven, who had apostrophised the Genius of Caledonia in the last meeting of her senate, and who died of grief at the supposed degradation of his country. Visionary as the idea of Scotland's independence as a kingdom might be, we must most of all excuse it in a poet whose fancy was expressed, and whose reputation was bound up, in a dialect from which the Union took away the last chance of perpetuity.
Our poet's miscellaneous pieces, though some of them are very ingenious', are upon the whole of a much coarser grain than his pastoral drama. The admirers of the Gentle Shepherd must perhaps be contented to share some suspicion of national partiality, while they do justice to their own feeling of its merit. Yet as this drama is a picture of rustic Scotland, it would
Particularly the tale of the Monk and the Millar's Wife. This story is, unhappily, unfit for a popular collection like the present, but it is well told. It is borrowed from an old poem attributed to Dunbar.
perhaps be saying little for its fidelity, if it yielded no more agreeableness to the breast of a native than he could expound to a stranger by the strict letter of criticism. We should think the painter had finished the likeness of a mother very indifferently, if it did not bring home to her children traits of undefinable expression which had escaped every eye but that of familiar affection. Ramsay had not the force of Burns, but, neither, in just proportion to his merits, is he likely to be felt by an English reader. The fire of Burns's wit and passion glows through an obscure dialect by its confinement to short and concentrated bursts. The interest which Ramsay excites is spread over a long poem, delineating manners more than passions, and the mind must be at home both in the language and manners, to appreciate the skill and comic archness with which he has heightened the display of rustic character without giving it vulgarity, and refined the view of peasant life by situations of sweetness and tenderness, without departing in the least degree from its simplicity. The Gentle Shepherd stands quite apart from the general pastoral poetry of modern Europe. It has no satyrs, nor featureless simpletons, nor drowsy and still landscapes of nature, but distinct characters and amusing incidents. The principal shepherd never speaks out of consistency with the habits of a peasant, but he moves in that sphere with such a manly spirit, with so much cheerful sensibility to its humble joys, with maxims of life so rational and independent, and with an ascendancy over his fellow swains so well maintained by his force of character, that if we could suppose the pacific scenes of the draina to be suddenly changed into situations of trouble and danger, we should, in exact consistency with our former idea of him, expect him to become the leader of the peasants, and the Tell of his native hamlet. Nor is the character of his mistress less beautifully conceived. She is represented, like him. self, as elevated, by a fortunate discovery, from obscure to opulent life, yet as equally capable of being the ornament of either. A Richardson or a D'Arblay, had they continued her history, might have heightened the portrait, but they would not have altered its outline. Like the poetry of Tasso and Ariosto, that of the Gentle Shepherd is engraven on the memory of its native country. Its verses have passed into proverbs, and it continues to be the delight and solace of the peasantry whom it describes.
FROM THE GENTLE SHEPHERD.
ACT I. SCENE II.
A flowrie howm1 between twa verdant braes,
1 The level low ground on the banks of a stream.-- Clothes.
Here yiew twa barefoot beauties clean and clear;
PEGGY and JENNY.
Jenny. Come, Meg, let 's fa to wark upon this
Peggy. Gae farer up the burn to Habbie's How,
say, Giff our twa herds come brattling down the brae, And see us sae ?-that jeering fellow, Pate, Wad taunting say, “ Haith, lasses, ye're no blates."
Peggy. We're far frae ony road, and out of sight; The lads they're feeding far beyont the hight; But tell me now, dear Jenny, we're our lane, What gars ye plague your wooer with disdain ?
· Sky.-- A pool beneath a waterfall. Modest.