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In Scotland, in those early days, the science of literature was in its infancy. So late as 1706, there was published at Edinburgh, by James Watson, the first portion of a collection of ancient poetry, entitled "Comic and Serious Scots Poems." A second followed three years later, and a third, published in in 1710, completed the work. About this period, Scottish music was introduced to, and became very popular with the upper classes of society in the sister kingdom; and Scotch airs were sung at all the chief places of public amusement in London, and other English cities.

That a highly intellectual, sensitive, and poetic people may be prostrated by a continued course of tyranny and persecution is strikingly exemplified by the literary history of Scotland under the reigns of Charles the First and Charles the Second. During that period nothing of permanent value in poetic literature can be named from the days of Drummond of Hawthornden to the rise of James Thomson; while in the sister country the reverse holds good.

Poesy had somewhat waned, through the growing obsoleteness of the elder poets, by the time its restorer appeared in the person of the Scottish Theocritus-Allan Ramsay, the acknowledged leader of modern Scottish poets, who, until the days of Burns, was the most distinguished name in the long list the lyrical muse of the country has produced.

Allan was born towards the end of 1686 in the village of Leadhills, an obscure hamlet on the banks of Glengoner, in Lanarkshire, and had the misfortune to lose his father while yet an infant. Soon after, his mother married a small land-holder in the same county. The boy was sent to the village school, where he was allowed to remain until he could read Horace "faintly in the original." At his mother's death, in 1700, when the lad was but


fifteen, the step-father resolved to place him somewhat on his own resources. With this in view, he brought Allan to Edinburgh, where he apprenticed to a wig-maker, and continued at the trade several years after the term agreed on had expired.

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The earliest of his poetical productions now traceable is one addressed, in 1712, "To the Most Happy Members of the Easy Club," of which he was appointed poet-laureate three years later. The genius, and felicitous expression exhibited by King James the First in his poem Christ's Kirk on the Green," seems to have early touched the sympathetic chords of Allan's poetic temperament, for, in 1716, he published an edition of that poem, with a second canto by himself, to which he added a third two years later.

Near the North Bridge, on the way to "John Knox's house," on the left, stand the remains of the house long occupied by Ramsay, its two upper storeys having been removed about forty years ago. Here, "at the sign of the Mercury," he lived and laboured as author, printer, editor, and publisherfrequently issuing his poems singly, in sheets or half-sheets. In these forms they enjoyed much favour, and had a ready sale at the price of one penny each-the worthy citizens sending their children for "Allan Ramsay's last piece." He continued to reside there till 1725.

In 1724 appeared the first volume of "The TeaTable Miscellany," a collection of choice songs and melodies of his country. The second and third appeared in 1727, after he had removed his business to the Luckenbooths* (long since demolished), the fourth and last being published subsequent to 1733.

* Booths or shops formed by enclosing the open arcaded spaces where business was transacted, leaving only windows and doors such as are now in use.

In the preface to this work, Ramsay states that a number of the songs were partly written by himself,. and partly "done by some ingenious young gentlemen who were so pleased by his undertaking that they generously lent him their assistance." Of these, four can be distinctly named-Robert Crawford, William Hamilton of Gilbertfield, William Hamilton of Bangour, and David Mallet. The first was a cadet of the family of Drumsoy, and wrote several songs popular in their day; the second was Ramsay's senior as a poet, whose effusions roused the ambition of his more favoured brother; the third came of an ancient family in Ayrshire, who received a classical education, early developing a taste for poetry, in which he ultimately excelled. The fourth and last was a native of Perthshire, studied at the University of Edinburgh,. attached himself to literature, developed a taste for poetry, and became a friend of Ramsay, to whom he addressed an epistle on Mallet's departure to London, where he enjoyed the friendship of his distinguished countryman, James Thomson, author of "The Seasons."

The Tea-Table Miscellany" became very popular,. and passed through no less than twelve editions within a few years. This was followed by two volumes in the same field, entitled "The Ever-Green: being a Collection of Scots Poems, wrote by the Ingenious before 1600." In these six volumes Ramsay did much more than simply preserve many of the older songs and ballads; he improved both by numerous masterly touches of his own; he enriched Scottish literature by original compositions of great beauty and pathos, abounding with characteristic tenderness, and no lesscharacteristic humour. His greatest work is "The Gentle Shepherd," a pastoral drama of the loves and lives of the Scottish peasantry in the early portion of

the last century. The "Gentle Shepherd" is acknowledged to be the best of his poems, and able critics have not hesitated to pronounce it the finest pastoral drama in the English language. It is characterised by an air of primitive simplicity, and child-like tenderness and beauty of expression, and is inimitable as the best lengthy example we have of every-day folk-speech, and is a most expressive example of Our classic doric. Its landscapes are peopled with beings who, in their naturalness, carry us along with them in their several positions, situations, and circumstances. Whether we consider the elegant simplicity of the style, the ease and unaffected humour of the dialogue, the lovely scenes which it delineates, the enchanting pastoral poetry which it contains, or the pure morality it inculcates, it hardly has a fellow. Thus he not only produced an inimitable pastoral, interspersed with tender and beautiful lyrics, but he adapted these to the old tunes, familiar and well-known by all classes. On its first appearance, in 1725, it was hailed with great enthusiasm, and, passing rapidly through various editions, was welcomed by lovers of poetry and song, from the Peer to the cottager. Ramsay instinctively felt it was essential that his thoughts and feelings should receive rhythmic utterance, and in such a manner as to be incapable of being written more fully and precisely in any other way. That this gift was largely possessed by him is clear from a careful perusal of his poems, which were the harbinger of that brighter day issuing in the meridian splendour of Burns, Scott, and other favoured sons of song.

Ramsay's genius in interpreting the charming and harmonious voices of nature and humanity is excelled only by his great successor, Robert Burns, who was so enamoured with "The Gentle Shepherd" that he pronounced it "the most glorious poem ever written."

Campbell, too, made it his companion, and wrote"the verses of this inimitable pastoral had passed into proverbs, and is still the delight and solace of the peasantry whom it describes, and is engraven on the memory of his native country." Wilson, of Christopher North celebrity, wrote " though Theocritus was a pleasant pastoral, and Sicilia sees him among the stars, yet all these dear idyls together are not equal in worth to the single "Gentle Shepherd."

By general, nay, universal consent, its merits are of a high order, and will carry its author's name honourably through the centuries that follow. Poetry addressed to all, and fully and freely enjoyed and appreciated, must be animated by the spirit that breathes around.

It must, however, be noted, that Ramsay did not scruple to alter and remould many of the older pieces, without giving the originals side by side, and took no pains to apprise his readers of the extent to which he carried these alterations and emendations. But while this is so, it must not be forgotten that his own contributions to the stock of Scottish song paved the way for subsequent achievements in the art. In the "Tea-Table Miscellany" he laid the foundation, on a firm basis, of all future collections of Scottish song, and so roused the national spirit as to impart a fresh impetus in that direction. It is agreed on all hands that our National Lyre was permanetly enriched by his genius. At this period in the history of the Scottish Lyra, few, if any, had shewn such mastery over rhyme, or greater command of the melody of verse than Ramsay.

This cursory sketch of some of the leading Scottish Poets and their productions demands a passing reference to the poetic and musical creations

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