1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Ross

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 2:125-26.



ALEXANDER ROSS, a schoolmaster in Lochlee, in Angus, when nearly seventy years of age, in 1765 published at Aberdeen, by the advice of Dr. Beattie, a volume entitled Helenore, or the Fortunate Shepherdess, a Pastoral Tale in the Scottish Dialect, to which are added a few Songs by the Author. Ross was a good descriptive poet, and some of his songs — as "Woo'd, and Married, and a'," "The Rock and the Wee Pickle Tow" — are still popular in Scotland. Being chiefly written in the Kincardineshire dialect (which differs in many expressions, and in pronunciation, from the Lowland Scotch of Burns), Ross is less known out of his native district than he ought to be. Beattie took a warm interest in the "good humoured, social, happy old man" — who was independent on £20 a-year — and to promote the sale of his volume, he addressed a letter and a poetical epistle in praise of it to the Aberdeen Journal. The epistle is remarkable as Beattie's only attempt in Aberdeenshire Scotch; one verse of it is equal to Burns:—

O bonny are our greensward hows,
Where through the birks the burnie rows,
And the bee hums, and the ox lows,
And saft winds rustle,
And shepherd lads on sunny knowes
Blaw the blythe whistle.

Ross died in 1784, at the great age of eighty-six.