1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Arbuckle

Allan Ramsay, "An Epistle to James Arbuckle of Belfast, A.M." 1719; Ramsay, Poems (1720) 317-24.



Edinburgh, Jan. 1719.
As Errant Knight with Sword and Pistol,
Bestrides his Steed with mighty Fistle;
Then stands some Time in jumbled Swither
To ride in this Road or that ither;
At last spurs on, and disna care for
A how, a what Way, or a wherefore.

Or like extemporary Quaker,
Wafting his Lungs, t' enlighten weaker
Lanthorns of Clay, where Light is wanting,
With formless Phrase, and formal Canting;
While Jacob Behmen's Salt does season,
And saves his Thought frae corrupt Reason,
Gowling aloud with Motions queerest,
Yerking these Words out which ly nearest.

Thus I (no longer to illustrate
With Similies, lest I should frustrate
Design Laconick of a Letter,
With Heap of Language and no Matter,)
Bang'd up my blyth auld-fashion'd Whistle,
To sowf ye o'er a short Epistle,
Without Rule, Compasses, or Charcoal,
Or serious Study in a dark Hole.
Three Times I ga'e the Muse a Rug,
Then bate my Nails and claw'd my Lug;
Still heavy, at the last my Nose
I prim'd with an inspiring Dose,
Then did the Ideas dance, (dear safe us!)
As they'd been daft. — Here ends the Preface.

Good Mr. James Arbuckle, Sir,
(That's Merchant's Stile, as clean as Fir)
Ye're welcome back to Caledonie,
Lang Life and thriving light upon ye,
Harvest, Winter, Spring and Summer,
And ay keep up your heartsome Humor,
That ye may thro' your lucky Task go,
Of brushing up our Sister Glasgow;
Where Lads are dextrous at improving,
And docile Lasses fair and loving:
But never tent these Fellows Girning,
Wha wear their Faces ay in Mourning,
And frae pure Dullness are malicious,
Terming ilk Turn that's witty, vicious.

Now, Jamie, in neist Place, Secundo,
To give you what's your Due in mundo;
That is to say in hame o'er Phrases,
To tell ye, Men of Mettle praises
Ilk Verse of yours when they can light on't,
And trouth I think they're in the right on't;
For there's ay something sae auldfarran,
Sae slid, sae unconstrain'd and darrin,
In ilka Sample we have seen yet,
That little better e'er has been yet.
Sae much for that. — My Friend Arbuckle,
I ne'er afore roos'd ane sae muckle.
Fause Flat'ry nane but Fools will tickle,
That gars me hate it like auld Nicol:
But when ane's of his Merit conscious,
He's in the wrang, when prais'd, that glunshes.

Thirdly, Not tether'd to Connection,
But rattling by inspir'd Direction,
When ever Fame, with Voice like Thunder,
Sets up a Chield a Warld's Wonder,
Either for slashing Fowk to dead,
Or having Wind-mills in his Head,
Or Poet, or an airy Beau,
Or ony twa Leg'd Rary-show,
They wha have never seen't are bissy
To speer what like a Carlie is he.

Imprimis then, for Tallness I
Am five Foot and four Inches high:
A Black-a-vic'd snod dapper Fallow,
Nor lean, nor overlaid wi' Tallow.
With Phiz of a Morocco Cut,
Resembling a late Man of Wit,
Auld-gabbet Spec, wha was sae Cunning
To be a Dummie ten Years running.

Then for the Fabrick of my Mind,
'Tis mair to Mirth than Grief inclin'd.
I rather choose to laugh at Folly,
Than show Dislike by Melancholy;
Well judging a sowr heavy Face
Is not the truest Mark of Grace.

I hate a Drunkard or a Glutton,
Yet am nae Fae to Wine and Mutton.
Great Tables ne'er engag'd my Wishes,
When crowded with o'er mony Dishes,
A healthfu' Stomach sharply set
Prefers a Back-sey pipin het.

I never cou'd imagin't vicious
Of a fair Fame to be ambitious:
Proud to be thought a comick Poet,
And let a Judge of Numbers know it,
I court Occasion thus to show it.

Second of thirdly, — pray take heed,
Ye's get a short Swatch of my Creed.
To follow Method negatively
Ye ken takes Place of positively.
Well then, I'm nowther Whig nor Tory,
Nor Credit give to Purgatory.
Transub, Loretta-house, and mae Tricks,
As Prayers to Saints, Katties, and Patricks;
Nor Asgilite, nor Bess Clarksonian,
Nor Mountaineer nor Mugletonian;
Nor can believe, ant's nae great Ferly,
In Cotmoor Fowk, and Andrew Harley.

Neist Anti-Tolland, Blunt and Wh—
Know positively I'm a Christian,
Believing Truths and thinking free,
Wishing thrawn Parties wad agree.

Say, wad ye ken my gate of Fending,
My Income, Management, and Spending?
Born to nae Lairdship, mair's the Pity!
Yet Denison of this fair City.
I make what honest Shift I can,
And in my ain House am Good-man,
Which stands on Edinburgh's Street the Sun-side,
Where I theek th' out, and line the Inside
Of mony a douse and witty Pash,
And baith Ways gather in the Cash;
Thus heartily I graze and beau it,
And keep a Wife ay great wi' Poet.
Contented I have sic a Skair,
As does my Business to a Hair,
And fain wa'd prove to ilka Scot
That Poortith's no the Poet's Lot.

Fourthly and lastly baith togither,
Pray let us ken when ye come hither;
There's mony a canty Carle and me
Wa'd be much comforted to see ye.
But if your outward be Refractory,
Send us your inward Manufactory.
That when we're kedgy o'er our Claret,
We correspond may with your Spirit.

Accept of my kind Wishes, with
The same to Dons Buttler and Smith;
Health Wit and Joy, Sauls large and free,
Be a' your Fates, — sae GOD be wi' ye.