1728 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Ramsay

William Somervile, "To Allan Ramsay upon his publishing his second Volume of Poems" 1728 ca.; London Magazine 25 (December 1756) 605-06..



Hail, Caledonian bard! whose rural strains
Delight the list'ning hills, and chear the plains!
Already polish'd by some hand divine,
Thy purer ore what furnace can refine?
Careless of censure, like the sun, shine forth
In native lustre, and intrinsick worth.
To follow nature is by rules to write;
She led the way, and taught the Stagirite.
From her the critick's taste, the poet's fire:
Both drudge in vain, till she from Heav'n inspire.
By the same guide instructed how to soar,
Allan is now what Homer was before.

Ye chosen youths! who dare like him aspire,
And touch with bolder hand the golden lyre!
Keep nature still in view; on her intent,
Climb by her aid the dang'rous steep ascent
To lasting fame. Perhaps, a little art
Is needful, to plane o'er some rugged part;
But the most labour'd elegance and care,
T' arrive at full perfection must despair.
Alter, blot out, and write all o'er again,
Alas! some venial sins will yet remain.
Indulgence is to human frailty due,
Ev'n Pope has faults, and Addison a few;
But those, like mists that cloud the morning ray,
Are lost and vanish in the blaze of day.
Tho' some intruding pimple find a place
Amid the glories of Clarinda's face,
We still love on, with equal zeal adore,
Nor think her less a goddess than before.
Slight wounds in no disgraceful scars shall end,
Heal'd by the balm of some good-natur'd friend.
In vain shall canker'd Zoilus assail,
While Spence presides, and candor holds the scale.
His gen'rous breast, nor envy sours, nor spite,
Taught by his founder's motto how to write,
Good manners guides his pen. Learn'd without pride,
In dubious points not forward to decide.
If here and there uncommon beauties rise,
From flow'r to flow'r he roves with glad surprise.
In failings no malignant pleasure takes,
Nor rudely triumphs over small mistakes.
No nauseous praise, no biting taunts offend,
W' expect a censor, and we find a friend.
Poets, improv'd by his correcting care,
Shall face their foes with more undaunted air,
Strip'd of their rags shall I like Ulysses shine,
With more heroick port, and grace divine.
No pomp of learning, and no fund of sense,
Can e'er attone for lost benevolence.
May Wickham's sons, who in each art excel,
And rival antient bards in writing well,
While from their bright examples taught they sing,
And emulate their flights with bolder wing,
From their own frailties learn the humbler part,
Mildly to judge in gentleness of heart.

Such criticks (Ramsay) jealous for our fame,
Will not with malice insolently blame,
But lur'd by praise the haggard muse reclaim,
Retouch each line 'till all is just and neat,
A whole of proper parts, a work almost compleat.

So when some beauteous dame, a reigning toast,
The flow'r of Forth, and proud Edina's boast,
Stands at her toilet in her Tartan plaid,
In all her richest head-geer trimly clad,
The curious hand-maid, with observant eye,
Corrects the swelling hoop that hangs awry,
Thro' ev'ry plait her busy finders rove,
And now she plays below, and then above,
With pleasing tattle entertains the fair,
Each ribbon smooths, adjusts each rambling hair,
Till the gay nymph in her full lustre shine,
And Homer's Juno was not half so fine.