1776 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Ramsay

James Beattie, in Essays (1776) 434.



There are many good strokes of nature in Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd; but the author's passion for the Rus verum betrays him into some indelicacies: — a censure that falls with greater weight upon Theocritus, who is often absolutely indecent.... The language of this [Ramsay's] poem has been blamed, on account of its vulgarity. The Scotch dialect is sufficiently rustic, even in its most improved state: but in the Gentle Shepherd it is often debased by a phraseology not to be met with, except among the most illiterate people. Writers on pastoral have not always been careful to distinguish between coarseness and simplicity; and yet a plain suit of clothes and a bundle of rags are not more different.