1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Ramsay

Hugh Blair, in Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1783) 2:351-53.



I must not omit the mention of another Pastoral Drama, which will bear being brought into comparison with any Composition of this kind, in any Language; that is, Allan Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd. It is a great disadvantage to this beautiful Poem, that it is written in the old rustic dialect of Scotland, which, in a short time, will probably be entirely obsolete, and not intelligible; and it is a farther disadvantage, that it is so entirely formed on the rural manners of Scotland, that none but a native of that country can throughly understand, or relish it. But, though subject to those local disadvantages, which I confine its reputation within narrow limits, it is full of so much natural description, and tender sentiment, as would do honour to any Poet. The characters are well drawn, the incidents affecting, the scenery and manners lively and just. It affords a strong proof, both of the power which nature and simplicity possess, to reach the heart in every sort of Writing; and of the variety of pleasing characters and subjects, with which Pastoral Poetry, when properly managed, is capable of being enlivened.