1794 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Ramsay

Joseph Ritson, in Scotish Songs (1794); Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 3:409.



Ramsay was a man of strong natural parts, and a fine poetical genius, of which his celebrated pastoral, The Gentle Shepherd, will ever retain a substantial monument; and though some of his songs may be deformed by far-fetched allusions and pitiful conceits, The Lass of Peattie's Mill, The Yellow-Hair'd Laddie, Fairwell to Lochaber, and some others, must be allowed equal to any, and even superior, in point of pastoral simplicity, to most lyric productions, either in the Scotish or any other language. As an editor, he is, perhaps, reprehensible, not only on account of the liberties he appears to have taken with many of the earlier pieces he published, in printing them with additions, which one is unable to distinguish, but also for preferring songs written by himself, or the "ingenious young gentlemen" who assisted him, to ancient and original words, which would, in many cases, all circumstances considered, have been probably superior, or, at least, much more curious, and which are now irretrievable. In short, Ramsay would seem to have had too high an opinion of his own poetry, to be a diligent or faithful publisher of any other person's.