1758 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Ramsay

Anonymous, "To the Memory of Allan Ramsay" Scots Magazine 20 (January 1758) 20-21.



Hard by the grassy margin of a stream,
Where zephyrs play'd, to cool the sultry beam,
Shedding the odours, from their fanning wings,
Of ev'ry fragrance-breathing sweet that springs,
A shepherd lay, stretch'd on the verdant ground,
With rows of lofty elms encompass'd round;
Whose leafy umbrage, mantling as it grew,
Hid the clear azure concave from the view.
Pure was his bosom as the stream that flow'd,
Or eastern gale that o'er its surface blow'd;
His temper softer than the op'ning flow'r,
That spreads its folds to catch the evening show'r;
Pleas'd and contented with his humble lot,
His thoughts ne'er soar'd above the crook and cot;
The rosy glow that stain'd his cheek, outvy'd
The tulip's blush, by nature's pencil dy'd;
While the fleet hours, on pinions made of down,
(Unenvy'd all the glories of a crown),
Stole sweetly silent unperceiv'd away;
Which oft for him seem'd to prolong their stay.
Here would he gently swell the mellow reed,
Bathe in the flood, or view his lambkins feed;
Make ev'ry echo vocal with his song,
Or gently trip th' enamell'd vale along;
Select the finest flow'rets from the rest,
To grace some rural fair-one's snowy breast.
Or when Aurora, on the spangl'd ground,
Scatters the orient pearl all around;
Or when the sun, from fields of azure blue,
Bids, with a blush, the wond'ring world adieu;
Oft would he pore upon some fav'rite brook,
With smiles of chearful joy in every look;
But chiefly such, where mirth and wit conspire
To raise the laugh, warm'd by the Muse's fire:
Where innocence, where artless nature shines,
And simple elegance adorns the lines;
No empty awkward pageantry of phrase;
Just, RAMSAY, such as thy mellifluous lays!
Where Love and Music court the list'ning ear,
And ev'ry gentle lenitive for care;
Where equal sweetness, equal softness dwell,
As in those objects you describe so well!
Not the pure honey from the waxen dome,
Sipt by the bees as thro' the fields they roam;
Not the mild whispers of the southern breeze,
While in it plaints steals thro' the sighing trees;
Not the melodious accents of the grove,
Where linnets, nightingales, and blackbirds rove;
Not the clear stream, which from the rock distils,
With murm'ring cadence, trickling down in rills;
Not all the heighten'd beauties of the year;
With more attractive genuine charms appear!

Above the rest, the GENTLE SHEPHERD charm'd,
That matchless piece! by real genius form'd,
To move the tend'rest feelings of the heart,
By simple nature's unaffected art.
Each conscious thought a secret rapture felt,
And oft to softness all his soul would melt:
When PATIE and when PEGGY met to woo,
So strong the paint, they seem'd confess'd to view;
Each ruling eye, on one another turn'd,
Reveal'd the fires that in their bosoms burn'd;
Seem'd to describe, what language tries in vain,
Their inward transports — and their inward pain.

Oft to some oak would he his speech address,
In equal warmth his passion to express;
(Such pow'r have fine descriptions on the mind,
And such in ev'ry page of it we find),
And still as oft as breezes fann'd the leaves,
Fondly concludes an answer he receives;
Till conquer'd by imaginary charms,
About the trunk he clasps his eager arms,
And, ere his eyes the strange mistake can see,
Imprints keen kisses on the lifeless tree.

Once, as he sat beneath an aged thorn,
Bright with the dewy globules of the morn;
Gazing with rapture on the eastern sky,
Ruddy all o'er with crimson's deepest dye;
Or list'ning to the blackbird's varying lay,
Or tuneful thrush, perch'd on the flow'ry spray;
While solemn stillness hush'd the silent world,
Save where a murm'ring riv'let gently purl'd;
A sudden change attracts his wond'ring eye,
Thick clouds extending o'er the smiling sky;
Unusual gloom and sadness all around,
Where ev'ry scene of joy before was found;
Soft soothing Music's sweetly warbled strain
Charming no more, and glad'ning all the plain.

While strange surmises all his mind profess,
And various reasons offer to his guess;
A swain he spies, dissolv'd in floods of grief,
With rueful look despairing of relief;
Lively concern sat pictur'd in his face,
Which conquer'd ev'ry gay and sprightly grace;
And as his view took in the landscape round,
Increas'd the more his sorrow still was found.
Touch'd with the melting sympathy of woe,
Yet apprehensive, and afraid to know,
Near him with trembling steps the shepherd draws,
Anxious to know the melancholy cause.
But all the answer his vast grief affords,
(For genuine sorrow is too great for words),
These mournful, these pathetic words exprest,
RAMSAY IS DEAD! — his silence told the rest.