1725 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Ramsay

William Hamilton of Bangour, "The the Countess of Eglintoun, with The Gentle Shepherd" 1725; Poems and Songs, ed. Paterson (1850)12-15.



Accept, O Eglintoun! the rural lays,
Thine be the friend's, and thine the Poet's praise.
The Muse, that oft has rais'd her tuneful strains,
A frequent guest on Scotia's blessful plains,
That oft has sung, her list'ning youth to move,
The charms of Beauty, and the force of Love,
Once more resumes the still successful lay,
Delighted thro' the verdant meads to stray:
O come, invok'd, and pleas'd, with her repair,
To breathe the balmy sweets of purer air;
In the cool evening negligently laid,
Or near the stream, or in the rural shade,
Propitious hear, and, as then hear'st, approve
The GENTLE SHEPHERD'S tender tale of love.

Learn from these scenes what warm and glowing fires
Inflame the heart that real love inspires,
Delighted read of ardours, sighs and tears;
All that a lover hopes, and all he fears:
Hence, too, what passions in his bosom rise,
What dawning gladness sparkles in his eyes,
When first the fair is bounteous to relent,
And blushing beauteous, smiles the kind consent.
Love's passion here in each extreme is shown,
In Charlotte's settle, or in Maria's frown.

With words like these, that fail'd not to engage,
Love courted Beauty in a golden age,
Pure and untaught, such nature first inspir'd,
Ere yet the fair affected phrase admir'd.
His secret thoughts were undisguis'd with art,
His words ne'er knew to differ from his heart.
He speaks his loves so artless and sincere,
As thy Eliza might be pleas'd to hear.

Heaven only to the rural state bestows
Conquest o'er life, and freedom from its woes;
Secure alike from envy, and from care,
Nor rais'd by hope, nor yet depress'd my fear;
Nor want's lean hand its happiness constrains,
Nor riches torture with ill-gotten gains.
No secret guilt its stedfast peace destroys,
No wild ambition interrupts its joys.
Blest still to spend the hours that heav'n has lent,
In humble goodness, and in calm content.
Serenely gentle, as the thoughts that roll,
Sinless and pure, in fair Humeia's soul.

But now the rural state these joys has lost,
Even swains no more that innocence can boast.
Love speaks no more what Beauty may believe,
Prone to betray and practis'd to deceive.
Now Happiness forsakes her blest retreat,
The peaceful dwellings where she fix'd her seat,
The pleasing fields she wont of old to grace,
Companion to an upright sober race;
When on the sunny hill or verdant plain,
Free and familiar with the sons of men,
To crown the pleasures of the blameless feast,
She uninvited came a welcome guest:
Ere yet an age, grown rich in impious arts,
Seduc'd from innocence incautious hearts,
Then grudging Hate, and sinful Pride succeed,
Cruel Revenge, and false unrighteous deed:
Then dowerless Beauty lost the power to move;
The rust of lucre stain'd the gold of Love.
Bounteous no more, and hospitably good,
The genial hearth first blush'd with stranger's blood.
The friend no more upon the friend relies,
And semblant falsehood puts on Truth's disguise.
The peaceful household fill'd with dire alarms,
The ravish'd virgin mourns her slighted charms;
The voice of impious mirth is heard around;
In guilt they feast, in guilt the bowl is crown'd.
Unpunished violence lords it o'er the plains,
And Happiness forsakes the guilty swains.

O Happiness! from human search retir'd,
Where art than to be found, by all desir'd?
Nor, sober and devout! why art thou fled
To hide in shades thy meek contented head!
Virgin of aspect mild! all why unkind,
Fly'st than displeas'd, the commerce of mankind?
O! teach our steps to find the secret cell,
Where with thy sire, content, then lov'st to dwell.
Or say, dost then a duteous handmaid wait
Familiar, at the chambers of the great?
Dost thou pursue the voice of them that call
To noisy revel, and to midnight ball?
O'er the full banquet when we feast our soul,
Lost than inspire the mirth, or mix the bowl?
Or with th' industrious planter dost than talk,
Conversing freely in an ev'ning walk?
Say, does the miser e'er thy face behold,
Watchful and studious of the treasur'd gold?
Seeks Knowledge, not in vain, thy much lov'd pow'r,
Still musing silent at the morning hour!
May we thy presence hope in war's alarms,
In S—'s wisdom or Montgomery's arms!

In vain our flatt'ring hopes our steps beguile;
The flying good eludes the searcher's toil:
In vain we seek the city or the cell:
Alone with virtue knows the pow'r to dwell.
Nor need mankind despair these joys to know,
The gift themselves may on themselves bestow.
Soon, soon we might the precious blessing boast;
But many passions must the blessing cost;
Infernal malice, inly joining hate,
And envy grieving at another's state.
Revenge no more must in our hearts remain.
Or burning lust, or avarice of gain.
When these are in time human bosom nurst,
Can peace reside in dwellings so accurst?
Unlike, O EGLINTOUN! thy happy breast,
Calm and serene, enjoys time heavenly guest;
From the tumultuous rule of passions freed,
Pure in thy thought, and spotless in thy deed,
In virtues rich, in goodness unconfin'd,
Thou shin'st a fair example to thy kind;
Sincere and equal to thy neighbour's fame,
How swift to praise, how obstinate to blame!
Bold in thy presence bashful Sense appears,
And backward Merit loses all its fears.
Supremely blest by heaven, heav'n's richest grace
Confest is thine, an early blooming race,
Whose pleasing smiles shall guardian Wisdom arm,
Divine instruction! taught of thee to charm.
What transports shall they to thy soul impart!
(The conscious transports of a parent's heart.)
When thou behold'st them of each grace possest,
And sighing youths imploring to be blest,
After thy image form'd with charms like thine.
Or in the visit, or the dance to shine.
Thrice happy! who succeed their mother's praise.
The lovely EGLINTOUNS of future days.

Meanwhile peruse the following tender scenes,
And listen to thy native Poet's strains.
In ancient garb the home-bred Muse appears,
The garb our muses were in former years.
As in a glass reflected, here behold
How smiling goodness look'd in days of old.
Nor blush to read where Beauty's praise is shown.
And virtuous Love, the likeness of thy own;
While midst the various gifts that gracious heaven,
Bounteous to then, with righteous hand has given:
Let this, O EGLINTOUN! delight thee most,
To enjoy that innocence the world has lost.