1724
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Vision.

The Ever Green, being a Collection of Scots Poems, wrote by the Ingenious before 1600.... Published by Allan Ramsay.

Allan Ramsay


Jacobite verse presetned as "quod Ar. Scot" — that is, by Allan Ramsay, Scot. The speaker, distraught by the depredations of Edward I, is rapt in a vision. Callidon appears to predict the coming of Robert the Bruce and the restoration of good times. The title is given as "The Vision. Compylit in Latin be a most lernit Clerk in Tyme of our Hairship and Oppression, anno 1300, and translatit in 1524." It is hard to say whether Ramsay's medieval Scots was inspired by Spenser's Chaucerian diction. Since he was at work on his Gentle Shepherd one may suppose that, in addition to original Scots sources, he was familiar with examples of Queen Anne Spenserianism such as John Gay's Shepherd's Week (1714) and Samuel Croxall's The Vision (1715).

"Fergus Bruce": "One thing more I beg leave to Remark, with Respect to our Language. Many of our Words, that seem Uncouth, and are not understood by Englishmen, are, notwithstanding, of English Origin; and are not less Emphatical, and Worthy, for being Obsolete among You. I find few old Words in Douglas's Virgil, that are not also to be found in Chaucer: And, perhaps, our Allan Ramsay, a living Versifier in Old Style, uses few that are not to be met with in Shakespear, Spencer, &c. — except, when he coins Words by virtue of his extra-judicial Poetick Privileges, that never were, and never will be, used by any Mortal, besides Himself" The Plain Dealer No. 65 (2 November 1724).

John Campbell: "In Celadon's Library last Summer, I met with a Book which pleased me very much, it was printed at Edinburgh, and is call'd the Ever-green, or a Collection of old Scotch Poems. It cost me I confess a good deal of Pains to understand it, but I thought my Pains well rewarded by the many lively Hints I met with, which either are, or at least seem to me fuller of poetic Spirit, than any modern Composition.... . Among the several Pieces in this Collection, there are some like your Saxon Poems, descriptive, others extreamly humorous; but those which drew my attention most, were Allegorick. Our ancient Poets excelled in this Way, and I wonder since Spencer hath met of late Years with so many Admirers, so few have ventured to write in his Manner, and of those few which I have seen, most imitate rather his Faults, than his Excellencies, and have no Idea of surpassing him, or of improving that kind of Poetry which to me however, seems far from being impracticable" The Rational Amusement (1741) 279.

Thomas Percy to John Pinkerton: "And now, Sir, that I have imparted to you, what is almost a secret to all my most intimate friends [that he had been writing original poetry], I must entreat the favour of you that it may continue so, except to Dr. Beattie, (or one or two like him,) for whom I have ever had the greatest respect. I am very much obliged to him for thinking of me, and for pointing out to me the merits of the poem entitled 'The Vision,' which I have read over again with particular pleasure, and think it deserving of every thing Dr. Beattie says of it. I am also quite of opinion with him, that it was written in favour of the Stuart family, about the year 1715. I hope you will continue to favour me with whatever communications occur to you on these subjects" 20 July 1778; in Nichols, Illustrations (1817-58) 8:94-95.

William Tytler of Woodhouslee: "Lord Hailes and Dr. Beattie conjecture, justly, the Vision to have been the composition of some friend to the cause of the house of Stuart, and written about the aera of the rebellion of 1715. This was truly the case. I flatter myself that I can now produce the author, who was no other than the first editor of the Vision, under the signature of A. R. SCOT, i.e., Allan Ramsay Scotus. As the poem is to be found in no other collection prior to the Evergreen, this, of itself, affords a presumption, which comes very near to certainty, in pointing out the author: Other circumstances enforce this presumptive proof, and complete the evidence. Allan Ramsay's political principles may, in a great measure, be gathered from his writings. In his family, and amongst his intimate friends, he was known to be warmly attached to the Stuart family. As he was a man of pleasant humour, and patronised by most of the wits and men of genius of his time, many of whom were eminent in the service of the government, he was cautious of giving offence by his political principles; and, although it is now known he was the author of several poems in favour of the ancient race of our Scottish monarchs, yet these were published without a name, and omitted by him in the printed collection of his works. On perusing lately the Vision, and considering the signature at the end, I flattered myself that I had made the discovery of its real author. This led me to a further research: The result was, that, upon particular inquiry, I found, that both that poem, and the Eagle and Robin Red Breast, were known by the friends of Ramsay's family to be of his composition, though only tacitly owned for the above reason. Of this fact I had a positive acknowledgment from Miss Ramsay, eldest daughter of the poet now alive, who informed me that her father was the author of both the pieces above mentioned. 'The Roman letters,' said that lady, 'plainly point out the name and sirname of the author, with the addition of his country, which he always was proud to acknowledge'" "Observations on the Vision" in Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1 (1792) 396-7.

Alexander Campbell: "The Vision is an allegorical and descriptive poem of great merit indeed; and far superior to any of Ramsay's known compositions. Whether the author of the Vision, dreaded the consequences of a discovery, it being of a political cast, I know not. Nor do I know if it be the production of Allan Ramsay, or Alexander Robertson of Struan, whose poetical works will be noticed in course, or, by placing the poem in question farther back, and ascribing it to the muse of Andrew Ramsay, whose elegant Latin poems appear in the Deliciae Poetarum Scotorum, or, rather yielding to the deception its editor proposes by the initials AR Scot. and supposing our Scottish Anacreon Alexander Scot to have been the author, is what I shall not presume to decide; but, I confess I have my doubts with respect to Mr. Tytler's being correct, in what he advances in support of his idea, that the initials AR Scot. prefixt to the Vision in the Evergreen, implies, Allan Ramsay, Scotus; and it adds little, in my mind, in corroboration of this supposition, the single testimony of Miss Ramsay the daughter of the supposed author, to impress conviction, without more direct proof, and incontrovertible evidence" Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland (1798) 192-93 & n.

George Chalmers: "I strongly suspect that Ramsay wittingly inserted in his 'Evirgrene' several poems which were written by the ingenious subsequent to the year 1600, and even to the year 1700. In the first volume is printed The Vision, which, although it is said to have been 'compylit in Latin anno 1300, and translatit in 1524,' is obviously modern, more modern than the union, and more recent than the accession of George I.; the versification indeed is ancient, and is written in imitation of what King James calls the 'tumbling verse,' according to the royal revlis and cavtelis, 'to be literal [alliterative] so far as may be.' Thus The Vision abounds in alliterations.... Yet the sentiments and the style are modern, and even the orthography is recent, although it is affectedly old; nor did The Vision appear in any publication or manuscript before it came forth in The Evergreen, with appropriate signatures, AR. Scot, but not A. Scot, as it is printed in the Ancient Scots Poets; neither was there any poet in Scotland of the name of AR. Scot, nor Archibald Scott; though there had been indeed an Alexander Scot, during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots" Life of Ramsay, in Poems (1800; 1877) 1:xxii-iii.

Alexander Geddes: "It is my opinion ... that those who for almost a century past have written in Scots, Allan Ramsay not excepted, have not duly discriminated the genuine Scottish idiom from its vulgarisms. They seem to have acted a similar part with certain pretended imitators of Spenser and Milton, who fondly imagine that they are copying from those great models, when they only mimic their antique mode of spelling, their obsolete terms, and their irregular construction" Dissertation on the Scoto-Saxon Dialect, quoted in David Irving, Lives of the Scottish Poets (1804) 2:436.

Alexander Chalmers: "In the Ever Green, a collection of old Scottish poems, published by him in 1724, there are two pieces of his own, one of them called 'The Vision,' said to have been written in Latin, about 1300, and translated in 1524, and which has for its, subject the sufferings of Scotland under Edward I. and the Baliol faction. It consists of twenty pages, and is full of poetical imagery. What were his motives for writing so long a poem without reaping any fame from it, is not easy to guess. Perhaps it was only for the sake of amusing himself with the profound remarks of learned critics and antiquaries upon it; perhaps some political ideas not very orthodox had their share in the concealment. But whatever might be, his reason for concealing himself at this time, he certainly did not mean that this should continue always a secret, as appears by his communicating it to his son, from whom the writer of this article had the information; and by his putting, by way of name to the end of it, A R. Scot. which, though it appears at first sight to mean Archibald Scot, is no other than the two initials of his own name, with his country added to them. His notions about the independency of Scotland had made him, for some time, consider the union of the two crowns as a hardship: an opinion which he held in common with many worthy men and sincere friends of their country in those days; and there is a poem of his in print called 'The Tale of the Three Bonnets,' in which the manner of bringing about that treaty is handled with a great deal of satirical humour: but his is good sense and observation getting, at length, the better of those early prejudices, this poem never obtained a place in any of his two volumes, and is now difficult to be met with" General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 25:7-8.

William Lyon Phelps: "Ramsay was not a scrupulous or conscientious editor. His title-page announcment that the songs were 'wrote before 1600' is not strictly true. He palmed off as old ballads a large number of new songs, and is thus, in a sense, the fore-runner of Chatterton as well as of Percy. His own poem in the Evergreen, called 'The Vision,' he printed as 'compylit in Latin anno 1300' and translated in 1524. Then, the ballad 'Hardyknute' was, of course, modern, though possibly Ramsay himself did not know it" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 125.

Eric Partridge: "The Vision, one of the 'Imaginative Poems,' appeared first in Ever Green and so purported to have been composed before 1600; hence the old-fashioned spelling. The author attempted to represent times long past and to convey with local colour the rousing call to arms spoken by a Scottish patriot of a bygone period" Eighteenth-Century English Romantic Poetry (1924) 127.



I.
Bedoun the Bents of Banquo Brae
Milane I wandert waif and wae,
Musand our main Mischaunce;
How be thay Faes we ar undone,
That staw the sacred Stane frae Scone,
And leids us sic a Daunce:
Quhyle Inglands Edert taks our Tours,
And Scotland ferst obeys,
Rude Ruffians ransakk Ryal Bours,
And Baliol Homage pays;
Throch Feidom our Freidom
Is blotit with this Skore,
Quhat Romans or no Mans
Pith culd eir do befoir

II.
The Air grew ruch with bousteous Thuds,
Bauld Boreas branglit outthrow the Cluds,
Maist lyke a drunken Wicht;
The Thunder crakt, and Flauchts did rift
Frae the blak Vissart of the Lift:
The Forrest schuke with Fricht;
Nae Birds abune thair Wing extenn,
They ducht not byde the Blast,
Ilk Beist bedeen bangd to thair Den,
Until the Storm was past:
Ilk Creature in Nature
That had a Spunk of Sence,
In Neid then, with Speid then,
Methocht cryt, in Defence.

III.
To se a Morn in May sae ill,
I deimt Dame Nature was gane will,
To rair with rackles Reil;
Quhairfor to put me out of Pain,
And skonce my Skap and Shanks frae Rain,
I bure me to a Beil,
Up ane hich Craig that lundgit alaft,
Out owre a canny Cave,
A curious Cruif of Natures Craft,
Quhilk to me Schelter gaif;
Ther vexit, perplexit,
I leint me doun to weip,
In brief ther, with Grief ther
I dottard owre on Sleip.

IV.
Heir Somnus in his silent Hand
Held all my Sences at Command,
Quhyle I forzet my Cair;
The myldest Meid of mortall Wichts
Quha pass in Peace the private Nichts,
That wauking finds it rare;
Sae in saft Slumbers did I ly,
But not my wakryfe Mynd,
Quhilk still stude Watch, and couth espy
A Man with Aspeck kynd,
Richt auld lyke and bauld lyke,
With Baird thre Quarters skant,
Sae braif lyke and graif lyke,
He seemt to be a Sanct.

V.
Grit Darring dartit frae his Ee,
A Braid-sword schogled at his Thie,
On his left Arm a Targe;
A shynand Speir filld his richt Hand,
Of stalwart Mak, in Bane and Brawnd,
Of just Proportions, large;
A various Rain-bow colourt Plaid
Owre his left Spaul he threw,
Doun his braid Back, frae his quhyt Heid,
The Silver Wymplers grew;
Amaisit, I gaisit
To se, led at Command,
A strampant and rampant
Ferss Lyon in his Hand.

VI.
Quhilk held a Thistle in his Paw,
And round his Collar graift I saw
This Poesie pat and plain,
Nemo me impune lacess—
—Et: — In Scots, Nane sall oppress
Me, unpunist with Pain;
Still schaking, I durst naithing say,
Till he with Kynd Accent
Sayd, Fere let nocht thy Hairt affray,
I cum to hier thy Plaint;
Thy graining and maining
Haith laitlie reikd myne Eir,
Debar then affar then
All Eiryness or Feir.

VII.
For I am ane of a hie Station,
The Warden of this auntient Nation,
And can nocht do the Wrang;
I vissyt him then round about,
Syne with a Resolution stout,
Speird, Quhair he had bene sae lang?
Quod he, Althocht I sum forsuke,
Becaus they did me slicht,
To Hills and Glens I me betuke,
To them that luves my Richt;
Quhase Mynds zet inclynds zet
To damm the rappid Spate,
Devysing and prysing
Freidom at ony Rate.

VIII.
Our Trechour Peirs thair Tyranns treit,
Quha jyb them, and thair Substance eit,
And on thair Honour stramp;
They, pure degenerate! bend thair Baks,
The Victor, Langshanks, proudly cracks
He has blawn out our Lamp:
Quhyle trew Men, sair complainand, tell,
With Sobs, thair silent Greif,
How Baliol thair Richts did sell,
With small Howp of Reliefe;
Regretand and fretand
Ay at his cursit Plot,
Quha rammed and crammed
That Bargin doun thair Throt.

IX.
Braif Gentrie sweir, and Burgers ban,
Revenge is muttert be ilk Clan
Thats to their Nation trew;
The Cloysters cum to cun the Evil,
Mailpayers wiss it to the Devil,
With its contryving Crew:
The Hardy wald with hairty Wills,
Upon dyre Vengance fall;
The feckless fret owre Heuchs and Hills,
And Eccho Answers all,
Repetand and greitand,
With mony a sair Alace,
For Blasting and Casting
Our Honour in Disgrace.

X.
Waes me! quod I, our Case is bad,
And mony of us are gane mad,
Sen this disgraceful Paction.
We are felld and herryt now by Forse;
And hardly Help fort, thats zit warse,
We are sae forfairn with Faction.
Then has not he gude Cause to grumble,
Thats forst to be a Slaif;
Oppression dois the Judgment Jumble
And gars a wyse Man raif.
May Cheins then, and Pains then
Infernal be thair Hyre
Quha dang us, and flang us
Into this ugsum Myre.

XI.
Then he with bauld forbidding Luke,
And staitly Air did me rebuke,
For being of Sprite sae mein:
Said he its far beneath a Scot
To use weak Curses quhen his Lot
May sumtyms sour his Splein,
He rather sould mair lyke a Man,
Some braif Design attempt;
Gif its nocht in his Pith, what than,
Rest but a Quhyle content,
Nocht feirful, but cheirful,
And wait the Will of Fate,
Which mynds to desygns to
Renew zour auntient State.

XII.
I ken sum mair than ze do all
Of quhat sall afterwart befall,
In mair auspicious Tymes;
For aften far abufe the Mune,
We watching Beings do convene,
Frae round Eards outmost Climes,
Quhair evry Warden represents
Cleirly his Nations Case,
Gif Famyne, Pest, or Sword Torments,
Or Vilains hie in Place,
Quha keip ay, and heip ay
Up to themselves grit Store,
By rundging and spunging
The leil laborious Pure.

XIII.
Say then, said I, at zour hie Sate,
Lernt ze ocht of auld Scotland's Fate.
Gif eir schoil be her sell;
With Smyle Celest, quod he, I can,
But its nocht fit an mortal Man
Sould ken all I can tell:
But Part to the I may unfold,
And thou may saifly ken,
Quhen Scottish Peirs slicht Saxon Gold,
And turn trew heartit Men;
Quhen Knaivry and Slaivrie,
Ar equally dispysd,
And Loyalte and Royalte,
Universalie are prysd.

XIV.
Quhen all zour Trade is at a Stand,
And Cunzie clene forsaiks the Land,
Quhilk will be very sune,
Will Preists without their Stypands preich
For nocht will Lawyers Causes Streich;
Faith thatis nae easy done.
All this and mair maun cum to pass,
To cleir zour glamourit Sicht;
And Scotland maun be made an Ass
To set her Jugment richt.
Theyil jade hir and blad hir,
Untill scho brak hir Tether,
Thocht auld schois zit bauld schois,
And teuch lyke barkit Lether.

XV.
But mony a Corss sall braithles ly,
And Wae sall mony a Widow cry,
Or all rin richt again;
Owre Cheviot prancing proudly North,
The Faes sall tak the Feild neir Forthe,
And think the Day their ain:
But Burns that Day sall rin with Blude
Of them that now oppress;
Thair Carcasses be Corbys Fude,
By thousands on the Gress.
A King then sall ring then,
Of wyse Renoun and braif,
Quhase Pusians and Sapiens,
Sall Richt restoir and saif.

XVI.
The View of Freidomis sweit, quod I,
O say, grit Tennant of the Skye,
How neiris that happie Tyme.
We ken Things but be Circumstans,
Nae mair, quod he, I may advance,
Leist I commit a Cryme.
Quhat eir ze pleis, gae on, quod I,
I sall not fash ze moir,
Say how, and quhair ze met, and quhy,
As ze did hint befoir.
With Air then sae fair then,
That glanst like Rayis of Glory,
Sae Godlyk and oddlyk
He thus resumit his Storie.

XVII.
Frae the Suns Rysing to his Sett,
All the pryme Rait of Wardens met,
In solemn bricht Array,
With Vehicles of Aither cleir,
Sic we put on quhen we appeir
To Sauls rowit up in Clay;
Thair in a wyde and splendit Hall,
Reird up with shynand Beims,
Quhais Rufe-treis wer of Rainbows all,
And paist with starrie Gleims,
Quhilk prinked and twinkled
Brichtly beyont Compair,
Much famed and named
A Castill in the Air.

XVIII.
In midst of quhilk a Tabill stude,
A spacious Oval reid as Blude,
Made of a Fyre-Flaucht,
Arround the dazeling Walls were drawn,
With Rays be a celestial Hand,
Full mony a curious Draucht.
Inferiour Beings flew in Haist,
Without Gyd or Derectour,
Millions of Myles throch the wyld Waste,
To bring in Bowlis of Nectar:
Then roundly and soundly
We drank lyk Roman Gods;
Quhen Jove sae dois rove sae,
That Mars and Bacchus nods.

XIX.
Quhen Phebus Heid turns licht as Cork,
And Neptune leans upon his Fork,
And limpand Vulcan blethers:
Quhen Pluto glowrs as he were wyld,
And Cupid luves we wingit Chyld,
Fals down and fyls his Fethers.
Quhen Pan forzets to tune his Reid,
And slings it cairless bye,
And Hermes wingd at Heils and Heid,
Can nowther stand nor lye:
Quhen staggirand and swaggirand,
They stoyter Hame to sleip,
Quhyle Centeries at Enteries
Imortal Watches keip.

XX.
Thus we tuke in the high browin Liquour,
And bangd about the Nectar Biquour;
But evir with his Ods:
We neir in Drink our Judgments drensch,
Nor scour about to seik a Wensch
Lyk these auld baudy Gods,
But franklie at ilk uther ask,
Quhats proper we suld know,
How ilk ane hes performt the Task,
Assigned to him below.
Our Minds then sae kind then,
Are fixt upon our Care,
Ay noting and ploting
Quhat tends to thair Weilfair.

XXI.
Gothus and Vandall baith lukt bluff,
Quhyle Gallus sneerd and tuke a Snuff,
Quhilk made Allmane to stare;
Latinus bad him naithing feir,
But lend his Hand to haly Weir,
And of cowd Crouns tak Care;
Batavius with his Paddock-Face
Luking asquint, cryd, Pisch,
Zour Monks ar void of Sence or Grace,
I had leur ficht for Fisch;
Zour Schule-men ar Fule-men,
Carvit out for dull Debates,
Decoying and destroying
Baith Monarchies and States.

XXII.
Iberius with a gurlie Nod
Cryd, Hogan, zes we ken zour God,
Its Herrings ze adore;
Heptarchus, as he usd to be,
Can nocht with his ain Thochts agre,
But varies bak and fore;
Ane quhyle he says, It is not richt
A Monarch to resist,
Neist Braith all Ryall Powir will slicht,
And passive Homage jest;
He hitches and fitches
Betwein the Hic and Hoc,
Ay jieand and flieand
Round lyk a Wedder-cock.

XXIII.
I still support my Precedens
Abune them all, for Sword and Sens,
Thocht I haif layn richt now lown,
Quhylk was, becaus I bure a Grudge
At sum fule Scotis, quha lykd to drudge
To Princes no thair awin;
Sum Thanis thair Tennants pykit and squeist,
And pursit up all thair Rent,
Syne wallopit to far Courts, and bleist,
Till Riggs and Schaws war spent;
Syne byndging and whyndging,
Quhen thus redusit to Howps,
They dander and wander
About pure Lickmadowps.

XXIV.
But now its Tyme for me to draw
My shynand Sword against Club-Law,
And gar my Lyon roir;
He sall or lang gie sic a Sound,
The Ecchoe sall be hard arround
Europe, frae Schore to Schore;
Then lat them gadder all thair Strenth,
And stryve to wirk my Fall,
Tho numerous, zit at the lenth
I will owrecum them all,
And raise zit and blaze zit
My Braifrie and Renown,
By gracing and placing
Arright the Scottis Crown.

XXV.
Quhen my braif BRUCE the same sall weir
Upon his Ryal Heid, full cleir
The Diadem will shyne;
Then sall zour sair Oppression ceis,
His Intrest zours he will not fleice,
Or leif zou eir inclyne:
Thocht Millions to his Purse be lent,
Zell neir the puirer be,
But rather richer, quhyle its spent
Within the Scottish Se:
The Field then sall zeild then
To honest Husbands Welth,
Gude Laws then sall cause then
A sickly State haif Helth.

XXVI.
Quhyle thus he talkit, methocht ther came
A wondir fair Etherial Dame,
And to our Warden sayd,
Grit Callidon I cum in Serch
Of zou, frae the hych starry Arch,
The Counsill wants zour Ayd;
Frae every Quarter of the Sky,
As swift as Quhirl-wynd,
With Spirits speid the Chiftains hy,
Sum grit Thing is desygnd
Owre Muntains be Funtains,
And round ilk fairy Ring,
I haif chaist ze, O haist ze,
They talk about zour King.

XXVII.
With that my Hand methocht he schuke,
And wischt I Happyness micht bruke,
To eild be Nicht and Day;
Syne quicker than an Arrows Flicht,
He mountit upwarts frae my Sicht,
Straicht to the milkie Way;
My Mynd him followit throw the Skyes,
Untill the brynie Streme
For Joy ran trinckling frae myne Eyes,
And wakit me frae Dreme;
Then peiping, half sleiping,
Frae furth my rural Beild,
It eisit me and pleisit me
To se and smell the Feild.

XXVIII.
For Flora in hir clene Array,
New washen with a Showir of May,
Lukit full sweit and fair;
Quhyle hir cleir Husband frae aboif
Sched doun his Rayis of genial Luve,
Hir Sweits perfumt the Air;
The Winds war husht, the Welkin cleird,
The glumand Clouds war fled,
And all as saft and gay appeird
As ane Elysion Sched;
Quhilk heisit and bleisit
My Heart with sic a Fyre,
As raises these Praises
That do to Heaven aspyre.

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