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accent, or rid his mind of northern phrases, and his letters written in the latter part of his reign, are full of the language of his native country. Few English poets of that period are so free from obsolete ex-pressions as Drummond and Sterling : the former, I think, has but two words of northern birth, he speaks of the blackbird as the ‘merle, and the eyes as the ‘een, and even these two are found both in Shakspeare and Ben Jonson. The following pastoral song by Drummond, will fully bear out all I have said, it seems to have been written as a companion piece to Raleigh's beautiful little poem, ‘The Shepherd's description of Love,' printed in that curious miscellany, ‘The Phoenix Nest,’ 1593.
A PAS TO R. A. L S O N G.
PHIL. Shepherd, dost thou love me well ?
Phil. Like to what, dear shepherd, say *
The few pieces of poetry that remain of Sir Robert Ayton's, shew he possessed not only correctness and elegance of language, but simplicity and originality of thought. Had Ayton been born to fill a less prominent situation in the court of his Sovereign, the fancy and taste he possessed might have been more largely and more beneficially cultivated. His genius had then been called upon to support him as well as to afford him amusement and delight. The little he wrote excites pleasure and regret—pleasure that he wrote so sweetly and so well—and regret that the gift of poesy he had from Nature, was suffered so seldom to shew forth its sunny rays.
‘The ewe-bughts Marion,’ ‘Tak your auld cloak about ye, and ‘Waly, waly up yon bank, are songs of great merit; all three probably belong to the reign of Queen Mary. Whatever lady was the love of Montrose, she is made glorious through his sword and famous by his pen. If tradition is right in ascribing to Francis Semple ‘The blythesome bridal,’ ‘ She rose and loot me in,' and “Maggy Lauder,’ his name may safely be placed in the first rank of lyric poets. Those songs, serious and witty, are alike clever. ‘Katherine Ogie,’ ‘Bessy Bell and Mary Gray, ‘Muirland Willie,' ‘The Country Lass,’ ‘The Brisk young lad,” “Andro and his cutty gun,’ ‘My wife has taen the gee,’ ‘Clout the Cauldron,' ‘Get up and bar the door,’ ‘Ettrick banks,' ‘Sawye Johnie coming o' ‘An thou wert my ain thing,’ ‘Our gudeman came hame at een :' are all first-rate songs, of various descriptions, and nearly all of the same merit; and no one knows who are their authors “ their very names,” writes Burns', “ (O, how mortifying to a bard's vanity () are now ‘ buried among the wreck of things which were.'” There is what Scott calls “a bold, rude, original cast of thinking” about some of the above mentioned comic songs. “Whoever,” says Allan Cunningham, “ was the author of ‘Willie was a wanton wag,'—no one ever conceived a more original lyric, or filled up the outlines of his conception with more lucky drollery, more lively flashes of native humour, or brighter touches of human character. Willie, is indeed, the first and last of his race : no one has imitated him, and he imitated none.”* In Allan Ramsay we see the restorer and reviver of our songs, and a poet full of natural outbursts of fancy and feeling. If we except Bishop Percy, no poetical antiquary has done as much for the Songs and Ballads of his country as Ramsay ; if he had not the faithfulness of Ritson, his taste and his judgment were more eminently fine. To Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany, we stand indebted for the preservation of many an excellent song; that work introduced to the world Hamilton, Crawford and Mallet. No writer has happier and more frequent touches of delicacy and pastoral sweetness than Ramsay : no poet has blended together more than he has done of absurdity and beauty. Few of his songs, taken upon the whole, are good; but not even Burns himself has paid luckier compliments to beauty, or thought oftener as a poet more finely, than Allan Ramsay. Who is there that does not admire the pastoral beauty and sweetness of Crawford, and the elegance and refinement of Hamilton “It may be questioned,” says Ritson, “whether an English writer has produced so beautiful a pastoral as Tweedside. Crawford is in the first rank of lyric poets.”f
In Thomson's little lyrics we perceive the author of the Seasons and the Castle of Indolence. Churchill said—
Those who would make us feel must feel themselves.
Thomson has felt, and imparted his fine feeling to others. Lord Binning's Ungrateful Nanny, Ritson pronounces the beautiful pastoral of a promising young nobleman.' If we look at this song as an imitation of the true pastoral what shepherds thought on the braes of Yarrow, and among the broom of Cowdenknowes—then it is a silly, frivolous performance. Look at in the same light as Gay's Pastoral Week—it is witty and clever, smart and lively. “The general character of the Jacobite Songs,” says Hogg, “ is that of a rude energetic humour, and amongst them are specimens of sly and beautiful allegory.” Few of our gentleman authors have written a song of the same merit as Sir Gilbert Elliot's ‘Ambition is no cure for love,' there is a softness and a grace about it not easily attained.
* Pref. to Jac. Rel. Of the song printed at p. 139, beginning— As I come down the Canongate—
it is not improbable but only the first verse is old—the other stanzas
seem the composition of Allan Cunningham. The Jacobites grafted their own feelings on the choruses of favourite
strains like the religionists a century or two before.