ramsay pastoral poetry gentle
RAMPUR BEULEAH. See Rissn.kiii, supra, p. 261.
R AMSAY, ALLAN (1686 -1758), author of the Gentle Shepherd, a pastoral drama in the Lowland Scotch dialect, was born in Lanarkshire in 1686. An Edinburgh barber set agoing the literary movement in Scotland that cul-minated in the poetry of Burns. This peasant-poetry is often spoken of as if it were a spontaneous indigenous product, but the harvest that ripened towards the close of the 18th century had its seed-time earlier, and the seeds were imported from Epgland. Allan Ramsay was a peasant by birth (although he claimed kinship with the noble family of Dalhousie) - the son of a manager of lead-mines in Lanarkshire ; but the country-bred lad was trans-planted to a, town, being apprenticed at the age of fifteen to a barber in Edinburgh. In this calling he somehow made the acquaintance of a band of Jacobite young gentle-men of literary tastes, was admitted to the convivialities of their "Easy Club," and formally adjudged " a gentle-man." The basis of the club seems to have been literary, the members taking fancy names of celebrities, - Buchanan, Boece, Bickerstaff, and so forth. Ramsay's name was Bickerstaff, and the fact is of some importance as showing how he was brought into contact with the discussion of the theory of pastoral poetry among the London wits of the time. Ramsay's connexion with the Easy Club lay between 1712, and 1715, and in the course of that period occurred the dispute about pastoral poetry occasioned by the great publication of Pope's Windsor Forest (see PoPE). The Guardian for 7th April 1713 (No. 23) contained a descrip-tion of a true pastoral poem, which was afterwards realized by Ramsay in the Gentle Shepherd with such scrupulous fidelity in every detail that the criticism might fairly be described as the recipe from which the poem was made. There is not a clearer case in literary history of the influ-ence of criticism on creation ; Ramsay's great pastoral - and it well deserves the epithet - was the main outcome of the prolonged discussion of that kind of poetry by the Queen Anne wits. "Paint the manners of actual rustic life," said the Guardian critic to the poet, " not the manners of artificial shepherds and shepherdesses in a fictitious golden age ; use actual rustic dialect ; instead of satyrs and fauns and nymphs introduce the supernatural creatures of modern superstition." These precepts Ramsay diligently observed, and the result was that his Gentle Shepherd not only attracted attention among the learned students of poetry as a literary curiosity, the first genuine pastoral after Theo-critus, but at once became a favourite and a living force among the peasantry in whose dialect it was written and for whose characters it furnished ideal models. There was hardly a farmhouse in Scotland in which a copy of the poem was not to be found, and the moral force of the ideal exhibited in the hero Patie may be traced in the character of Burns and many another Scottish peasant-bard in whom ostentatious libertinism is not redeemed by the same genius. From a moral point of view a better exemplar than Ram-say's ideal hero might well have been desired. The poet-laureate of the Easy Club -took his moral tone from the poets of the Restoration, with whom his Jacobite boon com-panions were in full sympathy ; and thus through the genial, convivial, quick-witted, and slily humorous barber the spirit of the Restoration passed into the homes of the Scotch peasantry to do battle with the austere spirit of the kirk.
The G entle Shepherd is the only production of Ramsay's that has much claim to remembrance. His lyrics for the most part are poor artificial imitations, adorned here and there with pretty fancies, but devoid of sincerity of feeling. He is happier in his humorous descriptions of character and occasional personal poems ; " renowned Allan, canty callan," as his admirers loved to call him, had a quick sense of the ridiculous and a firm touch in the exhibition of what amused him. Once he had established a character as a poet he abandoned the trade of wig-making, set up as a bookseller, and was the first to start a circulating library in Scotland. From his shop in High Street opposite Nicklry Street he issued his incidental poems in broadsheets, and made a volume of them in 1721, and another in 1728. The nucleus of the Gentle Shepherd was laid in separately issued pastoral dialogues ; round these the complete drama was built and published as a whole in 1725. As a col-lector, editor, imitator, and publisher of old Scottish poetry Ramsay gave an impetus to vernacular literature at least as great as that given by his principal original poem. His Tea-Table Miscellany, published in 1724, for which English as well as Scottish poets and moderns as well as ancients were laid under contribution, was extremely popular ; and his' _Evergreen (1724), a collection of poems written prior to 1600, was the precursor of Bishop Percy's Reliques in a similar field. A collection of Fables, published complete in 1730, part original, part translated from La Motte and La Fontaine, was Ramsay's last literary work, but he lived to an advanced age, dying in 1758, the year before the birth of Burns. One of the speculations of the enlightened and enterprising man of business was a theatre, which was opened in 1736, but soon shut up by the magistrates.
A complete edition of Ramsay's poems was issued by A. Gardner in 1877.