Saturday, 16 May 2009

A Pastoral In Praise of Allan Ramsay

Here's another one for all those who like to say Ulster-Scots is a recent invention. The earliest known writer of poetry in Ulster-Scots was William Starrat, a mathematics teacher of Strabane, County Tyrone. In 1722 he wrote a poetic letter to Scottish poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) and this, together with Ramsay's reply, was duly published, from an annotated version, in The Collected Works Of Allan Ramsay as Epistle From Mr William Starrat, Teacher of Mathematicks at Straban in Ireland.

A Pastoral In Praise Of Allan Ramsay

O'er ilka hedge it wildly bounds,
And grazes on forbidden grounds,
Where constantly like furious range
Poortith, diseases, death, revenge :
To toom anes poutch to daunty clever,
Or have wrang'd husband probe ane's liver,
Or void ane's saul out thro' a shanker,
In faith 't wad any mortal canker.

Then wale a virgin worthy you,
Worthy your love and nuptial vow ;
Syne frankly range o'er a' her charms,
Drink deep of joy within her arms;
Be still delighted with her breast,
And on her love with rapture feast.

May she be blooming, saft, and young,
With graces melting from her tongue ;
Prudent and yielding to maintain
Your love, as well as you her ain.

Thus with your leave, Sir, I've made free
To give advice to ane can gi'e
As good again : but as mass John
Said, when the sand tald time was done,
" Ha'e patience, my dear friends, a wee,
And take ae ither glass frae me ;
And if ye think there's doublets due,
I shanna bauk the like frae you."

AE windy day last owk, I'll ne'er forget,
I think I hear the hail-stanes rattling yet ;
On Crochan-buss my hirdsell took the lee,
As ane wad wish, just a' beneath my ee :
I in the bield of yon auld birk-tree side,
Poor cauldrife Coly whing'd aneath my plaid.
Right cozylie was set to ease my stumps,
Well hap'd with bountith hose and twa-sol'd pumps :
Syne on my four-hours luncheon chew'd my cood,
Sic kilter pat me in a merry mood ;
My whistle frae my blanket nook I drew,
And lilted owre thir twa three lines to you.
Blaw up my heart-strings, ye Pierian quines,
That gae the Grecian bards their bonny rhymes,
And learn'd the Latin lowns sic springs to play,
As gars the world gang dancing to this day.

In vain I seek your help ; 'tis bootless toil
With sic dead ase to muck a moorland soil ;
Give me the muse that calls past ages back,
And shaws proud southern sangsters their mistak,
That frae their Thames can fetch the laurel north,
And big Parnassus on the firth of Forth.

Thy breast alane this gladsome guest does fill
With strains that warm our hearts like cannel gill,
And learns thee, in thy umquhile gutcher's tongue,
The blythest lilts that e'er my lugs heard sung.
Ramsay ! for ever live; for wha like you,
In deathless sang, sic life-like pictures drew ?
Not he wha whilome with his harp cou'd ca'
The dancing stanes to big the Theban wa' ;
Nor he (shame fa's fool head !) as stories tell,
Cou'd whistle back an auld dead wife frae hell ;
Nor e'en the loyal brooker of bell trees,
Wha sang with hungry wame his want of fees ;
Nor Habby's drone, cou'd with thy wind-pipe please :
When, in his well-ken'd clink, thou manes the death
Of Lucky Wood and Spence, (a matchless skaith
To Canigate) sae gash thy gab-trees gang,
The carlines live for ever in thy sang.

Or when thy country bridal thou pursues,
To red the regal tulzie sets thy muse,
Thy soothing sangs bring canker'd carles to ease,
Some loups to Lutter's pipe, some birls babies.

But gin to graver notes thou tunes thy breath,
And sings poor Sandy's grief for Adie's death,
Or Matthew's loss, the lambs in concert mae,
And lanesome Ringwood yowls upon the brae.

Good God ! what tuneless heart-strings wadna twang,
When love and beauty animate the sang ?
Skies echo back, when thou blaws up thy reed
In Burchet's praise for clapping of thy head :
And when thou bids the paughty Czar stand yon,
The wandought seems beneath thee on his throne.
Now, be my saul, and I have nought behin,
And well I wat fause swearing is a sin,
I'd rather have thy pipe and twa three sheep,
Than a' the gowd the monarch's coffers keep.

Coly, look out, the few we have's gane wrang,
This se'enteen "owks I have not play'd sae lang ;
Ha ! Crummy, ha ! trowth I man quat my sang ;
But, lad, neist mirk we'll to the haining drive,
When in fresh lizar they get spleet and rive :
The royts will rest, and gin ye like my play,
I'll whistle to thee all the live-lang day.

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