Friday, May 09, 2014


Leave the Chattering, Stinking City

Allan Ramsay (1686-1758), "An Epistle Wrote from Mavisbank, March 1748, to a Friend in Edinburgh":
Dear friend, to smoak and noise confine'd,
which Soils your Shirt, and frets your mind,
and makes you rusty look, and crabbed,
as if you were bepoxed, or Scabbed,
or had been going through a dose        5
of Mercury, to save your Nose,
let me advise you, out of pity,
to leave the chattering, Stinking city;
wher pride, and Shallowness, take place
of plain Integrety, and grace,        10
where hidious Screams, would kill a Cat,
of who buys this or who buys that,
and through the Day from break of Mornings
the buz of Bills, protests, and Hornings,
besides the everlasting Squable        15
amongst the great and litle Rable
who tear their Lungs, & deave your Ears,
with all their party hopes and fears,
while ratling o'er their silly Cant,
learn'd from the Mercury, and Currant,    20
about the Aid that comes from Russia,
and the neutrality of Prussia,
of ffrance's Tyranie and Slavery,
of Holands Selfishness & knavery,
of Spain, the most beloved Son        25
of the old whore of Babylon,
the Guardian of her whips & fagots
and all her superstitious magots,
of all his gambols on the Green
with Hungary's Imperial Queen,        30
of Genoa's resolute resistance
without Napolitan assistance,
of passing Var, seiging Savona,
and breaking fidles at Cremona,
of how much Blood & dirt is cost        35
before a Town is won or lost,
of Popes, Stateholders, faith's Deffenders,
Generals, Marshals, and pretenders,
of Treaties, Ministers, and Kings,
and of a Thousand other Things,        40
of all which their Conceptions Dull,
sutes with the thickness of the Scull,
yet with such Stuff one must be worried,
that's through the City gauntlet hurried.

But Ah! ye cry, the dear dear Dances         45
with Beautys brisk, who harm our fancys,
for five or six gay hours complete
in circles of the Assembly Sweet,
who can forsake so fair a field
where all to conquering Beauty yield.        50
No doubt while in this am'rous fit
your next plea's Boxes, and the pit,
where wit, and humours of the Age
flow entertaining from the Stage,
where, if the Drama's right conducted,        55
one's both diverted and instructed.

Well I shall grant it bears with Reason
these have their charms in proper Season,
but must not be indulg'd too much,
lest they the Soften'd Soul bewitch,        60
and faculties in fetters bind
that are for greater ends design'd.

Then, rouze ye from these dosing Dreams,
come view with me the golden Beams,
which Phebus every Morning pours         65
upon the plains, adorn'd with flowers,
with me o'er springing verdures stray,
where wimpling watters make their way,
here from the Oak with Ivy bound
you'll hear the soft melodious Sound        70
of all the Choiresters on hy
whose notes re-echoe through the skie,
better than concerts of your Town,
yet do not cost you half a crown;
here Blackbirds, Mavises & Linnets,        75
excell your fidles, flutes, & Spinnets.
Next we may mount the broomy Height
and wild, wide Landskips chear our Sight,
diverted with the bleating Tribe,
and plough-men whistling oer the Glibe.        80

Thus we, with little Labour, gain
firm Health, and all its Joyfull Train,
silent repose, the chearfull Smile,
which best intruding cares beguile,
and makes the Springs of Life to flow        85
through every vein with kindly glow,
giving the Cheek a rosie teint
surpassing all the arts of paint.

The Heights survey'd, we may return
along the Margin of the Burn,        90
where fishes will divert your Eye
while jumping up to catch a fly,
which taught the Angler first to wait
and Hook them with the tempting Bait.
Next the fair Gardens we may trace        95
where art adds life to Native grace,
The Walls & Espaliers Load, & lined
with fruits of the best chosen kind,
the Borders fraughted with delight,
to please the Smelling, & the Sight,        100
while Ecchoe entertains the Ear
when rais'd by Notes well tune'd, & clear.

Such Morning walks, the Balmy Air,
improves the gust for healthy fair,
and, when the Bell for Breakfast rings,        105
at heels you'll find Hermetick wings,
to reach a Table, neatly crownd,
with all that's hearty, hale, & sound,
where in the shining vessels stand
Blessings of Jacob's promised Land,        110
of which with freedom you may share,
for ceremony comes not there.

Nature refresh'd, you may retire
with Books that jump with your Desire;
if cloudy Skies keep you within,        115
you've Closets warm & free from Din,
where in the well degested pages
you may review the by past ages,
or, with great Newton, take a flight
through all the rolling Orbs of Light,        120
their order note, their bulk & shine,
'till fire'd with raptures all divine,
or with the pen, and pincell's aid,
trace nature out in Light & Shade
with freedom, in a bold out line,        125
like Sachi, or Salvator, shine.

If Zyphers, and the radiant bleeze,
invite you to the Shady Trees,
some hours, in indolence, to pass
extended on the velvet gras,        130
with Milton, Pope, & all the Rest,
who smoothly coppy Nature best,
their Lays inspired, peruse, and find,
what brightens, and improves, the Mind,
and carrys it a pitch beyond        135
these views, of which Low Minds are fond.

This is the Life, all those have sung,
most to be wish'd by old, and young,
by the most Brave, and the most ffair,
where Least Ambition, least of Care,        140
desturbs the Soul, where virteous Ease,
and Temperance, never cease to please.
6 Mercury: treatment for venereal disease
14 Hornings: letters of horning were "a process of execution issued under the signet directing a messenger to charge a debtor to pay or perform in terms of the letters, under pain of being 'put to the horn', i.e. declared rebel" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. horning, n., sense 4).
17 deave: deafen
20 Mercury, and Currant: newspapers, the Caledonian Mercury and the Edinburgh Evening Courant
21-34: references to the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748)
26 old whore of Babylon: Roman Catholic Church
28 magots: maggots, i.e. odd notions or ideas
46 harm: should charm be read here?
68 wimpling: winding, meandering
80 Glibe: glebe, soil
90 Margin of the Burn: bank of the stream
104 gust for healthy fair: appetite for healthy fare
106 Hermetick wings: as messenger of the gods, Hermes wore winged sandals.
114 jump: agree completely, coincide (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. jump, v., sense 5.a)
126 Andrea Sacchi (1599-1661) and Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) were Italian painters.
127 bleeze: blaze

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