As I read this poem, The Generous Gentleman, by Allan Ramsay (picture from here) I couldn’t help thinking about a book I’m reading at the moment. My 19th century bookgroup is currently reading Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser. Dreiser is an author I’ve been aware of but haven’t read until now. His most famous novel is probably Sister Carrie (filmed in the 1950s as Carrie with Jennifer Jones & Laurence Olivier). I’ve raced ahead & read next week’s chapters already & I just wish that Jennie could meet a generous gentleman like the narrator of this poem. She hasn’t had much luck so far & she certainly doesn’t have the confidence & self-esteem of this young woman. I hope I’m wrong but I think Jennie is headed for more heartbreak.
Allan Ramsay was certainly a talented & multi-skilled man. He was a wig-maker, a bookseller & a librarian as well as a poet. He opened the first circulating library in Scotland & promoted the reading of early Scottish verse. His eldest son was the painter of the same name.
As I came in by Tiviot side,
And by the braes of Branksome,
There first I saw my bonny bride,
Young, smiling, sweet, and handsome:
Her skin was safter than the down,
And white as alabaster;
Her hair a shining, wavy brown;
In straightness nane surpast her.
Life glow’d upon her lip and cheek,
Her clear een were surprising,
And beautifully turn’s her neck,
Her little breasts just rising:
Nae silken hose with gushets fine,
Or shoon with glancing laces,
On her fair leg forbad to shine,
Well shapen native graces.
Ae little coat, and bodice white,
Was sum of a’ her claithing;-
Even these o’er mickle;- mair delyte
She’d given clad wi’ naithing.
She lean’d upon a flow’ry brae,
By which a burnie trotted;
On her I glowr’d my saul away,
While on her sweets I doated.
A thousand beauties of desert
Before had scarce alarm’d me,
Till this dear artless struck my heart,
And but designing, charm’d me.
Hurry’d by love, close to my breast
I grasp’d this fund of blisses;
Wha smil’d, and said, without a priest,
Sir, hope for nought but kisses.
I had nae heart to do her harm,
And yet I couldna want her;
What she demanded, ilka charm
Of her’s pled, I should grant her.
Since heaven had dealt to me a routh,
Straight to the kirk I led her,
There plighted her my faith and troth,
And a young lady made her.