This ballad begins: 'D ---- d Brazen Face, how could you hope / To imitate Horatian Strain, / A Labour too refin'd for Pope, / A task which puzzel'd Prior's Pen. / Brains blown to Foam, or sunk in Mud, / Make Works too airy, or too dull, / Then all thy Medley Lines, conclude / Have flowed from a confused Skull.'
Allan Ramsay (1686-1758), poet, song-collector and Edinburgh wig-maker, is today recognised (with Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns) as one of the great vernacular Scots poets of the eighteenth century, and as a vital figure in the revival of Scots poetry after the Reformation of 1560. Even in his lifetime Ramsay was an acclaimed and successful writer, yet this poem attacks him for his intention to translate Horace. Translation of classical poetry was, in fact, a common task undertaken by eighteenth-century poets, and the influences of Horace and Virgil are clear in much of Ramsay's poetry.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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Probable date published:
1720- shelfmark: RB.I.106(106)
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