1685 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Oldham

Anonymous, "A Pastoral on the Death of Mr. Oldham" Sylvae: or, The Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies (1685) 468-74.



On the Remains of an old blasted Oak,
Unmindful of himself, Menalcas lean'd;
He sought not now in heat the shade of Trees,
But shun'd the flowing Rivers pleasing Bank.
His Pipe, and Hook lay scatter'd on the Grass,
Nor fed his Sheep together on the Plain,
Left to themselves they wander'd out at large.
In this lamenting state young Corydon
(His friend and dear Companion of his hour)
Finding Menalcas, asks him thus the Cause.

CORYDON.
Thee have I sought in every shady Grove,
By purling Streams, and in each private place
Where we have us'd to (it and talk of Love.
Why do I find thee leaning on an Oak,
By Lightning blasted, and by Thunder rent?
What cursed chance has turn'd thy chearful mind,
And why wilt thou have woes unknown to me?
But I would comfort, and not chicle my Friend,
Tell me thy grief, and let me bear a part.

MENALCAS.
Young Astrophell is dead, Dear Astrophell,
He that cou'd tune so well his charming Pipe,
To hear whose Lays, Nymphs left their cristal spring,
The Fawns, and Dryades forsook the Woods,
And hearing, all were ravish'd — swiftest streams
With held their course to hear the Heavenly sound,
And murmur'd, when by following Waves prest on,
The following Waves forcing their way to hear.
Oft the fierce Wolf pursuing of the Lamb,
Hungry and wildly certain of his Prey,
Left the pursuit rather than loose the sound
Of his alluring Pipe. The harmless Lamb
Forgot his Nature, and forsook his Fear,
Stood by the Wolf, and listned to the sound.
He could command a general peace, and nature wou'd obey.
This Youth, this Youth is dead, The same disease
That carry'd sweet Orinda from the world,
Seiz'd upon Astrophell — Oh let these Tears
Be offer'd to the Memory of my Friend,
And let my Speech give way a while to Sighs.

CORYDON.
Weep on Menalcas, for his Fate requires
The Tears of all Mankind, General the lot;
And General be the Grief. Except by Fame
I knew him not, but surely this is he.
Who Sung Learn'd Colin's, and great Aegon's Praise,
Dead e're be liv'd, yet have new Life from him.
Did he not mourn lamented Byon's Death,
In Verses equal to what Byon wrote?

MENALCAS.
Yes this was he (oh that I say he was)
He that cou'd sing the Shepherds deeds so well,
Whether to praise the good he turn'd his Pen,
Or lashed th egregious follies of the bad,
In both he did excell—
His happy Genius bid him take the Pen,
And dictated more fast than he cou'd write:
Sometimes becoming negligence adorn'd
His Verse, and nature shew'd they were her own,
Yet Art he us'd, where Art cou'd useful be,
But sweated not to be correctly dull.

CORYDON.
Had Fate allow'd his Life a longer thread,
Adding experience to that wondrous fraught
Of Youthful vigour, how wou'd he have wrote!
Equal to mighty Pan's Immortal Verse,
He that now rules with undisputed sway,
Guide of our Pens, Crown'd with eternal Bays.

MENALCAS.
We wish for Life, not thinking of its Cares;
I mourn His Death, the loss of such a Friend,
But for himself the dy'd in the best hour,
And carry'd with him every Mans applause;
Youth meets not with detractions blotting hand,
Nor suffers ought from Envies canker'd mind.
Had he known Age, he wou'd have seen the World
Put on its ugliest, but its truest Face,
Malice had watch'd the droppings of his Pen,
And Ignorant Youths who wou'd for Criticks pass,
Had thrown their scornful Jests upon his Verse,
And censur'd what they did not understand.
Such was not my Dear Astrophell: He's dead,
And I shall quickly follow him, what's Death,
But an eternal sleep without a Dream?
Wrapt in a lasting darkness, and exempt
From hope and fear, and every idle passion.

CORYDON.
See thy complaints have mov'd the pittying Skies,
They mourn the death of Astrophell in Tears.
Thy Sheep return'd from straying, round they gaze,
And wonder at thy mourning. Drive 'em home,
And tempt thy troubled mind with easing sleep,
To morrows chearful Light may give thee comfort.