The word "Shepherd" having formerly been synonymous with "Poet," this piece was published to celebrate the death of one of the "fraternity of featherbrains." Who was meant by Coravin it is not perhaps possible now to ascertain, and the only point which could at all lead to the discovery is, that the author informs us (p. 20) that he died on St. Peter's day—
Untill the time that he was clad in clay,
Which (woe is me) was on St. Peter's day.
Of Coravin's skill in poetry Collins speaks as follows:—
Then Candida (awhile) lay teares aside,
And tell what love-tricks did in 's life betide:
Tell how hee'd sit, and pipe so prettily
That all Swaines joy'd to heare his harmonie.
Each Nimph and Shepheardesse, that now remains
In any of these neighbouring groves or plains,
From fountaines and from fieldes would flock with speed,
To heare him play upon his Oeten Reed;
And as they daily used for to doe,
So would the Satyrs and the Dreiads too.
How oft have I my milke-white flocke forsooke,
And slily stolne downe to a silent brooke,
My Coravins sweet Songs and Oads to heare,
When he (poore Soule) thought little I was there.
The main subject of the poem is the apologue of Cupid exchanging arrows with Death, upon which elegant fancy James Shirley wrote a drama, and which in various shapes has been treated in French, Spanish, and Italian.
The poem is full of unnatural and forced conceits, and possesses very little pastoral simplicity, with much feebleness and dilation. The opening, where Collins describes himself following some garlands thrown upon a stream, is the best part of the work. At the end the author apologizes for his imperfections, praises Sidney, Spenser, and Drayton, and alludes to Lodge.
But two other copies of this production are believed to exist. The dedication is to Lady Haddington, where the author mentions "some of his braines best-borne issues," which were yet concealed and it is followed by fourteen lines "to those Readers that can and will conceive reason."
Commendatory verses, signed Jo. B[eaumont?], thus refer to other productions by our author:—
From Newports bloudy battell (sung by thee)
With Yaxley's death (the flow'r of Chivalry)
As from thy well-pen'd Publican, to bee
Transported thus to fields of Arcady,
Shews that thy Muse is apt for all assayes, &c.
The "well-pen'd Publican" is the subject of our next article, but of the two other pieces we know nothing. The preliminary matter concludes with two stanzas by Samuel Rowlands "to his affected friend Master Thomas Collins."