1776 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

S., "An Elegiack Ode, occasioned by seeing the Leasowes, and inscribed to Mrs. B—t" Westminster Magazine 4 (October 1776) 541-42.



My candid Guide, my lov'd, my honour'd Friend,
Who led'st my footsteps thro' th' enchanted maze,
With partial ear thy fix'd attention lend
To these my artless, tributary lays.

Ye rich remains that Genius erst designed,
Where, union happy, Nature smiles on Art;
In you we trace your Poet's museful mind,
His graceful ease, his naivete of heart.

Blest be each bower, and blest each kindly shade!
Ye Fays and Fairies, ever haunt the plains!
In these sweet scenes, for contemplation made,
Rove, freely rove, ye fond enamour'd swains!

Yon ivy'd roof that nods to every blast,
Was once of social elegance the throne:
Time stopped to crush it as He onward past,
But fail'd, — and Fame adopts it for her own.

Ye winding paths insensibly that steal
From vale to grove, from grove to rising mount,
Then lead to where yon gliding waters deal
Supplies how welcome to the bubbling fount!

He twined your bowers to screen from Phoebus' beams,
With flowers he strew'd your sweetly devious way,
He tuned the cadence of your falling streams,
And you inspired the Shepherd's Dorick lay.

Ye bold cascades in silver sheets that fall
And break in cataracts o'er the rugged steep!
He bids; and ye, obedient to his call,
Rush headlong on with rude impetuous sweep.

'Twas thus I sung, when lo! the Pastoral Muse,
With pallid cheek, deject, past slowly by;
The Shepherd's praise her latent grief renews,
The tear of anguish trembles in her eye.

I saw the Maid, her tresses all unbound,
And torn the laurel wreath she whilom wore;
Her sable vesture swept the dewy ground,
Her crook was broke, her hand a cypress bore.

She sung, — and oh, how plaintive was her song!
She play'd, — her trembling notes how sadly sweet!
Shenstone! she cry'd, how mute is now that tongue,
Which erst delighted wou'd my strain repeat!

I saw thee rear the woodland's various pride,
I saw thee bend the branches to a shade;
I saw thee lead the gently swelling tide
To where its waters form th' abrupt cascade.

I saw, and lov'd, and yielded to thy suit;
I gave to thee my softest, sweetest lay;
I graced thy fingers with the pastoral flute,
Then listen'd with a smile to hear thee play.

But Thou art gone, — the Nymphs and Fauns delight!
With thee the Loves and Graces all are fled!
Ye Nymphs, ye Fauns, in mournful mood unite,
Lament with me your Friend, your Poet dead!

See where lorn Galatea courts the gloom,—
The pensive Maid, reclined upon her urn,
Heaves the sad sigh for Shenstone's early doom,
Sheds tears that speak, and utters words that burn;

While every warbling tenant of the grove,
And every bleating lamb that snows the hill,
All that in air, or earth, or water rove,
Wail their dire loss, the Genius of the vill.

Yet still the gentle Bard's enamour'd sprite
Frequents the scenes his frolick fancy form'd,
Forsakes Elysium for a happier site,
A site that once his glowing genius warm'd.

And oft at eve I see his reverend shade
Glide thro' the gloom or flit across the green,
Or hover o'er the stream in yonder glade,
Till lessening into air, no more 'tis seen.

Then still in thought I hear seraphic strains
In gentlest accents wafted down the vale,
Till fainter echoes bear them o'er the plains,
And the soft warblings die upon the gale.

Peace to thy spirit, simple Son of Song!
For thee still flow the tributary tear!
Sigh after sigh in sad succession throng,
And Memory sicken o'er thy timeless bier!

She ceased and wept, — nor could prolong the lay;
A loss more recent tears alone deplore:
Begone, she cry'd, — and cast her lyre away,
Sad sounds declare that Lyttelton's no more.