A pastoral elegy addressed "To the Memory of a Fair Young Lady" rounds the cycle of four seasonal poems. In line eleven "Alexis" appears to refer to the Mourning Muse of Alexis, a pastoral elegy by Pope's friend William Congreve: "Behold the Groves that shine with silver Frost, | Their Beauty wither'd, and their Verdure lost. | Here shall I try the sweet Alexis' Strain, | That call'd the list'ning Dryads to the Plain?" William Walsh had formerly celebrated the memory of Mrs. Tempest in "Delia, a Pastoral Eclogue," printed in Tonson's Poetical Miscellanies, the fifth Part (1704).
William Walsh to Alexander Pope: "I do not design to be in London till towards the parliament: then I shall certainly be there, and hope by that time you will have finished your Pastorals as you would have them appear in the world, and particularly the third, of Autumn, which I have not yet seen. Your last Eclogue being upon the same subject as that of mine on Mrs. Tempest's Death, I should take it very kindly in you to give it a little turn, as if it were to the memory of the same Lady, if they were not written for some particular Woman whom you would make immortal. You may take occasion to show the difference between Poets Mistresses, and other mens. I only hint this, which you may either do or let alone, just as you think fit" 9 September 1706; Works, ed. Warton (1796-97) 7:65.
Samuel Johnson: "It seems natural for a young poet to initiate himself by Pastorals, which not professing to imitate real life, require no experience, and, exhibiting only the simple operation of unmingled passions, admit no subtle reasoning or deep enquiry. Pope's Pastorals are not however composed but with close thought; they have reference to the times of day, the seasons of the year, and the periods of human life. The last, that which turns the attention upon age and death, was the author's favourite. To tell of disappointment and misery, to thicken the darkness of futurity, and perplex the labyrinth of uncertainty, has been always a delicious employment of the poets. His preference was probably just" Lives, ed. G. B. Hill (1905) 3:224.
Joseph Warton: "Upon the whole, the principal merit of these pastorals consists, in their musical and correct versification; musical, to a degree of which rhyme could hardly be thought capable; and in giving the truest specimen of that harmony in English verse, which is now become indispensably necessary; and which has so forcibly and universally influence the public ear, as to have obliged every moderate rhymer to be at least melodious" Works of Pope (1797) 1:89-90.
Joseph Warton: "If, according to some critics, pleasing images alone are proper to be exhibited in pastoral poetry, it must be unsuitable, to the intent of this sort of poetry, to lay the scene in the severities of winter" Works of Pope (1797) 1:88n.
W. J. Courthope: "Philips' Pastorals had no more claim than Pope's to be considered 'simple' or 'natural'.... Both poets, however, were loudly applauded for their performances, and Pope was therefore, for the moment, quite ready to be magnanimous in praising his rival, fo whose pastorals he said that 'we had no better Eclogues in our language.' He continued his own work in this direction by writing, about the same time, the pastoral descriptions of Windsor Forest; and, a little later, by adapting the Messianic passages in Isaiah to the style of Virgil's Fourth Eclogue. His Messiah was published in The Spectator on the 14th of May 1712" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 5:159.
Notes from Works of Pope, ed. William Roscoe (1824):
Mrs. Tempest.] This Lady was of an ancient family in Yorkshire, and particularly admired by the Author's friend Mr. Walsh, who having celebrated her in a Pastoral Elegy, desired his friend to do the same, as appears from one of his Letters, dated Sept. 9, 1706. "Your last Eclogue being on the same subject with mine, on Mrs. Tempest's death, I should take it very kindly in you to give it a little turn, as if it were to the memory of the same lady." Her death having happened on the night of the great storm in 1703, gave a propriety to this Eclogue, which in its general turn alludes to it. The scene of the Pastoral lies in a grove, the time at midnight. P.
I do not find any lines that allude to the great storm of which the Poet speaks. Warton.
See however lines 30 to 35, and 60 to 70, which appear to convey the allusion pointed at by the poet.
Ver. 22. Let Nymphs and Sylvans, &c.] This line recalls a pathetic little ballad, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Maid's Tragedy: "Lay a garland on my hearse | Of the dismal yew, | Maidens, willow branches bear, | Say I died true. | My love was false, but I was true, | From my hour of birth: | Upon my buried body lie | Softly, gentle earth!" Bowles.
Ver. 31. Now hang with pearls, &c.] "And hung a pearl in every cowslip's ear." Midsummer Night's Dream. — Steevens
Ver. 41. sweet Echo] This expression of sweet Echo is taken from Comus; as is another expression, loose traces, Third Past. v. 62. Warton.
Ver. 70. Above the clouds,] In Spenser's November, and in Milton's Lycidas, is the same beautiful change of circumstances: in the latter most exquisite, from line 165. "Weep no more, woful shepherds, weep no more— | Where other groves and other streams along, | With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves, | And hears the inexpressive nuptial song | In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love." Warton.
Ver. 88. Time conquers all, &c. "Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori." Vid. etiam Sannazarii Ecl. et. Spenser's Calendar. Warton, Works of Pope (1797) 1:88n]
Ver. 89, &c.] These four last lines allude to the several subjects of the four Pastorals, and to the several scenes of them particularized before in each. P.
IMITATIONS AND VARIATIONS.
Ver. 1. Thyrsis, the music, &c.] [Greek passage] &c. Theocr. Id i.
Ver. 13. Thames heard, &c.] "Audiit Eurotas, jussitque ediscere lauros." Virg. P.
Ver. 29. Originally thus in the MS. "'Tis done, and nature chang'd since you are gone; | Behold the clouds have put their Mourning on." Warburton.
Ver. 23, 24, 25. "Inducite fontibus umbras | Et tumulum facite, et tumulo superaddite carmen." P.
Ver. 69, 70. "miratur limen Olympi, | Sub pedibusque videt nubes et sidera Daphnis." Virg. P.
Ver. 81. "illius aram | Saepe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus." Virg. P.
Ver. 86. "solet esse gravis cantantibus umbra, | Juniperi gravis umbra." Virg. P.
Thyrsis, the Musick of that murm'ring Spring
Is not so mournful as the Strains you sing.
Nor Rivers winding through the Vales below,
So sweetly warble, or so smoothly flow.
Now sleeping Flocks on their soft Fleeces ly,
The Moon, serene in Glory, mounts the Sky,
While silent Birds forget their tuneful Lays,
Oh sing of Daphne's Fate, and Daphne's Praise!
Behold the Groves that shine with silver Frost,
Their Beauty wither'd, and their Verdure lost.
Here shall I try the sweet Alexis' Strain,
That call'd the list'ning Dryads to the Plain?
Thames heard the numbers as he flow'd along,
And bade his Willows learn the moving Song.
So may kind Rains their vital Moisture yield,
And swell the future Harvest of the Field!
Begin; this Charge the dying Daphne gave,
And said, "Ye Shepherds sing around my grave."
Sing, while beside the shaded Tomb I mourn,
And with fresh Bays her Rural Shrine adorn.
Ye gentle Muses leave your Crystal Spring,
Let Nymphs and Sylvans Cypress Garlands bring;
Ye weeping Loves, the Stream with Myrtles hide,
And break your Bows, as when Adonis dy'd;
And with your Golden Darts, now useless grown,
Inscribe a Verse on this relenting Stone:
"Let Nature change, let Heav'n and Earth deplore,
Fair Daphne's dead, and Love is now no more!"
'Tis done, and Nature's various Charms decay,
See gloomy Clouds obscure the chearful Day!
Now hung with Pearls the dropping Trees appear,
Their faded Honours scatter'd on her Bier.
See, where on Earth the flow'ry Glories lye,
With her they flourish'd, and with her they dye.
Ah what avail the Beauties Nature wore?
Fair Daphne's dead, and Beauty's now no more!
For her, the Flocks refuse their verdant Food,
The thirsty Heifers shun the gliding Flood.
The silver Swans her hapless Fate bemoan,
In sadder Notes than then they sing their own.
Eccho no more the rural Song rebounds,
Her Name alone the mournful Eccho sounds,
Her Name with Pleasure once she taught the Shore,
Now Daphne's dead, and Pleasure is no more!
No grateful Dews descend from Ev'ning Skies,
Nor Morning Odours from the Flow'rs arise;
No rich Perfumes refresh the fruitful Field,
Nor fragrant Herbs their native Incense yield.
The balmy Zephyrs, silent since her Death,
Lament the Ceasing of a sweeter Breath.
Th' industrious Bees neglect their Golden Store;
Fair Daphne's dead, and Sweetness is no more!
No more the mounting Larks, while Daphne sings,
Shall list'ning in mid Air suspend their Wings;
No more the Nightingales repeat her Lays,
Or hush'd with Wonder, hearken from the Sprays:
No more the Streams their Murmurs shall forbear,
A sweeter Musick than their own to hear,
But tell the Reeds, and tell the vocal Shore,
Fair Daphne's dead, and Musick is no more!
Her Fate is whisper'd by the gentle Breeze,
And told in Sighs to all the trembling Trees,
The trembling Trees, in ev'ry Plain and Wood,
Her Fate remurmur to the silver Flood;
The silver Flood, so lately calm, appears
Swell'd with new Passion, and o'erflows with Tears;
The Winds and Trees and Floods her Death deplore,
Daphne, our Grief! our Glory now no more!
But see! where Daphne wond'ring mounts on high,
Above the Clouds, above the Starry Sky.
Eternal Beauties grace the shining Scene,
Fields ever fresh, and Groves for ever green!
There while you rest in Amaranthine Bow'rs,
Or from those Meads select unfading Flow'rs,
Behold us kindly who your Name implore,
Daphne, our Goddess, and our Grief no more!
How all things listen, while thy Muse complains!
Such Silence waits on Philomela's strains,
In some still Ev'ning, when the whisp'ring Breeze
Pants on the Leaves, and dies upon the Trees.
To thee, bright Goddess, oft a Lamb shall bleed,
If teeming Ewes increase my fleecy Breed.
While Plants their Shade, or Flow'rs their Odours give,
Thy Name, thy Honour, and thy Praise shall live!
See pale Orion sheds unwholesome Dews,
Arise, the Pines a noxious Shade diffuse;
Sharp Boreas blows, and Nature feels Decay,
Time conquers All, and We must Time obey.
Adieu ye Vales, ye Mountains, Streams, and Groves,
Adieu ye Shepherds rural Lays and Loves,
Adieu, my Flocks, farewell ye Sylvan Crew,
Daphne farewell, and all the World adieu!