1714
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Shepherd's Week VI. Saturday; or, the Flights.

The Shepherd's Week. In Six Pastorals. By Mr. Gay.

John Gay


In his concluding pastoral, John Gay follows the convention and glances at higher things as Bowzybeus runs over a catalogue of popular songs and ballads. The extent to which the poet mocks his subject is not entirely clear, for surely some empathy peeps through the burlesque. It would not be long before oral literature and black-letter balladry was collected and treasured up. A century later, Robert Southey was considering Robin Hood as a topic for heroic poetry: "A pastoral epic, with rhyme and without rhyme, — long lines and short line, now narrative, now dramatic, — lawless as the good old outlaw himself" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:17-18. Gay's imitation of Virgil may have been suggested by the eighth eclogue of William Diaper's Nereides (1712) where, in georgic fashion, Proteus sings of the creation of the world.

Thomas Campbell: "Gay's Pastorals are said to have taken with the public, not as satires on those of Ambrose Philips, which they were meant to be, but as natural and just imitations of real life and of rural manners. It speaks little, however, for the sagacity of the poet's town readers, if they enjoyed those caricatures in earnest, or imagined any truth of English manners in Cuddy and Cloddipole contending with Amabaean verses for the prize or song, or in Bowzybeus rehearsing the laws of nature. If the allusion to Philips was overlooked, they could only be relished as travesties of Virgil, for Bowzybeus himself would not be laughable unless we recollected Silenus" (1829; 1845) 351.

Richard Foster Jones: "In the "Proeme" to the poems Gay says that Theocritus was his model, and Goldsmith tells us that the author resembles Theocritus more than any other English writer, but a cursory examination reveals the fact that they are very close imitations of Virgil. In fact, it is remarkable how Gay succeeds in using the rigid forms and devices of the eclogue for his accurate portrayal of rustic scenes. Especially interesting is the last eclogue, imitating the sixth of Virgil, in which the part of Silenus is taken by the village vagabond, who tells stories and sings ballads to an admiring group of farm hands and milk maids. The strictness with which the poems adhere to the Virgilian type without any apparent artificiality makes them one of the most successful attempts at putting new wine into old bottles offered by the eighteenth century" "Eclogue Types in English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century" JEGP 24 (1925) 49.

Vinton A. Dearing: "'Saturday' is based on Virgil's Eclogue VI, except that Gay opens with a burlesque of Eclogue IV, upon which he afterwards based the opening couplet of 'The Birth of the Squire'.... Eclogue VI opens in quite an opposite strain, with Virgil resisting the temptation to write a martial poem.... There are no overt parallels to Philips in this poem, or at least none that are as close as similar passages elsewhere, but the whole may be intended to parody Philips's Fifth Pastoral, which praises Spenser, under the name of Colin Clout, by describing — following closely a poem in Faminio Strada's Prolusions II. vi — how he triumphed over a nightingale in a contest of music"Poetry and Prose (1974) 535.

John Gay's Notes:

22. Serta procul tantum capiti delapsa jacebant. Virg. [Ec. VI]

40. Sanguineis frontem moris & tempora pingit. Virg.

43. Carmina quae vultis, cognoscite: carmina vobis. Virg.

47. Nec tantam Phoebo gaudet Parnasia rupes | Nec tantum Rhodope mirantur & Ismarus Orphea. Virg.

51. Our Swain had possibly read Tusser, from whence he might have collected these philosophical Observations.

Namque canebat uti magnum per inane coacta &c. Virg.

97. Fortunati ambo, si quid mea carmina possunt, | Nulla dies unquam memori vos eximet aevo. Virg.

99. A Song in the Comedy of Love for Love, beginning A Soldier and a Sailor, &c.

109. A Song of Sir J. Denham's. See his Poems.

112. Et fortunatam si nunquam Armenta fuissent | Pasiphaen. Virg.

117. Quid loquar aut Scyllam Nisi, &c. Virg.

117. Old English Ballads.



BOWZYBEUS.

Sublimer Strains, O rustick Muse, prepare;
Forget a-while the Barn and Dairy's Care;
Thy homely Voice to loftier Numbers raise,
The Drunkard's Flights require sonorous Lays,
With Bowzybeus' Songs exalt thy Verse,
While Rocks and Woods the various Notes rehearse.

'Twas in the Season when the Reaper's Toil
Of the ripe Harvest 'gan to rid the Soil;
Wide through the Field was seen a goodly Rout,
Clean Damsels bound the gather'd Sheaves about,
The Lads with sharpen'd Hook and sweating Brow
Cut down the Labours of the Winter Plow.
To the near Hedge young Susan steps aside,
She feign'd her Coat or Garter was unty'd,
What-e'er she did, she stoop'd adown unseen,
And merry Reapers, what they list, will ween.
Soon she rose up, and cry'd with Voice so shrill
That Eccho answer'd from the distant Hill;
The Youths and Damsels ran to Susan's aid,
Who thought some Adder had the Lass dismay'd.

There fast asleep they Bowzybeus spy'd,
His Hat and oaken Staff lay close beside.
That Bowzybeus who could sweetly sing,
Or with the rozin'd Bow torment the String;
That Bowzybeus who with Finger's speed
Could call soft Warblings from the breathing Reed;
That Bowzybeus who with jocond Tongue,
Ballads and Roundelays and Catches sung.
They loudly Laugh to see the Damsel's Fright,
And in disport surround the drunken Wight.

Ah Bowzybee, why didst thou stay so long?
The Mugs were large, the Drink was wondrous strong!
Thou should'st have left the Fair before 'twas Night,
But thou sat'st toping 'till the Morning Light.

Cic'ly, brisk Maid, steps forth before the Rout,
And kiss'd with smacking Lip the snoring Lout.
For Custom says, Who-e'er this Venture proves,
For such a Kiss demands a pair of Gloves.
By her Example Dorcas bolder grows,
And plays a tickling Straw within his Nose.
He rubs his Nostril, and in wonted Joke
The sneering Swains with stamm'ring Speech bespoke.
To you, my Lads, I'll sing my Carrol's o'er,
As for the Maids, — I've something else in store.

No sooner 'gan he raise his tuneful Song,
But Lads and Lasses round about him throng.
Not Ballad singer plac'd above the Croud
Sings with a Note so shrilling sweet and loud,
Nor Parish Clerk who calls the Psalm so clear,
Like Bowzybeus sooths th' attentive Ear.

Of Nature's Laws his Carrols first begun,
Why the grave Owl can never face the Sun.
For Owles, as Swains observe, detest the Light,
And only sing and seek their Prey by Night.
How Turnips hide their swelling Heads below,
And how the closing Colworts upwards grow;
How Will-a-Wisp mis-leads Night-faring Clowns,
O'er Hills, and sinking Bogs, and pathless Downs.
Of Stars he told that shoot with shining Trail,
And of the Glow-worms Light that gilds his Tail.
He sung where Wood-cocks in the Summer feed,
And in what Climates they renew their Breed;
Some think to Northern Coasts their Flight they tend,
Or to the Moon in Midnight Hours ascend.
Where Swallows in the Winter's Season keep,
And how the drowsie Bat and Dormouse sleep.
How Nature does the Puppy's Eyelid close,
'Till the bright Sun has nine times set and rose.
For Huntsmen by their long Experience find,
That Puppys still nine rolling Suns are blind.

Now he goes on, and sings of Fairs and Shows,
For still new Fairs before his Eyes arose.
How Pedlars Stalls with glitt'ring Toys are laid,
The various Fairings of the Country Maid.
Long silken Laces hang upon the Twine,
And Rows of Pins and amber Bracelets shine;
How the tight Lass, Knives, Combs, and Scissars spys,
And looks on Thimbles with desiring Eyes.
Of Lott'ries next with tuneful Note he told,
Where silver Spoons are won and Rings of Gold.
The Lads and Lasses trudge the Street along,
And all the Fair is crouded in his Song.
The Mountebank now treads the Stage, and sells
His Pills, his Balsams, and his Ague spells;
Now o'er and o'er the nimble Tumbler springs,
And on the Rope the ventrous Maiden swings;
Jack Pudding in his parti-colour'd Jacket
Tosses the Glove, and jokes at ev'ry Packet.
Of Raree-Shows he sung, and Punch's Feats,
Of Pockets pick'd in Crowds, and various Cheats.

Then sad he sung the Children in the Wood.
Ah barb'rous Uncle, stain'd with Infant Blood!
How Blackberrys they pluck'd in Desarts wild,
And fearless at the glittering Fauchion smil'd;
Their little Corps the Robin-red-breasts found,
And strow'd with pious Bill the Leaves around.
Ah gentle Birds! if this Verse lasts so long,
Your Names shall live for ever in my Song.

For Buxom Joan he sung the doubtful Strife,
How the sly Sailor made the Maid a Wife.

To louder Strains he rais'd his Voice, to tell
What woeful Wars in Chevy-Chace befell,
When Piercy drove the Deer with Hound and Horn,
Wars to be wept by Children yet unborn!
Ah With'rington, more Years thy Life had crown'd,
If thou hadst never heard the Horn or Hound!
Yet shall the Squire who fought on bloody Stumps,
By future Bards be wail'd in doleful Dumps.

All in the land of Essex next he chaunts,
How to sleek Mares starch Quakers turn Gallants;
How the grave Brother stood on Bank so green.
Happy for him if Mares had never been!

Then he was seiz'd with a religious Qualm,
And on a sudden, sung the hundredth Psalm.

He sung of Taffey Welch, and Sawney Scot,
Lilly-bullero and the Irish Trot.
Why should I tell of Bateman or of Shore,
Or Wantley's Dragon slain by valiant Moore,
The bow'r of Rosamond, or Robin Hood,
And how the Grass now grows where Troy Town stood?

His Carrols ceas'd: the list'ning Maids and Swains
Seem still to hear some soft imperfect Strains.
Sudden he rose; and as he reels along
Swears Kisses sweet should well reward his Song.
The Damsels laughing fly: the giddy Clown
Again upon a Wheat-Sheaf drops adown;
The Pow'r that Guards the Drunk, his Sleep attends,
'Till, ruddy, like his Face, the Sun descends.

[pp. 53-60]