1707
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Nicander. A Pastoral Elegy.

Poems on Several Occasions. With Imitations from Horace, Ovid, Martial,... To which is prefix'd a Discourse on Criticism, and the Liberty of Writing, by way of Letter to a Friend. By Samuel Cobb, M.A.

Samuel Cobb


Samuel Cobb alludes to Spenser and Milton as precedents for his pastoral elegy on the death of King William, representing Queen Anne as a new Elizabeth who will uphold the Protestant cause in European wars. The imitation of Astrophel and Lycidas is general at best, though politically speaking, Cobb is very much in the Spenserian tradition. The shepherd Melan bewails the passing of King William and laments his ability to sing a proper eulogy; Thyrsis approves his song while Damon joyfully announces the new reign. At this Melan prophecizes that the Queen , like a new Elizabeth, will successfully prosecute the Protestant aims in European politics: "Here Annabel's Imperial Flag appears, | Spain a new Drake, a second Essex fears. | By distant Winds the dreadful Sound is blown | To proud Versailles, and shakes the Celtick Throne."

The complete title is "Nicander. A Pastoral Elegy, lamenting the Death of that victorious Monarch William the Third, who dy'd the 8th Day of March 1701-02. Inscrib'd to the right honorable Charles Lord Halifax."

Joseph Warton to John Nichols: "There is a thin volume of Cobb's Poems, from whence I have a notion that something might be selected. His Ode in Dodsley is most excellent" Nichols, Anecdotes (1812-15) 6:170.

A copy of Cobb's poems appears in the 1769 sale catalogue of the libraries of William Duncombe and Joseph Spence; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 2:224.



Ye tuneful Sisters of the sacred Throng,
Whom Sylvan Shades delight, and Rural Song;
Whether residing by Oxonian Streams,
Or pleas'd with Reverend Cam, or silver Thames:
Whatever Lakes your Deities possess,
Whatever Groves your Smiles and Graces bless,
In your rude Weeds, and rustick Plainness fair,
As once to Colin's Verse, to mine repair,
And make it worthy Halifax's care,
O Thou, who couldst Nicander's Acts relate,
And only fit to mourn Nicander's Fate,
Suspend thy Transports, and diviner strains,
And listen to the voice of weeping Swains.
While every Tree attended to their Lays,
Witness'd how just their Sorrow, and their praise.

Nigh Kentish Downs, from whence you may survey,
England's tall Bulwarks floating on the Sea.
On a Hill's sunny top young Melan stood
Surpriz'd, and gazing on the moving Wood.
A sudden warmth his generous mind possest,
Inflam'd his Fancy, and inlarg'd his Breast.
The Fields he scorn'd, and would no care bestow
On his soft woolly Charge, which fed below.
On a high Subject he presum'd to sing,
Promis'd new Glories to th' insuing Spring
From two such Helps, the NAVY, and the KING.
While Strength and Wealth in happy Union meet,
A giving Senate, and a potent Fleet.
He thought how safe Fair Albion might repose,
By Seas begirt, and fenc'd with Walls, like those.
He saw, Busiris, thy approaching Fate,
But thought, (poor Swain!) Nicander's would be late.
Oft on Nicander's Genius would he call,
Urge on the ruin of the Faithless Gaul;
His Throne shall totter, when thy Thunder rores,
And shakes his false, unhospitable Shores.
Deferring Heav'n his Justice shall display,
And speak a Vengeance fatal by Delay.

Thus did the Youth pursue his noble choice,
And dar'd above a Shepherd's humble voice.
He sung Nicander, Valorous and Young,
Surpassing ev'n the Race, from whence he sprung.
Told how he sav'd the rich Batavian Soil
When Crown'd with Victory, and cloath'd with Spoil,
From Blood, from Slaughter and from Mons he came,
The Gallick Genius droop'd, and fled before his Flame.

What Lambent Fire did round his Temples shine,
When on the conscious banks of trembling Boyne
He stood? the flying Stream confest her fear,
Saw that no common Majesty was near.

Nor was all Fortune; for the tuneful Swain
Led him thro' Dangers, and o'er heaps of Slain;
From Steinkirk Field, to Landen's bloody Plain.
How the pale Nymphs thro' with'ring Grotto's ran!
The Fountains wept, the Trees to fade began.
In hollow Caves oft were sad Ecchoes heard;
All, but Nicander, for Nicander fear'd.

But the Nymphs ceas'd to mourn, a sudden Grace
Adorn'd the Trees, and Nature's chearful Face.
Safe he return'd from War's unkind Alarms,
At Home rewarded with Maria's Charms.
The Valleys round new verdant Garments wore,
And Flowers sprung up where they ne'r grew before.
Darling of Heav'n! Thy Presence is Divine
To bless our Meadows, and preserve our Kine,
And guard 'em from bewitching Eyes, with Thine,

Such was that Heroe whom the Shepherd prais'd
When to a higher Note his voice he rais'd,
While, careless of their Food below, the list'ning Cattle gaz'd.

But ah! when Heav'n such mighty Blessing pours
On Man, they fall and dy, like hasty Showers.
For lo! not far a Shepherd in Despair
Appears, with haggard Looks, and matted Hair,
Sad signs of sorrow, and of wondrous Care.
Thyrsis, the Name of that unhappy Swain,
The Herdsmen follow'd, a lamenting Train.
Soon as young Melan hears their doleful Tale,
His Colour fades, his sinking Spirits fail.
Then on the Ground his wretched Corpse he cast,
Fell, like a Pine, rent by some Northern Blast.
His folded hands uplifted to the Skies,
While scalding Rivers gutter'd from his Eyes,
Thus he began; O no, ye Powers above,
No more be fam'd for Gentleness and Love;
You, who so mild and merciful appear,
On that sad Morn why were you so severe?
Like some rude Hands, more cruel and unkind
To springing Roses, than the Sun or Wind.
The rising Greatness you refuse to spare,
And crop that Vertue which no Storm can tear.

But we resign, since Heav'n requires his own,
Submit with Patience, and restore the Loan.
Yet give me this last Comfort to lament,
And from my gushing Eyes my Sorrow vent.
As your lov'd Shepherd mourn'd on Israel's Plains,
Not more profusely, tho' in nobler Strains.
His lofty Pipe could breath a louder sound,
When with harmonious grief he curs'd the ground
Where weltring in his Gore his Friend was found.
No: I'll not curse the Hills, nor flow'ry Dales;
Let the sweet Dew descend, and fill the Vales:
Ye barren Mountains, be o'erflown with Rain,
Then spend your Moisture, and with me complain.
Nicander! — from his Eyes fresh Rivers rowl'd,
Each Swain was struck at the sad Tale he told,
Mute as the Grave, and as Nicander cold.
Grief and Amazement fill'd the mournful place,
And a dumb Horror reign'd in every Face;
Till Thyrsis gently rais'd the fainting Swain,
Rise, Melan, and pursue thy Tragick Strain.
Whether you raise Nicander to the Skies,
Or mourn the mighty Dead, in Verse which never dies.
A Task of wond'rous Praise.—

MELAN.
A Task indeed
Superiour, and unsuited to my Reed.
Yet could my Voice rise to a pitch so great
As his, who mourn'd Pastora's cruel Fate,
My Grief above the Vulgar should appear,
And offer something Nobler than a Tear.

THYRSIS.
Tears are the Claim of every Northern Swain;
You must perform above a common Vein.
The Willows chide thee, and the fading Grass,
And murm'ring Streams upbraid thee, as they pass.
The conscious Zephyrs, and th' unwilling Air,
With Grief to yonder Shore the heavy Tidings bear.
And wilt thou, careless Swain, forget to show
What to Nicander's Memory you owe?

MELAN.
Ah! no, my Thyrsis, I've no Thought so low.
Sooner shall Thyme prove hateful to the Bee,
Woods to the Boar, and to the Whale the Sea;
Tygers with Lambs, and Wolves with Sheep shall join,
And Thames and Medway mingle with the Rhine,
E're from Nicander's Love I will depart,
Rooted for endless Ages in my Heart.
E're on his Vertues I forget to call,
Or cease with Tears to mourn his mighty Fall.

Say, what dark Caverns, what secure Recess
Dost thou, Nicander, with thy Presence bless?
Dost thou to starry Groves above repair,
Where sweet Celestial Nymphs, divinely fair,
Knit rosie Garlands for thy golden Hair?
Why hast thou left these Plains, these Flocks alone?
They for their Shepherds pine, for thee their Shepherds moan.
Has Malice drove thee from this hated Shore?
Never! oh! never to behold it more!
Or envious Planets snatch'd thee from our fight,
To add new Lustre to their drooping Light?

Whene're Nicander plough'd the watry Plain,
Safely he past the Dangers of the Main.
Rude Winds were chain'd: no Tempest vex'd the Sea,
But all was gentle, and as calm as He.
With endless prayers Heav'n's vaulted Roof we rent,
As oft it eccho'd with the praise we sent.
Now vain are all the Vows we can bestow,
H'es gone, alas! (O Scene of endless woe!)
On his last Voyage to the shades below.
On Albion's Isle he shook his sacred Head,
Cast back his wishing Eyes, and dying, said,
A long Farewell, be happy, when I'm dead.
Bear the sad news, ye Winds, ye Zephyrs weep,
No more to waft your Master o'er the Deep.
Like us, ye Seas, spend all your brackish store,
And let the falling Clouds supply You more.
Tho' we, and Holland should all Tears ingross.
Whose groaning Lyons seem to mourn the loss.
What Sighs are blown from either Coast! while She
Mourns for a Son, but for a Father We.
A Father, fearless in the heat of Fight,
Whom Death in all his Shapes could never fright.
Mark, how profuse of his important Life
Forward he spurs, and mingles in the strife.
As if such precious blood would nothing cost,
When Kingdoms tremble for each drop that's lost.
Ah! spare thy Soul, Nicander, spare to run
On pointed Swords, and Dangers of the Gun;
The heedless Pike will gore thy tender Side,
Or some malicious Gaul thy Flesh divide.
Or Frosts will hurt Thee, or the Damps unsound,
When Evening Dews affect th' unwholsom ground.
But Damps and Dews were to Nicander kind,
Their Venom scatter'd by a Friendly Wind.
While Bullets tamely flew thro' hissing Air,
And only mark'd whom they had charge to spare.

O had He longer kept his sacred Breath,
Nor fell inglorious by a bloodless Death!
On France the grief of Albion had turn'd,
And the League-breaker had unpity'd mourn'd.

But Heav'n is just, and we deserve our Fate,
Who rashly murmur'd at a Gift so great
Pay your last Tribute, Shepherds, to his Herse,
With Tears bedew it, and adorn with Verse.
'Tis the sad Spoils of that Triumphant King,
Of whom each Grove, each Meadow us'd to ring,
Now a pale Carcass, an unheeded thing.
No more those Arms the glittering Sword shall wield,
No more shall thunder in the dusty Field.
No more shall Rivers at his Voice retire,
Mo more shall Castles tremble at his Fire.

Mourn him, ye Heroes, of the British Race;
Glory of Arms, and Valour's highest Grace.
He taught you Arts the Martial Dance to lead,
The Spear to brandish, and to curb the Steed.
The Foe to fright, and frighted to pursue,
Schemes, which no Time, no Nations ever knew.
Speak, ye shrill Trumpets, in a softer Tone,
And sigh ye Canons, to express our moan.

Tell us, ye Skilful Swains, who Nature chase,
O'er Woods, and Groves, and every shady place,
Who trace her winding steps for Health below,
Whether on herby Hills, or Vales she grow,
Or in Salubrious Fountains chuse to Flow.
Where was the Magick which to Plants belong,
So boasted, Daphnis, in thy Sacred Song?
Ye Springs, where fled ye, on that fatal Day,
When struggling with pale Death Nicander lay,
A Mournful Victim, a lamented Prey?
No more ye Springs, which in fair Kent abound
In wholsom Channels flow beneath the Ground,
Be ever useless, and no more renown'd.
No more, Ye Plants, be clad with useful green;
Let none but letter'd Hyacinths be seen.
Funereal Cypress, and the baleful Yeugh
Are fittest Objects for the Shepherds view.
Let the Triumphant Ivy now decline,
Low is that Head, round which it us'd to twine.
Wither, Ye Laurels, there's no use for you,
Lost is Nicander, for whose Brows you grew.
O could I find him, whither would I run?
What Climates visit, like the trav'ling Sun?
O'er what steep Mountains would I take my way?
Nor fear, nor Danger should excuse my stay.
I'd pass the Lybian Sands, where Tygers yell,
Where Lyons haunt, and Dragons chuse to dwell.
Plough the vast Sea, to farthest Islands go,
Traverse the spacious Globe, with Indians glow
In scorching Beams, or freeze in Russian Snow.
Could I bring back Nicander to these Plains,
Where once he rul'd, and cheer'd the joyful Swains.
Could I restore a Soul so justly brave,
And vindicate the Heroe from the Grave.
But gloomy Darkness, and invidious Night
Shuts him for ever from our longing Sight.

THYRSIS.
Shepherd, thy Tears are just, thy numbers sweet,
Like cooling shades in July's sultry heat.
Hark! how the Birds repeat on yonder Tree,
The Thrush and Bullfinch learn thy Harmony,
And Philomel takes a new Note from Thee.
Yet shall our Judgments give to Damon's place,
If that be he who wears a chearful face.

DAMON.
Shepherds, rejoice, begin in merry Strains,
Tis Holy-day, and shall be round the Plains,
Fair Annabel survives, a new Elisa reigns.

MELAN.
What Goddess is this Annabel, relate,
Whose Presence can repair a loss so great?

DAMON.
She's like an April Sun, whose powerful rise
Scatters the rainy storms, which cloud the Skies,
And chases briny Showers from British Eyes.
See! how her Vertue is diffus'd around;
New Blossoms crown the Trees, new Roses scent the Ground.
Where-e're she treads, blew Violets appear,
And when she Smiles, she glads the Vernal Year.

MELAN.
Sure this is she, born for that wondrous Praise
We thought was destin'd for Maria's Days,
It is: I see the forming Years advance,
Beauty and Valour lead the Noble Dance.
Here on the Rhine victorious Baden fights,
And blazing, like a Prodigy, affrights.
There German Eugene, and his Fortunes go,
At Mantua knocks, and thunders on the Po.
Here Annabel's Imperial Flag appears,
Spain a new Drake, a second Essex fears.
By distant Winds the dreadful Sound is blown
To proud Versailles, and shakes the Celtick Throne.
New Rising Suns shall blaze in English Flame
And to the lofty Skies lift Denmark's Name.
Here Peace shall dwell, here Spring for ever smile,
While Annabel shall bless this Happy Isle;
Whose Lightning shall, like Heav'n's, abroad dismay,
At home be constant Calm, and endless Day.

[pp. 27-43]