1709 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Pastoral III. Roger, or the Wag.

A Select Collection of Poems: with Notes, biographical and historical: and a complete Poetical Index. 8 Vols [John Nichols, ed.]

Rev. Abel Evans


Pastoral III, "Roger, or the Wag," is concerned with competition for preferment. William, who has unsuccessful tried to market his sheep at the fair, encounters Colin and asks him for news. Colin relates the story of the glib Roger, a shepherd who has acquired a promotion: "Roger turn'd farmer! Plow-boys, prick your ears! | What lubber now to make his fortune fears?" Colin describes how Roger (who sounds like an Inns-of-Court type) had shocked the shepherdesses by drawing an obscene figure in the sand, for which he was exposed as a bumpkin Braggadocio by submitting to a beating from the milksop Dicky. When William is disgusted that such a rogue should find preferment, Colin offers some Christian consolation. The frame of the pastoral is adapted from Virgil's first Eclogue. Compare the second eclogue by William Browne of Tavistock, where a pastoral community is also defined by the exclusion of one who fails to display proper "simplicity."

One would like to be able to identify "Roger," who seems intended for a real person. He reappears in Pastoral X (1710), where he appropriates a wreath intended for Abin, presumably "Abel" Evans. This suggests a rivalry among pastoral poets, and surely Ambrose Philips, the toast of the Addison circle, seems like a possibility for Roger — the bawdiness of his "Marion" episode was a topic for pastoral poets for decades. Philips had a reputation as a Braggadochio: he had fought in Spain and, as Johnson reports, "hung up a rod at Button's, with which he threatened to chastise Pope." After the publicatio of his pastorals in 1709, Philips was appointed secretary to the embassy at Copenhagen, which may be the "farm" referred to here. Moreover the name "Roger" appears in a manuscript poem Pope quotes in his Guardian 40 on pastoral to ridicule Philips's use of rural dialect: "Rager go vetch tha Kee, or else tha Zun, | Will quite be go, be yore c' have half a don." This poem has not come to light, nor does it sound like Evans. But it could possibly be a version of one of Evans' missing pastorals. To spin a further web of speculation: if Roger is Philips, could Dicky could be Richard Steele and Colin Addison?

Bell's Fugitive Poetry: "Dr. Evans though scarcely known but for some bitter epigrams, was once celebrated at Oxford as a Poet, and is mentioned by Pope, with whom he corresponded, together with Swift and Young. Being admitted of St. John's College, he became fellow and bursar, and was vicar of St. Gyles in Oxford" (1789-97) 4:151.

Richard Foster Jones: Evans's pastorals, which range from 1707 to 1719, "are significant in that they show that before Philips and Gay there must have been a distinct feeling that the eclogue form should be devoted to local material and should not be made to serve the purpose of a fictitious Golden Age. Evans writes with a consciousness of his departure from the current literary standards, which is revealed in his repeated defense of his 'humble muse' and 'modest strain,' but in no case does he adopt an apologetic tone. Though there are a few conventional elements, as 'My pipe shall warble through the grove,' in general native scenes are described, rustic characters such as plough-boy, farmer, mountaineer, are portrayed, rustic manners and customs are frequently made use of, and the language attempts to be the dialect of the country. While the collection by no means represents great poetry, there is a certain charm in this sympathetic portrayal of the sorrows and joys of authentic rustics" "Eclogue Types in English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century" JEGP 24 (1925) 50.



WILLIAM AND COLIN.

All wet and weary William home return'd
From distant fairs, and o'erstock'd markets mourn'd.
Slowly lag on his weather-beaten fold,
The greater part as yet remain'd unsold.
Him Colin spied, who, from the open plain,
Had driven his flock to shelter from the rain.
Beneath a hollow hill the shepherd sate;
And joys to welcome his long absent mate.
To him he hies; the friendly cavern shews,
And to the covert bears his fainting ewes:
A leathern bottle, stor'd with humming beer,
He brings; large draughts the drooping drover chear.
And now the sun shot forth a gladsome ray;
The tempest ceas'd; again the fields look'd gay.
William, insensibly, forgets his care,
And cheary thus bespeaks his kind compeer.

WILLIAM.
Sure I set out on some unlucky day!
But, coming fairs my pains may better pay.
'Twere vain to grieve; what must be will befall;
Good and ill hap, by turn, still wait on all.
Now, say the news, e'er since I saw thee last,
And how the Whitsun holidays were past;
Who won the wrestling prizes at the wake;
Whose head was broke, and for what lass's sake;
Hath lovesome Lobin wedded buxom Kate?
And how doth Roger bear his high estate?
Roger turn'd farmer! Plow-boys, prick your ears!
What lubber now to make his fortune fears?

COLIN.
Full of himself still Roger prides to be
The Merry-andrew of the company.
Our mirth he moves all as a gamesome calf;
We laugh, indeed, but 'tis at him we laugh.

WILLIAM.
Lo! where he comes: O strange! he turns aside!
And see, a plaister doth his temples hide.
You seem to smile; I pry'thee, Colin, tell
If aught worth counting hath the man befell.

COLIN.
Some four or five days past, as on the brink,
(Where morn and evening all the cattle drink)
Simon and I, and Steven, in debate,
With Kitty, and her lover Dicky, sate,
Roger came up, though an unbidden guest,
And marr'd our chatting with an ill-tim'd jest.
A thousand monkey tricks the wag play'd o'er;
Then drew a naughty figure on the shore:
Strait, sparkish Steven, who had seen the town,
To shew his knowledge, called it "a great gun;"
Simon, because it something seem'd to spout,
Said "Nay; an engine 'tis, the flames to d'out!"
"Right! Roger cried; what longing lass desires
A fitter engine to assuage Love's fires?"
And here the lout his sides ungracious shakes;
And mighty mock at simple Simon makes:
While modest blushes Kitty's cheeks o'erspread;
No rose in June glows with so bright a red.
But Dicky eyed him with a stern regard.
"Such artists should not want a due reward,"
Said he; then stamp'd the wicked picture out;
And, with his sheephook, bravely laid about.
This marr'd the lubber's laugh: away he fled.
So may all vicious Wou'd-be-wits be sped.

WILLIAM.
Since when did Dicky so much courage gain?
Dicky! the meerest milksop of the plain.

COLIN.
Fair Kitty 's presence made the stripling bold:
His love ill-treated, who his hands could hold?
Dicky behav'd as suits a lover swain:
A worm, when trodden on, will turn again.

WILLIAM.
So did not Roger. What a brag is he!
Boldness and Sheepishness but ill agree.
Could such a blusterer tamely take a blow?
In words so high, in manhood all so low!

COLIN.
Empty and noisy, yet unlike a drum;
Spare him, he rattles, but, well drubb'd, is dumb.

WILLIAM.
Yet this is he, who, in his own conceit
Most wise, as fools doth all his fellows treat.

COLIN.
Not in his own conceit alone, or how
From driving, should he come to own the plow?

WILLIAM.
His tongue hath serv'd him well at time of need:
He that will spare to speak may spare to speed.
I envy not; however wealth may charm,
Yet, who would Roger be, to gain his farm?

COLIN.
Alas! we all our different failings share:
The best have faults, and each with each should bear.
Now hie and glad thy mess-mates with thy sight:
Thy harrass'd ewes shall be my care to-night.
For lo! the setting sun. The flocks once penn'd,
Home hasting I'll thy news from far attend.

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