Ambrose Philips ("Colinet") describes leaving Shrewsbury, where he was born and attended the grammar-school, for Cambridge University. He refers to his search for patronage, which apparently was not going well, for Philips enlisted in the army in 1705, shortly after this poem was probably written. This pastoral, imitating the first Eclogue of Virgil and Spenser's Februarie and September, became the second of the later sequence.
Philips's pastorals, originally published anonymously, early won the approval of Addison, who eventually set the young poet on the road to preferment. Addison (an Oxford man) mentions two pastorals and a "little essay" of pastoral in a letter of 10 March 1705, apologizing for not being able to include them in the Tonson miscellany of 1704 and commenting that "you should only imitate Spenser in his beauties, and never in the rhyme of his verse, for there they think it looks more like a bodge than an imitation" Works (1911) 5:381.
H. B.: "The author acquainted me, that in his younger years he went into Italy with some other gentlemen, who introduced him to the duke of Dorset at Rome, when his grace shewed him great marks of his favour, and read over his three first pastorals, which were wrote in Italy. Mr. Phillips desired the duke's permission to inscribe his pastorals to him when they returned to England; which his grace very obligingly granted, and ever afterwards entertained a great esteem for that author" "Remarks on Philips's Pastorals" in Universal Visitor (1756) 305. [This appears to be entirely inaccurate.]
Samuel Johnson: "The work which had procured him the first notice from the publick was his six Pastorals, which, flattering the imagination with Arcadian scenes, probably found many readers, and might have long passed as a pleasing amusement had they not been unhappily too much commended" "Life of Philips" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 3:316.
George Gregory: "The modern pastorals (strictly so called) as they present no pictures at all analogous to modern life or manners, and are mere imitations of Theocritus and Virgil, excite but little interest. Few at present, I believe, read the pastorals of Spencer or of Phillips, and even the charm of Mr. Pope's versification would scarcely now afford popularity to his pastorals, were they not supported by the excellence of his more mature productions" Letters on Literature, Taste, and Composition (1808) 2:142.
Edmund Gosse: "Ambrose Philips (1671-1749) is chiefly remembered on account of his dispute with Pope about the merit of their rival pastorals. Philips wrote, from Copenhagen, an 'Epistle to the Earl of Dorset,' which was once admired; and, towards the close of his career, he composed a number of birthday odes to children of quality, in a seven-syllabled measure, which earned him the name of 'Namby-Pamby,' but which form, in their infantile, or servile, prettiness, his main claim to distinction" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 137-38.
Herbert E. Cory: "Philips has some real love for nature, though little apparent knowledge at first hand. He was a master of smooth verse. The influence of Spenser upon him is very marked. Like most Augustans, he fused the Spenserian vein with the spirit of neo-classicism" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 137-38.
Why do thy cloudy Looks thus melt in Tears
Unseemly, now all Heav'n so blithe appears?
Why in this mournful manner art thou found,
Unthankful Lad, when all things smile around?
Hark how the Lark and Linnet jointly sing,
Their Notes Soft-warbling to the gladsom Spring.
Tho' soft their Notes, not so my wayward Fate,
Nor Lark would sing, nor Linnet in my State:
Each Creature to his proper Task is born;
As they to Mirth and Musick, I to mourn:
Waking at Midnight I my Woes renew,
And with my Tears increase the falling Dew.
Can lusty Youth have Reason to complain?
Or who the Weight of Age cou'd e'er sustain,
If, as our waning Forces daily cease,
The tiresome Burthen doubles its Increase?
Yet, tho' with Years my Body downward tend,
As Trees beneath their Fruit in Autumn bend,
My Mind a chearful Temper still retains,
Spite of my snowy Head and icy Veins:
For why shou'd Man at cross Mis-haps repine,
Sour all his Sweet, and mix with Tears his Wine?
But speak, for much it may relieve thy Woe,
To let a Friend thy inward Ailment know.
'Twill idly waste thee, Thenot, a whole Day,
Should'st thou give Ear to all my Grief can say:
Thy Ews will wander, and thy heedless Lambs
With Bleatings loud require their absent Dams.
There's Lightfoot, he shall tend them close,and I
'Twixt whiles a-cross the Plain will glance mine Eye.
Where to begin I know not, where to end,
Scarce does one smiling Hour my Youth attend:
Tho' few my Days, as my own Follies show,
Yet all those Days are clouded o'er with Woe:
No Gleam of happy Sun-shine does appear
My lowring Skie and wintry Days to chear.
My piteous Plight in yonder naked Tree,
That bears the Thunder-scar, too well I see;
Quite destitute it stands of Shelter kind,
The Mark of Storms, and Sport of ev'ry Wind:
Its riven Trunk feels not th' Approach of Spring,
Nor any Birds among the Branches sing;
No more beneath thy Shade shall Shepherds throng
With merry Tale, or Pipe, or pleasant Song:
Unhappy Tree! and more unhappy I!
From thee, from me alike the Shepherds fly.
Sure thou in some ill-chosen Hour wast born,
When blighting Mildews spoil the rising Corn,
Or when the Moon, by Witchcraft charm'd, fore-shows
Thro' sad Eclipse a various Train of Woes:
Untimely born, ill Luck betides thee still.
And can there, Thenot, be a greater Ill?
Nor Wolf, nor Fox, nor rot amongst our Sheep;
For, from all these good Shepherd's Care may keep:
Against ill Luck all cunning Foresight fails;
Whether we sleep or wake it nought avails,
Ah me, the while! ah me, the luckless Day!
Ah luckless Lad! the rather might I say:
Unhappy Hour, when first, in youthful Bud,
I left the fair Sabrina's silver Flood!
Ah silly I! more silly than my Sheep,
Which on thy flowry Banks I once did keep:
Sweet are thy Banks! O when shall I once more
With longing Eyes review thy beauteous Shore?
When in the Crystal of thy Waters see
My Face grown wan thro' Care and Misery?
When shall I see my Hut, the small Abode
My self had rais'd and cover'd o'er with Clod?
Tho' small it be, a mean and humble Cell,
Yet was there room for Peace and me to dwell.
And what the Cause that drew thee first away?
From thy lov'd Home what tempted thee to stray?
A lewd Desire strange Lands and Swains to know;
Ah God, that ever I shou'd covet Woe!
With wandring Feet unblest, and fond of Fame,
I sought I know not what, besides a Name.
Or, sooth to say, didst thou not hither roam
In hopes of Wealth, thou could'st not find at home?
A rowling Stone is ever bare of Moss;
And to their Cost green Years old Proverbs cross.
Small need there was, in flatt'ring Hopes of Gain,
To drive my pining Flock a-thwart the Plain
To distant Cam; fine Gain at length, I trow,
To hoard up to my self such deal of Woe!
My sheep quite spent through Travel and ill Fare,
And, like their Keeper, ragged grown and bare;
Here on cold Earth to make my nightly Bed,
And on a bending Willow rest my Head.
'Tis hard to bear the pinching Cold with Pain;
And hard is Want to th' unexperienc'd Swain:
But neither Want nor pinching Cold is hard,
To blasting Storms of Calumny compar'd:
Unkind as Hail it falls, whose pelting Show'rs
Destroy the tender Herb and budding Flow'rs.
Slander we Shepherds count the greatest Wrong;
For, what wounds sorer than an evil Tongue?
Untoward Lads, that Pleasance take in spite,
Make mock of all the Ditties I indite.
In vain, O Colinet, thy Pipe so shrill
Charms ev'ry Vale, and gladdens ev'ry Hill;
In vain thou seek'st the Cov'rings of the Grove,
In the cool Shade to sing the Heats of Love;
No Passion, but rank Envy, canst thou move:
Sing what thou wilt, ill Nature will prevail,
And ev'ry Elf has Skill enough to rail.
But yet, tho' poor and artless is my Vein,
Menalcas seems to like my simple Strain;
And long as he is pleas'd to hear my Song,
Which to Menalcas does of Right belong,
Nor Night nor Day shall my rude Musick cease,
I ask no more, so I Menalcas please.
Menalcas, Lord of all the neighb'ring Plains,
Preserves the Sheep, and o'er the Shepherds reigns:
For him our yearly Wakes and Feasts we hold,
And chuse the fattest Firstlings from the Fold:
He good to all, that good deserve, shall give
Thy Flock to feed, and thee at Ease to live;
Shall curb the Malice of unbridled Tongues,
And bounteously reward thy rural Songs.
This Night thy Cares with me forget, and fold
Thy Flock with mine to ward th' injurious Cold.
Sweet Milk and clouted Cream, soft Cheese and Curd,
With some remaining Fruit of last Year's Hoard,
Shall be our Ev'ning Fare; and for the Night,
Sweet Herbs and Moss, that gentle Sleep invite.
And now behold the Sun's departing Ray
O'er yonder Hill, the sign of ebbing Day:
With Songs the jovial Hines return from Plow,
And th' unyok'd Heifers, pacing homeward, low.