1710
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lucy, or the Maids. Pastoral IX. In Three Eclogues. 1710.

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

Rev. Abel Evans


Three eclogues (a dialogue between Lucy and Nancy) that form, in effect, a brief pastoral drama. Nancy, who loves Robin, returns from the first pastoral; Lucy is evidently the "Lucilla" from the same poem, in which case the Alen, there so smitten with her beauty, is the Abin of this poem. Evans contrasts Lucy's innocent simplicity with the more worldly wise Nancy, who tellingly remarks: "With all our care, frail beauty will away: | 'Twere folly not to keep it while we may; | If milky fronts and cherry cheeks we own | Not for our selves, I deem, they're given alone." Perhaps Alen-Abin is intended to represent "Abel" Evans.

Nancy gets Lucy to confess her love for Abin. Lucy relates how she had, at some cost, prepared a wreath for Abin while a-maying. This she left in Abin's hut, to which she later repairs with Abin, only to discover there the roguish Roger, with the wreath upon his own head. Abin flees, thinking that Lucy has tricked him. But Nancy informs Lucy that Abin had afterwards learned the truth, and trounced Roger. The narrative ends with sort of singing contest between the two women.

This is followed by a passage in Evans's voice praising Frances Thynne Seymour, Countess of Hertford (1699-1754), remembered as one of James Thomson's early patrons; she is like the "Francelia" of Pastoral XII. Since the Countess was only ten years of age at the date this poem was supposedly written, one can only conclude that this passage was added after her marriage in 1715, possibly during the period that she was a lady in waiting to Queen Caroline. Very little is known of the history of Evans's manuscripts, though it may be that what survives was copied out for presentation on some such later occasion. This might also acount for the inconsistency in the names Alen and Abin.



Flower of the Fair! bright Cytherea's pride!
Victors of those who vanquish all beside!
Deign, lovely Albion virgins, with a smile,
To pay the tender shepherd's tuneful toil.
Ye are his Muses! ye his breast inspire!
Your eyes best kindle the poetic fire.
Though, artless, an unpolish'd strain he play,
O! listen to his lisping lovesome lay.
So long o'er hearts may your soft empire last;
No dire disease your blooming beauties blast;
No care but love your generous breasts invade,
And be that love with mutual love repaid!
Now hush, ye whistling winds; be calm, O air!
While British warblings sooth the British Fair.

LUCY AND NANCY. ECLOGUE I.

LUCY.
Hey-ho, my heart! my hopeless heavy heart!

NANCY.
What ails thee, girl? nay, startle not; in part
I guess thy grief.

LUCY.
Good Nancy, hast thou seen
My mottled lambkin straggling on the green?

NANCY.
Safe are thy younglings; or, if aught you lack,
Doubt not but Abin soon will bring them back.

LUCY.
Hey-ho! poor lamb!

NANCY.
Hey-ho! poor lass! say I.
But, cease to sorrow; trust me, comfort's nigh.

LUCY.
Saw'st thou my Abin? — Motty — I would say.

NANCY.
Fondling! unwitting, you yourself bewray.

LUCY.
What means the wench?

NANCY.
What means thy glowing cheek?

LUCY.
Pish! something you'd of — of my lambkin speak.

NANCY.
Of — of thy lover I could something say.
But see! he comes.

LUCY.
O where? Lord! I'll away—
And yet—

NANCY.
And yet, thou hast not power to go.
Be calm; he turns aside.

LUCY.
Where gads he trow!

NANCY.
What is't to thee? how do thy glances rove!
Go, follow, go! Lord, what a thing is love?

LUCY.
I love him! I!

NANCY.
Not less than he does—

LUCY.
Who?

NANCY.
Bless me! how wild you look! have patience — you.

LUCY.
Me, simple maid! when us the churl espied,
Beheld'st thou not how soon he turn'd aside?

NANCY.
No; 'twas another; nay, you eye in vain;
Just now, with folded arms, I met the swain,
With thoughts, I trow, all full of Love and thee,
He sadly stray'd,

LUCY.
Stray where he list for me!

NANCY.
Come come, my lass; thy bosom's not of stone;
Nor canst thou pleasaunce take at other's moan;
At least not Abin's; well I wot thy mind;
So fond, so faithful he, and thou so kind.
In love, as well as years, I've got the start
Of thee; and, by my own, aread thy heart.
Whatever strangeness, outwardly, we shew,
Robin and I have bargain'd long ago.
Mother is to our wish already won.
Dad yields apace; he gain'd, the matter's done.

LUCY.
Ah, happy Nancy!

NANCY.
Happy Lucy too!
If aught of happiness or love I know.
What maiden vaunts so young, yet true, a mate!
What lad, like Abin, doats at such a rate!
How have the woods with Lucy's praises rung!
Was ever name so long, so sweetly, sung?

LUCY.
Woe's me! too sweet! those lays my heart bereft.

NANCY.
A lovely felon, and a lovely theft.
Now say what drives the Shepherd to despair!
And whence thy shyness and unusual care?
Some word misplac'd, I trow; some tender fray
That rivets hearts; the quarrel of a day,
Or rather of an hour.

LUCY.
Full twelve are past!
Past ruefully, since I beheld him last.
And yet he ever wont to haunt this mead,
Those seldom-whiles that we asunder feed.

NANCY.
Ha, ha! and therefore 'twas you took this way?
Guess'd I not right? now Lucy, who's the stray?

LUCY.
Myself, alas!

NANCY.
A lamb, no lad you seek.

LUCY.
Ah, spare me words!

NANCY.
Enough thy blushes speak.

LUCY.
Dear girl! I own, you caught me unawares;
Too much you know.

NANCY.
Unbosom all your cares,
Our flocks, which in the fallow closures feed,
Have store of brouze, and little tendance need.
Nor does steep Beacon-hill yet hide the sun;
The tale will long afore the day be done.
At leisure count thy woes; 'will ease thy breast.
Though much I know, I'd gladly learn the rest.

LUCY.
See Sucky there! not for the world would I,
That gossip should o'erhear my misery.
Though slighted, still she Abin haunts from far;
Poor Lucy's sorrows would be nuts to her.
Beneath yon hedge, by the green meadow's side,
Let's rest: by prying damsels less espied.

ECLOGUE II.

NANCY.
How gay the blooming bushes! we may hope
Of berries, hips, and haws, a plenteous crop.
The birds will have a banquet. I foresee,
The coming winter will a sharp one be.
Now sit and speak thy sorrows, free from fear:
I'll pay the tale with something worth thy ear.

LUCY.
This morn, this luckless morn! by break of day,
I hied a field, fond fool! to gather May.
Who knows what summer scorching suns may do?
From the moist boughs I shook the dropping dew,
And bottled safe; devoid of every care.

NANCY.
Save that of love, and to be counted fair!

LUCY.
Still, by thy own, dost thou my heart aread?
Who saw I first, all daggled, brush the mead
Ere scarce this flowery month began?

NANCY.
'Twas me;
And you are shrewdly apt to learn, I see.
Both blameless are. Who, but a witless lass,
Before she's wed, unheeds her garb or face?
With all our care, frail beauty will away:
'Twere folly not to keep it while we may;
If milky fronts and cherry cheeks we own
Not for our selves, I deem, they're given alone.
What boot the fairest flowers, ungaz'd upon?
We're taught, nought's vainly made. Now, girl, go on.

LUCY.
Unwitting woe to come, I cheary hied,
And, in the damp, unchill'd, my labour plied.
Abin, I knew, would, at due season, loose
My pent-up flock, and freshest pasture chuse.
My vial fill'd, now, the short task was done,
When, threatening mischief, cloudy rose the sun.
High in the hedge, behold! a gaudy spray
Smil'd in full bloom; above its fellows gay.
With thee, thought I, I'll deck my leafy bower
Gainst Abin comes; I knew the promis'd hour.

NANCY.
That shady arbour; or just such a one,
(Forgive my craving!) oft I've wish'd my own,
A pleasing fence from sun and sudden rain;
Where scarce a tree o'ershades the naked plain,
Amidst the common, in a bushy brake,
That curious Abin rais'd, for Lucy's sake.
How hath he trim'd and twin'd the stubborn boughs?
The work the lad, the lad the lover shew.

LUCY.
To reach the twig, I all a tiptoe tried;
Nigh grew a luckless bramble, unespied:
See, Nancy, how my mangled palm was torn!
I caught at flowers, alas! but grasp'd a thorn!
Ah me! forerunner of more cruel smart!
That hurt my hand, this sorely thrills my heart.
Ah me, my Nancy! so, in love, we find,
Gay bloomy joys with prickly sorrows join'd.
However, I cropt the branch; nor felt much pain;
Well pleas'd to think, when Abin saw the stain
My blood had made, his lips, still balmy found,
With words and kisses sweet would heal the wound.
Mistaken maid! ne'er did my grated ear,
From lips so sweet, such rude revilings hear.
Now to my bower I tript; but, by the way,
Cull'd out the freshest flowers, the pride of May.
Arriv'd, full fair in front I fix'd the bough
With crimson ting'd; you guess the cause, I trow.
Then, on the turf-rais'd bank, adown I sat;
And often ey'd the distant five-barr'd yat,
By Abin leap'd, when lightsome, all in haste,
Still joyous, thitherwards, the shepherd past.
Nor idly lais'd I, though my hand was sore,
But rang'd in order every chosen flower.
Then in a rushy wreath, full artful, fix'd
With scented thyme and glossy bay leaves mix'd.
On went the pleasing work, design'd to pay
My lad's last ditty; a sweet lovesome lay.
The tender strain I to myself humm'd o'er;
And call'd the listening birds around my bower.
Around my bower the birds all listening came;
By Abin's often singing there made tame:
Made tame by Abin's song, and so was I,
Erewhile so coldly coy, so simply shy.
Ah, why not shunn'd I still his tempting tale!
But now he flies, and 'tis my turn to wail!
For, lo! ere yet the promis'd time grew nigh,
A gathering storm benights the lowering sky;
Down, rattling, rush'd the heavy hail-fraught shower
Lord! how I wish'd for Abin in the bower!
Now, like a lusty buck, he bounds along;
My heart too, at his light, as lightsome sprung;
Wet as he was, I ran to meet the swain,
And, with my mantle, shelter'd from the rain;
For none had hardy he. Within his arms
He caught me soft, and, "Why thy tender charms
My Love! said he, dost drench in driving rain?"
Then, kissing, to the arbor hies amain,
Where down he drops me, with a sudden shock,
And, sighing, colour'd like a turkey-cock—
For, lo! rude Roger, with my garland crown'd.
God! at the sight, I thought I should have swoon'd.
"Wanton! cries Abin, was it all for this,
You crafty met me with a Judas kiss?
O wondrous care! my head from storms to skreen,
That thy lout lover might escape unseen.
Light wench! I came an hour too soon, I trow!
Thus mated, what hath Abin here to do?"
Then, with a look that almost struck me dead,
Unanswer'd through the tempest muttering fled.
Now, Nancy, guess at luckless Lucy's care!
God-wot, I wist not any one was there!
How soon is lover's joyance marl'd with woe!
Ungentle boy! to snub and flout me so!

NANCY.
Troth, Lucy, Love is nice; in such a case,
I'd done the same, were I in Abin's place—
Ah! where the bull broke through the western mound,
Lo! where he bellowing comes, and tears the ground!
'Tis well the stile's so near; behind the yat
More safely we may sit, and end our chat.

ECLOGUE III.

LUCY.
I'm glad we're here! and yet, rude Roger's sight,
This morning, put me in a greater fright.
Nor bull, nor bear, broke loose, though met alone,
Could terrify me more than Abin's frown.
What might I do? the lad outstript the wind;
Nor would I, with the lubber, 'bide behind.
Homeward, amid the storm, in wretched guise
I lagg'd; with heavy heart, and streaming eyes.
And from my laden lap the bottle threw;
My lover lost, small need had I of dew.

NANCY.
Rash girl! to render thus thy labour vain!
Ere May be out, you'll go to work again.
Now heedful hark to what will give thee joy.

LUCY.
You chear my heart!

NANCY.
I read it in thine eye.
Bleak blew the morning blast, when stormy showers
Lodg'd the green corn, and crush'd the tender flowers,
O'erblown the tempest, ceas'd the rushing rain,
How peark that waves! how brag these spread again!
Those coal-black clouds, late lowering in the sky,
Now with gold edgings trim their crimson dye.
How fair an evening, yet how foul a day!
So gladsome glee shall chace thy cares away,
Or ill I deem; for Abin, who, erewhile,
In mopish mood, against the woodward stile,
All heedless hurt his knee—

LUCY.
Ah me! I fear
He 'as ne'er a plaister; would we had him here!
Yon healing leaf his raging smart should tame:
His eating hose may make the lad fall lame.
But what care I?

NANCY.
True; Abin's not thy care.

LUCY.
Say on; where went he? what did he do there?

NANCY.
O'erhearing gamesome Roger in a brake,
(As loud he laugh'd, I ween, for laughing's sake)
To him he skips; and, red with wrath, espies
The giggling oaf deck'd with thy flowery prize.
"Churl! who (said he) did that gay crown bequeath?"
Then from his freckly forehead tore the wreath,
And, frowning, clench'd his fist. At which the lout
All trembling told the truth (for truth will out)—
How that, to shun the shower, he hasty hied,
And lurking in the bushes unespied,
Till you uprising dropp'd the work adown;
Then to the bower slunk he, and don'd the crown,
On waggery bent.

LUCY.
On mischief bent, say I!
His joys still rise from others misery.
Beshrew his tricks!

NANCY.
They're all paid home at last.
Harm watch, harm catch. Now Abin, all aghast,
With hanging head, long, sadly silent, stood;
When, starting, at him flew, in furious mood.
"Pies on thy pranks!" said he, and drubb'd him sore.
Then, "Lucy! Lucy!" cried; and, tow'rds thy bowers
Fleet as an hunted hare, away he sprung.
I guess, his peace will cost him a new song.
Say, Lucy, were not this a sweet amends?
Some gentle chidings first, then buss, and friends.

LUCY.
Dear flatterer! sure thou'rt brib'd to take his part.
How have thy words buoy'd up my sinking heart!

NANCY.
This night, I ween, thy slumbers will be sound.
See how the tuneful robins flock around.
Glad tidings they of love and pleasaunce bring,
When, peaceful, thus, in pairs, they softly sing.
Sweet redbreasts! friendly birds! to Nancy dear,
Both for your song and him whose name you bear.
How would my Robin listen to your lays!

LUCY.
How will they hearken when my Abin plays!

NANCY.
Though less of music's skill my Robin prides,
Me, me alone, he loves, and never chides!

LUCY.
Though many lasses Abin seek to move,
Me, me alone, the lad vouchsafes to love!

NANCY.
Vouchsafes to love! yes, as this morning shews!

LUCY.
From ill-form'd fears such short-lived coldness flows.

NANCY.
Had Robin dar'd to leave me so behind!—

LUCY.
And then, repenting, should become more kind—

NANCY.
Yet then—

LUCY.
What then: Nay! do not look so red.
Bless me! behold! the friendly birds are fled!
Their sudden flight forebodes another fray:
I hold too much one quarrel in a day.

NANCY.
Who for a song slight Robin, are not wise.

LUCY.
Who prize him more than Abin have no eyes.

NANCY.
Robin delighteth not to give me smart.

LUCY.
Abin more gladly heals than wounds my heart.
Ha! Shock creeps through the hedge! kind faithful cur!
Hast smelt me out? thy master is not far.
Com'st thou afore, the shepherd's peace to sue?
O! may be still like thee prove fond and true!
Poor Shock! thou seem'st my hurt to understand;
How dost thou whine, and fawn, and lick my hand!

NANCY.
His master's lips will far more healing prove.
Farewell. In quest of me, behold! my love!

LUCY.
See Abin too! with Motty on his back!
Farewell! nor lamb, nor lover, now I lack!

The flattering mirror mends the faulty face.
Unblemish'd beauty, in the liquid glass
Of some clear rivulet, its genuine charms
Delights to view reflected. Love, who arms
The conquering eye, with tender cares disports,
And reigns alike in cottages and courts;
Whether with Lucy's looks he swains beguiles,
Or triumphs in bright Hertford's graceful smiles.

Ye shining Fair! sweet subjects of my song!
The shepherd's ditties are sincere, though long.
Forgive th' excess: spare whom your eyes enslave:
Abin ask'd pardon, and his nymph forgave.
May your soft breasts no harsher trials prove!
Such little jealousies enliven love.

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