William Hinchliffe's pastoral displays unusual familiarity with the eclogue tradition for a poet who had not attended college. The phrase "Ah! well a day!" is plainly taken from Ambrose Philips's first pastoral, and the suffering sheep in this lover's complaint may derive from Spenser's Januarye in Shepheardes Calender: "For him, his Flock; he, for PHILESIA dies; | O wide Destruction of her potent Eyes! | On yon fair Ash I sang, and with my Song | Yon neigh'bring Rocks, and gloomy Copses rung." William Hinchliffe appears to have been an ambitious poet as a young man (he presented an ode welcoming George I to Greenwich), though by the time his volume appeared in 1718 he had married and given up poetry for more secure work in the book trade.
Hinchliffe's friend Henry Needler's A Pastoral. Corydon and Thyrsis, in Poems (posthumously published in 1724) speaks of a Damon who sung "Philesia's Charms, and coy Disdain" p. 27. If Damon is William Hinchliffe, then Needler seems to compare him to Spenser: "Less pleas'd I hear yon' murm'ring chrystal Spring, | Than to his vocal Pipe young Damon sing. | Collin, for Song renown'd o'er all the Plain, | Sung not in softer notes his am'rous Pain" p. 28.
Corydon and Thyrsis proved remarkably durable, being republished with minor changes and no acknowledgment in the British Magazine in 1748, from which it was plagiarised once again in 1786, when it appeared in the New Lady's Magazine.
Why underneath this spreading Poplar's Shade,
Young Corydon, art thou so pensive laid?
Why should that Gloom chase thy wonted Red?
What galling Grief thus preys upon thy Breast,
And with what wasting Woe art thou oppress'd?
Say, drooping Swain, thy faithful Thyrsis tell,
Reveal what racking Cares thy Bosom swell.
Ah! well a day! kind Shepherd, O forbear,
Nor urge the melancholly Tale to hear.
Go, gentle Thyrsis, grace the flow'ry Green;
Chearful, amongst the jolly Swains be seen;
Leave me to sigh alone, and languish here;
Oh! press me not to tell my racking Care.
Arcadian Swains, shall hate their tender Flocks,
Delicious Plains, shall smile on barren Rocks,
My browzing Kidds blue Mallows shall refuse,
My Sheep shall loath the dulcet Morning-Dews,
Fierce Lybian Tygers tim'rous Fawns shall fear,
And bleating Ewes their milky Lambkins tear,
Nature's fix'd Course shall fail, if e'er I go,
'Till I have heard the Cause of all thy Woe:
Begin, sweet Corydon, thy mournful Lay,
Nor shall I think it long all Night to stay.
Alas! — E'erwhile, how brisk was I and gay,
When ruddy Health my Visage did display?
Then to mine Oaten Reed I tun'd my Song,
And won Applause from ev'ry Shepherd's Tongue.
Then, all my Sheep (now ragged) throve amain,
Unhappy Flock, they mourn their Master's Pain!
Not driv'n a-Field, by Morn, whilst here I lie,
Nor pent in Fold, by Night, they all will die:
Unhappy Flock, of a more luckless Swain!
Whilst he to Streams, and Fountains doth complain,
Nor heeds his rural Task; Wo-worth the Days,
When first he did on fair PHILESIA gaze!
For him, his Flock; he, for PHILESIA dies;
O wide Destruction of her potent Eyes!
On yon fair Ash I sang, and with my Song
Yon neigh'bring Rocks, and gloomy Copses rung.
The Nightingale no longer would complain,
But listen'd to my more lamenting Strain:
The prowling Wolves, their horrid Barking cease,
And let the waning Moon descend in Peace.
O Nymph! O Goddess! save a dying Swain!
Nor let me perish by the cold Disdain!
Tho' thou, my Love, art fair as Scythian Snow,
And both thy Cheeks with Tyrian Crimson glow,
Pleasant and sweet, as the soft Western Wind,
Or Jessamin with blushing Roses join'd,
Yet scorn me not, nor aggravate my Pain;
Altho' I be a humble Shepherd Swain.
The Time would fail should I essay to tell,
The Gods and Heroes, who have deign'd to dwell
In Times of Old, on blest Arcadian Plains,
And on their Reeds have tun'd immortal Strains.
I too can trill a no untuneful Lay,
If all be true which plaisant Shepherds say;
(And why should plaisant Shepherds flatter me,
Who all so simple, plain, and guileless be?)
Unfold in Song great Nature's Laws I can,
And mighty Jove, or our Arcadian Pan,
Can raise aloft, in no unworthy Verse,
And their high Praise in swelling Notes rehearse.
But oh! if thou a rural Life wilt brook,
And in thy Hand wilt grasp the past'ral Crook,
I have a Harp, on which I'll fix new Strings,
And play to thee Ten Thousand softest Things.
With Myrtle Wreaths, I'll crown thy lucid Brows;
And raise thy Fame next Jove's Imperial Spouse:
Thy shining Form I'll tell to ev'ry Grove;
And vocal Woods shall praise my beauteous Love,
Nor shall my constant Heart (for ever) from thee rove.
O wond'rous Youth! O tuneful Shepherd Swain!
Not half so sweet the artful Mopsus plays,
Tho' when he sings, our Flocks forget to graze.
But now you've ceas'd the melting Lay to sound,
Let us arise and quit the dampy Ground;
Lo Phoebe's Silver Carr is wheel'd on high,
And thro' the Air, unwholesome Vapours fly:
With me, dear Corydon, 'till Morn retreat,
Tho' mean my Hutt, yet is it snug and sweet.
I have a Beechen Bowl will chear your Heart
To see the Niceness of its Carver's Art;
'Twas fam'd Menalcas' Work, he gave it me,
And for thy charming Song I'll give it thee:
Nor empty that, but crown'd with dulcet Cream,
Delicious, as the Nymph you made your Theme.
Ne'er such a Song, or such a Swain was heard,
But oh! the fatal Cause is what I fear'd.
Go then, with suasive Art pursue the Fair,
And glad Success shall chase thy black Despair;
Let her but hear thy Notes, O Corydon,
And you'll revenge the Harms her Eyes have done;
Soft thrilling Love shall in her Bosom glow,
And her proud flinty Heart relenting grow.
For oh! what Nymph can slight an artful Youth,
Whose Soul's so full of Tenderness and Truth.