Nereides: Eclogue II.

Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues.

Rev. William Diaper

A singing contest: Melvin mocks the youthful Laron, who asserts his skill in the ways of nature and the ways of love: "I have observing pass'd through different climes, | Can fix the seasons, and adjust the times, | And know what stars, when they oppose or meet | Will cause or stormy winds, or falling sleet." Their banter hints at slippery affairs at court.

Dorothy Broughton: "Within a classical framework, using regular eclogue forms and much of the accepted mechanism of pastoral poetry, Diaper takes as his model Theocritus, the first Arcadian. Theocritean influence is most apparent in the second Sea-Eclogue, which has much in common with Idyll V. Both poems record the song-contest of two swains, who indulge in alternate boasting of knowledge, possessions, achievements, and amorous success" Complete Works (1952) xxv.


Be still, fond youth, and cease the rueful noise,
That wide-mouth'd base ill-suits a squeaking voice:
The shepherd's ruder pipe, or sailors crowd,
As sweetly echoes, and almost as loud.

Rail on, poor Melvin, and with envy swell,
While Pholoe commends the tuneful shell.
She swears beside, I sing like am'rous swains,
When with alternate loves they chear the smiling plains.

Begin, if thou art skill'd in tuneful lay,
Now whispering breezes gentle sounds convey.
The noisy winds in bolted caves are prest,
And now the Halcyon builds her wavering nest.

I have observing pass'd through different climes,
Can fix the seasons, and adjust the times,
And know what stars, when they oppose or meet
Will cause or stormy winds, or falling sleet.

I've seen the deep o'er-spread with stringy weeds,
And depthless waters look like verdant meads.
I know far distant isles in Northern seas,
Where birds from insects grow, and hang on trees.

The Moon commands the Waves. Her changing face
Disturbs the whole, and stirs the watry mass;
But there are seas, which no such influence know,
And rebel-tides, that without order flow.

Though now 'tis calm, I know those magick spells
Can raise the sleeping winds from rocky cells:
The louring Heaven looks then with sadder hue,
And dismal storms, and frightful wrecks ensue.

When fatal rocks have split the broken ship,
And shrieking mortals sink into the deep,
If Laron hears the cry, he often saves,
And buoys the floating wretch amidst the angry waves.
On yonder rock I tun'd the passive air
And Pholoe thought her sister Syren there.
The wanton dolphins joyous danc'd around,
Spouting the waves, and frisk'd at every sound.

In that same cliff Cyano sleeping lay,
With lab'ring haste I cut the yielding way:
I came, and she, glad of the kind surprize,
Still feign'd a sleep, and clos'd her waking eyes.

Ino repents, and would at length be kind;
But she's as fickle as the morning wind:
To me her tears and glances are no more
Than crackling bottles on the frothy shore.

In steepy rocks the Sea-fowl make their nest:
Take heed, ye birds; for an unwelcome guest
Will steal the speckled eggs, and give the prey
To a kind Nymph, that sports in yonder bay.

Peleus, earth-born, his Thetis has enjoy'd;
But the Wood-nymph, who late at ebbing tide
Measur'd the sandy plain, will come no more:
Ah! would she love, I could e'en live — on shore.

The Manati his change of pleasure boasts,
Now sports in seas, now grazes on the coast;
Nature indulges thus th' amphibious kind,
While to our watry home we ever are confin'd.

Unhappy offspring of the briny main,
Who want a voice to sing, or to complain,
Tho' mute your selves, yet you in shoals will throng,
And joy to hear Laron's delightful song.

Fish, Laron, are not mute; for even now
I hear the distant lowings of the Cow,
While softer breezes breathe in whispers round,
And ev'ry wave breaks with a pleasing sound.

See yonder gawdy fish, that fluttering springs,
And cuts the liquid air with moistned wings;
Strange is his life, but stranger Laron's fate,
Who burns amidst the waves, and pines for heat.

Those gilded flyers still in danger move,
Pursu'd by fish below, by birds above:
So Melvin flying from Dorinda's eyes,
To Galatea falls an easy prize.

Old hoary Proteus late I sleeping found
In a dark mossy cave, and clasp'd him round;
In vain to fright with different forms he strove,
I held him fast, and he foretold my love.

I for Leucippe stole a fisher's net;
She kiss'd, and vow'd, she never would forget:
But they shall nothing lose by what I stole,
For to their boats I drive a numerous shoal.

A Trident now is mine, which Ceyx own'd,
Made of a Sword-fish, and emboss'd around:
When I bestow it on the am'rous maid,
Laron with more than kisses will be paid.

Laron is courted by a lovely fair:
Ye Gods! I envy not the happy pair.
Poor duskie-fac'd Melanthe! one wou'd think,
Like Cuttle-fish, she hid her self in ink.

Melanthe still is kind, though coarsely made:
The Nymph that's kind with kindness must be paid,
I hate the skittish fair, that flies when woo'd,
Like fearful Tunnies, when by Sharks pursued.

Lobsters by instinct the Pour-contrel fly;
(For if they see him, they by seeing die);
But we those dangers seek, we ought to shun,
And court our fate, and strive to be undone.

The Polypus, though chang'd, must not escape
By a false dress, and counterfeited shape;
So wanton Nymphs awhile with awkward pride
Deny that passion, which they cannot hide.
Love will revenge on those, who love inspire,
And they must heat themselves, who others set on fire.

When ebbing tides have emptied half the deep,
And pointed rocks affright the distant ship,
The Nereids sit, and comb their flowing hair,
Or move in tuneful sounds the circling air.
But, Triton, were no lover to be caught,
The hair would be uncomb'd, the song forgot.

Melvin, a sail comes brisk before the Wind.
Cease then the Song, and may the Nymph be kind:
For should we thus appear in human form,
The frighted Sailor will forebode a storm.

[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:217-21]