1712
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Nereides: Eclogue V.

Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues.

Rev. William Diaper


Lycon relates to Mergus the complaint of unhappy Pasinthas for the ungrateful Ioessa: "Muscles in shoals on mighty whales attend, | Who feed the worthless fish, and court the puny friend: | Fierce sharks by gentle usage are reclaim'd, | But female pride is savage, and untam'd." She declares herself delighted with the song: "Not half so sweet, when first the morning dawns, | Are juicy Oysters, or the luscious Prawns."

Henry Marion Hall: "Obviously a merman rendering of Sannazaro's Phyllis." Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 158-59.

Dorothy Broughton: "The theme of Sea-Eclogue V shows resemblance to the first Idyll of Theocritus, in which Thyrsis is persuaded to sing of Daphnis's fatal love" Complete Works (1952) xxv.



MERGUS, LYCON.

MERGUS.
Lycon, begin — begin the mournful tale;
You know what 'tis to love and not prevail:
Describe Pasinthas in his daily moan,
How much he lov'd, and how he was undone.

LYCON.
Ungrateful Ioessa, vainly coy,
And proud of youthful charms despis'd the boy;
Has left the calmer sea's pacific arms,
Where constant heat the smiling ocean warms,
To shun the youth: (such is the power of Hate!)
Some windy bay is now her lone retreat.
In vain Pasinthas sought in every cave,
In every creek, and mark'd each rising wave;
To every isle he rov'd with wild despair,
And ask'd, if Ioessa had been there.
In vain he has the fruitless search pursued,
For she is gone, and will no more be woo'd.
Pierc'd with the killing thought the lover sighs,
And stills the rising storms with louder cries:
While thus he sadly plains: "In mournful rounds,
The air through hollow rocks repeats the distant sounds,
Each winding cavern tells the fruitless care,
And every rock upbraids the absent Fair;
By the sad echoes which it still returns,
It seems to pity, when the Triton mourns:
But the coy Nympth, deaf to the Mer-man's cry,
Is still unmov'd, and makes no kind reply."
While thus Pasinthas plain'd, the dolphins came,
And wept to hear his moan; the Nereids swam
In beauteous crowds around, and thus they said;
"Weep not, fond Triton, for a peevish maid,
Though she is gone let not the youth despair,
For there are kinder Nymphs, and Nymphs as fair."
But, Mergus, Love is deaf as well as blind;
The best advice is thought the most unkind.
Restless he goes from the fair pitying throng
To a dark cave, where sea-cows lay their young.
A silent grot sad as his thoughts he found,
Where frightful gloom, and horrors sate around.
There on its slimy bottom careless laid,
He sigh'd and wept; he sigh'd, and then he said:
"Have I then lov'd to be repaid with scorn;
Ye Gods! 'tis hard, too cruel to be borne!
What? Have I poison'd too the hated sea,
That Ioessa leaves her home for me?
Had you but told; had you your hatred shown,
I would have lov'd unpity'd, and unknown;
By my own flight I had prevented yours,
And, banish'd hence, retir'd to distant shores,
Where rigid lasting cold, and northern blasts,
O'er whiten'd lands a pearly shining cast;
Where icy flakes like floating isles appear,
And fiercely meet; the noise you'll dread to hear,
Nor can your tender limbs the piercing climate bear.
Muscles in shoals on mighty whales attend,
Who feed the worthless fish, and court the puny friend:
Fierce sharks by gentle usage are reclaim'd,
But female pride is savage, and untam'd.
Go then, ingrate, whom love could never please,
To boisterous channels, and to foreign seas,
Where rocks like you unmov'd with careless pride
Repulse the waves, and check the rising tide."

Thus the unhappy youth was heard to moan;
The winds to sigh, the hollow seem'd to groan,
And dropping tears fell from the weeping stone.

MERGUS.
Thy song's more grateful than a Summer's breeze,
Whose cooling breath, and gentle fannings please,
And move in wanton rings the listning seas.
Not half so sweet, when first the morning dawns,
Are juicy Oysters, or the luscious Prawns.
But now the sun is dipt in cooling streams;
The twilight is no more; no doubtful gleams
Of weaker light the flitting shades divide,
But they unmixt prevail, and every object hide.
The sea is heard with deeper sound to roar,
And slumbring waters may be said to snore.
Each Nymph is stretching on her oozy bed,
And scarce a Fish pops up his sleepy Head;
Those who were clung to rocks, the shelly heap
Drop from their hold, and fall into the deep.
Nature her self is still, her labours cease,
And all lies wrapt in silence, and inactive ease.

[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:227-30]