1714
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Araminta. A Town Eclogue.

Poetical Miscellanies, consisting of original Poems and Translations. By the best Hands. Publish'd by Mr. Steele.

John Gay


A burlesque pastoral, later titled "Araminta, An Elegy": John Gay composes a Theocritean love-lament somewhat in the manner of Pope's Rape of the Lock: "Whene'er I dress'd, my Maid, who knew my Flame, | Cherish'd my Passion with thy lovely Name; | Thy Picture in her Talk so lively grew, | That thy dear Image rose before my View." There is so much of Pope and Swift in this poem one wonders if it was a collaboration. While the town eclogue received little attention from critics, and that mostly hostile, it proved a popular and durable form throughout the eighteenth century. The town eclogue, closely related to the local eclogue, was given to describing peculiar manners and habits of speech.

W. J. Courthope: "No two men could be more unlike each other in respect of character, genius, and fortune than were Swift and Gay. The latter was as obsequious, accommodating, and amiable, as the former was cynical, haughty, and independent. Swift was sparing and spartan in his habits; Gay was greedy, indolent, and ostentatious. In point of literary style everything that Swift wrote bore the stamp of originality, and, as Johnson says, even of singularity. Gay never initiated any characteristic line of thought: from the first his works owed their existence to other men's suggestions. Yet Gay met with none of the impediments that barred the ambition of Swift. Fortune, on the contrary, was always providing him with opportunities, which he generally wasted through carelessness and want of foresight; and, in spite of these faults, some friendly hand was ever ready to help him out of the difficulty of the moment. Nearly everything that he wrote attained a certain amount of popularity, and even fame, some of which has been lasting; and this he owed to the almost servile facility with which he adapted himself to the tastes and perceptions of the society about him, exactly inverting the misanthropic contempt for the whole human race displayed by his friend, the Dean of St. Patrick's. To his chameleon-like power of reflecting the average thought and manners of his time must be ascribed the undoubtedly characteristic place that he occupies in the History of English Poetry" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 5:142-43.

Richard Foster Jones: "When this eclogue type was first put forth, it was soon seized upon with avidity by the leading poets of the day, for it afforded them an excellent vehicle for social satire, one of the chief themes of the day. John Gay was the next to employ the form in a poem called A Town Eclogue published in Steele's Poetical Miscellanies, 1713, and later republished under the title Araminta, an Elegy. In 1716 another appeared in Court Poems, called The Toilette, a Town Eclogue, while a few years later appeared The Tea Table, The Funeral, and The Espousal, A Sober Eclogue Between two of the People called Quakers. The scenes of these poems are laid in such places as before a mirror in a dressing room, at the tea table, on a couch, and the like, while the contents deal with a maiden bemoaning her social eclipse, a contest in scandal, and a wife's hypocritical lament for a dead husband, which is interrupted by a letter from her gallant. Pope himself joined in the game with The Basset Table, published in Court Poems, and about this same time Lady Mary Wortley Montague, then a close friend of Pope's, wrote four eclogues, which, together with Gay's Toilette and Pope's poem, were published in 1747 under the title Six Town Eclogues" "Eclogue Types in English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century" JEGP 24 (1925) 43.

William H. Irving: "The real distinction of the poem is the 'scheme' which Gay's fertile mind hit upon. With the second Idyll of Theocritus in mind, he planned the first of that long series of Town Eclogues with which eighteenth-century literature abounds, keeping the form of the pastoral elegy, but filling out his pictures not with Sicilian hills and fields and shepherds, but with St. James's and the Ring, with ladies at the toilette, with the killing glances and answering eyes of the beaux and belles of fashionable London" John Gay, Favorite of the Wits (1940) 74.



Now Phoebus rose; and with his early Beams
Wak'd slumb'ring Delia from her pleasing Dreams;
Her Wishes by her Fancy were supply'd,
And in her Sleep the nuptial knot was ty'd.
With secret Joy she saw the Morning Ray
Chequer the Floor, and through the Curtains play;
That happy Morn that shall her Bliss compleat,
And all her Rivals envious Hopes defeat.
In haste she rose; unmindful of her Pray'rs,
Flew to the Glass, and practis'd o'er her Airs:
Her new-set Jewels round her Robe are plac'd,
Some in a Brilliant Buckle bind her Waist;
Some round her Neck a circling Light display,
Some in her Hair diffuse a trembling Ray;
The Silver Knot o'erlooks the Mechlen Lace,
And adds becoming Beauties to her Face:
Brocaded Flow'rs o'er the gay Manteau shine,
And the rich Stays her Taper Shape confine;
Thus all her Dress exerts a graceful Pride,
And sporting Loves surround th' expecting Bride,
For Daphnis now attends the blushing Maid,
Before the Priest their solemn Vows are paid;
This Day which ends at once all Delia's Cares,
Shall swell a thousand Eyes with secret Tears.
Cease, Araminta, now no longer Grieve,
Thou ne'er from Hymen canst the Youth retrieve.
Why then in vain will Araminta mourn?
Bestow thy Love where thou mayst hope Return.
But still the wretched Maid no Comfort knows,
And with Resentment cherishes her Woes;
Alone she pines, and in these mournful Strains,
Of Daphnis' Vows, and her own Fate complains.
Was it for this I sparkled at the Play,
And loiter'd in the Ring whole hours away?
When if thy Chariot in the Circle shone,
Our mutual Passion by our Looks was known:
Through the gay Crowd my watchful Glances flew,
Where-e'er I pass thy grateful Eyes pursue.

Ah faithless Youth! too well you saw my Pain;
For Eyes the Language of the Soul explain.

Think, Daphnis, think that scarce five Days are fled,
Since in mine Ears those treach'rous things you said
How did you praise my Shape and graceful Air!
And Woman thinks all Compliments sincere.
Did not thy Tongue in Raptures speak thy Flame,
And in soft Sighs breath Araminta's Name?
Didst thou not then with Oaths thy Passion prove,
And with an awful trembling, say — I love?

Ah faithless Youth! too well you saw my Pain;
For Eyes the Language of the Soul explain.

How could'st thou thus, ungrateful Youth, deceive?
How could I thus, unguarded Maid, Believe?
Sure thou canst well recall that fatal Night,
When subtle Love first enter'd at my Sight:
When in the Dance I was thy Partner chose,
Gods! what a Rapture in my Bosom rose!
My trembling Hand my sudden Flame confess'd,
My glowing Cheeks a wounded Heart express'd;
My looks spoke Love; while you with answ'ring Eyes,
In killing Glances made as kind Replies.
Think, Daphnis, think, what tender Things you said,
Think what Confusion all my Soul betray'd;
You call'd my graceful Presence Cynthia's Air,
And when I sung, the Syrens charm'd your Ear;
How did the Flatt'ry my weak Bosom move,
When in each Whisper flew a Gale of Love!
But Daphnis now hath forfeited his Truth,
And Marriage Bonds confine the perjur'd Youth.

Ah faithless Youth! too well you saw my Pain;
For eyes the Language of the Soul explain.

Whene'er I dress'd, my Maid, who knew my Flame,
Cherish'd my Passion with thy lovely Name;
Thy Picture in her Talk so lively grew,
That thy dear Image rose before my View;
She dwelt whole Hours upon thy Shape and Mien,
And wounded Delia's Fame to sooth my Spleen:
When she beheld me at the Name grow pale,
Strait to thy Charms she chang'd her artful Tale;
And when thy matchless Charms were quite run o'er,
I bid her tell the pleasing Tale once more.
Oh, Daphnis! from thy Araminta fled!
Oh, to my Love for ever, ever Dead!
Like Death, his Nuptials all my Hopes remove,
And ever part me from the Man I love.

Ah faithless Youth! too well you saw my Pain;
For eyes the Language of the Soul explain.

O might I by my cruel Fate be thrown,
In some Retreat far from this hateful Town!
Vain Dress and glaring Equipage, Adieu,
Let happier Nymphs those empty Shows pursue,
Me, let some melancholy Shade surround,
Where not the Print of Human Step is found.
In the gay Dance my Feet no more shall move,
But bear me faintly through the lonely Grove;
No more these Hands shall o'er the Spinnet bound,
And from the sleeping Strings call forth the Sound;
Musick adieu, farewel Italian Airs,
The Croaking Raven now shall sooth my Cares.
Involved in thought on some old Trunk I rest,
And think how Araminta once was blest;
There o'er and o'er thy Letters I peruse,
And all my Grief in one kind Sentence lose,
Some tender Line by chance my Woe beguiles,
And on my Cheek a short-liv'd Pleasure smiles;
But Sorrow soon my Bosom will regain;
And tell me all those Oaths and vows were vain,
For Daphnis now the Gordian knot has ty'd,
Nor Force nor Cunning can the Band divide.

Ah faithless Youth! too well you saw my Pain,
For Eyes the Language of the Soul explain.

[pp. 89-95]