A pastoral elegy after Virgil's Eclogue V (which Ambrose Philips had imitated in his third Pastoral). John Gay's uncanny ability to merge sentimental engagement into ironic detachment is at displayed at full force; Robert Burns plainly read "Friday" with care. The footnote on "Dirge" is quoted from The Interpreter (1607) a law dictionary by John Cowell (1554-1611).
William Taylor of Norwich to Robert Southey: Do you recollect Gay's 'Friday,' or 'The Dirge'? It has the fault of being witty, but has also a great share of truly bucolic merit" 4 January 1799; in Robberds, Memoir of William Taylor (1843) 1:243.
Robert Southey: "With bad Eclogues I am sufficiently acquainted, from Tityrus and Corydon down to our English Strephons and Thirsises. No kind of poetry can boast of more illustrious names or is more distinguished by the servile dulness of imitated nonsense. Pastoral writers 'more silly than their sheep' have like their sheep gone on in the same track one after another. Gay stumbled into a new path. His eclogues were the only ones that interested me when I was a boy, and did not know that they were burlesque" Poems, Second Volume (1799) 183.
Myra Reynolds: "These poems are a veritable treasure-house for the student of folk-lore. They might also serve as a diary of country occupations. Take for example Bumkinet's reminiscences of Blouzelinda's life in Pastoral V. In such a wood, he remembers, they gathered fagots. There he drew down hazel boughs and stuffed her apron with brown nuts. In another place he had helped her aunt for her strayed hogs, and as they drove the untoward creatures to the sty had seized the opportunity to tell his love. At the dairy he had often seen her making butter pats, or feeding with floods of whey the hogs that crowded to the door. In the barn as he plied the flail, he had watched her sift out food for the hens. In the field she had ranged the sheaves as he pitched them on the growing mow. The object of these pastorals was to show the absurd incongruity between the Latin form with its suggestions of Arcadian days, and the roughness of English country life. The result was unexpected. Readers in general, indifferent to scholarly congruities, were delighted with the novelty, the air of freshness and truth, in the pictures scattered through the Pastorals" The Treatment of Nature in English Poetry (1909) 67.
Herbert E. Cory: "Gay's introductory words throughout show the strong influence of E. K.'s preface and glosses of The Shepheards Calender. That he got much stimulus from the more uncouth aspects of some of Spenser's eclogues may well be believed. His comments on Spenser and avowals of indebtedness may be taken with a degree of seriousness. There is enough of the picturesque in Spenser's eclogues to have given Gay much inspiration. Doubtless the memory of the good rustic words in The Shepheards Calender which Gay used occasionally gave him the main suggestion for doing something more than merely mocking Philips and stimulated him to write with some real interest of shepherdesses not 'idly piping on oaten reeds, but milking the kine, tying up the sheaves, or if the hogs are astray driving them to their styes'" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 139.
George Kitchin: "Egged on by Pope, Gay starts his career with the burlesque Shepherd's Week, which is so fresh, however, that it attracts genuine admiration down to the close of the century, and actuall suggests to Southey — there was German influence also — the idea of his English Eclogues. These in turn had the good fortune to suggest to Wordsworth his domestic idylss, and so the descent can be traced to Tennyson's rather artificial but still charming English Idylls. It is often the fate of parody to start a valuable train of writing" Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English (1931) 106.
John Gay's Notes:
"Dirge," or "Dyrge," a mournful Ditty or Song of Lamentation over the dead: not a Contraction of the Latin Dirige in the popish Hymn Dirige Gressus Meos, as some pretend. But from the Teutonick Dyrke, Laudare, to praise and extol. Whence it is possible their Dyrke and our Dirge was a laudatory Song to commemorate and applaud the Dead. Cowell's Interpreter.
15. Incipe Mopse prior si quos aut Phyllidis ignes | Aut Alconis habes Laudes, aut jurgia Codri. [Virg. Ec. V].
27. "Glee," Joy, from the Dutch, Glooren, to recreate.
84. Pro molli viola, pro parpureo Narcisso | Carduus, & spinis surgit Paliurus acutis. Virg.
90. Et Tumulum facite, & tumulo superaddite Carmen.
93. Tale tuum Carmen nobis, Divine Poeta, | Quale sopor fessis in gramine: quale per aestum | Dulcis aquae saliente sitim restinguere rivo. | Nos tamen haec quocumque modo tibi nostra vicissim | Dicemus, Daphninque tuum tollemus ad astra. Virg.
96. [Greek characters: It is better to hear your singing than to taste honey]. Theoc. [VIII:83]
153. Dum juga montis Aper, fluvios dum Piscis amabit, | Dumque Thymo pascentur apes, dum rore cicadae, | Semper honos nonenque tuum, laudeaque manebunt. Virg.
Why, Grubbinol, dost thou so wistful seem?
There's Sorrow in thy Look, if right I deem.
'Tis true, yon Oaks with yellow Tops appear,
And chilly Blasts begin to nip the Year;
From the tall Elm a show'r of Leaves is born,
And their lost Beauty riven Beeches mourn.
Yet ev'n this Season Pleasance blithe affords,
Now the squeez'd Press foams with our Apple Hoards.
Come, let us hye, and quaff a cheery Bowl,
Let Cyder New wash Sorrow from thy Soul.
Ah Bumkinet! since thou from hence wert gone,
From these sad Plains all Merriment is flown;
Should I reveal my Grief 'twould spoil thy Chear.
And make thine Eye o'erflow with many a Tear.
Hang sorrow! Let's to yonder Hutt repair,
And with trim Sonnets cast away our Care.
Gillian of Croydon well thy Pipe can play,
Thou sing'st most sweet, o'er Hills and far away.
Of Patient Grissel I devise to sing,
And catches quaint shall make the Vallies ring.
Come, Grubbinol, beneath this Shelter, come,
From hence we view our Flocks securely roam.
Yes, blithesome Lad, a Tale I mean to sing,
But with my Woe shall distant Valleys ring,
The Tale shall make our Kidlings droop their Head,
For Woe is me! — our Blouzelind is dead.
Is Blouzelinda dead? farewel my Glee!
No Happiness is now reserv'd for me.
As the Wood Pigeon cooes without his Mate,
So shall my doleful Dirge bewail her Fate.
Of Blouzelinda fair I mean to tell,
The peerless Maid that did all Maids excell.
Henceforth the Morn shall dewy Sorrow shed,
And Ev'ning Tears upon the Grass be spread;
The rolling Streams with watry Grief shall flow,
And Winds shall moan aloud — when loud they blow.
Henceforth, as oft as Autumn shall return,
The dropping Trees, when'er it rains, shall mourn;
This Season quite shall strip the Country's Pride,
For 'twas in Autumn Blouzelinda dy'd.
Where-e'er I gad, I Blouzelind shall view,
Woods, Dairy, Barn and Mows our Passion knew.
When I direct my Eyes to yonder Wood,
Fresh rising Sorrow curdles in my Blood.
Thither I've often been the Damsel's Guide,
When rotten Sticks our Fuel have supply'd;
There I remember how her Faggots large,
Were frequently these happy Shoulders charge.
Sometimes this Crook drew Hazel Boughs adown,
And stuff'd her Apron wide with Nuts so brown;
Or when her feeding Hogs had miss'd their Way,
Or wallowing 'mid a Feast of Acorns lay;
Th' untoward Creatures to the Stye I drove,
And whistled all the Way — or told my Love.
If by the Dairy's Hatch I chance to hie,
I shall her goodly Countenance espie,
For there her goodly Countenance I've seen,
Set off with Kerchief starch'd and Pinners clean.
Sometimes, like Wax, she rolls the Butter round,
Or with the wooden Lilly prints the Pound.
Whilome I've seen her skim the clouted Cream,
And press from spongy Curds the milky Stream.
But now, alas! these Ears shall hear no more
The whining Swine surround the Dairy Door,
No more her Care shall fill the hollow Tray,
To fat the guzzling Hogs with Floods of Whey.
Lament, ye Swine, in Gruntings spend your Grief,
For you, like me, have lost your sole Relief.
When in the Barn the sounding Flail I ply,
Where from her Sieve the Chaff was wont to fly,
The Poultry there will seem around to stand,
Waiting upon her charitable Hand.
No Succour meet the Poultry now can find,
For they, like me, have lost their Blouzelind.
Whenever by yon Barley Mow I pass,
Before my Eyes will trip the tidy Lass.
I pitch'd the Sheaves (oh could I do so now)
Which she in Rows pil'd on the growing Mow.
There ev'ry deale my Heart by Love was gain'd,
There the sweet Kiss my Courtship has explain'd.
Ah, Blouzelind! that Mow I ne'er shall see,
But thy Memorial will revive in me.
Lament, ye Fields, and rueful Symptoms show,
Henceforth let not the smelling Primrose grow;
Let Weeds instead of Butter-flow'rs appear,
And Meads, instead of Daisies, Hemlock bear;
For Cowslips sweet let Dandelions spread,
For Blouzelinda, blithesome Maid, is dead!
Lament ye Swains, and o'er her Grave bemoan,
And spell ye right this Verse upon her Stone.
Here Blouzelinda lyes — Alas, alas!
Weep Shepherds — and remember Flesh is Grass.
Albeit thy Songs are sweeter to mine Ear,
Than to the thirsty Cattle Rivers clear;
Or winter Porridge to the lab'ring Youth,
Or Bunns and Sugar to the Damsel's Tooth;
Yet Blouzelinda's Name shall tune my Lay,
Of her I'll sing for ever and for aye.
When Blouzelind expir'd, the Weather's Bell
Before the drooping Flock toll'd forth her Knell;
The solemn Death-watch click'd the Hour she dy'd,
And shrilling Crickets in the Chimney cry'd;
The boding Raven on her Cottage sate,
And with hoarse Croaking warn'd us of her Fate;
The Lambkin, which her wonted Tendance bred,
Dropp'd on the Plains that fatal Instant dead;
Swarm'd on a rotten Stick the Bees I spy'd,
Which erst I saw when Goody Dobson dy'd.
How shall I, void of Tears, her Death relate,
While on her Dearling's Bed her mother sate!
These Words the dying Blouzelinda spoke,
And of the Dead let none the Will revoke.
Mother, quoth she, let not the Poultry need,
And give the Goose wherewith to raise her Breed,
Be these my Sister's Care — and ev'ry Morn
Amid the Ducklings let her scatter Corn;
The sickly Calf that's hous'd, be sure to tend,
Feed him with Milk, and from bleak Colds defend.
Yet e'er I die — see, Mother, yonder shelf,
There secretly I've hid my worldly Pelf.
Twenty good Shillings in a Rag I laid,
Be ten the Parson's, for my Sermon paid.
The rest is yours — My Spinning-Wheel and Rake,
Let Susan keep for her dear Sister's sake;
My new Straw Hat that's trimly lin'd with Green,
Let Peggy wear, for she's a Damsel clean.
My leathern Bottle, long in Harvests try'd,
Be Grubbinol's — this Silver Ring beside:
Three silver Pennies, and a Ninepence bent,
A Token kind, to Bumkinet is sent.
Thus spoke the Maiden, while her Mother cry'd,
And peaceful, like the harmless Lamb, she dy'd.
To show their Love, the Neighbours far and near,
Follow'd with wistful Look the Damsel's Bier.
Sprigg'd Rosemary the Lads and Lasses bore,
While dismally the Parson walk'd before.
Upon her Grave the Rosemary they threw,
The Daisie, Butter-flow'r and Endive Blue.
After the good Man warn'd us from his Text,
That None could tell whose Turn would be the next;
He said, that Heaven would take her Soul, no doubt,
And spoke the Hour-glass in her Praise — quite out.
To her sweet Mem'ry flow'ry Garlands strung,
O'er her now empty Seat aloft were hung.
With wicker Rods we fenc'd her Tomb around,
To ward from Man and Beast the hallow'd Ground,
Lest her new Grave the Parson's Cattle raze,
For both his Horse and Cow the Church-yard graze.
Now we trudg'd homeward to her Mother's Farm,
To drink new Cyder mull'd, with Ginger warm.
For Gaffer Tread-well told us by the by,
Excessive Sorrow is exceeding dry.
While Bulls bear Horns upon their curled Brow,
Or Lasses with soft Stroakings milk the Cow;
While padling Ducks the standing Lake desire,
Or batt'ning Hogs roll in the sinking Mire;
While Moles the crumbled Earth in Hillocks raise,
So long shall Swains tell Blouzelinda's Praise.
Thus wail'd the Louts in melancholy Strain,
'Till bonny Susan sped a-cross the Plain;
They seiz'd the Lass in Apron clean array'd,
And to the Ale-house forc'd the willing Maid;
In Ale and Kisses they forget their Cares,
And Susan Blouzelinda's Loss repairs.