1719
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fanny, or the Rural Rivals. Pastoral XII in Four Eclogues. 1719.

A Select Collection of Poems: with Notes, biographical and historical: and a complete Poetical Index. 8 Vols [John Nichols, ed.]

Rev. Abel Evans


Published from manuscript in 1782. "Fanny" consists of a long narrative sequence in four eclogues in which (in traditional pastoral fashion) a mountaineer and lowland farmer compete for the love of a fair maid. The third eclogue contains an embedded country-house poem in which Courtin describes his mountain estate to Yeoman. While Abel Evans adopts a new manner in his eclogues, modulating from a purely pastoral into a more georgic mode, the old shepherd-goatherd contentions is plainly visible behind the narrative.

"Francelia" appears to be Frances Thynne Seymour, countess of Hertford, patronness of several poets and an admirer of the rural muse. In 1715 she married Algernon Seymour (1684-1750), Earl of Hertford, and became maid in waiting to Princess Caroline in 1723; the fact that she is explicitly mentioned in Pastoral IX (dated 1710) suggests that she may also be intended here. If "Fanny" is the Countess of Hertford, then "Sage Eliza" can be identified as her early friend, the poet Elizabeth Rowe. But it should be noted that the story in "Rural Rivals" in no way parallels Francis Seymour's arranged marriage to a man she had never met. The character of the Yeoman resembles Lady Hertford's father-in-law, the "Proud" Sixth Duke of Somerset, who arranged the marriage and made life difficult for a daughter-in-law who loved the simple rural scenes praised in the poem. Courtin, it would seem from Pastoral XIII, is Evans himself.



COURTIN OF THE MOUNTAINS, AND YEOMAN OF THE DALE.

Belov'd of Phoebus! British Muse, descend!
Again the labours of the swain attend.
Fair without paint, and graceful without pride!
Awhile 'midst rural songsters deign t' abide!
If homely cottages unworthy are,
The wealth-abounding farms deserve thy care.
All rustics are not clowns; nor mean's the lay,
When tuneful lads on flutes soft warbling play.
Sometimes loud hauthoys country hands adorn.
But stop! ah, Neatherd! stop thy noisy horn!
'Twill from their brouze the timorous lambkins fray,
And Shepherds rue when wanton younglings stray!
Crown of all earthly bliss! life's dearest prize!
Joy of my soul, and pleasure of my eyes!
This verse be thine! thy Courtin's flame approve!
Though all admire, sure none like him can love.
Muse, a note higher wind the tender string;
Love and Francelia listen while we sing.

ECLOGUE I.
A mountain youth, the darling of the plain,
Fair Fanny greatly lov'd; nor lov'd in vain.
Joyous adown the hills to her he hies,
And, speaking thus, the tedious space which lies
Betwixt their dwellings, measures with his eyes.

COURTIN.
Farewell, ye lofty mounds, a while farewell!
Welcome the spreading lawn, and chequer'd dale.
How have I lagg'd! the Sun's already low
On his west road. O Sun! Why speed'st thou so?
Art thou in haste to meet a Fanny too?
A springing gale swells through the rustling leaves;
Just so with rising hopes my bosom heaves,
As gladsome I to yon fair farm draw near:
O Love, O Fanny! grant me welcome there.
Ere the grey dawn, with streaks of infant light,
First faintly glimmers through retiring night;
Ere twinkling stars, lost in the morning ray,
Call in their beams, and hide themselves in day;
My pipe shall warble through the silent grove,
My pipe shall sound of Fanny and of Love.

YEOMAN.
Swain, where so fast? rest here and breathe, take heed:
Who hurries, often makes more haste than speed.
As with long strides thou hitherwards didst move,
I heard thee speak of Fanny and of Love.
Say, by what chance her name first reach'd thine ear?
How learned'st thou so readily to steer
Towards her dwelling?

COURTIN.
Listen, and I'll tell.
But why doth waxen pale? art thou not well?

YEOMAN.
I should be better wert thou far away.
But say, how was it?

COURTIN.
Once upon a day,
When all our mountains held a solemn feast,
And every nymph in gay attire was drest
To Carla's honour; Carla! who by blood
And worth excels the fair, the great, the good!
Fanny, by sage Eliza led, then came
To view our sports, and bless the princely dame.
Modest her garb, more modest was her mien:
But looks so lovely sure were never seen.
'Twas my good hap to spy her first. I gaz'd,
And gazing lik'd; and liking meetly prais'd.
I blushed, I sigh'd, and said I knew not what,
For all the while my heart went pit-a-pat.
To a convenient seat, from out the crowd,
I led them up, and all our pastimes shew'd.
Then ran and cull'd the choicest of my hoard,
Fraught with such dainties as the hills afford;
Too mean a treat for such a lovely guest,
Had not an hearty welcome crown'd the feast.
The maiden, sweetly smiling, overpaid
My tender care. But now the sky look'd red:
The sun, descending, warn'd them to be gone:
By easy winding paths I brought them down;
And, about twilight, saw their safe at home.

YEOMAN.
That office, boy, wou'd better me become.

COURTIN.
Why so?—

YEOMAN.
I love her—

COURTIN.
That breeds no surprize;
So all must do, who know her and have eyes.
Love if thou wilt, so she thy love refrain.

YEOMAN.
But I have hopes I shall not sue in vain.
Nor art, nor pains, I spare: betimes this morn
With flowers and leaves I did her porch adorn.

COURTIN.
The flowers will sicken soon, the leaves decay:
So may thy ill-form'd wishes fade away!
As fair as lasting is what I design.
The stones this scrip contains; some from the mine,
Some from the brook, were cull'd: no art may vie
With these, for spots, and streaks, and curious dye.
In knots on Fanny's threshold these shall shine,
And form, in cyphers fair, her name and mine.

YEOMAN.
Her name! rude lad! they'll well become thy own:
Such common pebbles should be trodden on.

COURTIN.
Nor common are they, nor to be despis'd,
They want but working to be highly priz'd.
This glittering piece, more clear than fairest glass,
Within a massy flint imprison'd was.
Knew I the art to polish and to square,
A gem so bright might grace a lady's ear.

YEOMAN.
To such bequeath it. They in shew delight.
But I have what will sooth the appetite.
See what my orchards yield! such tempting fruit
Better than gaudy stones will Fanny suit.

COURTIN.
Thy plumbs are fair indeed, but void of taste;
And those large thick-shell cobs the teeth will guast.
This pear is hard; that apricot's all stone;
And those green grapes require a warmer sun.
Lo! here are clusters, such our hills afford;
These chestnuts too are worthy Fanny's hoard.
A crimson dye this philbert's cornel stains:
Crack one, 'twill cost thee very little pains.
This peach eats better than it looks; but taste,
And spare me words: t'will speak its own praise best.

YEOMAN.
The sight sufficeth. For thyself preserve
Such shriveled trash; nor, to feast others, starve.
Thou want'st a dinner rather than a bride!
O! how our lasses will those shapes deride!
Should such a skinny thing as thee pretend
Fanny has eyes — I'll not myself commend!

COURTIN.
And hath thy mass of flesh such tempting charms?
Suits it a nice and tender virgin's arms?
Should Fanny thee for bulk and paunch prefer,
The lordly stag shall truckle to the steer.
Not loaded with myself, the hills I climb
With ease, while you to mount a bank take time.

YEOMAN.
How glary, see, yon empty clouds appear!
How fleet they post along th' unburthen'd air!
While yon more dusky, big with fruitful showers,
Heaves slowly on! and in the welkin lowrs.

COURTIN.
That branching sycamore its barren shade
May boast; for shew and shelter only made.
This goodly codlin spreads not so her boughs,
Yet, in return, more fruit than leaves she shews.
But while in idle chat the time we waste,
See! day ebbs out, and Love demands more haste.
Enjoy thy bulk, if bulk so pleasing be;
While thus I lightsome spring from strife and thee.
Farewell! to Fanny lies my gladsome way;
If there you tend, lag after as you may.

ECLOGUE II.
YEOMAN AND COURTIN.

COURTIN.
Would I could say well met! for sure the blood,
Which bloats thy wrathful visage, bodes no good.
Why o'er the passage-plank dost threatening stride?
And why that hanger dangling by thy side?

YEOMAN.
Nor Why nor Wherefore me! but turn again!
So may'st thou still in a whole skin remain.
Thy fleetness here will yield thee little aid.
Who pass this brook without my leave, must wade.

COURTIN.
I need not wade; the water I can skip:
Propt on my staffs I 'm over at a leap.

YEOMAN.
Beshrew thy nimble heels! made light by fear,
You had not 'scap'd so sound remaining here.

COURTIN.
Since so you menace, lo me back again!
Who act no ill, all fear of ill disdain.
But pry'thee say, from whence this churlish spite?
Thee have I wrong'd? speak, and I'll freely right.
The sun set high, a fitting time doth yield
To hear thy plaint: fair Fanny 's still afield.
If the dear maid melts at my tender moan,
What is't to thee? is not her heart her own?

YEOMAN.
O that it were! or might I call it mine!
A prize too precious to be ever thine.
Though no such dangling curls my shoulders grace,
I boast a manly, though a rugged face.
Thy girlish looks bespeak a finnic elf
What maid would chuse a mate so like herself?
The sturdy oak the tender ivy weds.

COURTIN.
But pinks and pansies bloom on the same beds.
Likeness is seldom found a foe in love.
Slight as you will, so Fanny but approve.

YEOMAN.
Thou man of words! should thy address avail,
Triumph ye hilly desarts o'er the dale!

COURTIN.
Those rising cliffs which crown our lofty strand,
Though bare they seem, enrich this lower land.
Fruitful in streams their bounteous waters flow;
And what increase they want, themselves beflow.

YEOMAN.
From thence they flow, indeed, and gladly come;
To visit gardens, they forsake a tomb.
Thus distant hear the shallow torrents roar,
Headlong they hurry from the dreary shore.
To us arriv'd, with deep and gentle tide,
Enrich'd with silvery fish, they silent glide;
Loth to depart, o'er the fair vales they stray,
And with a thousand turns their course delay.
If, urg'd by some descent, they faster flow,
O! how they murmur to be hasted so!

COURTIN.
At its first source we draw the crystal wave;
And in the pure unsully'd currents lave.
Grown stale with us, we send them down to you,
Where lazily in muddy streams they flow.
Nor are our hills so desart as they seem;
By some steep craggs of all the rest you deem.
Our riches, though from you they hidden lie,
With the produce of there fat fields may vie.
But what have you to boast to us unknown?
When from our high-rais'd dwellings we look down?
An uncheck'd glance runs o'er this nether coast
Till in the falling sky the sight is lost;
Whilst all around a fair variety
Towns, rivers, woods, and meadows, chear the eye.
The different labours of the year are yours:
You till the land, but its possession's ours.

YEOMAN.
Tis yours, indeed, in wish, I hold that true,
For your desires are boundless like your view;
From those bleak heights our tempting vales are seen,
You look, and envy; thence ye wex so lean:
Nor only envy; sometimes down ye come,
And, laden with our pilfer'd spoils, slink home.
Our sheaves and younglings yield an easy prey:
You cannot bear our lawns and woods away.
To no such endless prospects we pretend:
Scarce to my neighbour's grounds my views extend;
Yet that short ken yields joys to you unknown;
Fair is the view where all we see's our own!
Mine are those furrow'd fields; these sunless groves;
My sheep on yonders common feed in droves.
My oxen in that western mead grow fat;
And there look well! it will bear looking at:
Within those tufted trees my dwelling is;
On that side orchards, a large lake on this.
Those barns, cocks, ricks, and mows, are all my own,
Which to the sight seem hence a little town.

COURTIN.
A goodly view they yield, and glad the eye;
But miry is the way, the marsh too nigh:
Thick is the air you breathe, and gross your food;
Our kine are less, but they have better blood.
Sweeter our milk, and nobler is our geer,
Our streams are purer, and our skies more clear.
But, mercy! lo! how yonder flames aspire
What luckless chance hath set those ricks on fire?

YEOMAN.
Ill fare thy way! my burning barns, alas!
Call home their owner! so you now may pass.

COURTIN.
Not so; fond Love yields to my neighbour's need.
My lighter feet may stand thee now in stead.
Ere you arrive, the preying flames brought low
Shall witness how much to my speed you owe.

ECLOGUE III.
YEOMAN.
Scorn'd by my Love! oblig'd by him I hate!
O, Yeoman, thine is an untoward fate!
In vain fair fields and fruitful flocks I boast,
This Mountaineer hath all my wishes crost!
Ah! woe the day fond Fanny climb'd the hills!
Then Courtin lov'd, and hence poor Yeoman's ills!
Too curious girl! what tempted thee to roam?
Had thou not all things thou canst wish at home?
But maids will gad; a serious truth I tell;
Strange places, and strange faces, please too well.
Lo! where this new, this lucky Lover comes!
Why shake thy coward limbs? what is't benumbs
My frozen heart? far otherwise I see,
Courtin, too happy youth! it fares with thee!
Joyous you bound along with visage gay.
Well leap'd, in faith! lo! how the winding way
He shuns, and over hedge and ditch cuts short!
A trespass this, and I'll indite him for't.
"What, robber, hoa! why break'st through my grounds?
If all be common, vain are dikes and mounds."

COURTIN.
Nothing of thine, proud man, I need or seek.
If from the path I through the bushes break,
'Tis but to shun such spiteful churls as scorn
And evil still, for good receiv'd, return.

YEOMAN.
I guess thy thoughts, and own the timely aid
By me unask'd. Now thou thyself hast paid
Upon my ruin'd fence: this I forgive;
But ware the next, if free from law you'd live.
Vaunt'st thou thy help? True, you those fires supprest,
But raise, alas! far fiercer in my breast!
Hence that just wrath which wildly you reprove;
Sharp are the pangs of ill-requited Love!
Look round: whate'er thou see'st is mine; and might
Be Fanny's, knew she how to choose aright.
'Tis a thin fare on Love, alone, to live:
Midst naked mountains, maidens needs must thrive.
Be free, and say what lands, what meads, hast thou,
To fatten cattle, or employ the plow.
Thy homestead to the best advantage paint;
Nor sparing be of words: no words you want.

COURTIN.
It suits us ill to brag of what's our own;
Those mounts less easy are describ'd than shewn.
Deign on the morrow to become my guest,
And I'll at once thy sight and palate feast.

YEOMAN.
Tame is my nag, and I can foot it ill;
Tis wretched journeying up a stony hill.
Spare me that pain, and rather feast my ear.

COURTIN.
Then blame thyself if tedious I appear.
Stretch to yond' blewish southern point thy sight
(But those swoln eyeballs drink up too much light
To dart a ken so far; their stinted power
Reach a few dirty acres, and no more).
There the hills open, and, by due degrees
Sink to a valley bounded by the seas.
To the south-west it tends; the north and east
High mounds secure from every piercing blast.
Whilst stormy winter clads the cliffs in snow
Serene and calm, 'tis summer all below.
Clear streams divide the straight but fertile plain;
Visit each hut, then hasten to the main.
Fair rows of chestnuts cast a pleasing shade,
And the high grass shoots up a broader blade.
There countless herds of comely kine we keep:
A shorter turf our asses and our sheep
Delight; they browze the higher ground. Above,
And near the clouds, the goats at random rove.
Each flat a different owner hath; the sheep
For various uses we in common keep.
Nigh are our dwellings, and we well agree;
Some neighbours I o'erlook, and others me.
North of that vale, towards this inland side,
Within the creek where first the hills divide,
My lodge stands fair (would you could see the place!
Neat, and with all things stor'd in little space.
Cool in the summer, yet in winter warm,
'Tis both a house of pleasure and a farm.
In front, of ash and elm a rising row,
For present shade and future timbers grow.
Behind, with easy slopes, my gardens rise
And flourish fair 'midst ever-smiling skies.
Spacious at first they straighten as they run,
And in a circle take in all the sun
No rock is seen, save what in steps is made,
Which from one rising to another lead.
The winding walks are rob'd in turfy pride;
And not a palm of soil is lost beside.
Here marble seats are arch'd by woodbine bowers;
There thrive the plants and roots and herbs and flowers.
The vine, the fig, the nectarine, and the peach,
Against the walls their loaded branches stretch
Full to the sun; secur'd from blights around,
No meaner fruit-trees cumber up the ground.
The nut, the plumb, the apple, and the pear,
Without the fence are scatter'd here and there,
And yet your orchards boast no fruit so fair.
High on the mount breaks out a constant rill;
At its first rise it turns a little mill;
And, as from steep to steep it downwards hies,
Much work performs, and many hands supplies.
To me arriv'd, its waves a cistern feed,
Which waters all my gardens as they've need.
My household wants it serves a little lower,
And settles in a pool before my door;
Thence, down a steep, itself it headlong throws,
And to my under neighbours kindly flows;
Still useful still increasing as it goes.

YEOMAN.
Small time it needs to traverse o'er thy grounds!
Much rock thou own'st, in very scanty bounds.
Talk'st thou of calms and ever-smiling skies;
On craggs, where snow secure in harvest lies,
And braves the sun? Here gentle rain distils;
But when a sudden storm the brook o'erfill's,
And floods the mead, whence comes it? from the hills.
Along yon ridge I've seen the tempest scoul,
And, at this distance, heard the thunder growl.
The mountains smoak, and nimble lightnings play,
When here 'tis often but a cloudy day.

COURTIN.
The various seasons of the changing year
To both are common, but most hurtful here.
When southern winds drive on a summer shower,
And gushing clouds a hasty deluge pour,
The waters wash our mountains and away,
While here they ravage with a longer stay.
When tempests gather upwards, we retreat;
The thunder harmless rolls beneath our seat.
While over your heads the glaring lightnings threat;
Those shining points which seem with Heaven to vie:
No storms disturb, no clouds climb up so high.
There first came tidings of approaching day;
The sun there leaves his farewell evening ray.

YEOMAN.
Those rays are lost on an ingrateful strand!
Twere better you 'ad less sunshine, and more land.

COURTIN.
Through ignorance or envy, we despise
Those blessings, which we each enjoying prize.
Here flowery fields and woods and lawns delight;
There grots and pleasing prospects chear the sight.
Your riches here your herds and flocks confess;
And there our quarries and our mines no less.

YEOMAN.
Keep to your shining cliffs, your mines, and furs;
Be corn and wool, and the fat valley, ours.
I envy not what's thine. But why dost roam?
Thy dwelling stems to please thee; keep at home.

COURTIN.
Home still is home; but yet 'tis good to range
Abroad sometimes; there's pleasure in the change,
Pleasure and profit both; our boundless view
Breeds a degree of boundless knowledge too.

YEOMAN.
Breeds a desire of other's goods, say I!

COURTIN.
No more! at length thy shallow craft I spy.
Through thee, but short must be this evening's stay.
Dark is the moonless night, and long the way.
Long is the way when I from Fanny part!
To her I trip it with a merry heart.
Farewell! nor glout with sullen discontent;
'Tis mean to mourn at what we can't prevent.

ECLOGUE IV.
COURTIN. YEOMAN. VICAR.

COURTIN.
What! art thou arm'd again my course to stay?
Upon thy peril stop the king's highway.

YEOMAN.
Mistake me not! my purpose means no ill.
Hear me, and own I bear thee right good-will.

COURTIN.
Avaunt! the path due space for both affords;
I've now no time to fling away on words.

YEOMAN.
At least vouchsafe one fleeting minute's stay;
When I have spoken, go in peace thy way.
Light's car hath yet a space of sky to run;
'Twill cost old Time an hour ere day be done.
Not prone to malice, I could soon commend;
And of a rival feign would form a friend.
An honest, though a smiling, look you bear;
Smooth is thy speech, and yet it seems sincere.
Tell to some highland lass thy tempting tale,
And leave to us the damsels of the dale.

COURTIN.
Though small my worth, thy praise awakes my pride.
O Love! from Fanny all my failings hide!
Yeoman, thy friendship I would gladly gain;
Such landed lovers seldom sue in vain.
Shift thy attentions to some other part;
And, next to fairest Fanny, rule my heart.

YEOMAN.
O! wrong not that esteem you else might share,
You're not the same whene'er you mention her!
Youth, Beauty, Virtue, are a worthy dower:
Yet you high dwellers seek for something more.
To wealth alone your craving wishes tend;
Look out a fitter mate, and rest my friend.
Three clean-limb'd milky foals yon spacious mead
Now graze at large; a choice and stately breed.
A pair for Fanny's service I design:
Proud of her weight they'll prance. The third be thine.
Chuse but the fairest of my herd and flock,
To mend the breed which thy small pastures stock,
Freely the fairest I'll bestow. Nay, more,
My barns shall furnish a whole winter's store.
Cease thy pursuit alone; as generous be,
And life, with Love and Fanny, leave to me.

COURTIN.
Life, without Love, were vain! of her depriv'd
How should I love? she lost, enough I've liv'd.
Alas! I seek not an increase of store;
Save her, I've all I want; what need I more?
Is merit worth so little of our care?
Hath wealth such charms? Be rich! think not of her.
Our workmen the hill's bowels shall refine
For thee; on splendid metal thou shall dine;
Where feasting, thou thyself, improv'd, shalt ken,
Whilst thy large capons seem as large again.
A cask of sprightly juice thy heart shall chear,
And thoughts of Fanny drown; think not of her.
Stripp'd of their pride, our wildlings too shall die,
With costly furs thy garments to supply.
Nay, do not scoff; array'd in such attire,
When winter pinches, thou shalt scorn a fire.
Such gifts might suit a prince; yet mean they are,
If such to blooming Fanny we compare.
O! Fanny, Fanny! heart-delighting maid!
Vouchsafe such smiles as last my cares repaid.
Then thy dear name shall through our hills resound
And Love and Fanny echo all around.

YEOMAN.
Thou fir'st my blood! Enough, presumptuous swain!
Dare thy rude lips thus oft her name profane?
This goodly blade they folly shall chastise,
And thy maim'd hide instruct thee to grow wise.

COURTIN.
Against that edge, indeed, no flesh is proof:
But this fair staff shall ward its fury off;
All on the tip behold a sharpen'd steel!
Behold, and tremble lest its point you feel.

YEOMAN.
How I despise thy stick and thee! this blade
Through bars of knotty oak its way hath made.
Ev'n iron hinges, when the chace grew warm,
Unturn'd, its hedge hath cleft, urg'd by this arm.

COURTIN.
My staff's my pastime and sure weapon too,
When we on high the nobler game pursue,
Such as dare turn again: this pointed spear
Fierce beast hath fell'd; whose looks would fright you here
Again, when perch'd th' unwary fowl I spy,
Or when the nimble squirrel seems to fly
From bough to bough, this, with unerring hand,
I dart, and, at a distance, death command.

YEOMAN.
Yes, against squirrels I believe thee bold!
But, from a man take this—

VICAR.
Hold! madmen, hold!
Can rage and violence with Love agree?
Who knows if either may accepted be
By her you covet? is she wise as fair,
She'll nor be tempted by a bruise or scar:
As, studious, low beneath the beach's shade,
I, with a silent friend, my book, was laid,
Unseen, I listen'd to your warm debate,
And blest your Love, but must reprove your Hate.
Beauty was meant t' enkindle soft desire,
And 'tis in you a merit so t' admire:
Both well deserve, both may expect her grace;
But she's a woman — fancy will take place;
Let her decide. You, Yeoman, justly vaunt
A fair possession, free from every want;
A goodly port and lordly mien you bear,
And health and plenty on your cheeks appear.
Young Courtin too seems suited to his dress;
Such open looks a manly mind confess.
Though slim his form, his limbs are mated well,
And his brac'd nerves with active vigour swell.
For what ye both enjoy, yield thanks to Heaven;
And use it well; 'twas for that purpose given.
Let each still think his own condition best.
But, Fanny comes! and she'll adjudge the rest.

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