1726
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Farewell. Pastoral XIII. 1726.

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

Rev. Abel Evans


Abel Evans concludes with a palinode in which Courtin (identified with the "Colin" who had sung of Roger's drubbing in Pastoral III, and perhaps, by extension, with Evans himself) declares that, abashed by a new Tityrus singing in a higher strain, he will abandon rustic pastoral: "those birds, whose very life is song, | Struck dumb, like me, in silence listen'd long, | As lately, on our hills, his heavenly lyre | Tyt're tun'd up, and was himself a choir." Harry, his interlocutor, is not impressed: "Pan me no Pans! sweet carrols chear my heart. | Yet sense, say I, should share with sound a part." He responds with a fable of a songbird that lost its voice in attempting to sing beyond its ability. The "motley Muse" of the first line refers to the distinction between Theocritean and Virgilian pastoral represented by the two characters.

Given the fragmentary state of this cycle of pastorals and the little knowledge we possess about the poet's life, it is difficult to make much sense of the allegory. The "generous Herbert" who gives Courtin an introduction at court is Thomas Herbert, eighth earl of Pembroke, previously addressed in Pastoral I. But Courtin also remembers Frances Thynne Seymore, the Countess of Hertford, addressed in Pastorals IX and XII: "Nor sweet Francelia! fairest of thy kind! | Is thy bright form e'er absent from my mind!" Evans had evidently found a patron, as he became Rector of the college living of Cheam, Surrey in 1725, a position previously held by six bishops.

The notes by Isaac Reed identify "Augustus" as "George the Second, when Prince of Wales" and the song of Tityrus as "A handsome compliment to the Pastorals of Pope; which probably prevented Dr. Evans from publishing what he modestly thought so much inferior," and "Aonian virgins! lend a loftier strain" as "The introduction to Pope's Messiah is here imitated" 5:139n, 140n, 141n. This accords with the sense, though not with the dates, since most or all of Evans' pastorals were written, or at least revised, long after Pope's were published. If this poem does date from 1726 the new Tityrus would be James Thomson, who in that year published "Winter," the first part of his Seasons. It may be that this rather sour "Farewell" has something to do with the fact that the Countess of Hertford was already patronizing Thomson, whom she invited to Marlborough Castle in 1727.



HARRY AND COURTIN.

Once more the motley Muse inspires the swain;
Once more the Doric with the Mantuan strain
She boldly blends; twelve pleasing labours past,
She quits the flowery lawns: be this her last.

HARRY.
To fold my flock! and (till yon setting sun
Unclimbing those far eastern hills return)
Stretch on this fallow field, and soil it well.
From evil tongues and every wicked spell,
Secur'd by these crost holly-twigs, which round
The pens I stick, first smiting thrice the ground.
Now home, my faithful cur! by this thy dame
Prepares the smoaking platter. Sure I am
Thou shalt not miss a belly-full to-night,
For this day's care, though my own meal sit light.
Yon gamesome ridgling, but for thee, had stray'd,
The sheep, while sweetly I asleep was laid.
O! for some merry mate, with cheary talk,
To rid the tedious common as we walk!
Good luck betides me: lo! a blithsome swain,
As man might wish, makes hitherwards amain.
A happy evening, Courtin! meeting one
Of voice so sweet, what churl would gad alone?

COURTIN.
Thanks for thy courteous greeting, friendly lad.

HARRY.
And yet, of late, I read thee somewhat sad;
Else why's thy pipe so silent now a days?
Why charm no more thy well-turn'd roundelays?

COURTIN.
O! far from sad, though serious I appear.
The joys least noisy are the most sincere.

HARRY.
Thou speak'st my mind, though in a lighter strain;
And 'twere most thankless, lad, in thee, to 'plain.
Thy thriving flock increaseth every day:
And the fair cabin (rais'd, as one may say,
Above thy fellows) wisely views around;
Shelter'd aneath a mighty oak (renown'd
Through all the world) from sun and wind and rain;
And, more than all, thrice happy, lucky swain!
With lovely Fanny blest! our hundred's grace!
The sweetest temper, with the fairest face!
How many sought the modest maiden's heart!
To crown thy love, how many wretches smart!
Whilst all, ev'n those who pine through amorous care,
Shower blessings on the well match'd lovesome pair.

COURTIN.
Hence those calm joys which all my soul possess!
Joys which nor rhyme, nor music, can express.
For this the Giver of all good I praise!
Next, generous Herbert claims my grateful lays,
Through him Augustus, glory of our isle!
First on my poor endeavours deign'd to smile.
Augustus! great and good! each Muse's theme!
To Caesar's virtues, heir, and diadem.
Nor sweet Francelia! fairest of thy kind!
Is thy bright form e'er absent from my mind!
Thy soft endearments banish every care!
Each bliss is doubled which with thee I share!
Life, without Love and Thee, insipid were.
These would I sing! but fear such worth to wrong:
Alas! their names transcend a vulgar song.

HARRY.
Meseems thy speech grows mighty big of late!
Belike our words must rise with our estate.
Courtin, by what I deem, we soon may fear
To lose the Shepherd in the Freeholder.
Yet say, our wishes gain'd, and hearts at ease,
Must, therefore, sullen silence only please?
When fully fed, our younglings sportive play;
And birds sing sweetest on a sunny day.

COURTIN.
True: yet those birds, whose very life is song,
Struck dumb, like me, in silence listen'd long,
As lately, on our hills, his heavenly lyre
Tyt're tun'd up, and was himself a choir.
With nicest art, of undecaying stuff;
His harp was form'd; both Time and Weather-proof.
With ten clear-sounding silver strings 'twas strung,
Which struck with skill, Lord! how the mountains rung!
Glory of Shepherds! by thy deathless rhyme,
We learn what heights the Rural Muse may climb:
Thee had I sooner known, much fruitless pains
I might have spar'd, or form'd by thine, my strains.
But heedless I my flowery prime mis-spent!
With native melody, though rude, content,
Now ripe in manhood, such my blameless pride,
Curious to know at length, without a guide
Resolv'd, I boldy scal'd the arduous way,
And heard, with rapture heard! the learned lay.
Oh! Harry! wert thou present while he charm'd!
Once had the Mantuan Muse thy bosom warm'd!
Thou too, with me, would'st fling thy pipe away.

HARRY.
I pray thee grant a sample of his lay.

COURTIN.
Such sounds at second-hand their sweetness lose.

HARRY.
Yet touch a note: thou wont'st not to refuse.

COURTIN.
To wrong his accents, were too bold a sin.
Some faint resembling air I'll try—

HARRY.
Begin.

COURTIN.
Aonian virgins! lend a loftier strain!
Few prize the lovely music of the plain.
Be hence my verse like Ida's towering brow,
Flowing and clear as Tempe's currents too.—

HARRY.
Hey-day! why sure such songsters waking dream!
What Onian maids are these? what Tempin stream?
Full many a day I've us'd each mart and fair,
Yet never heard such stanzes in all our shire.
Are such the lays which thy fancy fir'd?
Ill understood, and thence, mehap, admired.

COURTIN.
Rather, because ill understood, despis'd;
So Midas Pan before Apollo priz'd.

HARRY.
Pan me no Pans! sweet carrols chear my heart.
Yet sense, say I, should share with sound a part.
Though fickle thou as well thy voice as name,
And home hast chang'd, old Harry's still the same;
Had Robin guest, you'd learn this city skill,
The lad had kept his well-knit hosen still.
Though swelling numbers fill th' astounded ear,
Few of our maidens would vouchsafe to hear,
And songs were bootless then. Those soothing strains,
Wherewith you whilome wont to charm the plains,
Please Shepherds most. That ditty of the clown
Whom Dicky drubb'd, all in a dale adown;
Or that which struck the sparkish stranger mute,
With his new-fangled airs, and finic flute:
Listening to songs so sweet, a summer's day
Beseem'd too short.

COURTIN.
Such an unpolish'd lay
Was once too, I confess, my whole delight;
So fond was I! so slow to judge aright!
Convinc'd, at length, I own superior still,
And rather song resign, than warble ill.
'Twere vain to hope another's mind to move
With airs ourselves too justly disapprove.

HARRY.
Once on a time (give heed to what I tell,
'Twas long ago, yet I remember't well)
A London Lady to the Vicar's came,
Dight like a Queen; a flaunting flickering dame.
In gilded cage this Madam with her brought
A bird of price; far-fetched, and bravely taught,
For sure, unlearn'd, no creature so could sing;
Less shifting notes our bells in changes ring.
Of its gay plumes, all as its mistress, proud
It seem'd: and like her too, though little loud.
Yet, sooth to say, its voice was sweetly shrill,
No flagelet could e'er more deftly trill.
'Twas in those days ere Nelly first grew kind,
When I, to move the dainty damsel's mind,
A linnet rear'd; the choice of five fair young.
Sure never linnet half so sweetly sung;
Yet, when this Madam's gaudy bird came down,
(Whose thrilling pipe was heard through all the town)
My simple songsters drooping, hung the wings
Grew sullen, and would neither peck nor sing.
Howe'er, it seem'd to lend a wistful ear;
And bragly strove, at length, its song to rear
To t' other's pitch; but strove, alas! in vain;
Too weak his voice to mate so high a strain
Whilst, striving thus, it marr'd its mellow throat,
And lost its own, nor learn'd the other's note.
So fares it, lad, with thee. The truth I speak,
Nor, what's well meant, do thou in dudgeon take.

[5:138-43]