Moses Browne's central eclogue — "An Imitation of Milton's Lycidas. Inscrib'd to the right honourable the Countess of Hertford" — is a love-lament, modeled on Spenser and Theocritus as well as Milton. At the time Browne published his volume Lycidas, so prominent in mid-century poetry, was little known and still less imitated.
The countess of Hertford patronized a number of poets, among them James Thomson and Abel Evans; see Moses Browne's Percy Lodge (1749), an elegy lamenting the death of her son Beauchamp, written in the form of a house poem.
"ARGUMENT. This Eclogue is of private Concern, and contains an amorous Soliloquy of a slighted Swain, the same who is introduced with a Complaint of his unsuccessful Passion in the Second Eclogue (as Spencer more than once introduces his unhappy Colin with a well-known personal Meaning). The Poet here, in respect to the ancient Birth-Place of his Family, (whose Name in the Female Line he has made his Lover personate) has singled out upon this Occasion a particular Scene of Action."
In his prefatory essay, Browne declares his intention to imitate Milton: "I own I had Ambition to be the only Poet who had hitherto ever attempted any thing in that new Manner since MILTON. It has a long Time been Matter of Wonder to me, that among so many Admirers and Imitators of that great Man, none have taken notice of this incomparable Poem, so perfectly Original, which I can never read, for my own Part, without the same Veneration and Partiality which is paid to the most accomplish'd Works of Antiquity" (1739) 23.
Henry Marion Hall: "The conception of this pastoral, Spenser's Colin metamorphosed into an angler, singing a complaint to 'Lovely Stella coy,' busied (as the notes assert) in the most scientific and Waltonian style of fishing, and at the same time endeavoring to rival the poetical effects of a poem like Lycidas, is certainly a bold one. Browne is able to turn out couplets with a reasonable degree of fluency, but in attempting to parallel the haunting music of Lycidas in piscatory phraseology, expressive of wrongs like Colin's, his efforts become almost absurd" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 175-76.
Once let my Reed ambitious Strains rehearse:
O lend thy Aid, sweet Lycid's peerless Muse!
That Hertford with approving Smiles may hear.
If She approve, let envying Criticks blame;
Her Smile is Fortune, and her Notice Fame:
If She commend, what censure can'st thou fear?
Begin, and not ungrateful be the Verse!
And you, where most delight the Thespian Maids,
With the free Hours, and dallying Loves, to use,
Your Succours lend — ye gliding Rivers clear,
Bright sunny Plains, and Woods embrown with shades,
And whatsoever may my Song adorn:
Ye flow'r-enamel'd Meads of various Hues,
Fresh Morn, and scorching Noon, and midnight Dews.
Begin — A lowly Swain, of Mind forlorn,
Young Renock He, a hapless Fisher Swain,
Unpity'd pin'd for lovely Stella coy.
Despairing pin'd the slighted, absent Boy;
For she was of the haughty City Train,
And of her Hate he thus began complain:
While streaming Soar his silver Current led,
Fast by his Cave, and all his Shores along,
The gentle Echo bore the mournful Song.
And now hot Noon her sultry Banner spread,
And to the Woods were hy'd the rural Throng;
But Solitude he chose to sooth his Pain;
Too wild his Pain for Solitude to sooth,
Such was his Love, and such was her Disdain.
O Stella fair! of fairest most unkind,
And I of truest Lovers most distrest!
To whom shall I my ruthless Fate deplore;
Thou far away art senseless to my Care,
While hopeless thy unsoft'ning Scorn I rue,
And sigh my wild Plaint to the scatt'ring Air,
And hurrying Floods — Yet these more melt than you,
These with kind Sympathy my Woes return:
Air can lament in Winds, can weep in Dew,
The hurrying Flood in Murmurs bring Relief,
In pitying Murmurs, from his troubled Urn;
But thou art cold to Love, as deaf to Grief.
All in this Stream my luckless Fate I view,
My luckless Fate, which never shall amend!
As he the flying Trent does still pursue,
While she flies fast in her coy-winding Maze,
And to new Loves her dallying Arms displays;
So I in fruitless Search my Life dispend.
Yet neighbouring Nymphs me not uncomely deem,
Nor of my Fisher-Peers for tuneful Lays
Am I unfam'd; by flowing Thames's Stream,
My native Stream, oft heard with kindling Praise.
Unhappy me! that ever there I came,
Or view'd thy Face, and fed this hopeless Flame.
Tho' thou unmindful! oft hast spoke me fair,
And seem'd to love, ah me, deceiv'd! how well!
Than Wolf or Pike more fell!
With lives of Foes their brutal Rage they tame,
But thou, than savage Kind more cruel grown,
Prey'st on a Heart ,which Love had made thy own.
O cold as morning Dews, as Mid-day bright,
And more than Primrose sweet, than Daisy white,
Softer than Down that on the Thistle grows,
Which ripe September gives the frolic Wind,
And cruel as the Thorn that arms the rose!
Must I unpity'd ever wail my Woes?
Thy Lips all pouting, and thy Brow severe!
While, scornful of my Fate and abject Pains,
You, to my Grief withhold a soft'ning Ear.
All ignorant! ah, little dost thou know,
How Gods have suffer'd rural Toils below,
And Goddesses have stoop'd to humble Plains.
Phoebus and Bacchus, each a Pow'r divine,
By Fields of Ida tended woolly Droves.
Adonis, tho' to fleecy Flocks uptrain'd,
The Queen of Love, enchanted with his grace:
And young Iasius, and Endymion fair,
Each shar'd a lovely Deity's Embrace,
Nor lovely Deities the Bliss disdain'd.
For him bright Ceres left her harvest Care,
To sport in twilight Shades of secret Bowers;
And oft the Moon came down from Courts, above,
To meet her darling Swain in Midnight Hours;
Caress'd, was clasp'd, and mix'd in mutual Love.
On stately Oaks neglected Acorns grow,
While the priz'd Straw-berry lurks in Bushes low,
And costly Pearls oft shrowd in coarsest Shells.
The little Loach the Barbel Tribe excels
For wholesome Use and more intrinsic Grace;
Tho' mean his Form, and they a comely Race.
Too Fair! misdeem it not Employment rude,
In shapely Rods to fit the cany Reeds,
With slender Fingers oft the Web to ply,
And weave in silken Folds the mimic fly.
To twist in equal Links the knotty Lines,
And chase the Grashopper on dewy Meads.
Or, might the Tendance of my wormy Brood
Thy Cares engage, to mark when sickly Signs
The little Tribe's approaching Fate foreshew,
To see their mossy Pastures oft renew'd,
And drop the balmy Cream's all-healing Dew.
Here, what soft Pleasures might thy Youth detain
With thousand Charms! the shade of thick-wood Groves,
Smooth Plains and gently-sloping Hills around,
The crew of Fishers and their harmless Loves;
The Fountain-Falls and Rivers murm'ring Sound,
And all the Treasures of their finny Droves
That in the clear Flood's branchy Windings sport,
And bowery Chambers of his oozy Court.
The Tench, and here the speary Perch delight,
Envermill'd all with Finns of rosy Red,
And Pike enchas'd with Spots of Silver white:
Brown Grayling, and the Salmon's wand'ring Trains,
With flaunting Trout, beset with gaudy Stains;
And Eels with pearly Crests and wave-coats green.
Nor Proteus' self, beneath his coral Rock
Rul'd fairer Streams, or fed more num'rous Flock.—
Me every Kind amid the wat'ry Float,
Familiar know, accustom'd to my Call;
Who from my Hand will take their us'd Repast.
Woe's me! what bitter Griefs my Life enthral.
Whilom all Pleasure did my Mind entrance,
The Noon-tide Song, the ev'ning's mirthful Dance,
Or on the lea the sporting Fish to note;
For Otter-Foes the weedy Spell to set,
To bait the Hooks, and spread the tangling Net;
Or with my small Oar drive my rushy Boat.—
Now never more shall Mirth, and mixt Delight,
With Dalliance free, my easy Hours deceive,
The Song at noon, the Dance at leisure Eve,
Or Fish disporting on the wat'ry Lea,
To feed my Fry and watch their Haunts by Night,
Or drive my Rush-Boat with my slender Oar,
The Hooks to bait, to spread the tangling Net,
Or weedy Spells for Otter Foes to set,
Past Mirth, and usual Sports, can please no more.
All as a Swain who, scorch'd with Summer-heat,
Seeks the kind Stream of some cool River clear,
If chance, the flow of limpid Brook he meet,
With bord'ring Shade, and Waters murm'ring sweet,
Where shining Pebbles thro' the Waves appear,
Leaps in, and thinks the treach'rous Bottom near,
But finds no Rest for his deluded Feet;
So I, by Love betray'd and Fortune crost,
Trust to her Charms, and in the Snare am lost.
Yet nought knew I her Smiles such Woe foretold,
Or that such Falsehood wore such fair Array.
When ruddy Wincopipes their Leaves unfold,
They sure betide the Swain a sunny Day.
Black clouds the Rain, and Shades the Night foreshew;
Ah now I read my hapless Doom too true!
For, as I late fresh Flow'rs in Garlands bound
For thy unwilling Brows; from left-hand Groves,
Thrice croak'd th' ill-boding Crow with luckless Sound,
And every tree betray'd our dying Loves.
This Elm so strait, on which I grav'd my Name,
And on his circling Ivy mark'd out thine,
Now with'ring hangs his Head, now drops his Leaves,
And in his ash-pale Trunk his sick Arms folds.
Yet still the ivy Green her Freshness holds,
Nor from her Husband's Grief wan Change receives;
Too sure you do our Destinies divine,
For such her Ease, and such Disquiet mine.
See! from the Cottage Tops the curling Smoke
Of Evening Fires enwreaths the quiet Air.
While labour'd Hinds expecting Supper Food,
At ease are set beneath the broad-Seer-Oak,
Or vacant sport with many a free Nymph fair.
The Kine unyok'd o'er their graz'd Pastures brood,
And Sheep bleat low within their wicker Cotes:
All with the setting Sun make haste to rest.
Ah! can he leave me only thus unblest!
No blith-Birds-Ditties thro' the still-Wood ring,
Save where the Nightingale, with solemn Notes,
Charms the late Eve from her nigh Willow Bough,
Me near resembling in her Plight distrest,
And much too like, alas! our hard Fates now,
While our sad Loves all night we darkling sing.
Mean time to the merk Gloom trip fast along
The Wood-Nymph Bevy and swart Fairy Bands,
And the Elf-Urchin Throng,
With each drear Shape, that lives in mildew Blight,
And ev'ry blue Fogg of the spongy Air.
Oft do I view 'em from the hilly Lands,
Ere the fled Cock rings his shrill Matin clear,
Or toiling Hind loath leaves his dawn-woke Dream:
But Death shall finish soon my Woe severe,
And gently lead me with his kind cold Hand.—
Nor shall I long without a Grave be laid,
The Birds I know will spread a friendly Shade;
The little Robin, with a decent Care,
Shall in his Beak the leafy Cov'ring bear,
With kind Regard and piteous Plaint, shall strew
The mournful Willow and deep-shading Yew;
There ev'ry Eve the Nightingale, forlorn,
Shall sadly to the neighb'ring Echo mourn.
—Ye Fisher-Swains and River-Maids adieu,
And all ye finny Droves, a long Farewel.
I go your Pleasures never more to view,
Never, O never! shall we meet anew!
Ah me! that screaming Raven rung my Knell.
I'll to some steepy Cliff transport me strait,
And from its Height my hated Body throw,
Or in the Floods deep-down convey my Woe,
Or on some Tree suspend my wretched Weight,
For never can I bear such cruel Fate.
Yet shall my Ghost not rest; at Midnight still
With loud lament the lonely Groves I'll fill.
The lonely Groves, and you, where'er you lie,
Deep Vales, and ev'ry River-skirting Hill,
Hear and be Witness true;
Ye pearly Springs, and falling Fountains blue,
Ah! witness how for Stella's Scorn I die.
So up he rose him by the Moon-Beams pale,
While the hoarse Flood kept Moan, and echoing Night,
His Steps fast bending to the wat'ry Dale.
And now the Morn with streaks of Saffron Light
On the tipt Mountain's Brow 'gan slow to play,
And the prime Lark sung out her sprightly Lay,
And Noon had brought her mirthful Hour of Day,
Yet nought might him to gentle Peace excite,
Till, with unwilling Sleep he sunk opprest—
Cease, my rude Pipe, thy strain, and let him sweetly rest.
[Poems (1739) 70-83]