1729
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Piscatory Eclogues: VII. The Strife.

Piscatory Eclogues: an Essay to introduce new Rules, and new Characters, into Pastoral. To which is prefix'd, a Discourse in Defence of this Undertaking. With Practical and Philosophical Notes.

Rev. Moses Browne


The seventh eclogue, dedicated "To the honourable Mrs. Bladen," is a singing contest between a shepherd and a fisherman, consisting of two Ovidian narratives. Moses Browne gives a very unusual turn to the story of Sabrina.

"ARGUMENT. Clorin, a pleasant Shepherd, lighting on the Fisher Comus, they fall into a rallying Vein, which occasions a Challenge of Art in Singing. Algon, an aged Angler, is made the Umpire, who modestly owns his Unfitness for the Office, yet proposes each should chuse his Subject in Honour of his different Employment. Clorin, in Compliment to Pan, relates the Story of Pytis, a Nymph beloved by him, and (to avoid the Rage of Boreas, her slighted Lover) transform'd into the Pine-Tree, which is said to weep when the North-Wind blows, with the Boughs of which Pan crowns himself. Comus, in Turn, takes Occasion from the Severn, by which they are sitting, to sing the Metamorphosis of Sabrina, a Naiad chang'd into that Stream, from whom it is supposed to receive its Name. The Fable of Pytis, though furnished with as beautiful Incidents as any in the Classicks, is not to be met with in Ovid, nor any of the ancient or modern Poets; which makes it new in its Kind, and particularly excited the Author's selecting it for this Eclogue. The Story of Sabrina is differently recited from Geoffry of Monmouth, and other fabulous Writers of English History; but the whole Relation being suspected to be a Fiction, has given Liberty here to improve and soften the Fable."

The prefatory essay names Ambrose Philips's fifth pastoral as a model: "The Narration in the Seventh Eclogue must be defended by the same Practice in the 20th and some other Idyllium of THEOCRITUS, as well as in VIRGIL'S Silenus: But if modern Precedents may be alleged, I shall more properly refer to a well known Pastoral by Mr. PHILIPS, which he has beautifully imitated from STRADA'S Nightingale" (1739) 23.

Henry Marion Hall: "'The Strife' is imitated in part from Fletcher's 'The Strife,' and in part from other sources. Just as in Fletcher's poem the match is held before a fisher umpire between an angler and a shepherd, each singing the praises of his own way of life, while the rallying, which leads to the challenge, is that of Virgil's third piece.... Here we have rather a complicated development of the genre, including motives from Fletcher, Virgil, and Geoffrey of Monmouth. Moreover, the fisher's song describes no fewer than thirty-seven rivers, all taken from Walton, as copious notes explicitly state, and lastly we find imitation of Milton" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 173.



CLORIN. COMUS. ALGON.

With Pride untainted, tho' in Rank elate,
Not more by Honours than by Merit great,
Shall Bladen, worthy of sublimer Dtrains,
The mild Contention hear of friendly Swains?
Bold is the Hope, unequal are the Lays,
Yet apt the Theme, a gentle Strife for Praise.

CLORIN.
Ho Fisher! so intent on finny Spoil,
Hast caught my straggling Wether in thy toil?

COMUS.
Love-Loiterer, ever from thy Charge away?
Well like the roving Swain his Flock may stray.

CLORIN.
You grudge my happy Lot, and envying pine,
Because the Nymphs prefer my Songs to thine.

COMUS.
I envy? whom the Shepherd-boys excel!
Dromio, the Dolt, can chaunt it, full as well.

CLORIN.
Since leisure is such pleasing Strife to try,
And since our Wishes with the Place comply,
Begin. — You, Algon, our Performance weigh:
Judge right, and to the Victor yield the Day.

ALGON.
Hard Office, courteous Shepherd, you enjoin,
Ill trusted to unskilful Ear like mine,
Unapt and new to judge such learn'd Debate;
But if from me the wish'd Aproof you wait,
Begin: In Shepherds honour tune your Lays,
And, Comus, carol thou the Fisher's Praise.

CLORIN.
Me, Pan, assist: If ever on the Plains
My Pipe was pleasing, or approv'd my Strains,
Be present now; and O thy Succours bring,
While of thy Love, and Pytis' Fate I sing!

The gentle Maid was of the Sylvan Race,
Bred to the pliant Bow and active Chace.
No Herd attended she, no woolly Care,
Nor haunted Stream nor flow'ry Pasture fair.
The Gloom of Woods she sought, and Forests wild,
And with her Sports the lonely Hours beguil'd;
Yet for her Beauty num'rous Lovers strove,
Her Beauty form'd to raise resistless Love!
The Fawns and Demi-Gods of ev'ry Shade,
With Vows besought the unattentive Maid;
The Satyrs at the Noontide hour wou'd haste,
And mingled Viands bear to sooth her Taste;
The bloomy Bow'rs, and pearly Springs explore,
And climb the Groves to reach their choicest Store;
For her the River Deities complain,
And ev'ry drooping Genius sigh'd in vain.
Ye Graces aid, ye Muses tune my Tongue,
Thou Pan be present, and assist my Song.

Pan only the relenting Fair possess'd,
Desir'd, and was with equal Fondness bless'd;
Tho' Boreas, raging with enamour'd Smart,
Sought the coy Nymph with ev'ry wooing Art,
Oft would he watch her where she sleeping lay,
And with her Neck and downy Bosom play;
Oft in the Chace attend the flying Fair,
And waft her Robes, and revel in her Hair;
No Winters brooded on his alter'd Wing,
Serene and breezy as the Breath of Spring:
Yet she, averse, his fond Addresses flew,
And still in ev'ry Shape her Lover knew;
Whether with Zephyr's milder Look he blooms,
A Satyr's borrow'd form, or Pan's assumes,
Whate'er Disguise the apt Deceiver wears,
She still discerns him and eludes his Snares.
Ye Graces aid, ye Muses tune my Tongue,
Thou Pan be present, and assist my Song.

Deep in Arcadian Vales a Forest grows,
Whose blended Shade indulgent Gloom bestows,
No Axe did e'er the sacred Verdure wound,
Or mortal Foot impress the hallow'd Ground.
Hither the Maid was wonted to retreat
When tir'd with Hunting, or the Mid-Day heat,
And now, as us'd, the inmost Bow'r she chose;
When from its Shade th' inambush'd God arose,
Nor knew she yet but Pan's approach she hears,
And such he now thro' all his Shape appears.
His Step he well dissembled as he came,
His Gesture, Voice, and ev'ry Look the same.
Ye Graces aid, ye Muses tune my Tongue,
Thou Pan be present, and assist my Song.

Eager to meet the willing Maid he flies,
When strait th' impostor Lover she descries;
Struggling she seeks to shun his close Embrace,
And in her Bosom hides her fearful Face.
Enrag'd to find his utmost Arts betray'd,
And wild to lose the half-surrender'd Maid,
Ingrateful Fair, at length be taught (he cries)
How great a Pow'r thy partial Thoughts despise!
Nor longer now the dreary God conceals,
But all the Terror of his Form reveals.
Ye Graces aid, ye Muses tune my Tongue,
Thou Pan be present, and assist my Song.

Unshapen Mists his hoary Visage veil,
And Frosts his Temples shrowd and bleaky Hail.
Rough Isicles his forky Brows compose,
His Hairs and grisly Beard descend with Snows.
Thrice with disorder'd Steps he stalks around,
And trail'd his dusky Mantle o'er the ground.
With horrid Plumes his sooty Pinions wave,
The Blast re-echoes far from ev'ry Cave.
Ye Graces aid, ye Muses tune my Tongue,
Thou Pan be present, and assist my Song.

Scar'd with the hideous Sound and glaring View,
Swift from Eurota's trembling Banks she flew:
O'er grovy Menalus now urg'd her Flight,
And cold Lyceus past thy tow'ry Height,
Nemaean Shades and tall Cyllene views,
Fast as she flies the wingy Form pursues.
Steep Nonacrine and low Cytheron gain'd,
And Helicon's aspiring Brow attain'd,
Thro' Panope her hast'ning Course she led,
And Oeta past, and Pindus' hilly Head:
When last to Boreas frozen Cliffs she came,
(The ill-fam'd Mount from him receiv'd its Name)
Here, fainting with the Toil, the affrighted Maid
Thus, to the Nymphs in broken Murmurs pray'd:
Ye Pow'rs! who here eternal Honours know,
O Sisters, conscious of my Virgin Woe,
Receive me pitying to your Virgin Train,
And in your timely Aid prevent my Pain.
She ceas'd, for mov'd by her inclement Grief,
The Dryades present the wish'd Relief.
Her stiff'ning Limbs their pliant Use refuse,
And now her Feet the pow'r of Motion lose;
A spreading Bole her hard'ning Trunk receives,
Her Head and branching Arms distend with Leaves;
Yet still she bears her Ravisher in Mind,
And weeps whene'er she feels his dreaded Wind.
Pan mourns her Loss, and in return is seen
To bind his Temples with her wreathy Green:
Cease Graces now, cease Muse to tune my Tongue,
Thou Pan be absent, and be mute my Song.

COMUS.
Of the smooth Severn I a lay rehearse,
And call the Wave-rob'd Goddess to my Verse.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

The Severn from the Virgin Sabra came,
From the fair Nymph the Flood deriv'd its Name;
A Nais she, whom on the Cambrian Shore,
A Mountain Deity to Neptune bore.
No Pow'r was yet with her alliance grac'd,
No am'rous flood her Virgin Spring embrac'd,
Recluse and coy she shun'd the genial Fire,
And oft would to bewilder'd shades Retire;
Or take o'er steepy Rocks a dangerous Way,
Or with her kindred Springs delight to play:
Yet distant Floods had heard her Beauty's Fame,
And in disorder'd Sighs confess'd their Flame.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

For her imperial Thames was said to pine,
And first bedew his Waves with Ocean Brine;
The gentle Humber for the proudly Fair
Impetuous grew, transform'd by wild Despair;
Whilst rapid Winander, deprest with Woe,
Droop'd at his Fountains and surceas'd to flow.
Then limpid Cam, 'tis told, first troubled grew,
And with his Tears distain'd his silver Hue:
Abash'd the slighted Mole his Channel fled,
And deep in Earth implung'd his abject Head.
Some think his Floods to lowest Seas repair,
Mix with the Ocean Nymphs, and lose his Care.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

The stately Avon woed th' unpitying Fair,
And Medway, Sire of Floods, and princely Yare,
For him two Sister-Nymphs with ardour burn,
Fair Waveney, rich in Streams, and lovely Thirn.
Incaptiv'd Meneu languish'd for her Charms,
And Trent to clasp her stretch'd out all his Arms.
The age-bent Ouse an am'rous Heat inflames,
And Mersey, Pride of fair Cornavian Streams,
Her Wantsum lov'd, and Pant and sedgy Lea,
And Tamer, spreading wide from Sea to Sea.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

Smooth Cherwell, drooping, griev'd with inward Pain,
And slowly drew along his humid Train:
Wan Evenlode, with chalky Kennet mourn;
And Windrush feebly tends his scanty Urn;
And pensive Rother in his Hopes dismay'd,
Thro' Woods his melancholy Flood convey'd.
All vainly lov'd, despairing to obtain,
And with eternal Murmurs shall complain.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

Nor less the wat'ry Nymphs with Envy pine,
The bordering Deva, and remoter Tine:
Fair Solway, by contending Rivals woo'd;
And Tweed, the fairest Caledonian Flood:
With languid Looks their sickly Streams appear,
Nor can their Charms nor num'rous Lovers chear.
A jealous Pain the haughty Isis wrings,
And proud Ausona wept from all her Springs.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

But now, predestin'd to enjoy her Charms,
(And opportunely guided to his Arms,)
The neighb'ring Flood, as on his Banks she play'd,
Beheld, and strait surpriz'd th' unwary Maid.
In vain, alas! from Strife she hopes Escape,
Weaker by Fears, she but assists the Rape:
Illustrious Sabra, royal-born (he cries)
What causeless Woes thy heavy Heart surprize?
No falsehood I, nor guilty Force design;
My plighted Vows receive — be ever mine.
A hundred smiling Nymphs my Flood obey,
And wait thy Reign, and court thy milder Sway;
Be these thy Dow'r; and to appease thy Shame,
My grateful Stream shall ever bear thy Name.
His Brow he rais'd with rushy Fillets crown'd,
And swore, and call'd the gath'ring Floods around.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

First aged Isca came with fault'ring Pace,
And Pedred sprung of Ivel's kingly Race:
A dropping Wreath of Water-Thyme he wore,
And smiling Munnow came with youthful Dore.
Next Frome with roving Vaga near ally'd,
Who pours from downright Cliffs his wanton Tide,
And ev'ry summon'd Flood attendant came,
Approv'd her Honours, and confirm'd her Name:
Down to his court the Bridal Pair they led,
And join'd the Lovers in the nuptial Bed.
Ye Vales, ye Rocks, ye Caves your Echoes bring,
And thou, Sabrina, listen while I sing.

ALGON.
Both merit Praise, and much Reward is due,
To Clorin much, and Comus much to you.
But of your Strife the doubtful Claim suspend,
Till abler Ears more couth Attention lend.
The herd-Grooms shortly to the Banks will bring
Their Droves, and you repeated Lays may sing;
While I my Angle for the Stream repair,
And list'ning, ply anew my Fisher Care.

[Poems (1739 96-114]