1729
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Piscatory Eclogues: IX. The Complaints, or, The Friends.

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 concluding eclogue, dedicated "To Mr. William Milward," recalls Spenser's December in its descriptions of winter. Moses Browne's piscatories, though virtually ignored by later critics, were thrice reprinted and obviously gave many readers pleasure. Browne was not so successful as to be able to make a living by his writings, and encouraged by his pious friends, late in life entered orders and was vicar of Olney when William Cowper settled there.

"ARGUMENT. This Eclogue is a kind of Repetition of a familiar Conference, supposed to have passed between the Poet and his Friend. The Style is designedly more negligent and unlaboured than any of the rest, filled up with little unconnected Pieces of private History (in the Manner Virgil conducts a Pastoral of the like Nature) wherein honourable and grateful Respect is made of some Names, distinguished by their Friendships to the Muses: Yet the Whole has an Appearance of Distress, most suitable to the Inquietude and Despondency of Mind (produced by a Series of Disappointments and Sorrows) under which it was written."

Henry Marion Hall: "Renock accordingly utters a sad plaint, descriptive of winter and its ill effects on fish, but Colin's dismal plaint (in the wintry December eclogue of Spenser's Calender) makes itself heard in spite of unusually copious annotation from 'The Compleat Angler'" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 177.



Long known and lov'd! O, try'd in Friendship's part!
Of courteous Manners, and of openest Heart,
Form'd with just Grace the tragic Scene to fill,
Our Passions mast'ring with thy wonder'd Skill;
Yet meekly prone, when vacant Hours invite,
To chuse the fav'rite Angle's calm Delight;
Thine may this Verse, my latest Labour, be;
A Verse may fitliest be inscrib'd to thee.

From Lea returning slow, my neighbouring Stream,
Young Milo o'er th' adjoining Meadow came;
And as it chanc'd both took the City Way,
He stor'd with Fruits, and I with finny Prey;
His Steps he staid beneath a dodder'd Oak;
Then (beck'ning sad) with Smiles he gently spoke.

MILO.
Haste hither, Renock, and a while repose,
For yet the air with sultry Fervour glows;
Till western Gales the scorching Heat allay,
And lengthening Shadows shew the close of Day:
Here due Refreshment take, and Songs rehearse,
While gladly I attend thy cheerful Verse.

RENOCK.
Ah, Milo! how can Grief like mine rejoice,
Or chearful Songs employ a mourning Voice!
While you retir'd a peaceful Life enjoy,
And rural Hours in easy Cares employ,
Far other Fate my Youth is doom'd to know;
Sad is my Discontent, and deep my Woe.

MILO.
Heav'ns, what I heard! and as I wish'd believ'd;
How by your Verse your Fortune was retriev'd!

RENOCK.
Belief is fond, and Rumour ever lyes;
But few by Poetry are known to rise!
While gentle Molesworth liv'd, the tuneful Nine
Still pleas'd me, and all happier Hours were mine;
He view'd me, left in life's unfriended Spring,
Chear'd my young Muse, and rear'd her first to sing:
But he, the Friend, is lost! the gen'rous Peer!
So wont my Sorrow-sinking Mind to chear;
He long is lost, and heavier Fate ensues—
For Care is born to me and to the Muse.

MILO.
Yet Doddington is fam'd for gen'rous Praise,
He loves the Poet, and rewards his Lays.

RENOCK.
O Milo! never liv'd a nobler Mind!
Great without Pride, to meanest Merit kind.
This Verse I now to my Maecenas bear,
And ever shall he hear my grateful Pray'r.
How easy were the Grant to make me blest!
For little serves, when little we request.

MILO.
Best Patron! may thy ev'ry care succeed,
And Fame repay thy Worth with ample Meed,
As now the hapless Swain thy Favour moves,
And in thy Smiles a happier Fortune proves.

RENOCK.
Maecenas' Praise employ'd the Mantuan Swain,
And Sidney lives renown'd in Spencer's Strain;
Great Dorset shines in younger Colin's page,
And Dodington shall grace a new Augustan Age.

MILO.
So mayst thou live the Fisher's Joy and Theme,
And kinder Fate thy drooping Youth redeem:
May no rash Swain thy peaceful Haunts annoy,
Nor greedy Poacher e'er thy Fry destroy;
To me the Musick of thy Strains impart,
Tho' rude, a Lover of the tuneful Art.

RENOCK.
Sing, gentle Muse, to Hertford's gen'rous Pair,
All great the Hero, and all good the Fair.
While Cadews in the whisp'ring Brook shall breed,
Or pitt'ring Grashoppers delight the Mead,
In grassy caves the slender Ant-fly build,
And Floods shall with their scaly Tribes be fill'd;
While I to Notes can easy Numbers frame,
Or my charm'd Tongue repeat th' all-cheering Name,
Their Worth my loud Acknowledgments shall bind,
A grateful Strain becomes a grateful Mind.

MILO.
Sing what I heard you chant the other Noon,
The Verse I keep, tho' I forget the Tune;
Cease, Pike, with Perch successless War to wage,
Their speary Finns delude your idle Rage;
Nor sleep expos'd, lest Frogs your Lives betray,
And you unguarded fall an easy Prey.
In Skill tho' simple, and tho' rude my Air,
Two Songs I learn'd of Philadel the fair,
And with a Third my humble Voice I'd try,
Wou'd you to teach a favour'd Strain comply.

RENOCK.
Small skill can I, obliging Swain, impart,
My fancy pall'd, myself unvers'd in Art.
Than mine, more sweet your Song, your Note more gay,
Blither than Linnets in a Morn of May!

MILO.
What would I give like you the Reed to blow,
Or practis'd Arts of vocal Sounds to know!

RENOCK.
You mock my Griefs! with what a lavish Flight
You stretch your Voice, how tow'r above my Height!
Your Mirth seems natural, and free your Vein,
Mine is false Merriment, and forc'd my Strain.

MILO.
Ah, pity'd Friend! o'erwhelm'd in hopeless Cares,
A double Wound thy suffering Bosom bears;
Not more by Fortune than by Love opprest:
Love! sharpest Woe, to pierce the gentle Breast.

RENOCK.
Proud Stella! Angel with a Tyrant's heart!
Form'd for my Wish, yet destin'd for my Smart,
Once my lov'd Hope, Companion soft and kind,
Till false dividing Friends unfix'd thy Mind:
Forbid thy Sight, thy ever-parted Charms,
Torn from these true but vainly-doating Arms,
Tho' doom'd my Flame in Silence to suppress,
Still the deep Secret will my Looks confess;
My stifled Sigh, my softly-stealing Tear:
Thro' each Disguise the Lover will appear.

MILO.
One Ditty yet vouchsafe my ardent Choice,
Soft are thy mournful Accents, sweet thy Voice,
The Song you whilom sung in artful Guise,
When you with Maeris strove, and won the Prize.

RENOCK.
Since you Request, (but how unfit my State)
I yield. — The Muse cou'd once my Grief abate.

MILO.
'Tis Renock's Song, Muse, aid th' advent'rous Strain,
And tune the Numbers, and direct thy Swain!

RENOCK.
Stern Boreas now the stormy North unbinds,
With all his frozen Race of wint'ry Winds;
The woody Pow'rs to inmost Caves betake,
And River Gods their icy Urns forsake,
A trembling Horror seizes all the Floods,
And chilly Blasts benumb their finny Broods.
From Seas haste, Proteus, with thy wat'ry Wain,
And thaw the Floods, and save thy dying Train.

To the pale Sun their sickly Tribes they show,
And leave their Bottom-Haunts, presaging Woe;
The shades of Pools they leave, the depths of Streams,
And rise in Vain to meet his chearing Beams.
His feeble Ray no kindly Warmth avails,
Nor chears 'em, tho' he gilds their quiv'ring Scales.
From Seas haste, Proteus, with thy wat'ry Wain,
And thaw the Floods, and save thy dying Train.

In the still Lake their labouring Finns they ply,
And wish'd Relief from ceaseless Motion try:
Th' unsocial Pike, by soft'ning Fear subdu'd,
Joins in the Toil, and aids th' industrious Brood.
But vain the Strife, if there no Spring ascend,
Or Brook distill, or Stream his Current lend.
From Seas haste, Proteus, with thy wat'ry Wain,
And thaw the Floods, and save thy dying Train.

The Eel, to cold an early Prey resign'd,
First falls, a helpless undefended Kind;
Unless her wint'ry Hold betimes she chuse,
The Banky Shelter, or low-bedded Ooze.
From Seas haste, Proteus, with thy wat'ry Wain,
And thaw the Floods, and save thy dying Train.

The Carp and Perch in mingling Numbers die,
And Pike expire with the unravag'd Fry;
They feel their Scales with stiff'ning Cold confin'd,
And languish, faint, within their icy Rhind;
Yet will the hardy Tench securely dwell,
Envelop'd fast in her cold frozen Shell.
From Seas haste, Proteus, with thy wat'ry Wain,
And thaw the Floods, and save thy dying Train.

See South-Winds from their balmy Quarters blow,
And Woods begin to wave, and Floods to flow;
Their icy Bonds in Dews dissolve away,
And Fish anew their pliant Finns display.
To Seas back, Proteus, with thy wat'ry Wain,
The Floods are thaw'd, and safe thy rescu'd Train.

Time and Distress our Genius quite impair,
And toys of Verse are lost in weightier Care;
Once, when a Boy, e're grief my Spirits drown'd,
Much cou'd I sing, for Skill not unrenown'd;
But such Delights to happier Hours belong,
Sadness and Mourning ill become a Song.

MILO.
Here may'st thou yet thy peaceful Sitting take,
How sweet a Shade the tangling Thickets make!
The Birds above melodious Musick breathe,
And od'rous Scents exhale from Flowers beneath.
Of Elder-bloom the fragrant Sweets diffuse;
Well might'st thou here indulge thy Mirth and Muse.

RENOCK.
Thy Importunity a while delay:
Spent is the ebbing Light, and far the Way.
And now my Sonnets to the Muses King,
My patron, trembling I prepare to bring:
Gloom, and Dismay, my sinking Heart depress,
Dispirited, and fearful of Success:
Yet deeply urg'd my Fortunes I pursue,
Happy while plac'd in his upraising View;
And if my Youth he favour, and my Lay,
I'll grateful Praise, in better verse, repay.

[Poems (1739) 125-37]