1746 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Month of August.

Poems upon Several Occasions. By Mrs. Leapor of Brackley in Northamptonshire.

Mary Leapor


A pastorelle: a gentleman and humble maid debate the virtues of art and nature; Phillis replies to Sylvanus: "No Pruning-knives our fertile Branches teaze, | While yours must grow but as their Masters please. | The grateful Trees our Mercy well repay, | And rain us Bushels at the rising Day." The title appears to allude to Spenser, and in the other pastoral in this volume Mary Leapor is "Colinetta." The daughter of a gardener, Mary Leapor later kept a nursery and worked at local estates. After Anne Bradstreet and Elizabeth Thomas, she is the first woman poet to identify herself with the Spenserian tradition, hitherto much the strongest in pastoral verse.

Monthly Review: "The author she most admired was Mr. Pope, whom she chiefly endeavoured to imitate" 2 (1749) 15.

Leigh Hunt: "Mr. Dyce has given us an eclogue of hers, entitled the Month of August, in which Sylvanus, a courtier, attempts in vain to lure away Phillis, a country maid, from her cottage and her rustic love. It contains some pleasing natural images, which we are tempted to quote" in Review of Dyce, Specimens of British Poetesses; The Companion (11 June 1828) 334.

W. Davenport Adams: "Mary Leapor, the 'untaught poetess' (b. 1722, d. 1746), was the author of a number of poems, published in 1748 and 1751, the volume produced in the latter year containing a play from her pen entitled The Unhappy Father" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 340.

Oliver Elton: Mary Leapor "is said to have been a cookmaid, and was certainly the daughter of a gardener at Buckingham in Northamptonshire. Her lines are redolent of the orchard and the herb-bed; she celebrates the russets, the 'lovely Catherine pears' and codlings in her domain" Survey of English Literature 1730-1780 (1928) 2:25.

A copy of this volume appears in the 1769 sale catalogue of the libraries of Joseph Spence and William Duncombe, another in the sale of William Dodd's books; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 2:226, 375.



SYLVANUS, a Courtier.
PHILLIS, a Country Maid.

SYLVANUS.
Hail, Phillis, brighter than the Morning Sky,
Joy of my Heart, and Darling of my Eye;
See the kind Year her grateful Tribute yields,
And round-fac'd Plenty triumphs o'er the Fields.
But to yon Gardens let me lead thy Charms,
Where the curl'd Vine extends her willing Arms:
Whose purple Clusters lure the longing Eye,
And the ripe Cherries shew their scarlet Dye.

PHILLIS.
Not all the Sights your boasted Gardens yield,
Are half so lovely as my Father's Field,
Where large Increase has bless'd the fruitful Plain,
And we with Joy behold the swelling Grain,
Whose heavy Ears towards the Earth reclin'd,
Wave, nod, and tremble in the whisking Wind.

SYLVANUS.
But see, to emulate those Cheeks of thine,
On yon fair Tree the blushing Nect'rines shine:
Beneath their Leaves the ruddy Peaches glow,
And the plump Figs compose a gallant Show.
With guady Plumbs see yonder Boughs recline,
And ruddy Pears in yon Espalier twine.
There humble Dwarfs in pleasing Order stand,
Whose golden Product seems to court thy Hand.

PHILLIS.
In vain you tempt me while our Orchard bears
Long-keeping Russets, lovely Cath'rine Pears,
Pearmains and Codlings, wheaten Plumbs enough,
And the black Damsons load the bending Bough.
No Pruning-knives our fertile Branches teaze,
While yours must grow but as their Masters please.
The grateful Trees our Mercy well repay,
And rain us Bushels at the rising Day.

SYLVANUS.
Fair are my Gardens, yet you slight them all;
Then let us haste to yon majestick Hall,
Where the glad Roofs shall to thy Voice resound,
Thy Voice more sweet than Musick's melting Sound:
Now Orion's Beam infests the sultry Sky,
And scorching Fevers through the Welkin fly;
But Art shall teach us to evade his Ray,
And the forc'd Fountains near the Windows play;
There choice Perfumes shall give a pleasing Gale,
And Orange-flow'rs their od'rous Breath exhale,
While on the Walls the well-wrought Paintings glow,
And dazzling Carpets deck the Floors below:
O tell me, Thou whose careless Beauties charm,
Are these not fairer than a Thresher's Barn?

PHILLIS.
Believe me, I can find no Charms at all
In your fine Carpets and your painted Hall.
'Tis true our Parlour has an earthen Floor,
The Sides of Plaster and of Elm the Door:
Yet the rubb'd Chest and Table sweetly shines,
And the spread Mint along the Window climbs:
An aged Laurel keeps away the Sun,
And two cool Streams across the Garden run.

SYLVANUS.
Can Feasts or Musick win my lovely Maid?
In both those Pleasures be her Taste obey'd.
The ransack'd Earth shall all its Dainties send,
Till with its Load her plenteous Table bend.
Then to the Roofs the swelling Notes shall rise,
Pierce the glad Air and gain upon the Skies,
While Ease and Rapture spreads itself around,
And distant Hills roll back the charming Sound.

PHILLIS.
Not this will lure me, for I'd have you know
This Night to feast with Corydon I go:
To Night his Reapers bring the gather'd Grain,
Home to his Barns, and leave the naked Plain:
Then Beef and Coleworts, Beans and Bacon too,
And the Plumb-pudding of delicious Hue,
Sweet-spiced Cake, and Apple-pies good Store,
Deck the brown Board; who can desire more?
His Flute and Tabor too Amyntor brings,
And while he plays soft Amaryllis sings.
Then strive no more to win a simple Maid,
From her lov'd Cottage and her silent Shade.
Let Phillis ne'er, ah never let her rove
From her first Virtue and her humble Grove.
Go seek some Nymph that equals your Degree,
And leave Content and Corydon to me.

[pp. 34-38]