Diggon Davy's Resolution on the Death of his Last Cow. A Pastoral.

Diggon Davy's Resolution on the Death of his Last Cow. A Pastoral.

Rev. William Dodd

A pastoral burlesque of Virgil's third Georgic written in the manner of Gay's Shepherd's Week. The juvenile poem was anonymously published while William Dodd (b. 1729), later notorious as the "Macaroni Parson," was still an undergraduate at Cambridge. Diggon, discovered burying his last cow, complains to Colin of the inefficacy of Bishop Berkeley's tar-water: "The bishop's drink, which snatch'd me from the grave, | Giv'n to my cow, forgot its power to save" p. 5. With the death of Mully, Diggon's love for Susan seems threatened, and he "resolves" to go to war against the French Papists. The name of the dead beast is possibly taken from William King's burlesque pastoral, "Mully of Mountown" (1704). The expletive "'Snigs" was removed in the collected edition of Dodd's poems.

Isaac Reed: "Dr. William Dodd was the eldest son of a clergyman many years vicar of Bourne in Lincolnshire, and was born May 29, 1729. He was sent at the age of sixteen to the University of Cambridge, and admitted a sizer of Clare Hall. In 1749-50 he took the degree of B.A. with great reputation, and soon after married and quitted the University. He then entered into holy orders, and very early became a popular preacher. In 1758 he took the degree of M.A. and that of LL.D. in 1766. On the foundation of the Magdalen Hospital he was appointed preacher. In 1763 he obtained the prebend of Brecon, and in 1765 was nominated one of the King's chaplains. He afterwards was presented to the living of Hocliffe in Bedfordshire. Living in an extravagant manner, greatly above his circumstances, he was weak enough to be tempted to write an anonymous letter to the lord chancellor's lady, offering a sum of money, if through her interest he was promoted to the living of St. George, Hanover Square. The discovery of this act of folly ruined him in the opinion of his friends, and of the world. He was struck off the list of King's chaplains with disgrace, and his expensive manner of living being not lessened, he was prompted to forge a bond from lord Chesterfield, for which he was tried at the Old Bailey, convicted and executed at Tyburn, June 26 1777" Pearch, Supplement to Dodsley (1783) 4:222-23n.

Herbert E. Cory: Dodd's "divine afflatus may be estimated by the title of his very serious imitation of Shepheardes Calender" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 59n.

Earl R. Wasserman: "Dodd meant this for a serious poem, and he later wrote in the same vein Susan and Rosalind and six 'moral pastorals' as an improvement upon Gesner. The Spenserian names of the characters, an occasional archaism and echo of a line in Spenser, and a decidedly crude style and subject matter as opposed to a polished portrait of the golden age — all point to Spenser; but it is a Spenser the pastoralist as simplified by the Augustans, not the melodist or the blender of artifice and naivete" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 145.

Gerald Howson: "He chose his subjects from current events. The first was a plague of foot-and-mouth disease which had just arrived in England from the continent and had already destroyed several hundred herds of cattle. He chose to describe this disaster in a facetious tone, Diggon Davy's Lament for the Loss of his Last Cow being a parody of the pastoral poetry still being written at that time. After losing his cow, Diggon Day (whose name was taken from a pastoral by Spenser) renounces the land and his wife and goes off to become a soldier" The Macaroni Parson (1973) 19.

In Poems (1767) Dodd added a note: "This pastoral was first written and published in the year 1747, when the distemper reigned amongst the horned cattle; and with a view to satisfy a friend that Virgil had accurately described the same malady" p. 260n.

Among the books auctioned while the unfortunate Dodd was in prison was Hughes' Spenser and a copy of Fletcher's Purple Island; see A. N. L. Munby, in Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 2:380, 378.


Beneath an Hawthorn's Bush, secreted Shade,
The Herdsman DIGGON, doleful ply'd his Spade;
The deep'ning Grave conceal'd him to the Head,
Near him his Cow, his fav'rite Cow, lay dead:
When o'er the neighb'ring Stile a Shepherd came,
The Herdsman's Friend, and COLIN was his Name:
Touch'd with the Sight, the kind and guileless Swain
Sigh'd, shook his Head, and thus express'd his Pain.

How! MULLY gone! — the sad Mischance I rue!
Ah! wretched DIGGON, but more wretched SUE!

How could I hope, where such Contagion reigns,
Where one wide Ruin sweeps the desart Plains;
Where ev'ry Gale contains the Seeds of Death,
That DIGGON'S Kine should draw untainted Breath?
Vain Hope, alas! if such my Heart had known,
Since MULLY's gone, the last of all my own.
No more shall SUSAN skim the milky Stream,
No more the Cheese-curd press, or churn the Cream;
No more the Dairy shall my Steps invite,
So late the Source of Plenty and Delight:
Thither no more, with SUSAN, shall I stray,
Nor from her cleanly Hands receive the Whey.
Sad Plight is ours, nor ours alone, for all
Mourn the still Meadow, and deserted Stall.

But have you, DIGGON, all those Methods try'd,
By book-learn'd Doctors taught, when Cattle dy'd?
Or, tho' no Doctor's Remedies prevail,
Does the good Bishop's fam'd Tar-Water fail?

Each Art I try'd, did all that Man could do;
Med'cines I gave; like Poison Med'cines slew:
The Bishop's Drink, which snatch'd me from the Grave,
Giv'n to my Cow, forgot its Pow'r to save.
The dire Disease increas'd by swift Degrees,
Till Death freed MULLY, Death! which all Things frees.

I wou'd not, DIGGON, now your Grief renew,
Yet wish to hear her Sickness trac'd by You;
How first it seiz'd her, and what Change its Rage
Relentless wrought in each successive Stage.

Dejected first, she hung her drooping Head,
Refus'd her Meat, and from her Pasture fled;
Then dead and languid seem'd her plaintive Eye;
Her Breath grew noisome, and her Udder dry.
Erst sweet that Breath as Morning Gales in May,
And full that Udder as of Light the Day.
Scorch'd with perpetual Thirst, short Sighs she drew,
Furr'd was her Tongue, and to her Mouth it grew:
Her burning Nostrils putrid Rheums distill'd,
And Death's strong Agonies her Bowels fill'd:
Each Limb contracted, and a Groan each Breath;
Lost Ease I wish'd her, and it came in Death:—
Cast out infected, and abhorr'd by all;
See how the Useful, and the Beauteous fall!
Not ev'n her Skin, when living, sleek and red,
Can ought avail me, COLIN, now she's dead.

May Heav'n, relenting, happier Days bestow,
Suspend the Rod, and smile away our Wo!
But, if in Justice for our Crimes we smart,
If with Affliction Heav'n corrects the Heart,
'Tis ours, submissive to receive the Stroke,
Since to repine is only to provoke.

Hard is the Task from Murmurs to refrain,
Ev'n Blessings past increase the present Pain.
Once, in these Vales my lowing Herds were fed,
My Table Plenty crown'd, and Peace my Bed;
My jocund Pipe then tun'd to am'rous Lays,
A Kiss repaid me for a Lover's Praise.
Bless'd Times, farewel! no more those Herds are found,
No more my Table is with Plenty crown'd;
No more my Bed the Sleep of Peace bestows;
No more my jocund Strain melodious flows;
A Lover's Praise a Kiss rewards no more;
Joy spreads his wanton Wings, and leaves the Shore.
Pale Want remains, with all her meagre Train,
And only Sighs are echoed o'er the Plain.
Far hence I'll fly, this rustic Garb forego,
And march in Red, a Soldier to the Foe:
The French, whose Bosoms Papish Plots conceal,
My Hand, made heavy by Distress, shall feel.
On Flanders Plains I'll lose domestick Care,
Desperate thro' Want, and mighty thro' Despair.
And there, if Heav'n at length my Labours crown,
I'll sow false Frenchmen, and I'll reap Renown.
SUSAN, farewell!—

Zooks! yonder o'er the Mead
The 'Squire's curs'd Mastiff scours with headlong Speed!
See how my Flock in wild Confusion flies—
'Snigs — if I catch him — by this Hand he dies.

[pp. 3-8]