The Scavengers. A Town Eclogue. In the Manner of Swift.

A Collection of Poems by Several Hands. Vol. 6 [Robert Dodsley, ed.]

Rev. Richard Jago

A burlesque pastoral with two street-sweepers as characters. Gaffer and Gammer Pestel complain that with the weather, the turnpike, and the murrain, dung is less common in the streets of Warwick than before. What Richard Jago understands by the "manner of Swift" is not difficult to discern: "Nor did I e'er neglect my mite to pay, | To swell the goodly heap from day to day; | For this each morn I plied the stubbed-broom, | 'Till I scarce hobbled o'er my furrow'd room: | For this I squat me on my hams each night, | And mingle profit sweet with sweet delight?" 6:80-81. The poet (one of Shenstone's close friends) cropped these lines and polished his diction when he reprinted The Scavengers in his Poems.

W. Davenport Adams: "Richard Jago, poet and clergyman (b. 1715, d. 1781), wrote Edge Hill (1769); Labour and Genius (1768); and other works. See the Life by Hylton" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 311.

Richard Foster Jones: "During the eighteenth century there were of course some burlesques. Any form as popular as the eclogue was sure to be ridiculed at some time. Shenstone's Colemira, a Culinary Eclogue, in which th e scene is a kitchen and the soliloquizer a scullion, and Jago's The Scavengers. A Town Eclogue, the title of which speaks for itself, are certainly pure burlesques" "Eclogue Types in English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century" JEGP 24 (1925) 44.

Eric Partridge: "A very minor poet compared with Gray, Richard Jago yet contributed something to the new movement. His pieces The Blackbirds, published in 1753 and reissued in 1755 in volume IV of Dodsley, and The Goldfinches, appearing first in the same anthology, were elegiac lyrics, possessing charm, simplicity, ease, and showing a true love for external nature and, in particular, bird-life. That attention to birds represents Jago's specific contribution to Romantic poetry: he was the first in the century to treat them with such tender emotion and interest" Eighteenth-Century English Romantic Poetry (1924) 96.

Awake, my Muse, prepare a loftier theme:
The winding valley and the dimpled stream
Delight not all; quit, quit the verdant field,
And try what dusty streets, and alleys yield.

Where Avon wider flows, and gathers fame,
A town there stands, and Warwick is its name,
For useful arts, entitled once to share
The Mercian dame, Elsteda's guardian care.
Nor less for feats of chivalry renown'd
When her own Guy was with her laurels crown'd.
Now indolence subjects the drowsy place,
And binds in silken bonds her feeble race.
No busy artisans their fellows greet,
No loaded carriages obstruct the street;
Scarce here and there a sauntering band is seen,
And pavements dread the turf's incroaching green.

Last of the toiling race there liv'd a pair,
Bred up in labour, and inur'd to care,
To sweep the streets their task from sun to sun,
And seek the nastiness which others shun.
More plodding wight, or dame you ne'er shall see,
He gaffer Pestel hight, and Gammer she.
As at their door they sate one summer's day,
Old Pestel first essay'd the plaintive lay,
His gentle mate the plaintive lay return'd,
And thus alternately their cares they mourn'd.

Alas! was ever such fine weather seen!
How dusty are the roads, the streets how clean!
How long, ye almanacks! will it be dry?
Empty my cart how long, and idle I!
Once other days, and diff'rent fate we knew,
That something had to carry, I to do.
Now e'en at best the times are none so good,
But 'tis hard work to scrape a livelihood.
The cattle in the stalls resign their life,
And baulk the shambles, and th' unbloody knife.
Th' affrighted farmer pensive sits at home,
And turnpikes threaten to compleat my doom.

Well! for the turnpike that will do no hurt,
The roads, they say, aren't much the better for't.
But much I fear this murrain where 'twill end,
For sure the cattle did our door befriend.
Oft have I prais'd them as they stalk'd along,
Their fat the butchers pleas'd, but me their dung.

See what a little dab of dirt is here!
But yields all Warwick more, O tell me where?
Lo! where this ant-like hillock scarce is seen,
Heaps upon heaps, and loads on loads have been:
Bigger and bigger the proud dunghill grew,
'Till my diminish'd house was hid from view.

Ah! gaffer Pestel, what brave days were those,
When higher than our house our muck-hill rose?
The growing mount I view'd with joyful eyes,
And mark'd what each load added to its size.
Wrapt in its fragrant steam we often sate,
And to its praises held delightful chat.
Nor did I e'er neglect my mite to pay,
To swell the goodly heap from day to day;
For this each morn I plied the stubbed-broom,
'Till I scarce hobbled o'er my furrow'd room:
For this I squat me on my hams each night,
And mingle profit sweet with sweet delight?
A cabbage once I bought, but small the cost,
Nor do I think the farthing all was lost:
Again you sold its well-digested store,
To dung the garden where it grew before.

What tho' the boys, and boy-like fellows jeer'd,
And at the scavenger's employment sneer'd,
Yet then at night content I told my gains,
And thought well paid their malice, and my pains.

Why toils the merchant but to swell his store?
Why craves the wealthy landlord still for more?
Why will our gentry flatter, trade, and lie,
Why pack the cards, and what d'ye call't the die?
All, all the pleasing paths of gain pursue,
And wade thro' thick, and thin, as we folks do.
Sweet is the scent that from advantage springs,
And nothing dirty which good int'rest brings.
'Tis this that cures the scandal, and the smell,
The rest — e'en let our learned betters tell.

When goody Dobbins call'd me filthy bear,
And name'd the kennel and the ducking-chair;
With patience I cou'd hear the scolding quean,
For sure 'twas dirtiness that kept me clean.
Clean was my gown on Sundays, tho' not fine,
Nor mistress ***'s cap so white as mine.
A slut in silk, or kersey is the same,
Nor sweetest always is the finest dame.

Thus wail'd they pleasure past, and present cares,
While the starv'd hog join'd his complaint to theirs.
To still his grunting different ways they tend,
To West-gate one, and one to Cotton-end.