The Druidage.

St. James's Magazine 2 (March 1763) 30-35. [Robert Lloyd, ed.]

T. A.

A narrative poem in couplets signed "T. A." The eponymous druid, apparently a divinity student, fails to seduce a loose-zoned "Castalia." There are several allusions to Comus. Robert Lloyd's St. James's Magazine frequently poked fun at academical Spenserianism.

Walter Graham: "Lloyd, the friend of Cowper and Churchill, was really a pioneer, in that he gave up the anonymity, the fictitious 'Club,' and the shopworn devices for attracting readers. With a title which did not suggest or promise anything, the St. James Magazine was begun in September 1762, an eighty-page monthly, made up almost entirely of poetry and criticism.... The four volumes show it to have been quite the best thing of its kind up to this time" English Literary Periodicals (1930) 179.

Along with Lloyd and Colman, William Julius Mickle was among the contributors, though this poem was not claimed by him. Another frequent contributor was Charles Denis.

While tawny reapers had retir'd, to shun
The scorching rays of a meridian sun;
While Sirius rag'd with fierce excess of heat,
Where should Castalia find a cool retreat?
She fought the grove; there close embower'd trees
Kept off the rays, yet yielded scarce a breeze:
Languid she sat, her panting bosom bare,
And zone unloos'd to tempt the gentle air.

A youthful Druid, studying in the shade,
Saw with surprize, and thus addrest the maid:
"O fair Caelestial (for of earthly mould,
So bright a form I never did behold)
Pardon approach; and be it no offence
A mortal should be moider'd with suspence,
Whether to hail thee goddess of the grove,
The huntress Dian, or the queen of love.
That air, that grace, the radiance of those eyes,
Declare thee some descendant from the skies;
Yet, goddess, deign to grace an humble board,
Accept such welcome as these shades afford:
Lowly my roof; yet friendship means it well;
Vouchsafe a visit to a Druid's cell."

"Thanks, she reply'd, to courtesy are due;
Yet, if you'd have me think your friendship true,
First cease from flatt'ry; learn to be sincere;
How shall a virgin else incline her ear
To such request? — These arts have oft betray'd,
By specious lures, the too-believing maid.
I'm no celestial; call me not divine;
My name's Castalia, I'm of race like thine.
You seem ingenuous, honest are your looks,
And students oft know less of life, than books;
Perhaps in plain simplicity you err'd,
It may be so: — Druid, I'll take thy word:
Faintness and heat persuade refreshing rest,
On terms of honour I become your guest."

Close by the grove, beneath a poplar shade,
A clear canal fell murm'ring in cascade;
Ruins of rocks, with spars, and many a shell,
Broke the translucent waters as they fell:
Fresh verdant turf the sloping banks o'erspread,
And bow'rs of alder crown'd the fountain head:
Near the cascade, within its lulling sound,
Nature had form'd a gently rising mound;
On which a rough and rustic temple stood
Pil'd up with roots, the relics of the wood,
Artless to sight, yet elegantly rude.
Thus the sagacious beaver, it is said,
By instinct far excells the builder's trade;
Transcends the Grecian, or Italian schools,
Superior architect without the rules:
So from a chaos of primaeval night
Th' Almighty FIAT brought the world to light;
Rude, tho' it seem'd, yet ev'ry thing was true,
To its own sphere each element withdrew,
Oceans and orbs their proper bound'ries knew.
Thus, tho' the structure seem'd devoid of art,
Truth and proportion reign'd in ev'ry part.
Shrubs bloom'd beneath, among the rugged roots,
A mantling vine had interwove its fruits:
Roses around, and honey suckles blew;
Myrtles, and bays there ever verdant grew.

Hither the Druid led the listless maid,
Pleas'd, yet mistrusting; willing, yet afraid.
Ent'ring the cell, an osier couch she found;
Rushes and sedge were strew'd upon the ground:
Flow'rs interspers'd sweet redolence exhal'd,
Reviv'd by dropping fonts, which seldom fail'd.
Some votive off'rings on an altar lay;
(Learning had ever sense enough to pray)
And two stone vessels stood replete with wine,
Burgundian, and the produce of the Rhine.
'Tis just, that bards should crown a cheerful bowl,
The juice of grape gives spirit to the soul:
HORACE confest the Dionysian fire,
Phoebus might string, but Bacchus tun'd the lyre.
Some Gothic runes, and old Aegyptian lore,
With magic spells, were scatter'd on the floor;
In a dark niche, almost obscur'd from sight,
A glimm'ring lamp cast forth a gloomy light;
Struck with a sudden awe, the silent maid,
In deep attention all the cell survey'd;
She stopt. — When thus the raptur'd host addrest,
With soothing speech, his much astonish'd guest.
"Be not alarm'd, dear nymph; dispel your fear;
For virtue, tho' in solitude, dwells here:
Suspect not Druids of a base design:
Safe from rude insult, on the couch recline.

The Nymph comply'd. Mean while with anxious haste,
He fill'd a plenteous table for repast:
With fruits he heap'd his hospitable board;
Nature's supply, but no luxurious hoard:
Pour'd forth the juice of the Burgundian vine,
(The nectar mantl'd in its crystal shrine:)
Then bore the cup, respectful, to the fair;
She smil'd, and sipp'd, and thankt him for his care.
He pledg'd the glass; then kist her lily hand;
Was it in man such beauty to withstand?
He gaz'd, and sigh'd; then tenderly embrac'd,
With circling arms, her loose-zon'd slender waist:
She blush'd, the more he gaz'd on all her charms,
She strove; the more he clasp'd her in his arms.
Fain he'd have spoke, but falter'd when he strove;
Yet melting looks have eloquence in love:
Congenial souls feel sympathetic fire,
And tender looks will tender thoughts inspire.
She caught the flame; a mutual sigh confest
The subtle passion kindling in her breast:
She felt the conflict of too strong desire,
Reason wax'd weak, which urg'd her to retire;
Till fear suggested loss of virgin fame:
Sudden she started at the thought of shame.

"Druid, she cry'd, how treacherous is youth!
Where, artful man, is all thy promis'd truth?
Is this the strict devotion of your cells?
Is this the solitude where virtue dwells?
Cease your insidious blandishments and wiles;
These raptures, transports, and endearing smiles
Too much your hallow'd character debase,
And quite infringe the sanction of this place.
No more. — Let's forth to taste the fragrant air;
Prudence now warms me homeward to repair."

This said, resistless from his arms she flew;
And from the couch with hasty step withdrew.

A partridge thus, surpriz'd by some young heir,
Pants, hovers, flutters in the silken snare;
In vain, till he, too eager for his prey,
Lifting the net, she instant starts away.

The Druid urg'd a thousand fruitless pray'rs,
And vows and oaths which ev'ry lover swears;
Suppliant he sued, and prest her longer stay;
She frown'd, and turn'd disdainfully away:
Then conscious honour taught him to obey.

How minutes fly while love propitious smiles!
How dalliance sweet the hast'ning hour beguiles!
The sun now journey'd on his western way,
And temp'rate evening cast a milder ray;
When fair Castalia, with a maiden's art,
Urging 'twas time in prudence to depart,
With seeming air of willingness withdrew;
Yet, from the heart, could scarce pronounce, Adieu.

[pp. 30-35]