In William Dodd's moral pastorals characters from the lower ranks of society present the characters of their various acquaintances as moral exemplars. While part of the sequence of "British" pastorals, they have at least as much in common with Lillo's didactic drama in The London Merchant.
The first pastoral is modelled somewhat after Virgil's first eclogue. Young Colinet visits the turf-built cottage of Thenot. The previous night they witnessed the death of Thenot's noble master — a self-made man — and the piety of his son Palemon. Colinet is moved to emulation, but alas! He his own father has sent him abroad to seek his fortune, leaving him no opportunities for veneration. Thenot gives him reason to hope.
Preface: "GESNER seems to think that, for pastoral scenes, we must necessarily recur to the golden age: I cannot help disagreeing intirely with him in this respect: THEOCRITUS, VIRGIL, and SPENSER, all excellent in this kind of poetry, recurred not to the golden age" pp. 207-08.
John Langhorne: "The best thing we can say in excuse for these poems, is, that they appear to have been juvenile productions; and the only thing we can say in their favour is — that they are neatly printed by Dryden Leach" Monthly Review 37 (November 1767) 305.
Where Sarum's verdant plain extends around,
Like the vast world of waters, without bound;
A turf-built cot, see! Thenot's labour form,
To guard from summer's sun, and winter's storm;
Safe shelter'd there, on rustic pipe he plays,
The while his master's flock securely strays:
A larger flock to field no master leads,
Nor any flock more careful shepherd feeds.
One summer's day, young Colinet, to shun
The melting fervor of the mid-day sun,
In Thenot's cooly hut refreshment sought;
And Thenot's heart, with guileless friendship fraught,
Welcom'd, while room remain'd, each swain with glee,
No snarling cur in lonely manger, he!
Scarce, on the grassy seat, reclin'd, his guest
The hut's reviving cool began to taste,
Ere Thenot cried (for what engrosses thought
By natural instinct to the tongue is brought)
"Oh Colinet, — last night! — But you was there,
At the sad scene, where clos'd my master's care,
To earth-cold bed his aged father giv'n,
Whom his dear love had kept so long from heav'n."
Yes, Thenot, I was there — and, shepherd, say
Who of the neighbouring hamlets was away?
Nor — tho' I wish'd within my pensive breast
To be young Palamon, so good and blest,—
Could I refrain from oft-repeated sighs,
Or stop the tears fast trickling from my eyes!
Oh, happy son! — what different fates we prove!
I'm forc'd, my Thenot from a father's love;
Far from his dear embrace compell'd to roam
In quest of daily bread, deny'd at home!
Let not that grieve you, shepherd — well you know
What mighty things from small beginnings flow:
Once, like ourselves, the master, whom we love,
His fleecy charge to field for others drove;
Poor was his sire, and "He was forc'd to roam,
Like us, in search of daily bread from home:"
But, faithful to his trust, he rose to fame,
Which kindly to the 'squire convey'd his name.
Industrious shepherds he delights to aid,
And soon his tenant our young master made.
Scarce was he fix'd — with true affection fraught,
Ere his old parents from the dale he brought:
Like that young shepherd, Scripture's book commends,
Who call'd from Canaan all his house and friends:
And like that shepherd, he by heav'n is crown'd,
His crops are plenteous, and his flocks abound.
No wonder, Thenot: the commandment says
Who love their parents, shall have happy days:
And well the minister observ'd last night,
That God in duteous children takes delight;
And seldom suffers them on earth to prove
Want of his favour and paternal love.
Is not our Palamon, a proof, good swain?
See those brave sheep, that cover all the plain!
How white their fleeces, — and what sturdy lambs
Skip by the sides of their twin-bearing dams:
Look to his herds, what cows such udders bear—
And can you match with his the fattening steer?
See with what stacks his ample yard is crown'd;
Hark, how his barns with constant flails resound!
Peace in his house hath fix'd her dear abode;
His wife is loving, and his children good.
On all he hath, methinks I read imprest,
"Thus is the man, who loves his parents, blest!"
—Told I you, Shepherd, how I heard one day,
(As by the green-wood side I chanc'd to stray)
His filial blessings on his sleeping sire?
—Oh how his goodness did my bosom fire!
Come, let me hear: and I in turn can tell
Something, will please my Thenot full as well.
Returning home one eve, his sire he found
Beneath an oak reclin'd, in sleep profound:
The green-sward only was his humble bed,
His hand the pillow for his hoary head.
With arms across, the son attentive stood,
Now, with fix'd eyes his darling father view'd;
Now rais'd those eyes to Him, who rules above,
Big with rich tears of gratitude and love!
"Oh thou, said he, next heav'n rever'd and blest,
Sweet is thy slumber-sweet the good man's rest!
Thy tottering footsteps hither bent their way,
In prayer to spend the still decline of day!
And I, thrice happy, in those pray'rs have shar'd,
Prayers, which all-bounteous heav'n hath ever heard!
Else wherefore thus my farm securely stands?
Whence else those fertile crops, which crown my lands?"
When, leaning on my arm, with feeble feet
Late pass'd my sire to share th' enlivening heat,
And view the prospect, which the mid-day yields,
Of resting flocks, rich fruits, and fertile fields,
"Grown grey in peace on these lov'd plains, he cry'd,
May peace for ever on these plains reside.
Soon o'er far happier plains ordain'd to rove,
Oh, blest, for ever blest be these I love!"
"And must I then that hour afflicted view?
And bid thee, father, best of friends, adieu!
Must I so soon? — But in remembrance dear,
O'er thy belov'd remains a tomb I'll rear;
And ever yearly at thy shrine will pay
Due sacred honours each returning day;
I'll strew my father's grave with flow'rs around,
And from defilement guard the hallow'd ground;
And — which I know will please his spirit best,
Take each occasion to relieve th' opprest,
To sooth the sad, and make the wretched blest."
He paus'd, — and while the tears spontaneous ran,
With steady gaze, he view'd the good old man:
"How at his ease he sleeps — what placid grace
Irradiates soft his venerable face!
Doubtless his virtuous deeds employ his dreams:
O'er all his countenance such goodness beams!
Such peace serene sits thron'd upon his brow:
Oh, blessing piety! — oh blest man thou!
—But let me wake thee, lest some dire disease
Spring from this falling dew, and evening breeze."
Then, stooping down, his cheek he gently prest,
His much lov'd sire to raise from dangerous rest:
Blessing his son, the much lov'd sire arose,
To find at home less hazardous repose.
Now, Colinet, in turn, if able, tell
Something you think will please me full as well.
Not long ago, as happening to pass by,
I saw him — and a tear o'ercharg'd my eye:—
Slow lead his weak old sire to share the sun;
Whom, having seated, with much speed he run,
And from the house a bowl capacious brought
With warm refreshment for his father fraught:
With tender care he gave the genial bowl,
While every gesture spoke his filial soul.
"Blest son, blest father!" said I, sad, and sigh'd;
And full of thought, across the meadow hied.
You bring that famous daughter to my thought,
Who her old father — (as the sermon taught)
So long with milk from her own bosom fed,
At dungeons dauntless, nor by death dismay'd.
And thus affectionate, if right, I ween
In such a case our master would have been.
Joy to his life — but joy will sure attend;
A friend his conscience, and high heav'n a friend:
His sons shall bless him, and his grandsons prove
Zealous to copy and repay his love!
Like some majestic cedar shall he stand,
His numerous branches spreading o'er the land.
And, oh! might Colinet but hope to trace
His blest example, though with distant pace;
Might he but hope his sire again to see,
And tend his wants, good Palamon, like thee!
But, silly shepherd-boy, thy wish how vain—
Who scarce can'st food and sorry raiment gain!
Grieve not for that, young swain; the God, whose ways
Are wise and wonderous, by strange means can raise:
Bear but an honest heart, and do thy best,
And to the sovereign shepherd leave the rest!
I too could wish, perchance, and make complaint;
—But there's no jewel, Colin, like content.
Thus grateful Thenot sung his master's fame—
When Thyrsis to the hut with Cuddy came:
Lads, skill'd in singing both: they took their seat,
And chear'd the shepherds with their ditties sweet.