1778
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Complaint, a Pastoral.

Miscellaneous Poems; consisting of Elegies, Odes, Pastorals &c. Together with Calypso, a Masque.

Richard Cumberland


A pastoral elegy imitating "December" in the Shepheardes Calender: "But haughty PHILLIS still disdains the song: | Therefore, farewell my flock, ye swains some cell | Where never yet the muses lov'd to dwell | I seek; my pipe, my crook, and all the world farewell."

Earl R. Wasserman sees "evidence of slight Spenserian influence" Elizabethan Poetry in the Eighteenth Century (1947) 145.

In his Memoirs (1806) Richard Cumberland describes an early attempt at Spenserians. At York, "I had no books of my own, and unfortunately got engaged with Spenser's 'Fairy Queen,' in imitation of which I began to string nonsensical stanzas to the same rhyming kind of measure. Though I trust I should not have surrendered myself for any length of time to this jingling strain of obsolete versification, yet I am indebted to my mother for the seasonable contempt she threw upon my imitations, felt the force of her reproof, and laid the Fairy Queen upon its shelf" (1806-07, 1856) 66-67.



The pensive shepherd, (him in after times
When gaudy names of verse no more remain'd,
Whom best the muses lov'd, who taught him rimes
Wherewith full many a rustic prize he gain'd)
Sat on a bank, his spirits now were fled,
And all of love his piteous ditty plain'd,
The whiles his sorrowing sheep look'd up unfed.

Adieu, PIERIAN maids, for when this strain
Is play'd your THYRSIS' pipe can charm no more;
Those lays no more can charm,
Which sprightly youth and age itself did warm;
Whom erst by you inspir'd I wont to lead
In deftest measures thro' the flowery mead,
And PAN himself, and old SILENUS hoar,
Oft footed it amidst the jovial train;
Bright maids adieu — another nymph more fair,
More heavenly bright, O were she half so kind!
Has fix'd my doom — sure such perfections rare
To ken of simple swains should not be known;
Far more destructive to the wretched hind
Than wolves to sheep, to kids the prowling bear;
Shepherds your safety lies in flight alone;
Who stops to gaze like me, like me must be undone:

Yet, Oh ye muses! I were much to blame,
And far unworthy of such high delights,
If I should not record your favors past;
For ye, (e're this disast'rous fate befel)
From many evils which the shepherd's life
Full sore oppress, have sav'd me by your skill,
And clear'd my path from many a lurking thorn;
And if a cure remain'd for beauty's wound,
I deem the mighty magic must in verse by found:

Ye hills, on whose high tops with forests crown'd
The lofty cedar claims supreme his place,
Whose boughs in vain,
PHOEBUS first rising to his fiery race
Attempts to pierce, and tries his new trick'd beam;
Witness your praises in my verse renown'd,
Whilst wanton dallying in your friendly shade,
Oft with the charming muses I have play'd;
And thou, delightful stream,
Beside whose banks full many an amorous lay
Of light conceit, throughout the summer's day
I troll'd, unmindful of the scorching heat,
Witness the sorrows which I now repeat—
Witness ye calm retreats, ye pleasing shades,
Ye chrystal founts, cool grots, and op'ning glades,
How sorely THYRSIS rues the fatal day,
Which bears him from the muses arms away:

Oft too when evening damps had warn'd the swain
To drive his flock from pasture to their folds,
What time the sun sunk to his wat'ry bned,
And the bright lamp of night renew'd her course,
To when, in silent pomp thro' highest heaven
Midst thousand stars that roll'd their lesser orbs,
She rode serene, sole regent of the sky,
Delighted with the muses I have stray'd,
Whose converse wing'd my soul above earth's dusky shade.

But ah! such happiness to mortal wight
Could not remain — that boy (in fell despight)
Whom Love they call, seeing on heav'nly things
My mind ybent, vow'd he would clip my wings,
That my affections might on earth by stay'd,
And cruel love by mortals be still obey'd;
"Nay even he whom God of verse we name,
Of physic eke, found all his skill in vain,
Tho' his broad eye all lands and climes surveys
To find that plant which might the anquish heal,
That angry CUPID dealt him in his rage;
His shafts are tip'd with fate, which JOVE himself obeys."

Then since on earth there is no cure for love,
Since med'cine nought against his art prevails,
Since not secure th' immortal powers above,
And e'en APOLLO his own music fails;
How hop'st thou, wretched swain, to find redress?
The shepherds still to hear thy lays will press
'Tis true, thy pipe can charm the rural throng,
But haughty PHILLIS still disdains the song:
Therefore, farewell my flock, ye swains some cell
Where never yet the muses lov'd to dwell
I seek; my pipe, my crook, and all the world farewell.

[pp. 69-73]