1780
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Country Wedding. In imitation of Spencer.

Town and Country Magazine 12 (November 1780) 613-14.

Northumbriensis


Ten burlesque Spenserians signed "Northumbriensis, 1 November." The poet imitates Spenser's Epithalamion in describing the events of Liddey's bridal day from sunrise to sunset. This description of rural manners may owe something to the imitations by Shenstone and Mendez found in Dodsley's Collection of Poems, though not much. More notable is the attention to local details such as the jig, "To Coquet-side," named after a rivulet in Northumberland, as we are informed by a note: "Their courses turning, in this first assay, | Where chevisaunce in emulation shov'd, | Whilst bagipes tun'd, and rurally did play | To Coquet-side, and dance on Lyddy's wedding-day" p. 613.

The northern origin of the poem accords with the growing interest in dialect verse in Scotland and the provinces recently sparked by the success of Robert Fergusson. In his Burns's Cotter's Saturday Night (1786) would drop the burlesque description, and Spenserian descriptions of country life would begin take a very different turn; compare, for instance, John Wilson's "The Children's Dance" (1816).



Fair rose the morn, in purfled stoles bedight;
Fair sprung the breaking of the dappled dawn;
In joyance glad, dispredden beamings bright,
Along the levels of the dewy lawn;
The valleys smile, the mountains skip and fawn,
At the approach of the celestial guest,
Who, from blue vaults of eastern azure drawn,
Ymantled in a lucid glimmering vest,
To rouse, poor grovelling man, and wake his cares from rest.

Faint play'd the light upon the rising hill,
Chacing the mirksome shadows from the scene;
The gliterand rays gleam'd on the babbling rill,
And gave to view the gay enlivening scene.
In mattins sweet the birds did chaunt, I ween,
Their thrillant harmony, and wood-notes wild;
The sonorous thrush, melodious lark between.
Spontaneous sung, and in the concert toil'd,
To the soft soothing breeze, which, passing, whisper'd mild.

Long had the yawning god of dozy sleep,
Forsook the listless twinkling of his eyes,
Ere the brisk beams o'er mountain tops did peep,
Illumining the watchet lofty skyes;
Assaying oft, from drowsihed to rise,
To sooth the anguish of his ardent flame,
Which glowing fierce, wish'd for the nuptial tyes,
Thus loitering, lingering, till the stings of shame,
The gladsome bridegroom rous'd, and Strephon was his name.

With speed himself y'clad in vestments gray,
The rural garb industry did afford;
Thus decorated on the bridal-day,
When happiness sat smiling in the word,
I thee obey, my future husband, lord.
The enchanting accents of the muttering try'd,
Pleas'd, to his wishes, that she did accord,
To be his leman lief, his blooming bride,
For smirking Lyddy's deem'd the queen of Coquet side.

The day advanc'd, while many a jolly swain
Came pricking forth upon his prancing steed;
Brisk buxom nymphs, the pride of all the plain,
Came smiling eke, with curtesy and speed,
To hail the marriage, and the nuptial deed.
Peark Cicely, a blythsome sprightly lass,
With Phoebe languishing, did first proceed;
Then modest Sue trapp'd o'er the spiral grass,
And Bonnibel did last in the retinue pass.

All preparation for the knot compleat,
The tea, from off the spatter'd board, remov'd,
Each kiss'd the bride, and did her happy greet,
But kindest he, by whom she was belov'd,
All quick did mount, and o'er the buskets rov'd,
Their courses turning, in this first assay,
Where chevisaunce in emulation shov'd,
Whilst bagipes tun'd, and rurally did play
To Coquet-side, and dance on Lyddy's wedding-day.

White as the flakes of driving fleecy snow,
The plastic gloves, which grac'd her bridal hands,
When first thy do o'er cloud-capt Cheviot blow,
And lightly fall on lower level lands:
At the hymeneal altar blushing stands
The lovely maid, and timorously does shake;
Obsequious hears the binding strict commands.
I thee, my liefest life, with thy affections take,
To have, and hold, henceforth, for true love's only sake.

Thus well dispatch'd the tedious ceremony,
Eftsoons each mounted on his bridled horse,
The gladsome groom, on his fierce ramping poney,
Darraign'd to start, in the contending course,
With active skill, and nimble matchless force
Deftly then fly before the whistling wind,
'Till one outstrips the rest, incurs their curse,
And leaves them lagging, loitering far behind,
Without the shadow of a doubt, but he'll the guerdon find.

The jolly rout arriv'd upon the green,
Which, mantling spread, before the bridal door;
To heighten joy in this connubial scene,
They merry danc'd upon the grassy floor;
Of mirth and revelry thy had great store.
The sparkling wine, from swollen casks did run,
The guns did play, with many a thund'ring roar,
No losel sought divertisment to shun,
But join'd the frolic sport, partaking of the fun.

Thus past the time, thus fled the fleeting hours,
In pleasance gay, and lively merriment;
'Till evening mild, with her more friendly powers,
Came darkling on, when day was almost spent.
The rising singults from her bosom went,
The deep'ning blush rose in the rapt'rous strife,
When she, soft struggling, to the bower went,
To yield the treasures of her virgin life,
And bless the moment which yclept her a wife.

[pp. 613-14]