Poetical Essays, by Gavin Turnbull.

Gavin Turnbull

Gavin Turnbull, an apprentice carpet-weaver and acquaintance of Robert Burns, is at pains to demonstrate the skills and knowledge he had learned in the short time he spent at school.

In the first pastoral two shepherds compete for the pipe James Thomson had used to sing the Seasons, with "Colin" to judge then context. While this, and a reference to Ossian and Malvina, suggests ambitions in British pastoral, the style and substance of the eclogue is strictly neoclassical. Pastorals III and IV give the sad history of Corydon, though perhaps not this Corydon, since he is in love with Myra. In the second pastoral, a night piece, Strephon complains of unrequited love. The third pastoral is a love complaint in lyrical measure: young Corydon loses Myra to Calledon. In the concluding fourth pastoral the shepherds declare a festival to commemorate Corydon, the "sad victim of love."

Hartley Coleridge: "It is, moreover, doubtful, how far extensive reading of any sort is beneficial to any but a great poet; that indiscriminate reading of vernacular poetry is prejudicial to poetic powers, there can be no doubt at all. Any but a surpassing genius, who has read the British Poets, or even the Elegant Extracts, by heart, must either become a mere compiler, in despair of novelty, or must go out of his way to avoid saying what has been said before" "William Roscoe" in Northern Worthies (1833, 1852) 3:5-6.


Now to the western main the sun descends,
Along the green, the lengthen'd shade extends,
The pointed rocks are ting'd with rays of gold,
Our flocks secure are pent within the fold,
The nightly dews refresh the drooping flow'rs,
Sweetly the linnets warble in the bow'rs:
Let us beneath this spreading tree recline,
And sing the dictates of the tuneful nine,
Behold this rural pipe, so soft and clear,
With which sweet Thomson sung the circling year,
This be his prize who smoothest can rehearse
Some simple tale in soft bucolic verse:
Or sing by turns, as do the tuneful train,
And I as umpire will the prize ordain.

Begin thy carols, Corydon, proceed,
And I will follow, thou the song shalt lead,
Begin, the woods will multiply the sound,
And vocal rocks the melody rebound.

See, spring again begins her smiling round,
And blooming flow'rs enamel all the ground;
Here daffodils and primroses are seen,
And pinks and daises variegate the green.

How gay the plains in vernal liv'ry drest,
Beneath our feet the blooming flow'rs are prest:
Sweet are the scents that taint the gentle breeze,
And fair the blossoms on the spreading trees.

Who would not quit the city, and retire
To rural shades, their beauty to admire;
Where such delights are purchas'd without cost,
Beyond what courts and palaces can boast.

Sure here are sports and pastimes, on the green,
May charm the greatest King and fairest Queen:
And some, if fame bely not, have forsook
Their crowns, and chang'd a sceptre for a crook

O come, Amanda, pride of all the plain,
The love and wonder of each am'rous swain;
Come, like the rosy morn, in all thy charms;
O come, and bless thy longing shepherd's arms.

Come, Rosalinda, beauty of the bow'rs,
Gay as the early bloom, on op'ning flow'rs;
Come, Rosalinda, come, and with thee bring
That beauty which eclipses all the spring.

Amanda loves me, yet would often hide
Her rising blushes with a modest pride;
Ah, foolish nymph! how vain is this disguise,
Whilst I can read the language of thine eyes.

Me Rosalinda flies, but flies in vain,
While oft she turns to gaze upon her swain;
An easy matter interrupts her haste,
She feigns some mischief, but to be embrac'd.

Sweet, to the mind forlorn, are soothing dreams,
Sweet, to the weary trav'ller, purling streams,
Sweet is the blossom, to the roving bee;
But sweeter far Amanda is to me.

Not to the lonely wand'rer, led astray,
Thro' night's dun shades, the morning's cheering ray,
Not to the sons of Lapland's dark domain,
The smiling months of summer's cheerful reign,
Not to the captive linnet, liberty
Is half so sweet as Rosalind to me.

Singing's the pastime my Amanda loves;
Each nymph and swain the tender strain approves,
Not fair Malvina, with her charming tongue,
To Ossian's harp more pleasing numbers sung;
While she loves singing, singing I'll approve,
Nor dance nor revel nor gay frolic love.

My Rosalind in dancing far exceeds
The gayest nymph thee ever trod the meads,
Not fairies lighter skiff the dews away
Than Rosalinda, on a morn of May;
While she loves dancing, revels are for me,
I'll leave the singing, to thy nymph and thee.

Pleas'd and surpris'd, I've listen'd to your songs;
For both have won, to both the prize belongs;
Each for reward a boxen hautboy take,
And occupy them well for Colin's sake;
But see, the ev'ning hurries us away,
Thomson's will be the prize another day.

When Sol, with ev'ning rays, adorn'd the west,
And wearied shepherds sought their place of rest,
Young Strephon, pain'd with unsuccessful love,
Thus mourn'd his passion, in a lonely grove:

"Ye groves, and list'ning grottoes, hear my strain,
To you, of cruel Delia, I complain;
To those complaints, which she disdains to hear,
Ye murm'ring fountains, drop a pitying tear;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat my mournful sighs,
While, in the grove, the lovesick Strephon dies.

"Now, night extends around her dark domain,
And solemn silence lulls the peaceful plain,
Tir'd nature shares the blessing of repose,
The wretched find oblivion of their woes;
All but the restless votaries of love,
Deny'd the sweets of somnolence to prove,
The soft oppression leaves my weary eyes;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat my mournful sighs.

"With grief I see the dawning day return,
And with the falling dews of ev'ning mourn,
Taught by sweet Philomela's plaintive drain,
In some lone shade, I pitiful complain.
Begin, sweet bird, thy lovelorn note, prolong;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat the mournful song.

"My sheep to crop the tender blade forbear,
Nor can unmov'd their keeper's sorrow hear,
The maids and pitying shepherds gather round,
And kindly ask who gave the fatal wound;
All grieve but Delia, heedless of my cries;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat my mournful sighs.

"No more the pastimes of the rural field
Can cheer my heart, and wonted pleasure yield,
Ah! how can these delight my pensive mind
While haughty Delia's cruel and unkind;
From Strephon's arms precipitate she flies;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat my mournful sighs.

"A dance was held on yonder shady green,
Where many a youth and village maid was seen;
There Delia came, in gay apparel drest,
And far outshone the beauty of the rest;
Then did I see Menalcas soon advance,
And lead the thoughtless charmer through the dance;
While sick of jealousy poor Strephon lies;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat my mournful sighs.

"What though my music melts each tender maid,
And tales of love each list'ning ear invade;
For oft they sat around me in my cell,
Some pleasing am'rous tale to hear me tell;
But Delia ev'ry song and tale disdains;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat my mournful strains.

"Ah simple youth! how couldst thou think to gain
A maid, who treats thy passion with disdain?
One whose ambitious mind did still aspire
To reign a toast, and shine in rich attire;
If thou hadst gold, the surest bait of love,
Then mightst thou hope her venal heart to move;
But she will still thy scanty fare despise;
Ye vocal rocks, repeat my mournful sighs.

"Go Delia, go, the nuptial bed prepare,
And let Menalcas ev'ry blessing share;
Old though he be, his gold can make him young,
Unbend his brows, and smooth his rustic tongue:
But I, unhappy, whither shall I go!
Ah, whither find the solace of my wo?
No more I'll pipe, upon the flow'ry plain,
No more the grottoes echo to my strain;
I'll hang my flute upon yon aged tree,
There let it hang in memory of me;
Which when the breathing zephyrs gently blow,
Will softly sound, in soothing notes of wo;
Mov'd by the sound, some pitying swain will say,
'Its master lov'd the melancholy lay.'
Begin, my flute, ye gentle gales arise;
Now cease, ye echoes to repeat my sighs.

"There stands a rock which overlooks the deep,
Whence careful shepherds drive their heedless sheep;
Urg'd by my passion thither will I go,
And from the top, this wretched body throw;
Then, then perhaps, her stubborn tears may flow,
And if she's human, join the gen'ral wo;
But ah! false charmer, spare this crime alone;
Vainly to triumph when your lover's gone."

Thus sung the shepherd till the early ray
Of morn appear'd, and chac'd the shades away;
Survey'd the cliff, but seiz'd with sudden fright,
Defer'd his leap, till the succeeding night.

The forests are mantl'd in green,
The hawthorn in blossom looks gay,
The primrose and daisy are seen,
And birds carol sweet on the spray.
'Tis now the gay season of love,
Soft raptures inspire ev'ry bears;
Come, Myra, retire to the grove,
While I my fond passion impart.

You say, that you doubt if I love;
From whence can such fancies arise;
If words are too languid to prove,
'Tis seen in the glance of mine eyes.
Believe me, thou charmer divine,
Those vallies can witness my pain;
The streams join their murmurs with mine,
And the echoes have learn'd to complain.

I'm young, and too simple to lie,
To call thee a goddess or queen;
My flame is reveal'd in that sigh,
My blushes explain what I mean.
My passion's so mild and sincere,
And chaste, as the innocent dove;
I call thee not false nor severe,
'Tis sure the completest of love.

I walk by the whispering grove,
Where the zephyrs found soft thro' the spray,
I mourn, with the amorous dove;
And join the sweet nightingale's lay,
Those sounds are so mournfully sweet,
That mirth seems unpleasant to me;
I'd leave the fond thought with regret,
Of indulging a passion for thee.

I lie by the verge of the stream,
Whose murmurs oft lull me to rest;
I court the kind flattering dream,
To lay me supine on thy breast;
I wake, and I fold thee in vain,
The shade is too subtile to keep;
I foolishly dote on my pain,
And find it a pleasure to weep.

The pleasures that wait on the spring,
The flow'rs and the fair budding tree,
The joys that the summer can bring,
Are tasteless when absent from thee;
The warblers, that sing from the grove,
In vain do their melody flow,
But when, with the maid that I love,
'Tis enchantment wherever I go.

I covet not jewels and gold,
The rich I unenvy'd can see,
No treasure on earth I behold,
No jewel so precious as thee;
With me, to my cottage retire,
Unburthen'd with treasure and wealth;
Let love all our pleasures inspire,
And live in contentment and health.

Why heaves my fond heart with a sigh?
Why wander so pensive alone?
I ask, and the echoes reply,
'Cause shepherd, thy charmer is gone,
Outo'er yon green mountain she flies,
Ah cruel! no more to return,
Another, possess'd of the prize,
She leaves the poor shepherd to mourn.

I urg'd my request to the fair,
Who listen'd awhile to my tale;
She sigh'd, with a languishing air,
And I thought my fond suit would prevail.
Poor shepherd, thy transport refrain,
Unhappy thou ever shalt be,
She sighs for a gentle young swain,
And despises thy sheep-hook and thee.

Young Calledon came to the plain,
He look'd like a person divine,
Was honour'd by every swain,
Each tongue spoke his praises but mine;
For Myra his beauty admir'd,
A glance the fond virgin had won,
With him from the plain she retir'd,
She lov'd him and I am undone.

My wandering sheep I forsook,
Regardless of ought that was mine;
I lost both my pipe and my crook,
While my friends at my folly repine;
My roses neglected grew pale,
And my bee-hives all empty were found;
Pale poverty haunted the vale,
Where pleasure and wealth did abound.

Ye swains, who beheld me of late
With envy, and thought me so bless'd;
See how, by the turn of hard fate,
I'm rob'd of the joy I possess'd.
Have pity, nor cruelly boast,
And triumph to hear my sad moan;
But think the fair charmer I've lost
Gives exquisite torment alone.

Ye gales, on your pinions so light,
O waft to her ear the sad strain;
O tell her my pitiful plight,
And bid her return to her swain,
If yet soft compassion does dwell
In her bosom, its mansion before,
She'll cruelty, break thy curs'd spell,
And bless her kind shepherd once more.

Cease, Corydon, cease the fond strain,
Ah what will thy sorrow avail!
Thy sighs and thy tars are in vain,
Thy numbers are lost in the gale;
Yet still will I warder and mourn,
Tbough nought but the echoes reply;
For Myra no more will return,
Then, mourn, hapless shepherd, and die.

Come, shepherds, and aid me to mourn,
Ye nymphs, bring me garlands of yew,
Around our young Corydon's urn
The branches we'll lavishly strew:
To all he was gentle and kind,
By all the dear youth was belov'd,
He charm'd with the wit of his mind,
And his music was always approv'd.

When he sung, he enchanted each maid,
Such magic was heard in the sound;
Now his pipe it hangs mute in the shade,
And the groves are all gloomy around.
The breezes proclaim, with a sigh,
His loss, and his absence deplore;
And the echoes, in murmurs, reply
We'll repeat his soft verses no more.

But sure, all his charms to display,
No Poet can boast of the skill,
Nor would you believe what I say,
Let me tell you as true as I will;
For modesty, sweetness and truth
Him shepherd could never excel,
If a fault e'er attended the youth,
That fault was his loving too well.

The Muses were kind to the boy,
And taught him their skifullest lore,
But his Myra was haughty and coy,
And despis'd him because he was poor.
Yet sure she was foolish and vain,
To flee from her Corydon's arms,
To treat a fond youth with disdain
Possess'd of such exquisite charms.

He forsook the delights of the field,
The dance on the flow'r cover'd green,
Gay revels no pleasure could yield,
When his Myra no more could be seen.
In the gloomiest place he could find
He hid him from every eye,
There nurs'd the distress of his mind,
And there the sad shepherd did die.

Come, virgins, around him and weep,
When summer is fresh in its bloom,
Here, yearly, a festival keep,
And hang with fresh garlands his tomb:
Here plant the dull cypress and yew,
Let his pipe be display'd in the grove,
That the virgins may say, when they view,
"There lies a sad victim of love."

[pp. 53-73]