1813
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Dialogue of Two Shepherds.

Poems on Several Occasions: by Edward, Lord Thurlow. The Second Edition: considerably enlarged.

Edward Thurlow


After Spenser's Februarie: Thenot and Menalcas compare the seasons of the year to the seasons of love in twelve rhyme-royal stanzas of neoclassical pastoral with a few pointed Spenserisms. Edward Thurlow's poem was deliberately written very much out of season, for the critics uniformly agreed that such pastoral verse was beyond the pale in an age of naturalism.

The Satirist: "We will acknowledge, that before this performance came into our hands, we were led astray by the general report of its being a thing of sober seriousness, and absolutely intended as an exhibition of the powers of a noble personage, the inheritor of the fortune, and, by parity of reason, a sharer in the talent of a late Lord Chancellor of the same name. But a glance at the first page convinced us that we were in error, that such verses were never the product of sobriety nor seriousness, and that the Right Honourable Edward Lord Thurlow had set his grosser readers at fault. As we proceeded, the whole design opened on us a fine vista of ridicule. In short, we found it next to impossible to doubt that his lordship, knowing personally the force of a sneer, had stooped himself to the construction of a series of unequalled sneers against the whole modern school. The Sonneteers were destined to be encountered in sonnets of lofty absurdity; the Minstrelles crushed at once under the weight of a ponderous Romaunt; and the total tribe of naked and shivering Simpletons menaced with 'gnashing of teeth,' by the judgment of a canto to come" 13 (September 1813) 212.



THENOT.
The softer season now will soon be here,
To clothe the world in purple, and in green,
And Philomel, that rules the warbling year,
Her gentle descants will ensue between
The flow'ring orange, and the myrtle green;
And Phoebus, who too much his course delays,
Enthron'd in joy, will lengthen out his days.

Then shall we lie amid the meads again,
And crown our locks with garlands of the Spring,
And from our slender pipes breathe out a strain
Of joyous welcome, and sweet revelling,
To which the shepherds, and their nymphs will sing;
And ever, 'gainst the warm and Summer hours,
The laughing Pan we will y-bind in flow'rs.

For now the bitter cold of Winter past,
The lovely mavis singeth on the bough;
And I, who thought the cruel time surpast
All other ills, which I have felt till now,
To Pan, and Flora will renew my vow;
And eke to Phoebus, that with golden ray,
O happy light! doth over-crown the day.

Methinks, already on my reeds I blow,
And charm the World with glory of my Song
For Winter now is gone, and with it woe,
And sparkling Summer will be here erelong;
Then cast I here away the Winter's wrong:
This day I call the fairest of the year,
That shows the soft delights of Spring are near.

MENALCAS.
I know not, Thenot, sith thy speech is so,
Or happy, or unhappy thee to call;
But youthful minds cannot endure with woe;
But of soft joy, and hope are prodigal,
Whereby into more grief ofttimes they fall:
But let not the like case in thee be found,
Who shall, I think, in happiness abound.

But, foolish boy, is Summer then so near?
The grass-hoppers are wiser far than thee;
And Philomel can better count the year,
That finds it not of promise yet so free,
But foreign to our meads she still would be;
All prodigal delights, before their time,
Must perish in dark Winter's baleful clime.

The wint'ry wind, which is but sleeping now,
Shall blow throughout the reeds, of which you boast,
Ere from the river's brink, to breathe your vow,
You gather the soft stalks, that to their cost
Must to and fro in the wild storm be tost:
But not the less their musick will be sweet,
When with the Spring, and with your voice they meet.

I think you see the Summer in the face
Of that divine, and merest paragon,
That violet, to whom all plants are base,
That star, that is but joy to look upon,
With whom you would be in the world alone;
And fain would die, so in her slight to die,
And count it gain, and cheap felicity!

O happy shepherd, yet unhappy too!
'Twas here you saw the lovely Summer smile;
Forgetful, that the coming days renew
The wasteful Winter, while you so beguile
Yourself with love, and softly smooth your style;
Wherein in silver songs we soon shall hear
Of whate'er crowns the forehead of the year.

The fault of age, which age may yet amend;
But wot you well, that women's hearts are light,
And purpose frail; when fairest they intend,
They oft are seen to wander from the right;
So folly, and so fraud their leaves may blight:
But some as lovely, and as fix'd in soul,
As that fair star, that lights the Northern pole.

And so may she, to whom your vows are due,
With fair requital those sweet vows repay;
But lose not soul and honour in her view,
Nor think within her arms to make delay
Of time and season, that for none can stay:
For lovers, that the Summer antedate,
Will scant endure, when those soft days abate.

So said the Shepherd to his younger peer,
The while to pasture for the night he drove,
In meads, where his soft charge no winds may fear:
But Thenot, whose delight was all in love,
Found little in his counsel to approve:
But, weaving a soft crown of myrtle green,
He bound in thought the forehead of his queen.

[pp. 119-24]