1760 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Pastorals: To the Memory of General Wolfe.

Juvenile Poems on Various Subjects. With the Prince of Parthia, a Tragedy. By the late Mr. Thomas Godfrey, Junr. of Philadelphia.

Thomas Godfrey


A pastoral elegy imitating Spenser's Astrophel, posthumously published in 1765: the title is given as "To the Memory of General Wolfe, who was slain at the taking of Quebec." Thomas Godfrey was a semi-educated Philadelphia poet who rings delightful changes on Spenserian pastoral, populating the American wilderness with elves, spectres, and wolves. General Wolfe, who was killed in the siege of Quebec in 1759, appears under the pastoral name of Amintor, who displays prowess by slaying tigers and boars, and keeping the native population at bay: "When ruffian Robbers, e'er in rapine bold, | Veil'd in the shade of night wou'd break our fold, | Amintor first was ever to pursue, | And ne'er in vain his threatning arrows flew" pp. 32-33. Godfrey was part of a poetical coterie associated with William Smith's Pennsylvania Academy, whose former students may appear in the pastoral characters.

The Pennsylvania Gazette published proposals for this volume, commenting: "This Collection has passed through the Hands of some Gentlemen of acknowledged Taste and Judgment in this City; from whose Countenance and Advice this Publication is humbly proposed to the Public. And as neither Pains nor Cost will be spared, to render Satisfaction, it is hoped that sufficient Encouragement will be given to execute the Design. As no other Purpose is aimed at, but to put into the Hands of the Public, in a somewhat decent Manner, those beautiful Pieces, that do so much Honour to our City, and might otherwise perish in private Possession" (17 May 1764).

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Thomas Godfrey, 1736-63, a son of the inventor of 'Hadley's Quadrant,' was a native of Philadelphia, where for some time he was apprentice to a watchmaker. In 1758 he was made lieutenant in the Pennsylvania troops raised for the expedition against Fort Du Quesne. He was subsequently employed as a factor in North Carolina, and also as a supercargo in a voyage to the island of New Providence. His tragedy of The Prince of Parthia, which was offered to a company performing in Philadelphia in 1750, is supposed to be the first dramatic work written in America" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:681.



Set was the Sun, and from her silver throne
With fainter lustre pallid Cynthia shone,
O'er the wide world, and round th' etherial plain
Old dusky Night had spread her gloomy reign;
When Lysidas was by Damaetas found
In a dark grove, stretch'd on the dewy ground,
In silence first his wonder he express'd,
And thus, at length, the mournful Swain addressed.

DAMAETAS.
Why rests, my Lysidas, beneath this shade?
See all around night's sable curtain's spread:
Haste, haste away pale ghosts are seen around,
And troops of elves in ev'ry glade abound;
For prey the hungry woodland tyrant roves,
And horror shadows all the deepning groves.
As thro' the glade I halloo'd to thine ear,
Fierce wolves reply'd, and fill'd my soul with fear.

LYSIDAS.
Ah! leave me, leave me to this deep recess,
Fit is this gloom for sorrows and distress.

DAMAETAS.
Thy flocks are safe, I saw them to the fold,
'Ere parting day had ting'd the west with gold,
Thy Chloris too I met, as o'er the plain
She sought the cottage of her much-lov'd Swain.
What sorrows say can now usurp that breast
Where love and gayety were wont to rest?
Oh! speak, and let thy lov'd Damaetas know,
Who oft thy joy partakes should share thy woe.

LYSIDAS.
How kindly urg'd! then gentle Shepherd hear,
Nor stop the sigh, nor hold the gushing tear;
And yet, as I attempt the sadning tale,
My stronger sorrows o'er my pow'rs prevail;
Such too will be thy sorrows when I've said,
The first of Shepherds, brave Amintor's dead.

DAMAETAS.
Amintor dead! — then seated on the ground
Here by thy side, let spectres gleam around;
Let wayward elves here dance their magic ring,
And night around us double horrors bring.
Here will I sit until her sable noon,
And aid the wolves to bay the wandring moon;
Tho' sickning dews and damps around my head
With falling stars, their baleful influence shed.

LYSIDAS.
Oh! Shepherd oft I've heard thy pleasing strain,
Like Philomel in gentle woe complain.
Our flocks attentive to thy wond'rous reed,
Left the clear stream, and quite forgot to feed.
Come then, once more with musick fill the glade,
And waken airy Echo in her shade.
Such as when, at Menalcas death your song,
Fix'd in attention all the listning throng.

DAMAETAS.
'Twas thy superior skill from Codrus' bore
The prize, two lambkins from his fleecy store,
Nor is Alexis' strain so sweet as thine,
Altho' the boasted fav'rite of the Nine.
'Tis true my pipe has oft-times on the plain
Pleas'd the gay Nymph and chear'd the active Swain.
But since Menalcas' death here by my side,
My reed, his gift, has still remain'd untry'd.

LYSIDAS.
Then let us here, 'til early morn's return,
Join both our skills, and teach the night to mourn;
I'll stretch my utmost art to aid thy lays,
And happy me could I obtain thy praise.

DAMAETAS.
Ah! now I know, why threatning flam'd on high,
Bright blazing comets dreadful in the sky.
Our Sages shook their heads, and fear'd to tell
The future evil, which they knew full well.
Two moons are wasted since beneath this shade
As to our Shepherds on my reed I play'd,
With weary steps old Arcos hither stray'd.
Thus spoke the Sire, here sorrow soon shall reign,
No longer joy shall dwell upon the plain,
Corroding care shall banish peaceful rest,
And pain and anguish seize on ev'ry breast.
I laugh'd in gayety to hear the Sire
Speak what I thought his dotage did inspire.
But now I know what caus'd his mighty dread,
The first of Shepherds, brave Amintor's dead.

LYSIDAS.
When ruffian Robbers, e'er in rapine bold,
Veil'd in the shade of night wou'd break our fold,
Amintor first was ever to pursue,
And ne'er in vain his threatning arrows flew.
Oft in their gore the midnight plunderers lay,
Oppress'd with spoil, and sigh'd their souls away;
But now far hence is smiling safety fled,
Since brave Amintor, first of Swains, is dead.

DAMAETAS.
E'er fond of danger, eager in the chace,
With fearless mind he sought the savage race;
Foremost to dare, he still with gallant pride
First clomb the cliff, or rush'd into the tide;
'Til smear'd in glorious horror with the gore,
Of the fierce Tiger or the foaming Boar,
At eve returning from the dang'rous toil
He o'er his shoulders spread the shagged spoil.
Our Shepherds met him with a loud acclaim,
And ev'ry Coward's cheek was mark'd with shame.
But now unaw'd the Savage Tyrants tread
The silent grove, for brave Amintor's dead.

LYCIDAS.
The sorrowing Mother met the mournful bier,
Loose on her neck flow'd her dishevel'd hair;
Around her all her weeping Daughters stood,
And wash'd his wounds with tears, a briny flood.
Oft times she sigh'd, and beat her aged breast,
And loud complaints her inward woe exprest.
Thus spake the Dame, ye tuneful Shepherds come,
And hang your deathless ditties round his tomb;
Here all around your flow'ry garlands throw,
And on his grave let short-liv'd roses blow.
Haste here, ye Swains, here let your tears be shed,
Weep Shepherds, weep, the brave Amintor's dead.
So sung the Swains, 'til Phoebus' radiant light,
Chac'd to her azure bed the Queen of Night.

[pp. 29-34]