1766
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rural Pleasure.

London Magazine 35 (December 1766) 649.

Anonymous


A retirement ode attempting to bend Milton's imagery and octosyllabic measure to a variety of descriptive effects: "The whetting of a mower's scythe, | Join'd to his clear-ton'd whistle blythe, | The cawing of high-nested rooks, | The lullaby of murm'ring brooks, | The rumbling motion of a mill, | All these with constant pleasure fill, | The rural ear." There is a pointed absence of argument in Rural Pleasure, which is not signed. The decade of the 1760s marked the high water-mark for imitations of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, though the tide would continue well into the nineteenth century.



O bear me quick, Aonian Maids,
From crowded haunts, to rural shades;
Where I from noise may shelter find
And feel tranquility of mind;
Unmix'd with the tumultuous strife
And discord of a city life.
With you, ye virgins, let me range,
Far from the buzzing, throng'd Exchange;
Thro' ev'ry meadow, field, and grove,
Where soft-ey'd Peace delights to rove.
Where Plenty opes her copious horn,
Where Ceres spreads the rip'ning corn,
Where Flora too her charms discloses,
And scatters pansies, pinks, and roses,
Which with their various colours bright,
Attract and captivate the sight.—
Look up, — with admiration view,
And transport, — yon celestial Blue!
Can Art produce so bright a hue?
Look down — survey yon verdant scene!
Can Art produce so gay a green?
To these her tints but faintly shine,
Tho' Connoisseurs cry out — "divine!"
The whispers soft of rustling reeds,
The sprightly neigh of joyous steeds,
The bleatings of the harmless lambs,
As they trot by their fleecy dams,
The bull's loud bellow, deep and strong,
As sturdily he stalks along,
The whetting of a mower's scythe,
Join'd to his clear-ton'd whistle blythe,
The cawing of high-nested rooks,
The lullaby of murm'ring brooks,
The rumbling motion of a mill,
All these with constant pleasure fill,
The rural ear, while all around,
Echo spreads each rural sound.
Much do I pity him who ne'er
(On bus'ness bent) is free from care,
Who, with a dull and leaden eye,
Stares at the wonders of the sky,
And views the beautiful creation
Without one bound of exultation;
He sees no charms in tow'ring trees,
He hears no music in a breeze,
He feels no transport to behold
A sable cloud bedeck'd with gold.—
The lark's shrill mattins, sweet and loud,
While breaking thro' a morning cloud,
The nightly strains of Philomel,
Who, as the fabling poets tell,
Pours out her melancholy lay,
Leaning against a thorny spray;
The chirping sparrow's am'rous call,
The rushing of a water-fall,
Which dashes with impetuous roar,
Like billows bursting on the shore,
The plaintive turtle's tender coo,
The hum of bees, who brush the dew
From fragrant flow'rets, while they roam
To bring sweet scented treasures home:
All these the rural ear delight,
While rural views enchant the sight.
The jocund milk maid's carols sweet,
Tripping along with nimble feet,
With rosy cheek and bonny eyne
To fetch her pail, and milk her kine;
The plodding ploughman's rugged note
Thrust from a downright English throat;
The far off curfew's solemn toll,
Or bells which musically roll
In concert full — the hasty show'r
Which patters o'er a wood-bine bow'r,
The distant tinkling of a team,
Slow nodding by fair Cynthia's beam,
Which glide along the gloomy brow of night
With a serene and paly light:
These are the sounds which never tire
The rural ear, but thought inspire,
And wake the poet's slumb'ring lyre.

[p. 649]