1815
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Spring. The First Pastoral; or Aegon.

The Deserted Village Restored; The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, in three Cantos: Pastorals, &c.

Arthur Parsey


The first of a cycle of four pastorals, the settings of which, following the example of Pope, are adapted to the seasons and times of day. In the first Hylas and Damon sing their happy loves, while the contest is judged by Aegon. Hylas declares his intention to emulate Spenser and Pope: "Inspire me in my Melia's praise, | And twine around my brows immortal bays; | Then Spencer's strains, or Pope's sweet warbling flow | Shall sound to ev'ning's blush and morning's glow" p. 110. As a prize, Hylas offers a hive of bees; Damon offers (rather oddly) a "young tree."

Few cycles of pastoral eclogues were published in the early nineteenth century, and to judge from this instance the reed had become a little rusty. Parsey imitates, at a distance, not only Pope but later eighteenth-century pastoralists. He does this in an interesting way, beginning with Arcadian pastoral in the Morning/Spring eclogue and modulating towards rusticity as the cycle proceeds. The fourth effort is the most successful.



First in these lawns I sing Arcadian strains,
Nor blush to sing on Albion's fertile plains.
Flow gentle streams, unblest with pompous names,
As far-fam'd Po, or fairer honour'd Thames;
Thy banks with osiers tremble in the gale,
And vernal echoes melodize the vale.

Ye, whom the fates by secret laws ordain
To noble birth, and all th' expanding train
By station form'd above the humble reed,
Be greater still, and as ye gain, proceed.
Here, in these plains, permit the Pandean shrill
To fill the valley, echo round the hill;
Or on the lyre, if rural lays I sing,
Grant that my hand may touch the trembling string;
And, while the chords symphonious fill the air,
Forsake the couch — to native shades repair;
Be charm'd, be still, and hear th' aerial choir,
While vernal airs to echoing sounds respire.

The dews of morn had sunk upon the grass,
And num'rous, trembling, crystal drops emass,
When two young swains, whom love did much bemuse,
Led forth their flocks amid the pearly dews.
Blythe as the East, and as Vertumnus fair,
Their fleecy flocks and loves alone their care.
The mountains gleam, Aurora spreads her dies,
Thus DAMON sung, and HYLAS thus replies:

DAMON.
See, while our flocks the verdant meadows graze,
Aurora sets, the blushing hill's on blaze,
And hear, my HYLAS, how th' aerial choirs
Attune their lays, while silent rest our lyres.
Here let us sing, doth HYLAS so approve?
Since I nor mourn, nor thou a faithless love.

HYLAS.
Strike up; and AEGON shall approve the song,
And give the prize to whom it shall belong.
I stake my hive of young industrious bees,
Against your ewe, or stake what else you please.
'Tis not from av'rice that this contest springs,
For trifling prizes HYLAS always sings.

DAMON.
Not for yon ewe, alas! it is not mine,
And if you win, I cannot make it thine.
But my young tree I stake, which you must own
Is just as fine as ever yet was grown.
We'll sing by turns, while op'ning vi'lets spring,
The sylvan muses so alternate sing.

AEGON.
Begin.

HYLAS.
Inspire me in my Melia's praise,
And twine around my brows immortal bays;
Then Spencer's strains, or Pope's sweet warbling flow
Shall sound to ev'ning's blush and morning's glow.

DAMON.
Fair Sypria thou shalt all my song inspire
Sypria and love shall swell the warbling lyre;
And all the hills, and vales, and groves, and flood,
Shall nod and laugh beneath the pleasing load.

HYLAS.
My tender Melia shall obtain the prize,
And make my song triumphant as her eyes;
If my fair song can match her lovely charms,
Collina's self cannot awake alarms.

DAMON.
What sweet perfumes from Hybla's scented heath
Will dare to rival with my Sypria's breath,
What lamb's so playful, or what ewe's so tame?
Sypria and innocence are still the same.

HYLAS.
My Melia rivals all the blushing spring,
Vallonia hears, and echoes fainter sing.
If chill Aeolus drives the drivling rain,
T' afford her shelter rushes ev'ry swain.

DAMON.
If Sypria smiles, what beauties then adorn,
Her cheeks assume the blushes of the morn.
If Sypria mourns, what muse would not repine?
When twinkling stars forget the genial trine.

HYLAS.
My Melia scorns to act the coquette's part,
Or take delight to wound a shepherd's heart.
No sky, however pure with aether bound,
Is like her heart with purest virtue crown'd.

DAMON.
If my fair Sypria wanders through the groves,
How gently coo the milk-white turtle doves.
If my fair Sypria wanders o'er the plains,
I wander there the happiest of the swains.

HYLAS.
If my fair Melia chance ascend the hills,
The silv'ry trout forsake the crystal rills;
Her ewes all know her soul's the first of loves,
And bleating follow as the goddess moves.

DAMON.
Some lovers' absence racking feelings move,
But Sypria, absent, is the same in love;
No early blooms can boast so great a prize,
As Sypria's pinky cheek and hazel eyes.

HYLAS.
Tell me, young DAMON, ('tis of noted fame)
Which is the flower that bears a warrior's name?
If this you tell, the hive shall be your prize,
I'll only claim the charms of Melia's eyes.

DAMON.
Yet tell me first, the name of a small flow'r
Which witches kill if pluck'd in midnight hour?
If this you solve, that tree, my choice and pride,
Shall then be your's, and Sypria too beside.

AEGON.
Surcease, young shepherds, further to contend,
Let mutual friendship give the song an end.
I little thought a match so aptly join'd
Could in two swains so nicely be combin'd.
The lark descends. The sun o'ertops the bow'rs,
The hungry dogs well know the foodful hours,
Now rise, and each repass the shallow rill;
For see, your loves descend yon blushing hill.
A fruitful show'r will shortly 'fresh the plain,
Haste to your loves, your flocks I'll save from rain.

[pp. 107-14]