1815
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Autumn. The Third Pastoral; or, Alfred and Henry.

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

Arthur Parsey


Alfred and Henry, two Cambridge swains, sing their unhappy loves, Alfred in a plaintive mood, Henry more desparate. After each has sung together, they conclude in unison with a general complaint: "Or am I left to fill the jaws of pain, | And o'er this stream to vent my wounded brain" p. 126. It may be worth noting that the singers are farmers rather than shepherds; hence, perhaps, the English names.



A brook, re-murm'ring from a sourceful stream,
Awoke the rustic song, — inspir'd the theme:
There had two mournful shepherds met at eve,
To share their sorrows, and in love to grieve.
Though oft from trifles, springs of sorrow flow,
(Which oft are but imaginary woe):
ALFRED here mourn'd a slight, small cause to grieve;
But HENRY wail'd a loss beyond retrieve.

On Cantabrigian plains, Arcadian fire
Infuse with wisdom, and the lute inspire;
As sage Theocritus receiv'd the flame,
Or modern Pope of Windesorian fame.
Oh! Muse of Nature! thou (whom equal can)
Observe the passions, pains, of rustic man.

The length'ning shadows slant along the plain,
And now to bathe bright Phoebus seeks the main;
An amber plain o'erskirts the purple hill;
Above the amber fleecy clouds distil;
And next the blushing clouds comes aether's blue—
Thence all the east is fill'd with gath'ring dew.
'Twas thus when ALFRED first began to 'wail;
His sighs were gentle — gentle was the gale.

"Arise, light breezes! whisper to my song;
Or boist'rous blow, if PHOEBE suffers wrong.
The eve lulls labour — still I labour sore,
And undeserv'd resentment I deplore.
A slight offence awoke my PHOEBE'S ire:
Ah! what's so hot as love's consuming fire?
Go, gentle gales! and tell her I complain;
Flute, voice, and nature, join the past'ral strain.

"Arise, light breezes! aromatic gales
The lapwing, young-bereft, in sorrow 'wails;
Yet grief, by reason heighten'd, I deplore.
Ah! foam, sweet cascade! with a gentle roar;
Sweet honey dews! descend upon the grove;
And join my moan, sweet creamy turtle dove!
Go, gentle gales! ye sighing can complain;
Flute, voice, and nature, join the past'ral strain.

"Arise, light breezes! whither would ye tend?
The ev'ning closes, and the larks descend:
Yet gently blow, and ruffle not the stream;
There osiers tremble, and the skies regleam.
The shocks arise along the neighb'ring mead—
Our daily labour, and our annual feed.
Go, gentle gales! but give my lass no pain;
Flute, voice, and nature, join the past'ral strain.

"Arise, light breezes! cool the rage of love;
And ripe Pomona, thou possess the grove:
For gentle PHOEBE fill the nectarine,
The luscious mulb'ry, and the clust'ring vine;
The juicy pear, the dew-clad plumb, the peach,
And rosy apple; gracious to the reach.
While these fair reeds shall PHOEBE me regain,
Flute, voice, and nature, join the past'ral strain.

"Arise, light breezes! bring thy foster'd gales;
Breathe through her dairy with the brimming pails:
My PHOEBE'S hand is cool to squeeze the curd;
But gentle is her breast, and warm her word.
Ah! gently blow through dairy lath'd around,
While Cantabrigian creams my fair propound.
Go, gentle gales! and bid her not complain;
Flute, voice, and nature, join the past'ral strain.

"Sink, gentle breezes! sink into a calm;
My love's resentment and her ire disarm:
Reserve till 'morrow all thy 'freshing gales;
'Tis time ye rest — begin, sweet nightingales!
See! yonder light my PHOEBE bears this way;
Her ire to nat'ral feeling yields the sway.
Go, gentle gales! and bid her bless her swain;
Flute, voice, and nature, join the past'ral strain."

Next HENRY sung, while tears bedew his eyes,
The valley's echo bounding to the skies.

"Farewell, my herds, and sheep, my stacks of corn!
My mistress, faithless, hails her bridal morn:
Far from our shores she drains another spring,
And hears in foreign words each shepherd sing.
The cloying dates supplant our juicy pears,
And scorching suns for our autumnal airs;
O'er hostile fields must she neglected roam,
Nor meet th' attention which attends at home.
Though life may not forsake her faithful swain,
Yet reason must, and fix my wounded brain.

"Flow, gentle stream! and circle round the stones
In gurgling numbers to my weeping tones;
Pursue thy course, and pierce the sandy plain,
As sinking reason dries my wounded brain.

"Relentless love! (like step-dames, nought can move—
That scorn to mothers and the name of love)
Oh! how I rue thy adamantine soul,
Relentless lovelings from each pole to pole!
Thou art like Hecla, bearing heat and cold,
Outcas'd with ice — within fierce lightnings fold,
More fierce than noon-day's sun upon the plain:
Ah! cease, fierce love, to scorch my wounded brain."

Each shepherd cries, "How slovenly I go!
Do rivers spring for me, or fountains flow?
Do sheep their hides submit to gaping shears;
For me are plains o'erspread with butting steers?
Can all the harvest of the fruitful grove
Suffice the appetite of craving love,
When far away thy happy mistress doats
On one she loves, and leaves her sheep and goats?
Or am I left to fill the jaws of pain,
And o'er this stream to vent my wounded brain.

"My bees neglected swarm, and fly away:
No hand is there to ting them on the way:
My fowls, neglected, and my pigeons die;
And scatter'd round my waste utensils lie.
My once bright coulter wastes beneath the rust,
And all my plants are wither'd down to dust.
Farewel, ye woods! farewel, sweet, parting sun
Like thee, my course I nearly too have run:
One leap from yonder ill must end my pain;
No more the hills shall hear my wounded brain!"

Thus sang the swains, till ev'ning plum'd her shades,
And wrapt the hills obscurely with the glades;
While dews arising gather from the rills,
And blushing Phoebus dies beneath the hills.

[pp. 121-27]