Winter. The Fourth Pastoral; or, John.

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

Arthur Parsey

The Winter pastoral consists of a singing context between Joskins and Jemmy Jolt, preceded by an exchange of coarse insults. In this concluding poem Arthur Parsey unexpectedly abandons his model Pope and seeks the depths of pastoral burlesque: "My pigs in litters love to pierce the herd; | The lambs seem pleas'd, and frisk around the sward— | Spring from the ground to an enormous height; | And the pigs, grunting, take their joyous flight" p. 136. John, the judge of the contest, declares the singers equal and the note of harmony, if not of Arcadian bliss, is restored. In pursing this theme Parsey omits the pastoral elegy found in most such cycles. The classical deities are incongruously introduced into this realistic pastoral, whether with burlesque intent or out of ignorance it is difficult to say.

Ho! JEMMY JOLT, what brought you forth to-day?

Why? what d'ye think at home should cause my stay?

You can't do any good abroad — at home,
The barn or stable would afford you some.

You, master JOSKINS, will see the diff'rence soon;
You're what they call — a farmer after noon.

'Pshaw! you only walk about, and cool your nose.

But walking, JOSKINS, always warms the toes.

Yet nought in pocket — you only trudge and tire.

But how you laze and grunt beside the fire!
I push about, unheedful of the snow:
See how my young wheats and my shepherds do.
You know for want of corn, last winter — last,
You had a chance this very year to fast:
Your cows went 'ghast, you know — nay, nay, don't bilk;
You know you sent to beg a gotch of milk.

Well, if I did, you know you, in return,
Had ne'er a maid to work your dirty churn;
For none at Michaelmas themselves would hire,
Because they knew their stays would soon grow high'r.

Ah! JOSKINS, don't you know yon neat calves' crib?
Ha! ha! your maid! — ah! ah! what said your rib?

Hush! here comes my mistress—

I will for once:
I know at song and logic you're a dunce.
I say — don't you remember — ne'er mind your wife.

Oh! d—n it, scoldings are as had as strife.

How guilty conscience never seems to sleep!
I did but mean to ask of that fine sheep.

Oh! — at song I won it — and I boast the prize;
And 'tis a lie whoever that denies.

You win a sheep by trial! was't by songs,
By squeaking reeds, or rattling pair of tongs?

Now cease your jest, and let your tongue lie still,
And I'll soon prove the utmost of your skill,
If you, my boaster, will with me contend;
And JOHN shall be our umpire and our friend.
Now for the stake — what shall it be? let's see—
The very ewe I won — a fruitful she.
Now stake down something worthy such a prize,
And I'll defeat you, or I'll ne'er arise.
Come near the fire — we'll add another log;
For thick's the snow, and thicker grows the fog.

I have a ram (the finest of his breed)
He to the stake is willingly decreed;
And full a match is he for your fine ewe,
As I, my lad, will shortly prove to you.

Good fires in winter in a country life,
With nut-brown potions, and a lovely wife,
With songs suppli'd, gives hours in common lost.
Come, warmly sing — for chilly sings the frost:
Alternate sing, the muses such require;
JOSKINS, begin — you challeng'd — I'm umpire.

When Amalthaea brings her icy clamms,
And pregnant ewes drop many thrifty lambs,
Amid the fold the shepherd eyes the stars,
Which kindle health — no lambkin dry cold fears:
The night to Pan in ev'ry stage belongs,
Who loves the bleatings, and the shepherd's songs.

Me Phoebe loves, and never marks her reign
With circling Halo, emblem of much rain:
Pales, the goddess of the herd and sheep,
Unites to bless the thriving flock I keep;
Whose lusty hides shall never cause my fears,
But blunt with thickness many gaping shears.

I guard 'gainst Phoebus, but I ne'er defy,
Whose sultry beams in summer bring the fly;
With timely care I aid the tortur'd dams,
And keep th' infected from the tender lambs.

The carrion crow can ne'er my flocks assail,
To peck the lambs, and make the dams bewail;
My dogs are such their looks, their breed avouch,
My flocks for them the badgers ne'er approach.

When from the pens my folds o'erspread the leas,
Each passer by inquires, "Whose sheep are these?"
Whose shaggy sides of much superior wool
O'erspreads their udders starting to the full.
From dams like these, who such nutrition give,
The lambs must prosper, and the lambkins thrive.

'Tis sev'ral sorts compose my num'rous flock;
From o'er the seas, come part — from them I stock:
At lambing time ('tis often ev'ry year)
So fruitful are my dams that three appear!
And at each annual, bustling, jovial fair,
I take a flock, and gain the produce there.

My pigs in litters love to pierce the herd;
The lambs seem pleas'd, and frisk around the sward—
Spring from the ground to an enormous height;
And the pigs, grunting, take their joyous flight.

My dams assembled juicy verdures nip,
While round the lea the frisking lambkins skip;
And in a train they all commence a round—
The mothers bleat to see them joyous crown'd.

The muses' secrets grant the shepherd aid,
Charm tedious hours, and lucid make the shade.

The song where skill in singing is requir'd,
Can never please, or ever be admir'd.

Sweet poetry was giv'n to grant this life
A just equivalent 'gainst worldly strife;
T' afford its charms to those who sweetly sing,
And those that hear to taste the mellow spring.

The muse is friend to ev'ry virtuous deed,
To worth, to virtue, those that greatly bleed;
Befriends the gay, and solaces distress,
Given to please, t' immortalize, to bless.

Say where's the spot, on this terraqueous earth,
Where nature gives to man his nat'ral birth;
Yet o'er his head, between the earth and skies,
For all his life impending Terra lies.

Nay, first to me disclose that flower's name,
Which bears a covenant of sacred fame;
And thou shalt rise the victor and the king,
And I'll consent an under song to sing.

So near do each assimilate the song,
That each might claim the prizes to belong.
But rest, my friends, on equal, skilful art;
'Tis equal pow'rs which meet the human heart,
Approves the judgment of a great compeer,
Who spurs our genius — not awakes our fear.
Now rise — 'tis time your flocks receive your care:
Farewel, my friends which may be, and which are.

[pp. 128-39]