1770
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Britannia's Complaint, in imitation of Mr. Shenstone's Pastoral, of Ye Shepherds so chearful and gay.

London Evening Post (10 July 1770).

Anonymous


A clever burlesque of William Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad written "on the Death of the late Lord Mayor." The late mayor was William Beckford (1709-1770), who like the London Evening Post was a strong supportor of John Wilkes. The anonymous poet compares William Beckford to William, Duke of Cumberland, implicitly contrasting the Duke's war against the Jacobites to his royal brother's support of Bute and Scottish Torys. Shenstone's anapestic trimeter quatrains were extremely popular in pastoral verse at this time, and the kind of immediately recognizable form most effective for burlesque. Still, the audacity of the pastoral conceit in this satirical elegy is as remarkable as effective.



If those who behold my distress,
The sorrow would treat as their own;
Not a Nymph but would pity my case,
Not a Swain but sincerely would moan:
For ever is fled from my sight,
My fav'rite and pride of the plain;
Adieu! to all hope of delight,
I shall never be happy again.

When my greatest of foes took her flight,
How kindly I welcom'd the morn;
Was exceedingly pleas'd at the sight,
And I wish'd she might never return.
But, alas! what a damp on my joy,
Has cruel fate suddenly thrown,
Full of nothing but sadness am I,
Since for ever my William is gone.

I once lost a son of that name,
And have never recover'd the shock;
He was dearer than all I could claim,
And as dearly belov'd by his flock.
When the mountaineers rush'd from the North,
And lawlessly wont to combine,
In his country's behalf he stept forth,
And blasted the treach'rous design.

Since the days of his father's mild reign,
Whose mem'ry is truly rever'd,
Fond joy has forsaken the plain,
And nothing but murmurs are heard:
Of tyranny being display'd,
No village but loudly complains;
No regard to their cries have been paid,
And no prospect of pleasure remains.

In so pleasant and wholesome a soil,
How happy its natives might be,
On they who their stations defile,
Would justice but read their decree.
Although to get evils redress'd,
In vain have they humbly implor'd;
Never will they contentedly rest,
'Till their primitive rights are restor'd.

When my barks fully laden appear,
O! think how it tortures my heart,
To find what are ready to steer,
From their moorings forbid to depart!
When commerce is check'd in her course,
My vitals feel deeply the wound;
Whilst he who can cure is perverse,
No relief for my pains can be found.

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