Absence. A Pastoral Song. In imitation of Shenstone.

Poems, chiefly Pastoral, on Several Occasions.


An anonymous imitation of William Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad, in the anapestic quatrains that had become so popular in the 1770s: "O! wherefore! can PHILLIDA say, | Has she left her fond shepherd to mourn?". The volume was published at Edinburgh, where doubtless the pastorals of John Cunningham, who also wrote in this mode, were as admired as those of Shenstone himself.

To the Reader: "Though he cannot hope to merit applause, yet he flatters himself they will spare condemnation, especially as the Author of most of the following Poems is only seventeen years of age. This, he hopes, will plead some excuse for any errors that doubtless may be found in his pieces, by readers of refined taste" p. iv.

In the grove now I carelessly stray,
Or pensive recline by the stream;
And my lambkins they wander away,
Nor am I, O ye shepherds! to blame.

For when PHILLIDA grac'd the gay mead,
How sweet was the fields and the flow'rs!
And the hillocks, with daisies o'erspread,
And lightly then frolick'd the hours.

How sweet in the shady alcoves,
Or with her in the valley to stray!
While the nightingales warbled their loves,
And my lambkins around us did play.

Swift flew these fleet moments away;
It mayhap that they ne'er will return:
O! wherefore! can PHILLIDA say,
Has she left her fond shepherd to mourn?

Now the valley no longer can please,
And the grove where she often did stray,
Serves only to banish my ease,
Since now the dear charmer's away.

For my flocks they at freedom may stray,
And leave poor ALEXIS to mourn;
And my pipe I'll fling useless away,
Unless the dear nymph will return.

As I pensive recline by the rill,
And silently sigh to the stream,
Or slumber beneath the green hill;
I ne'er but of PHILLIDA dream.

[pp. 36-38]