1773
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the Memory of the late Mr. Cunningham.

Newcastle Chronicle (23 October 1773).

Primrose


A pastoral elegy in nine anapastic quatrains signed "Primrose, Newcastle." The anonymous poet imitates John Cunningham's own elegy for William Shenstone, encouraging others to contribute to the pastoral succession: "Go, shepherds, his numbers rehearse, | Some allay for your grief you will find; | And still, by his elegant verse, | A transcript retain of his mind." The famous meter of Shenstone's poem was easy to imitate and to parody, resulting in a busy series of pastoral lyrics in which "simplicity" is conveyed by deliberately vacuous imagery and sentiments. Cunningham's death aroused an outpouring of periodical verse much as had Shenstone's a decade earlier, an occasion marked by Cunningham's well-known elegy, "Corydon, a Pastoral to the Memory of William Shenstone" (1763).

C. H. Timperley: "The Newcastle Chronicle, or General Weekly Advertiser, printed and published by Thomas Slack. It still continues to be published under its first title by Mr. Slack's grandsons, Thomas and John Hodgson. Mrs. Ann Slack, wife of the above gentleman, was well known in the literary world for her useful performances for the benefit of youth" Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:711.



Say, shepherds, since Corydon's dead,
What music can gladden your plains!
The pride of Simplicity's fled,
And fled are the pastoral strains.

When Nature's gay aspect declin'd,
Nor verdure around you was seen,
'Twas he that retain'd on your mind
The tints of the daisy-deck'd green.

His music — how artless and sweet,
When piping your rural abode:
And if the gay seasons he'd greet,
With rapture your bosoms have glow'd.

He gave you the softest solace,
If virgins he rang'd in a scene;
For elegance, beauty and grace,
They rivall'd the Cyprian Queen.

When morn's rosy reign he'd explore,
What imagery wou'd he display!
Then make the wing'd foresters soar,
To welcome the chariot of day.

The violet, the woodbine, and rose,
And others — the pride of the flow'rs,
In chaplets he'd aptly dispose,
To deck the gay nymphs in your bow'rs.

Oft to the fond swains he defin'd,
The merits of friendship and love;
And bade them "(in sooth he was kind,")
For constancy look to the dove.

Benificence glow'd in his lays,—
An alien his bosom to strife;
He rose to the summit of praise,
He dropt 'ere the winter of life.

Go, shepherds, his numbers rehearse,
Some allay for your grief you will find;
And still, by his elegant verse,
A transcript retain of his mind.

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