1770
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Ballad. In imitation of Shenstone.

Town and Country Magazine 2 (April 1770) 215-16.

Anonymous


Nine double-quatrain s stanzas, not signed. In this twist on the pastoral love-complaint, the speaker deplores the fact that Nancy prefers the town to the Arcadian pleasures of the country: "How could you to artfully praise | A life of retirement and ease! | How tell me my pastoral lays | Beyond any other would please!" The character of the speaker derives from the poet Shenstone, who since his death had received much attention in the periodicals. It is curious to reflect that, for all its very eighteenth-century character, this pastoral is in fact an updated version of Theocritus's Idyl of Polyphemus and Galatea.



When I view the sad change in my grove,
From tears I can hardly refrain,
Where gayly I sung of my love,
And the linnets repeated the strain;
But now on my pipe if I play,
So harsh and unpleasing's the sound,
That the linnets are frighted away,
And my lambkins stand gazing around.

O Nancy, 'twas here you betray'd
The peace of a thoughtless young swain;
Remember the things you have said,
And think on your present disdain:
How could you to artfully praise
A life of retirement and ease!
How tell me my pastoral lays
Beyond any other would please!

You said you should ever esteem
A heart from hypocrisy free:
O Nancy, when this was your theme,
You cast a soft glance upon me:
That a bosom which friendship inspir'd,
Where truth and good nature unite,
In ev'ry degree was admir'd,
And I listen'd with eager delight.

When we stray'd thro' the flowery mead,
Where daisies and cowslips abound,
You own'd that no scent could exceed
The air that was perfum'd around:
That notes from the neighbouring spray,
Which echo had caught in the glade,
Would charm through a long Summer's day,
If heard as you sat in the shade.

Askella, so limpid and clear,
You prais'd as she murmur'd along;
That silver her fishes appear,
As they glide the smooth peebles among:
That if happiness was to be found
Residing with mortals below,
A more proper mansion you own'd
Than mine the wide world could not shew.

I told you all these were your own,
With a heart that was lost and sincere;
But since the gay town you have known,
You refuse my fond speeches to hear.
O Nancy! so faithless and fair,
You have ruined the peace of my mind;
I now am a prey to despair,
My hopes are bequeath'd to the wind.

My flocks are dispers'd on the plain,
No longer my comfort or care,
I eye them with looks of disdain,
If round my hoarse pipe they repair.
The swains now they see my sad plight,
No longer with jealousy burn;
Of the old I'm no more the delight,
And Phillis exults in her turn.

O Nancy, while thus I complain,
Does nothing your bosom essay?
Does none of your pity remain?
Is your tenderness all gone away?
Perhaps 'twas all meant to deceive,
Perhaps 'tis the way of the town,
And I was a fool to believe
Such a lover you ever would own.

In vain have I planted my bow'r;
In woodbine and eglantine drest,
Their sweets which united want pow'r
To banish despair from my breast:
Yet soon my complaining will cease,
O Nancy, still lovely, and dear,
If dying I pray for your peace,
Then own that my love was sincere.

[pp. 215-16]