1769
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Pastoral Ballad.

Middlesex Journal (19 August 1769).

Abelard


Five double-quatrain stanzas, after Rowe's Collin's Complaint and Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad. Alexis is bereft of his Daphne: "Ah fate too unkind and severe! | Untimely to snatch to the grave, | In Daphne, my all that was dear, | And all my fond wishes could crave." He seeks to recover his "laurel" though frantic moans. The poem is signed "Abelard," a sometimes contributor to the Middlesex Journal.

This London newspaper, edited by William Beckford, boasted Thomas Chatterton among its writers. The Journal was one of the more partisan papers of the eighteenth century and its "Poet's Corner" was replete with political verse. Yet it also published several imitations of Shenstone in the high-arcadian mode. Perhaps this kind of fashionably silly pastoral had an edge not immediately apparent to modern eyes.



By the banks of a murmuring brook,
Where spring shed its fragrance around,
Neglecting his flock and his crook
Alexis lay stretch'd on the ground;
Quite dumb, with his sorrows opprest,
Till woe from his tears had relief,
Then wildly he beat on his breast,
And thus disburthen'd his grief.

Ah fate too unkind and severe!
Untimely to snatch to the grave,
In Daphne, my all that was dear,
And all my fond wishes could crave:
Ye bow'rs that have witnessed each scene,
Where woodbine and jess'mine entwine,
To a flame have you conscious e'er been
So spotless as Daphne's and mine?

What tho' o'er this daisy-deck'd mead
A thousand fair lambkins do rove,
Tho' well thou canst breathe on the reed,
What music's a med'cine for love?
Alexis, doom'd ever to wail,
Oh think of thy treasures no more!
For what would ten thousand avail,
They cannot thy Daphne restore.

Ye hills and ye vallies adieu,
Adieu to each youth on the plain;
Since nought will my pleasure renew,
Ah why should I linger in pain?
My lambkins, forsaken by me,
Let some happier shepherd enjoy;
For all with fresh anguish I see
That Daphne's joint cares did employ.

This said, from the margin he sprung,
Grown frantic with love and despair;
Yet Daphne, tho' dying, he sung,
Still faulter'd the name of his fair:
The streams as they murmur'd along,
The sorrowful ditty relate,
And Zephyrs the willows among,
Still sighs the sad tale of his fate.

[unpaginated]