1778
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Plaintive Swain: a Pastoral Parody.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (9 October1778).

William Hawkins


Four double-quatrain stanzas, "to the Memory, and in Imitation of the late Mr. John Cunningham." William Hawkins, who was making a poetical career out of imitating Shenstone and Cunningham, complains of the difficulties of literary emulation among Cunningham's followers: "But vain were their efforts to try | To copy thy soft, soothing strains; | Their skill they were wont to deny, | As a wretched reward for their pains." Hawkins's poem is a reply to Cunningham's Ballad, attempted in Mr. Shenstone's Manner, first published in the Newcastle Chronicle (16 June 1764).



He said, on the banks by the stream,
He had pip'd for the Shepherds too long;
But, oh! how delightful his theme,
For innocence brighten'd his song!
Then how could he wish to rehearse
Such lessons so lofty and wide?
When Phillis was fond of his verse,
And nature sate down by his side?

Ah! Colin, who could you mistake,
'Till Pan bid you stick to your strain?
Could you leave the white swans on the lake,
Or quite the delight of the plain?
Oh! no, honest Colin, you found
No flame like your Phillis's praise,
And poets came creeping around
To listen, and envy your lays.

But vain were their efforts to try
To copy thy soft, soothing strains;
Their skill they were wont to deny,
As a wretched reward for their pains.
Yes, Colin, thy music was sweet,
With melody glided along,
While primroses bloom'd at thy feet,
And Shepherds stood by in a throng.

The nymphs too came flocking the while
From their cots, where they dwelt in the dale,
And each of them seemed to smile
At the joys they receiv'd from the tale:
But now you have bid them adieu!
Death has seiz'd you a victim, away,
While in sorrow they long wish for you,
And weep wheresoever they stray!

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