1781
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Pastoral Elegy on the Death of Lady Miller.

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (4 August 1781).

D.


Twelve anapestic quatrains, signed "D., Bath, July 14th, 1781." The mode is that of the clutch of elegies commemorating William Shenstone and John Cunningham composed in this popular stanza. Yet this is the usual pastoral elegy that says nothing about its ostensible subject; instead it consists almost entirely of "pathetic fallacy," describing a landscape in mourning for its proprietor: "The trees drop their leaves and look sere, | As if Autumn had frost-nipt the grove; | The shrubs as in Winter appear, | Altho' 'tis the season of Love." The complete title is given as "A Pastoral Elegy on the Death of Lady M—er. Written on a melancholy View of the Villa."

At her villa at Bath-Easton Anne Miller (1741-81) invited visitors to her salon to contribute verses on assigned subjects to her famous urn, many of which found their way into the four volumes of Poetical Amusements at a Villa near Bath (1775-81), the proceeds of which were donated to charity. Among the contributors was Anna Seward, who published a substantial elegy to Lady Miller in 1782. The catalogue of songbirds in D.'s Pastoral Elegy doubtless represents the lyric choir at Bath-Easton.

Elizabeth Carter to Elizabeth Montagu: "At the last concert, an elegy was performed to the memory of Lady Miller. After having all her life been basely ridiculed for her vanity, by those who helped to support it, she is now universally regretted, and her character treated with the utmost respect. It has one noble testimony, in the lamentations of the poor and distressed" 17 December 1781; Letters to Mrs. Montagu, ed. Montagu Pennington (1817) 3:159-60.

Sarah Josepha Hale: "Lady Miller resided at Bath-Easton, near Bath, in England. She published Letters from Italy, and also a volume of poems. She was well known as a literary lady, and a patroness of literature. Her death occurred in 1781" Woman's Record (1855) 428.



Ah, why is the Scene overcast,
Or why is each Face so forlorn?
Sure Nature now breathes out her last,
Or the Sun was eclips'd with the Morn!

The Village seems wrapt in Despair,
Arrested each Arm and each Tongue;
Brimful are the Eyes of each Fair,
And their Nerves like their Voices unstrung.

The Torrents which fall from the Mill,
That formerly ravish'd the Ear,
The Vale now with Dissonance fill,
And a Cascade of Sorrow appear.

Each Brook seems to murmur and weep,
Disturb'd is the Avon's clear Stream;
Each Shepherd looks dull as his Sheep,
While his Heart beats sad Time to his Theme.

The Trees drop their Leaves and look sere,
As if Autumn had frost-nipt the Grove;
The Shrubs as in Winter appear,
Altho' 'tis the Season of Love.

The Flow'rs seem to languish and die,
Depriv'd of their native Perfume;
The Fruits all appear to the Eye
As if blighted and robb'd of their Bloom.

The Bees that thro' Industry rov'd,
Inactive, now cling to their Hive;
Each Creature by M—er belov'd,
Disdains, now they've lost her, to thrive.

The Birds too in Sadness are mute,
The Herds look dejected and dull;
Inverted is Corydon's Flute,
And the Heart of each Peasant seems full.

The Lark that would mount with the Day,
Sits pinion'd, as threaten'd by Fate;
The Linnet that charm'd with its Lay,
Neglects both its Song and its Mate.

The Blackbird that once was so shrill,
Now twitters its notes in Despair;
The Thrush that the Vallies would fill,
Scarce murmurs distinct on the Air.

The Nightingale sad and forlorn,
More dismal now warbles her Song;
Each Bud seems to weep with the Thorn,
And inform you that something is wrong.

Then say what's the Cause of this Woe,
That Nature that hangs her sad Head?
Alas, then, too soon you must know—
The Pride of the Village is dead!

[unpaginated]