1783
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Indiscreet Shepherdess, in the Manner of Shenstone.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (4 July 1783).

Anonymous


Eleven double-quatrains in the manner of William Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad, not signed. The poem narrates the progress of a courtship in which the singer, against the better judgment of "blithe Colin," puts the sincerity of his lover to the test: "Who knows, if that bosom so white, | By candour and truth is possess'd; | Who knows if those charms that invite, | By virtue and honour are dress'd." The maid proves not insensible to the blandishments of town wits.



When first her bright eyes I beheld,
What maiden with her could compare?
As in beauty, I thought she excell'd
In virtue — which only is fair:
When she spoke, it was music so sweet,
It charm'd ev'ry ear in the throng;
When she sung, it was rapture complete,
I listen'd — but listen'd too long.

I listen'd: — Ah! why did I so!
The soft poison stole into my heart,
When Colin made sign for to go,
I sigh'd, and was loth to depart.
Now, Colin, I pray thee explain
What the heart-thrilling pleasure may prove?
Whilst I seriously spoke, the blythe swain
Laugh'd at me, and said it was love.

No, Colin, it cannot be so,
No beauty my heart can ensnare;
For merit, 'twill ardently glow;
For merit, I keep it with care.
Who knows, if that bosom so white,
By candour and truth is possess'd;
Who knows if those charms that invite,
By virtue and honour are dress'd.

'Tho she yields her soft hand with a look,
Shewing innocence bright in her eyes;
Who of "Love's subtle Arts" reads the book,
May suspect it is nought but disguise.
I'll try if there's faith in the sex:
I'll try if her heart could be true!
No longer my thoughts I'll perplex;
So Colin, dear Colin, adieu.

Ah! stay thee, rash swain, he replies,
Nor put her young heart to the test;
'Tis enough thou'rt approv'd in her eyes,
And may hold the first place in her breast.
No, I'll try her: — then instantly flew
To the hill where her sheep fondly stray'd,
There oft undescry'd to my view,
With her lambkins appear'd the lov'd maid.

When she saw me, she'd eagerly fly
To meet my caresses with smiles,
And each winning art she would try,
That too oft a fond shepherd beguiles.
From my scrip then I cull'd with best care
The choicest of viands and fruit,
Nor the daintiest sweets did I spare,
Nor ought that her fancy might suit.

To deck her, I took from my store,
To make her the pride of the plain;
Had she breath'd but a wish to have more,
Those lips had not breath'd it in vain.
Full often my flock I forsook,
Nor thought of my younglings at home,
But snatch'd up my pipe and my crook,
With her through the valley's to roam.

If in a green meadow, by chance,
Some shepherd his pipe briskly play'd;
With her strait I led up the dance:—
The envy of each rustic maid.
But, alas! how short-liv'd was my bliss,
When 'mongst swains I observ'd her anew,
How each flatterer, uncheck'd, stole a kiss,
And, when press'd, she her hand ne'er withdrew.

But would smile, and be pleas'd with the tale
Of some frothy-tongu'd fop of the town,
And laugh at his wit, flat, and stale,
Or th' indelicate jests of a clown.
Then farewell, I cry'd, silly maid,
If such thy best taste can approve;
'Tho ingrate, I shall never upbraid—
Thy heart was not fashion'd for Love.

To me you're not false, I avow,
No promise you made to be true;
More merit to some I allow,
And, perhaps, I've had more than my due.
But tho' beauty has pow'r to allure,
And take a fond heart by surprise,
'Till DISCRETION alone can secure
The captive you've made with your eyes.

Then all ye young maidens beware;
Let Prudence be ever your guide;
No swain with another will share
The bliss he enjoys by your side.
The favours kind beauty bestows,
If common to all are not sweet,
And the youth that most ardently glows
Will grow cool, as you grow INDISCREET.

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