1767
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Contest, a Pastoral.

Universal Magazine 40 (March 1767) 153.

George Philip Toosey


A pastoral eclogue written in the anapestic quatrains of William Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad, signed "Amintor, Soho, March 19, 1767." George Philip Toosey here applies the lyric measure to a more conventional eclogue form, with a notable lack of success. The Contest can boast a memorably terrible rhyme: "Her Cheek's like the soft damask Rose, | Surrounded with Snow Drops and Lillies; | Her mind with each rare Virtue glows, | And who can compare to my Phillis?"

The poem was considerably revised when reprinted in Toosey's Flights to Helicon (1768). This poetry leaves the impression that the pastoral ballad mode is more difficult than it might seem at first, the verse coming across as literally rather literarily simple. Employed as an apothecary and surgeon in London, the poet likely had very little formal education.



'Twas just in the spring-tide of May,
When Flora the fields did adorn;
The village look'd chearful and gay,
And the blossom sweet blow'd on the thorn;
Beneath the cool shade of an oak,
While their flocks frisk'd about the green mead;
To two swains young Palemon thus spoke;
"Come, Shepherds resume the soft reed.

"Awhile here in friendly dispute,
In behalf of the Fair tune your lays;
And his be this sweet breathing flute,
Whose song shall deserve the most praise.
You Damon the contest begin,
Let truth both your sentiments guide;
Whether you or Alexis shall win,
The cause I'll with candour decide."

DAMON.
"Ye swains, to my subject attend,
The charms of a fair one I sing,
Whom no tongue can sufficient commend,
Who is blooming and fair as the spring,
Her cheek's like the soft damask rose,
Surrounded with snow-drops and lillies;
Her mind with each rare virtue glows,
And who can compare to my Phillis?"

ALEXIS.
"You may boast of your Phillis's charms,
In sooth, she is handsome and young;
But the fair who my bosom alarms,
Can never with justice be sung,
Indeed, there are two I admire,
And, when one I endeavour to praise,
My muse t' other's virtues inspire,
And claims a due share in my lays.

"Such pleasure their merits impart,
Their worth I enough can't extol;
Fair Patty engages each heart,
And Eliza enchants every soul.
If you search thro' the plain far and nigh,
Believe me you never can find,
Two Nymphs that with these ere can vie,
In beauties of person and mind."

PALEMON.
"Cease shepherds, cease, cease your dispute,
You, Damon, your claim must resign,
Alexis has well won the flute,
But this ebon crook shall be thine.
Indeed, I must freely confess,
If our nymphs we examine with care,
None half such perfections possess,
As Eliza and Patty the fair."

[p. 153]