1786
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

October, a Pastoral.

Gentleman's Magazine 56 (February 1786) 155-56.

Dr. William Perfect


Seventeen double-quatrain stanzas, dated "Malling, Dec. 11." In this poem the pastoral ballad takes the form of a seasonal rhapsody, opening with a fine allegorical personification of October in the manner of Thomson's Seasons (from which the epigraph is taken). The poet communes with the flowers, the beasts, and the birds in a sentimental manner familiar from Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad: "The pheasant I'd bear to my maid, | But shrink from the present with fear, | Lest, into fresh sorrow betray'd, | Her eyes are suffus'd with a tear." This is the first in a series of season poems by the poet of Malling appearing in the Gentleman's Magazine.



Of visage deep-wrinkled with care,
His temples a chaplet surround,
With oak-leaves and acorns his hair,
And starwort with saffron, is bound.
The dam'sen her purple bestows,
A sash o'er his shoulder to throw;
In negligence easy it flows,
Immingled with spots of the sloe.

His right hand a scorpion suspends,
High-lifted it writhes in the air;
From his left a rush-basket impends,
Replete with the walnut and pear.
His franchise it is to convoke
Thick fogs of blue mist on the hill,
Ascending like columns of smoke,
Exhal'd from the vale-loving rill.

He comes — shall my Muse wake the reed?
Ah, where are the notes of the bough,
When whilom the beech on the mead
Attested the villager's vow!
When Philomel's pastoral lay
Pour'd forth her melodious pain;
The kids with the lambkins in play,
Skipp'd frolicksome over the plain.

It is not for her in the grove
To sing of past pleasures serene,
When zephyrs invited to love,
And Delia was extacy's queen.
When near the smooth lapse of the brook,
I sought, thro' the whispering vale,
The roses which, painting her crook,
Compar'd to her blushes, were pale.

No more to the brook must I stray,
From the whispering valley exil'd,
No longer those zephyrs shall play
Round Delia that linger'd and smil'd.
Farewell to the white-flaunting hop,
The garden so sweet to the sight;
The woodbine faint-blooming I'll crop,
Convey to my fair with delight.

I'll gather autumnal perfume;
The suckle rejects not her sweet;
Convulvus offers her bloom
To decorate Delia's retreat.
The pheasant I'd bear to my maid,
But shrink from the present with fear,
Lest, into fresh sorrow betray'd,
Her eyes are suffus'd with a tear.

To earth's fost'ring bosom the swain,
Tenacious of nature's command,
Commits with attention the grain,
Not ungrateful to Industry's hand.
The martin our caves has forsook,
The woodcock revisits the glen,
The mallard repairs to the brook,
The wild-goose abandons the fen.

Shall rapine with murder be join'd?
O spare from perdition the hive!
Some practice by far less unkind
To plunder its treasures contrive.—
Now hear the gay pack o'er the field,
In pursuit of the fugitive hare:
No longer in safety conceal'd,
She trusts to the brake or the tare.

But who is this envoy of woes,
That wakes with Aurora's first ray,
His song of complaint to disclose
From the vine or the jessamine's spray?
He sings desolations to come;
Stern Winter predicts from aloof;
My shed, social bird, be thy home,
Securely perch under my roof.

Dost grieve that the summer is past?
The trees their green ornaments shed?
That omens of Winter in haste
Impending press over thy head?
Prolong, tuneful red-breast, thy strains;
Contagions shall usher thy moan;
My sympathies share in thy pains,
The sorrows, poor bird, be my own!

Pomona, in straw-colour'd vest,
With berry strung black solitaire,
The gossamer's gauze on her breast,
And marigold beams in her hair.
October, 'tis said in the close,
Paid court to her presence and shape;
Vertumnus in jealousy rose,
And thought 'twas the God of the Grape.

But he was derang'd in the vale,
Whilst Satyrs his orgies sustain;
My path from his feasts I'll curtail,
Reject his incontinent train.
Yet, Bacchus, to honour thy sway,
The fig and the vine let me bring,
Should the Muse for the present delay
The games of the vintage to sing.

Now mid-day is silent around,
The gloom of ag'd cypress I'll seek,
The turf that with osiers fresh bound
My recent dejection shall speak.
Leander, my much-valued friend,
The Muse's memorial essays,
From friendship in sadness to send
What elegy weaves into lays.

The Virtues resorted to see
Thy solitude's sacred retreat,
Made innocence grandeur to thee,
Whose soul was serenity's seat.
No wealth nor parade could annoy;
The mines of content were thy own;
And competence kindled that joy
Which seldom attends on a throne.

Obscurity mark'd his estate,
Yet unimpar'd health was his lot;
He scorn'd the least wish to be great,
Whose pomp was the peace of a cot.
How warmly sincere was his strain,
With simple morality fraught,
Devoutly religious, though plain,
He spoke to the God of his Thought.

Ambition unknown to his breast,
Unknown ev'ry clamour and strife,
Those poisons corrosive of rest,
Those Furies that harrow up life.
Yet pensive and thoughtful he grew,
The mate of his youth was no more;
The friend of his age ever true,
His feelings intensely deplore.

I saw him one day near the oak
That measures a shade of extent;
In silence his misery spoke,
Deep sorrow to solitude lent.
His brow was as dark as the shade
October had spread o'er the dell,
Nor long did he grieve in the glade,
But languishing droop'd till he fell.

[pp. 155-56]