1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

May. A Pastoral Poem.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (6 June 1787).

Dr. William Perfect


Eighteen double-quatrain stanzas, subscribed "Malling." As before, the Malling poet modulates the pastoral ballad mode into georgic, though in this instance his descriptive vein juxtaposes pagan and Christian treatment of the theme of annual renewal. While not unrelated to that in other poems in the Shenstone series, the imagery here is both rich and original: "Unfolding her incense, the Earth | To her festival pours all her powers, | Gives odours most lavishly birth, | The soul of innumerous flowers." This extended pastoral lyric may owe something to the Spenserian descriptions in William Thompsons Hymn to May (1746).

1796 Editor: "Pastoral Poetry requires a competent knowledge of natural history, a thorough acquaintance with the effect which the transition of the seasons have on a country life, and above all, a simplicity of expression, which is acknowledged to be the unstudied diction, the spontaneous offspring of nature" Poetic Effusions (1796) i.



Profuse of her beauties, the May
Luxuriant comes dancing along;
In purple she dresses the day,
And calls up the picturesque song;
Bids rise the soft blossoms of snow,
Her bounties unbounded we see,
From her lap of green verdure below,
She strews o'er each bush and each tree.

On her bosom ambrosial behold
The Zephyrs in amorous sport;
In her locks of live silver and gold
The Graces establish their court.
Unfolding her incense, the Earth
To her festival pours all her powers,
Gives odours most lavishly birth,
The soul of innumerous flowers.

Approaches the mother of Love,
The month of unsullied delight;
Her hand is the the throne of a dove,
Her garland's embroider'd with white.
In colours which glow on the view
The pallet of Flora is found;
Whose garments of sky-brighten'd blue
Reflect the magnificent ground.

How sweetly she presses the plain!
In aspect most lovely are seen
The daughters of Spring in her train,
Rob'd in all the rich dress of the scene.
Fertility, bountiful maid!
Awak'd by her genial ray,
Bursts forth in each bud and each blade,
To cheer and enliven her May.

O let not her empire so bright
The mildew pernicious invade,
Her bloom and her foliage by blight
A waste of distemper be made.
Ye powers of Spring then intreat,
Apollo your fears shall behold;
Establish your May in her seat,
Protect her from wind and from cold.

The Novel of Nature we read;
How pleasing her prospects expand!
O'er woodland, inclosure, and mead,
New beauties emerge from the land.
The carols of Spring from the grove
Re-echo harmonious notes;
'Tis the innocent music of Love,
On the bosom of Aether which floats.

Come, Pales, if pastoral lay
Your fancy to transport has led;
Panegyrics I sing on the May,
Assist me the portrait to spread.
Come, Pan, with thy seven-form'd reed,
Sylvanus thy neighbour invite;
The Muse, in her progress to speed,
Enlarge her unpolish'd delight.

See, Pales herself treads the plain,
Her robes of the dew-freshen'd green;
Undaunted I utter my strain,
So mild and compos'd is her mien.
Ye shepherds, your fleece-coated charge
Her mandates permit to release;
Young bleaters, go ramble at large,
Unfolded go wander in peace.

The maple and plane-tree in bloom
Emblazon each sylvan retreat;
And Flora purloins from her loom
To canopy over each seat.
By the side of the park in the vale
The hawthorn, young minion of May,
Her bosom unfolds to the gale
In blossoms exub'rant and gay.

The pink, many varied of vest,
The yellow and white asphodel,
And tulip, in pageantry drest,
Are emulous each to excel.
The rose, royal empress of sweets,
In the path of the fashion'd parterre,
The suckle and jessamine greets,
Sweet maids that her presence revere.

Deep sunk in the lap of the dale,
Of elegance simple the queen,
To lavish her sweets of regale,
The lily, dawn-bosom'd, is seen.
The orchis and fox-glove appear,
The hare-bell has crimson'd the shade,
Sweet goddess, that paints the young year,
Thy pallet each landscape is made.

Come, Delia, dear Hebe of youth,
O come, with thy dark azure eye;
How sweet to my heart is thy truth,
To the arms of thy Corydon fly.
See May, from yon rose-shedding cloud,
Restoress of pleasure, descends;
Zephyrus awaits on the croud
Of Sports which her levee attends.

Of Sol, the bright daughter, each hour
As devious we wander along,
Shall smile like a beam on the shower,
And Philomel lavish her song.
With Innocence fix'd as our guide,
Thou sweeter by far than the May,
With mutual Consent by our side,
Let Flora her rival survey.

The prais'd renovation enjoy,
My fair, with serenity blest,
O let not one trouble annoy
The halcyon May of thy breast.
May pleasure that's virtuous and pure
To your heart true felicity bring,
Through a series of time to insure
In your mind a perpetual spring.

And now, when the star of the morn
Comes dancing, on day-break's first gleam,
Shall I pluck from the sloe-bearing thorn,
The nest by the side of the stream?
Two blackbirds, whose conjugal care
I guarded for Delia's dear sake,
Have finish'd their tenderness there,
The young ones are ready to take.

Does Pity, dear maid, give you pain,
I see her own pearls in your eye;
My hand from the deed shall refrain,
The younglings be suffer'd to fly.
Their parents, as well as the young,
In thanks shall their harmony join;
I'll hear their soft gratitude sung,
Abash'd that the offer was mine.

'Tis Nature spontaneous, thy smile,
With gladness the earth is elate;
One carpet of velvet the soil
Has spread in superlative state.
The plume-painted minstrels of song
Commingle their generous lays
In notes which to rapture prolong
The season's Creator to praise.

Shall man be deficient in grace?
Let Gratitude banish the thought;
The hand of Divinity trace,
Through May, with munificence fraught.
The Muse, Admiration thy friend,
Shall join in the pious repast,
The knee of Thanksgiving to bend,
For mercies both present and past.

[unpaginated]