1772
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Simile: a Pastoral.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 16 (25 June 1772) 403.

Robert Fergusson


Six anapestic quatrains, signed "R. Fergusson, Balledmund, June 14." In this brief lyric the "simile," a popular periodical form, is developed in the pastoral ballad manner of William Shenstone and John Cunningham: "Then Colin to Sylvia smilingly said, | Amyntor has follow'd you long; | From him, like the butterfly, still have you fled, | Tho' woo'd by his musical tongue." Fergusson's English poems, though often very good as periodical verse, where held in low esteem by posterity.

W. Davenport Adams: "Robert Fergusson, Scottish poet (b. 1750, d. 1774), contributed poems to Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine, which were published in a volume in 1773. The poems are remarkable in themselves; they are doubly so as having served as models for many of the best pieces of Burns" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 222.



At noontide, as Colin and Sylvia lay,
Within a cool jessamine bower,
A butterfly, wak'd by the heat of the day,
Was sipping the juice of each flower.

Near the shade of this covert, a young shepherd lay,
The gaudy brisk flutterer spies,
Who held it as pastime to seek and destroy
Each beautiful insect that flies.

From the lily he hunted this fly to the rose,
From the rose to the lily again:
Till, weary with tracing its motions, he chose
To leave the pursuit with disdain.

Then Colin to Sylvia smilingly said,
Amyntor has follow'd you long;
From him, like the butterfly, still have you fled,
Tho' woo'd by his musical tongue.

Beware in persisting to start from his arms,
But with his fond wishes comply;
Come, take my advice, or he's pall'd with your charms,
Like the youth with the beautiful fly.

Says Sylvia, Colin, thy simile's just,
And yet to Amyntor I'm coy;
For I vow she's a simpleton blind that would trust,
A swain when he courts to destroy.

[p. 403]