1764
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegiac Ballad.

London Chronicle (20 September 1764) 276.

Anonymous


Twelve anapestic quatrains, not signed. In this variation on the series of love-poems in the measure adopted by Nicholas Rowe and William Shenstone, the pastoral ballad becomes an "elegiac" ballad. The speaker of this particularly dark poem is an abandoned adulteress struggling with her conscience: "To whom, tell me now, can I speak, | That will not reproach and exclaim? | And read through the Blush on this Cheek, | That Guilt is the Parent of Shame?" The topic is ballad material. This lyric found at least one admirer, for another "Elegiac Ballad" was published in the Public Advertiser on 21 November.

In 1798 this poem was reprinted in the American Mercury [Hartford] under the title "Verses, written by a young Lady, who was seduced, and deserted by her Lover."



Where now is that sun of repose,
That once used to smile on this Breast,
On the Morn that so genially rose,
And at eve set so kindly in rest?

Alas! all withdrawn from my sight,
On the Morning no longer it beams;
And, instead of contentment at night,
Spreads horror alone in my dreams.

O Belmour! why e'er did I hear
What I knew must be death to believe?
Or drink up a strain with my ear,
When I saw it was meant to deceive?

To whom, tell me now, can I speak,
That will not reproach and exclaim?
And read through the blush on this cheek,
That guilt is the parent of shame?

In vain the dark grove do I try,
Some respite from censure to find;
But, Oh! from a world I may fly,
Yet cannot escape from my mind!

In the thickest recess of the shade,
My conscience cries, "Flavia, see there,
What a wretch a fond father is made,
What a mother is plung'd in despair."

The Zephyr's most innocent gale
Now seems at my conduct to roar;
And the stream, as it winds through the dale,
Says, "Flavia is spotless no more."

At church, in the moment of pray'r,
Remorse lifts her terrible rod,
And harrows my soul with despair,
Though I kneel at the throne of my God.

'Tis just; — and I cannot upbraid,
For Belmour yet swells in my eye;
And this bosom, though basely betray'd,
Still heaves with too tender a sigh!

In spite of religion's pure breath,
The softest ideas will rise;
And I doat to distraction and death,
While I labour to hate and despise.

Come, grave, then, thou best of reliefs,
Regardless of season or time,
At once give an End to my griefs,
And a Lethe to wash o'er my crime.

Yet cease not, ye tears, still to flow
From the fount of contrition or love;
So th' excess of my sorrows below
May purchase my pardon above.

[p. 276]