Damon. A Pastoral.

The Wit's Magazine; or Library of Momus 1 (December 1784) 473-74.

William West

Fourteen double-quatrain stanzas in the pastoral ballad mode, signed "Mr. William West." Damon describes his love for Pastorella, her character, and her lamentable death: "Her crook I with roses bedeck'd, | A garland of marj'ram I wove: | How little I then did expect, | So soon to be robb'd of my love!" If the verse is amateurish and the poem goes on too long for a pastoral lyric, the pathetic account of the poor maiden's sad demise is one of the better moments in the Pastoral Ballad series. I have not identified the poet.

Why bid me to tune the light reed,
The pipe of the mirth-loving Muse;
Why bid me to quit the green mead,
And mansions less painful to chuse?
Ye know not the state of my breast!
Never swain was so wretched before;
I can never — no, never, find rest;
Pastorella, alas! is no more.

Pastorella was queen of the plains,
Indeed was she modest and fair!
Our music enchanted the swains,
As I pip'd to her tuneful guittar;
The shepherds came round in a row,
And presented my fair-one with flowers:
Their flocks were much whiter than snow,
But they were no so happy as ours.

She was fair as the posey-wreath'd maid,
On the plains of Arcadia who dwells;
Her blushes more sweetness display'd,
Than the sun when the dew-drop dispels:
Near this fountain she wove me a wreath,
And in ev'ry rose dwelt a dart;
Young Cupid sat lurking beneath,
And planted them all in my heart.

Her crook I with roses bedeck'd,
A garland of marj'ram I wove:
How little I then did expect,
So soon to be robb'd of my love!
I sung her a rustical glee,
She seem'd to be pleas'd with the song;
Ah, fool — I was not to forsee,
Such happiness could not last long!

Young Felix retires from the train,
And says that his Chloe's unkind;
The youth is a true-hearted swain,
But jealousy tortures his mind.
I tell him my griefs! all the while,
By fate how severerly I'm cross'd!
But he ne'er saw my shepherdess smile,
So he knows not how much I have lost.

"Beware!" said she, "Damon, the youth
Who loves on thy worth to discourse;
Who sets forth thy honour and truth,
And praises thy skill in the course!
Tho' he praise Damon's well-brandish'd lance,
When Damon to woodlands depart;
Tho' he praise Damon's step in the dance,
Believe not it comes from his heart!

"Beware too," said she, "the fond maid,
Who looks on my Damon, and sighs;
Whose cheeks are in blushes array'd,
While love bursts unbid from her eyes!
She envies my Damon and me:
She is fairer, I will not deny;
But it's Damon's alone best to see,
How much she is fairer than I.

"She will twine thee a garland of flowers;
Her groves are by Nature more grac'd:
Her roses are brighter than ours,
Than ours which deck the wide waster.
Her melody, too, is divine;
In the dance she no doubt can excel;
Her powers are greater than mine,
But, Damon — she loves not so well!"

This my shepherdess said, with a smile;
That smile which must charm me no more!
I gaz'd on her beauties the while,
Which, now, but in thought I adore:
Reflection brings strongly to mind
Every word that escap'd her dear tongue;
A charm in each sonnet I find,
If that sonnet my charmer e'er sung.

She was tending her innocent sheep,
By the current which runs thro' yon wood;
The margin was grassy and steep,
A lambkin roll'd into the flood.
She stoop'd; but, alas! stoop'd too far;
Ah, then, how ill-fated was I!
She call'd on her Damon so dear;
She call'd, but no Damon was nigh.

Ah, me! in that moment of pain,
No friend to retrieve her lost step;
No shepherdess, kindly, or swain,
To snatch the dear maid from the deep!
I wander'd about all the night,
No tidings of comfort I heard;
Aurora diffus'd her blest light;
The star of the morning appear'd.

O why, in that heart-thrilling hour,
Was I doom'd such a sight to behold!
Alone, and neglected, her bower,
Her lambkins stray'd far from the fold:
I cast my eyes over the plain,
And saw her stretch'd out on a bier,
Borne by shepherds; and every fond swain
Besprinkled each step with a tear.

The myrtle's beginning to fade—
'Tis time! — ne'er to blossom anew;
Since Damon has lost the dear maid,
That gave it it's fragrance and hue:
She will ne'er to his eye display charms,
Ne'er flourish beneath the bless'd sun;
Pastorella is torn from his arms,
And Damon is lost and undone!

Ye swains, strew her grave with sweet thyme,
Plant the lily and harebell around;
She fell, in her beauty and prime,
As a blossom that drops to the ground:
Bring each herb that exhales a perfume,
Each flower that in season appears;
They will ever continue to bloom,
While I water them thus with my tears.

[pp. 473-74]