1763
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Pomona. A Pastoral.

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (14 May 1763).

John Cunningham


Ten anapestic stanzas, signed "J. Cunningham." In this pastoral allegory Pomona declares that since the condition for her remaining in Britain was the reign of Liberty, it is now time for her to go. Perhaps the poem alludes to a tax on cider; the opposition between English cider and French wine had become a commonplace since the publication of John Philips's Cyder (1708): "I know the proud Drunkard denies | That Trees of my Culture should grow: | But let not the Traitor advise; | He comes from the Climes of your Foe." John Cunningham had been experimenting with the Pastoral Ballad mode in a series of poems in different measures on various themes.

After having some success with the poems he had composed in Edinburgh, Cunningham temporarily abandoned his career as an actor migrated to London where he attempted to make a living as a writer for the periodicals. It would seem that his pastorals, printed in London newspapers, were composed during this unhappy period of his life.

Isaac Reed: "Hardly had he set foot in the capital, when he found the bookseller, by whom he was to be employed, had stopped payment. He soon also discovered that scandal and political altercation had entirely taken up the attention of the public, and that, unless he prostituted his abilities to these objects, he was not likely to meet with much success. He therefore left the town with precipitation after a short and disagreeable stay in it, and once more returned to Scotland" Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1782) 1:107.



From Orchards of ample Extent,
Pomona's compell'd to depart;
And thus, as in Anguish she went,
The Goddess unburthen'd her Heart.

To flourish where Liberty reigns,
Was all my fond Wishes requir'd;
And here I agreed with the Swains,
To live, till their Freedom expir'd.

Of late ye have number'd my Trees,
And threaten'd to limit my Store:
I fear — from such Maxims as these,
I fear — that your Freedom's no more.

My Flight will be fatal to May:
For how can her Gardens be fine?
The Blossoms are doom'd to decay,
(The Blossoms, I mean, that were mine.)

Rich Autumn remembers me well:
My Fruitage was fair to behold!
My Pears! — how I ripen'd their Swell!
My Pippins! — were Pippins of Gold!

Let Ceres drudge on with her Ploughs!
She droops as she furrows the Soil;
A Nectar I shake from my Boughs,
A Nectar that softens my Toil.

When Bacchus began to repine,
With Patience I bore his Abuse;
He said that I plunder'd the Vine,
He said that I pilfer'd his Juice.

I know the proud Drunkard denies
That Trees of my Culture should grow:
But let not the Traitor advise;
He comes from the Climes of your Foe.

Alas! in your Silence I read
The Sentence I'm doom'd to deplore:
'Tis plain, the great PAN had decreed,
My Orchard shall flourish no more.

The Goddess flew off in Despair;
As all her sweet Honours declin'd:
And PLENTY and PLEASURE declare,
They'll loiter no longer behind.

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