1766
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Pastoral, (not published before).

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (28 June 1766).

John Cunningham


A pastoral singing contest in four double-quatrain stanzas, signed "J. Cunningham, Author of Poems chiefly Pastoral." Cunningham was the foremost poet working in the pastoral ballad mode, varying the form in a variety of ways. Here, in addition to dialogue he alternates long and short lines, adding a framing introduction or argument in couplets. The poem, commenting rather self-reflexively on the artificiality of the genre, is a study in what Ruskin would later term "the pathetic fallacy."



Palemon, seated by his fav'rite Maid,
The Sylvan Scenes with Extasy survey'd:
Nothing could make the fond Alexis gay,
For Daphne had been absent half the Day;
Dar'd by Palemon for a Pastoral Prize,
Reluctant (in his Turn) Alexis tries.

PALEMON.
This Breeze by the River how charming and soft!
How smooth the Grass Carpet! how green!
Sweet, sweet sings the Lark! — as he carrols aloft,
His Music enlivens the Scene.
A thousand fresh Flowrets, unusually gay,
The Fields and the Forests adorn;
I pluck'd me some Roses — the Children of May!
And could not find one with a Thorn.

ALEXIS.
The Skies are quite clouded — too bold is the Breeze!
Dull Vapours descend on the Plain;
The Verdure's all blasted that cover'd yon Trees,
The Birds cannot compass a Strain!
In Search for a Chaplet my Temples to bind,
All Day as I silently rove,
I can't find a Flowret, not one, to my Mind,
In Meadow, in Garden, or Grove.

PALEMON.
I ne'er saw the Hedge in such excellent Bloom,
The Lambkins more wantonly gay!
My Cows seem to breathe a more pleasing Perfume,
And brighter than common the Day!
If any dull Shepherd should foolishly ask,
So Rich why the Landscapes appear?
To give a right Answer, how easy my Task!
Because my sweet Phillida's here.

ALEXIS.
The Stream that so muddy moves slowly along,
Once roll'd in a beautiful Tide;
It seem'd o'er the Pebbles to murmur a Song,
But Daphne sat then by my Side:
See — see — the sweet Maid, o'er the Meadow she hies!
Quite alter'd already the Scene!
How limpid the Stream is! — how gay the blue Skies!
The Hills and the Hedges how green!

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