1769
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Respite: a Pastoral.

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (29 April 1769).

John Cunningham


A pastoral lyric in four double-quatrain stanzas, signed "John Cunningham, Durham, April 16." The theme of this pastoral is mutability, the imagery taking on an Ovidian quality, as when the flowers of the meadow suddenly appear to hover aloft: "like the Field-Flow'rets, if mounted on Wings, | Yon Butterflies flaunt it in Air!" The alternating lines (which Cunningham seems to have liked) also correspond to the theme. Cunningham was quite popular at this time, and his poems from the St. James's Chronicle were eagerly reprinted by the periodicals.



Ah, what is't to me that the Grasshopper sings!
Or what that the Meadows are fair!
That, like the Field-Flow'rets, if mounted on Wings,
Yon Butterflies flaunt it in Air!
Ye Birds, I'll no longer attend to a Lay,
Your Haunts in the Forest resign;
Shall you, with your Truloves be happy all Day,
Whilst I am divided from mine?

Where Woodbines and Willows inclin'd to unite
We twisted a blooming Alcove,
And oft has my Damon, with Smiles of Delight,
Declar'd it the Mantle of Love:
The Roses that crept to our mutual Recess,
And rested amongst the soft Boughs,
Are faded — they droop — and they cannot do less,
For Damon is false to his Vows.

This Oak has for Ages the Tempest defy'd,
We call it the King of the Grove;
He swore a light Breeze should its Centre divide,
When he was not true to his Love:
Come, come, gentle Zephir, in Justice descend,
His Falsehood you're bound to display;
This Oak and its Honours you'll easily rend,
For Damon has left me — a Day.

The Shepherd rush'd forth from behind the great Tree
(Prepar'd to make Phillida blest)
And clasping the Maid — from an Heart full of Glee,
High Rapture, 'twas told him (by Masters in Love)
Too often repeated will cloy,
And Respites alone were the Means to improve,
Or lengthen the Moments of Joy.

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