1741
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Old Ballad.

Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal (22 August 1741).

Harry Rural


A retirement ode signed "Harry Rural" imitating Milton's L'Allegro. In point of fact the poem is a veiled attack on Walpole and the court Whigs: "Here are no entrapping Baits, | To hasten on too hasty Fates, | Save of Fish, who like Men look | On the Bait, but not the Hook; | Here's no Envy, save among | The Birds, for Prize of their sweet Song." The poet's sentiments are those of the "Country Party." The headnote, like the title, raises the question of whether this description of "what the Country was a Century ago" is deliberately imitating a seventeenth-century mode — imitations of Milton's companion poems were not yet common in 1741.

Headnote: "Sir, As you promis'd your Readers some Country Pieces, by inserting the following Description of what the Country was a Century ago, you will oblige HARRY RURAL."



Hence false Hopes, and quivering Fears,
Anxious Sighs and torturing Cares,
Fly from us to stately Courts,
Fly where mimic Fortune sports,
Where no Joy in Mirth we see,
And Sorrows only real be.
From our Country Pleasures, fly,
Troop of Human Misery,
But come placid serene Looks,
Clear as be the Crystal Brooks,
Come fair Peace and serene Mind,
In these true Pleasures we can find.
Here's no antick Mask or Dance,
But of Kids that frisk and prance;
Here no Wars are ever seen,
But 'tween two Lambs upon the Green,
Here no Wounds are ever found,
Save what the Plowshare gives the Ground:
Here are no entrapping Baits,
To hasten on too hasty Fates,
Save of Fish, who like Men look
On the Bait, but not the Hook;
Here's no Envy, save among
The Birds, for Prize of their sweet Song:
O bless'd Groves! O! may ye be
Ever Mirths best Nursery.
May fair Peace and pure Content,
Here for ever pitch their Tent,
And through every circling Year,
May we ever find them here.

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