1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Pastoral: in imitation of Shenstone.

Daily Universal Register (22 February 1787).

Anonymous


Thirty-five anapestic quatrains, not signed. This pastoral ballad follows the conventions of the genre, as Strephon begins by warning his acquaintances to beware of the cold Narcissa, and continues by describing his love and uncertainty. The unusual length reflects the unusual depth in which the character is developed, which involves contrasting his own song with those of Narcissa's less-sincere admirers. As an example, the poet includes several stanzas of conventional pastoral lyric before again asserting his difference: "Will the voice of sincerity please, | When such flatt'ry she's us'd to suspect? | Will the swain that's not loud in her praise, | Be regarded with aught be neglect?" The artfulness of his song is hard to overlook.

This pastoral was partly reprinted in the Town and Country Magazine for February and March, but which apparently never got around to publishing a third and final installment.



Ye shepherds, so heedless and gay,
Whose young breasts glow with love and desire,
Thro' these walks when Narcissa shall stray,
Oh! beware how her charms you admire.

Yet 'tis hard, I confess, to beware!
It is hard such attractions to shun:
But should all love that obdurate fair,
Think how many must needs be undone.

My words you may justly believe,
You have witness'd the change in my mind!
You have ask'd why I muse and I grieve,
Why my sorrow no comfort can find.

Once, like you, I could rise with the day,
And I thought still it ended too soon;
For my time it pass'd swiftly away,
As the breeze that refreshes at noon.

But that blithe disposition is o'er,
Nor the song nor the dance can delight,
In the crowd, I take pleasure no more,
And I joy at th' approach of the night.

I am fond from my friends to retreat,
To seek in the woods for relief;
And make echo my suff'rings repeat,
She alone seems to share in my grief.

Then the maids are so puzzled to guess,
Why I pass the day long in the grove;
And the shrewd are mistaken, unless
I've been guilty of murder or love.

And 'tis time — for Narcissa I've seen:
Her charms I too well knew to prize,
That enchantment which breathes in her mein,
That sweetness which beams from her eyes.

Say how can I her beauty forget,
When in all things her image I find;
The wild shrubs that shed odours so sweet,
Bring the balm of her breath to my mind.

When I stray by the hills or the brooks,
Where Narcissa was wont to abide,
I remember her words and her looks,
And I fancy she's still by my side.

If I chance to attend to my flocks,
They remind me she's fair without art;
When the waves dash in vain 'gainst the rocks,
So hard, I lament, is her heart.

But tho' love no impression can make,
Tho' her bosom is proof to its fire,
She's to ev'ry soft feeling awake,
Which the voice of compassion inspires.

I have seen her a starling revive,
Almost dead from the cold, in her breast;
And I wish'd I'd been scarcely alive,
If I might be so fondly caress'd.

Her manners engage the refin'd;
Her modesty chastens the bold,
To all she is equally kind,
And alas, she is equally cold!

If to others more haughty she were,
Methinks I should love her the less;
More free did Narcissa appear,
That freedom were death to my peace.

E'en my wishes so little I know,
Love is still so embitter'd with care,
If she smile — 'twill not always be so;
Let her frown — and I'm struck with despair.

Yet think not her shape or her face
Could alone such a passion inspire;
Ev'ry charm she displays with such grace,
That I can't for my life but admire.

How the colour has fled from my cheeks,
When some sorrowful air she has sung;
And so sweetly she smiles when she speaks,
Her features say more than her tongue.

Yet she's cruel, I wot, tho' she smile,
As such beauties too frequently be;
Nor can passion my reason beguile,
To think she'll be partial to me.

For what gifts can I boast to engage,
The heart of a nymph that's so fair;
Will she pity the spring of my age,
Or esteem me because I'm sincere?

No — she rather will listen to those
Who can talk by the hour of her charms;
And will swear, "she has cheeks like the rose,
And that Heav'n is, be sure, in her arms.

"Then the vi'let that sparkles with dew,
Then the sky when no cloud's to be seen,
If compar'd with her eyes are not blue,
Nor so witchingly brilliant, I ween.

"Nor the chesnut's so brown as her hair,
Nor the snow is so white as her neck,
Nor the swan has so graceful an air,
That sails with such pride o'er the lake.

"Then the flow'rs must spring up where she treads,
Trees for her their best blossoms hang out;
She gives life to the groves and the meads,
And quick death to the shepherds, no doubt.

"If absent — until she return
How sadly those true ones have sigh'd;
When she comes — how they pant and they burn,
With a thousand emotions beside."

For those flatt'rers the better can feign,
The less of the passion they feel,
While I strive to declare, but in vain,
That love they can picture so well.

Will the voice of sincerity please,
When such flatt'ry she's us'd to suspect?
Will the swain that's not loud in her praise,
Be regarded with aught be neglect?

Yet when all were engag'd in the dance,
(If such thoughts else than vanity be,)
I remark'd, and it could not be chance,
That her eyes were still fix'd upon me.

When I told too of Phyllis's pride,
Who forc'd Damon these plains to depart;
How he sicken'd with sorrow, and died,
—Yet his death broke proud Phyllis's heart!

Down her cheeks, ere I well had begun,
The big drops would lamentingly steal,
And me thought, when my story was done,
She admir'd how I told the sad tale.

I've endeavour'd to please her, I own,
I've endeavour'd my passion to prove,
But 'twas mark'd by my actions alone,
For I never yet spoke of my love.

And perhaps when Narcissa shall hear
With what truth her fond Strephon adores;
The rich flocks that solicit my care,
Of my fields that are fragrant with flow'rs:

How my cottage is built near the stream,
That murmur's so pleasantly by;
And each tree is engrav'd with her name,
That rears its proud branches so high:

She may deign those possessions to share,
We shall then be consummately blest,
And the turtle so envy the pair,
That he'll fly with desire to his nest.

But if — what I dread to suppose,
She should coldly reject my embrace,
In that stream I can finish my woes,
That so often reflected her face.

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