The Afflicted Parents. An Elegy.

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (29 August 1772).

Dr. William Perfect

Twenty elegiac quatrains, signed "W. P., Malling, July 12" and subtitled "Founded upon authentic Circumstances which happened in the Year 1762." This elegy is in effect a domestic tale; its stanza and some of the themes are derived to Gray's Elegy, though the imagery owes more to Goldsmith and Beattie. Corydon and Pastora have but one child, Edwin (in later versions), a promising young scholar cut off in the dawn of life; his doting father, "To every visitor Ambition shows | The fair production of so young a quill; | The buds of genius which the lines disclose | Make all predict the scholar to fulfill." One imagines that Dr. Perfect, who specialized in treating cases of mental illness, was moved to write this poem out of experience gained in his practice. The text of the poem was afterwards much revised.

The series of imitations of Gray's Elegy is particularly difficult to define. While there are more or less coherent sequences within in it, such as poems about criminals and London life, and also parodies or close imitations, in this era there are hundreds of poems in elegiac quatrains that resemble the original in formal or thematic ways with variable degrees of difference that make principles for inclusion or exclusion hard to identify. It seems worthwhile to include an occasional elegy like this one to illustrate how the broader series was being developed.

Beneath the whispers of yon vocal grove,
Fast by a streamlet's willow-crested side,
A cottage stood, the fane of mutual love,
In russet grandeur, Hymen's greatest pride.

The little freehold Corydon possess'd;
One ample mead two comely cows sustain'd;
Of hops one acre his own labour bless'd,
A yearly beverage from its crop he gain'd.

Maid of his choice, Pastora of the mill,
For charms, in debt to nature's aid alone,
In youth he join'd, the nuptial bed to fill,
And found in her each nuptial bliss his own.

Twelve golden autumns had their courses run
Since that which brought Pastora's arms a boy;
No daughter born, and not another son,
He grew his parents undivided joy.

Oft as I've shar'd the evening cup of ale,
And gave Virginia's plant to azure fume,
Attentive, list'ning to the rustic tale,
I've mark'd the boy in all his promis'd bloom.

What joy has kindled in each parent's eye,
When to last Sunday's sacred text referr'd,
The youth has made a pertinent reply!
And, crown'd with praise, his answer has been heard!

Great was his father's, much his mother's pride,
When the school-custom gave the piece to write,
At festive Christmas or gay Whitsuntide
The wall receiv'd this pledge of their delight.

To every visitor Ambition shows
The fair production of so young a quill;
The buds of genius which the lines disclose,
Make all presage the scholar to fulfill.

Did plenty from her Cornucopia give
One tribute richer than the year before,
With grateful heart would Corydon receive
Each augmentation to his little store.

Bless'd to imagine every small increase
A father's wishes for his child would crown,
His youth protect in competence with peace,
And shield his manhood from Misfortune's frown.

Did twins Pastora's tender ewe produce;
Her cleanly dairy with profusion glow,
She wish'd the produce for no other use,
Than on her darling fav'rite to bestow.

Oh! what avails the father's pleasing thought!
Ah! what avails his captivating hope!
The mother's fondness with endearments fraught,
Each pleasing view thro' Fancy's telescope!

Of every hope, of every wish, their bloom,
Let grief parental teach the seas to flow;
He fell an early victim to the tomb;
What parent heart but feels a parent's woe!

The scene thus chang'd, let sympathy of grief,
Unhappy Corydon, thy sorrows share!
But how shall Condolence afford relief
To sad Pastora with dishevel'd hair?

Frantic and wild she heaves the burden'd sigh;
To melancholy sinks a willing prey,
Views her sons obsequies with streaming eye,
Nor wishes death one moment to delay.

In vain did Corydon advice impart,
With manly fortitude his sighs suppress;
By comforts strive to soothe his partner's heart,
And urge their offspring's endless happiness.

In vain remonstrance friendly counsel lent;
Within the course of one succeeding year
Her life, in ceaseless lamentations spent,
In sad procession pass'd Pastora's bier.

Much pity'd Corydon exerts his sense
In all the manliness of silent woe;
"No wrong," he cry'd, "can mercy's God dispense;
The ways of heav'n shall man presume to know?"

Lo! in yon sacred ground, the yew-tree nigh,
Two graves are clos'd with one sepulchral stone,
Engrav'd by Corydon with many a sigh:
"'Twas, Heav'n, thy will, and let that will be done."

The suff'ring sage to solitude resign'd,
'Twas mine to prove the sympathetic friend,
To check the painful startings of his mind,
And consolation's healing powr's to lend.