1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegy.

European Magazine 12 (September 1787) 235

J. D. Rusticus


Fifteen quatrains, signed "J. D. Rusticus," written in the manner of Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard. In this poem Damon pleads with his lover to embrace a country life lived in humble guise: "To him nor luxury nor ambition known; | Tho' doom'd to toil, he murmurs not at fate: | How bless'd to think yon humble cot his own, | Secure from all that pain the wise and great." The argument, in which a speaker advocates a simple live against a haughty lover ("I read disdain upon my Daphne's brow!"), derives from the Pastoral Ballad tradition; here it is cleverly linked to the "choice of life" theme developed in Gray's Elegy.

The first two lines are adapted from Thomson's Seasons, note.



"The blackbird whistles from the thorny brake,
The mellow bullfinch answers from the grove!"
O let us not, my charmer! scenes forsake,
Where ev'ry gale breathes melody and love.

How neat yon straw-roof'd cottage to the view!
How sweet the brown cakes from its oven stream!
The wood-fire smell to me is grateful too,
Nor thought beneath a pastoral muse's theme.

See yonder rustic plant his native field;
Within the little sphere his mind surveys,
Few potent cares have room their force to wield,
And vex the soul, and gloomy make the days.

To him nor luxury nor ambition known;
Tho' doom'd to toil, he murmurs not at fate:
How bless'd to think yon humble cot his own,
Secure from all that pain the wise and great.

Pleas'd, round his wood-fire, with the simplest tale,
A tale which ears refin'd would scorn to hear:
There mild-ey'd peace and cheary health prevail,
And truth and hospitality are there.

I read disdain upon my Daphne's brow!
Her inmost thoughts are by her eyes confest—
Thou look'st contempt — and well the cause I know,
Thou scorn'st the pow'rs that rules the peasant's breast.

Thou deem'st them vulgar, and to meanness prone,
Unbless'd with aught of Feeling's soft controul,
Of birth obscure — to fame nor fortune known—
—But Virtue, Daphne, centers in the soul!

Know, him thy taste contemns, the lowly hind,
With scanty earnings, bought by many a toil,
Oft rears a numerous train — the partner kind
Of her who shares his labours with a smile.

Yon glebe where plenty's genial gifts extend,
Owes half that bounteous aspect to his care—
Nature's, his country's, and his kindred's friend,
Confess his virtue and vocation fair.

Ah why, my love, the village life disdain
See yonder rural elegance arise!
Amidst its glades shall Fancy hold her reign,
And all elysium open on thy eyes.

See! winding near, a Naiad murmuring moves,
Whose sedgy urn rests yonder hills between;
Haste to pursue her thro' the shadowy groves,
Her glossy path it deck'd with livery green.

There will we roam, amidst inspiring shades,
And woo the Muse, whose voice shall sweetly tell,
How Virtue flourish'd, how the sacred Maids
In scenes like these first swept the magic shell.

The Dryads there, blythe nymphs! shall haunt thy way,
And weave a leafy garland for thy brow;
And Love shall raise a shrine of flowrets gay,
Where oft thy Damon will repeat his vow.

Forbear thy scorn! thy native tastes revere!
Discord, and pride, and interest past thy thought;
Disdain the world — for us, sequester'd here,
Peace, health, and love shall bring us joys unsought.

Hark to the blackbird whistling in the brake!
Hark to the various warblings in the grove!
O let us not, my charmer, scenes forsake,
Where every gale breathes melody and love.

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