1773
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Flavia. A Pastoral.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 22 (16 December 1773) 369-70.

A.


An imitation of Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad "Addressed to Mr. J. G." and signed "A. Beaumont-Banks." This amusing poem develops a satirical edge absent in the original without ever quite straying into the burlesque. The self-absorbed poet meets his match in an artful young woman: "My reed when I labour'd to sound, | She would say was the sweetest to hear, | And if ever a fault could be found, | It was, 'Ah, were the song but sincere!'" This may be the definitive version of the artful-maiden-of-high-degree strain of pastoral ballads.



You ask why I musingly stray
Where rivers run slowly along?
Why I teach ev'ry bird of the spray
To sing my disconsolate song?
I loiter'd, a simple young swain,
Amid nymphs of an higher degree;
And Shenstone right well can explain
How fair and how fickle they be.

Insensibly Flavia obtain'd
My heart, unexperienc'd in love;
When I left her she fondly complain'd,
Or follow'd my steps to the grove.
When walking she lean'd on my arm,
And would play with my fingers the while;
And, as oft as I prais'd ev'ry charm,
She would answer each word with a smile.

If I spoke of a field-flow'r I found,
How her face it but faintly display'd,
She would dart down a glance on the ground,
And blush a more ravishing red.
Hand in hand, as the path we pursu'd
She would stop, and with transport behold
How my bowers bended bright o'er the flood,
And my seats were spread over with gold.

My reed when I labour'd to sound,
She would say was the sweetest to hear,
And if ever a fault could be found,
It was, "Ah, were the song but sincere!
For I've heard (she would add with a sigh)
How the shepherds do pipe on the plain,
With the notes of the nightingale vie,
While their bosoms unmoved remain."

O how gay was the grass of the green,
When my Flavia so smilingly shone!
And how sweet was the sound of the stream,
When we trac'd its wild windings alone!
Each bird that saluted our ear
From the grove where we sought to retire,
Warbl'd still more melodious and clear,
As we strove its soft strains to admire!

And the primrose, besprinkled with dew,
And the violet of various dye,
Still assum'd a more delicate hue,
As our steps stole lovingly by!
And each tree that extended its shade
'Mid the thicket of willows I wove,
Spread its blossoms more bright o'er our head,
As we sat and repeated our love.

But now with fond footstep no more
Thro' the groves and the valleys we stray,
Nor recline in the blossoming bower,
Nor talk about love the long day!
Forsaking the sweets of the vale,
The flower, and the stream, and the tree,
She roves on some far distant dale
With a swain more distinguish'd than me!

Yet, forc'd each fond hope to forego,
Of ev'ry sweet solace forlorn:
Should one murmur upbraidingly flow
While I strive with my fate and her scorn!
The proud shepherds who see my despair,
Rebuke me, nor dare I complain
That a nymph so exceedingly fair
Should prefer so engaging a swain.

For his manners, they say, are more smooth,
And the tint of his features more fine,
And the language that flows from his mouth
Has a softness superior to mine:
Then my raiment, be sure, it must yield
To the lustre his robes do display,
And my love-labour'd notes be excell'd
By the ease of his elegant lay!

Thus glide their gay triumphs along;
Nor ought I to utter a sigh,
Since the nymph despises my song,
And the shepherds reprove my reply.
Yet my foot, still averse to forget
The soft scenes that engag'd me before,
Frequents the sweet shade where we met,
And delights in the desolate bower.

And oft-times a reflection will rise—
(But I study the thought to resign),
How a nymph so sincere could despise
A bosom so gentle as mine!
Then suiting my reed to my lay,
I loiter the streamlet along,
And instruct the blithe birds of the spray
To sing my disconsolate song.

[pp. 69-70]