1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Attempt towards a Pastoral Elegy to the Memory of Mr. Robert Fergusson.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 26 (3 November 1774) 177.

C. K.


21 anapestic quatrains signed "C. K., Montrose, Oct. 29." The passing of Robert Fergusson, "that youthful Prodigy of Song," is noted in the measure he himself had adopted on more than one occasion: "He's bid an adieu to the plain, | An adieu that forbids a return: | He's quitted his pipe and his strain | For death and the mouldering urn." A note in the British Library copy of the Weekly Magazine identifies C. K. as "Charles Keith."

This elegy initiated, strange to say, an erotic conversation between "E. K." and "Stella" that unfolded in the pages of the Weekly Magazine over the following month — all conducted in anapestic quatrains.



Ye powers that o'er sorrow preside,
Who melt at the story of woe,
Condescend a poor shepherd to guide,
Make his tears and his numbers to flow.

He mourns not the proud, nor the great;
Such nothings he'd scorn to deplore:
He wou'd sing of young CORYDON'S fate,
Whose music will ravish no more.

Not a shepherd who pip'd on the plain,
Cou'd e'er in sweet melody vie;
The moment they listen'd his strain,
Their pipes were flung carelessly by.

The youth, all transported wou'd tell,
That the notes of his magical lyre,
Cou'd the pow'rs of old Orpheus excel,
And his numbers the Muses inspire.

If pleasure was heard thro' the dale,
His voice the sweet harmony kept;
If pain with her sorrowful tale,
Young CORYDON tenderly wept.

He's bid an adieu to the plain,
An adieu that forbids a return:
He's quitted his pipe and his strain
For death and the mouldering urn.

The fields have no verdure to please;
The herbage has wither'd and fled;
The foliage has dropp'd from the trees,
With the Zephyr that sigh'd he was dead.

Wild bleat all the flocks in his fold,
Whose fleeces were fair as the day;
But now ev'ry kid I behold,
Seems clothed in sable array.

When I look on the banks of the brook,
Where the swain so delightfully sung,
The shepherds are tending his crook,
And his harp that will never be strung.

The rivers and sweet winding streams,
That wash'd Caledonia's shore,
His lays have made deathless their names;
But, alas! they have music no more.

Not a bird to be seen in the grove,
But sorrow depends on its wing;
The warblers have ceased to rove,
Since CORYDON ceased to sing.

How sad and how plaintive each lay,
They join'd in the comfortless strain,
Which affectionate Nature did pay
At the dirge of her musical swain.

The enliv'ning and azure-rob'd sky
With gloom was beclouded around;
The breeze that was heard to pass by
Had funeral groans in each sound.

The sonorous metal that hung
In the spire of yon beautiful fane,
Assum'd a dejection of tongue,
And essay'd to partake of the pain.

The riv'lets that water'd the plain,
Gurgl'd solemn and sorrowful on,
And still they retain the sad strain,
Still bewail their dear CORYDON gone.

His dog, ever faithful did weep,
And aim'd at the funeral song;
But his voice wou'd not harmony keep,
He dejectedly paw'd it along.

All the nymphs and the gentlest swains,
They led on the concert of woe:
But, alas! my inanimate strains
Are unequal such anguish to show.

When the news to the city were brought,
It seem'd to partake of the pain;
But almost as quickly as thought,
Mad mirth reassum'd its wild reign.

But why waste a rhime on the town,
To sully the Muse and her strain,
For she, gentle fair! must look down
On grandeur and guilt with disdain.

Now no music is heard in the dale;
All mirth and festivity fled:
No sound but the sorrowful tale,
"Our Bard and our Music are dead."

Sweet melody, henceforth adieu!
His pipe is as mute as his strain,
In sorrow as under it flew,
When he bade an adieu to the plain.

[p. 177]