1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Complaint.

Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 26 (10 November 1774) 209-10.

Argenton


A pastoral elegy in 27 anapestic quatrains, signed "Argenton, Nov. 1." In conventional pastoral-ballad phrases, the poet complains of the loss of Corydon and Maria: "All joy from my bosom's now flown, | Nor can Hope the gay vision restore; | The friend of my youth is now gone, | And the nymph I ador'd is no more." What is less conventional is the long gothic introduction, complete with bat, owl, tomb, and ghost. There had been something of the gothic in Rowe's Collin's Complaint, though here the poet plainly looks to Gray's Elegy and its many imitations, combining in one poem the two most popular modes of quatrain verse, the graveyard elegy and pastoral ballad.

It is possible that Corydon is meant for Robert Fergusson who had died several days earlier and been eulogized by that name by "C. K." the previous week in the Weekly Magazine.



Now the moon's feeble light gilds the plain,
And all Nature seems sunk in repose,
I'll steal from the world's busy train,
And indulge my sad soul with its woes.

Mild night on her shadowy throne,
In majesty silent now reigns;
The winds to their caverns are gone,
While the zephyr's soft whisper remains.

Sweet sleep his soft mantle now throws
O'er the vacant and pleasure-cloy'd breast;
But the heart that is wounded ne'er knows
The heavenly blessing of rest.

No sound but my footstep alone
Invades the dread silence of eve;
The owl and the bat too are flown,
And have left me my fortune to grieve.

What horrors all round me are spread!
What shriek thus alarms me with fear?
Why rises my hair as I tread!
Why dies that sad sound on my ear!

'Tis the voice of some care-troubled ghost,
Which echo has caught from the tomb,
Where it mourns all the joys it has lost,
And reluctant submits to its doom.

Avaunt! ye pale spectres of night!
Go haunt the grim murderer's bed;
To his dreams bring dismay and affright;
Let his crimes hover still round his head.

No dread with my purpose shall cope;
Avaunt! and my sorrows revere:
The wretch who is widow'd of hope,
Has nothing to wish, or to fear.

Where yon tomb-stone, display'd to the view,
Calls the deep throbbing sigh from my breast,
O'erhung by the wide-spreading yew,
The ashes of CORYDON rest.

Ah! CORYDON, pride of the grove,
How lost is the mirror of youth!
Thy form was the picture of love,
And thy heart was the mansion of truth.

To distress thou wast gentle and kind:
'Twas thine to relieve, and to save;
And tho' thou wert wild as the wind,
Thou wast generous, tender, and brave.

To virtue how dear was thy heart!
And when from her paths thou didst roam,
Bright wisdom her ray did impart,
To recal the lov'd wanderer home.

Soft friendship thy bosom did soothe,
And love crown'd thy hope with success;
Thy faults were the errors of youth,
But we never could love thee the less.

In life's gaudy bloom how thou fell
A victim to friendship and love,
In happier hours I may tell;
But what can my sorrows remove?

Can the tale of distress as it flows
From a heart overwhelm'd with despair,
Give the wretch a relief to his woes?
Or can sympathy soften his care?

On the bosom of friendship reclin'd,
See care's aching head how it lies!
No comfort that heart can now find;
In accents how plaintive it sighs!

How oft it repeats the sad tale,
To the friend who re-echoes its grief,
Till tears sympathetic prevail,
And compassion affords some relief.

Who once was so careless as I?
No grief did my bosom annoy,
My breast never utter'd a sigh,
Nor my eye shed a tear, but of joy.

The wounds that now bleed in my heart,
Can the angel of death only close;
The grim tyrant has twice thrown his dart,
And twice has destroy'd my repose.

A maid of celestial birth,
Came down from the heavenly abodes;
Her name was MARIA on earth,
But VIRTUE she's call'd by the gods.

How oft my fond heart did rejoice
At the sight of an object so dear!
Methinks I still hear that lov'd voice,
Whose music once ravish'd my ear.

Perfections like hers could not save,
They were born but to bloom, and to die;
A tear have I dropt on her grave,
And her name is still breath'd with a sigh.

To join the celestial choir,
When Fate the fair maid did remove,
My heart, robb'd of all her desire,
Bad adieu to the transports of love.

To the friend of my bosom I flew,
Tho' hopeless to meet with redress;
Yet I lov'd him the more when I knew
That he felt for, and shar'd my distress.

All joy from my bosom's now flown,
Nor can hope the gay vision restore;
The friend of my youth is now gone,
And the nymph I ador'd is no more.

Ye shepherds, who see my despair,
And blame me in grief that I pine,
Your nymphs may perhaps be as fair,
But they are not so virtuous as mine.

Your friends may perhaps be as gay;
At the court or the ball they may shine;
They may merrily sing thro' the day,
But they are not so faithful as mine.

[pp. 209-10]