The Cottagers.

Edinburgh Magazine or Literary Amusement 53 (12 July 1781) 15-16.


Seven double-quatrain stanzas, not signed. The Cottagers takes the pastoral ballad in a something of a new direction: instead of using a deliberately artificial landscape to praise natural, and shepherds and shepherdesses who are nearly transparent representations of gentry, we are presented with a Daphne and Corin who are actual peasants: "Content is a kingdom; the pair but require | What's convenient, nor need they to spare; | On a three-legged stool they enjoy the warm fire, | Then what need of a sopha or chair?" This affected naturalism is either very silly or a clever extension of the sentimental irony so often found in pastoral ballads. Possibly the poem is an attempt to translate to remake Robert Fergusson's Farmer's Ingle in the pastoral mode.

At the foot of yon hill, by the side of a stream
That distils from the clear crystal spring;
Where rural Felicity marks out the theme
The contemplative Muses will sing,
Content with young Corin and Daphne resides,
Who, unknown to Care, Trouble, and Strife,
In Pleasure and Friendship oppose the rude tides
That disturb the smooth current of life.

Their cottage is pleasant, convenient, and neat,
Their furniture useful and plain;
The fold for their ewes and their lambs a retreat,
When oppress'd by the winds and the rain;
The wall, by the ivy's green mantle o'erspread,
Are of clay, and the roof made of thatch;
The door, something low to exclude the proud head,
May be op'd by a string from the latch:

The porringers hung all in order within,
And the platters all rang'd on the shelf,
The tea-cups and saucers all shining again,
Some of china, and others of delf.
Content is a kingdom; the pair but require
What's convenient, nor need they to spare;
On a three-legged stool they enjoy the warm fire,
Then what need of a sopha or chair?

Their meals, not luxurious, sufficient alone
For Nature's support and for health;
Necessity makes not the peasant to moan,
Nor does Fortune o'erburden with wealth.
In the morn, at the lark's early summons they rise,
Whilst the cock yet proclaims the new day;
When the sun from the east gilds the mountains and skies,
And the fields and the meadows look gay.

On the plain then together their flocks they attend,
Their amusement, their joy, and their care;
Thrice bless'd in the bounty Heav'n pleases to send,
The reward of those labours they share.
On the plains, o'er the hills, thro' the vallies they rove,
Or now seat themselves down by the spring;
To catch the soft music which breathes thro' the grove,
When the linnet and nightingale sing.

They stray o'er the banks of the murmuring brook,
Which meandering runs thro' the glade,
To view the rough current that pours from the rock,
And falls in a rural cascade.
Thus, the gifts of kind Nature they live to enjoy,
Whilst the summer enlivens the year,
And winter but varies the course of their joy,
As it lessens their toil with their care.

The grief that oppresses the heart of the maid,
The youth ever labours to cure;
For, if sorrows the mind of fair Daphne invade,
Her Corin each pang must endure:
But, if happy the swain, then the nymph too is blest,
They live in each other alone,
Ev'ry pleasure he feels must enliven her breast,
Since the will of her Corin's her own.

[pp. 15-16]