November. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 1 (November 1773) 422.

Dr. William Perfect

Fifteen anapestic quatrains, signed "Mallingiensis, Nov. 6, 1773." This is the first of a cycle of twelve seasonal pastorals published by William Perfect in the Sentimental Magazine. It contrasts the change in the landscape with the endurance of his friendship with Celadon and his affection for his lover Delia: "November, the tomb of the year, | Usurps his tyrannical stand, | His glooms in succession appear, | In succession stalk over the land." In the 1780s Perfect revised and expanded several of these early versions of the pastoral in the Gentleman's Magazine, adding illustrations from natural history.

If Dr. Perfect intended an imitation of Spenser's Shepheardes Calender verbal imitation was no part of his plan. His stylistic model is Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad, from which he takes the meter and his imagery, which in accordance with the general drift of eighteenth-century pastoral tends to become more georgic, particularly in Perfect's redaction of his cycle in the 1780s. But the idea of a seasonal cycle, like the idea of using the autobiographical figure of the poet to link a sequence of poems derives from Spenser. Perfect also mingles his observations of nature with physico-thelogical reflections that are an eighteenth-century equivalent to the religious matter characteristic of renaissance eclogues. There is no external evidence that Perfect knew the pastorals of Drayton or Browne of Tavistock, but he would likely have relished them.

Ah! whither, bright god of the spring,
Are thy rays nature-chearing withdrawn?
The warblers that stretch the gay wing,
No longer enliven the lawn.
Ye breezes of softness, ah where
Are your zephyrs of fragrance exil'd?
No longer you sport through the air,
On the bosom of aether so mild.
Ye streams that ran purling along,
From your banks your own Flora is fled;
And Philomel issues no song
Thro' the verdure that cover'd her head.
The bleating of lambs from the fold,
From the valley no longer ascends;
No tale of soft passion is told
Where the beech its broad branches extends.
Ah! where is the couch of green moss,
Which I with my Delia have found,
When with pleasure we wander'd across
The daisy-embroider'd ground.
No more to the close-twisted bow'r,
With the fair one delighted I run?
In coolness to pass the fond hour,
Eluding the heat of the sun.
For nature so pensive is grown,
Her tears steep in dew all the plain,
With grief I attend to her moan,
But my sorrows attend her in vain.
November, the tomb of the year,
Usurps his tyrannical stand,
His glooms in succession appear,
In succession stalk over the land.
But where does my Celadon rove,
The friend of my undisguis'd breast?
And where is that empress of love,
My Delia, with innocence bless'd?
Can November to Celadon bring
The horrors which friendship annoy?
In that bosom forgetfulness spring,
Where friendship has treasur'd each joy?
Can Delia, whose heart is the seat
Where love ever faithful is stor'd,
Too cruel desert my retreat,
By winter's rough visit explor'd?
No, Celadon, no, to complain
Of the virtues enthron'd in your heart,
Would pierce friendship's side with a pain,
'Twere ungrateful in me to impart;
For friendship, most pure in her form,
In lustre congenial is thine,
Unruffled, unhurt by the storm,
Tho' the troubles of life shall combine.
Let winter attempt to destroy
The comforts which friendship can bring,
Come, Celadon, come, we'll enjoy,
And soften November to Spring.
Nor let me of Delia complain,
Tho' the trees all their verdure resign,
Tho' the north bids his tyrannies reign,
And Phoebus for clouds cannot shine.
She comes — in her presence is love,
Her eyes are the heralds of grace;
November no longer shall prove
Of nature the squalid disgrace.

[p. 422]