1786
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

January. A Pastoral Poem.

Gentleman's Magazine 56 (December 1786) 1074-75.

Dr. William Perfect


Fourteen double-quatrain stanzas, dated "Malling, Dec. 5." This poem modulates the pastoral ballad series into the descriptive mode of georgic poetry, cleverly working the "Janus" theme into both its form and substance. Even in the darkest days of the year the seasons are turning on their hinge: "The hazel's soft catkins unfold, | Swells the snow-drop to blossom the first, | Shoots the woodbine unfearful of cold, | And mezereon seems ready to burst." The poem is georgic likewise in its continuous modulations, terminating at last in the mode of pastoral elegy. The epigraph is taken from James Thomson's Winter.

1796 Editor: "If in the perusal of the following Poems a consonancy to Nature is conspicuous it may not fail to recommend them to a place in the libraries of the lovers of retirement and the local beauties of sylvan scenery" Poetic Effusions (1796) i-ii.



How pointed with ice is the air!
The woodlands, bespangled with frost,
A portrait bespangled prepare,
Whose beauties in rigors are lost.
Imprison'd and bound is the rill,
Irriguous that stole thro' the mead;
No more its soft murmurs distill
Its waters to cherish the reed.

The lake that was curl'd by the breeze,
Is chang'd to a smooth glassy plain;
Huge icicles drop from the trees,
In pendants of crystalliz'd train.
The cascade that rush'd down by the mill,
And whiten'd and foam'd into rage,
Its torrents arrested and still,
No more in vain clamours engage.

Behold, o'er the mist-frozen copse,
What silver-like plumage is spread,
More elegant far than the hops
That Autumn wove over his head.
Each twig and each blade is adorn'd
With pearl-drops so pure and so bright,
That the skill of the artist is scorn'd,
And recedes at so peerless a sight.

The morning distressful of mien,
From slumbers of sluggish delay,
Now opens a wide-wasting scene,
At once both terrific and gay.
Aerial treasures of snow
The hills and the valleys invest;
With what a bright burden below
The bosom of Nature's oppress'd!

Intensely severe is the cold,—
Inactive and lifeless around
Each scene and each landscape behold,
In Winter's rude adamant bound.
Though Janus elongates the day,
December that nurtur'd the storm,
His terrors suspends to convey
In sadden'd variety's form.

Yet rude devastation is spread,
And chill'd all the animal train,
The path-way dejected I tread,
Till hope in idea I gain.
The shrub, tho' expos'd to the air,
Tyrannical frost shall repell,—
Her buds I have open'd with care,
And found the young bloom in its cell.

Dear embryo, your leaves shall expand,
Revive in the sweet vernal morn,
Awake at the touch of her hand,
And Nature's lov'd season adorn.
The hazel's soft catkins unfold,
Swells the snow-drop to blossom the first,
Shoots the woodbine unfearful of cold,
And mezereon seems ready to burst.

Though rugged, old Janus, 'tis thine
In terrors to open the year;
Thy honours are pure and divine,
Illustrious shall ever appear.
Let Britons in gladness be seen,
Thy bounties for ever confess,
Since Janus gave birth to a Queen,
Whose virtues a nation can bless.

Then, spite of the storms in thy train,
The Spring whose gay beauties are lost,
The winds and the hard-pelting rain,
The hail-stones and cold-piercing frost:
Ye shepherds, bring laurels of bay,
Let Janus with garlands be crown'd,
Be cheerful as rose-loving May,
For Charlotte be ever renown'd.

Ye neat-herds, go look to the kine,
Their cribs with fresh fodder supply,
The task of compassion is thine,
For herbage the meadows deny.
And, shepherds, attend to the fold,
To your ewes in the valley repair,
O save their young lambs from the cold,
They bleat for protection and care.

Whilst the voice of the North is severe,
And heard o'er the waste with dismay,
Hark! what is that sound which I hear,
More sad than the sighs of the day?
'Tis Delia. — Why sorrows my fair?
What opens the spring of her grief,
Or dishevels her fine-flowing hair?
Can Corydon tender relief?

She weeps o'er poor Emmeline's tomb,
Who fell as a wreath of the snow;
She fell in the pride of her bloom,
As bright as the heavenly bow.
Her voice was the music of Spring,
Her heart was ineffable love,
Her face all that beauty could bring,
In mildness she rival'd the dove.

Thou, bright as the moon on the main,
My Delia, no longer deplore,
Nor harrow thy bosom with pain,
Since Emmeline must be no more.
Permit me to share in thy woe,
The privilege can you refuse?
Together, my fair-one, we'll go,
And Death of his triumph accuse.

The hand of remembrance shall raise
A pillar by elegy crown'd,
The Spring shall bedeck it with bays,
And Flora empurple the ground.
In vain are you delug'd in tears,
O grant me your grief to beguile,
That, free from despondency's fears,
We'll meet the New Year with a smile.

[pp. 1074-75]