1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Ribbon. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 2 (November 1774) 508-09.

Dr. William Perfect


Fourteen double quatrains illustrated with an engraving, signed "Mallingiensis." In this poem William Perfect modulates his pastoral reed to domestic romance in something like a bucolic rendering of the Rape of the Lock. Rosander and Sylvarella are lovers, and on a number of occasions the young man has come to the rescue of Sylvarell's silly lambkins. One evening while he is away in the fields, she is approached by the wicked Falconet, whose character bears some resemblance to the Paridell of Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad. He demands a return in exchange for his unwelcome blandishments, "A kiss was the boon he requir'd, | Twas just that a struggle ensued; | Her ribbon he snatch'd and retir'd, | Yclep'd her an obstinate prude." In the event, things turn out rather differently than in the Rape of the Lock, or for that matter, in Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad.

The namby-pamby universe in this not-quite-burlesque poem has a imaginative fulness lacking in Perfect's more georgic efforts. While it is highly unlikely that he would have known the work of Thomas Purney (1695-1727 ca.), the juvenile character of the simplicity in this pastoral begins to take on a similar tone. William Perfect was the mainstay of the poetry of the Sentimental Magazine in its first years, publishing something in every number.



Not the halcyon that skims the Lagoon,
Where Mentor in residence bless'd,
November makes pleasant as June,
In worth that irradiates his breast:
The pencil of Flora in May,
That glows in the vivid parterre;
Not the paint in the wing of the jay,
Nor the streaks of the King-Cath'rine pear.

Not a tint in the arch of the bow,
That the world by his visit informs,
Nor an annual ambitious to glow
When summer the horizon warms;
With the ribbon I sing could compare;
Sylvarella can witness the truth;
A fillet it form'd for her hair,
'Twas the gift of her favourite youth.

The boast of the plain was the maid,
Philander and Jesse's delight,
Ag'd pair of the beech-bower'd shade,
Where zephyrs the comforts invite;
Philander's the charge of the plough,
'Twas Jesse's the poultry to rear,
Sylvarella in search of the cow,
The pail night and morning to bear.

Did Brindle, impatient to stray,
Through covert or coppice to roam,
Rosander, attended by Tray,
Return'd the dull fugitive home.
A lambkin once ventur'd to leap
'Twas Sylvarell's fondling, I ween,
From the side of the smooth grassy steep,
Where the pool for the rush was not seen.

Alarm'd by the maid's shrilly scream,
Rosander quick vaults from the shore,
Dash'd into the green-crested stream,
From danger the innocent bore.
And late where the new-tedded hay,
The train of the prong and the rake,
'Mid the heat of the bright-summer's day,
Invok'd to the bed of the brake.

As frolick'd her lamb o'er the blade,
From Sylvarell's notice afar,
From the cell of a dock's verdant shade,
Near the base of a half-rotten bar,
A viper crept silent and slow,
And twisted the bleater around,
'Till the shepherd unfurl'd the rude foe,
And mangled its length on the ground.

Such service shall any dispute?
Yes, Falconet silly and vain,
Who tunes borrow'd strains on the flute,
Attack'd the bright star of the plain.
The ev'ning had stole on the sky,
And fragrant and soft was the hour;
The streams whisper'd silently by,
When Sylvarell flew to the bow'r.

As true as the turtle, her swain,
Had noted the sun in the West;
Deserted the toil of the plain
To seek the delight of his breast.
As dew to the blossom is sweet,
As blossoms are balm to the bee,
So Sylvarell's wonted retreat,
Rosander, was grateful to thee.

But Falconet happen'd to rove
Where Sylvarell courted delay,
And, lavish in accents of love,
Pronounc'd her more sweet than the May:
More sweet than the breath of the rose,
More bright than the star of the eve,
The lilly he swore shed her snows
On her bosom averse to relieve.

A kiss was the boon he requir'd,
'Twas just that a struggle ensued;
Her Ribbon he snatch'd and retir'd,
Yclep'd her an obstinate prude.
The ribbon, rich gift of the wake;
Ah! where were the Sylphs that surround,
Their seats in her tresses to take,
Those tresses the Ribbon had bound.

Rosander now brighten'd her view,
Soon lessen'd her recent distress,
Nor stopt through the shades to pursue
His present purloin'd from her tress:
Was the Rape of the Ribbon, ye bards,
Than that of the Lock, more minute?
The thought tho' fair Clio discards,
With Pope I relinquish dispute.

Beware, daring felon retreat,
Rosander comes wing'd with disdain;
For pardon resentment intreat,
He sees you and crosses the plain.
Chastisement receiv'd at his hand,
The Ribbon base Falconet yields;
Round the hat of Rosander a band,
Each dye of his conquest reveals.

As morning, when first she renews
The beams of aetherial light,
Sylvarella the Ribbon reviews,
Receives it with added delight.
Rise peals of loud sylvan acclaim;
Let Dafforell musick prolong,
For Dafforell treasures up fame,
From the reed or the roundelay song.

Scatter poesies, ye maids fresh as May,
Come strew them all fresh from the land,
For gladness has called up the day,
Rosander joins Sylvarell's hand:
The Ribbon affixt to her breast,
The happy occasion declares,
Whilst Venus, thy planet has dress'd,
By Hymen to soften their cares.

[pp. 508-09]