1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Winter's Evening. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 2 (December 1774) 556-57.

Dr. William Perfect


A rural rhapsody signed "Mallingiensis" in eleven anapestic stanzas. William Perfect, who had treated the themes of this poem on an number of previous occasions, appears to be testing his powers of invention as he relates the pleasures of country life: "To amuse or improve is the task, | The goblet flies merrily round, | The evening is cheer'd with the flask, | By ballad traditional crown'd" p. 557. Descriptive scenes of cottage life would become a staple of romantic verse.

The tenth canto is short four lines as printed; they are supplied here from Perfect's Poetic Effusions (1796).



The lapse of the stream by my cot,
Incessant that babbled along;
Its murmurs are wholly forgot,
Nor heard in reply to my song:
No longer my garden it laves,
In silence its current is chain'd;
The limpid display of its waves,
In chrystaliz'd bondage detain'd.

The hillock, from whence I survey'd
The sheep straying wide o'er the mead;
The lambkins in gambols that play'd;
The steers as they straggled to feed;
The hillock is crested with snow,
More white than the fleece of my fold;
The ploughmen as wareless they go,
Behold how they shiver with cold!

Go boy fill the crib in the dale,
The snow from the turnip remove;
'Tis ev'ning, and home to the pail,
The strawberry cow must be drove.
The door of the birchin-roof'd shed
Forget not to carefully guard,
Lest prowling sly Reynard should tread
The path of the straw-cover'd yard.

'Tis evening, the tortoiseshell cat
Her back turns oblique to the grate;
Old Thisbe forms presage at that,
Declares cheerless omens await:
The kitten in freaks ever gay,
Climbs over the mastiff asleep,
Unmindful of which, honest Tray
Rejects not his slumbers to keep.

Shall winter's dark sadness annoy,
Spread horror and gloom o'er the breast;
The heart rob of comfort and joy,
The Muse in her flight be unbless'd,
Prevent it Melpomene maid
To whose sacred impulse belong
Luxurious sorrows array'd
In measure of plaint-pouring song.

Then come tragic fair and essay,
Dejected to kindle my strain,
And shed a pale glance on my lay,
Of ev'ning be seen in the train;
Of storms and of tempests I sing;
Of hurricanes rude from the North,
Or aid in perspective to bring
Most shocking severities forth.

Ah no pensive maid let us hide
Such scenes of distress and surprize;
Submit my faint pencil to guide
As o'er rural landscape it flies:
Blow winds, and ye rains rapid pour
In deluge all over the plain;
Ye surges contend with the shore,
Bid Neptune most dreadfully reign.

When frosts the clear rivers impede,
And snow covers nature with white;
The duck by the sportsman shall bleed,
If murder can measure delight:
Let death vegetation destroy,
The warblers of aether be dumb;
Bright Phoebus emit not a joy,
Clouds, vapours, and night-terrors come.

To the cottage low-roof'd I repair,
Tranquillity's pleasures to greet;
Unharrass'd by scorpion tongu'd care,
They circle my Celadon's seat,
The ev'ning of winter to cheer;
He steals from the frowns of the hour,
Do friends uninvited appear,
The season no longer shall lour.

His hut of rusticity sounds
With all that is guileless and gay,
His table with liquor abounds,
Hilarity kindles up May.
Sociality brightens each smile,
In converse both harmless and pure,
Forgot is the season of toil,
And peace guards from tumult the door.

T' amuse or improve is the task,
The goblet flies social around,
The ev'ning's forgot the flask,
By ballad traditional crown'd;
Content smooths the brow of each guest,
For she to the cottage can bring
Those enviable poppies of rest,
From peace that continually spring.

[pp. 556-57]