1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Farm House. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 3 (March 1775) 132-33.

Dr. William Perfect


Eighteen, later nineteen double-quatrain stanzas, signed "Mallingiensis, Feb. 12, 1775" in which William Perfect adapts the country-house poem to the pastoral ballad manner: "The sash to the casement shall yield, | Despise not its pannel so small, | No flattery here is conceal'd, | No colonades lead to the hall." While the sentiments are familiar from Horatian retirement odes, the images in this poem, which describes the household of a hop-farmer in Kent, are original. It sports a catalogue of trees, and a long catalogue of domestic fowl at the center, implicitly contrasted with the larks and nightingales that were the frequent subjects of lyric poetry. This would be one of the "moral" poems alluded to in the title of Perfect's volume. The title adds "written in April 1774."



Low sunk in the vale by a copse,
Which fringes each side of the hill,
Behind a few acres of hops,
Prefac'd by a stream to the mill;
Erected in generous days
Ere pride to the cottage had crept,
Dissipation extended her blaze,
And Sylvan simplicity wept.

A structure tho' rural yet neat,
Stands capp'd with moss on its thatch,
Contentment, thy best belov'd seat,
Where honesty lifts up the latch:
Thy messuage, Palaemon, I sing,
What tho' the meridian ray
Effusions of light cannot bring,
Emit, in full current, the day!

The sash to the casement shall yield,
Avails it its pannel's so small?
No flattery here is conceal'd,
No colonades lead to the hall.
The yard spreads a carpet of straw,
Ye courtiers, too rich for your tread,
For nature despises your law,
Sits judge on the throne of the shed.

The dove-cotes, whose tenants of air
Coo tender endearments of love;
More grand than your temples of care,
Your Chinese pagodas above:
What tho' to this peaceful recess
No avenues fashion'd by art
The stranger's attention caress,
The wiles of appearance impart.

Yet here shall the oak not disdain
Her guardian protection to lend,
The walnut's Nestorian reign
Her arms of antiquity bend;
The elm, of circumference vast,
Admits to the swine a recess,
The sty thus secur'd from the blast,
Is cleans'd by the streamlet's ingress.

No porter to spurn from his gate
Palaemon's finances afford,
Does need make her moan at his grate,
The wretched to comfort's restor'd.
Monopoly stretches her hand,
Where wealth and where avarice reign,
He cheapens the grain of the land
To peasants who rear it with pain.

Tho' touch'd not by harmony's strains,
Obscure in the notice of Fame,
The Muses, averse to our plains,
Have never recorded my name:
Yet smit with what nature affords,
With fancy I venture my lay,
Description empowers my words,
Collecting a sprig from the bay.

Behold on the hook o'er the sill
The starling in ozier-bound chains,
Or strives rude accents to spell,
Or whistle the unnatural strains.
Beneath, at the mimic to bay,
The puppy affects a loud cry,
Yelps ceaseless his minutes away,
And watches the cage with his eye.

Coop'd up in the lodge see the hen
Strut prison'd — maternal her strife!
Poor Partlet! the bars of thy pen
Confine a fond mother and wife;
Whose chickens tho' eager to roam,
Yet duteous revert to her call,
The vagrants turn suddenly home,
In clusters brood under the stall.

The goose, supercilious in stride,
Gabbles loud the mixt poultry among;
The duck, in Garrulity's pride,
To swim calls her down-coated young:
The magpie, tho' fam'd for a scold,
Assistance affords to my rhime,
Aspiring the architect bold
Rebuilds in the grey branch of time.

But mark the meridian meal,
The pudding of fruit shall I share;
Of bacon and delicate veal,
With greens — most salubrious fare!
The farmer with liberal mien,
Invited with welcome to taste
The wholesome repast sweet and clean,
Thy smiles hospitality grac'd.

Blush luxury, blush, for behold
Palaemon's the picture of health,
With coffers unburnish'd by gold,
And wishes unbounded by wealth:
'Tis exercise, rose of the plain,
And industry's temperate toil,
Adds sauce to the dish of the swain,
And kindles frugality' smile.

Past dinner, and now by the hearth
Thy produce, O Ceres, to bring,
The jug circles round, and with mirth
Thy roof shall rusticity ring;
The tube is alight in a trice,
Palaemon enhances his crops,
Anticipates chearful the price,
And prophecies wealth from his hops.

Nine winters have shiver'd with cold,
Since Anna was born to my friend,
She comes just return'd from the fold,
In her suite two small lambkins attend;
The nurslings, soft emblems so sweet,
She couples in one silken band,
Companions of innocence meet,
Dependent for food on her hand.

What pencil so fine to pourtray
A scene so amazingly fair?
In Anna the blushes of May
A stranger's appearance declare:
With rapture Palaemon reviews
This pledge of connubial bliss,
Whose presence his sorrow renews,
Increas'd by an innocent kiss!

Ah, friend! how expressive that tear,
So prone on reflexion to start!
It speaks as it gushes — I hear
The anguish'd detail of thy heart!
I know thy Eustatia was fair,
Was virtuous! and thou wast so kind,
That Hymen so happy a pair
In solitude seldom could find.

O Solitude! oft in thy shade,
Remote from misfortune and noise,
This pair, sweet content, with thy aid,
Have shar'd undegenerate joys:
Did spring mantle over the mead,
He brush'd off the dew the morn,
Transported to view in the seed
The promise of young-bladed corn.

Did summer his closures embrown,
How jocund and blith was his heart,
Did Autumn his industry crown,
Reward to his labour impart.
Each season had charms to delight,
Eustatia was life to his breast,
She sweeten'd his morning and night,
And lull'd all his cares into rest.

[pp. 132-33]