1775
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Sentiment. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 3 (January 1775) 39-40.

Dr. William Perfect


An amatory effusion, in fifteen double-quatrain stanzas signed "Mallingiensis, Jan. 14, 1775." Surely this ode to Delia and Content, though lively, is one of William Perfect's more unmeaning attempts: "So bright, fair Content, is thy mien, | Fair daughter of Virtue most pure; | The blessings around thee convene, | And flourishing sweetly endure." The conceits in the first stanza require more unraveling than is usually the case in anapestic odes. Perhaps William Perfect is struggling to differentiate himself from John Cunningham's splendidly simple pastoral ballad called "Content, a Pastoral."



Do flies on the gossamer's thread
Dance wanton the stubble among?
Or larks to the lap of the mead
Descend to encircle their young?
So, Delia, the muse of my breast
Thy delicate graces enjoin,
Thy bosom pavilions her nest,
Of joy thy acceptance her line.

Does Delia, more soft than the down,
That velvets the willow in spring,
My simile see with a frown?
Or smile as I venture to sing?
The gales from the mountain's green tops
When vermils the finger of morn,
The summer replenish'd with crops,
The pearl pending bright from the thorn.

Nor health, with her blue-brighten'd eye,
More jocund appears in the vale,
More placid the tints of the sky,
When breathes with ambrosia the gale;
Not virtue more sweetly divine,
When healing the wounds of despair,
As when with her dimples benign
She robs my fond heart of its care.

To virtue transcendent allied,
Now bless'd in her smiles are the hills;
How tranquil steals forward the tide?
How soft is the fall of the rills?
The serpentine path edg'd with flow'rs,
The nymphs and the shepherds explore,
Gay frolick purloins from the hours,
And sorrow and winter's no more.

The guileless are festive alone
The fair by pure innocence sway'd,
Shall beam from festivity's throne,
All hail thou beneficent maid;
That joy that hymns peace to the mind,
With whispers so silvery sweet,
Those warblings that issue refin'd,
When loves on the graces await,

Are thine, gentle Delia, and thine
The rubies that warm'd Helen's cheek,
Whose bosom not half so divine,
Comparison faulters to speak:
The ring-dove that perch'd on the oak
In verdure no longer array'd,
Permit that my muse may invoke
In emblem as pure as the maid.

A willow that bent o'er the brook,
Was wont a green seat to afford;
What magic on nature to look!
Or nature to summer restor'd!
Then Delia was close to my side
Loves paradise beam'd from her mind;
"Creation's vermillion, I cried,
December without thee I find.

"Thou chaste as Lucretia in thought,
Without thee would madrigals yield,
That music with harmony fraught,
That undulates thorough the field:
Accept my oblation, I cried;
My passions record and approve;"
My eyes in that moment espied
The hectic of importun'd love.

The tender emotion I trac'd,
'Twas long since her blushes I caus'd;
The planets revolving have chac'd
Three moons since her Corydon paus'd,
Then climb'd to the steep of the hill,
Collecting a posy of sweets;
The iris and slender-leav'd dill
I tore from their grassy retreats.

Must absence then harrow my breast?
Ah why should its sorrows prevail?
The cherub of sweetness confess'd
'Tis winter confines to the dale:
When Corydon visits her cot,
Not beauty that rays from her eye,
But virtues that fall to her lot,
With graces that flourish hard by.

'Tis those welcome guests that my muse,
Though barren of elegant rhyme,
With energy wishes infuse
In measure to steal upon time:
O come then sweet goddess, content,
O come to tranquility's bower,
Upon thy calm comforts intent
I wooe thee to smile on the hour.

For cherish'd by thee, on the plain
The hawthorn in solitude blows;
The muse shall each essay explain
As fancy from sentiment flows:
So bright fair content is thy form,
Fair daughter of virtue most pure;
'Tis Delia and thee that must warm,
The pleasures of life to endure.

With folly the mind undebas'd,
Feels all that thy pleasures can pour;
Thy walk to the closure I trac'd,
And look'd with delight on thy store;
Ambition, that's false as 'tis mean,
The pomp of the wickedly great;
Content in thy converse not seen,
Nor seen in the cottager's seat.

To courts from retirement exil'd,
From streams which soft murmur along,
Ambition and pomp how beguil'd!
Contentment they hear not thy song:
Thy theme of unlimited joy
I hear from the lips of the vale;
Let luxury rise to destroy,
And splendour paint pageantry's sail.

The tempest of vice I defy,
The thunders of rapine may roll,
Relentless its whirlwinds may fly,
And conscience retort on the soul:
Content her protection shall yield,
Stretch over the cottage her wing,
Ambitious my Delia to shield,
Nor scorn whom her praises shall sing.

[pp. 39-40]