The Grateful Lay. A Pastoral. Inscribed to the Memory of the celebrated Mr. Gay.

London Magazine 49 (June 1780) 278.

W. S.

A salute to John Gay ("the Shakespeare of Pastoral Verse") in eleven anapestic quatrains, signed "W. S.": "His truely Theocritan strains, | Wherever he warbled his reed, | Bespeak him, of all the gay swains, | The shepherd of worthiest meed." While written in the ballad measure associated with Shenstone's pastorals, the argument seems to be that Shenstone diverted British pastoral away from its true source in Theocritus; it is made in an allusion to the concluding stanza of John Cunningham's "Corydon, a Pastoral to the Memory of William Shenstone" (1763), which in the original reads as follows: "Ye shepherds, henceforward be mute, | For lost is the pastoral strain; | So give me my CORYDON'S flute, | And thus — let me break it in twain."

The "Bucolic rivals" are identified in a note as Pope and Philips (rendered as "Phillis" — the compositor seems to have had some difficulty with this poem). In recent years the fashion for pastoral ballads had indeed put a damper on the burlesque imitations of Gay which had been so popular at mid century, much as the pastoral realism of the 1790s would in turn eventually render the pastoral ballad unfashionable. W. S. contributed several pastoral ballads and other short lyrics to the London Magazine.

Ye shepherds attend to my lay,
Which gratefully I do rehearse,
To the memory of tuneful Gay,
The Shakespeare of Pastoral Verse.

His manners were gentle and mild,
As his converse was rural and sweet;
He was justly "Simplicity's child,"
As immortal Pope doth repeat.

His truely Theocritan strains,
Wherever he warbled his reed,
Bespeak him, of all the gay swains,
The shepherd of worthiest meed.

The sweet eclogues, which Cunningham sung,
Our sorrow shou'd never abate;
Nor the harmony of Shenstone's tongue,
His loss to us e'er compensate.

For can we so quickly forget,
Or e'er it so happ'ly repair,
As his Grubbinol and Bumpkinet,
Did that of their Blouzelind fair.

"What of Shenstone (mild Cunningham said)
I with justness do humbly deny,
Since with Gay the true pastoral fled,
And with him too, I fear, it did die."

The Bucolic rivals dispute,
About whether deserved the bays,
Was instantly silent and mute,
When were seen Damon's worthier lays.

So to him the fair laurel was borne
By Genius, as justly his own;
Which, while living, his brow did adorn,
And since dead, on his tomb's ever grown.

Tho' on each annual eve of his death,
For a space it is withered seen,
Till — from a breeze of his Fame's balmy breath,
It re-bloometh more lovely and green.

Long, ye nymphs and ye lambkins, bewail
The loss of your favourite swain,
Whose presence illumin'd each vale,
And brighten'd the pleasantest plain.

But, why do I try to proclaim,
The praise of our Damon, whose worth,
Long ere now, on the pinions of Fame,
Has been borne o'er all parts of the earth.

[p. 278]