1773
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Pastoral Elegy on the Death of Mr. John Cunningham, an eminent Pastoral Poet.

Town and Country Magazine 5 (December 1773) 670.

W. K-x


An elegy for John Cunningham in ten anapestic quatrains, signed "W. K—x, jun. Thurston in Cravon." Irish-born John Cunningham was, with William Shenstone, the chief model for the pastoral ballad that was so very popular in the 1770s. This elegy uses the same measure that Cunningham had used to memorialize Shenstone in "Corydon, a Pastoral to the Memory of William Shenstone" (1763). The poet encounters a fair maiden, whose name, he learns, is Pastora: "My Damon delighted in song, | Not such as dull rustic rehearse; | But love and good sense went along, | And Damon lik'd pastoral verse." The last line quotes "Phillis, a Pastoral" one of Cunningham's more popular lyrics. Pastora urges the poet to emulate Damon.



As lately I walk'd o'er the plain,
The loveliest of nymphs I espy'd;
With sorrow I heard her complain,
For with anguish she bitterly sigh'd.

I resolv'd to address the fair maid,
And learn the sad cause of her moan;
But as I approach'd her she said,
"Kind shepherd, pray leave me alone.

"No comfort I here can receive,
Such losses I'm doom'd to deplore,
These woods and these plains I must leave,
For my Damon, sweet youth, is no more."

Her plaint I no longer cou'd hear,
Sighs and tears in a flood stopt the rest;
And from weeping I cou'd not forbear,
To see this fair nymph so opprest.

Amaz'd with those charms I espy'd,
With the graces that round her did shine;
She must be some goddess, I cry'd,
Her origin sure is divine.

Quite anxious to know this fair maid,
I beg'd she her name wou'd reveal;
"My name is Pastora," she said,
"Of shepherds and songsters the theme.

"My Damon delighted in song,
Not such as dull rustic rehearse;
But love and good sense went along,
And Damon lik'd pastoral verse.

"His muse was so chaste and refin'd,
So free from all malice and guile,
That it charm'd whilst it better'd the mind,
And abhor'd ev'ry thought that was vile.

"But ah! the dear lad is no more!
Pale death, that regards not how few
Of such shepherds remain on this shore,
Has remov'd the lov'd swain from my view."

Then departing she said, "gentle swain,
If in pastoral verse you delight,
Let Damon's chaste muse aid the strain,
For his muse did in virtue delight."

[p. 670]