[In Praise of Phillis.]

Town and Country Magazine 9 (February 1777) 103.


Six double-quatrain stanzas signed "Oxoniensis, W— College, Oxon." The poet praises Phyllis, who has looked kindly upon him, praises her graces, and describes being haunted by her face wherever he goes. Perhaps the classical references are meant to imply that he is a learned gentleman: "For the maids of her train I declare | Are no more to compare with my love, | That Ida's bright nymphs can compare | With the queen of the Cyprian grove." The Town and Country Magazine, which tended towards lighter fare than many of its rivals, was particularly fond of pastoral ballads.

This poem had the distinction of being printed in the Gentleman's Magazine, which published very few pastoral ballads, under the title of "In Praise of Phillis." Perhaps the fact that writer was an Oxford man helped to break the barrier. Some textual differences suggest that the Gentleman's Magazine version was taken from an improved manuscript.

O! Ye nymphs come and carol away,
Sweep loudly the joy-giving lyre,
Come, and join the heart-flowing lay,
For my Phyllis has lent a kind ear.
But see her bright form now advance,
Her presence all nature can cheer,
See the maidens who move in the dance
Come trooping to join the career.

What charms I descry in the face
Of the too lovely nymph I adore;
Such charms to descry I could gaze,
Till gazing itself was no more.
O! queen of the flow'ry tribe,
What's become of thy delicate hue?
Does Phyllis thy beauties imbibe?
'Tis she can thy beauties renew.

For the maids of her train I declare
Are no more to compare with my love,
That Ida's bright nymphs can compare
With the queen of the Cyprian grove.
Then let not my fair one repine,
Nor doubt that her shepherd dare prove
To a maid so engaging, so kind,
The wretch who is fickle in love.

Let me wander thro' desarts forlorn,
Not a friend to beguile the dull way,
Where Sol with rapidity born,
Too nearly directs his hot ray.
Over snow-crowned heights let me rove,
Where the face of bright Sol never glows;
When temper'd by Phyllis's love,
All the labours of life seem repose.

As Eurus' chill blast oft is found
To deprive of their bloom ev'ry tree,
So the force of my Phyllida's frown
Bears away all enjoyment from me.
Then why the fond passion forbear?
Why to far distant realms shou'd I fly?
'Tis in vain to depart — even there
Does my Phyllis her presence deny.

Not a line of that face I declare
But on Corydon's breast my be seen;
I wou'd try, yet I cannot compare
One who rivals the Cyprian queen.
Ev'ry thought that occurs to my mind
Bids the form of lov'd Phyllida rise,
Nor can absence a fair so refin'd,
E'er diminish in Corydon's eyes.

[p. 103]