1777
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Pastoral Elegy.

Town and Country Magazine 9 (May 1777) 269-70.

C.


Thirteen double-quatrain stanzas signed "C." This poem frames a conventional pastoral ballad with stanzas praising the departed Strephon, a particularly gentle and constant swain, done in by Phillis who after pledging constancy until death has run off with Damon, a beau of the town of "soothing address." Colin is left to sing the praises of his departed friend: "Each day will I visit with care, | And o'er his cold clay will I mourn, | Where in death lies released from despair, | The victim of Phillida's scorn." Strephon bestows his pipe upon Colin with the command that he not criticize the perfidious fair — which of course Colin has done in the course of his elegy.



Young Strephon, the pride of the plain,
Ye virgins in pity deplore,
Mourn, shepherds, the loss of the swain,
For Strephon, alas! is no more.
To his manes let this tribute be paid,
To his memory drop the sad tear;
Round the tomb where his ashes are laid
Let emblems of willow appear.

This cypress and yew shall be found,
To shade the green turf o'er his head,
His flocks shall bleat mournfully round,
And carefully watch round his bed:
The fairies by Luna's pale ray,
And elves round his tomb shall appear;
Thalia shall light on his clay,
And water his couch with her tear.

He was late the delight of the plains,
With his pipe he'd enliven the grove,
His song charm'd the nymphs and the swains,
His lay they'd in raptures approve;
The youths strove to copy from him
The graces of person and air,
For all who appeared like him
Was sure to succeed with the fair.

His mind was with virtue replete,
His actions were honest and just,
His conduct was open, discreet,
And constancy rul'd in his breast;
His manners were artless and free,
To virtue and honour allied,
From the wiles of deceit wou'd he flee,
And innocence still was his guide.

In praise of his merits I write,
His friendship inspires my lays,
His fame to rehearse my delight,
And pride is to dwell on his praise;
Each day will I visit with care,
And o'er his cold clay will I mourn,
Where in death lies released from despair,
The victim of Phillida's scorn.

No swain ever loved more true,
Tho' his suit she rejected with pride,
While foplings of falsehood and shew,
Perhaps more successful had try'd;
Yet why did she practise each art
The unwary swain to ensnare,
Why deem'd it the pride of her heart
To boast of a conquest so rare?

For long was she artfully kind,
His vows wou'd with pleasure approve,
And often wou'd study to find
Fresh means to inspire him with love;
How oft would she say with a sigh,
Which seem'd to flow free from the heart,
"When Phillida's false let her die,
For nothing but death shall us part."

Yet Damon's soft soothing address,
Gay Damon, the beau of this town,
Soon flatter'd her pride to excess,
And Strephon was left with a frown;
The arts that were us'd with the fair,
Were too much for an innocent swain,
Who only reply'd with a tear,
Or in sighs, tho' alas! 'twere in vain.

Her falsehood long troubled his mind,
His feelings no tongue can express,
In the grove in despair he reclin'd,
To the groves did he vent his distress;
'Midst the anguish of grief and despair
His bosom all tranquil appear'd,
Not a breeze was there heard thro' the air,
Not a whispering zephyr was heard.

Reclin'd as he lay there opprest,
My hand did he eagerly take,
There urg'd this his dying request,
While yet he had power to speak:
"Come, Colin, dear friend of my heart,
To this my request pray attend,
We shortly for ever must part,
Our friendship for ever must end.

"My lambkins so late my delight,
Your care shall defend from the cold;
For his Strephon thy Colin each night
Shall lead my fond flock to their fold;
Past friendship I know will inspire
His mind with the generous deed;
My pipe, which the nymphs so admire,
To Colin henceforth shall succeed.

"In remembrance of friendship so true,
A tribute of sighs shall he pay,
A friendship that, equall'd by few,
The theme of each past'ral lay!
But should you, like sorrows to mine,
Hereafter attempt to rehearse,
Shou'd the muses their powers resign,
To strengthen the force of thy verse;

"Forbear to reproach the fair maid,
Nor treat her with cruel disdain,
'Tis enough that she grieves when I'm dead,
Her falsehood will then be her pain?
Like mine be her hour of death
With heavenly hope still inspir'd,"
Thus serenely resign'd he his breath,
And thus in my arms he expir'd.

[pp. 269-70]