1803
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On an Autumnal Evening. A Pastoral Sketch.

Lady's Monthly Museum 11 (October 1803) 284-86.

Dr. William Perfect


Twelve and a half double-quatrains stanzas, signed "Dr. Perfect." "But whither, my Muse, would you rove" asks William Perfect, and well might he ask, for the ruminations in this pastoral lyric appear more disconnected than most. The poem celebrates the charity offered by Colin and Corydon, and bemoans the fact that it has not always received a proper return. Apparently these reflections were inspired by the autumn landscape: "And witness, pale moon, with thy light, | Where swims in soft silver thy mien, | Autumnus's stores to invite, | On wains to the barn on the green." The Monthly Museum continued to reprint verse by Perfect down to the time of his death in 1809, aged 72.



The sigh of my Muse would you hear,
In numbers that flow from my heart,
While faint in its progress the year
Already's diminish'd in part;
The joys of the sportsman, my friend,
When thunders the gun in the vale,
Too much with calamity blend,
My sorrows to lessen or heal.

While shade over shade deepens down,
And leaves a fresh carpet supply,
The groves, ruffled into a frown,
Look ragged and bare to the eye.
What tho' the soft pencil of sweets
No longer enamels our walk,
Supplies not umbrageous retreats,
Attracting convivial talk,

Thy mind, with sincerity deck'd,
Shall soften my bosom of toil,
My narrative hear with respect,
Myself to myself reconcile.
Although the dun swallows retire,
Abscond from our leaf-shedding glades,
The beauties of Eve we'll admire,
And traverse her far-spreading shades.

Give scope to the picturesque lay
While Nature autumnal commands,
Rejoice in the year's latest ray,
That beams o'er the brown-man seed lands,
The season when, Delia, we stray'd
To Colin's beneficent dome,
Where Charity, soul-chearing maid,
To Affliction was ever at home.

Mankind thy most general friend,
Sweet seraph of lineage divine,
We saw thee thy Colin attend,
His heart with thy own to entwine;
By Colin the goddess caress'd,
Bade tears of distress cease to flow;
The pangs of despair were suppress'd,
Tho' fixt by some despot of woe.

Through Colin she look'd more serene,
Her feelings were Charity's too;
Mild, gentle, unclouded of mien,
And bright as Aurora's first dew.

How meek is the eve! let us steal
From all the insensible crowd,
Who know not the pleasure to feel—
Too sordid! too rich! or too proud!
Autumnus presents us a bower,
As yet sav'd from Nature's decay,
In friendship to pass the still hour,
And yield to Affection's soft sway.

The virgin less bright than thyself,
Irradiates the fast-flowing week;
My views are not bounded by pelf,
Let Delia refrain not to speak;
Say Sadness ne'er enter'd the grove,
Thin clad in the stole of distress,
But Corydon chearfully strove
To render anxiety less.

Yet, though unambitious of praise,
From want did he never recede,
Or covet the garland of bays,
But friendship allow'd of the meed;
Yet would you believe it, you swains,
That Gratitude lagg'd in return?
Ye fair, who resort to our plains,
And scorn at good-nature to spurn.

You know that when Dorcas applied,
O'erwhelm'd with affliction acute,
Compassion, untainted with pride,
Consider'd, and soften'd his suit;
And witness, pale moon, with thy light,
Where swims in soft silver thy mien,
Autumnus's stores to invite,
On wains to the barn on the green;

Did Friendship to Dorcas reply,
Yet lulls not his breast to repose,
Upbraiding with insolent eye,
Exult in his heart-rending woes?
No! scarce had the sun in the west
Swept down the broad path of the day,
When Corydon found the distress'd,
His brotherly love to display.

Ingratitude, sprang you from this?
Did sharp-tooth'd Unkindness proceed,
Yet ne'er can that heart feel amiss,
When Charity sanctions the deed.
How oft shall Vivacity say,
The child that's been nurtur'd with care,
Forgets parent Love to repay,
To whom kind return would be dear?

But whither, my Muse, would you rove,
The Evening of Autumn your song?
To Providence tender your love,
For Providence never acts wrong.
To bear with ingratitude learn,
For acts in themselves their reward
Self-applause the most splendid return,
Religion and Peace can record.

[pp. 284-86]