1760
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Damon and Phillis.

Universal Magazine 26 (April 1760) 203.

John Cunningham


A pastoral eclogue in anapestic couplets, signed "J. Cunningham, Histrio." This is one of the first poems to appear by the Irish-born, north-country actor who would shortly become Britain's premier pastoral poet. In this dialogue Damon and Phillis work through their jealous differences and arrive at a mutual agreement: "In the villager's cottage such happiness springs, | That peasants with pity may look down on Kings! | To the church then let's hasten, our transports to bind, | And Damon will always prove constant and kind." Cunningham introduced a lyric grace into eighteenth-century British pastoral recalling its Tudor and Stuart predecessors.

At the time of publication Cunningham was working as an actor in Edinburgh in a company of actors directed by a Mr. Love. "Damon and Phillis" may have made its first appearance in an Edinburgh newspaper.

W. Davenport Adams: "John Cunningham, poet (b. 1729, d. 1773), wrote May-Eve, Content, and other songs and lyrics. See Campbell's Specimens" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 165.



DAMON.
When Phillis was faithful and fond — as she's fair,
A wreath of young roses incircled her hair!
But the willow, sad shepherd, must shadow thy brows,
For Phillis no longer remembers her vows;
To the groves, with fond Colin, the shepherdess flies,
While Damon disturbs the still plains with his sighs.

PHILLIS.
Bethink thee, false Damon, before you upbraid;
When Phoebe's young lambkin had yesterday stray'd,
To the woodlands you wander'd, (poor Phillis forgot)
And drove the gay rambler quite home to her cot;
But a swain so deceitful no damsel can prize!
'Tis Phoebe — not Phillis — lays claim to your sighs.

DAMON.
Like summer's gay season, young Phoebe is kind,
And her manners are graceful — untainted her mind!
Though the sweets of contentment her cottage adorn,
Though she's fresh as the rose-bud — and fair as the morn,—
Though she smiles like Pomona — these smiles I'd resign,
If Phillis were faithful, and deign'd to be mine.

PHILLIS.
On his pipe though young Colin so prettily plays,
Though he sings such sweet sonnets, and writes in my praise;
Though he chose me his truelove last Valentine's day,
When birds sat like bridegrooms all pair'd on the spray;
I could drive the gay shepherd far, far from my mind,
If Damon, the rover, were constant and kind.

DAMON.
Fine folk, my sweet Phillis, may revel and range,
But how fleeting the transport that's founded on change!
In the villager's cottage such happiness springs,
That peasants with pity may look down on Kings!
To the church then let's hasten, our transports to bind,
And Damon will always prove constant and kind.

PHILLIS.
To the church then let's hasten, our transports to bind,
And Phillis will always prove constant and kind.

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