1818
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Betty's Concealment of her Passion: a Pastoral.

British Luminary and Weekly Intellegencer (17 October 1818) 22.

Walter


A burlesque pastoral ballad in eleven double-quatrains stanzas signed "Walter." This clever pastoral presents the character of a particularly shy and simple swain who is mystified by the attentions shown to him by his fellow servant Betty: "Last Sunday at Church, with my book, | A reading the Homilies o'er, | I cough'd — and she gave me a look— | Ah! my Bible I dropp'd on the floor!" The burlesque works not merely by substituting vulgar images and diction for the elegance of the Shenstone tradition, but by describing the manners of of real country folk instead of the affectations of gentry pretending to be shepherds. At the same time, the sentimentality of this burlesque is akin to that found in most of the series.



Ye ploughmen, and hedgers, and ditchers,
Who labour these valleys among,
Come, lay by your bottles and pitchers,
And listen awhile to my song:
For, ah! It may teach ye to learn
How tricksome and sly are the fair,
And haply may teach yet to spurn
The shackles of Doubt and Despair.

O Lord! what a beautiful thing
It is to be loving and kind!
O Lord! what a beautiful thing
It is to push trouble behind!
For me — ah, my spirits, I lose 'em,
The phantoms of Hope do I grasp—
Love, Love hath crept into my bosom,
And stings me as bad as a wasp.

My face — O, how haggard and pale!
My sorrows all come in a lump;
In vain is thy sparkling ale,
My heart is as dead as a dump.
While Betty her love will conceal
(Mayhap she but does it to fun me,)
I feel — what I cannot but feel—
That Betty somehow hath undone me.

Last Sunday at Church, with my book,
A reading the Homilies o'er,
I cough'd — and she gave me a look—
Ah! my Bible I dropp'd on the floor!
And mayhap I am wrong, when she came
Elbowing me down the white wall,
To think — what I cannot but name—
She lov'd me the best of them all.

Last even, when I would have slept,
My head on the table, O la!
How silly behind me she crept,
And tickled my nose with a straw.
I rous'd up, and gave her a wink,
And said — "Ha! do I understand this?"
But haply I'm wrong when I think
She wish'd I had given a kiss.

One night as we sat all a row,
Round the fire-side watching a cake,
She carefully trod on my toe,
And said it was all a mistake!
She pinch'd me, and said, "Come, I know,
It is you who have let the cake burn;"
I didn't believe it, and so
I gave her a pinch in return.

How often at dinner does she
Strew heaps o' nice bits on my plate, ah!
And often and often, good me,
Bepicks me a mealy potato!
And oh! how she softens my bed,
And turns the hard flock to a feather—
And lays a clean cap for my head,
And pins my old curtain together.

How clean to the chapel she goes,
How witty and pleasant she talks,
How pretty she turns out her toes,
And splashes the dirt as she walks.
With laughter the rafters all ring,
Whenever she tells her droll riddles;
And, oh! did you hear her but sing,
You'd think 'twas a couple of fiddles!

How graceful she trundles a mop,
How sweetly she handles a broom,
How well doth she lather the slop,
How white doth she scour a room!
How nicely she brushes my clothes,
And ties on my 'kerchief with care;
And darns, with a needle, my hose,
And letters my shirts with her hair.

Her cheeks are two mellowing dates,
Like pippins with redness puff'd up hard;
Her teeth are two rows of white plates,
Set prettily round a red cupboard.
And, oh! do you look at her eyes,
That modestly peep down her nose — See!
They're beautiful blue-bottle flies
That settle upon a red rose-tree.

O Lord! when I muse them I famish—
My sorrows all come in a lump:—
When I see her — I blush and long lamb'ish,
And my heart is as dead as a dump.
When Betty once tells me she loves me,
I sigh again, never, O never!—
Nor tell how my passion now shores me
To madness, for ever and ever.

[unpaginated]