Phyllis. A Pastoral.

Sentimental Magazine 2 (April 1774) 174.


A pastoral ballad in fifteen anapestic quatrains signed "Vaga." This lyric skillfully manages the traditional topics and presents a swain less simple and more philosophical than most: "Thus then am I robb'd of my bliss | By loving, who can't love again; | In her then, no fault is for this, | In me 'tis, who joy in my pain." Rather than leap off a cliff, he resolves to "ease my poor brain — for 'tis dry." Pastoral ballads, as one might expect, were a mainstay of the poetry column of the Sentimental Magazine, most of them by William Perfect.

Why heaves my fond breast with a sigh?
Why thus am I troubled in mind?
In vain still to conquer why try
Such beauty, with sense so refin'd?

But why seem to doubt of the cause?
Her conquests by all are confess'd:
Tho' bound as a slave to her laws,
In slav'ry I find myself bless'd.

Each turn of her eyes I behold,
And die as she darts forth each glance;
Then live, if a smile she unfold,
Or touch but my hand in the dance.

When self is concern'd, we are blind,
We believe, if we wish it to be;
Thus Phyllis to others was kind,
I thought that she meant it to me.

Her lips are with rubies all hung,
Her words are than Siren's more sweet;
Persuasion still dwells on her tongue,
And majesty moves in her feet.

A tale of distress doth she tell,
'Tis mercy itself that doth speak:
On earth should a god chuse to dwell,
His tent sure he'd pitch at her feet.

I've heard her with raptures declare,
That mercy came down from above,
To rule in the breast of the fair,
And be the twin-sister of love.

No bleat she e'er heard of a lamb,
As gaily she tripp'd o'er the green,
But quickly she'd look for the dam,
Nor think the herds-office too mean.

But now these gay scenes are no more,
Since Phyllis, my fair, is away,
I traverse the plain o'er and o'er,
But nothing can please the whole day.

The streams of the brooks us'd of old
To please with their murmuring song,
Now sorrow for me they unfold,
And mourn as they purl all along.

The shrill-toned thrush has forgot,
And the warbling nightingale too,
To chirp in their usual spot:
This, Phyllis, is owing to you.

No more I attend to my flock,
The wolf comes and scatters my sheep;
The pipe now my ear it doth shock,
Lambs bleat — and my heart it doth weep.

But tho' she is destin'd by fate,
Some happier Strephon to bless;
To win her tho' sure 'tis too late,
Yet still I can't love her the less.

Thus then am I robb'd of my bliss
By loving, who can't love again;
In her then, no fault is for this,
In me 'tis, who joy in my pain.

Since then there's but she that can cure,
And chear my poor heart ere I die,
I'll strive still my grief to endure,
And ease my poor brain — for 'tis dry.

[p. 174]