1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

May. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 2 (May 1774) 222-23.

Dr. William Perfect


Fifteen, later eighteen double-quatrain stanzas, signed "Mallingiensis, May 11, 1774." "What month in the mutable year | For honours with May can compare?" asks William Perfect, who in the most charming of his cycle of seasonal pastorals invokes the sylvan deities Pan, Sylvanus, and Pales to elevate his song. In what may be an imitation of the to Elizabeth in Spenser's Aprill, the May Queen is here Queen Charlotte: "Bright pattern of conjugal love, | The blessings of truth are thy own, | The graces, new-born from above, | Are gems which embellish thy throne." Perfect may also be remembering the salute to the Countess of Hertford in James Thomson's Spring. This passage was dropped when the poem was reprinted in 1787.



Approaches the mother of love,
The month of unsullied delight;
Her hand is adorn'd with a dove,
Her head is emblossom'd with white.
With colours that glow on the view
The pencil of Flora is behold,
Her garment of sky-brighten'd blue
Has studded with silver and gold.

The novel of nature we read,
How pleasing her prospects expand,
Thro' woodland, inclosure, and mead,
New beauties emerge from the land.
The carols of spring from the grove
Re-echo melodious notes,
'Tis the innocent music of love,
On the bosom of aether that floats.

Come, Pales, if pastoral lay
Your fancy to transport has led;
Panegyrics I sing on the May,
Assist me the portrait to spread.
And Pan with thy musical reed,
Sylvanus, thy neighbour, invite;
The muse in her progress to spread,
Protect her unpolish'd delight.

'Tis Pales herself on the plain,
Her robe of the dew-freshen'd green;
She can't be averse my strain,
So mild and compos'd is her mien.
Ye shepherds, your fleece-coated charge,
Her mandate permits to release,
Young bleaters go ramble at large,
Unfolded, go wander in peace.

The maple and plane-tree in bloom
Emblazon each sylvan retreat;
And Flora purloin from thy loom
To canopy over each seat.
By the side of the park in the vale
The hawthorn, young minion of May,
Her bosom unfolds to the gale
In blossoms exub'rant and gay.

The pink, many varied of vest,
The yellow and white asphodel,
And tulip, in pageantry dress'd,
Are emulous each to excel.
The rose, royal empress of sweets,
In the path of the fashion'd parterre,
The suckle and jessamine greets,
Sweet blossom her reign to revere.

Deep sunk in the lap of the dale,
Of Elegance simple the queen,
To lavish her sweets on the gale,
The lilly dawn-bosom'd is seen.
The orchis and fox-glove appear,
The hare-bell's alive in the shade,
Purple goddess that paints the young year,
Thy pallet each landscape is made.

Come, Delia, dear Hebe of youth,
O come, with thy dark azure eye;
How sweet to my heart is thy truth!
To the arms of thy Corydon fly.
See May, from yon rose-shedding cloud,
Restoress of pleasure descends;
The zephys await on the crowd
Of Sports which her levee attends.

Of Sol, the bright daughter, each hour
As devious we wander along,
Shall smile like a beam on the shower,
And Philomel heighten her song.
With innocence fix'd for our guide,
Thou sweeter by far than the May,
Tranquility close by our side,
Let Flora her rival survey.

The prais'd renovation enjoy,
My fair, with serenity bless'd,
And let not one trouble annoy
The halcyon May of thy breast.
May pleasure that's virtuous and pure,
Your heart true felicity bring,
Thro' a series of time to insure
In your mind a perpetual spring.

What month in the mutable year
For honours with May can compare?
The virtues of nature appear
Mild, innocent, noble and fair.
For see, 'mid the gay-purpled scenes,
Which scatter their fragrance on May,
They reign with the greatest of queens,
Of birth, whose imperial day

Returns, and loud Paean's arise,
The shouts of Britannia's acclaim,
Universally mount to the skies,
So great and deserv'd is her fame.
Bright pattern of conjugal love,
The blessings of truth are thy own,
The graces, new-born from above,
Are gems which embellish thy throne.

To soften the pillow of state,
Forbid the approach of a frown,
Dispel all the cares which await
On the pomp that encircles a crown.
O spare her, ye years, as you glide,
My muse of warm loyalty sings:
May Charlotte, of Albion the pride,
Long reign with the happiest of kings.

'Tis nature's spontaneous smile,
With gladness the earth is elate,
One carpet of velvet the soil
Has spread in superlative state.
The plume-painted minstrels of song
Commingle their generous lays
In notes which to raptures prolong
The season's creator they praise.

Shall man be deficient in grace?
Let gratitude banish the thought!
The hand of divinity trace
In May with munificence fraught.
The muse, admiration's thy friend,
Shall join in the mental repast,
The knee of thanksgiving to bend,
For mercies both present and past.

[pp. 222-23]