1785
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

July, a Pastoral Poem.

Public Advertiser (2 September 1785).

Dr. William Perfect


Sixteen double-quatrain stanzas, not signed, the first in a cycle of seasonal pastorals dated from "Malling" and printed or reprinted in the Gentleman's Magazine and other periodicals from 1785 to 1787. Perfect, who had published two volumes of poems in the1760s, had a practice at Malling in Kent, where he specialized in curing cases of madness. This was actually his second monthly cycle; the first, composed in couplets, had a appeared in his Bavin of Bays (1763). The poems in this series had previously appeared in the Sentimental Magazine in 1773-74. The poet made many changes and in some cases considerable additions. Perhaps because they were republished on something of an occasional basis, the unity of the original cyclical design was lost in the process of amplification and republication.

In this poem the Shenstone motif is modulated out of pastoral ballad and into descriptive georgic: the poet, visiting the cottage of his friend Celadon, reflects on the virtues of retired life, tours the grounds, invites his lover to ascend a hill by moonlight, and meditates on the final transition to come. The center of the poem contains a fine thunderstorm: "The thunder, impressive of pain, | Rolls awfully solemn around; | And now it reverb'rates again; | Tremendous indeed is the sound." This and other items in the verses may have been suggested by James Thomson's The Seasons, from which an epigraph is taken: "Welcome, ye shades! ye bowery thickets hail!" If Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad supplies the meter, Shenstone's estate at the Leasowes may have suggested the matter of the poem.



Ye Dryads, who woo the recess
Where the oak's ample shadow extends,
To your haunts of retirement I press,
And the Muse my intrusion attends.
From the morning too brilliant I stray,
From the solar meridian blaze,
When mute is the chorister's lay,
And the sun darts his vertical rays.

Retirement, how sweet is thy power!
I fly from the indolent breeze;
I fly from the hot-parching hour;
Receive me, ye gloom-shedding trees.
With you, lonely Silence prevails,
You shelter my Celadon's seat,
Whose cot no ambition assails,
Save that to be honest and neat.

No sycophants here shall be heard,
Where Friendship her quietude seeks,
Sincerity utters the word,
From the lips of Veracity speaks.
What though in this temperate scite,
This hermitage hidden and mean,
No pane of high polish the light
Reflects to illumine the scene;

What though, on the unadorn'd wall
Does Sculpture her chissel deny,
No portal conduct to the hall,
Where paintings replenish the eye;
Yet here, in profusion of sweets,
Calm Solitude leads by the hand
The hind, who felicity meets,
And scorns the least wish to be grand.

The gay fascination of wealth
No envy to Celadon brings;
Be his but contentment and health,
With pity he looks down on kings.
Exempt from vexation and strife,
Devotion pours balm on his breast;
How smooth is that tenor of life,
Where conscience spreads poppies of rest!

Though lost are the posies of spring,
Their beauties all gone to decay,
Runcina the lily shall bring,
As soft and as sweet as the May.
How delicate white are her flowers!
How grateful and cool to the sight!
In silver-like grandeur she towers,
The garden's first pride and delight.

The amaranth has not denied
The eglantine's blossom to join;
The currant I see by her side,
At the foot of the wide-spreading vine.
The boughs of the cherry and pear
A canopy mutually form,
His cottage from perils to spare,
When rises the war of the storm.

And now, clouds collecting behold,
Whose darkness conceals the sun's light,
Though noon, yet what horrors unfold!
—appears an unseasonable night!
The thunder, impressive of pain,
Rolls awfully solemn around;
And now it reverb'rates again;
Tremendous indeed is the sound.

How dark and how dismal the scene!
Now rushes in torrents the rain;
Red flashes of Fate intervene;
Now shakes with convulsions the plain.
Let elements fretful contend,
The aether dissolve in a blaze;
To the breast of my unappall'd friend
Their fury no tremor conveys.

The terrible concert is o'er,
Hush'd all its impetuous rage.
Great Ruler! to Thee let me pour
The thanks which my bosom engage.
The tempest is o'er, and the Sun
Descends with his Thetis to rest.
If e'er by my theme thou wert won,
Come, Delia, sole queen of my breast.

Lo, Evening, mild daughter of Day,
In aspect as thou most serene;
Her smiles shall enliven my lay,
So calm and unclouded her mien.
The lark to her nestlings descends,
The wood deepens faster to brown;
To the village the cottager bends,
And lays him contentedly down.

The flocks and the herds are at large,
Their coverts of coolness they leave,
To taste of the rill's blady marge,
And share the soft gifts of the eve.
The swallow, in search of his prey,
Skims lightly o'er thistle and brake;
Glides swift as for plunder or prey,
His wings dash the wave of the lake.

How bright are the smiles of the youth,
Where summer perpetually reigns,
Thou gem of original truth,
Shall we join in the dance on the plains?
Thro' the fields where the purple-ey'd tare
Blooms lavish thy presence to greet:
To the glade of refreshment repair,
Where offers the moss-cushion'd seat.

To gain a repast for the eye,
Yon eminence shall we explore;
There, Delia, together descry
The streamers that crimson the shore;
Till the view by gradation shall fade,
The evening's late shadows prevail,
And Cynthia soft mantle the shade,
Full-orb'd, tell her marvellous tale?

Bright boast of my pastoral lay,
Dear maid of my uniform love,
Soon the morn of the long summer's day,
And its noon, must to evening remove;
But soon, when her shadows are fled,
The morning the day shall renew;
The sun shall arise from his bed,
Relumine each beautiful view.

How like is the portrait of man;
The morn of his infancy fades,
The race of his manhood soon ran,
And age bends him down to the shades.
But, like the bright morning's return,
Regenerate he shall arise,
In triumph burst forth from the urn,
And beam in the bliss of the skies.

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