1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

October. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 2 (October 1774) 460-61.

Dr. William Perfect


Fifteen, later seventeen double-quatrain stanzas, signed "Mallingiensis, Oct. 5, 1774." The October poem contrasts the richness of the harvest season with an intense melancholy forboding; the songbirds of spring are now gone: "My muse cannot sing in the grove | And think of past transports serene, | When Zephyrs invited to love, | And Delia was extacy's queen." The sadness of the concluding poem of the cycle recalls Spenser's December; it concludes appropriately, with an elegy for one Lycander who lived a retired life remote form the world. One suspects that as in Gray's Elegy, the character is meant for the poet himself: "I saw him one day 'neath the oak | That measures a shade of extent, | His silence his misery spoke, | Deep sorrow to solitude lent."



Of visage deep-wrinkled with care,
His temples a chaplet surround,
With acorns and oak-leaves his hair,
And starwort with saffron is bound.
The dam'sene her purple bestows,
A sash o'er his shoulder to throw;
With negligence easy it flows
Immingled with gifts from the sloe.

His right hand the scorpion suspends,
High-lifted it writhes in the air;
From his left a rush basket impends,
Replete with the walnut and pear:
His franchise it is to invoke
The fog of blue mist on the hill,
Thick rising like columns of smoke,
Exhal'd from the vale-loving rill.

He comes — shall my muse wake the reed?
Ah where are the notes of the bough!
When whilom the beech on the mead
Spread shelter for Phillida's cow:
When Philomel's pastoral lay
Trill'd loudly her queruolous strain,
The kids with the lambkins in play,
Skipp'd frolicksome over the plain.

My muse cannot sing in the grove
And think of past transports serene,
When Zephyrs invited to love,
And Delia was extacy's queen:
When near the smooth lapse of the brook
I sought thro' the whispering vale,
The roses which painting her crook,
Compar'd to her blushes were pale.

No more to the brook must I stray,
From the whispering valley exil'd;
No longer these Zephyrs shall play
Round Delia that linger'd and smil'd:
Farewell to the white-flaunting hop,
The gardens that glow'd to the sight;
Yet the blooming arbutus I'll crop,
Present to the fair with delight.

I'll gather autumnal perfume,
The suckle shall yield her last sweet;
Convulvus offers her bloom,
To decorate Delia's retreat;
The pheasant I'd bear to my maid,
But shrink from the present with fear,
Lest into fresh sorrow betray'd,
Her eyes are suffus'd with a tear.

Pomona, in straw-colour'd vest,
With marigolds stuck in her hair,
The gossamer gauzing her breast,
Her cheeks ruddy beauty declare;
October she met in the close,
He courted her presence and shape;
Vertumnus in jealousy rose,
And thought 'twas the god of the grape.

But Bacchus I see in the vale,
The Satyrs his orgies sustain;
My path from his feasts I curtail,
Reject his incontinent train;
The fig and the vine let me bring,
Great Bacchus, to honour thy sway,
The games of the vintage to sing,
Give vigour, ye nine, to my lay.

But who is this envoy of woes,
That wakes with Aurora's first ray,
His song of complaint to disclose,
From the vine or the jessamine spray?
He sings desolation to come;
Sharp winter predicts from aloof;
My shed, social bird, be thy home,
Securely perch under my roof.

Dost grieve that the summer is past?
The trees their green ornaments shed?
That omens of winter in haste
Approaching press over thy head?
Prolong, gentle red-breast, thy strains
Contagions shall usher thy moan;
My sympathy share in thy pains,
Thy sorrows, poor bird, be my own.

When mid-day is silent around,
The gloom of ag'd cypress I seek,
The turf is with osiers fresh bound,
The cause my dejection must speak:
Lycander, my once valued friend,
Ah, muse! much indebted, essays,
In sadness from friendship to send
What elegy weeps into lays.

The virtues all pinioned in thee,
Thy solitude's sacred retreat,
Made innocence grandeur to thee,
Whose soul was serenity's seat:
False pageantry ne'er could annoy;
The gems of content were thy own;
Mild competence furnish'd a joy
Denied to the pride of a throne.

Obscurity mark'd his estate;
Yet temperate health was his lot;
He scorn'd the least wish to be great,
Whose pomp was the peace of a cot;
How fervent, sincere flow'd the strain,
With simple morality fraught;
Devoutly religious, tho' plain,
He spoke to the God of his thought.

Ambition unknown to his breast,
Unknown every clamourous strife,
The venom corrosive of rest,
That fury that harrows up life:
Yet pensively thoughtful he grew,
The mate of his youth was no more;
The friend of his age, ever true,
His feelings intensely deplore.

I saw him one day 'neath the oak
That measures a shade of extent,
His silence his misery spoke,
Deep sorrow to solitude lent:
His brow was as dark as the shade;
He sought from the path of the dell,
Nor long did he grieve in the glade,
But languishing droop'd 'till he fell.

[pp. 460-61]