The Autumnal Evening. A Pastoral Poem.

Sentimental Magazine 3 (November 1775) 516-17.

Dr. William Perfect

Fourteen double-quatrain stanzas signed "Mallingiensis." The sense of this pastoral ballad is particularly obscure, though its general burden is clear enough: "E'er lov'd be the pastoral lay | Which Nature in Autumn commands, | Be honour'd the year's latest ray, | That beams o'er the brown-mantled land." William Perfect contrasts the happy relationship between Colin and the goddess of Charity with his own unhappy experience with Zanga, who evidently did not appreciate the kindness received from the poet. Perfect, however, appeals to the wisdom of Providence, and after all, the world, like an autumn evening, is a mutable thing. Unlike the other poems printed in the Sentimental Magazine, The Autumnal Evening was not reprinted, possibly because it places the poet in an unflattering light, or possibly because the poet himself could not make sense of it when he collected his verse for republication in 1796.

The sighs of my song wou'd you hear
The numbers that flow from my heart,
As faints in its progress the year,
My muse from her mirth must depart.
The joys of the sportsman, my friend,
When thunders the gun in the vale,
My sorrows can never unbend,
While cruelty sobs in the vale.

'Tis barbarous in man to defend
The stubble to rob of its plume;
Our moments more harmless to spend
We'll hasten away to the gloom,
Where shade over shade deepens down,
And leaves a soft carpet supply,
The groves ruffled into a frown,
Look russet and bare to the eye.

What tho' the soft offspring of sweets
No longer enamel the the walk,
We'll take our farewel of the seats
In softest convivial talk;
For thou with white innocence deck'd,
Engross'd every grace in thy smile,
Simplicity paid the respect,
And soften'd thy bosom of toil.

Altho' the dun swallows retire,
Revert from our leaf-sheading glades;
The beauties of ev'ning admire,
Admire her far-spreading shades.
E'er lov'd be the pastoral lay
Which Nature in Autumn commands,
Be honour'd the year's latest ray,
That beams o'er the brown-mantled land.

Remember, Clarissa, we stray'd
To Colin's beneficent dome,
Where Charity, sweet smiling maid,
Embellish'd the villager's room.
Mankind thy most general friend,
Fair seraph of domage divine!
We saw thee to Colin descend,
Who triumph'd in all that was thine.

We saw her all meek and serene,
His transport was Charity's own;
How sweetly celestial her mien!
Unwrinkled by Misery's frown!
By Colin the goddess caress'd,
The tear that was sad ceas'd to flow;
The pang of the soul was represt,
Tho' fixt by some despot of woe.

'Tis Nature, thy eve, let my steal
From all th' insensible crowd:
Clarissa, if finely you feel
My sentiment publish aloud:
And that the soft feelings are yours
Stands first on the page of my creed,
The thought sober Fancy ensures,
And brings to affection the lead.

The virgin, less bright than yourself,
Irradiates the fast-wasting week,
My prospect's unbounded by wealth,
Conceal not in public to speak;
Say sadness ne'er enter'd the grove,
Thin clad in the weeds of distress,
But Corydon's chearfully strove
To render Anxiety less.

Yet not too ambitious for praise,
Say when to the soft plaintive reed
Your shepherd a tribute wou'd raise
'Twas friendship alone was his meed.
Yet would ye believe it, ye swains,
That friendship was slow in return!
Ye maids who inhabit the plains,
That scorn at good nature to spurn?

Remember when Zanga applied,
Was Corydon deaf to his call?
Compassion untainted by pride,
Prevented approaching his fall!
And witness, thou moon, with thy light,
When mantled in silver thy mien,
Autumnus in stores to invite
On wains to the barn on the green.

Did zephyrs to Zanga reply
Yet lull not his breast to repose,
The streamlets all wept to his cry,
Yet heal'd not lamenting his woes;
Yet scarce had the sun to the west
Swept down the broad road of the day,
Than Corydon sought him distress'd,
The debt that he felt to repay.

Ingratitude sprung you from this?
O wonder not all that can know!
To man can his heart feel amiss,
Mistaken in healing of woe.
Nor wonder shou'd Verity say,
The child that is nurtur'd with care,
Forgets the fond hand to repay,
To whom kind returns would be dear.

But whither my muse wou'd you rove?
The ev'ning of autumn your song;
To Providence offer thy love,
For Providence never acts wrong;
Ask not to be wealthy nor great,
For trouble the twain will attend,
And wou'd you shun aggrandiz'd fate
Implicitly trust not a friend.

Lo! spring, with her storehouse of joys,
To all the young pleasures gives birth
How soon ardent summer destroys
The season the sweetest on earth:
And summer to autumn must yield,
We cherish the peace of his eve,
'Tis gone — and thro' life's changing field
Thy winter, O Friendship! we grieve.

[pp. 516-17]