1806
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Pastoral.

Monthly Anthology and Boston Review 3 (October 1806) 522-23.

Peter Pastoral


A descriptive essay signed "Peter Pastoral." This New England poem assimilates the most recent thinking about the pastoral genre, which was rapidly evolving into a more amorphous kind of "rural poetry." What remains of the old form is the idea of rural otium, which is still associated with the figure of the shepherd: "Oft have I view'd in still and sultry hours, | All loosely spread beneath his native bowers, | While herds around the flowery pasture took, | This vacant shepherd, sleeping on his crook." But nothing remains of the dramatic form of the traditional eclogue; the shepherd is seen and not heard. For all its novelty in this respect, this poem is thoroughly indebted to eighteenth-century models: to imitations of Milton's L'Allegro for its structure, to Goldsmith's The Deserted Village for its metrics, and to Horatian retirement odes for its sentiments. The expanding definition of pastoral was resulting in a reinterpretation of earlier literature, so that even as the traditional eclogue was being set aside, a much wider range of works were coming to be regarded as "pastoral."

Charles Brockden Brown?: "A periodical performance, entitled The Monthly Anthology, is published in Boston. Some numbers of this work we have seen, but have not yet read attentively. The editor and publisher of this work is requested to accept our thanks for transmitting to us those numbers which have already appeared. We shall be grateful for the ensuing numbers as they shall be published, and shall send, in return, the present and future numbers of the Literary Magazine" "Notices of American Writers and Publications" Literary Magazine and American Register [Philadelphia] 2 (August 1804) 345.



Between those sister elms with ivy hoar
Peeps out the simple cottage of the poor;
How green before the door the clover-lawn!
How sweet the hedges smell of fragrant thorn!
How pure that brook limps o'er its pebbly bed,
'Tween banks of thyme where willows hang the head,
And linnets build, and fly from spray to spray,
And warble wild their song the livelong day.

On yonder hills, that skirt the eastern sky,
When morn begins to peer with prudish eye,
Scarce gilds the mists, that cloud the fuming rill,
Or tips the foam, that breaks beside the mill,
Forth from this dwelling hies the early swain,
And, whistling, field-ward drives his lagging wain.
No wants are his by restless greatness felt,
No studious lids his little taper melt,
Regardless he, howe'er the world may fare,
So timely crops repay his honest care.

Oft have I view'd in still and sultry hours,
All loosely spread beneath his native bowers,
While herds around the flowery pasture took,
This vacant shepherd, sleeping on his crook.
How lightly here methought his moments flew,
Remov'd from noisy fame and publick view;
No seeming friend beside his bosom laid,
But faithful WATCH who guards the checker'd shade;
No fawning slave who waits Ambition's word,
With crimson hand to flesh the murderous sword.
His tuneful groves that gratulate the dawn,
The flocks that wander o'er the peaceful lawn,
And smiling Spring, her hair with cowslips bound,
From rosy fingers strewing fragrance round;
While cooling Zephyr sports on gelid wings,
Skims o'er the plain and through the greenwood sings,
Shakes liquid pearl from off the nodding sheaf,
Or whispering plays on aspen's twinkling leaf.

When Day retiring fires the glowing west
With broken clouds, that round his forehead rest,
When moping owlets quit the mouldering tower,
And widow'd turtles moan in lonely bower,
When hill and tree a lengthen'd shadow throw,
And mournful Evening comes in weeds of wo,
Returning home the swain with pleasure eyes,
In wreaths fantastick climbing through the skies,
The smoke from out his little cabin creep,
Which trees imbowering veil in umbrage deep.
In 'kerchief clean and speckl'd apron gay,
His Mary speeds to meet him on the way;
While round in breathless haste his children press,
And fondly struggle for the first caress.

And through the naked woods when cold winds blow,
And chirping sparrows nestle in the snow,
While on the bush the slender 'cicles hang,
Beside the cleanly hearth, where faggots sing,
And through the room a social brightness fling,
Amid the group he sits with marvelling gaze,
Listening the fearful tales of gothick days;
How spectres groaning stalk'd their dusky round
With saucer eyes, in charnel garments wound;
How once in ruin'd castle, strange to tell,
At waste of midnight toll'd the northern bell;
Where none at evening e'er so stout durst stray,
Lest gliding ghost should cross his blasted way.
If chance with passing breeze the casement jar,
All trembling huddle round the speaker's chair.

Thus flow his hours harmonious, tranquil, clear,
While pleasures vary with the varying year.....
Here would I lose the world without a sigh,
And wish my humbler bones inturf'd to lie.

[pp. 522-23]