1791
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Imitation of Shenstone.]

American Mercury (1 August 1791).

Anonymous


Twelve unititled double-quatrain stanzas, not signed. In this pastoral ballad the love-smitten Corydon wanders by night enjoying a vision of happiness with his love, in which he imagines himself plucking a flower: "The sweet briar lent me a rose, | An emblem of life and its cares; | A moment it buds and it blows, | But thorns are the burden it bears." He awkens from his vision to behold a most distressing sight, and concludes his poem on a note of sad resignation. The American Mercury was published in Hartford, Connecticut. The title "Imitation of Shenstone" was given when the poem was reprinted in Philadelphia's American Museum.



When night shed her solitude round,
And Cynthia illumin'd the sky,
When dew drops bespangled the ground,
And light mist flew wantonly by;
Alone to a neighbouring grove,
With partial distraction I stray'd,
There tho't of the maiden I love,
While rapture my senses betray'd.

On the wings of delusion I flew
To the feet of the fair one I love:
I told her my passion anew;
My passion she deign'd to approve.
There fancy depicted our joy,
'Twas pleasure unmingled with woe,
'Twas happiness free from alloy,
'Twas Eden replanted below.

Reclin'd on her bosom of love,
As playful, and happy as May,
Lay an infant as pure as a dove,
And bright as the young star of day.
The rose budded fair in its face;
Truth and innocence beam'd from its eyes,
Its smiles were the symptoms of grace,
Its charms were the charms of the skies.

My house was an inn for the poor:
The beggar was often my guest:
They smil'd as they went from the door,
Their gratitude sweeten'd my rest.
My Delia was pleas'd to bestow,
What providence freely had given
She shar'd with the children of woe,
And bade them feel thankful to heaven.

While thus in sweet rapture I view'd
The scene which my fancy had drawn,
My feet wander'd far thro' the wood,
And insensibly trode the gay lawn;
The sweet briar lent me a rose,
An emblem of life and its cares;
A moment it buds and it blows,
But thorns are the burden it bears.

I smelt of the fragrance it shed,
'Twas sweet as the breathings of morn,
I press'd it, low droop'd its fair head,
And nothing remain'd but the thorn.
In a moment my senses return'd,
I sunk to the depths of despair,
And as the soft vision I mourn'd,
The cries of distress fill'd the air.

The shepherd lay snug in his bed
While dogs tore the lambs of the fold;
Too late to their rescue I fled,
Their lives to the prowlers were sold.
No more shall their bleatings delight;
No more shall the innocent train
In frolicsome gambols unite,
Or sportively skip o'er the plain.

I wept o'er their carcasses torn,
Their pleasures had scarcely begun;
But perhaps had they seen the next morn,
They then had been slaughter'd by man:
My mind thus from ills of my own
Turn'd to those of a lower degree,
I had tho't I was wretched alone,
But brutes were more wretched than me.

Ah Corydon, why will you love!
Why feed the soft passion in vain!
No sighs her compassion can move,
She smiles at the tale of your pain.
To love her, alas! is delight,
'Tis pleasure, 'tis bliss to my heart;
Though despair spreads around me her night,
Yet despair can her blessings impart.

She is fair as the pride of the vale,
The lily that vies with the snow;
Her breath is as sweet as the gale,
Where clover-fields fragrantly blow;
Her temper is sweet and serene,
Her bosom is pure and refin'd;
Expression enlivens her mien,
And virtue enriches her mind.

She is chaste as the fleeces that fly
On the wings of the tempest of snow:
Soft pleasure oft beams in her eye;
She can weep at the language of woe;
Her lips utter accents of truth—
Her voice is the music of even:
Her face wears the features of youth—
Of youth in the garden of heaven.

And when with the swain of her choice
She shall wed (may the moment be nigh!)
Though bleeding, my heart shall rejoice,
She is happy. — I'll bless her — and die:
Not a tear from my eyes shall be shed,
Not a sigh from my bosom arise;
In secret I'll lay down my head,
And wait for the fair in the skies.

[pp. 6-8]