1784
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Ballad.

Boston Magazine 1 (May 1784) 296.

Anonymous


Ten anapestic quatrains, not signed. The poet was a stranger to pain until Laura appeared on the plain. Smitten, he tenders his affection only to be rejected, and the rest follows: "Ye shepherds, be kind to my sheep; | A week they have now been astray: | Ill fortune no longer I'll weep | My death I'll no longer delay." The first line of this Boston poem, while it conveys the essence of the pastoral ballad genre, is something of a mind-teaser.



My pain while for ease I renew,
Ye shepherds attend to the strain,
Once careless and jocund as you,
I followed my sheep on the plain.

With joy at the sparrows shrill note,
I arose to hail the new day;
My sheep I then let from their cote,
And piped for the lambkins to play.

When Philomel sung from her spray,
And the blackbird retired to his brake,
My reed I attuned to her lay,
Or danced with the nymphs at the wake.

Thus free from all trouble and care,
I never was heard to complain;
A stranger I was to despair,
Till Laura appeared on the plain.

The force of her charms was so great,
The swains at a distance admir'd,
The hermit impell'd by his fate,
Once saw and ne'er after retir'd.

Yet equal in beauty and sense:
Tho' malice accused her of pride,
Her virtues alone gave offence,
This falshood had envy contrived.

Whenever she mentioned the green
Or talked of a walk to the grove;
I beg'd on my arm she would lean,
She smil'd and thus taught me to love.

Distracted by hope and by fear,
My passion at length to declare,
I spoke of a friendship sincere,
She frown'd and thus taught me despair.

Ah fate, I receive thy decree:
Whole days I now wander alone;
Whole nights I sit by some tree,
To hear the sad turtle bemoan.

Ye shepherds, be kind to my sheep;
A week they have now been astray:
Ill fortune no longer I'll weep
My death I'll no longer delay.

[p. 296]