A singing contest in the pastoral ballad manner. In an original treatment of the Choice of Hercules theme, Edward Williams pairs Strephon (pleasure) against Colin (virtue). While Colin wins the prize by universal approbation, one cannot but think that Strephon is the more interesting singer: "Through thickets with CHLORIS I walk; | I fondle with PHILLIS the fair; | AMYNTA can mirthfully talk, | How charming her shape and her air."
Preface: "There were gentlemen of the first abilities that would have assisted me; but I could not think of accepting their very kind offers; for, I was from the beginning determined not to put the least imposition on the public, but to give them the real unsophisticated productions of the self-tutored Journeyman Mason" p. xiii.
American Monthly Review [Philadelphia]: "The Holiday Prize is no unfavourable specimen of our author's pastorals. Of the theory of bucolic poetry he seems to have a very just idea, from the various passages in his notes relative to the subject. It is strange that, with so rational a dislike to the borrowed forms, recollected terms, and artificial manners, of Pope's rustics, he should not have given us Welsh or English names, instead of Strephon and Phillis; and that he should not have made his shepherds sing for a wager instead of a prize" 1 (April 1795) 380.
'Twas ev'ning, benign were the skies,
We met where the maypole was rear'd;
And, warm for the Holiday Prize,
Two swains in the contest appear'd;
Two shepherds renown'd on the plains
For skill in the pastoral song:
And thus, in delectable strains,
Were led the gay carols along.
How sweet o'er the full-flowing bowl,
When gleeful companions are met,
With joy to replenish the soul,
And toils of the day to forget;
When social enjoyment runs high,
Tale jocund, or fanciful jest,
The frowns of dull care I defy,
For mirth is at home in my breast.
When twilight grows dim on the plains,
'Tis sweet with my DELIA to rove,
Where nightingales warble their strains,
And quiet prevails in the grove;
All haunts of rude mirth I forsake,
Avoiding its clamour and strife;
But keep every feeling awake,
To nobler enjoyments of life.
The huntsman with merry-ton'd horn,
Bids valleys and mountains resound;
And early goes out in the morn,
To chase the fleet hare o'er the ground:
With him through thick woodlands I fly,
Through dangers, wild rivers, and rocks;
Whilst musical hounds, in full cry,
Run swift in pursuit of the fox.
More pleas'd with the dangerless hour,
I plant in my garden the rose;
Or muse in my jessamine's bow'r,
Where nigh the sweet eglantine blows;
And, pleas'd with the blackbird and thrush,
I walk the green meadows along;
Or, under the bloom cover'd bush,
I sit and attend to their song.
In sports of the turf I delight,
The swift-running steeds of the race;
When holiday gambols invite,
I ev'ry gay moment embrace;
When mirthful at eve on the mead,
We lead the gay pastime along,
Through the rounds of its rapture I speed;
The frolick, the dance, and the song.
More usefully spending the day,
My flocks I'll attend on the down;
Where, fled from all follies away,
The moments are sweetly my own;
I pleasures approv'd by the wise
In scenes of tranquility seek;
The noblest enjoyments arise
From thoughts that are peaceful and meek.
Through thickets with CHLORIS I walk;
I fondle with PHILLIS the fair;
AMYNTA can mirthfully talk,
How charming her shape and her air;
I, chief of the musical swains,
Could I wish to be fetter'd for life;
Might cull from the nymphs of our plains,
The fairest of all for my wife.
My DELIA, for modesty fam'd,
For a soul that can folly despise;
My beautiful DELIA that's nam'd
By none but the good and the wise;
I lov'd her with passion unfeign'd,
For mental endowments alone;
The wish of my soul is obtain'd,
For, wedlock has made her my own.
The prize was a pipe of renown,
It came from a region remote;
It's warblings at eve on the down
Out-rival'd the nightingale's throat;
Whilst loud approbation declar'd
The wish of th' unanimous throng;
This pipe was proclaim'd the reward
Of COLIN'S unparallel'd song.