1802
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Ballad.

Port Folio 2 (13 February 1802) 48.

Anonymous


A pastoral lyric in ten double-quartain stanzas, not signed. The poet considers the pains and joys of love and decides, all things considered, that he will accept them both: "And if love can allay our distress, | And, sweeten the cup of our woes; | Oh! why should we strive to suppress, | The sigh from which happiness flows." While this poem is plainly developed out of Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad, it is one of a number of later poems in the series in which the conventions of pastoral have all but dwindled away. Philadelphia's Port Folio would itself contribute to the demise of pastoral ballad with some burlesques of the genre in coming years. Its editor, Joseph Dennie, took particular interest in Anacreontic poetry, of which this poem might be considered an example.



Assist me to sing, lovely muse,
Let the fountains of Helicon flow;
Bright Phoebus thy spirit infuse,
And Venus thy favour bestow.
And thou, to whose beauties I bend
Thy influence deign to impart,
Nor blame, if you cannot commend
A carol, that flows from the heart.

I sing not the juice of the vine,
Its charms are all transient and vain;
By the pitiless frenzy of wine
Eurydice's lover was slain.
I sing not the pleasures of wealth,
The mines of Peru I despise,
Of the Gods I ask nothing but health,
And a smile from my Phyllida's eyes.

Much less can the terrors of war,
A tribute from poetry claim;
The trophies of Mars I abhor,
And regard not the bubble of fame.
What pleasures the grape can afford,
Let the children of Bacchus enjoy;
Let the miser brood over his hoard,
And the warrior delight to destroy.

But love, gentle love is my theme,
As pure as the heart of my fair;
Mid the darkness of life, 'tis a gleam,
To illumine the bosom of care.
—Yet, even the pleasures of love,
Untemper'd are never possess'd,—
And who, but the angels above,
With perfect enjoyments are bless'd?

Else, why at my Phyllida's sight,
Does my heart with solicitude beat?
Can the voice of extatic delight
The accents of terror repeat?
And why, when she smiles on my friend
Does my bosom unwillingly heave?
Can gentleness ever offend?
Or my Phyllida learn to deceive?

Yet, even sensations like these,
The breast of a lover can charm,
Though painful, they cannot but please;
They wound, but they furnish the balm.
And if love can allay our distress,
And, sweeten the cup of our woes;
Oh! why should we strive to suppress,
The sigh from which happiness flows.

When my Phyllida joins in the dance,
Her beauty, her grace they commend;
With delight I behold her advance,
Yet to beauty I little attend.
Should the goddess of Paphos appear,
She might spread her attractions in vain,
And the graces themselves, were they here,
I could view, without pleasure or pain.

When she touches the strings of the lyre,
Another may call it divine;
But the heart that can only admire,
Knows nought of the feelings of mine.
Her voice is as sweet to my ear
As the accents of merited praise—
I have heard other voices as clear,
But she adds a new charm to the lays.

How lately the rose was display'd!
How lately the lily was fair!
In verdure the groves were array'd,
And the zephyrs embalsam'd the air.
The voice of the songsters of spring,
Has tun'd to the accents of love,
And the muse, who inspir'd me to sing,
But echoed the notes of the grove.

From the rose all her colours are fled,
In crimson the forests are dress'd,
And the lily, how drooping her head,
By the zephyrs no longer caress'd.
The vallies no longer resound
With the notes of the warblers of May;
Yet no change in my breast can be found,
And still gentle love is my lay.

[p. 48]