1796
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Contented Ploughman. A Pastoral.

Weekly Museum 8 (18 June 1796).

M. E. O'B.


An unusual retirement ode in six double-quatrains stanzas signed "M. E. O'B." The singer in this American pastoral ballad feels no concern at the political turmoil racking Europe: "Tho' terrors now shake the whole earth, | They glide o'er a mortal like me; | I'll bless the kind stars of my birth, | That left me contented and Free." The poem is also notable for its celebration of labor, not traditionally a pastoral theme. A later poem in New York's Weekly Museum bears the signature "M. E. O'Brian."



Tho' all nations to arms now arise,
And Anarchy falls to the ground;
When lingering Royalty dies,
Ambition receives her death wound.
Tho' terrors now shake the whole earth,
They glide o'er a mortal like me;
I'll bless the kind stars of my birth,
That left me contented and Free.

I have but a little in store,
I ne'er plagu'd my soul with much wealth;
I'd rather be temperate and poor,
Than lessen the Rock of my health.
What signifies that strong debate
That seems right or wrong unto me?
I gave up such cares to the state,
Whilst I live contented and Free.

I rise to my labours at dawn,
I breathe the sweet balm of the spring,
And when o'er the dew-sprinkl'd lawn
I hear the sweet choristers sing;
How pleasing responsive the vale,
How happy such tidings to me,
While harmony waits on the gale,
And tells I'm contented and Free!

When Sol on his chariot elate
Expands the meridian of day,
My oxen from toil I abate,
And o'er the fresh fallow they stray.
They ne'er at their labours repine,
Since labour for living must be,
They follow that precept of mine,
And ramble contented, when Free.

At eve, when the dew drops descend,
I make the sweet swarms all my care;
My bees in their hives I defend,
And shelter them from the chill air;
With harmonious hum they retire,
Such gratitude rests in the bee,
And when on fresh sweets they aspire,
They fly out contented and Free.

Scarce finish'd, I suddenly hear
A sound on the gentle breeze spread,
'Tis DELIA surprises my ear,
And tells me her flocks are all fed.
Thrice welcome my DELIA I've prest,
And told her how welcome to me,
In love we'll live mutually blest,
Both happy, contented, and Free.

[unpaginated]