1685
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On a Cheese. A Pastoral.

Maggots, or, Poems on several Subjects, never before handled. By a Schollar.

Rev. Samuel Wesley


A burlesque pastoral of an unusual design. The lovers Strephon and Amoretta sit before a Rammel cheese, which Strephon is challenged to praise. Amoretta, however, is not impressed with his conventional topics: "Let stiff Princes dream alone | On their steep unenvy'd Throne! | Our brighter Cheese out-shines their Crown, | And weighs the gilded Bauble down: | We'll a nobler Note begin; | Call and rouze the God within!" They launch into a mock-heroic account of cheese-making, and the poem concludes with Strephon's resolution to offer the milky treasure to he who can best best sing Amoretta's praises. The stages of the cheese-making process scale the hierarchy of genres, from pastoral to georgic to epic. The poem, like the other burlesques in Samuel Wesley's anonymous volume, is illustrated with mock-scholarly notes.

Author's note: "(Rammel) is a word, I think not much used about London, but common in the West, oppos'd to Skim-Cheese. Thus you find it pretty often in Mr. Creeches Theocritus" 105n.

Author's note: "The Ancile was a certain very holy Relique among the Romans, being the very handy-work of Jupiter himself: but least this precious business should be stole from the Temple, while Gods and Men were asleep, two more were made so exactly like the right, and one another, that a Thief must have very good luck, to be able to distinguish the original from the counterfeit. In the safe keeping it, they believ'd the Cityes safety consisted" 107n.

Iolo Williams: "Samuel Wesley the elder grew old and in later life wrote several most religious books of poetry — The History of the Old and New Testament attempted in Verse, for instance, — but none which I cherish as I do his first flight; not that I am likely ever to possess this, for to do so (unless I should happen to be excessively lucky at a bookstall) I should have to have about twelve pounds to spare — a most unlikely contingency. Yet on Sunday mornings, when I look out of my study window and see the good Wesleyan folk on their way to chapel, I like to cast my mind back about two hundred and forty years, and think of Maggots" By-Ways around Helicon (1922) 7.



Amoret and Strephon lay
On a Couch of downy Hay,
In the wither'd Age of Day:
Blest that one the other sees,
Blest with a spicy western Breeze,
Blest with a noble Rammel Cheese.
Each at t' other darts their Eye;
Each at the glittering Treasure by.
A sight that Strephon's passion moves;
Scarce Amoret he better loves:
To Amoretta's Heart so near,
Strephon's self was scarce more dear:
Scarce the Pride o' th' blooming Vale,
Woven around her May-day Pail;
Nor could either prove ungrate
For such a Gift to smiling Fate:
Oft with Vows and Flowers they ran
To smiling Fate, and smiling Pan;
Thus they pray, and thus they sing,
While all the answering Valleys ring.

STREPHON.
Sprinkle all the dappled Mead!
Round the Turfy Altars lead!
Every Nymph and Fawn invite
To laugh and revel here at Night!
Jolly Toasts shall never fail,
Quite drunk with nappy nut-brown Ale:
Here's a Cheese would make a Feast
Where a King might be a Guest.

AMORETTA.
Stay my Strephon! 'tis in vain;
Too low and humble is your strain:
You the Gift must higher raise,
Or you'll Satyr while you praise.
Let stiff Princes dream alone
On their steep unenvy'd Throne!
Our brighter Cheese out-shines their Crown,
And weighs the gilded Bauble down:
We'll a nobler Note begin;
Call and rouze the God within!
Sing the Cheese, and by his Aid,
Whence it came, and how 'twas made.

STREPHON.
Each Flower that e're in Garland grew,
Amoretta! move for you,
And every Herb that sipps the Dew;
To an Invention so Divine:
The Daisy's pretty twinkling Eye,
The Infant Violet blooming by;
Primrose of refreshing smell,
And the Cowslip's spotted Bell,
Fragrant Tyme, and new-born Grass,
Where no rude Feet did ever pass;
All their Essences combine
To an Invention so Divine:
Each of these transfus'd, agrees
First in Milk, and then in Cheese;
In the Cow's Alembyc wrought,
Whence, when to perfection brought,
Amoretta's whiter hand
Springs of Nectar can command;
Cataracts which oft prevail
To overflow the largest Pail:
And when the laughing Virgins come
With their new-found Treasure home,
Amoretta shall declare
How the Miracle they rear.

AMORETTA.
Soft as Wooll, and white as Lambs
Lickt by the Officious Dams;
White as those fair Lillies grow
In our Copps, — as white as Snow,
Next the Creamy Curds arise,
And with calm Glories greet the Eyes:
He that sees 'em dawning, sees
The Image of an Embryo Cheese.
So from Clay Prometheus can
Mould the mighty Form of Man:
So the rising Vision shows,
As when the World from Chaos rose.
Then 'tis bruis'd, and prest till all
The pale Tears around it fall,
Thus when Jove intends to mould
A Hero out of purer Gold,
Hee'll shut him up in pain and Care,
And like Alcides, pinch him there;
'Till he by kind Afflictions trod,
Emerges, more than Half-a-God.

STREPHON.
Thence in happy Triumph born,
Like groaning Loads of Welcome Corn,
On a cleanly shelf 'tis plac'd,
With so rich a Burden grac'd;
Or, lest the Foes its Walls attacque,
On a well-munited Rack.
Like Atlante's Palace fair,
Towring high in yielding Air,
By Ariosto built aloft,
All the Walls of costly Thought,
Or that sturdy Indian Rock
Which Ammon's Son so long did mock;
There it reigns, and there defies
Feeble Hosts of Rats and Mice:
Up they squint, but all in vain,
Up they leap with fruitless pain,
Down they drop, a-down again.
Reynard so with longing Eyne
Views the Cluster'd loaden Vine;
So when the Wolf a Fold has found,
Fenc't with Quick-set-Turn-pikes round,
About he stalks, and grinns, and scowls,
About he stalks, and vainly howls.

AMORETTA.
So the Titans hizzing fell,
When of old they dar'd rebell:
Olympus they on Ossa pack,
Both on Pelions craggy back;
And, against the Thunder hurl'd
Half his own dismantled World:
On the calm Couch of golden peace,
In undisturb'd eternal ease;
He scorns their Plots, and laughs above;
So sits my Cheese, and so sits Jove.

STREPHON.
This dear day the happy birth
Of Amoretta bless't the Earth;
All the Lads of Mirth and Song,
O're the Plains shall Dance along:
And he that best can sing each Grace,
In my Amoretta's face,
Shall have the present Jove has given,
Shall have the Ancile dropt from Heaven.
This prais'd, this lov'd, this envy'd Cheese,
For a Reward shall all be his.

[pp. 100-105]