1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Wit and Beauty. A Pastoral.

The Death of Amnon. A Poem. With an Appendix: containing Pastorals, and other Poetical Pieces. By Elizabeth Hands.

Elizabeth Hands


A singing contest in twelve pastoral-ballad quatrains. Celia and Sylvia praise their lovers and are judged by Daphne, who decides to divide the prize-wreath between them: "Nor Sylvia, nor Celia, shall have it, | I'll justly divide it in two; | Believe me, my Strephon, that gave it, | Is beautiful, witty, and — true" p. 58. "Daphne" was the pen-named adopted by Elizabeth Hands, an Warwickshire autodidact employed as a servant. Since "Wit and Beauty" is the first of a long series of pastorals of various kinds collected in this volume, the gesture of dividing the wreath may be intended to signal the poet's unwillingness to adopt a favorite.



CELIA.
Our shepherds are gone o'er the hill,
To sport on the neighbouring plain;
Let's sit by this murmuring rill,
And sing till they come back again.

SYLVIA.
We'll sing of our favourite swains,
By whom our fond hearts are possest;
And Daphne shall judge of the strains,
Which sings of her shepherd the best.

DAPHNE.
Come sing then, and Daphne will hear,
Nor linger the time to prolong;
And this wreath of roses I wear,
Shall crown the fair victor in song.

CELIA.
My Thirsis is airy and gay,
His pride is in pleasing the fair;
He sings and drives sorrow away,
His humour will banish all care.

SYLVIA.
To Daphnis the pride of my lay,
The merits of beauty belong;
His smiles will chase sorrows away,
As well as your shepherd's fine song.

CELIA.
When piping my Thirsis is seen,
The virgins assemble around;
And all the blithe swains of the green,
Approve, while they envy the sound.

SYLVIA.
When Daphnis approaches the plains,
The virgins all blush with surprise;
With negligence treating their swains,
And fix on my Daphnis their eyes.

CELIA.
If e'er I am pensive and sad,
Or sigh to the evening gale;
I'm cheer'd by the voice of my lad,
Who tells me a humorous tale.

SYLVIA.
When I am perplexed with fears,
And nothing can give me delight;
As soon as my Daphnis appears,
I languish away at the sight.

DAPHNE.
Now cease to content, my dear lasses,
My wreath I'll acknowledge your due;
Nor yet can I tell which surpasses,
Your merits you equally shew.

'Twas Strephon that gave me the treasure,
Which now I to you shall impart;
(That name! O, I speak it with pleasure!
It ever enraptures my heart.)

Nor Sylvia, nor Celia, shall have it,
I'll justly divide it in two;
Believe me, my Strephon, that gave it,
Is beautiful, witty, and — true.

[pp. 56-58]