A pastoral singing contest. In alternating strains, Celia sings the praises of passionate love, and Sylvia the satisfactions of sincere friendship. Daphne, who has overheard all, then steps from behind a bush. Rather than declare a victor in the contention, "With emulation fir'd," She makes a declaration of her own: "Blest Celia, happy in a lover dear; | Blest Sylvia, happy in a friend sincere; | But surely I am doubly blest to find, | At once a friend sincere, and lover kind." Daphne's Thyrsis, that is to say, commands the virtues of Celia's Strephon and Sylvia's Corydon. One notes that in other pastorals Daphne had been coupled with Strephon.
Two nymphs to whom the pow'rs of verse belong,
Alike ambitious to excel in song,
With equal sweetness sang alternate strains,
And courteous echo told the list'ning plains;
That of her lover sung, this of her friend;
Ye rural nymphs and village swains attend.
O Love, soft sov'reign, ruler of the heart!
Deep are thy wounds, and pleasing is the smart;
When Strephon smiles the wint'ry fields look gay,
Cold hearts are warm'd, and hard ones melt away.
Through ev'ry scene of temp'ral bliss is there
A greater blessing than a friend sincere?
'Tis Corydon that bears that tender name,
And Sylvia's breast returns the gen'rous flame.
When happy I survey my Strephon's charms
His beauty holds me faster than his arms,
My heart is in a flood of pleasures toss'd,
I faint, I die, and am in raptures lost.
And what are all these tumults of the heart,
But certain omens of a future smart?
In friendship we more solid comforts find,
It cheers the heart, nor leaves a sting behind.
Surely no lark in spring was e'er so glad
To see the morn, as I to see my lad;
At his approach all anxious griefs remove,
And ev'ry other joy gives place to love.
O happy I! with such a friend to live!
Our joys united double pleasure give;
Our inmost thoughts with freedom we unfold,
And griefs no longer grief, when once 'tis told.
All that is lovely in my swain I find,
But am to all his imperfections blind;
What have I said? I surely do him wrong,
No imperfections can to him belong.
The faithful swain sees with impartial eyes,
Nor scorns reproof, but speaks without disguise;
Blind to all faults, the eager lover sues,
Friends see aright, and ev'ry fault excuse.
Then, Daphne from beneath a hawthorn sprung,
Where she attentive sat to hear the song;
Her breast was conscious of the tender glow,
That faithful friends, in mutual friendship know;
Her tender heart, by love's impulses mov'd,
With ardour beat to sing the swain she lov'd;
With emulation fir'd, the conscious maid
Thus to the fair contending virgins said.
Blest Celia, happy in a lover dear;
Blest Sylvia, happy in a friend sincere;
But surely I am doubly blest to find,
At once a friend sincere, and lover kind;
My Thyrsis is my friend, my friend I say
And who in love can bear a greater sway
Strephon must his superior power own,
Nor is he less sincere than Corydon.