1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Pastoral.

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

Elizabeth Hands


A night-piece in thirteen ballad quatrains. Elizabeth Hands modifies the conventional pastoral ballad stanza here by writing in iambics and leaving the first and third lines of the stanzas unrhymed, as in a regular ballad. Perhaps this change in measure raises the potential drama a notch, as Corydon wanders by night "to gather up his straying ewes." But it is not a sheep that he finds; Pastora has been left by her friends to trip it home in the dark. Corydon gallantly offers his arm, and the poem concludes with a (pastoral) ballad moral: "The swain no longer sought around, | His straying ewes to find: | O happy nymphs that live in plains, | Where shepherds are so kind."



Young Corydon, a blithesome swain,
As ever tended sheep,
Upon the verdant banks of LEAM,
Was wont his flock to keep.

One ev'ning when the rising Moon
Was peeping in the flood,
And ev'ry bird that sings by day,
Sat silent in the wood.

With dog and staff he took his way,
And whistled as he went;
To gather up his straying ewes,
Was all the shepherd meant.

And while he sought the meadows round,
Where they were wont to stray,
A maid more lovely than his ewes,
Came tripping o'er the way.

The sheep no longer fill'd his thoughts,
The nymph was all his care;
And thus the gentle shepherd-swain,
Addressed the tender fair.

CORYDON.
Why comes my nymph so late abroad,
To wander in the vale;
To hear the murmuring of the flood,
And see the moon shine pale?
Or is it an appointed hour
To meet some happy swain?
For maids are seldom seen alone
So late upon the plain.

PASTORA.
I've been a visit to a friend,
That lives by yonder grove,
Where shepherds tell their tender tales,
And list'ning virgins rove:
I with my friend conversing stood,
Abstracted from all care,
The sun went down, and night drew on
Before I was aware.

CORYDON.
The swains were surely all unkind,
That such a maid as you
Should e'er be seen to walk alone,
And in the ev'ning too;
Now Corydon most gladly will
Attend you if he may;
You see the moon is hasting on,
Then why should we delay?

He said, and took her by the hand;
O happy shepherd he!
Pastora too was pleas'd as well
As shepherdess could be.

The swain no longer sought around,
His straying ewes to find:
O happy nymphs that live in plains,
Where shepherds are so kind.

[pp. 66-71]