1808
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Laura, a Pastoral. In Four Parts.

The Comic Works in Prose and Poetry of G. M. Woodward, author of Eccentric Excursions in England, The Caricature Magazine, &c.

George Murgatroyd Woodward


A pastoral ballad in twenty-four anapestic quatrains. The four tiny parts of the ballad distill the essence of the form into a highly artificial wreath for Laura. The crisis, such as it is, comes in the second part: "Amanda calls Laura away, | To visit her eglantine bow'rs, | I know they are costly and gay, | Yet they are not so tranquil as ours." The lambkins are reassured, and Laura does indeed return. While the poem is intended as burlesque, the caricaturist maintains a straight face throughout. The original publication may have been in a periodical.

The Cabinet: "For 'Comic' Works, several of the articles contained in this book, bear rather a serious complexion; but neither the humour nor the pathos of the author are calculated to excite either mirth or sorrow" 3 (April 1808) 254.



PART I.
When Laura inspires my fond verse,
Shall the pastoral reed be forgot?
No: Her charms I'll incessant rehearse,
And her name shall resound from my grot.

Fond Damon his pipe shall attune,
'Tis Laura demands the soft lay;
While my flocks they lie listless at noon,
To beauty my tribute I'll pay.

Not the lily so pure and so fair,
Nor the rose in rich damask array'd,
Can with her complexion compare,
When blended their tints are display'd.

But hard is the task to describe
Perfection; — since Laura's my theme,
A theme fit for swains who imbibe,
Rich thoughts from pure Helicon's stream!

Yet why should I droop and despair?
'Tis nature that dictates my lays,
If I gain but the smiles of my fair,
I envy not Ovid his bays.

Let the bards from the nations around,
For Laura their efforts combine;
Though their stanzas more lofty may sound,
Yet are they so artless as mine?

PART II.
Amanda calls Laura away,
To visit her eglantine bow'rs,
I know they are costly and gay,
Yet they are not so tranquil as ours.

And wilt thou these jessamines leave,
These walks and this rural recess?
And shall I not pensively grieve,
When the thought my ideas impress?

You say that you'll quickly return,
But moments are ages to me;
How joyless the murmuring bourn,
When its banks are deserted by thee.

The charms of our bower will fade,
Its beauties no longer be seen,
And each flower in sorrow display'd,
Will droop on your favourite green.

By the side of some lone distant brake,
Your flocks will in sadness recline,
And their favourite vallies forsake,
Yet what are their feelings to mine?

No more shall the morning delight,
Till Laura returns to the vale;
But Philomel, Silence, and Night,
Shall witness my sorrowful tale.

PART III.
Lay down the blithe pipe and the reed,
And cease the gay pastoral song,
My flocks may stray over the mead,
Since Laura has quitted their throng.

My Laura, ye lambkins, is gone,
Yet forbear ye to bleat and complain,
Though your Shepherdess thus you bemoan;
Yet Damon must with you remain.

You shall not stray over the mead,
Though Laura has quitted your throng,
I'll take up my pipe and my reed,
And murmur my pastoral song.

My crook on my arm I'll recline,
While the brook it shall mournfully glide;
You shall mingle your sorrows with mine,
And I'll watch the whole day by your side.

But when she returns to her charge,
To tend her lov'd lambkins again,
All free, you shall frolick at large,
And jocund, bound over the plain.

All nature shall share in the joy,
Each youth shall attune his blithe reed,
No cares shall our pleasures annoy,
Gay mirth shall preside o'er the mead.

PART IV.
Strike the tabor, and breathe the blithe flute,
Let horns in fully melody sound,
Awake the soft notes of the lute,
While harmony flutters around.

Ye birds your sweet carols prepare,
Proclaim the fond tale of your loves,
And warble each soul-thrilling air,
For Laura returns to your groves.

I'll bring forth her poesy-wreath'd crook,
From the cell of yon mouldering rock,
And her charge with a mild lambent look,
Shall welcome her back to the flock.

I'll pluck the green myrtle and rose,
And cull each gay flower with care,
And their beauties in order dispose,
A chaplet to wreathe for my fair.

Thou bourn too rejoice, for again,
On thy banks shall fair Laura be seen,
And Flora the primrose sustain,
That dapples thy favourite green.

How bless'd, happy Damon, thy lot,
Would Hymen thy Laura empower,
To say she would ne'er leave thy grot,
Nor again quit thy jessamine bower.

[pp. 36-53]