1772
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Creation. A Sacred Pastoral.

The Christian Minister, in three Poetic Epistles to Philander. To which are added, I. Poetical Versions of several Parts of Scripture. II. Translations of Poems from Greek and Latin Writers. And, III. Original Pieces, chiefly in Verse, on various Occasions. By Thomas Gibbons, D.D.

Rev. Thomas Gibbons


A pastoral singing contest with a variable refrain; Colin and Myrtillo sing the glories of providence as nature looks on entranced: "The Larks awhile forgot to tune their Throats; | Hush'd were the Linnet's and the Finch's Notes; | The Herds and Flocks to hear their pleasing Lays | Stood round with Ears erect, and ceas'd to graze; | Echo alone from her resounding Cave | Was heard to speak, and Voice for Voice she gave" p. 160. The inspiration for this poem is likely Virgil's "Silenus" eclogue, which is rendered in Christian terms. But Thomas Gibbons might also be responding to the landscape description in more recent pastorals, which is here given a devotional turn. The poet was a dissenting minister.

Preface: "The other Pieces in the Miscellany, and indeed the Epistles that precede them, owe themselves to the little Intervals of Time between Business and Business, and therefore as Compositions may greatly need the Reader's Candor, but yet, as they have a manifest Tendency to promote the Interests of Piety and Virtue, the Author offers no Apology for their Publication" p. v.

Critical Review: "Dr. Gibbons, in his Epistle to Philander, points out the various duties of a Christian minister, the proper method of preaching, the studies which he should pursue, and the manner in which he should conduct himself in the world. In treating of his studies, he recommends and characterizes a great variety of theological writers, chiefly Dissenters. But some of them are authors of mean abilities, whose publications no man of taste and genius would wish to read, or even admit into his library. Among the Doctor's translations we have a poetical version of the Lord's Prayer, the 104th Psalm, the Third Chapter of Habakkuk, St. Paul's Description of Charity, Pythagoras's Golden Verses, and several of Cassimir's Odes. The original pieces are upon various subjects" 33 (May 1772) 408.



Stern Winter now resign'd his iron Reign,
And Fields and Floods no longer felt his Chain;
The Spring, her Chariot drawn by rosy Hours,
Rode forth to deck the Earth with smiling Flow'rs,
To wake the balmy Zephyr, and to trace
For the high-rolling Sun an ampler Space,
When Colin and Myrtillo, first of Swains
For sacred Knowledge, and for tuneful Strains,
To catch the springing Gales and shun the Heat
Sat down beneath a spreading Oak's Retreat:
When Colin thus in Words devout and kind
Reveal'd the secret Musings of his Mind.

COLIN.
Myrtillo, my Companion, and my Friend,
With whom I often toil and oft unbend,
How gracious is our God, whose Providence
From fiery Beams extended this Defence,
And gives us this refreshing Breeze to play
Along the curling Grass, and cool the Day?

MYRTILLO.
Colin, where'er we turn our wond'ring Eyes
The Proofs of an Almighty Ruler rise;
From yonder Sun, that shines so dazzling bright
To the least Spangle that adorns the Night:
The Footsteps of his Pow'r and Skill appear
Through all the Seasons of the changing Year,
But Spring, the Darling of the Earth and Skies,
Unveils his brightest Glories to our Eyes.

COLIN.
Then let us, since the Sun at Noon-tide reigns,
And the Flocks browze in Safety o'er the Plains,
Improve our Leisure, and attempt to sing
The Honours of our Maker, and our King;
So shall the Hour, with Blessings in its Train,
Smile on the Conscience, nor of Waste complain.

MYRTILLO.
Well I approve the Motion, pleas'd to find
Such lively Traces of a pious Mind.
How fit, how sweet a Work is heav'nly Praise,
That from its Self its own Devotion pays!
But as 'tis you propose, so you must lead:
Begin the Song, and I'll in Turn proceed.

COLIN.
Begin, my Soul, begin the lofty Verse,
And the Almighty's wondrous Works rehearse.
The Word divine produc'd the Firmament,
Ting'd it with Blue, and stretch'd its vast Extent:
There the Sun rolls by Day his Globe of Light,
There the Moon fills her silver Horns by Night,
And round their Queen in beauteous Order move
Unnumber'd Stars, and fire the Vault above.

MYRTILLO.
Renew, my Soul, renew the lofty Verse,
And the Almighty's wondrous Works rehearse.
Dread Wonders in the Air we oft behold;
There Lightnings flash, and there the Thunder's roll'd;
There Whirlwinds roar, and with resistless Force
Tear up the Forests in their headlong Course;
Thence Rain in overwhelming Torrents pours,
And thence the Hail descends in stony Show'rs,
And thence the Snow, that in bleak Winter's Reign
With dazzling Brightness clothes the Trees and Plain.

COLIN.
Pursue, my Soul, pursue the lofty Verse,
And the Almighty's wondrous Works rehearse.
From Air the Dew in hazy Fogs distils,
Which lightly touches on the thirsty Hills,
And thence, in dusky Eddies wheel'd around,
Streams through the Groves, and glides along the Ground:
Hence the Carnation takes its lovely Red;
Hence the tall Lilly lifts its snowy Head;
Hence purple Bloom the Violets unfold;
Hence Cowslips wash their op'ning Buds in Gold;
Hence glows the Beauty, hence the Fragrance flows
Fresh from the Bosom of the Virgin-Rose,
Hence with mysterious Art the Bees derive
Their Wax and Honey, and enrich the Hive.

MYRTILLO.
Renew, my Soul, renew the lofty Verse,
And the Almighty's wondrous Works rehearse.
And as in Heav'n so through the Earth below
The various Scenes the Maker's Glories show:
Here the broad Rivers roll their rapid Course,
Their Depths how dang'rous, and how strong their Force!
And here the Fountain's bubbling Waters glide,
And as they run th' opposing Pebbles chide,
Now, wrapt in Shades, steal unobserv'd away,
Now shine and quiver in the Blaze of Day.

COLIN.
Pursue, my Soul, pursue the lofty Verse,
And the Almighty's wondrous Works rehearse.
Of the most stupendous Bulk here Mountains rise,
Lift their proud Heads, and seem to threat the Skies;
Here Hills appear oft cover'd with their Gloom,
But smile as happier in their scantier Room,
For down their Sides what Joy and Plenty reign
In flow'ry Pastures, and in golden Grain?
There, there I oft, reclin'd at Ease, have seen
My Sheep depending crop the living Green.

MYRTILLO.
Renew, my Soul, renew the lofty Verse,
And the Almighty's wondrous Works rehearse.
Nor less along the Level of the Plains,
And watry Vales our God in Goodness reigns.
Here from her Lap the Earth in Plenty pours
Her Fruits, her Herbage, and sweet-scented Flow'rs,
Fed by their gen'rous Pasture thrive my Lambs
And under heavy Fleeces sweat their Dams,
Hence I each Year an upper Coat obtain,
That guards my Limbs from Cold, and drenching Rain,
And hence the high-fed Firstlings of my Fold
At yon great Market-Town I oft have sold,
And rich sometimes with Gold from thence have come,
And pil'd the Treasure for our Wants at Home.

Thus the good Swains their leisure Hour employ'd,
And rural Peace and Innocence enjoy'd:
The Larks awhile forgot to tune their Throats;
Hush'd were the Linnet's and the Finch's Notes;
The Herds and Flocks to hear their pleasing Lays
Stood round with Ears erect, and ceas'd to graze;
Echo alone from her resounding Cave
Was heard to speak, and Voice for Voice she gave:
More had they sung, but on her nimble Heel
Phoebe approach'd, and brought their dainty Meal;
The Lettuce, with a clust'ring Foliage crown'd,
The Cress, the silver Brooks that fringes round,
The Raddish, for its purple Stains admir'd,
The Scallion, for its Poignancy desir'd,
Cakes from the Oven, Butter from the Churn,
Which what but Folly for Ragouts would spurn?
Thankful they ate, and scoop'd the brimming Spring,
And each smil'd happier than a scepter'd King.

[pp. 155-61]