1778
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Forlorn Shepherd, a Pastoral.

Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Verse, by Charles Graham, of Penrith in Cumberland.

Charles Graham


A pastoral elegy in 23 ballad quatrains. Charles Graham achieves the acme of sensibility in this hyper-delicate pastoral ballad. Damon begins with a description of the charms of his fair Hebe and the success of his courtship: "Thus blest with her presence, no sorrows I knew, | Her love all my labours beguil'd, | Ev'n PAN seem'd delighted, such raptures to view, | And sylvan simplicity smil'd!" He then describes a conversation in which he is troubled by fatal forebodings, and his attempts to conceal them. The poem then proceeds swiftly to its distressing conclusion. The introduction of the classical pantheon into pastoral ballad was not common, but neither was it unheard of.



How blest were my moments, how soft did they glide,
The seasons how sweet did they pass?
When peace smil'd upon me, and close by my side
Sat HEBE, my favourite lass!

The poets all tell us that VENUS is fair,
That PALLAS has grace in her mien;
Their words are but fiction, and light as the air,
But HEBE'S perfections I've seen.

Assist me, remembrance, to paint the sweet maid,
The traits of fair HEBE display;
Whose beauty surpast all the nymphs of the shade,
The morn she was queen of the May.

A garland of roses, besprinkled with dew,
Around her bright forehead was bound,
Whilst busy wing'd insects to fan the nymph flew,
And wafted sweet odours around.

Her beautiful tresses, as black as the sloe,
Her fine falling shoulders did deck,
And formed a contrast, that sweetly did shew,
The delicate white of her neck!

Her eyes spoke a meekness and dignity too,
That scorn'd to coquet or beguile;
As virtue was always the object in view,
She wore a beneficent smile.

Her cheeks — but ah! were a poet to write,
He'd talk of the roses new-blown;
To tell you they blush'd, and enraptur'd the sight,
Enough of description is shewn.

Her charms were augmented, whene'er the nymph mov'd,
So sweet and so graceful her mein,
No wonder a shepherd such innocence lov'd,
For HEBE appear'd like a queen.

Such was my dear HEBE, and O! what delight
Her delicate answers convey'd,
Whenever I prest her, my toils to requite,
And render me blest in the shade.

Oft times to amuse, as we tended our sheep,
Some well chosen song I'd rehearse;
If virtue was wounded, my charmer would weep,
For HEBE delighted in verse.

Thus blest with her presence, no sorrows I knew,
Her love all my labours beguil'd,
Ev'n PAN seem'd delighted, such raptures to view,
And sylvan simplicity smil'd!

How short-liv'd and transient, alas! was my joy,
Fate bid me these blisses forego;
And told me that pleasures unmixt with alloy,
Portended a period of woe.

The fatal prediction extorted a sigh,
A sigh which I strove to suppress,
But HEBE perceiv'd it, and instant did cry
"What motive can cause thy distress!"

'Twas now I dissembled, and feigned a smile;
(Determin'd my sorrows to hide)
"Ah! shou'd you," said I, your fond DAMON beguile?—
Now tell my the cause that I sigh'd?"

Th' evasion succeeded, the nymph seemed pleas'd,
The incence accepts at her shrine;
And now for a moment my bosom was eas'd,
For HEBE declar'd she'd be mine!

Her innocent blandishments stole on my soul,
And banish'd reflection the while;
For fate, when she means human bliss to control,
Begins the attack with a smile.

For ah! fatal eve! I remember it still,
As late I return'd from the fold;
By the verge of a stream at the foot of a hill,
Where revel the fishes of gold;

I saw, by the light of the moon's gentle ray,
My fair one reclin'd on the grass;
The lustre that erst her fair cheeks did display,
Did rise and alternately pass.

I rais'd her (for who could the office refrain,)
And homewards the nymph I convey'd,
But oh! how it tortur'd my bosom with pain,
When thus to her shepherd she said.

"For this kindly office (I think 'tis the last
I e'er from thy hand shall receive;)
I thank thee — and as to the joys that are past,
I pray thee fond swain do not grieve!

"I see (but why should I sharpen thy grief!)
The menacing aspect of death!
It is not in mortals to grant me relief,
Or lengthen the date of my breath!

"Lov'd shepherd! let this feeble effort suffice—
Accept this last final farewell!"—
Her meek gentle spirit now fled to the skies,
Where truth and sincerity dwell.

Now pensive and sad, at the close of each day,
To her silent grave I repair;
And cull the sweet flow'rets, as onwards I stray,
To strew round the tomb of my fair!

[pp. 21-26]