1737
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Colemira. A Culinary Eclogue.

Poems upon Various Occasions. Written for the Entertainment of the Author, and printed for the Amusement of a few Friends, prejudic'd in his Favour.

William Shenstone


An undated burlesque eclogue in eighteen couplet-quatrains and a concluding triplet.; Colemira was posthumously published in 1764 among the poet's "Levities, or Pieces of Humour." In the dead of night Damon lies among the snoring dogs and declares his love for Colemire, the kitchen-maid: "Ah! who can see, and seeing, not admire, | Whene'er she sets the pot upon the fire! | Her hands out-shine the fire, and redder things; | Her eyes are blacker than the pot she brings." The poem is a contribution to the series of trades-eclogues that had become popular in the 1730s and which would continue popular throughout the eighteenth century.

The "culinary eclogue" had been pioneered by William King in "Mully of Mountown. A Poem" (1704); it seems never to have become popular, but compare "Song" in The Weekly Amusement, or, the Universal Magazine (28 December 1734) 201, and "A Pastoral, by a Quaker" in Gentleman's Magazine 23 (August 1753) 384.

William Shenstone, "Prefatory Dedication to Mrs. —": "As to the Poetry, I beg Leave to declare, that 'tis the Product of a young Genius, little exercis'd in Versification. And the Muses, you know, Madam, are not like a great many of their Sex, that have the most Esteem for those, who neglect them; tho' they have had sometimes, in Appearance. Horace, and Swift (whom to you I wou'd chuse to mention) have attended them whole Mornings at their Toilette, that they might conduct them into the World, in a more agreeable Undress. But my Negligences, Madam, are of such a Nature, that I must beg you'd impute them to Disuse and Inexperience" p. v.

Edmund Gosse: "William Shenstone (1724-1763), the bard of the Leasowes, has been called 'our principal master of the artificial natural style in poetry.' His Pastoral Ballad (1743), in four sections, is written in the lightest of anapests, and has all the pink and silver grace of a Watteau. In 1742, when Thomson had written, but not published, his Castle of Indolence, Shenstone issued The Schoolmistress, a short but very happy study in some thirty-five half-burlesque Spenserian stanzas. He takes his place in the rapid transition of style as a definite link between Thomson and Goldsmith" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 230-31.



Night's sable Clouds had half the Globe o'erspread,
And Silence reign'd, and Folks were gone to Bed:
When Love, which gentle sleep can ne'er inspire,
Had seated Damon by the Kitchen Fire.

Pensive he lay, extended on the Ground;
The little Lares kept their Vigils round;
The fawning Cats compassionate his case,
And purr around, and gently lick his Face:

To all his 'plaints the sleeping Curs reply,
And with hoarse Snorings imitate a Sigh.
Such gloomy Scenes with Lovers' Minds agree,
And Solitude to them is best Society.

Cou'd I (he cry'd) express, how bright a grace
Adorns thy morning Hands, and well-wash'd Face;
Thou wou'dst, Colemira, grant what I implore,
And yield me Love, or wash thy Face no more.

Ah! who can see, and seeing, not admire,
Whene'er she sets the Pot upon the Fire!
Her Hands out-shine the Fire, and redder things;
Her Eyes are blacker than the Pot she brings.

But sure no Chamber-damsel can compare,
When in meridian Lustre shines my Fair,
When warm'd with Dinner's toil, in pearly rills,
Adown her goodly Cheek the Sweat distills.

Oh! how I long, how ardently desire,
To view those rosy Fingers strike the Lyre!
For late, when Bees to change their Climes began,
How did I see 'em thrum the Frying-pan!

With her! I shou'd not envy G— his Queen,
Tho' She in royal Grandeur deck'd be seen:
Whilst Rags, just sever'd from my Fair-one's Gown,
In russet Pomp, and greasy Pride hang down.

Ah! how it does my drooping Heart rejoice,
When in the Hall I hear thy mellow Voice!
How wou'd that Voice exceed the Village-bell;
Would'st thou but sing, "I like thee passing well"!

When from the Hearth she bade the Pointers go,
How soft! how easy did her Accents flow!
"Get out, she cry'd, when Strangers come to Sup,
"One ne'er can raise those snoring Devils up."

Then, full of wrath, she kick'd each lazy Brute,
Alas! I envy'd even that Salute:
'Twas sure misplac'd, — Shock said, or seem'd to say,
He has as lief, I had the kick, as they.

If she the mystic Bellows take in hand,
Who like the Fair can that Machine command?
O may'st thou ne'er by Eolus be seen,
For he wou'd sure demand thee for his Queen.

But shou'd the Flame this rougher aid refuse,
And only gentler Med'cines be of use:
With full-blown Cheeks she ends the doubtful strife,
Foments the infant Flame, and puffs it into life.

Such Arts, as these, exalt the drooping Fire,
But in my Breast a fiercer Flame inspire:
I burn! I burn! O! give thy puffing o'er,
And swell thy Cheeks, and pout thy Lips no more!

With all her haughty Looks, the time I've seen;
When this proud Damsel has more humble been,
When with nice Airs she hoist the Pan-cake round,
And dropt it, hapless Fair! upon the Ground.

Look, with what charming grace! what winning tricks!
The artful Charmer rubs the Candlesticks:
So bright she makes the Candlesticks she handles,
Oft have I said, — There were no need of Candles.

But thou, my Fair! who never wou'dst approve
Or hear, the tender Story of my love;
Or mind, how burns my raging Breast, — a Button—
Perhaps art dreaming of — a Breast of Mutton.

Thus said, and wept the sad desponding Swain,
Revealing to the sable Walls his Pain:
But Nymphs are free with those they shou'd deny;
To those, they love, more exquisitely coy!

Now chirping Crickets raise their tinkling Voice,
The lambent Flames in languid Streams arise,
And Smoke in azure Folds evaporates and dies.

[pp. 11-14]