1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Vaudeville.

London Chronicle (8 November 1774) 446.

Anonymous


Four ballad stanzas with a variable refrain "Sung by Mr. Davies, Mr. Vernon, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Wrighten." The poem, sung at one of London's pleasure-gardens, welcomes persons of fashion to a rural festival, the Feast of the Oaks: "The precept we teach is contentment and truth, | That our girls may not learn to beguile, | By reason to govern the pleasures of youth, | And decorate age with a smile." Might the description of rural felicity be influenced by Goldsmith's Deserted Village?

Johnson's dictionary defines "vaudevil" as "A song, common among the vulgar, and sung about the streets, Trev. A ballad; a trivial strain."



Ye fine fangled folks, who from cities and courts,
By your presence enliven the fields,
Accept for your welcome, our innocent sports,
And the fruits that our industry yields.
No temple we raise to the idol of wealth,
No altar to interest smoaks,
To the blessing of love, kind seasons and health,
Is devoted the Feast of the Oaks.

From the thicket and plain, each favourite haunt,
The villagers hasten away,
Your encouraging smile is the bounty we want,
To compensate the toils of the day:
The milk-maid abandons her pail and her cow,
In the furrow, the plowman unyokes,
From the valley and meadow all press to the brow,
To assist at the Feast of the Oaks.

The precept we teach is contentment and truth,
That our girls may not learn to beguile,
By reason to govern the pleasures of youth,
And decorate age with a smile;
No serpent approaches with venomous tooth,
No raven with ominous croaks,
Nor rancorous Critic, more fatal than both,
Shall poison the Feast of the Oaks.

Bring roses, and myrtles, new circlets to weave,
Ply the flutes in new measures to move,
And lengthen the song to the star of the eve,
The favouring planet of love.
Oh Venus! propitious attend to the lay,
Each shepherd the blessing invokes;
May he who is true, like the youth of to-day,
Find a prize like the Maid of the Oaks!

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