1792
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Happy Cottager. A Pastoral Ballad.

Parnassian Trifles. Being a Collection of Elegiac, Pastoral, Nautic, and Lyric Poetry. By J. Cross, Author of the Dialogue of the Divertisement, &c.

John Cartwright Cross


A verse character in seventeen anapestic quatrains. "The Happy Cottager" is in effect a retirement ode, cataloguing whatever seems pleasing about a rural existence with an Oliver Goldsmith-inspired sentimentality. The secret of happiness is revealed near the end of the poem: "Surly landlord can never my cottage assail, | Nor o'erbearing power molest; | For the freehold's my own; nor can creditors rail, | So, with heart quite at ease am I blest." Parnassian Trifles was published with an elaborately engraved title page and seems to have been chiefly sold by subscription; the reviewers, at any rate, seem to have ignored it.

One wonders whether this poem might have provoked Edward Drewe's notable "Pastoral Ballad" published the same year: "My beds are all furnish'd with fleas, | Whose bitings invite me to scratch; | Well stock'd are my orchards with jays, | And my pig-sties white over with thatch."



Away from the town, from its tumult and strife,
Serenely to dwell be my lot;
And in rural content, all the days of my life,
Let me happily pass in yon cot!

O'ershadow'd by trees, see it stands in the vale;
View the path I so constantly tread;
From it's top see the smoke wafted here by the gale,
Through branches that play round its head.

The serpentine stream, glitt'ring, runs through my farm,
Rich crops too my industry yields;
My Cows in yon shed are from weather kept warm,
Or nip the young bud of the fields.

On yon silver current, the Angler's fond pride,
The oar-footed birds oft' resort;
An buoyantly over it's bright surface glide,
Or wantonly dive in gay sport.

Dame Partlet there view clucking loud to her brood,
And collecting them round her with care;
See how busy when Anna distributes them food,
To give each descendant a share.

See Chanticleer strut the grand Turk of the barn,
His Sultanas he wantonly eyes;
To the fairest donates a rich present of corn,
While Jealousy cackles and cries.

Sleek and sturdy, stout Dobbin trots proud o'er the lawn,
Or, exulting the greensward he paws;
While with new shining colours my car I adorn,
Which frequent to market he draws.

The swine's bristly back is just hid in clean straw,
My pigeons no dove-cote can match;
And the impudent sparrow, whom shot cannot awe,
Picks and chirrups away in my thatch.

My garden, I've plann'd, (tho' besure 'tis but small,)
To provide me with what I most need;
And tho' downy peaches oft' blush on its wall,
Yet 'tis planted with true homely seed.

The bean's scented blossom, the full podded pea,
Mealy roots from Hibernia's shore;
The rough rinded russeten eke on its tree;
And of verdurous plants I've a store:

Yet flow'rs are not banish'd, there blossoms the rose,
And there the sweet violets dwell;
There lives the pert daisey, the lily there blows,
And bees hide in daffodil's cell.

Round their hives in loud buzzing they hum out their song,
Or flow'rets of sweetness bereave;
While the provident ant tugs provision along,
To deposit it safe in her cave.

Would you view my snug rooms — why the furniture's plain,
My dogs, where you enter, preside;
My servants are few, but they all look like men,
And like honest servants beside.

The playful young kitten oft' purrs on my knee,
Shock in gambols to please me will try;
While perch'd on my chair, with my luncheon makes free,
The larcenous, chattering pye.

Surly landlord can never my cottage assail,
Nor o'erbearing power molest;
For the freehold's my own; nor can creditors rail,
So, with heart quite at ease am I blest.

My ale I've just tapp'd, of its briskness I'll boast,
'Twas brew'd for my neighbours to taste;
And we'll merrily quaff it while this is our toast,
"May freedom endure to the last."

Fortune's self let her brag, can't my pleasures amend,
No grandeur my envy can move;
For to add to the blessing I boast a true friend,
And a nymph that I tenderly love.

[pp. 4-8]