1778
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Damon and Phillida

Poetical Amusement on the Journey of Life; consisting of Various Pieces in verse: serious, theatric, epigrammatic and miscellaneous. by William Meyler.

William Meyler


A pastoral ballad in 29 anapestic quatrains "Read at Batheaston, March 1778" and belatedly published in 1806. Damon pronounces a fulsome oration at the grave of his lover Phillida, and falls over dead. William Meyler amplifies his theme by drawing more than customary upon ballad poetry, as in this address by Damon to his listeners: "For Death turn'd her features to clay: | Hear you — who of features are proud, | Your dimples and bloom will decay— | Ah! how will you look in your shroud?" p. 13. William Meyler was a bookseller at Bath and a contributor of verses to the famous vase at Batheaston.

Joseph Hunter: "In 1806, Mr. Meyler published a collection of his poems, under the title of Poetical Amusement on the journey of Life. Colonel Leigh, an intimate friend of Mr. Meyler, and Equerry to his present Majesty, then Prince of Wales, having mentioned the forthcoming volume, his Royal Highness, who had seen and admired the author, directed Colonel M'Mahon to state that a dedication to him would he an acceptable compliment. The volume appeared, and was worthy of the high patronage bestowed on it" "Memoir of the late William Meyler" Weekly Entertainer and West of England Miscellany [Sherborne] NS 3 (21 May 1821) 382.



Where the cypress worn hollow with age,
O'er rustic-wrought monuments hung;
Young Damon this sorrowful page,
As Phillida's Elegy sung.

"Ye shepherds! whom Pity has brought
To see my loved Phillida laid;
Whose deep-risen sobbings denote
You knew the lamented young maid.

"Ye Nymphs — her companions of late,
In the hue of the lily bedight,
Who weep at my Phillida's fate—
Sweet Phillis the hamlet's delight.

"Draw grief-laden villagers near,
List, list to my heart-rending strain,
I know you will grant me a tear—
Your bosoms partake of the pain.

"Lo! upwards the fresh sod is turn'd,
The damsel's cold relics to hide;
Ah Grave! thou wilt soon have inurn'd
What Hope had design'd for my bride.

"In the days of our childhood we loved,
In youth we were never apart;
How oft through yon meadow we roved,
When each spake the sense of the heart.

"She vow'd to be ever sincere;
I solemnly pledged her my troth;
But Death, like a tyrant severe,
Destroy'd the assurance of both.

"The beauty which glow'd in her face,
Was wasted by sickness intense;
Wan yellow assuming its place,
Drove Nature's gay blossoms from thence.

"She moan'd on the pillow of pain;
With anguish I stole to her side;
I strove — the endeavour was vain—
My doubts and my torments to hide.

"She lifted her languishing eyes,
Those mirrors which once were so bright;
'Cease Damon,' she utter'd, 'those sighs,
No longer thy spirits affright.

"'Had Providence granted my prayer,
I'd still gentle Shepherd, been true;
But Heaven thinks me worthy its care,
So Damon, dear Damon, adieu.'

"Then eagerly grasping my hand,
With a gesture of pity and love—
That gesture my bosom unmann'd—
She soar'd to the regions above.

"Damp tremor my limbs shiver'd o'er,
Absorb'd, they their functions denied;
I motionless fell to the floor,
And wish'd with my love to have died.

"When night held her ebon-throned sway,
Nor murmur, nor zephyr was heard,
Save the boding and sorrowful lay
Of the Ivy's sad tenant — lone bird!

"I rose from the couch of despair,
And sought my loved charmer's remains—
Ah! what with the scene can compare!
'Twas piteous — 'twas pleasing, ye swains.

"A glimmering taper display'd
The spectacle drear to my sight,
In winding-sheet neatly array'd,
As cold as her hand, and as white.

"She smiled through the horrors of death;
Fresh flowers were strew'd o'er the room;
Ah flowers! my Phillida's breath
Once yielded a richer perfume.

"Ye roses, carnations! so bright,
Her cheeks were once brighter than you;
Than the lily her bosom more white,
When morn dips its blossoms in dew.

"Yet wherefore avails it to boast
How she others in beauty excell'd?
Frail beauty's a trifle at most,
A bubble by flattery swell'd;

"Like tints in the sun-shine it fades;
But Virtue — my Phillida's guest,
Is a guardian celestial that leads
To the unclouded skies of the blest.

"For Death turn'd her features to clay:
Hear you — who of features are proud,
Your dimples and bloom will decay—
Ah! how will you look in your shroud?

"Your bosom, like hers, will be cold,
No sweets from your lips will exhale,
How perfect soever your mould,
The worms on that mould will regale.

"Oh list to the slow-sounding bell!
How solemn it strikes on the ear!
It serves, my fond Shepherds, to tell
Th' approach of my Phillida's bier.

"The Pastor leads onward his flock,
Grieved villagers throng in the train;
Sure his breast is hard as a rock
Whose eyes can from weeping refrain.

"Hark! what sounds are these which I hear
—Soft accents invitingly say—
'Haste Damon, thou lover still dear,
To Phillida hasten away.'

"Oh! bear me ye Swains to the grave,
Cold drops through my arteries glide;
I tremble, I shiver — I crave
You'll lay me by Phillida's side."

Then languid he fell to the ground,
Like doves with their widowhood tired,
Gazed awhile on the mourners around,
Grew sightless, then moan'd — and expired.

His intreaty was strictly obey'd,
They placed him to Phillida Dear;
Each Sabbath their tomb is survey'd,
And moisten'd by many a tear.

Nymphs, Shepherds hold sacred the spot,
And yearly — on Midsummer's eve,
Cut forms of a true-lover's knot,
On Damon and Phillida's grave.

[pp. 10-14]