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Poem by Stephen Duck


A Pastoral Elegy


AT first in Vales obscure the Lyre I strung;
 Vales, where the Muse her annual Labours sung:
 Now, leaving these, she ranges o'er the Plains,
 And tunes her Voice to Flocks and Shepherd Swains;
 Yet, fresh in Grief, but feebly moves her Wings,
 Weeps, while she flies, and trembles, as she sings. 

TWO Country Swains, in Friendship firmly join'd,
 Lov'd each alike, and were, like Brothers, kind:
 Great CAROLINE her Royal Bounty show'd
 To one, and rais'd him from the grov'ling Crowd;
 When straight his smiling Looks, and chearful Mien,
 Proclaim'd the Goodness of a gracious QUEEN;
 But gloomy Sadness soon his Face possess'd,
 And clouded all the Joys before express'd:
 The other gay and pleasant still appear'd;
 Nor griev'd for Evils past, nor future fear'd:
 One Day they met; MENALCAS first began;
 And thus the mournful Tale, alternate, ran. 

MENALCAS.

WHY, COLIN, dost thou wear that pensive Look,
 And sighing stand, supported by thy Crook? 
Say, from what Cause this Melancholy springs;
 Or dost thou verify what DAMON sings? 
 "Vain Man can never satiate his Desires;
" The more he has, the more he still requires:
 "To-day he's craving, and To-morrow cloy'd;
" New Pleasures grow insipid, when enjoy'd. " 
So, when our Sheep on Hills refuse to feed,
 We straight remove them to the verdant Mead;
 Where all, intent, the luscious Herbage graze;
 And, for that Day, their Pasture seems to please:
 The next, they range around the flow'ry Space;
 And bleating tell, they loath the tainted Grass. 

COLIN.

'TWAS Yesterday a giddy Sheep I view'd,
 Which rose in CUDDY's Fold, and stagg'ring stood;
 While one, with burly Horns, secure from Pain,
 Ran, enviously, and push'd him down again. 
So you, vain jesting Youth! unmov'd with Care,
 Insult the hapless Swain, that's in Despair. 

MENALCAS.

I nor insulted, nor intended Guile;
 And, if I jested, 'twas to make thee smile:
 But tell me, Swain, what wond'rous Turn of Fate
 O'erclouds thy Face, that look'd serene of late? 
What, is thy Harvest blasted on the Ground? 
Or has the Royal CAROLINA frown'd? 
Unveil thy Griefs, and make thy Sorrows known;
 You know, my Friend's Misfortunes are my own. 

COLIN.

MY Harvest is not blasted on the Ground,
 Nor has the Royal CAROLINA frown'd:
 But lately, when the Sun had gaily drest
 The lofty Mountains in a purple Vest,
 I early rose, to tend my fleecy Care;
 Wet was the Grass, and piercing cold the Air. 
My lovely SYLVIA, stay behind, I said,
 Till I have weav'd a Garland for thy Head;
 Till I a Bow'r, with shady Branches, form,
 To shun the scorching Ray, or rapid Storm;
 And, when the Dew's exhal'd, which Night distill'd,
 Bless COLIN with thy Presence in the Field. 
She answer'd not; but from her Bosom sent
 A deep presaging Sigh, before I went. 
The Sun had painted ev'ry Object gay,
 When to the chearful Field I took my Way;
 The Lark with Mattins welcom'd in the Morn;
 The Thrush and Finch sat chirping on the Thorn;
 The Swallows round, in airy Circles, flew;
 And, ah! poor COLIN then was joyful too:
 But suddenly I saw the Mists arise,
 And dark'ning Clouds o'erspread the dusky Skies,
 Th'Horizon seem'd to cast a gloomy Frown,
 While from his airy Height the Lark sunk down
 The tuneful Birds their joyous Songs deny'd;
 And boding Owls, and sooty Ravens, cry'd. 
My drooping Heart, which felt unusual Weight,
 Shock'd with such Omens, ceas'd almost to beat:
 Yet these, said I, portend no Evil, while
 My Royal Mistress condescends to smile:
 If She's propitious, what can COLIN fear? 
Inur'd the lesser Ills of Life to bear. 
Thus said, I took my Way to yonder Grove;
 And form'd, with spreading Boughs, an arch'd Alcove:
 So close I twisted in each pliant Spray,
 As might exclude the Wind, or sunny Ray. 
With sweetest Flow'rs I deck'd the mossy Ground,
 And strew'd the fragrant Woodbinds all around. 
Here, when, said I, my SYLVIA comes a-field,
 This grateful Bow'r a safe Retreat shall yield:
 If rainy, here she may the Storms evade;
 If fair, the Branches will project a Shade:
 Here SYLVIA shall, with COLIN, take her Rest;
 And COLIN here, with SYLVIA, shall be blest. 
As thus I spake, around I cast my Eye,
 And saw celestial CELIA drawing nigh:
 I saw; but wonder'd why her heav'nly Mien
 Was clouded o'er, that us'd to be serene. 
CELIA's the Mistress of the flow'ry Plain,
 Whose Bounty's known to ev'ry worthy Swain
 Not Godlike PAN presided with more Care,
 Nor to Arcadian Shepherds was so dear. 
When CELIA to the rural Shade retires,
 She ev'ry Breast with rising Hope inspires;
 Expecting Swains, with joyous Looks, proclaim
 The happy Time, and hail the gen'rous Dame:
 As languid Plants, which half the Year lie dead,
 When Spring approaches, raise their drooping Head. 
She cross'd the Plains with a dejected Air;
 Her pensive Aspect shew'd her pious Care;
 And, loath th'unwelcome Tidings to reveal,
 She sighing spoke, and left th'unfinish'd Tale:
 "Ah poor unhappy Swain! return, return;
" The sable Clouds foretel a rainy Morn:
 "Nor only is the Day o'ercast with Gloom;
" Thy pleasing Hopes are blasted all at home;
 "Thy SYLVIA, O!" She said, and dropt the rest;
 But my presaging Heart too rightly guess'd:
 I silent stood, and spoke my Grief with Tears;
 You know, my Heart was firmly link'd to hers. 

MENALCAS.

I know, your Hearts are link'd in Friendship fast;
 Long may that mutual Bond of Friendship last:
 May HYMEN to you both propitious prove,
 And Death but late untie the Knot of Love. 

COLIN.

O! stop, MENALCAS, and my Loss deplore;
 The good, the faithful SYLVIA is no more:
 That gloomy Morn she, in my Absence, dy'd;
 And rigid Death the last Farewel deny'd. 
Another Loss I could content have born;
 But must the Loss of SYLVIA always mourn. 
My lovely SYLVIA was my softest Theme,
 My Song by Day, by Night my pleasing Dream:
 But now in Sighs I spend the ling'ring Day;
 And, weeping, pass the tardy Night away:
 Nor does thy Friend indulge a needless Care;
 My Loss is great, and just is my Despair. 

MENALCAS.

THY Loss and Sorrows equally are great;
 But Death's the Law of Nature, fix'd by Fate:
 Our Flocks, our Herds, our All precarious stands;
 And fall we must, when Heav'n our Fall commands. 

COLIN.

YET Flocks and Herds are with Reluctance spar'd;
 And what are Flocks and Herds, with her compar'd? 
A hungry Fox stole ten of CUDDY's Lambs,
 A lurching Mongrel kill'd their bleating Dams:
 Say, did not CUDDY for his Loss repine? 
But, ah! what Loss was his, compar'd with mine? 

MENALCAS.

I have a Flute, which DAMON lately made;
 No Shepherd on a sweeter ever play'd:
 I tun'd it Yesterday, and straight a Throng
 Of Nymphs and Swains ran crowding to my Song;
 My list'ning Ewes, a-while, forsook their Meat;
 My tender Lambs, tho' hungry, ceas'd to bleat:
 I'll tune again the soft harmonious Lay;
 Music, perhaps, may chase thy Cares away. 

COLIN.

MENALCAS, Music's for a lighter Ill;
 Such Woes as mine would baffle all thy Skill. 
Upon his Flute ALEXIS often plays,
 And strives to charm my Sorrows with his Lays;
 Upon his Flute ALEXIS plays in vain;
 His Lays, tho' charming, cannot charm my Pain. 
The tuneful Birds rejoice on ev'ry Spray,
 My wanton Lambkins in their Pasture play;
 In vain the tuneful Birds rejoice, in vain
 My wanton Lambkins sport upon the Plain. 

WITH chearful Green the spacious Fields are crown'd,
 And beauteous Flow'rs adorn the painted Ground;
 The snowy Blossoms on the Branches shine,
 A pleasing Scene to ev'ry Eye, but mine! 
For neither chearful Green, that crowns the Field,
 Nor snowy Blossoms, which the Branches yield,
 Nor Flow'rs, that spread the painted Meadows o'er,
 Delight my Eyes, now SYLVIA is no more. 

MENALCAS.

'TIS more than Time thy mournful Dirge to end;
 For, see, the whistling Ploughmen homeward tend;
 Our fleecy Flocks stand waiting round the Fold;
 Damp feel the Dews, the ruffling Breezes cold;
 The setting Sun forsakes the blushing Skies,
 And hazy Fogs from marshy Grounds arise:
 Then fold thy Sheep, thy anxious Cares remove;
 Nor weep on Earth, for her who sings above.



                      Stephen Duck


Stephen Duck's other poems:
  1. Chloe's Conquest
  2. On Music
  3. The Absent Lover
  4. The Answer


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