The Shepherd's Week/Prologue

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3999960The Shepherd's Week — PrologueJohn Gay


To the Right Honourable the

Ld. Visc. Bolingbroke.

LO, I who erst beneath a tree,
Sung Bumpkinet and Bowzybee,
And Blouzelind and Marian bright,
In apron blue or apron white,
Now write my sonnets in a Book,
For my good lord Bolingbroke.

As lads and lasses flood around
To hear my boxen haut-boy sound,
Our clerk came posting o'er the green
With doleful tidings of the Queen;
That Queen, he said, to whom we owe
Sweet peace that maketh riches flow;
That Queen who eas'd our tax of late,
Was dead, alas!———and lay in state.

At this, in tears was Cic'ly seen,
Buxoma tore her pinners clean,
In doleful dumps stood ev'ry clown,
The parson rent his band and gown.

For me, when as I heard that death
Had snatch'd Queen Anne to Elizabeth,
I broke my reed, and sighing swore
I'd weep for Blouzelind no more.
While thus we stood as in a stound,
And wet with tears, like dew, the ground,
Full soon by bonfire and by bell
We learnt our liege was passing well.
A skilful leach, (so God him speed)
They said had wrought this blessed deed.
This leach Arbuthnot was yclept,
Who many a night not once had slept;
But watch'd our gracious sov'reign still:
For who could rest when she was ill?
Oh, may'st thou henceforth sweetly sleep.
Sheer, swains, oh sheer your softest sheep
To swell his couch; for well I ween,
He sav'd the realm who sav'd the Queen.

Quoth I, please God, I'll hye with glee
To court, this Arburthnot to see.
I sold my sheep and lambkins too,
For silver loops and garment blue;
My boxen haut-boy sweet of sound,
For lace that edg'd mine hat around;
For Lightfoot and my scrip I got
A gorgeous sword, and eke a knot.

So forth I far'd to court with speed,
Of soldiers drum withouten dreed;
For peace allays the shepherd's fear
Of wearing cap of granadier.

There saw I ladies all a-row
Before their Queen in seemly show.
No more I'll sing Buxoma brown,
Like goldfinch in her Sunday gown;
Nor Clumsilis, nor Marian bright,
Nor damsel that Hobnelia hight.
But Lansdown fresh as flow'r of May,
And Berkely lady blithe and gay,
And Anglesey whose speech exceeds
The voice of pipe, or oaten reeds;
And blooming Hyde, with eyes so rare,
And Montague beyond compare.
Such ladies fair wou'd I depaint
In roundelay or sonnet quaint.

There many a worthy wight I've seen
In ribbon blue and ribbon green.
As Oxford, who a wand doth bear,
Like Moses, in our bibles fair;
Who for our traffick forms designs,
And gives to Britain, Indian mines.
Now, shepherds, clip your fleecy care,
Ye maids, your spinning-wheels prepare,
Ye weavers, all your shuttles throw,
And bid broad cloths and serges grow,
For trading free shall thrive again,
Nor leafings leud affright the swain.

There saw I St. John, sweet of mein,
Full stedfast both to Church and Queen;
With whose fair name I'll deck my strain.
St. John, right courteous to the swain.

For thus he told me on a day,
Trim are thy sonnets, gentle Gay,
And certes, mirth it were to see
Thy joyous madrigals twice three,
With preface meet, and notes profound,
Imprinted fair, and well y-bound.
All suddenly then home I sped,
And did ev'n as my lord had said.

Lo here, thou hast mine eclogues fair,
But let not these detain thine ear.
Let not th' affairs of States and Kings
Wait while our Bowzybeus sings.
Rather than verse of simple swain
Should stay the trade of France or Spain,
Or for the plaint of parson's maid,
Yon Emperor's packets be delay'd;
In sooth, I swear by holy Paul,
I'd burn book, preface, notes and all.

April, 1714.