The Shepherd's Week/Sixth Pastoral

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4040950The Shepherd's Week — Sixth PastoralJohn Gay




SUBLIMER strains, O rustick muse, prepare;
Forget a while the barn and dairy's care.
Thy homely voice to loftier numbers raise,
The drunkard's flights require sonorous lays;
With Bowzybeus' songs exalt thy verse, 5
While rocks and woods the various notes rehearse.
'Twas in the season when the reaper's toil
Of the ripe harvest 'gan to rid the soil;
Wide through the fields was seen a goodly rout,
Clean damsels bound the gather'd leaves about, 10
The lads with sharpen'd hook and sweating brow
Cut down the labours of the winter-plow.
To the near hedge young Susan steps aside;
She feign'd her coat or garter was unty'd:
What-e'er she did, she stoop'd adown unseen, 15
And merry reapers, what they list, will ween.
Soon she rose up, and cry'd with voice so shrill
That eccho answer'd from the distant hill:
The youths and damsels ran to Susan's aid,
Who thought some adder had the lass dismay'd. 20
When fast asleep they Bowzybeus spy'd,
His hat and oaken staff lay close beside:[1]
That Bowzybeus who could sweetly sing,
Or with the rozin'd bow torment the string;
That Bowzydseus who with fingers speed, 25
Could call soft warblings from the breathing reed;
That Bowzybeus who with jocund tongue,
Ballads and roundelays and catches sung.
They loudly laugh to see the damsel's fright,
And in disport surround the drunken wight. 30
Ah Bowzybee, why didst thou stay so long,
The mugs were large, the drink was wondrous strong!
Thou should'st have left the fair before 'twas night,
But thou sat'st toping 'till the morning light.
Cic'ly, brisk maid, steps forth before the rout, 35
And kiss'd with smacking lips the snoring lout.
For custom says, Who-e'er this venture proves,
For such a kiss demands a pair of gloves.
By her example Dorcas bolder grows,
And plays a tickling straw within his nose.[2] 40
He rubs his nostril, and in wonted joke,
The sneering swains with stamm'ring speech bespoke:
To you, my lads, I'll sing my carrols o'er,[3]
As for the maids,—I've something else in store.
No sooner, 'gan he raise his tuneful song, 45
But lads and lasses round about him throng.
Not ballad-finger plac'd above the croud[4]
Sings with a note so thrilling sweet and loud,
Nor parish clerk who calls the psalms so clear,
Like Bowzybeus sooths th' attentive ear. 50
Of nature's laws his carrols first begun,[5]
Why the grave owl can never face the sun;
For owls, as swains observe, detest the light,
And only sing and seek their prey by night.
How turnips hide their swelling heads below, 55
And how the closing coleworts upwards grow;
How Will-a-wisp misleads night-faring clowns,
O'er hills, and sinking bogs, and pathless downs:
Of stars he told that shoot with shining trail,
And of the glow-worm's light that gilds his tail. 60
He sung where wood-cocks in the summer feed,
And in what climates they renew their breed;
Some think to northern coasts their flight they tend,
Or to the moon in midnight hours ascend.
Where swallows in the winter's season keep, 65
And how the drowsie bat and dormouse sleep.
How nature does the puppy's eyelid close,
Till the bright sun hath nine times set and rose.
For huntsmen by their long experience find,
That puppys still nine rolling fans are blind. 70
Now he goes on and sings of fairs and shows,
For still new fairs before his eyes arose.
How pedlars stalls with glitt'ring toys are laid,
The various fairings of the country maid.
Long-silken laces hang upon the twine, 75
And rows of pins and amber bracelets shine;
How the tight lass, knives, combs and scissars spys,
And looks on thimbles with desiring eyes.
Of lott'ries next with tuneful note he told,
Where silver spoons are won and rings-of gold. 80
The lads and lasses trudge the street along,
And all the fair is crouded in his song.
The mountebank now treads the stage and sells,
His pills, his balsams, and his ague spells;
Now o'er and o'er the nimble tumbler springs, 85
And on the rope the vent'rous maiden swings;
Jack-pudding in his parti-coloured jacket,
Tosses the glove, and jokes at ev'ry packet.
Of raree-shows he sung, and Punch's feats,
Of pockets pick'd in crowds, and various cheats. 90
Then sad he sung the Children in the wood:
Ah barb'rous uncle, stain'd with infant blood!
How blackberrys they pluck'd in desarts wild,
And fearless at the glitt'ring faulchion smil'd;
Their little corps the robin-red-breast found, 95
And strow'd with pious bill the leaves around.
Ah gentle birds!, if this verse lasts so long,[6]
Your names shall live for ever in my song.
For buxom Joan he sung the doubtful strife,[7]
How the sly sailor made the maid a wife. 100
To louder strains he ra1s'd his voice, to tell
What woeful wars in Chevy-chase befell,
When Piercy drove the dear with hound and horn,
Wars to be wept by children yet unborn!
Ah With'rington, more years thy life had crown'd, 105
If thou hadst never heard the horn or hound!
Yet shall the squire, who fought on bloody stumps,
By future bards be wail'd in doleful dumps.
All in the land of Essex next he chaunts,[8]
How to steek mares starch Quakers turn gallants; 110
How the grave brother stood on bank so green:
Happy for him if mares had never been![9]
Then he was seiz'd with a religious qualm,
And on a sudden sung the hundredth Psalm.
He sung of Taffey-Welsh, and Sawney-Scot, 115
Lilly-bullero and the Irish Trot,
Why should I tell of Bateman or of Shore,[10][11]
Or Wantley's dragon slain by valiant Moore,
The bow'r of Rosamond, or Robin Hood, 119
And how the grass now grows where Troy town stood?
His carrols ceas'd: The list'ning maids and swains
Seem still to hear some soft imperfect strains.
Sudden he rose; and as he reels along,
Swears kisses sweet should well reward his song.
The damsels laughing fly; the giddy clown 125
Again upon a wheat-sheaf drops adown;
The pow'r that guards the drunk, his sleep atends,
'Till ruddy, like his face, the sun descends.

  1. Line 22. Serta procul tantum capiti delapsit jacebant.Virg:
  2. 40 Sanguineis frontem Moris & Tempora pingit.Virg.
  3. 43. Carmina quae vultis, cognoscite; carmina vobis
    Huic aliud Mercedis erit.Virg.
  4. Line 47. Nec tantum Phœbo gradet Parnasia rupes
    Nec tantum Rhodope mirantur & Ismarus Orphea.
  5. 51. Our swain had probably read Tusser, from whence he might have collected those philosophical Observations.
    Namque canebat uti magnum per inane coacta, &c.
  6. Line 97. Fortunati ambo, si quid mea Carmina possunt,
    Nulla Dies unquam memori vos eximet ævo.Virg.
  7. 99. A song in the comedy of Love for Love, beginning
    A soldier and a sailor, &c.
  8. Line 109. A song of Sir J. Denham's See his poems.
  9. 112. Et fortunatum si nunquam Armenta fuissent Pasiphaen.Virg.
  10. 117. Old English Ballads.
  11. 117. Quid loquar aut Scyllam Nisi, &c.Virg.