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William Shenstone

(1714 - 1763 / England)

A Pastoral Ode. To the Hon. Sir Richard Lyttleton


The morn dispensed a dubious light,
A sudden mist had stolen from sight
Each pleasing vale and hill;
When Damon left his humble bowers,
To guard his flocks, to fence his flowers,
Or check his wandering rill.

Though school'd from Fortune's paths to fly,
The swain beneath each lowering sky
Would oft his fate bemoan,
That he, in sylvan shades forlorn,
Must waste his cheerless even and morn,
Nor praised, nor loved, nor known.

No friend to Fame's obstreperous noise,
Yet to the whispers of her voice,
Soft murmuring, not a foe:
The pleasures he through choice declined,
When gloomy fogs depress'd his mind,
It grieved him to forego.

Grieved him to lurk the lakes beside,
Where coots in rushy dingles hide,
And moorcocks shun the day;
While caitiff bitterns, undismay'd,
Remark the swain's familiar shade,
And scorn to quit their prey.

But see the radiant sun once more,
The brightening face of heaven restore,
And raise the doubtful dawn;
And, more to gild his rural sphere,
At once the brightest train appear
That ever trod the lawn.

Amazement chill'd the shepherd's frame,
To think Bridgewater's honour'd name
Should grace his rustic cell;
That she, on all whose motions wait
Distinction, titles, rank, and state,
Should rove where shepherds dwell.

But true it is, the generous mind,
By candour sway'd, by taste refined,
Will nought but vice disdain;
Nor will the breast where fancy glows,
Deem every flower a weed that blows
Amid the desert plain.

Beseems it such, with honour crown'd,
To deal its lucid beams around,
Nor equal meed receive;
At most such garlands from the field,
As cowslips, pinks, and pansies, yield,
And rural hands can weave.

Yet strive, ye shepherds! strive to find,
And weave the fairest of the kind,
The prime of all the spring;
If haply thus you lovely fair
May, round her temples, deign to wear
The trivial wreaths you bring.

O how the peaceful halcyons play'd,
Where'er the conscious lake betray'd
Athena's placid mien!
How did the sprightlier linnets throng,
Where Paphia's charms required the song,
'Mid hazel copses green!

Lo, Dartmouth on those banks reclined,
While busy Fancy calls to mind
The glories of his line!
Methinks my cottage rears its head,
The ruin'd walls of yonder shed,
As through enchantment, shine.

But who the nymph that guides their way?
Could ever nymph descend to stray
From Hagley's famed retreat?
Else, by the blooming features fair,
The faultless make, the matchless air,
'Twere Cynthia's form complete.

So would some tuberose delight,
That struck the pilgrim's wondering sight
'Mid lonely deserts drear;
All as at eve, the sovereign flower
Dispenses round its balmy power,
And crowns the fragrant year.

Ah! now no more, the shepherd cried,
Must I Ambition's charms deride,
Her subtle force disown;
No more of Fauns or Fairies dream,
While Fancy, near each crystal stream,
Shall paint these forms alone.

By low-brow'd rock or pathless mead,
I deem'd that splendour ne'er should lead
My dazzled eyes astray;
But who, alas! will dare contend,
If beauty add, or merit blend,
Its more illustrious ray?

Nor is it long, O plaintive swain!
Since Guernsey saw, without disdain,
Where, hid in woodlands green,
The partner of his early days,
And once the rival of his praise,
Had stolen through life unseen.

Scarce faded is the vernal flower,
Since Stamford left his honour'd bower
To smile familiar here:
O form'd by Nature to disclose,
How fair that courtesy which flows
From social warmth sincere!

Nor yet have many moons decay'd,
Since Pollio sought this lonely shade,
Admired this rural maze:
The noblest breast that Virtue fires,
The Graces love, the Muse inspires,
Might pant for Pollio's praise.

Say, Thomson here was known to rest;
For him you vernal seat I drest,
Ah, never to return!
In place of wit and melting strains,
And social mirth, it now remains
To weep beside his urn.

Come then, my Lelius! come once more,
And fringe the melancholy shore
With roses and with bays,
While I each wayward Fate accuse,
That envied his impartial Muse,
To sing your early praise.

While Philo, to whose favour'd sight
Antiquity, with full delight,
Her inmost wealth displays;
Beneath yon ruin's moulder'd wall
Shall muse, and with his friends recall
The pomp of ancient days.

Here, too, shall Conway's name appear;
He praised the stream so lovely clear,
That shone the reeds among;
Yet clearness could it not disclose,
To match the rhetoric that flows
From Conway's polish'd tongue.

Even Pitt, whose fervent periods roll
Resistless through the kindling soul
Of senates, councils, kings-
Though form'd for courts, vouchsafed to rove,
Inglorious, through the shepherd's grove,
And ope his bashful springs.

But what can courts discover more
Than these rude haunts have seen before,
Each fount and shady tree?
Have not these trees and fountains seen
The pride of courts, the winning mien
Of peerless Aylesbury?

And Grenville, she whose radiant eyes
Have mark'd by slow gradation rise
The princely piles of Stowe;
Yet praised these unembellish'd woods,
And smiled to see the babbling floods
Through self-worn mazes flow.

Say, Dartmouth, who your banks admired,
Again beneath your caves retired,
Shall grace the pensive shade;
With all the bloom, with all the truth,
With all the sprightliness of youth,
By cool reflection sway'd?

Brave, yet humane, shall Smith appear;
Ye sailors! though his name be dear,
Think him not yours alone:
Grant him in other spheres to charm;
The shepherds' breasts though mild are warm,
And ours are all his own.

O Lyttleton! my honour'd guest,
Could I describe thy generous breast,
Thy firm yet polish'd mind;
How public love adorns thy name,
How Fortune, too, conspires with Fame;
The song should please mankind.

Submitted: Monday, April 19, 2010

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