William Shenstone

(1714 - 1763 / England)

Elegy XVIII. He Repeats the Song of Colin, a Discerning Shepherd


Near Avon's bank, on Arden's flowery plain,
A tuneful shepherd charm'd the listening wave,
And sunny Cotsol' fondly loved the strain;
Yet not a garland crowns the shepherd's grave!

Oh! lost Ophelia! smoothly flow'd the day,
To feel his music with my flames agree,
To taste the beauties of his melting lay,
To taste, and fancy it was dear to thee.

When, for his tomb, with each revolving year,
I steal the musk-rose from the scented brake,
I strew my cowslips, and I pay my tear,
I'll add the myrtle for Ophelia's sake.

Shivering beneath a leafless thorn he lay,
When Death's chill rigour seized his flowing tongue;
The more I found his faltering notes decay,
The more prophetic truth sublimed the song.

'Adieu, my Flocks!' he said, 'my wonted care,
By sunny mountain, or by verdant shore;
May some more happy hand your fold prepare,
And may you need your Colin's crook no more!

'And you, ye Shepherds! lead my gentle sheep,
To breezy hills, or leafy shelters lead;
But if the sky with showers incessant weep,
Avoid the putrid moisture of the mead.

'Where the wild thyme perfumes the purpled heath,
Long loitering, there your fleecy tribes extend-
But what avail the maxims I bequeath?
The fruitless gift of an officious friend!

'Ah! what avails the timorous lambs to guard,
Though nightly cares with daily labours join,
If foreign sloth obtain the rich reward,
If Gallia's craft the ponderous fleece purloin?

Was it for this, by constant vigils worn,
I met the terrors of an early grave?
For this I led them from the pointed thorn?
For this I bathed them in the lucid wave?

'Ah! heedless Albion! too benignly prone
Thy blood to lavish, and thy wealth resign!
Shall every other virtue grace thy throne,
But quick-eyed Prudence never yet be thine?

From the fair natives of this peerless hill
Thou gav'st the sheep that browse Iberian plains;
Their plaintive cries the faithless region fill,
Their fleece adorns an haughty foe's domains.

'Ill-fated flocks! from cliff to cliff they stray;
Far from their dams, their native guardians, far!
Where the soft shepherd, all the livelong day,
Chaunts his proud mistress to his hoarse guitar.

'But Albion's youth her native fleece despise;
Unmoved they hear the pining shepherd's moan;
In silky folds each nervous limb disguise,
Allured by every treasure but their own.

'Oft have I hurried down the rocky steep,
Anxious to see the wintry tempest drive;
Preserve, said I, preserve your fleece, my Sheep!
Ere long will Phillis, will my love, arrive.

'Ere long she came: ah! woe is me! she came,
Robed in the Gallic loom's extraneous twine;
For gifts like these they give their spotless fame,
Resign their bloom, their innocence resign.

'Will no bright maid, by worth, by titles known,
Give the rich growth of British hills to Fame?
And let her charms, and her example, own
That Virtue's dress and Beauty's are the same?

'Will no famed chief support this generous maid?
Once more the patriot's arduous path resume?
And, comely from his native plains array'd,
Speak future glory to the British loom?

'What power unseen my ravish'd fancy fires?
I pierce the dreary shade of future days;
Sure 'tis the genius of the land inspires,
To breathe my latest breath in -- praise.

'O might my breath for -- praise suffice,
How gently should my dying limbs repose!
O might his future glory bless mine eyes,
My ravish'd eyes! how calmly would they close!

' -- was born to spread the general joy;
By virtue rapt, by party uncontroll'd;
Britons for Britain shall the crook employ;
Britons for Britain's glory shear the fold.'

Submitted: Monday, April 19, 2010

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