John Gay (30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732 / Barnstaple, England)
The Shepherd's Week : Saturday; or, The Flights
Sublimer strains, O rustic muse, prepare;
Forget awhile the barn and dary's care;
Thy homely voice to loftier numbers raise,
The drunkard's flights require sonorous lays,
With Bowzybeus; songs exalt thy verse,
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 field was seen a goodly rout,
Clean damsels bound the gather'd sheaves about,
The lads with sharpen'd hook and sweating brow
Cut down the labours of the winter plough.
To the near hedge young Susan steps aside,
She feign'd her coat or garter was untied,
Whate'er she did, she stoop'd adown unseen,
And merry reapers, what they list, will ween.
Soon she rose up, and cried with voice so shrill
That echo answer'd from the distant hill;
The youths and damsels ran to Susan's aid,
Who thought some adder had the lass dismay'd.
When fast asleep they Bowzybeus spied,
His hat and oaken staff lay close beside.
That Bowzybeus who could sweetly sing,
Or with the rozin'd bow torment the string:
That Bowzybeus who with finger's speed
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.
Ah Bowzybee, why didst thou stay so long?
The mugs were large, the drink was wondrous strong!
Thou shouldst 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,
And kiss'd, with smacking lip, the snoring lout.
For custom says, 'Whoe'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.
He rubs his nostril, and in wonted joke
The sneering swains with stammering speech bespoke.
To you, my lads, I'll sing my carols o'er,
As for the maids, - I've something else in store.
No sooner 'gan he raise his tuneful song,
But lads and lasses round about him throng.
Sings with a note so shrilling sweet and loud,
Nor parish-clerk who calls the psalm so clear,
Like Bowzybeus sooths the attentive ear.
Of nature's laws his carols first begun,
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,
And how the closing colworts 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,
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 season jeep,
And how the drowsy bat and dormouse sleep.
How nature does the puppy's eye-lid close,
Till the bright sun has nine times set and rose,
For huntsmen by their long experience find,
That puppies still nine rolling suns are blind.
Now he goes on, and sings of fairs and shows,
For still new fairs before his eyes arose.
How pedlars' stalls with glittering toys are laid,
The various fairings of the country maid.
Long silken laces hang upon the twine,
And rows of pins and amber bracelets shine;
How the tight lass, knives, combs, and scissars spies,
And looks on thimbles with desiring eyes.
Of lotteries next with tuneful note he told,
Where silver spoons are won, and rings of gold.
The lads and lasses trudge the street along,
And all the fair is crowded 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
And on the rope the vent'rous maiden swings;
Jack-pudding in his parti-colour'd jacket
Tosses the glove, and jokes at every packet.
Of raree-shows he sung, and Punch's feats,
Of pockets pick'd in crowds, and various cheats.
Then sad he sung 'the children in the wood.'
Ah barbarous uncle, stain'd with infant blood!
How blackberries they pluck'd in deserts wild,
And fearless at the glittering fauchion smil'd;
Their little corpse with robin-red-breasts found,
And strow'd with pious bill the leaves around.
Ah gentle birds! if this verse lasts so long,
Your name shall live for ever in my song.
For buxom Joan he sung the doubtful strife,
How the sly sailor made the maid a wife.
To louder strains he rais'd his voice, to tell
What woful wars in Chevy-Chase befell,
When 'Percy drove the deer with hound and horn,
Wars to be wept by children yet unborn!'
Ah Withrington, more years thy life had crown'd,
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 chants,
How to sleek mares starch quakers turn gallants:
How the grave brother stood on bank so green.
Happy for him if mares had never been!
Then he was seiz'd with a religious qualm,
And on a sudden, sung the hundredth psalm.
He sang of Taffy Welch, and Sawney Scot,
Lilly-bullero and the Irish Trot.
Why should I tell of Bateman or of Shore,
Or Wantley's dragon slain by valiant Moore.
The bower of Rosamond, or Robin Hood,
And how the grass now grows where Troy town stood?
His carols ceas'd: the listening 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
Again upon a wheat-sheaf drops adown;
The power that guards the drunk, his sleep attends,
'Till ruddy, like his face, the sun descends.
Comments about this poem (The Shepherd's Week : Saturday; or, The Flights by John Gay )
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