John Gay

(30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732 / Barnstaple, England)

The Shepherd's Week : Wednesday; Or, The Dumps - Poem by John Gay

The wailings of a maiden I recite,
A maiden fair, that Sparabella hight.
Such strains ne'er warble in the linnet's throat,
Nor the gay goldfinch chants so sweet a note,
No magpie chatter'd, nor the painted jay,
No ox was heard to low, nor ass to bray.
No rustling breezes play'd the leaves among,
While thus her madrigal the damsel sung.
A while, O D'Urfey, lend an ear or twain,
Nor, though in homely guise, my verse disdain:
Whether thou seek'st new kingdoms in the sun,
Whether thy muse does at Newmarket run,
Or does with gossips at a feast regale,
And heighten her conceits with sack and ale,
Or else at wakes with Joan and Hodge rejoice,
Where D'Urfey's lyrics swell in every voice;
Yet suffer me, thou bard of wondrous meed,
Amid thy bays to weave this rural weed.
Now the sun drove adown the western road,
And oxen laid at rest forget the goad,
The clown fatigu'd trudg'd homeward with his spade,
Across the meadows stretch'd the lengthen'd shade:
When Sparabella, pensive and forlorn,
Alike with yearning love and labour worn,
Lean'd on her rake, and straight with doleful guise
Did this said plaint in moanful notes devise.
Come night as dark as pitch, surround my head,
From Sparabella Bumkinet is fled;
The ribbon that his valorous cudgel won,
Last Sunday happier Clumsillis put on,
Sure if he'd eyes, (but love, they say, has none)
I whilom by that ribbon had been known.
Ah, well-a-day! I'm shent with baneful aid,
'Tis hard so true a damsel dies a maid.'
Shall heavy Clumsillis with me compare?
View this, ye lovers, and like me despair.
Her blubber'd lip by smutty pipes is worn,
And in her breath tobacco whiffs are born;
The cleanly cheese-press she could never turn,
Her awkward fist did ne'er employ the churn;
If e'er she brew'd, the drink would straight go sour,
Before it ever felt the thunder's power:
No huswifry the dowdy creature knew,
To sum up all, her tongue confess'd the shrew.
'My plaint, ye lasses, with this burthen aid,
'Tis hard so true a damsel dies a maid.'
I've often seen my visage in yon lake,
Nor are my features of the homeliest make.
Though Clumsillis may boast a whiter dye,
Yet the black sloe turns in my rolling eye;
And fairest blossoms drop with every blast,
But the brown beauty will like the hollies last.
Her wan complexion's like the wither'd leek,
While Catherine pears adorn my ruddy cheek.
Yet she, alas! the witless lout hath won,
And by her gain poor Sparabella's undone!
Let hares and hounds in coupling straps unite,
The clocking hen make friendship with the kite,
Let the fox simply wear the nuptial noose,
And join in wedlock with the wadling goose;
For love hath brought a stranger thing to pass,
The fairest shepherd weds the foulest lass.
'My plaint, ye lasses, with this burthen aid,
'Tis hard so true a damsel dies a maid.'
Ah! didst thou know what proffers I withstood,
When late I met the squire in yonder wood!
To me he sped, regardless of his game,
While all my cheek was glowing red with shame;
My lip he kiss'd, and prais'd my healthful look,
Then from his purse of silk a guinea took,
Into my hand he forc'd the tempting gold,
While I with modest struggling broke his hold.
He swore that Dick in livery stripp'd with lace,
Should wed me soon, to keep me from disgrace;
But I nor footman priz'd, nor golden fee,
For what is lace or gold compar'd to thee?
'My plaint, ye lasses, with this burthen aid,
'Tis hard so true a damsel dies a maid.'
Now plain I ken whence love his rise begun,
Sure he was born some bloody butcher's son,
Bred up in shambles where our younglings slain,
Erst taught him mischief and to sport with pain.
The father only silly sheep annoys,
The son the sillier shepherdess destroys.
Does son or father greater mischief do?
The sire is cruel, so the son is too.
'My plaint, ye lasses, with this burthen aid,
'Tis hard so true a damsel dies a maid.'
Farewell, ye woods, ye meads, ye streams that flow:
A sudden death shall rid me of my woe.
This penknife keen my windpipe shall divide,.
What, shall I fall as squeaking pigs have died!
No - to some tree this carcase I'll suspend.
But worrying curs find such untimely end!
I'll speed me to the pond, where the high stool
On the long plank hangs o'er the muddy pool,
That stool, the dread of every scolding quean,
Yet, sure a lover should not die so mean!
There plac'd aloft, I'll rave and rail by fits,
Though all the parish say I've lost my wits;
And thence, if courage holds, myself I'll throw,
And quench my passion in the lake below.
'Ye lasses, cease your burthen, cease to moan,
And, by my case forewarn'd, go mind your own.'
The sun was set; the night came on apace,
And falling dews bewet around the place,
The bat takes airy rounds on leathern wings,
And the hoarse owl his woful dirges sings;
The prudent maiden deems it now too late,
And till to-morrow comes defers her fate.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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