— Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros.
Ovid, Ex Ponto 2.9
1 TO you, whose groves protect the feather'd quires,
2 Who lend their artless notes a willing ear,
3 To you, whom pity moves, and taste inspires,
4 The Doric strain belongs; O Shenstone, hear.
5 'Twas gentle spring, when all the tuneful race,
6 By nature taught, in nuptial leagues combine:
7 A goldfinch joy'd to meet the warm embrace,
8 And hearts and fortunes with her mate to join.
9 Thro' Nature's spacious walks at large they rang'd,
10 No settled haunts, no fix'd abode their aim;
11 As chance or fancy led, their path they chang'd,
12 Themselves in every vary'd scene, the same.
13 'Till on a day to weighty cares resign'd,
14 With mutual choice, alternate, they agreed,
15 On rambling thoughts no more to turn their mind,
16 But settle soberly, and raise a breed.
17 All in a garden, on a currant-bush,
18 With wond'rous art they built their waving seat:
19 In the next orchat liv'd a friendly thrush,
20 Nor distant far, a woodlark's soft retreat.
21 Here blest with ease, and in each other blest,
22 With early songs they wak'd the sprightly groves,
23 'Till time matur'd their bliss, and crown'd their nest
24 With infant pledges of their faithful loves.
25 And now what transport glow'd in either's eye!
26 What equal fondness dealt th' allotted food!
27 What joy each other's likeness to descry,
28 And future sonnets in the chirping brood!
29 But ah! what earthly happiness can last?
30 How does the fairest purpose often fail?
31 A truant-school-boy's wantonness could blast
32 Their rising hopes, and leave them both to wail.
33 The most ungentle of his tribe was he;
34 No gen'rous precept ever touch'd his heart:
35 With concords false, and hideous prosody
36 He scrawl'd his task, and blunder'd o'er his part.
37 On barb'rous plunder bent, with savage eye
38 He mark'd where wrapt in down the younglins lay,
39 Then rushing seiz'd the wretched family,
40 And bore them in his impious hands away.
41 But how shall I relate in numbers rude
42 The pangs for poor*
* Chrysomitris, it seems, is the name for a goldfinch. Chrysomitris decreed!
43 When from a neighb'ring spray aghast she view'd
44 The savage ruffian's inauspicious deed!
45 So wrapt in grief some heart-struck matron stands,
46 While horrid flames surround her children's room!
47 On heav'n she calls, and wrings her trembling hands,
48 Constrain'd to see, but not prevent their doom.
49 "O grief of griefs! with shrieking voice she cry'd,
50 "What sight is this that I have liv'd to see?
51 "O! that I had a maiden-goldfinch died,
52 "From love's false joys, and bitter sorrows free!
53 "Was it for this, alas! with weary bill,
54 "Was it for this, I pois'd th' unwieldy straw?
55 "For this I pick'd the moss from yonder hill?
56 "Nor shun'd the pond'rous chat along to draw?
57 "Was it for this, I cull'd the wool with care;
58 "And strove with all my skill our work to crown?
59 "For this, with pain I bent the stubborn hair;
60 "And lin'd our cradle with the thistle's down?
61 "Was it for this my freedom I resign'd;
62 "And ceas'd to rove from beauteous plain to plain?
63 "For this I sate at home whole days confin'd,
64 "And bore the scorching heat, and pealing rain?
65 "Was it for this, my watchful eyes grow dim?
66 "The crimson roses on my cheek turn pale?
67 Pale is my golden plumage, once so trim;
68 "And all my wonted spirits 'gin to fail.
69 O plund'rer vile! O more than weezel fell!
70 "More treach'rous than the cat with prudish face!
71 "More fierce than kites with whom the furies dwell!
72 "More pilf'ring than the cuckow's prowling race!
73 "For thee may plumb or goosb'ry never grow,
74 "No juicy currant cool thy clammy throat:
75 "But bloody birch-twigs work thee shameful woe,
76 "Nor ever goldfinch cheer thee with her note. "
77 Thus sang the mournful bird her piteous tale,
78 The piteous tale her mournful mate return'd:
79 Then side by side they sought the distant vale,
80 And there in silent sadness inly mourn'd.