John Dyer


The Fleece


The Poetical Works of John Dyer, L.L.B. Carefully Corrected

The subject proposed. Dedicatory address. Of pasturesin general fit for sheep: for fine-wool'd sheep: for long-wool'd sheep. Defectsof pastures, and their remedies. Of climates. The moisture of the Englishclimate vindicated. Particular beauties of England. Different kinds of Englishsheep: the two common sorts of rams described. Different kinds of foreignsheep. The several sorts of food. The distempers arising from thence, withtheir remedies. Sheep led by instinct to their proper food and physic. Of theshepherd's scrip, and its furniture. Care of sheep in tupping time. Of thecastration of lambs, and the folding of sheep. Various precepts relative tochanges of weather and seasons. Particular care of new-fallen lambs. Theadvantages and security of the English shepherd above those in hotter or colderclimates; exemplified with respect to Lapland, Italy, Greece, and Arabia. Ofsheep-shearing. Song on that occasion. Custom in Wales of sprinkling the riverswith flowers. Sheep-shearing feast and merriments on the banks of theSevern.

  The care of Sheep, the labours of the Loom,
  And arts of Trade, I sing. Ye rural nymphs,
  Ye swains, and princely merchants, aid the verse.
  And ye, high-trusted guardians of our Isle,
5   Whom public voice approves, or lot of birth
  To the great charge assigns: ye good, of all
  Degrees, all sects, be present to my song.
  So may distress, and wretchedness, and want,
  The wide felicities of labour learn:
10   So may the proud attempts of restless Gaul
  From our strong borders, like a broken wave,
  In empty foam retire. But chiefly Thou,
  The people's shepherd, eminently plac'd
  Over the num'rous swains of ev'ry vale,
15   With well-permitted pow'r and watchful eye,
  On each gay field to shed beneficence,
  Celestial office! - Thou protect the song.
  On spacious airy downs, and gentle hills,
  With grass and thyme o'erspread, and clover wild,
20   Where smiling Phoebus tempers ev'ry breeze,
  The fairest flocks rejoice! they, nor of halt,
  Hydropic tumours, nor of rot, complain;
  Evils deform'd and foul: nor with hoarse cough
  Disturb the music of the past'ral pipe:
25   But, crouding to the note, with silence soft
  The close-wov'n carpet graze; where nature blends
  Flowrets and herbage of minutest size,
  Innoxious luxury. Wide airy downs
  Are Health's gay walks to shepherd and to sheep.
30   All arid soils, with sand, or chalky flint,
  Or shells deluvian mingled; and the turf,
  That mantles over rocks of brittle stone,
  Be thy regard: and where low-tufted broom,
  Or box, or berry'd juniper arise;
35   Or the tall growth of glossy-rinded beech;
  And where the burrowing rabbit turns the dust;
  And where the dappled deer delights to bound.
  Such are the downs of Banstead, edg'd with woods,
  And tow'ry villas; such Dorcestrian fields,
40   Whose flocks innum'rous whiten all the land:
  Such those slow-climbing wilds, that lead the step
  Insensibly to Dover's windy cliff,
  Tremendous height! and such the clover'd lawns
  And sunny mounts of beauteous Normanton,
45   Health's cheerful haunt, and the selected walk
  Of Heathcote's leisure: such the spacious plain
  Of Sarum, spread like Ocean's boundless round,
  Where solitary Stonehenge, grey with moss,
  Ruin of ages, nods: such too the leas
50   And ruddy tilth, which spiry Ross beholds,
  From a green hillock, o'er her lofty elms;
  And Lemster's brooky tract, and airy Croft;
  And such Harleian Eywood's swelling turf,
  Wav'd as the billows of a rolling sea:
55   And Shobden, for its lofty terrace fam'd,
  Which from a mountain's ridge, elate o'er woods,
  And girt with all Siluria, sees around
  Regions on regions blended in the clouds.
  Pleasant Siluria, land of various views,
60   Hills, rivers, woods, and lawns, and purple groves
  Pomaceous, mingled with the curling growth
  Of tendril hops, that flaunt upon their poles,
  More airy wild than vines along the sides
  Of treacherous Falernum; or that hill
65   Vesuvius, where the bow'rs of Bacchus rose,
  And Herculanean and Pompeian domes.
  But if thy prudent care would cultivate
  Leicestrian fleeces, what the sinewy arm
  Combs through the spiky steel in lengthen'd flakes;
70   Rich saponaceous loam, that slowly drinks
  The black'ning show'r, and fattens with the draught,
  Or marl with clay deep-mix'd, be then thy choice,
  Of one consistence, one complexion, spread
  Through all thy glebe; where no deceitful veins
75   Of envious gravel lurk beneath the turf,
  To loose the creeping waters from their springs,
  Tainting the pasturage: and let thy fields
  In slopes descend and mount, that chilling rains
  May trickle off, and hasten to the brooks.
80   Yet some defect in all on earth appears;
  All seek for help, all press for social aid.
  Too cold the grassy mantle of the marl,
  In stormy winter's long and dreary nights,
  For cumbent sheep; from broken slumber oft
85   They rise benumb'd, and vainly shift the couch;
  Their wasted sides their evil plight declare.
  Hence tender in his care, the shepherd swain
  Seeks each contrivance. Here it would avail,
  At a meet distance from the upland ridge,
90   To sink a trench, and on the hedge-long bank
  Sow frequent sand, with lime and dark manure;
  Which to the liquid element will yield
  A porous way, a passage to the foe.
  Plough not such pastures: deep in spungy grass
95   The oldest carpet is the warmest lair,
  And soundest; in new herbage coughs are heard.
  Nor love too frequent shelter: such as decks
  The vale of Severn, nature's garden wide,
  By the blue steeps of distant Malvern wall'd,
100   Solemnly vast. The trees of various shade,
  Scene behind scene, with fair delusive pomp
  Enrich the prospect, but they rob the lawns.
  No, prickly brambles, white with woolly theft,
  Should tuft thy fields. Applaud not the remiss
105   Dimetians, who along their mossy dales
  Consume, like grasshoppers, the summer hour;
  While round them stubborn thorns and furze increase,
  And creeping briars. I knew a careful swain,
  Who gave them to the crackling flames, and spread
110   Their dust saline upon the deep'ning grass:
  And oft with labour-strengthen'd arm he delv'd
  The draining trench across his verdant slopes,
  To intercept the small meand'ring rills
  Of upper hamlets: haughty trees, that sour
115   The shaded grass, that weaken thorn-set mounds,
  And harbour villain crows, he rare allow'd:
  Only a slender tuft of useful ash,
  And mingled beech and elm, securely tall,
  The little smiling cottage warm embow'r'd;
120   The little smiling cottage, where at eve
  He meets his rosy children at the door,
  Prattling their welcomes, and his honest wife,
  With good brown cake and bacon slice, intent
  To cheer his hunger after labour hard.
125   Nor only soil, there also must be found
  Felicity of clime, and aspect bland,
  Where gentle sheep may nourish locks of price.
  In vain the silken fleece on windy brows,
  And northern slopes of cloud-dividing hills
130   Is sought, though soft Iberia spreads her lap
  Beneath their rugged feet, and names their heights
  Biscaian or Segovian. Bothnic realms,
  And dark Norwegian, with their choicest fields,
  Dingles, and dells, by lofty fir embower'd,
135   In vain the bleaters court. Alike they shun
  Libya's hot plains; what taste have they for groves
  Of palm, or yellow dust of gold? no more
  Food to the flock, than to the miser wealth,
  Who kneels upon the glittering heap, and starves.
140   Ev'n Gallic Abbeville the shining fleece,
  That richly decorates her loom, acquires
  Basely from Albion, by th' ensnaring bribe,
  The bait of av'rice, which, with felon fraud,
  For its own wanton mouth, from thousands steals.
145   How erring oft the judgment in its hate,
  Or fond desire! Those slow-descending show'rs,
  Those hov'ring fogs, that bathe our growing vales
  In deep November (loath'd by trifling Gaul,
  Effeminate,) are gifts the Pleiads shed,
150   Britannia's handmaids. As the bev'rage falls,
  Her hills rejoice, her valleys laugh and sing.
  Hail noble Albion! where no golden mines,
  No soft perfumes, nor oils, nor myrtle bow'rs,
  The vig'rous frame and lofty heart of man
155   Enervate: round whose stern cerulean brows
  White-winged snow, and cloud, and pearly rain,
  Frequent attend, with solemn majesty:
  Rich queen of mists and vapours! These thy sons
  With their cool arms compress, and twist their nerves
160   For deeds of excellence and high renown.
  Thus form'd, our Edwards, Henrys, Churchills, Blakes,
  Our Lockes, our Newtons, and our Miltons, rose.
  See the sun gleams; the living pastures rise,
  After the nurture of the fallen show'r,
165   How beautiful! how blue th' ethereal vault,
  How verdurous the lawns, how clear the brooks!
  Such noble warlike steeds, such herds of kine,
  So sleek, so vast; such spacious flocks of sheep,
  Like flakes of gold illumining the green,
170   What other paradise adorn but thine,
  Britannia? happy, if thy sons would know
  Their happiness. To these thy naval streams,
  Thy frequent towns superb of busy trade,
  And ports magnific add, and stately ships,
175   Innumerous. But whither strays my muse?
  Pleas'd, like a traveller upon the strand
  Arriv'd of bright Augusta: wild he roves
  From deck to deck, thro' groves immense of masts;
  'Mong crouds, bales, cars, the wealth of either Ind;
180   Through wharfs, and squares, and palaces, and domes,
  In sweet surprize; unable yet to fix
  His raptur'd mind, or scan in order'd course
  Each object singly; with discov'ries new
  His native country studious to enrich.
185   Ye shepherds, if your labours hope success,
  Be first your purpose to procure a breed,
  To soil and clime adapted. Ev'ry soil
  And clime, ev'n ev'ry tree and herb, receives
  Its habitant peculiar: each to each,
190   The Great Invisible, and each to all,
  Through earth, and seas, and air, harmonious suits.
  Tempestuous regions, Darwent's naked peaks,
  Snowden and blue Plynlymmon, and the wide
  Aerial sides of Cader-yddris huge;
195   These are bestow'd on goat-horn'd sheep, of fleece
  Hairy and coarse, of long and nimble shank,
  Who rove o'er bog or heath, and graze or brouze
  Alternate, to collect, with due dispatch,
  O'er the bleak wild, the thinly-scatter'd meal.
200   But hills of milder air, that gently rise
  O'er dewy dales, a fairer species boast,
  Of shorter limb, and frontlet more ornate;
  Such the Silurian. If thy farm extends
  Near Cotswold downs, or the delicious groves
205   Of Symmonds, honour'd through the sandy soil
  Of elmy Ross, or Devon's myrtle vales,
  That drink clear rivers near the glassy sea;
  Regard this sort, and hence thy sire of lambs
  Select: his tawny fleece in ringlets curls;
210   Long swings his slender tail; his front is fenc'd
  With horns Ammonian, circulating twice
  Around each open ear, like those fair scrolls
  That grace the columns of th' Iönic dome.
  Yet should thy fertile glebe be marly clay,
215   Like Melton pastures, or Tripontian fields,
  Where ever-gliding Avon's limpid wave
  Thwarts the long course of dusty Watling-street;
  That larger sort, of head defenceless, seek,
  Whose fleece is deep and clammy, close and plain:
220   The ram short-limb'd, whose form compact describes
  One level line along his spacious back;
  Of full and ruddy eye, large ears, stretch'd head,
  Nostrils dilated, breast and shoulders broad,
  And spacious haunches, and a lofty dock.
225   Thus to their kindred soil and air induc'd,
  Thy thriving herd will bless thy skilful care,
  That copies nature; who, in ev'ry change,
  In each variety, with wisdom works,
  And pow'rs diversified of air and soil,
230   Her rich materials. Hence Sabæa's rocks,
  Chaldæa's marle, Ægyptus' water'd loam,
  And dry Cyrene's sand, in climes alike,
  With diff'rent stores supply the marts of trade.
  Hence Zembla's icy tracts no bleaters hear;
235   Small are the Russian herds, and harsh their fleece:
  Of light esteem Germanic, far remote
  From soft sea-breezes, open winters mild,
  And summers bath'd in dew: on Syrian sheep
  The costly burden only loads their tails:
240   No locks Cormandel's, none Malacca's tribe
  Adorn; but sleek of flix, and brown like deer,
  Fearful and shepherdless, they bound along
  The sands. No fleeces wave in torrid climes,
  Which verdure boast of trees and shrubs alone,
245   Shrubs aromatic, coffee wild, or thea,
  Nutmeg, or cinnamon, or fiery clove,
  Unapt to feed the fleece. The food of wool
  Is grass or herbage soft, that ever blooms
  In temp'rate air, in the delicious downs
250   Of Albion, on the banks of all her streams.
  Of grasses are unnumber'd kinds, and all
  (Save where foul waters linger on the turf)
  Salubrious. Early mark, when tepid gleams
  Oft mingle with the pearls of summer show'rs,
255   And swell too hastily the tender plains:
  Then snatch away thy sheep; beware the rot;
  And with detersive bay-salt rub their mouths;
  Or urge them on a barren bank to feed,
  In hunger's kind distress, on tedded hay;
260   Or to the marish guide their easy steps,
  If near thy tufted crofts the broad sea spreads.
  Sagacious care foreacts: when strong disease
  Breaks in, and stains the purple streams of health,
  Hard is the strife of art: the coughing pest
265   From their green pasture sweeps whole flocks away.
  That dire distemper sometimes may the swain,
  Though late, discern; when, on the lifted lid,
  Or visual orb, the turgid veins are pale;
  The swelling liver then her putrid store
270   Begins to drink: ev'n yet thy skill exert,
  Nor suffer weak despair to fold thy arms:
  Again detersive salt apply, or shed
  The hoary med'cine o'er their arid food.
  In cold stiff soils the bleaters oft complain
275   Of gouty ails, by shepherds term'd the halt:
  Those let the neighb'ring fold, or ready crook
  Detain; and pour into their cloven feet
  Corrosive drugs, deep-searching arsenic,
  Dry alum, verdigrise, or vitriol keen.
280   But if the doubtful mischief scarce appears,
  'Twill serve to shift them to a dryer turf,
  And salt again: th' utility of salt
  Teach thy slow swains: redundant humours cold
  Are the diseases of the bleating kind.
285   Th' infectious scab, arising from extremes
  Of want or surfeit, is by water cur'd
  Of lime, or sodden stave-acre, or oil
  Dispersive of Norwegian tar, renown'd
  By virtuous Berkeley, whose benevolence
290   Explor'd its pow'rs, and easy med'cine thence
  Sought for the poor: ye poor, with grateful voice,
  Invoke eternal blessings on his head.
  Sheep also pleurisies and dropsies know,
  Driv'n oft from nature's path by artful man,
295   Who blindly turns aside, with haughty hand,
  Whom sacred instinct would securely lead.
  But thou, more humble swain, thy rural gates
  Frequent unbar, and let thy flocks abroad,
  From lea to croft, from mead to arid field;
300   Noting the fickle seasons of the sky.
  Rain-sated pastures let them shun, and seek
  Changes of herbage and salubrious flow'rs.
  By their all-perfect Master inly taught,
  They best their food and physic can discern;
305   For He, Supreme Existence, ever near,
  Informs them. O'er the vivid green observe
  With what a regular consent they crop,
  At ev'ry fourth collection to the mouth,
  Unsav'ry crow-flow'r; whether to awake
310   Languor of appetite with lively change,
  Or timely to repel approaching ill,
  Hard to determine. Thou, whom nature loves,
  And with her salutary rules entrusts,
  Benevolent Mackenzie, say the cause.
315   This truth howe'er shines bright to human sense;
  Each strong affection of th' unconscious brute,
  Each bent, each passion of the smallest mite,
  Is wisely giv'n; harmonious they perform
  The work of perfect reason, (blush, vain man,)
320   And turn the wheels of nature's vast machine.
  See that thy scrip have store of healing tar,
  And marking pitch and raddle; nor forget
  Thy sheers true pointed, nor th' officious dog,
  Faithful to teach thy stragglers to return:
325   So mayst thou aid who lag along, or steal
  Aside into the furrows or the shades,
  Silent to droop; or who, at ev'ry gate
  Or hillock, rub their sores and loosen'd wool.
  But rather these, the feeble of thy flock,
330   Banish before th' autumnal months: ev'n age
  Forbear too much to favour; oft renew,
  And through thy fold let joyous youth appear.
  Beware the season of imperial love,
  Who through the world his ardent spirit pours;
335   Ev'n sheep are then intrepid: the proud ram
  With jealous eye surveys the spacious field;
  All rivals keep aloof, or desp'rate war
  Suddenly rages; with impetuous force,
  And fury irresistible, they dash
340   Their hardy frontlets; the wide vale resounds;
  The flock amaz'd stands safe afar; and oft
  Each to the other's might a victim falls:
  As fell of old, before that engine's sway,
  Which hence ambition imitative wrought,
345   The beauteous tow'rs of Salem to the dust.
  Wise custom, at the fifth or sixth return,
  Or ere they've past the twelfth of orient morn,
  Castrates the lambkins; necessary rite,
  Ere they be number'd of the peaceful herd.
350   But kindly watch whom thy sharp hand has griev'd,
  In those rough months, that lift the turning year:
  Not tedious is the office; to thy aid
  Favonius hastens; soon their wounds he heals,
  And leads them skipping to the flow'rs of May;
355   May, who allows to fold, if poor the tilth,
  Like that of dreary, houseless, common fields,
  Worn by the plough: but fold on fallows dry;
  Enfeeble not thy flock to feed thy land:
  Nor in too narrow bounds the pris'ners croud:
360   Nor ope the wattled fence, while balmy morn
  Lies on the reeking pasture; wait till all
  The crystal dews, impearl'd upon the grass,
  Are touch'd by Phoebus' beams, and mount aloft,
  With various clouds to paint the azure sky.
365   In teizing fly-time, dank, or frosty days,
  With unctuous liquids, or the lees of oil,
  Rub their soft skins, between the parted locks;
  Thus the Brigantes; 'tis not idle pains:
  Nor is that skill despis'd, which trims their tails,
370   Ere summer heats, of filth and tagged wool.
  Coolness and cleanliness to health conduce.
  To mend thy mounds, to trench, to clear, to soil
  Thy grateful fields, to medicate thy sheep,
  Hurdles to weave, and chearly shelters raise,
375   Thy vacant hours require: and ever learn
  Quick æther's motions: oft the scene is turn'd;
  Now the blue vault, and now the murky cloud,
  Hail, rain, or radiance; these the moon will tell,
  Each bird and beast, and these thy fleecy tribe:
380   When high the sapphire cope, supine they couch,
  And chew the cud delighted; but, ere rain,
  Eager, and at unwonted hour, they feed:
  Slight not the warning; soon the tempest rolls,
  Scatt'ring them wide, close rushing at the heels
385   Of th' hurrying o'ertaken swains: forbear
  Such nights to fold; such nights be theirs to shift
  On ridge or hillock; or in homesteads soft,
  Or softer cotes, detain them. Is thy lot
  A chill penurious turf, to all thy toils
390   Untractable? Before harsh winter drowns
  The noisy dykes, and starves the rushy glebe,
  Shift the frail breed to sandy hamlets warm:
  There let them sojourn, till gay Procne skims
  The thick'ning verdure, and the rising flow'rs.
395   And while departing Autumn all embrowns
  The frequent-bitten fields; while thy free hand
  Divides the tedded hay; then be their feet
  Accustom'd to the barriers of the rick,
  Or some warm umbrage; lest, in erring fright,
400   When the broad dazling snows descend, they run
  Dispers'd to ditches, where the swelling drift
  Wide overwhelms: anxious, the shepherd swains
  Issue with axe and spade, and, all abroad,
  In doubtful aim explore the glaring waste;
405   And some, perchance, in the deep delve upraise,
  Drooping, ev'n at the twelfth cold dreary day,
  With still continued feeble pulse of life;
  The glebe, their fleece, their flesh, by hunger gnaw'd.
  Ah, gentle shepherd, thine the lot to tend,
410   Of all, that feel distress, the most assail'd,
  Feeble, defenceless: lenient be thy care:
  But spread around thy tend'rest diligence
  In flow'ry spring-time, when the new-dropt lamb,
  Tott'ring with weakness by his mother's side,
415   Feels the fresh world about him; and each thorn,
  Hillock, or furrow, trips his feeble feet:
  O guard his meek sweet innocence from all
  Th' innum'rous ills, that rush around his life!
  Mark the quick kite, with beak and talons prone,
420   Circling the skies to snatch him from the plain;
  Observe the lurking crows; beware the brake,
  There the sly fox the careless minute waits;
  Nor trust thy neighbour's dog, nor earth, nor sky:
  Thy bosom to a thousand cares divide.
425   Eurus oft flings his hail; the tardy fields
  Pay not their promis'd food; and oft the dam
  O'er her weak twins with empty udder mourns,
  Or fails to guard, when the bold bird of prey
  Alights, and hops in many turns around,
430   And tires her also turning: to her aid
  Be nimble, and the weakest, in thine arms,
  Gently convey to the warm cote, and oft,
  Between the lark's note and the nightingale's,
  His hungry bleating still with tepid milk:
435   In this soft office may thy children join,
  And charitable habits learn in sport:
  Nor yield him to himself, ere vernal airs
  Sprinkle thy little croft with daisy flow'rs:
  Nor yet forget him: life has rising ills:
440   Various as æther is the past'ral care:
  Through slow experience, by a patient breast,
  The whole long lesson gradual is attain'd,
  By precept after precept, oft received
  With deep attention: such as Nuceus sings
445   To the full vale near Soar's enamour'd brook,
  While all is silence: sweet Hinclean swain!
  Whom rude obscurity severely clasps:
  The muse, howe'er, will deck thy simple cell
  With purple violets and primrose flow'rs,
450   Well-pleas'd thy faithful lessons to repay.
  Sheep no extremes can bear: both heat and cold
  Spread sores cutaneous; but, more frequent, heat:
  The fly-blown vermin, from their woolly nest,
  Press to the tortur'd skin, and flesh, and bone,
455   In littleness and number dreadful foes.
  Long rains in miry winter cause the halt;
  Rainy luxuriant summers rot your flock;
  And all excess, ev'n of salubrious food,
  As sure destroys, as famine or the wolf.
460   Inferior theirs to man's world-roving frame,
  Which all extremes in ev'ry zone endures.
  With grateful heart, ye British swains, enjoy
  Your gentle seasons and indulgent clime.
  Lo! in the sprinkling clouds, your bleating hills
465   Rejoice with herbage, while the horrid rage
  Of winter irresistible o'erwhelms
  Th' Hyperborean tracts: his arrowy frosts,
  That pierce through flinty rocks, the Lappian flies;
  And burrows deep beneath the snowy world;
470   A drear abode, from rose-diffusing hours,
  That dance before the wheels of radiant day,
  Far, far remote; where, by the squalid light
  Of foetid oil inflam'd, sea monster's spume,
  Or fir-wood, glaring in the weeping vault,
475   Twice three slow gloomy months, with various ills
  Sullen he struggles; such the love of life!
  His lank and scanty herds around him press,
  As, hunger-stung, to gritty meal he grinds
  The bones of fish, or inward bark of trees,
480   Their common sustenance. While ye, O swains,
  Ye, happy at your ease, behold your sheep
  Feed on the open turf, or crowd the tilth,
  Where, thick among the greens, with busy mouths
  They scoop white turnips: little care is yours;
485   Only, at morning hour, to interpose
  Dry food of oats, or hay, or brittle straw,
  The wat'ry juices of the bossy root
  Absorbing: or from noxious air to screen
  Your heavy teeming ewes, with wattled fence
490   Of furze or copse-wood, in the lofty field,
  Which bleak ascends among the whistling winds.
  Or, if your Sheep are of Silurian breed,
  Nightly to house them dry on fern or straw,
  Silk'ning their fleeces. Ye, nor rolling hut,
495   Nor watchful dog, require; where never roar
  Of savage tears the air, where careless night
  In balmy sleep lies lulled, and only wakes
  To plenteous peace. Alas! o'er warmer zones
  Wild terror strides: their stubborn rocks are rent;
500   Their mountains sink; their yawning caverns flame;
  And fiery torrents roll impetuous down,
  Proud cities deluging; Pompeian tow'rs,
  And Herculanean, and what riotous stood
  In Syrian valley, where now the Dead Sea
505   'Mong solitary hills infectious lies.
  See the swift furies, famine, plague, and war,
  In frequent thunders rage o'er neighb'ring realms,
  And spread their plains with desolation wide:
  Let your mild homesteads, ever-blooming, smile
510   Among embracing woods; and waft on high
  The breath of plenty, from the ruddy tops
  Of chimneys, curling o'er the gloomy trees,
  In airy, azure ringlets, to the sky.
  Nor ye by need are urg'd, as Attic swains,
515   And Tarentine, with skins to clothe your sheep;
  Expensive toil; howe'er expedient found
  In fervid climates, while from Phoebus' beams
  They fled to rugged woods and tangling brakes.
  But those expensive toils are now no more,
520   Proud tyranny devours their flocks and herds:
  Nor bleat of sheep may now, nor sound of pipe,
  Soothe the sweet plains of once sweet Arcady,
  The shepherds' kingdom: dreary solitude
  Spreads o'er Hymettus, and the shaggy vale
525   Of Athens, which, in solemn silence, sheds
  Her venerable ruins to the dust.
  The weary Arabs roam from plain to plain,
  Guiding the languid herd in quest of food;
  And shift their little home's uncertain scene
530   With frequent farewell: strangers, pilgrims all,
  As were their fathers. No sweet fall of rain
  May there be heard; nor sweeter liquid lapse
  Of river, o'er the pebbles gliding by
  In murmurs: goaded by the rage of thirst,
535   Daily they journey to the distant clefts
  Of craggy rocks, where gloomy palms o'erhang
  The antient wells, deep sunk by toil immense,
  Toil of the patriarchs, with sublime intent
  Themselves and long posterity to serve.
540   There, at the public hour of sultry noon,
  They share the bev'rage, when to wat'ring come,
  And grateful umbrage, all the tribes around,
  And their lean flocks, whose various bleatings fill
  The echoing caverns: then is absent none,
545   Fair nymph or shepherd, each inspiring each
  To wit, and song, and dance, and active feats;
  In the same rustic scene, where Jacob won
  Fair Rachael's bosom, when a rock's vast weight
  From the deep dark-mouth'd well his strength remov'd,
550   And to her circling sheep refreshment gave.
  Such are the perils, such the toils of life,
  In foreign climes. But speed thy flight, my muse;
  Swift turns the year; and our unnumber'd flocks
  On fleeces overgrown uneasy lie.
555   Now, jolly swains, the harvest of your cares
  Prepare to reap, and seek the sounding caves
  Of high Brigantium, where, by ruddy flames,
  Vulcan's strong sons, with nervous arm, around
  The steady anvil and the glaring mass,
560   Clatter their heavy hammers down by turns,
  Flatt'ning the steel: from their rough hands receive
  The sharpen'd instrument, that from the flock
  Severs the fleece. If verdant elder spreads
  Her silver flow'rs; if humble daisies yield
565   To yellow crow-foot, and luxuriant grass,
  Gay shearing-time approaches. First, howe'er,
  Drive to the double fold, upon the brim
  Of a clear river, gently drive the flock,
  And plunge them one by one into the flood:
570   Plung'd in the flood, not long the struggler sinks,
  With his white flakes, that glisten thro' the tide;
  The sturdy rustic, in the middle wave,
  Awaits to seize him rising; one arm bears
  His lifted head above the limpid stream,
575   While the full clammy fleece the other laves
  Around, laborious, with repeated toil;
  And then resigns him to the sunny bank,
  Where, bleating loud, he shakes his dripping locks.
  Shear them the fourth or fifth return of morn,
580   Lest touch of busy fly-blows wound their skin:
  Thy peaceful subjects without murmur yield
  Their yearly tribute: 'tis the prudent part
  To cherish and be gentle, while ye strip
  The downy vesture from their tender sides.
585   Press not too close; with caution turn the points;
  And from the head in reg'lar rounds proceed:
  But speedy, when ye chance to wound, with tar
  Prevent the wingy swarm and scorching heat;
  And careful house them, if the low'ring clouds
590   Mingle their stores tumultuous: through the gloom
  Then thunder oft with pond'rous wheels rolls loud,
  And breaks the crystal urns of heav'n: adown
  Falls streaming rain. Sometimes among the steeps
  Of Cambrian glades, (pity the Cambrian glades)
595   Fast tumbling brooks on brooks enormous swell,
  And sudden overwhelm their vanish'd fields;
  Down with the flood away the naked sheep,
  Bleating in vain, are borne, and straw-built huts,
  And rifted trees, and heavy, enormous rocks,
600   Down with the rapid torrent to the deep.
  At shearing-time, along the lively vales,
  Rural festivities are often heard:
  Beneath each blooming arbour all is joy
  And lusty merriment: while on the grass
605   The mingled youth in gaudy circles sport,
  We think the golden age again return'd,
  And all the fabled Dryades in dance.
  Leering they bound along, with laughing air,
  To the shrill pipe, and deep remurm'ring cords
610   Of th' antient harp, or tabor's hollow sound.
  While th' old apart, upon a bank reclin'd,
  Attend the tuneful carol, softly mixt
  With ev'ry murmur of the sliding wave,
  And ev'ry warble of the feather'd choir;
615   Music of paradise! which still is heard,
  When the heart listens; still the views appear
  Of the first happy garden, when content
  To nature's flow'ry scenes directs the sight.
  Yet we abandon those Elysian walks,
620   Then idly for the lost delight repine:
  As greedy mariners, whose desp'rate sails
  Skim o'er the billows of the foaming flood,
  Fancy they see the less'ning shores retire,
  And sigh a farewell to the sinking hills.
625   Could I recall those notes, which once the muse
  Heard at a shearing, near the woody sides
  Of blue-topp'd Wreakin. Yet the carols sweet,
  Through the deep maze of the memorial cell,
  Faintly remurmur. First arose in song
630   Hoar-headed Damon, venerable swain,
  The soothest shepherd of the flow'ry vale.
  This is no vulgar scene: no palace roof
  Was e'er so lofty, nor so nobly rise
  Their polish'd pillars, as these aged oaks,
635   Which o'er our fleecy wealth and harmless sports
  Thus have expanded wide their shelt'ring arms,
  Thrice told an hundred summers. Sweet content,
  Ye gentle shepherds, pillow us at night.
  Yes, tuneful Damon, for our cares are short,
640   Rising and falling with the cheerful day,
  Colin reply'd, and pleasing weariness
  Soon our unaching heads to sleep inclines.
  Is it in cities so? where, poets tell,
  The cries of sorrow sadden all the streets,
645   And the diseases of intemp'rate wealth.
  Alas, that any ills from wealth should rise!
  May the sweet nightingale on yonder spray,
  May this clear stream, these lawns, those snow-white lambs,
  Which, with a pretty innocence of look,
650   Skip on the green, and race in little troops;
  May that great lamp, which sinks behind the hill,
  And streams around variety of lights,
  Recall them erring: this is Damon's wish.
  Huge Breaden's stony summit once I climb'd
655   After a kidling: Damon, what a scene!
  What various views unnumber'd spread beneath!
  Woods, tow'rs, vales, caves, dells, cliffs, and torrent floods;
  And here and there, between the spiry rocks,
  The broad flat sea. Far nobler prospects these,
660   Than gardens black with smoke in dusty towns,
  Where stenchy vapours often blot the sun:
  Yet flying from his quiet, thither crowds
  Each greedy wretch for tardy-rising wealth,
  Which comes too late; that courts the taste in vain,
665   Or nauseates with distempers. Yes, ye rich,
  Still, still be rich, if thus ye fashion life;
  And piping, careless, silly shepherds we,
  We silly shepherds, all intent to feed
  Our snowy flocks, and wind the sleeky fleece.
  Deem not, howe'er, our occupation mean,
670   Damon reply'd, while the Supreme accounts
  Well of the faithful shepherd, rank'd alike
  With king and priest: they also shepherds are:
  For so th' All-seeing stiles them, to remind
  Elated man, forgetful of his charge.
675   But haste, begin the rites: see purple eve
  Stretches her shadows: all ye nymphs and swains
  Hither assemble. Pleas'd with honours due,
  Sabrina, guardian of the crystal flood,
  Shall bless our cares, when she by moon-light clear,
680   Skims o'er the dales, and eyes our sleeping folds:
  Or in hoar caves, around Plynlymmon's brow,
  Where precious min'rals dart their purple gleams,
  Among her sisters she reclines; the lov'd
  Vaga, profuse of graces, Ryddol rough,
685   Blith Ystwith, and Clevedoc swift of foot;
  And mingles various seeds of flow'rs, and herbs
  In the divided torrents, ere they burst
  Through the dark clouds, and down the mountain roll,
  Nor taint-worm shall infect the yearning herds,
690   Nor penny-grass, nor spearwort's pois'nous leaf.
  He said: with light fantastic toe, the nymphs
  Thither assembled, thither ev'ry swain;
  And o'er the dimpled stream a thousand flow'rs,
  Pale lilies, roses, violets, and pinks,
695   Mix'd with the greens of burnet, mint, and thyme,
  And trefoil, sprinkled with their sportive arms.
  Such custom holds along th' irriguous vales,
  From Wreakin's brow to rocky Dolvoryn,
  Sabrina's early haunt, ere yet she fled
700   The search of Guendolen, her stepdame proud,
  With envious hate enrag'd. The jolly cheer,
  Spread on a mossy bank, untouch'd abides,
  Till cease the rites: and now the mossy bank
  Is gaily circled, and the jolly chear
705   Dispers'd in copious measure; early fruits,
  And those of frugal store, in husk or rind;
  Steep'd grain, and curdled milk with dulcet cream
  Soft temper'd, in full merriment they quaff,
  And cast about their gibes; and some apace
710   Whistle to roundelays: their little ones
  Look on delighted; while the mountain-woods,
  And winding vallies, with the various notes
  Of pipe, sheep, kine, and birds, and liquid brooks,
  Unite their echoes: near at hand, the wide
715   Majestic wave of Severn slowly rolls
  Along the deep-divided glebe: the flood,
  And trading bark with low contracted sail,
  Linger among the reeds and copsy banks
  To listen; and to view the joyous scene.

First published 1765.

Contributed by Stephen Van-Hagen.