Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Eclogue the Third
By Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770)
 
A Man; a Woman; Sir Roger.

WOULDST thou ken Nature in her better part?
  Go, search the cots and lodges of the hind;
If they have any, it is rough-made art;
  In them you see the naked form of kind.
  Haveth your mind a liking of a mind?        5
Would it ken everything as it might be?
  Would it hear phrase of vulgar from the hind,
Without wiseacre words and knowledge free?
  If so, read this, which I disporting penn’d:
  If nought beside, its rhyme may it commend.        10
 
Man.
      But whither, fair maid, do ye go?
        O where do ye bend your way?
      I will know whither you go,
        I will not be answered nay.
 
Woman.
    To Robin and Nell, all down in the dell,
        15
      To help them at making of hay.
 
Man.
Sir Roger, the parson, hath hired me there;
  Come, come, let us trip it away:
We’ll work, and we’ll sing, and we’ll drink of strong beer,
  As long as the merry summer’s day.        20
 
Woman.
    How hard is my doom to work!
      Much is my woe!
    Dame Agnes, who lies in the kirk,
      With coif of gold,
    With golden borders, strong, untold,        25
    What was she more than me, to be so?
 
Man.
        I ken Sir Roger from afar,
          Tripping over the lea:
        I will ask why the lordè’s son
          Is more than me.        30
 
Sir Roger.
The sultry sun doth hie apace his wain;
  From every beam a seed of life doth fall.
Quickly heap up the hay upon the plain:
  Methinks the cocks are ’ginning to grow tall.
  This is alike our doom: the great, the small,        35
Must wither and be shrunken by death’s dart.
  See, the sweet floweret hath no sweet at all;
It with the rank weed beareth equal part.
  The craven, warrior, and the wise be blent
  Alike to dry away with those they did lament.        40
 
Man.
All-a-boon, Sir Priest, all-a-boon!
  By your priestship, now say unto me,
Sir Gaufryd the knight, who liveth hard by,
  Why should he than me be more great
  In honour, knighthood, and estate?        45
 
Sir Roger.
Cast round thine eyes upon this hayèd lea;
  Attentively look o’er the sun-parched dell;
An answer to thy burden-song here see;
  This withered floweret will a lesson tell:
  It rose, it blew, it flourished and did well,        50
Looking askance upon the neighbour green;
  Yet with the green disdained its glory fell,—
Eftsoons it shrank upon the day-burnt plain.
  Did not its look, the while it there did stand,
  To crop it in the bud move some dread hand?        55
 
Such is the way of life: the lord’s rich rent 1
  Moveth the robber him therefore to slay.
If thou hast ease, the shadow of content,
  Believe the truth, there’s none more whole than thee.
  Thou workest: well, can that a trouble be?        60
Sloth more would jade thee than the roughest day.
  Couldst thou the secret part of spirits see,
Thou wouldst eftsoons see truth in what I say.
  But let me hear thy way of life, and then
  Hear thou from me the lives of other men.        65
 
Man.
          I rise with the Sun,
          Like him to drive the wain,
          And ere my work is done
          I sing a song or twain.
        I follow the plough-tail        70
        With a long jubb of ale.
*        *        *        *        *
          On every Saint’s high-day
          With the minstrel am I seen,
          All a-footing it away
          With maidens on the green.        75
        But oh! I wish to be more great
        In worship, tenure, and estate.
 
Sir Roger.
Hast thou not seen a tree upon a hill,
  Whose boundless branches reach afar to sight?
When furious tempests do the heaven fill,        80
  It shaketh dire, in dole and much affright;
  What while the humble floweret lowly dight
Standeth unhurt, unquashèd by the storm.
  Such picture is of Life: the man of might
Is tempest-chafed, his woe great as his form:        85
  Thyself, a floweret of a small account,
  Wouldst harder feel the wind, as higher thou didst mount.
 
Note 1. ‘The loverde’s ente’ (lord’s purse).—Chatterton’s text and gloss. [back]
 
 
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