Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Message

(Geraniums by Childe Hassam, 1859-1935,
American painter)

Literary works with pastoral themes can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. They depicted in song and verse an idyllic uncorrupted life, of the shepherd, for example, playing the flute as he watches over his flock.

Over the centuries, the imagery went farther afield, to include other figures of the countryside, even the fisherman. By Elizabethan time in England, writes Edmund Kerchever Chambers, the Shakespearean scholar, “there is a body of poetry, transparent, sensuous, melodious, dealing with all the fresh and simple elements of life, fond of the picture and the story, rejoicing in love and youth, in the morning and the spring.”

Today’s lyric poem is a particularly playful example of such a pastoral.


Ye little birds that sit and sing
Amidst the shady valleys,
And see how Phyllis sweetly walks
Within her garden-alleys;
Go, pretty birds, about her bower;
Sing, pretty birds, she may not lower;
Ah, me! methinks I see her frown;
Ye pretty wantons, warble!

Go, tell her through your chirping bills,
As you by me are bidden,
To her is only known my love,
Which from the world is hidden.
Go, pretty birds, and tell her so;
See that your notes strain not too low,
For still, methinks, I see her frown;
Ye pretty wantons, warble!

Go, tune your voices’ harmony,
And sing, I am her lover;
Strain loud and sweet, that every note
With sweet content may move her;
And she that hath the sweetest voice,
Tell her I will not change my choice;
Yet still, methinks, I see her frown;
Ye pretty wantons, warble!

Oh, fly! make haste! see, see, she falls
Into a pretty slumber!
Sing round about her rosy bed
That, waking, she may wonder:
Say to her, ’tis her lover true
That sendeth love to you, to you!
And when you hear her kind reply,
Return with pleasant warblings.

~ Thomas Heywood (157?-1650), English actor, playwright, and poet

No comments: