James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

February 11

Corydon, a Pastoral

By John Cunningham (1729–1773)

  • To the memory of William Shenstone.
  • “Who’er has travelled life’s dull round,
  • Where’er his stages may have been,
  • Must sigh to think he still has found
  • His warmest welcome at an inn.”

  • William Shenstone, who died on Feb. 11, 1763, was an English poet. His best-known poem is “The Schoolmistress,” which caused Horace Walpole to call him “the water-gruel bard.” His “Lines Written in an Inn,” quoted elsewhere, have became almost a proverb in the language.

  • COME shepherds, we’ll follow the hearse,

    And see our loved Corydon laid:

    Though sorrow may blemish the verse,

    Yet let the sad tribute be paid.

    They called him the pride of the plain;

    In sooth he was gentle and kind;

    He marked in his elegant strain,

    The Graces that glowed in his mind.

    On purpose he planted yon trees,

    That birds in the covert might dwell;

    He cultured his thyme for the bees,

    But never would rifle their cell.

    Ye lambkins that played at his feet,

    Go bleat—and your master bemoan:

    His music was artless and sweet,

    His manners as mild as your own.

    No vendure shall cover the vale,

    No bloom on the blossoms appear;

    The sweets of the forest shall fail,

    And winter discolour the year.

    No birds in our hedges shall sing,

    (Our hedges so vocal before)

    Since he that should welcome the spring,

    Can greet the gay season no more.

    His Phillis was fond of his praise,

    And poets came round in a throng;

    They listened, and envied his lays,

    But which of them equalled his song?

    Ye shepherds, henceforth be mute,

    For lost is the pastoral strain;

    So give me my Corydon’s flute,

    And thus—let me break it in twain.