Welcome to the 100th day of the Richmond Read-along! This will be the last of our daily Read-alongs; we hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed producing them.

To celebrate, today we are reading a poem from Alexander Pope. One of the most famous English poets, Pope is also one of the most illustrious residents of our Borough, having spent much of his adult life in Twickenham. He is buried in Twickenham and although the villa he lived in was demolished, his beloved grotto is currently being restored and regularly opens for visitors.

Pope was predominantly a satirist; his best known poem, “The Rape of the Lock,” was a satire of epic poems. He never shied away from a fight, and many of his great poems are in response to critics, as Pope was fond of conducting his many public feuds in lengthy verse. His opinionated nature was not limited to personal arguments, as he also wrote on literary criticism, architecture, and ethics. He was so fond of trading barbs that for a while he reportedly took to carrying pistols while walking his dogs, lest one of his many targets appear to take a more direct form of revenge.


A shepherd’s boy (he seeks no better name)
Led forth his flocks along the silver Thame,
Where dancing sunbeams on the waters play’d,
And verdant alders form’d a quivering shade.
Soft as he mourn’d, the streams forgot to flow,
The flocks around a dumb compassion show:
The Naiads wept in every watery bower,
And Jove consented in a silent shower.

Accept, O Garth the Muse’s early lays,
That adds this wreath of ivy to thy bays;
Hear what from love unpractised hearts endure:
From love, the sole disease thou canst not cure.

Ye shady beeches, and ye cooling streams,
Defence from Phoebus’, not from Cupid’s beams,
To you I mourn, nor to the deaf I sing,
‘The woods shall answer, and their echo ring.’
The hills and rocks attend my doleful lay;
Why art thou prouder and more hard than they?
The bleating sheep with my complaints agree,
They parch’d with heat, and I inflamed by thee.
The sultry Sirius burns the thirsty plains,
While in thy heart eternal winter reigns.

Where stray ye, Muses, in what lawn or grove,
While your Alexis pines in hopeless love?
In those fair fields where sacred Isis glides,
Or else where Cam his winding vales divides?
As in the crystal spring I view my face,
Fresh rising blushes paint the watery glass;
But since those graces please thy eyes no more,
I shun the fountains which I sought before.
Once I was skill’d in every herb that grew,
And every plant that drinks the morning dew;
Ah, wretched shepherd, what avails thy art,
To cure thy lambs, but not to heal thy heart!
Let other swains attend the rural care,
Feed fairer flocks, or richer fleeces shear:
But nigh yon mountain let me tune my lays,
Embrace my love, and bind my brows with bays.
That flute is mine which Colin’s tuneful breath
Inspired when living, and bequeath’d in death;
He said, ‘Alexis, take this pipe–the same
That taught the groves my Rosalinda’s name:’
But now the reeds shall hang on yonder tree,
For ever silent, since despised by thee.
Oh! were I made by some transforming power
The captive bird that sings within thy bower!
Then might my voice thy listening ears employ,
And I those kisses he receives, enjoy.

And yet my numbers please the rural throng,
Rough Satyrs dance, and Pan applauds the song:
The Nymphs, forsaking every cave and spring,
Their early fruit, and milk-white turtles bring;
Each amorous nymph prefers her gifts in vain.
On you their gifts are all bestow’d again.
For you the swains the fairest flowers design,
And in one garland all their beauties join;
Accept the wreath which you deserve alone,
In whom all beauties are comprised in one.

See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!
Descending gods have found Elysium here.
In woods bright Venus with Adonis stray’d,
And chaste Diana haunts the forest shade.
Come, lovely nymph, and bless the silent hours,
When swains from shearing seek their nightly bowers,
When weary reapers quit the sultry field,
And crown’d with corn their thanks to Ceres yield;
This harmless grove no lurking viper hides,
But in my breast the serpent love abides.
Here bees from blossoms sip the rosy dew,
But your Alexis knows no sweets but you.
Oh, deign to visit our forsaken seats,
The mossy fountains, and the green retreats!
Where’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade,
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade:
Where’er you tread, the blushing flowers shall rise,
And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Oh, how I long with you to pass my days,
Invoke the Muses, and resound your praise!
Your praise the birds shall chant in every grove,
And winds shall waft it to the Powers above.
But would you sing, and rival Orpheus’ strain,
The wondering forests soon should dance again,
The moving mountains hear the powerful call,
And headlong streams hang listening in their fall!

But see, the shepherds shun the noonday heat,
The lowing herds to murmuring brooks retreat,
To closer shades the panting flocks remove;
Ye gods! and is there no relief for love?
But soon the sun with milder rays descends
To the cool ocean, where his journey ends:
On me Love’s fiercer flames for ever prey,
By night he scorches, as he burns by day.

You can find this poem in the Pastorals at Wikisource. For more information about Pope and his life in the Borough, see our Local History Note on him, available at our Overdrive eLibrary.

The Richmond Read-along will remain on the blog. You can visit our webpage to find more online reads and our online information library.