Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
Extracts from The Fleece, Book I
By John Dyer (1700?–1758)
  AH gentle shepherd, thine the lot to tend,
Of all, that feel distress, the most assail’d,
Feeble, defenceless: lenient be thy care:
But spread around thy tenderest diligence
In flow’ry spring-time, when the new-dropt lamb,        5
Tottering with weakness by his mother’s side,
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’ innumerous ills, that rush around his life;        10
Mark the quick kite, with beak and talons prone,
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:        15
Thy bosom to a thousand cares divide.
Eurus oft flings his hail; the tardy fields
Pay not their promised food; and oft the dam
O’er her weak twins with empty udder mourns,
Or fails to guard, when the bold bird of prey        20
Alights, and hops in many turns around,
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,        25
His hungry bleating still with tepid milk:
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 flowers:        30
Nor yet forget him: life has rising ills:
Various as æther is the pastoral care:
Through slow experience, by a patient breast,
The whole long lesson gradual is attained,
By precept after precept, oft received        35
With deep attention: such as Nuceus sings
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        40
With purple violets and primrose flowers,
Well-pleased thy faithful lessons to repay.
*        *        *        *        *
  Now, jolly swains, the harvest of your cares
Prepare to reap, and seek the sounding caves
Of high Brigantium, where, by ruddy flames,        45
Vulcan’s strong sons with nervous arm around
The steady anvil and the glaring mass,
Clatter their heavy hammers down by turns,
Flattening the steel; from their rough hands receive
The sharpened instrument, that from the flock        50
Severs the fleece. If verdant elder spreads
Her silver flowers; if humble daisies yield
To yellow crow-foot, and luxuriant grass,
Gay shearing-time approaches. First, howe’er,
Drive to the double fold, upon the brim        55
Of a clear river, gently drive the flock,
And plunge them one by one into the flood:
Plunged in the flood, not long the struggler sinks,
With his white flakes, that glisten thro’ the tide;
The sturdy rustic, in the middle wave,        60
Awaits to seize him rising; one arm bears
His lifted head above the limpid stream,
While the full clammy fleece the other laves
Around, laborious, with repeated toil;
And then resigns him to the sunny bank,        65
Where, bleating loud, he shakes his dripping locks.

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