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IMOGEN

A Pastoral Romance

_From the Ancient British_

By WILLIAM GODWIN






Preface

[_By_ WILLIAM GODWIN]


The following performance, as the title imports, was originally composed
in the Welch language. Its style is elegant and pure. And if the
translator has not, as many of his brethren have done, suffered the
spirit of the original totally to evaporate, he apprehends it will be
found to contain much novelty of conception, much classical taste, and
great spirit and beauty in the execution. It appears under the name of
Cadwallo, an ancient bard, who probably lived at least one hundred years
before the commencement of our common era. The manners of the primitive
times seem to be perfectly understood by the author, and are described
with the air of a man who was in the utmost degree familiar with them.
It is impossible to discover in any part of it the slightest trace of
Christianity. And we believe it will not be disputed, that in a country
so pious as that of Wales, it would have been next to impossible for the
poet, though ever so much upon his guard, to avoid all allusion to the
system of revelation. On the contrary, every thing is Pagan, and in
perfect conformity with the theology we are taught to believe prevailed
at that time.

These reasons had induced us to admit, for a long time, that it was
perfectly genuine, and justly ascribed to the amiable Druid. With
respect to the difficulty in regard to the preservation of so long a
work for many centuries by the mere force of memory, the translator,
together with the rest of the world, had already got over that objection
in the case of the celebrated Poems of Ossian. And if he be not blinded
by that partiality, which the midwife is apt to conceive for the
productions, that she is the instrument of bringing into the world, the
Pastoral Romance contains as much originality, as much poetical beauty,
and is as happily calculated to make a deep impression upon the memory,
as either Fingal, or Temora.

The first thing that led us to doubt its authenticity, was the striking
resemblance that appears between the plan of the work, and Milton's
celebrated Masque at Ludlow Castle. We do not mean however to hold forth
this circumstance as decisive in its condemnation. The pretensions of
Cadwallo, or whoever was the author of the performance, are very high to
originality. If the date of the Romance be previous to that of Comus, it
may be truly said of the author, that he soared above all imitation, and
derived his merits from the inexhaustible source of his own invention.
But Milton, it is well known, proposed some classical model to himself
in all his productions. The Paradise Lost is almost in every page an
imitation of Virgil, or Homer. The Lycidas treads closely in the steps
of the Daphnis and Gallus of Virgil. The Sampson Agonistes is formed
upon the model of Sophocles. Even the little pieces, L'Allegro and Il
Penseroso have their source in a song of Fletcher, and two beautiful
little ballads that are ascribed to Shakespeare. But the classical model
upon which Comus was formed has not yet been discovered. It is
infinitely unlike the Pastoral Comedies both of Italy and England. And
if we could allow ourselves in that licence of conjecture, which is
become almost inseparable from the character of an editor, we should
say: That Milton having written it upon the borders of Wales, might have
had easy recourse to the manuscript whose contents are now first given
to the public: And that the singularity of preserving the name of the
place where it was first performed in the title of his poem, was
intended for an ingenuous and well-bred acknowledgement of the source
from whence he drew his choicest materials.

But notwithstanding the plausibility of these conjectures, we are now
inclined to give up our original opinion, and to ascribe the performance
to a gentleman of Wales, who lived so late as the reign of king William
the third. The name of this amiable person was Rice ap Thomas. The
romance was certainly at one time in his custody, and was handed down as
a valuable legacy to his descendants, among whom the present translator
has the honour to rank himself. Rice ap Thomas, Esquire, was a man of a
most sweet and inoffensive disposition, beloved and respected by all his
neighbours and tenants, and "passing rich with 'sixty' pounds a year."
In his domestic he was elegant, hospitable, and even sumptuous, for the
time and country in which he lived. He was however naturally of an
abstemious and recluse disposition. He abounded in singularities, which
were pardoned to his harmlessness and his virtues; and his temper was
full of sensibility, seriousness, and melancholy. He devoted the greater
part of his time to study; and he boasted that he had almost a complete
collection of the manuscript remains of our Welch bards. He was often
heard to prefer even to Taliessin, Merlin, and Aneurim, the effusions of
the immortal Cadwallo, and indeed this was the only subject upon which
he was ever known to dispute with eagerness and fervour. In the midst of
the controversy, he would frequently produce passages from the Pastoral
Romance, as decisive of the question. And to confess the truth, I know
not how to excuse this piece of jockeyship and ill faith, even in Rice
ap Thomas, whom I regard as the father of my family, and the chief
ornament of my beloved country.

Some readers will probably however be inclined to apologise for the
conduct of Mr. Thomas, and to lay an equivalent blame to my charge. They
will tell me, that nothing but the weakest partiality could blind me to
the genuine air of antiquity with which the composition is every where
impressed, and to ascribe it to a modern writer. But I am conscious to
my honesty and defy their malice. So far from being sensible of any
improper bias in favour of my ancestor, I am content to strengthen their
hands, by acknowledging that the manuscript, which I am not at all
desirous of refusing to their inspection, is richly emblazoned with all
the discoloration and rust they can possibly desire. I confess that the
wording has the purity of Taliessin, and the expressiveness of Aneurim,
and is such as I know of no modern Welchman who could write. And yet, in
spite as they will probably tell me of evidence and common sense, I
still aver my persuasion, that it is the production of Rice ap Thomas.

But enough, and perhaps too much, for the question of its antiquity. It
would be unfair to send it into the world without saying something of
the nature of its composition. It is unlike the Arcadia of sir Philip
Sidney, and unlike, what I have just taken the trouble of running over,
the Daphnis of Gessner. It neither on the one hand leaves behind it the
laws of criticism, and mixes together the different stages of
civilization; nor on the other will it perhaps be found frigid,
uninteresting, and insipid. The prevailing opinion of Pastoral seems to
have been, that it is a species of composition admirably fitted for the
size of an eclogue, but that either its nature will not be preserved, or
its simplicity will become surfeiting in a longer performance. And
accordingly, the Pastoral Dramas of Tasso, Guarini, and Fletcher,
however they may have been commended by the critics, and admired by that
credulous train who clap and stare whenever they are bid, have when the
recommendation of novelty has subsided been little attended to and
little read. But the great Milton has proved that this objection is not
insuperable. His Comus is a master-piece of poetical composition. It is
at least equal in its kind even to the Paradise Lost. It is interesting,
descriptive and pathetic. Its fame is continually increasing, and it
will be admired wherever the name of Britain is repeated, and the
language of Britain is understood.

If our hypothesis respecting the date of the present performance is
admitted, it must be acknowleged that the ingenious Mr. Thomas has
taken the Masque of Milton for a model; and the reader with whom Comus
is a favourite, will certainly trace some literal imitations. With
respect to any objections that may be made on this score to the Pastoral
Romance, we will beg the reader to bear in mind, that the volumes before
him are not an original, but a translation. Recollecting this, we may,
beside the authority of Milton himself, and others as great poets as
ever existed who have imitated Homer and one another at least as much as
our author has done Comus, suggest two very weighty apologies. In the
first place, imitation in a certain degree, has ever been considered as
lawful when made from a different language: And in the second, these
imitations come to the reader exaggerated, by being presented to him in
English, and by a person who confesses, that he has long been conversant
with our greatest poets. The translator has always admired Comus as much
as the Pastoral Romance; he has read them together, and been used to
consider them as illustrating each other. Any verbal coincidences into
which he may have fallen, are therefore to be ascribed where they are
due, to him, and not to the author. And upon the whole, let the
imperfections of the Pastoral Romance be what they will, he trusts he
shall be regarded as making a valuable present to the connoisseurs and
the men of taste, and an agreeable addition to the innocent amusements
of the less laborious classes of the polite world.






BOOK THE FIRST

CHARACTER OF THE SHEPHERDESS AND HER LOVER. - FEAST OF RUTHYN. - SONGS OF
THE BARDS.


Listen, O man! to the voice of wisdom. The world thou inhabitest was not
intended for a theatre of fruition, nor destined for a scene of repose.
False and treacherous is that happiness, which has been preceded by no
trial, and is connected with no desert. It is like the gilded poison
that undermines the human frame. It is like the hoarse murmur of the
winds that announces the brewing tempest. Virtue, for such is the decree
of the Most High, is evermore obliged to pass through the ordeal of
temptation, and the thorny paths of adversity. If, in this day of her
trial, no foul blot obscure her lustre, no irresolution and instability
tarnish the clearness of her spirit, then may she rejoice in the view of
her approaching reward, and receive with an open heart the crown that
shall be bestowed upon her.

The extensive valley of Clwyd once boasted a considerable number of
inhabitants, distinguished for primeval innocence and pastoral
simplicity. Nature seemed to have prepared it for their reception with
all that luxuriant bounty, which characterises her most favoured spots.
The inclosure by which it was bounded, of ragged rocks and snow-topt
mountains, served but for a foil to the richness and fertility of this
happy plain. It was seated in the bosom of North Wales, the whole face
of which, with this one exception, was rugged and hilly. As far as the
eye could reach, you might see promontory rise above promontory. The
crags of Penmaenmawr were visible to the northwest, and the unequalled
steep of Snowden terminated the prospect to the south. In its farthest
extent the valley reached almost to the sea, and it was intersected,
from one end to the other, by the beautiful and translucent waters of
the river from which it receives its name.

In this valley all was rectitude and guileless truth. The hoarse din of
war had never reached its happy bosom; its river had never been
impurpled with the stain of human blood. Its willows had not wept over
the crimes of its inhabitants, nor had the iron hand of tyranny taught
care and apprehension to seat themselves upon the brow of its shepherds.
They were strangers to riches, and to ambition, for they all lived in a
happy equality. He was the richest man among them, that could boast of
the greatest store of yellow apples and mellow pears. And their only
objects of rivalship were the skill of the pipe and the favour of
beauty. From morn to eve they tended their fleecy possessions. Their
reward was the blazing hearth, the nut-brown beer, and the merry tale.
But as they sought only the enjoyment of a humble station, and the
pleasures of society, their labours were often relaxed. Often did the
setting sun see the young men and the maidens of contiguous villages,
assembled round the venerable oak, or the wide-spreading beech. The
bells rung in the upland hamlets; the rebecs sounded with rude harmony;
they danced with twinkling feet upon the level green or listened to the
voice of the song, which was now gay and exhilarating, and now soothed
them into pleasing melancholy.

Of all the sons of the plain, the bravest, and the most comely, was
Edwin. His forehead was open and ingenuous, his hair was auburn, and
flowed about his shoulders in wavy ringlets. His person was not less
athletic than it was beautiful. With a firm hand he grasped the
boar-spear, and in pursuit he outstripped the flying fawn. His voice was
strong and melodious, and whether upon the pipe or in the song, there
was no shepherd daring enough to enter the lists with Edwin. But though
he excelled all his competitors, in strength of body, and the
accomplishments of skill, yet was not his mind rough and boisterous.
Success had not taught him a despotic and untractable temper, applause
had not made him insolent and vain. He was gentle as the dove. He
listened with eager docility to the voice of hoary wisdom. He had always
a tear ready to drop over the simple narrative of pastoral distress.
Victor as he continually was in wrestling, in the race, and in the song,
the shout of triumph never escaped his lips, the exultation of insult he
was never heard to utter. On the contrary, with mild and unfictitious
friendship, he soothed the breast of disappointment, and cheered the
spirits of his adversary with honest praise.

But Edwin was not more distinguished among his brother shepherds, than
was Imogen among the fair. Her skin was clear and pellucid. The fall of
her shoulders was graceful beyond expression. Her eye-brows were arched,
and from her eyes shot forth the grateful rays of the rising sun. Her
waist was slender; and as she ran, she outstripped the winds, and her
footsteps were printless on the tender herb. Her mind, though soft, was
firm; and though yielding as wax to the precepts of wisdom, and the
persuasion of innocence, it was resolute and inflexible to the
blandishments of folly, and the sternness of despotism. Her ruling
passion was the love of virtue. Chastity was the first feature in her
character. It gave substance to her accents, and dignity to her
gestures. Conscious innocence ennobled all her reflexions, and gave to
her sentiments and manner of thinking, I know not what of celestial and
divine.

Edwin and Imogen had been united in the sports of earliest infancy. They
had been mutual witnesses to the opening blossoms of understanding and
benevolence in each others breasts. While yet a boy, Edwin had often
rescued his mistress from the rude vivacity of his playmates, and had
bestowed upon her many of those little distinctions which were
calculated to excite the flame of envy among the infant daughters of the
plain. For her he gathered the vermeil-tinctured pearmain, and the
walnut with an unsavoury rind; for her he hoarded the brown filberd, and
the much prized earth-nut. When she was near, the quoit flew from his
arm with a stronger whirl, and his steps approached more swiftly to the
destined goal. With her he delighted to retire from the heat of the sun
to the centre of the glade, and to sooth her ear with the gaiety of
innocence, long before he taught her to hearken to the language of love.
For her sake he listened with greater eagerness to the mirthful
relation, to the moral fiction, and to the song of the bards. His store
of little narratives was in a manner inexhaustible. With them he
beguiled the hour of retirement, and with them he hastened the sun to
sink behind the western hill.

But as he grew to manly stature, and the down of years had begun to
clothe his blushing cheek, he felt a new sensation in his breast
hitherto unexperienced. He could not now behold his favourite companion
without emotion; his eye sparkled when he approached her; he watched her
gestures; he hung upon her accents; he was interested in all her
motions. Sometimes he would catch the eye of prudent age or of
sharp-sighted rivalry observing him, and he instantly became embarrassed
and confused, and blushed he knew not why. He repaired to the
neighbouring wake, in order to exchange his young lambs and his hoard of
cheeses. Imogen was not there, and in the midst of traffic, and in the
midst of frolic merriment he was conscious to a vacancy and a
listlessness for which he could not account. When he tended his flocks,
and played upon his slender pipe, he would sink in reverie, and form to
himself a thousand schemes of imaginary happiness. Erewhile they had
been vague and general. His spirit was too gentle for him not to
represent to himself a fancied associate; his heart was not narrow
enough to know so much as the meaning of a solitary happiness. But
Imogen now formed the principal figure in these waking dreams. It was
Imogen with whom he wandered beside the brawling rill. It was Imogen
with whom he sat beneath the straw-built shed, and listened to the
pealing rain, and the hollow roaring of the northern blast. If a moment
of forlornness and despair fell to his lot, he wandered upon the heath
without his Imogen, and he climbed the upright precipice without her
harmonious voice to cheer and to animate him. In a word, passion had
taken up her abode in his guileless heart before he was aware of her
approach. Imogen was fair; and the eye of Edwin was enchanted. Imogen
was gentle; and Edwin loved.

Simple as was the character of the inhabitants of this happy valley, it
is not to be supposed that Edwin found many obstacles to the enjoyment
of the society of his mistress. Though strait as the pine, and beautiful
as the gold-skirted clouds of a summer morning, the parents of Imogen
had not learned to make a traffic of the future happiness of their care.
They sought not to decide who should be the fortunate shepherd that
should carry her from the sons of the plain. They left the choice to her
penetrating wit, and her tried discretion. They erected no rampart to
defend her chastity; they planted no spies to watch over her reputation.
They entrusted her honour to her own keeping. They were convinced, that
the spotless dictates of conscious innocence, and that divinity that
dwells in virtue and awes the shaggy satyr into mute admiration, were
her sufficient defence. They left to her the direction of her conduct.
The shepherdess, unsuspicious by nature, and untaught to view mankind
with a wary and a jealous eye, was a stranger to severity and caprice.
She was all gentleness and humanity. The sweetness of her temper led her
to regard with an eye of candour, and her benevolence to gratify all the
innocent wishes, of those about her. The character of a woman
undistinguishing in her favours, and whose darling employment is to
increase the number of her admirers, is in the highest degree unnatural.
Such was not the character of Imogen. She was artless and sincere. Her
tongue evermore expressed the sentiments of her heart. She drew the
attention of no swain from a rival; she employed no stratagems to
inveigle the affections; she mocked not the respect of the simple
shepherd with delusive encouragement. No man charged her with broken
vows; no man could justly accuse her of being cruel and unkind.

It may therefore readily be supposed, that the subject of love rather
glided into the conversation of Edwin and Imogen, than was regularly and
designedly introduced. They were unknowing in the art of disguising
their feelings. When the tale spoke of peril and bravery, the eyes of
Edwin sparkled with congenial sentiments, and he was evermore ready to
start from the grassy hilloc upon which they sat. When the little
narrative told of the lovers pangs, and the tragic catastrophe of two
gentle hearts whom nature seemed to have formed for mildness and
tranquility, Imogen was melted into the softest distress. The breast of
her Edwin would heave with a sympathetic sigh, and he would even
sometimes venture, from mingled pity and approbation, to kiss away the
tear that impearled her cheek. Intrepid and adventurous with the hero,
he began also to take a new interest in the misfortunes of love. He
could not describe the passionate complaints, the ingenuous tenderness
of another, without insensibly making the case his own. "Had the lover
known my Imogen, he would no longer have sighed for one, who could not
have been so fair, so gentle, and so lovely." Such were the thoughts of
Edwin; and till now Edwin had always expressed his thoughts. But now the
words fell half-formed from his trembling lips, and the sounds died away
before they were uttered. "Were I to speak, Imogen, who has always
beheld me with an aspect of benignity, might be offended. I should say
no more than the truth; but Imogen is modest. She does not suspect that
she possesses half the superiority over such as are called fair, which I
see in her. And who could bear to incur the resentment of Imogen? Who
would irritate a temper so amiable and mild? I should say no more than
the truth; but Imogen would think it flattery. Let Edwin be charged with
all other follies, but let that vice never find a harbour in his bosom;
let the imputation of that detested crime never blot his untarnished
name."

Edwin had received from nature the gift of an honest and artless
eloquence. His words were like the snow that falls beneath the beams of
the sun; _they melted as they fell_. Had it been his business to
have pleaded the cause of injured innocence or unmerited distress, his
generous sympathy and his manly persuasion must have won all hearts. Had
he solicited the pursuit of rectitude and happiness, his ingenuous
importunity could not have failed of success. But where the mind is too
deeply interested, there it is that the faculties are most treacherous.
Ardent were the sighs of Edwin, but his voice refused its assistance,
and his tongue faultered under the attempts that he made. Fluent and
voluble upon all other subjects, upon this he hesitated. For the first
time he was dissatisfied with the expressions that nature dictated. For
the first time he dreaded to utter the honest wishes of his heart,
apprehensive that he might do violence to the native delicacy of Imogen.

But he needed not have feared. Imogen was not blind to those perfections
which every mouth conspired to praise. Her heart was not cold and
unimpassioned; she could not see these perfections, united with youth
and personal beauty, without being attracted. The accents of Edwin were
music to her ear. The tale that Edwin told, interested her twice as much
as what she heard from vulgar lips. To wander with Edwin along the
flowery mead, to sit with Edwin in the cool alcove, had charms for her
for which she knew not how to account, and which she was at first
unwilling to acknowledge to her own heart. When she heard of the feats
of the generous lover, his gallantry in the rural sports, and his
reverence for the fair, it was under the amiable figure of Edwin that he
came painted to her treacherous imagination. She was a stranger to
artifice and disguise, and the renown of Edwin was to her the feast of
the soul, and with visible satisfaction she dwelt upon his praise. Even
in sleep her dreams were of the deserving shepherd. The delusive
pleasures that follow in the train of dark-browed night, all told of
Edwin. The unreal mockery of that capricious being, who cheats us with
scenes of fictitious wretchedness, was full of the unmerited calamities,
the heartbreaking woe, or the untimely death of Edwin. From Edwin
therefore the language of love would have created no disgust. Imogen was
not heedless and indiscreet; she would not have sacrificed the dignity
of innocence. Imogen was not coy; she would not have treated her admirer
with affected disdain. She had no guard but virgin modesty and that
conscious worth, _that would be wooed, and not unsought be won_.

Such was the yet immature attachment of our two lovers, when an
anniversary of religious mirth summoned them, together with their
neighbour shepherds of the adjacent hamlet, to the spot which had long
been consecrated to rural sports and guiltless festivity, near the
village of Ruthyn. The sun shone with unusual splendour; the Druidical


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