The Gentle Shepherd | American Revolution War Song

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Frank Moore
Frank Moore

Frank Moore was a journalist and Revolutionary historian. He published a number of books on the American Revolution during his career in the mid-19th century, including Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution, Diary of the American Revolution and The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution.

THE incident which gave rise to the following satirical parody of Popes second pastoral, occurred during the debates in Parliament early in the year 1766, which took place on occasion of the repeal of the famous Cider-tax, a measure which gave to the inhabitants of the cider-counties a “taste of the same pleasure, which their brethren in America about the same time enjoyed” in the repeal of the Stamp Act. George Grenville, then leader in the Commons, came to the rescue of Bute, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and spoke strongly on his favorite theme, the profusion with which the late war had been carried on. That profusion, he said, had made taxes necessary. He called on the gentleman opposite to him to say where they would have a tax laid, and dwelt on this topic with his usual prolixity. “Let them tell me where,” he repeated in a monotonous and somewhat fretful tone. “I say, sir, let them tell me where. I repeat it, sir, I am entitled to say to them, Tell me where.” Unluckily for him, Pitt had come down to the House that night, and had been bitterly provoked by the reflections thrown on the war. He revenged himself by murmuring in a whine resembling Grenville’s, a line of a well-known song, “Gentle Shepherd, tell me where.” “If,” cried Grenville, “gentlemen are to be treated in this way – ” Pitt, as was his fashion, when he meant to mark extreme contempt, rose deliberately, made his bow, and walked out of the House, leaving his brother-in-law in convulsions of rage, and every body else in convulsions of laughter. It was long before Grenville lost the nickname of “Gentle Shepherd.”

The Gentle Shepherd

A GENTLE SHEPHERD – that’s his proper name
Retired to Stow, far distant from the Thame;
Where dancing fishes in the basin play’d,
And crowded columns form’d a marble shade:
There, while he mourn’d by streams that never flow,
The statues round a dumb compassion show;
The worthies listen’d in each sculptur’d hall;
My Lord, consenting, sat and heard it all.

Ye stubborn York, ye fierce New England crew,
Free from Excise, but not from Customs too,
To you I mourn, nor to the deaf I sing,
Your woods shall answer, and your cities ring.
Quebec and Georgia, my stamp duties pay;
Why are you prouder, and more hard than they?

The gay Creoles, with my new tax agree,
They parch’d by heat, and I inflam’d by thee;
The sultry Sirius burns their sugar-canes,
While in thy heart a wholesome winter reigns.

Where stray ye, members, in what lane or grove,
While to enforce the act I hopeless move ?
In those fair rooms where Royal G- resides,
Or where the Cockpit’s ample hall divides,
As in the gilded sconce I view my face,
No rising blushes stain the faithful glass;
But since my figure pleases there no more,
I shun the levee which I sought before.
Once I was skill’d in every fund that went,
From India bonds to humble cent per cent.
Ah, Gentle Shepherd, what avails thy skill
To frame a tax for D-w-ll to repeal?

Let – proud preside at C-l B-d,
Or wily H-l-d still desire to hoard;
But in the Treasury let me spend my days,
And load the sinking fund a thousand ways.
That wand was mine, which B-, with panting breath,
Into my hands, resigning, did bequeath:
He said, G- G-v-le, take this rod, the same
That to the cider counties taught my name;
But R-k-ham may sway the wand for me,
Since I’m despis√®d and disgrac’d by thee.
Oh! were I made, by some transforming power,
The smooth-tongued P- that speaks in yonder bower, Then might my voice the listening ears employ,
And I, the pension he receives, enjoy.

And yet my speeches pleased the Tory throng,
Rough R-gby grinn’d, and N-l-n prais’d My song;
The Cits, while Bow church bells forgot to ring,
In milk white wigs, their kind addresses bring.
But their addresses are preferred in vain,
On P-t their thanks are now bestow’d again:
For him the richest boxes are designed,
And in one parchment all their freedom’s join’d.
Accept their wreaths, allow your partners none,
Claim all their praise as due to you alone.

See what strange things in the repeal appear;
Discordant Earls have form’d a union here:
In opposition B- and T-p-e join,
And wicked Twitcher2 with good -.
Come, matchless Jemmy ! bless the cool retreats,
When Peers from voting quit their scarlet seats;

When weary Commons leave the sultry town,
And, drown’d with debts, to finger rents go down.
This harmless grove no lurking bailiff hides,
But in my breast the serpent rage abides.
Oh, how I long with you to pass my days,
Drink our own healths, and sound each other’s praise; Your praise the press shall bear through all the town, And evening posts from London waft it down:
But would you write, and rival Anti’s strain,
The wondering mob his lies would read again;
The moving carman hear the powerful call,
And pots of beer hang listening in their fall.

But see, the ladies shun the noontide air,
And hungry Lords to dinner fast repair:
At table all to places fix’d resort –
Ye gods, and is there then no place at court ?
But soon the sun with milder rays descends
To western climes, where my stamp duty ends:
On my poor effigy3 their furies prey,
By night they burn me, as they hang by day.

  1. Earl of Chatham; an Essay by Thos. Babington Macaulay, 1844.
  2. “And wicked Twitcher.” Lord Sandwich was universally known by the sobriquet of “Jemmy Twitcher.”
  3. On my poor effigy. Effigies of the different members of the Ministry were carted through the principal places in the Colonies, to conspicuous situations, and there burned. The people could not degrade such “perverters of the public weal” sufficiently. Epigrams, pasquinades and scurrilous verses appeared at every comer in “flaming capitals,” and Britain’s dishonor was published from the pulpit. The following appeared, suspended upon Liberty Tree, during Grenville’s official career:

“Pitt, the supporter of Liberty and the terror of tyrants.”
“To Bute and Grenville, mark the event,
Both heaven and earth are foes;
While curses on each wretch are sent
By every wind that blows.”
God save the King.

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