The Gentle Shepherd was written as a satire on the character of George Grenville, leader of the House of Commons, who, during a debate in Parliament on the repeal of the cider tax, in the year 1766, was mocked by William Pitt, using a line from a well-known hymn.
It is not known what the tune was to which these verses were set.
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 despised 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 Twitcher 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 effigy their furies prey, By night they burn me, as they hang by day.