Monday, March 19, 2012

A Doomed Romance

Colonial newspapers such as The Moreton Bay Courier relied on local correspondents for reports from the various districts. One such correspondent from Ipswich is recognisable for his florid writing style in which he shows off his obvious classical education.  

He peppers his prose with allusions to Greek and Roman mythology, Christian hagiography, as well as history and literature.

Idealised 18th Century View of a Shepherdess
(Shepherd piping to a Shepherdess, Francois, Boucher c.1747-50)

In 1846, the Ipswich correspondent submitted a piece entitled “Love in the Bush” regarding an attempted elopement from a sheep station, transforming a rather mundane story into a bucolic tale of unrequited love.

No names are mentioned.  Even the location is vaguely given.[1]

We have been informed that the blind god[2] has been making great havoc, lately on Darling Downs, and that a sad misadventure has befallen an ancient and respectable shepherd in that district. A knight of St. Crispin[3] has made free with one of the gentle shepherdesses, residing not a hundred miles from Jimba, and succeeded in inducing her to lay aside the crook to assume the zone of Venus[4].

The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 5 September 1846 

Though exceeding by some years the respectable age of forty, love still throbbed in the bosom of our hero, and he wooed and won the fascinating damsel, whose charms penetrated his double-breasted waistcoat, and captured with sweet agony his yielding affections.

The interesting fair one, be it known, possesses artificial, as well as natural attractions, and is a lady not only well-looking, but heiress to a fine flock of ewes, which she has been in the habit of tending for the last two years with assiduous care, which circumstance could not escape the observation of our Lothario, who, it may be accounted, therefore, not only loved well, but, (as the world goes) wisely.

Thrilling with dear anticipation, (having received the consent of the "gentle shepherdess" to the plighting of their troth), the ardent swain, in an importunate moment, induced the yielding fair one to elope from her father's house (hut) in order to enter into the silken loop of matrimony.

Shepherdess with her Flock
(Jean-Francois Millet 19th Century)

Horses having been provided, the happy pair were proceeding to our far-famed township, when their absence became known to the lady's relations; instant pursuit was resolved on, and the following day, the lady and her lover were discovered by the pursuers seated tete-a-tete[5] under a gum-tree, enjoying a comfortable pot of the best bohea[6], and damper.

On the appearance of the enraged parent and his assistants, who, by the bye, were armed to the teeth - consternation seized the amorous swain-love absconded - and he fled ingloriously, leaving the luckless dulcinea[7] in the hands of the captors.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 5 September 1846
[2] Cupid i.e. “love is blind.”
[3] Saint Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers and leather workers.
[4] Roman goddess of love.
[5] Face to face (French)
[6] Bohea tea. The name  given in the beginning of the 18th c. to the finest kinds of black tea from China.(OED)
[7] The name given by Don Quixote to his mistress in Cervantes' romance; hence, A mistress, sweetheart, lady of one's devotion.(OED)

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