Edmund Spenser (1552?1599). The Complete Poetical Works. 1908.
The Shepheardes Calender
THIS Æglogue is wholly vowed to the complayning of Colins ill successe in his love. For being (as is aforesaid) enamoured of a country lasse, Rosalind, and having (as seemeth) founde place in her heart, he lamenteth to his deare frend Hobbinoll, that he is nowe forsaken unfaithfully, and in his steede Menalcas, another shepheard, received disloyally. And this is the whole argument of this Æglogue.
HOBBINOL. COLIN CLOUTE.
Hob. Lo, Collin, here the place whose pleasaunt syte
Least night with stealing steppes doe you forsloe,
And wett your tender lambes that by you trace.
Giá speme spenta.
Syte, situation and place. Paradise. A Paradise in Greeke signifieth a garden of pleasure, or place of delights. So he compareth the soile wherin Hobbinoll made his abode, to that earthly Paradise, in Scripture called Eden, wherein Adam in his first creation was placed: which, of the most learned, is thought to be in Mesopotamia, the most fertile and pleasaunte country in the world (as may appeare by Diodorus Syculus description of it, in the hystorie of Alexanders conquest thereof:) lying betweene the two famous ryvers, (which are sayd in Scripture to flowe out of Paradise) Tygris and Euphrates, whereof it is so denominate. Forsake the soyle. This is no poetical fiction, but unfeynedly spoken of the poete selfe, who for speciall occasion of private affayres, (as I have bene partly of himselfe informed) and for his more preferment, removing out of the Northparts, came into the South, as Hobbinoll indeede advised him privately. Those hylles, that is the North countrye, where he dwelt. Nis, is not. The dales, the Southpartes, where he nowe abydeth, which thoughe they be full of hylles and woodes (for Kent is very hyllye and woodye; and therefore so called: for Kantsh in the Saxons tongue signifieth woodie,) yet in respecte of the Northpartes they be called dales. For indede the North is counted the higher countrye. Night ravens, &c. By such hatefull byrdes, hee meaneth all misfortunes (whereof they be tokens) flying every where. Frendly faeries. The opinion of faeries and elfes is very old, and yet sticketh very religiously in the myndes of some. But to roote that rancke opinion of elfes oute of mens hearts, the truth is, that there be no such thinges, nor yet the shadowes of the things, but onely by a sort of bald friers and knavish shavelings so feigned; which, as in all other things, so in that, soughte to nousell the comen people in ignoraunce, least, being once acquainted with the truth of things, they woulde in tyme smell out the untruth of theyr packed pelfe and massepenie religion. But the sooth is, that when all Italy was distraicte into the factions of the Guelfes and the Gibelins, being two famous houses in Florence, the name began, through their great mischiefes and many outrages, to be so odious, or rather dreadfull, in the peoples eares, that if theyr children at any time were frowarde and wanton, they would say to them that the Guelfe or the Gibeline came. Which words nowe from them (as many thinge els) be come into our usage, and, for Guelfes and Gibelines, we say elfes and goblins. No otherwise then the Frenchmen used to say of that valiaunt captain, the very scourge of Fraunce, the Lord Thalbot, afterward Erle of Shrewsbury; whose noblesse bred such a terrour in the hearts of the French, that oft times even great armies were defaicted and put to flyght at the onely hearing of hys name. In somuch that the French wemen, to affray theyr chyldren, would tell them that the Talbot commeth. Many Graces. Though there be indeede but three Graces or Charites (as afore is sayd) or at the utmost but foure, yet in respect of many gyftes of bounty, there may be sayde more. And so Musæus sayth, that in Heroes eyther eye there satte a hundred Graces. And by that authoritye, thys same poete, in his Pageaunts, saith An hundred Graces on her eyeledde satte, &c. Haydeguies, a country daunce or rownd. The conceipt is, that the Graces and Nymphes doe daunce unto the Muses and Pan his musicke all night by moonelight. To signifie the pleasauntnesse of the soyle. Peeres, equalles and felow shepheards. Queneapples unripe, imitating Virgils verse,
Ipse ego cana legam tenera lanugine mala.
Neighbour groves, a straunge phrase in English, but word for word expressing the Latine vicina nemora. Spring, not of water, but of young trees springing. Calliope, afforesayde. Thys staffe is full of verie poetical invention. Tamburines, an olde kind of instrument, which of some is supposed to be the clarion. Pan with Phæbus. The tale is well knowne, howe that Pan and Apollo, striving for excellencye in musicke, chose Midas for their judge. Who, being corrupted wyth partiall affection, gave the victorye to Pan undeserved: for which Phbus sette a payre of asses eares upon hys head, &c. Tityrus. That by Tityrus is meant Chaucer, hath bene already sufficiently sayde, and by thys more playne appeareth, that he sayth, he tolde merye tales. Such as be hys Canterburie Tales. Whom he calleth the god of poetes for hys excellencie, so as Tullie calleth Lentulus, Deum vitæ suæ, sc. the god of hys lyfe. To make, to versifie. O why, a pretye epanorthosis or correction. Discurtesie. He meaneth the falsenesse of his lover Rosalinde, who, forsaking hym, hadde chosen another. Poynte of worthy wite, the pricke of deserved blame. Menalcas, the name of a shephearde in Virgile; but here is meant a person unknowne and secrete, agaynst whome he often bitterly invayeth. Underfonge, undermynde and deceive by false suggestion.
You remember that in the fyrst Æglogue, Colins poesie was Anchora speme: for that as then there was hope of favour to be found in tyme. But nowe being cleane forlorne and rejected of her, as whose hope, that was, is cleane extinguished and turned into despeyre, he renounceth all comfort, and hope of goodnesse to come: which is all the meaning of thys embleme.