Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
Complaints
Virgils Gnat
 
LONG SINCE DEDICATED
TO THE MOST NOBLE AND EXCELLENT LORD,
THE EARLE OF LEICESTER, LATE DECEASED

        WRONG’D, yet not daring to expresse my paine,
To you (great Lord) the causer of my care,
In clowdie teares my ease I thus complaine
Unto your selfe, that onely privie are:
But if that any Œdipus unware
Shall chaunce, through power of some divining spright,
To reade the secrete of this riddle rare,
And know the purporte of my evill plight,
Let him rest pleased with his owne insight,
Ne further seeke to glose upon the text:
For griefe enough it is to grieved wight
To feele his fault, and not be further vext.
But what so by my selfe may not be showen,
May by this Gnatts complaint be easily knowen.


  [‘Virgil’s Gnat’ may be thought to follow close upon the latest of the sonnet series. The main period to which it belongs is, in any case, certain, for in the title it is described as ‘long since dedicated’ to the Earl of Leicester; it deals with some mishap in the personal relations of the poet with that nobleman, and such relations would seem to have been confined to the years 1577-1580. What the mishap may have been has remained, on the other hand, obscure. The curious must divine it as they best may from the sonnet of dedication and from the main allegory, always remembering that the poem is not an invention based upon the circumstances, but a mere paraphrase of the pseudo-Virgilian Culex. Of greater moment is the style, which, moving in a freer course than is natural to the sonnet, wins nearer than that of the ‘Visions’ and ‘Ruins of Rome’ to the cadences of the Faery Queen. The use of ottava rima, the stanza of the great Italian romances, points forward, too.]


VIRGILS GNAT

WE now have playde (Augustus) wantonly,
Tuning our song unto a tender Muse,
And like a cobweb weaving slenderly,
Have onely playde: let thus much then excuse
This Gnats small poeme, that th’ whole history        5
Is but a jest, though envie it abuse:
But who such sports and sweet delights doth blame,
Shall lighter seeme than this Gnats idle name.
 
Hereafter, when as season more secure
Shall bring forth fruit, this Muse shall speak to thee        10
In bigger notes, that may thy sense allure,
And for thy worth frame some fit poesie:
The golden ofspring of Latona pure,
And ornament of great Joves progenie,
Phœbus, shall be the author of my song,        15
Playing on yvorie harp with silver strong.
 
He shall inspire my verse with gentle mood,
Of poets prince, whether he woon beside
Faire Xanthus sprincled with Chimæras blood,
Or in the woods of Astery abide,        20
Or whereas Mount Parnasse, the Muses brood,
Doth his broad forhead like two hornes divide,
And the sweete waves of sounding Castaly
With liquid foote doth slide downe easily.
 
Wherefore ye sisters, which the glorie bee        25
Of the Pierian streames, fayre Naiades,
Go too, and dauncing all in companie,
Adorne that god: and thou holie Pales,
To whome the honest care of husbandrie
Returneth by continuall successe,        30
Have care for to pursue his footing light,
Through the wide woods and groves with green leaves dight.
 
Professing thee I lifted am aloft
Betwixt the forrest wide and starrie sky:
And thou most dread (Octavius) which oft        35
To learned wits givest courage worthily,
O come (thou sacred childe) come sliding soft,
And favour my beginnings graciously:
For not these leaves do sing that dreadfull stound,
When giants bloud did staine Phlegræan ground;        40
 
Nor how th’ halfe horsy people, Centaures hight,
Fought with the bloudie Lapithaes at bord;
Nor how the East with tyranous despight
Burnt th’ Attick towres, and people slew with sword;
Nor how Mount Athos through exceeding might        45
Was digged downe; nor yron bands abord
The Pontick sea by their huge navy cast,
My volume shall renowne, so long since past:
 
Nor Hellespont trampled with horses feete,
When flocking Persians did the Greeks affray;        50
But my soft Muse, as for her power more meete,
Delights (with Phœbus friendly leave) to play
An easie running verse with tender feete.
And thou (dread sacred child) to thee alway
Let everlasting lightsome glory strive,        55
Through the worlds endles ages to survive.
 
And let an happie roome remaine for thee
Mongst heavenly ranks, where blessed soules do rest;
And let long lasting life with joyous glee,
As thy due meede that thou deservest best,        60
Hereafter many yeares remembred be
Amongst good men, of whom thou oft are blest;
Live thou for ever in all happinesse:
But let us turne to our first businesse.
 
The fiery Sun was mounted now on hight        65
Up to the heavenly towers, and shot each where
Out of his golden charet glistering light;
And fayre Aurora with her rosie heare
The hatefull darknes now had put to flight;
When as the shepheard, seeing day appeare,        70
His little goats gan drive out of their stalls,
To feede abroad, where pasture best befalls.
 
To an high mountaines top he with them went,
Where thickest grasse did cloath the open hills:
They, now amongst the woods and thickets ment,        75
Now in the valleies wandring at their wills,
Spread themselves farre abroad through each descent;
Some on the soft greene grasse feeding their fills;
Some, clambring through the hollow cliffes on hy,
Nibble the bushie shrubs, which growe thereby.        80
 
Others the utmost boughs of trees doe crop,
And brouze the woodbine twigges, that freshly bud;
This with full bit doth catch the utmost top
Of some soft willow, or new growen stud;
This with sharpe teeth the bramble leaves doth lop,        85
And chaw the tender prickles in her cud;
The whiles another high doth overlooke
Her owne like image in a christall brooke.
 
O the great happines which shepheards have,
Who so loathes not too much the poore estate        90
With minde that ill use doth before deprave,
Ne measures all things by the costly rate
Of riotise, and semblants outward brave!
No such sad cares, as wont to macerate
And rend the greedie mindes of covetous men,        95
Do ever creepe into the shepheards den.
 
Ne cares he if the fleece which him arayes
Be not twice steeped in Assyrian dye;
Ne glistering of golde, which underlayes
The summer beames, doe blinde his gazing eye;        100
Ne pictures beautie, nor the glauncing rayes
Of precious stones, whence no good commeth by;
Ne yet his cup embost with imagery
Of Bætus or of Alcons vanity.
 
Ne ought the whelky pearles esteemeth hee,        105
Which are from Indian seas brought far away:
But with pure brest from carefull sorrow free,
On the soft grasse his limbs doth oft display,
In sweete spring time, when flowres varietie
With sundrie colours paints the sprincled lay;        110
There, lying all at ease from guile or spight,
With pype of fennie reedes doth him delight.
 
There he, lord of himselfe, with palme bedight,
His looser locks doth wrap in wreath of vine:
There his milk dropping goats be his delight,        115
And fruitefull Pales, and the forrest greene,
And darkesome caves in pleasaunt vallies pight,
Wheras continuall shade is to be seene,
And where fresh springing wells, as christall neate,
Do alwayes flow, to quench his thirstie heate.        120
 
O who can lead then a more happie life
Than he, that with cleane minde and heart sincere,
No greedy riches knowes nor bloudie strife,
No deadly fight of warlick fleete doth feare,
Ne runs in perill of foes cruell knife,        125
That in the sacred temples he may reare
A trophee of his glittering spoyles and treasure,
Or may abound in riches above measure?
 
Of him his God is worshipt with his sythe,
And not with skill of craftsman polished:        130
He joyes in groves, and makes himselfe full blythe
With sundrie flowers in wilde fieldes gathered;
Ne frankincens he from Panchæa buyth:
Sweete Quiet harbours in his harmeles head,
And perfect Pleasure buildes her joyous bowre,        135
Free from sad cares, that rich mens hearts devowre.
 
This all his care, this all his whole indevour,
To this his minde and senses he doth bend,
How he may flow in quiets matchles treasour,
Content with any food that God doth send;        140
And how his limbs, resolv’d through idle leisour
Unto sweete sleepe he may securely lend,
In some coole shadow from the scorching heat,
The whiles his flock their chawed cuds do eate.
 
O flocks, O faunes, and O ye pleasaunt springs        145
Of Tempe, where the countrey nymphs are rife,
Through whose not costly care each shepheard sings
As merrie notes upon his rusticke fife
As that Ascræan bard, whose fame now rings
Through the wide world, and leads as joyfull life,        150
Free from all troubles and from worldly toyle,
In which fond men doe all their dayes turmoyle.
 
In such delights whilst thus his carelesse time
This shepheard drives, upleaning on his batt,
And on shrill reedes chaunting his rustick rime,        155
Hyperion, throwing foorth his beames full hott,
Into the highest top of heaven gan clime,
And the world parting by an equall lott,
Did shed his whirling flames on either side,
As the great Ocean doth himselfe divide.        160
 
Then gan the shepheard gather into one
His stragling goates, and drave them to a foord,
Whose cærule streame, rombling in pible stone,
Crept under mosse as greene as any goord.
Now had the sun halfe heaven overgone,        165
When he his heard back from that water foord
Drave from the force of Phœbus boyling ray,
Into thick shadowes, there themselves to lay.
 
Soone as he them plac’d in thy sacred wood
(O Delian goddesse) saw, to which of yore        170
Came the bad daughter of old Cadmus brood,
Cruell Agave, flying vengeance sore
Of King Nictileus for the guiltie blood
Which she with cursed hands had shed before;
There she halfe frantick having slaine her sonne,        175
Did shrowd her selfe like punishment to shonne.
 
Here also playing on the grassy greene,
Woodgods, and satyres, and swift dryades,
With many fairies oft were dauncing seene.
Not so much did Dan Orpheus represse        180
The streames of Hebrus with his songs, I weene,
As that faire troupe of woodie goddesses
Staied thee (O Peneus) powring foorth to thee,
From cheereful lookes, great mirth and gladsome glee.
 
The verie nature of the place, resounding        185
With gentle murmure of the breathing ayre,
A pleasant bowre with all delight abounding
In the fresh shadowe did for them prepayre,
To rest their limbs with wearines redounding.
For first the high palme trees, with braunches faire,        190
Out of the lowly vallies did arise,
And high shoote up their heads into the skyes.
 
And them amongst the wicked lotos grew,
Wicked, for holding guilefully away
Ulysses men, whom rapt with sweetenes new,        195
Taking to hoste, it quite from him did stay;
And eke those trees, in whose transformed hew
The Sunnes sad daughters waylde the rash decay
Of Phaeton, whose limbs with lightening rent
They gathering up, with sweete teares did lament.        200
 
And that same tree, in which Demophoon,
By his disloyalty lamented sore,
Eternall hurte left unto many one:
Whom als accompanied the oke, of yore
Through fatall charmes transformd to such an one:        205
The oke, whose acornes were our foode, before
That Ceres seede of mortall men were knowne,
Which first Triptoleme taught how to be sowne.
 
Here also grew the rougher rinded pine,
The great Argoan ships brave ornament,        210
Whom golden fleece did make an heavenly signe;
Which coveting, with his high tops extent,
To make the mountaines touch the starres divine,
Decks all the forrest with embellishment;
And the blacke holme that loves the watrie vale;        215
And the sweete cypresse, signe of deadly bale.
 
Emongst the rest the clambring yvie grew,
Knitting his wanton armes with grasping hold,
Least that the poplar happely should rew
Her brothers strokes, whose boughes she doth enfold        220
With her lythe twigs, till they the top survew,
And paint with pallid greene her buds of gold.
Next did the myrtle tree to her approach,
Not yet unmindfull of her olde reproach.
 
But the small birds, in their wide boughs embowring,        225
Chaunted their sundrie tunes with sweete consent;
And under them a silver spring, forth powring
His trickling streames, a gentle murmure sent;
Thereto the frogs, bred in the slimie scowring
Of the moist moores, their jarring voyces bent;        230
And shrill grashoppers chirped them around:
All which the ayrie echo did resound.
 
In this so pleasant place this shepheards flocke
Lay everie where, their wearie limbs to rest,
On everie bush, and everie hollow rocke,        235
Where breathe on them the whistling wind mote best;
The whiles the shepheard self, tending his stocke,
Sate by the fountaine side, in shade to rest,
Where gentle slumbring sleep oppressed him,
Displaid on ground, and seized everie lim.        240
 
Of trecherie or traines nought tooke he keep,
But, looslie on the grassie greene dispredd,
His dearest life did trust to careles sleep;
Which, weighing down his drouping drowsie hedd,
In quiet rest his molten heart did steep,        245
Devoid of care, and feare of all falshedd:
Had not inconstant Fortune, bent to ill,
Bid strange mischance his quietnes to spill.
 
For at his wonted time in that same place
An huge great serpent, all with speckles pide,        250
To drench himselfe in moorish slime did trace,
There from the boyling heate himselfe to hide:
He, passing by with rolling wreathed pace,
With brandisht tongue the emptie aire did gride,
And wrapt his scalie boughts with fell despight,        255
That all things seem’d appalled at his sight.
 
Now more and more having himselfe enrolde,
His glittering breast he lifteth up on hie,
And with proud vaunt his head aloft doth holde;
His creste above, spotted with purple die,        260
On everie side did shine like scalie golde,
And his bright eyes, glauncing full dreadfullie,
Did seeme to flame out flakes of flashing fyre,
And with sterne lookes to threaten kindled yre.
 
Thus wise long time he did himselfe dispace        265
There round about, when as at last he spide,
Lying along before him in that place,
That flocks grand captaine and most trustie guide:
Eftsoones more fierce in visage and in pace,
Throwing his firie eyes on everie side,        270
He commeth on, and all things in his way
Full stearnly rends, that might his passage stay.
 
Much he disdaines, that anie one should dare
To come unto his haunt; for which intent
He inly burns, and gins straight to prepare        275
The weapons which Nature to him hath lent;
Fellie he hisseth, and doth fiercely stare,
And hath his jawes with angrie spirits rent,
That all his tract with bloudie drops is stained,
And all his foldes are now in length outstrained.        280
 
Whom, thus at point prepared, to prevent,
A litle noursling of the humid ayre,
A Gnat, unto the sleepie shepheard went,
And marking where his ey-lids, twinckling rare,
Shewd the two pearles which sight unto him lent,        285
Through their thin coverings appearing fayre,
His little needle there infixing deep,
Warnd him awake, from death himselfe to keep.
 
Wherewith enrag’d, he fiercely gan upstart,
And with his hand him rashly bruzing, slewe,        290
As in avengement of his heedles smart,
That streight the spirite out of his senses flew,
And life out of his members did depart:
When suddenly casting aside his vew,
He spide his foe with felonous intent,        295
And fervent eyes to his destruction bent.
 
All suddenly dismaid, and hartles quight,
He fled abacke, and, catching hastie holde
Of a yong alder hard beside him pight,
It rent, and streight about him gan beholde        300
What god or fortune would assist his might.
But whether god or fortune made him bold
Its hard to read: yet hardie will he had
To overcome, that made him lesse adrad.
 
The scalie backe of that most hideous snake        305
Enwrapped round, oft faining to retire,
And oft him to assaile, he fiercely strake
Whereas his temples did his creast front tyre;
And, for he was but slowe, did slowth off shake,
And gazing ghastly on (for feare and yre        310
Had blent so much his sense, that lesse he feard;)
Yet, when he saw him slaine, himselfe he cheard.
 
By this the Night forth from the darksome bowre
Of Herebus her teemed steedes gan call,
And laesie Vesper in his timely howre        315
From golden Oeta gan proceede withall;
Whenas the shepheard after this sharpe stowre,
Seing the doubled shadowes low to fall,
Gathering his straying flocke, does homeward fare,
And unto rest his wearie joynts prepare.        320
 
Into whose sense so soone as lighter sleepe
Was entered, and now loosing everie lim,
Sweete slumbring deaw in carelesnesse did steepe,
The image of that Gnat appeard to him,
And in sad tearmes gan sorrowfully weepe,        325
With greislie countenaunce and visage grim,
Wailing the wrong which he had done of late,
In steed of good, hastning his cruell fate.
 
Said he, ‘What have I, wretch, deserv’d, that thus
Into this bitter bale I am outcast,        330
Whilest that thy life more deare and precious
Was than mine owne, so long as it did last?
I now, in lieu of paines so gracious,
Am tost in th’ ayre with everie windie blast:
Thou, safe delivered from sad decay,        335
Thy careles limbs in loose sleep dost display.
 
‘So livest thou; but my poore wretched ghost
Is forst to ferrie over Lethes river,
And, spoyld of Charon, too and fro am tost.
Seest thou, how all places quake and quiver,        340
Lightned with deadly lamps on everie post?
Tisiphone each where doth shake and shiver
Her flaming fire brond, encountring me,
Whose lockes uncombed cruell adders be.
 
‘And Cerberus, whose many mouthes doo bay,        345
And barke out flames, as if on fire he fed;
Adowne whose necke, in terrible array,
Ten thousand snakes, cralling about his hed,
Doo hang in heapes, that horribly affray,
And bloodie eyes doo glister firie red;        350
He oftentimes me dreadfullie doth threaten,
With painfull torments to be sorely beaten.
 
‘Ay me! that thankes so much should faile of meed!
For that I thee restor’d to life againe,
Even from the doore of death and deadlie dreed.        355
Where then is now the guerdon of my paine?
Where the reward of my so piteous deed?
The praise of pitie vanisht is in vaine,
And th’ antique faith of justice long agone
Out of the land is fled away and gone.        360
 
‘I saw anothers fate approaching fast,
And left mine owne his safetie to tender;
Into the same mishap I now am cast,
And shun’d destruction doth destruction render:
Not unto him that never hath trespast,        365
But punishment is due to the offender:
Yet let destruction be the punishment,
So long as thankfull will may it relent.
 
‘I carried am into waste wildernesse,
Waste wildernes, amongst Cymerian shades,        370
Where endles paines and hideous heavinesse
Is round about me heapt in darksome glades.
For there huge Othos sits in sad distresse,
Fast bound with serpents that him oft invades,
Far of beholding Ephialtes tide,        375
Which once assai’d to burne this world so wide.
 
‘And there is mournfull Tityus, mindefull yet
Of thy displeasure, O Latona faire;
Displeasure too implacable was it,
That made him meat for wild foules of the ayre:        380
Much do I feare among such fiends to sit;
Much do I feare back to them to repayre,
To the black shadowes of the Stygian shore,
Where wretched ghosts sit wailing evermore.
 
‘There next the utmost brinck doth he abide,        385
That did the bankets of the gods bewray,
Whose throat, through thirst, to nought nigh being dride,
His sense to seeke for ease turnes every way:
And he that in avengement of his pride,
For scorning to the sacred gods to pray,        390
Against a mountaine rolls a mightie stone,
Calling in vaine for rest, and can have none.
 
‘Go ye with them, go, cursed damosells,
Whose bridale torches foule Erynnis tynde,
And Hymen, at your spousalls sad, foretells        395
Tydings of death and massacre unkinde:
With them that cruell Colchid mother dwells,
The which conceiv’d in her revengefull minde,
With bitter woundes her owne deere babes to slay,
And murdred troupes upon great heapes to lay.        400
 
‘There also those two Pandionian maides,
Calling on Itis, Itis evermore,
Whom, wretched boy, they slew with guiltie blades;
For whome the Thracian king lamenting sore,
Turn’d to a lapwing, fowlie them upbraydes,        405
And fluttering round about them still does sore;
There now they all eternally complaine
Of others wrong, and suffer endles paine.
 
‘But the two brethren borne of Cadmus blood,
Whilst each does for the soveraignty contend,        410
Blinde through ambition, and with vengeance wood,
Each doth against the others bodie bend
His cursed steele, of neither well withstood,
And with wide wounds their carcases doth rend;
That yet they both doe mortall foes remaine,        415
Sith each with brothers bloudie hand was slaine.
 
‘Ah (waladay!) there is no end of paine,
Nor chaunge of labour may intreated bee:
Yet I beyond all these am carried faine,
Where other powers farre different I see,        420
And must passe over to th’ Elisian plaine:
There grim Persephone, encountring mee,
Doth urge her fellow Furies earnestlie,
With their bright firebronds me to terrifie.
 
‘There chast Alceste lives inviolate,        425
Free from all care, for that her husbands daies
She did prolong by changing fate for fate:
Lo! there lives also the immortall praise
Of womankinde, most faithfull to her mate,
Penelope; and from her farre awayes        430
A rulesse rout of youngmen, which her woo’d,
All slaine with darts, lie wallowed in their blood.
 
‘And sad Eurydice thence now no more
Must turne to life, but there detained bee,
For looking back, being forbid before:        435
Yet was the guilt thereof, Orpheus, in thee.
Bold sure he was, and worthie spirite bore,
That durst those lowest shadowes goe to see,
And could beleeve that anie thing could please
Fell Cerberus, or Stygian powres appease.        440
 
‘Ne feard the burning waves of Phlegeton,
Nor those same mournfull kingdomes, compassed
With rustie horrour and fowle fashion,
And deep digd vawtes, and Tartar covered
With bloodie night, and darke confusion,        445
And judgement seates, whose judge is deadlie dred,
A judge that, after death, doth punish sore
The faults which life hath trespassed before.
 
‘But valiant fortune made Dan Orpheus bolde:
For the swift running rivers still did stand,        450
And the wilde beasts their furie did withhold,
To follow Orpheus musicke through the land:
And th’ okes, deep grounded in the earthly molde,
Did move, as if they could him understand;
And the shrill woods, which were of sense bereav’d,        455
Through their hard barke his silver sound receav’d.
 
‘And eke the Moone her hastie steedes did stay,
Drawing in teemes along the starrie skie;
And didst (O monthly virgin) thou delay
Thy nightly course, to heare his melodie?        460
The same was able, with like lovely lay,
The Queene of Hell to move as easily,
To yeeld Eurydice unto her fere,
Backe to be borne, though it unlawfull were.
 
‘She (ladie) having well before approoved,        465
The feends to be too cruell and severe,
Observ’d th’ appointed way, as her behooved,
Ne ever did her ey-sight turne arere,
Ne ever spake, ne cause of speaking mooved:
But cruell Orpheus, thou much crueller,        470
Seeking to kisse her, brok’st the gods decree,
And thereby mad’st her ever damn’d to be.
 
‘Ah! but sweete love of pardon worthie is,
And doth deserve to have small faults remitted;
If Hell at least things lightly done amis        475
Knew how to pardon, when ought is omitted:
Yet are ye both received into blis,
And to the seates of happie soules admitted,
And you beside the honourable band
Of great heroës doo in order stand.        480
 
‘There be the two stout sonnes of Aeacus,
Fierce Peleus, and the hardie Telamon,
Both seeming now full glad and joyeous
Through their syres dreadfull jurisdiction,
Being the judge of all that horrid hous:        485
And both of them, by strange occasion,
Renown’d in choyce of happie marriage
Through Venus grace, and vertues cariage.
 
‘For th’ one was ravisht of his owne bondmaide,
The faire Ixione, captiv’d from Troy;        490
But th’ other was with Thetis love assaid,
Great Nereus his daughter and his joy.
On this side them there is a youngman layd,
Their match in glorie, mightie, fierce and coy,
That from th’ Argolick ships, with furious yre,        495
Bett back the furie of the Trojan fyre.
 
‘O who would not recount the strong divorces
Of that great warre, which Trojanes oft behelde,
And oft beheld the warlike Greekish forces,
When Teucrian soyle with bloodie rivers swelde,        500
And wide Sigæan shores were spred with corses,
And Simois and Xanthus blood outwelde,
Whilst Hector raged with outragious minde,
Flames, weapons, wounds in Greeks fleete to have tynde?
 
‘For Ida selfe, in ayde of that fierce fight,        505
Out of her mountaines ministred supplies,
And like a kindly nourse, did yeeld (for spight)
Store of firebronds out of her nourseries
Unto her foster children, that they might
Inflame the navie of their enemies,        510
And all the Rhætean shore to ashes turne,
Where lay the ships which they did seeke to burne.
 
‘Gainst which the noble sonne of Telamon
Opposd’ himselfe, and thwarting his huge shield,
Them battell bad; gainst whom appeard anon        515
Hector, the glorie of the Trojan field:
Both fierce and furious in contention
Encountred, that their mightie strokes so shrild
As the great clap of thunder, which doth ryve
The ratling heavens, and cloudes asunder dryve.        520
 
‘So th’ one with fire and weapons did contend
To cut the ships from turning home againe
To Argos; th’ other strove for to defend
The force of Vulcane with his might and maine.
Thus th’ one Aeacide did his fame extend:        525
But th’ other joy’d, that, on the Phrygian playne
Having the blood of vanquisht Hector shedd,
He compast Troy thrice with his bodie dedd.
 
‘Againe great dole on either partie grewe,
That him to death unfaithfull Paris sent;        530
And also him that false Ulysses slewe,
Drawne into danger through close ambushment:
Therefore from him Laërtes sonne his vewe
Doth turne aside, and boasts his good event
In working of Strymonian Rhæsus fall,        535
And efte in Dolons slye surprysall.
 
‘Againe the dreadfull Cycones him dismay,
And blacke Læstrigones, a people stout:
Then greedie Scilla, under whom there bay
Manie great bandogs, which her gird about:        540
Then doo the Aetnean Cyclops him affray,
And deep Charybdis gulphing in and out:
Lastly the squalid lakes of Tartarie,
And griesly feends of hell him terrifie.
 
‘There also goodly Agamemnon bosts,        545
The glorie of the stock of Tantalus,
And famous light of all the Greekish hosts,
Under whose conduct most victorious,
The Dorick flames consum’d the Iliack posts.
Ah! but the Greekes themselves more dolorous,        550
To thee, O Troy, paid penaunce for thy fall,
In th’ Hellespont being nigh drowned all.
 
‘Well may appeare, by proofe of their mischaunce,
The chaungfull turning of mens slipperie state,
That none, whom fortune freely doth advaunce,        555
Himselfe therefore to heaven should elevate:
For loftie type of honour, through the glaunce
Of envies dart, is downe in dust prostrate;
And all that vaunts in worldly vanitie
Shall fall through fortunes mutabilitie.        560
 
‘Th’ Argolicke power returning home againe,
Enricht with spoyles of th’ Ericthonian towre,
Did happie winde and weather entertaine,
And with good speed the fomie billowes scowre:
No signe of storme, no feare of future paine,        565
Which soone ensued them with heavie stowre.
Nereïs to the seas a token gave,
The whiles their crooked keeles the surges clave.
 
‘Suddenly, whether through the gods decree,
Or haplesse rising of some froward starre,        570
The heavens on everie side enclowded bee:
Black stormes and fogs are blowen up from farre,
That now the pylote can no loadstarre see,
But skies and seas doo make most dreadfull warre;
The billowes striving to the heavens to reach,        575
And th’ heavens striving them for to impeach.
 
‘And, in avengement of their bold attempt,
Both sun and starres and all the heavenly powres
Conspire in one to wreake their rash contempt,
And downe on them to fall from highest towres:        580
The skie, in pieces seeming to be rent,
Throwes lightning forth, and haile, and harmful showres,
That death on everie side to them appeares,
In thousand formes, to worke more ghastly feares.
 
‘Some in the greedie flouds are sunke and drent;        585
Some on the rocks of Caphareus are throwne;
Some on th’ Euboick cliffs in pieces rent;
Some scattred on the Hercæan shores unknowne;
And manie lost, of whom no moniment
Remaines, nor memorie is to be showne:        590
Whilst all the purchase of the Phrigian pray,
Tost on salt billowes, round about doth stray.
 
‘Here manie other like heroës bee,
Equall in honour to the former crue,
Whom ye in goodly seates may placed see,        595
Descended all from Rome by linage due,
From Rome, that holds the world in sovereigntie,
And doth all nations unto her subdue:
Here Fabii and Decii doo dwell,
Horatii that in vertue did excell.        600
 
‘And here the antique fame of stout Camill
Doth ever live; and constant Curtius,
Who, stifly bent his vowed life to spill
For countreyes health, a gulph most hideous
Amidst the towne with his owne corps did fill,        605
T’ appease the powers; and prudent Mutius,
Who in his flesh endur’d the scorching flame,
To daunt his foe by ensample of the same.
 
‘And here wise Curius, companion
Of noble vertues, lives in endles rest;        610
And stout Flaminius, whose devotion
Taught him the fires scorn’d furie to detest;
And here the praise of either Scipion
Abides in highest place above the best,
To whom the ruin’d walls of Carthage vow’d,        615
Trembling their forces, sound their praises lowd.
 
‘Live they for ever through their lasting praise:
But I, poore wretch, am forced to retourne
To the sad lakes, that Phœbus sunnie rayes
Doo never see, where soules doo alwaies mourne;        620
And by the wayling shores to waste my dayes,
Where Phlegeton with quenchles flames doth burne;
By which just Minos righteous soules doth sever
From wicked ones, to live in blisse for ever.
 
‘Me therefore thus the cruell fiends of hell,        625
Girt with long snakes and thousand yron chaynes,
Through doome of that their cruell judge, compell,
With bitter torture and impatient paines,
Cause of my death and just complaint to tell.
For thou art he whom my poore ghost complaines        630
To be the author of her ill unwares,
That careles hear’st my intollerable cares.
 
‘Them therefore as bequeathing to the winde,
I now depart, returning to thee never,
And leave this lamentable plaint behinde.        635
But doo thou haunt the soft downe rolling river,
And wilde greene woods, and fruitful pastures minde,
And let the flitting aire my vaine words sever.’
Thus having said, he heavily departed
With piteous crie, that anie would have smarted.        640
 
Now, when the sloathfull fit of lifes sweete rest
Had left the heavie shepheard, wondrous cares
His inly grieved minde full sore opprest;
That balefull sorrow he no longer beares
For that Gnats death, which deeply was imprest,        645
But bends what ever power his aged yeares
Him lent, yet being such as through their might
He lately slue his dreadfull foe in fight.
 
By that same river lurking under greene,
Eftsoones he gins to fashion forth a place,        650
And squaring it in compasse well beseene,
There plotteth out a tombe by measured space:
His yron headed spade tho making cleene,
To dig up sods out of the flowrie grasse,
His worke he shortly to good purpose brought,        655
Like as he had conceiv’d it in his thought.
 
An heape of earth he hoorded up on hie,
Enclosing it with banks on everie side,
And thereupon did raise full busily
A little mount, of greene turffs edifide;        660
And on the top of all, that passers by
Might it behold, the toomb he did provide
Of smoothest marble stone in order set,
That never might his luckie scape forget.
 
And round about he taught sweete flowres to growe,        665
The rose engrained in pure scarlet die,
The lilly fresh, and violet belowe,
The marigolde, and cherefull rosemarie,
The Spartan mirtle, whence sweet guml does flowe,
The purple hyacinthe, and fresh cost-marie,        670
And saffron, sought for in Cilician soyle,
And lawrell, th’ ornament of Phœbus toyle:
 
Fresh rhododaphne, and the Sabine flowre,
Matching the wealth of th’ auncient frank-incence,
And pallid yvie, building his owne bowre,        675
And box, yet mindfull of his olde offence,
Red amaranthus, lucklesse paramour,
Oxeye still greene, and bitter patience;
Ne wants there pale Narcisse, that, in a well
Seeing his beautie, in love with it fell.        680
 
And whatsoever other flowre of worth,
And whatso other hearb of lovely hew
The joyous Spring out of the ground brings forth,
To cloath her selfe in colours fresh and new,
He planted there, and reard a mount of earth,        685
In whose high front was writ as doth ensue:
 
To thee, small Gnat, in lieu of his life saved,
The Shepheard hath thy deaths record engraved.

FINIS.
 
 
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