Edmund Spenser (1552?1599). The Complete Poetical Works. 1908.
The Shepheardes Calender
THIS Æglogue is purposely intended to the honor and prayse of our most gracious sovereigne, Queene Elizabeth. The speakers herein be Hobbinoll and Thenott, two shepheardes: the which Hobbinoll, being before mentioned greatly to have loved Colin, is here set forth more largely, complayning him of that boyes great misadventure in love, whereby his mynd was alienate and withdrawen not onely from him, who moste loved him, but also from all former delightes and studies, aswell in pleasaunt pyping as conning ryming and singing, and other his laudable exercises. Whereby he taketh occasion, for proofe of his more excellencie and skill in poetrie, to recorde a songe which the sayd Colin sometime made in honor of her Majestie, whom abruptely he termeth Elysa.
The. Tell me, good Hobbinoll, what garres thee greete?
Gars thee greete, causeth thee weepe and complain. Forlorne, left and forsaken. Attempred to the yeare, agreeable to the season of the yeare, that is Aprill, which moneth is most bent to shoures and seasonable rayne: to quench, that is, to delaye the drought, caused through drynesse of March wyndes. The Ladde, Colin Clout. The Lasse, Rosalinda. Tressed locks, wrethed and curled. Is he for a ladde? A straunge manner of speaking, sc. what maner of ladde is he? To make, to rime and versifye. For in this word, making, our olde Englishe poetes were wont to comprehend all the skil of poetrye, according to the Greeke woorde, to make, whence commeth the name of poetes. Colin thou kenst, knowest. Seemeth hereby that Colin perteyneth to some southern noble man, and perhaps in Surrye or Kent, the rather bicause he so often nameth the Kentish downes, and before, As lythe as lasse of Kent. The widowes: He calleth Rosalind the widowes daughter of the glenne, that is, of a country hamlet or borough, which I thinke is rather sayde to coloure and concele the person, then simply spoken. For it is well knowen, even in spighte of Colin and Hobbinoll, that shee is a gentlewoman of no meane house, nor endewed with anye vulgare and common gifts both of nature and manners: but suche indeede, as neede nether Colin be ashamed to have her made knowne by his verses, nor Hobbinol be greved, that so she should be commended to immortalitie for her rare and singular vertues: specially deserving it no lesse then eyther Myrto, the most excellent poete Theocritus his dearling, or Lauretta, the divine Petrarches goddesse, or Himera, the worthye poete Stesichorus hys idole: upon whom he is sayd so much to have doted, that, in regard of her excellencie, he scorned and wrote against the beauty of Helena. For which his præsumptuous and unheedie hardinesse, he is sayde by vengeaunce of the gods, thereat being offended, to have lost both his eyes. Frenne, a straunger. The word, I thinke, was first poetically put, and afterwarde used in commen custome of speach for forenne. Dight adorned. Laye, a songe, as roundelayes and virelayes. In all this songe is not to be respected, what the worthinesse of her Majestie deserveth, nor what to the highnes of a prince is agreeable, but what is moste comely for the meanesse of a shepheards witte, or to conceive, or to utter. And therefore he calleth her Elysa, as through rudenesse tripping in her name: and a shepheards daughter, it being very unfit that a shepheards boy, brought up in the shepefold, should know, or ever seme to have heard of a queenes roialty. Ye daintie is, as it were, an exordium ad preparandos animos. Virgins, the nine Muses, daughters of Apollo and Memorie, whose abode the poets faine to be on Parnassus, a hill in Grece, for that in that countrye specially florished the honor of all excellent studies. Helicon is both the name of a fountaine at the foote of Parnassus, and also of a mounteine in Bæotia, out of which floweth the famous spring Castalius, dedicate also to the Muses: of which spring it is sayd, that, when Pegasus, the winged horse of Perseus, (whereby is meant fame and flying renowme) strooke the grownde with his hoofe, sodenly thereout sprange a wel of moste cleare and pleasaunte water, which fro thence forth was consecrate to the Muses and ladies of learning. Your silver song seemeth to imitate the lyke in Hesiodus [Greek]. Syrinx is the name of a nymphe of Arcadie, whom when Pan being in love pursued, she, flying from him, of the gods was turned into a reede. So that Pan, catching at the reedes in stede of the damosell, and puffing hard, (for he was almost out of wind) with hys breath made the reedes to pype: which he seeing, tooke of them, and, in remembraunce of his lost love, made him a pype thereof. But here by Pan and Syrinx is not to bee thoughte, that the shephearde simplye meante those poeticall gods: but rather supposing (as seemeth) her graces progenie to be divine and immortall (so as the paynims were wont to judge of all kinges and princes, according to Homeres saying,
could devise no parents in his judgement so worthy for her, as Pan the shepeheards god, and his best beloved Syrinx. So that by Pan is here meant the most famous and victorious king, her highnesse father, late of worthy memorye, King Henry the Eyght. And by that name, oftymes (as hereafter appeareth) be noted kings and mighty potentates; and in some place Christ himselfe, who is the verye Pan and god of shepheardes. Cremosin coronet: He deviseth her crowne to be of the finest and most delicate flowers, instede of perles and precious stones, wherewith princes diademes use to bee adorned and embost. Embellish, beautifye and set out. Phebe, the moone, whom the poets faine to be sister unto Phæbus, that is, the sunne. Medled, mingled. Yfere, together. By the mingling of the redde rose and the white is meant the uniting of the two principall houses of Lancaster and of Yorke: by whose longe discord and deadly debate this realm many yeares was sore traveiled, and almost cleane decayed. Til the famous Henry the Seventh, of the line of Lancaster, taking to wife the most vertuous Princesse Elisabeth, daughter to the fourth Edward of the house of Yorke, begat the most royal Henry the Eyght aforesayde, in whom was the firste union of the whyte rose and the redde. Calliope, one of the nine Muses; to whome they assigne the honor of all poetical invention, and the firste glorye of the heroicall verse. Other say that shee is the goddesse of rhetorick: but by Virgile it is manifeste, that they mystake the thyng. For there, in hys Epigrams, that arte semeth to be attributed to Polymnia, saying,
Signat cuncta manu loquiturque Polymnia gestu:
which seemeth specially to be meant of action and elocution, both special partes of rhetorick: besyde that her name, which (as some construe it) importeth great remembraunce, conteineth another part; but I holde rather with them, which call her Polymnia, or Polyhymnia, of her good singing. Bay branches be the signe of honor and victory, and therfore of myghty conquerors worn in theyr triumphes, and eke of famous poets, as saith Petrarch in hys Sonets,
Arbor vittoriosa triomphale,
Honor dimperadori e di poeti, &c.
The Graces be three sisters, the daughters of Jupiter, (whose names are Aglaia, Thalia, Euphrosyne; and Homer onely addeth a fourth, sc. Pasithea) otherwise called Charites, that is, thanks: whom the poetes feyned to be the goddesses of al bountie and comelines, which therefore (as sayth Theodontius) they make three, to wete, that men first ought to be gracious and bountiful to other freely, then to receive benefits at other mens hands curteously, and thirdly, to requite them thankfully: which are three sundry actions in liberalitye. And Boccace saith, that they be painted naked (as they were indeede on the tombe of C. Julius Cæsar) the one having her backe toward us, and her face fromwarde, as proceeding from us: the other two toward us, noting double thanke to be due to us for the benefit we have done. Deaffly, finelye and nimbly. Soote, sweete. Meriment, mirth. Bevie: A beavie of ladyes is spoken figuratively for a company or troupe: the terme is taken of larkes. For they say a bevie of larkes, even as a covey of partridge, or an eye of pheasaunts. Ladyes of the Lake be Nymphes. For it was an olde opinion amongste the auncient heathen, that of every spring and fountaine was a goddesse the soveraigne. Whiche opinion stucke in the myndes of men not manye yeares sithence, by meanes of certain fine fablers and lowd lyers, such as were the authors of King Arthure the Great, and such like, who tell many an unlawfull leasing of the Ladyes of the Lake, that is, the Nymphes. For the word Nymphe in Greeke signifieth well water, or otherwise a spouse or bryde. Behight, called or named. Cloris, the name of a nymph, and signifieth greenesse; of whome is sayd, that Zephyrus, the westerne wind, being in love with her, and coveting her to wyfe, gave her for a dowrie the chiefedome and soveraigntye of al flowres and greene herbes, growing on earth. Olives bene: The olive was wont to be the ensigne of peace and quietnesse, eyther for that it cannot be planted and pruned, and so carefully looked to as it ought, but in time of peace: or els for that the olive tree, they say, will not growe neare the firre tree, which is dedicate to Mars the god of battaile, and used most for speares and other instruments of warre. Whereupon is finely feigned, that when Neptune and Minerva strove for the naming of the citie of Athens, Neptune striking the ground with his mace, caused a horse to come forth, that importeth warre, but at Minervaes stroke sprong out an olive, to note that it should be a nurse of learning, and such peaceable studies. Binde your: Spoken rudely, and according to shepheardes simplicitye. Bring: All these be names of flowers. Sops in wine, a flowre in colour much like to a coronation, but differing in smel and quantitye. Flowre delice, that which they use to misterme Flowre de Luce, being in Latine called Flos delitiarum. A bellibone, or a bonibell, homely spoken for a fayre mayde or bonilasse. Forswonck and forswatt, overlaboured and sunneburnt. I saw Phæbus, the sunne. A sensible narration, and present view of the thing mentioned, which they call [Greek]. Cynthia, the moone, so called of Cynthus a hyll, where she was honoured. Latonaes seede was Apollo and Diana. Whom when as Niobe the wife of Amphion scorned, in respect of the noble fruict of her wombe, namely her seven sonnes, and so many daughters, Latona, being therewith displeased, commaunded her sonne Phbus to slea al the sonnes, and Diana all the daughters: whereat the unfortunate Niobe being sore dismayed, and lamenting out of measure, was feigned of the poetes to be turned into a stone upon the sepulchre of her children: for which cause the shepheard sayth, he will not compare her to them, for feare of like mysfortune. Now rise is the conclusion. For having so decked her with prayses and comparisons, he returneth all the thanck of hys laboure to the excellencie of her Majestie. When damsins, a base reward of a clownish giver. Yblent, Y is a poeticall addition: blent, blinded.
This poesye is taken out of Virgile, and there of him used in the person of Æneas to his mother Venus, appearing to him in likenesse of one of Dianaes damosells: being there most divinely set forth. To which similitude of divinitie Hobbinoll comparing the excelency of Elisa, and being through the worthynes of Colins song, as it were, overcome with the hugenesse of his imagination, brusteth out in great admiration, (O quam te memorem virgo?) being otherwise unhable, then by soddein silence, to expresse the worthinesse of his conceipt. Whom Thenot answereth with another part of the like verse, as confirming by his graunt and approvaunce, that Elisa is no whit inferiour to the majestie of her of whome that poete so boldly pronounced O dea certe.