Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
Extracts from The Shepheard’s Calender: The Complaint of Age
By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)

WHILOME in youth, when flowrd my joyfull spring,
Like Swallow swift I wandred here and there;
For heate of heedlesse lust me so did sting,
That I of doubted daunger had no feare:
  I went the wastefull woodes and forest wide,        5
  Withouten dreade of Wolves to bene espyed.
*        *        *        *        *
How often have I scaled the craggie Oke,
All to dislodge the Raven of her nest?
How have I wearied with many a stroke
The stately Walnut-tree, the while the rest        10
  Under the tree fell all for nuts at strife?
  For ylike to me was libertee and lyfe.
*        *        *        *        *
Tho gan my lovely Spring bid me farewel,
And Sommer season sped him to display
(For love then in the Lyons house did dwell)        15
The raging fyre that kindled at his ray.
  A comett stird up that unkindly heate,
  That reigned (as men sayd) in Venus seate.
Forth was I ledde, not as I wont afore,
When choise I had to choose my wandring waye,        20
But whether luck and loves unbridled lore
Woulde leade me forth on Fancies bitte to playe:
  The bush my bedde, the bramble was my bowre,
  The Woodes can witnesse many a wofull stowre. 1
Where I was wont to seeke the honey Bee,        25
Working her formall rowmes in wexen frame,
The grieslie Tode-stoole growne there mought I se,
And loathed Paddocks 2 lording on the same:
  And where the chaunting birds luld me asleepe,
  The ghastlie Owle her grievous ynne doth keepe.        30
Then as the springe gives place to elder time,
And bringeth forth the fruite of sommers pryde;
Also my age, now passed youngthly pryme,
To thinges of ryper season selfe applyed,
  And learnd of lighter timber cotes to frame,        35
  Such as might save my sheepe and me fro shame.
To make fine cages for the Nightingale,
And Baskets of bulrushes, was my wont:
Who to entrappe the fish in winding sale 3
Was better seene, or hurtful beastes to hont?        40
  I learned als the signes of heaven to ken,
  How Phœbe fayles, where Venus sittes, and when.
And tryed time yet taught me greater thinges;
The sodain rysing of the raging seas,
The soothe of byrdes by beating of their winges,        45
The power of herbs, both which can hurt and ease,
  And which be wont t’ enrage the restlesse sheepe,
  And which be wont to worke eternall sleepe.
But, ah! unwise and witlesse Colin Cloute,
That kydst 4 the hidden kinds of many a wede,        50
Yet kydst not ene to cure thy sore hart-roote,
Whose ranckling wound as yet does rifelye bleede.
  Why livest thou stil, and yet hast thy deathes wound?
  Why dyest thou stil, and yet alive art founde?
Thus is my sommer worne away and wasted,        55
Thus is my harvest hastened all to rathe; 5
The eare that budded faire is burnt and blasted,
And all my hoped gaine is turnd to scathe:
  Of all the seede that in my youthe was sowne
  Was nought but brakes and brambles to be mowne.        60
My boughes with bloosmes that crowned were at firste,
And promised of timely fruite such store,
Are left both bare and barrein now at erst;
The flattring fruite is fallen to grownd before.
  And rotted ere they were halfe mellow ripe;        65
  My harvest, wast, my hope away dyd wipe.
The fragrant flowres, that in my garden grewe,
Bene withered, as they had bene gathered long;
Theyr rootes bene dryed up for lacke of dewe,
Yet dewed with teares they han be ever among.        70
  Ah! who has wrought my Rosalind this spight,
  To spil the flowres that should her girlond dight?
And I, that whilome wont to frame my pype
Unto the shifting of the shepheards foote,
Sike follies nowe have gathered as too ripe,        75
And cast hem out as rotten and unsoote.
  The loser Lasse I cast to please no more;
  One if I please, enough is me therefore.
And thus of all my harvest-hope I have
Nought reaped but a weedye crop of care;        80
Which, when I thought have thresht in swelling sheave,
Cockel for corne, and chaffe for barley, bare:
  Soone as the chaffe should in the fan be fynd,
  All was blowne away of the wavering wynd.
So now my yeare drawes to his latter terme,        85
My spring is spent, my sommer burnt up quite;
My harveste hasts to stirre up Winter sterne,
And bids him clayme with rigorous rage hys right:
  So nowe he stormes with many a sturdy stoure;
  So now his blustring blast eche coste dooth scoure.        90
The carefull cold hath nypt my rugged rynde,
And in my face deepe furrowes eld hath pight:
My head besprent with hoary frost I fynd,
And by myne eie the Crow his clawe dooth wright:
  Delight is layd abedde; and pleasure past;        95
  No sonne now shines; cloudes han all overcast.
Now leave, ye shepheards boyes, your merry glee;
My Muse is hoarse and wearie of thys stounde: 6
Here will I hang my pype upon this tree:
Was never pype of reede did better sounde.        100
  Winter is come that blowes the bitter blaste,
  And after Winter dreerie death does hast.
Gather together ye my little flocke,
My little flock, that was to me so liefe;
Let me, ah! lette me in your foldes ye lock,        105
Ere the breme 7 Winter breede you greater griefe.
  Winter is come, that blowes the balefull breath,
  And after Winter commeth timely death.
Adieu, delightes, that lulled me asleepe;
Adieu, my deare, whose love I bought so deare;        110
Adieu, my little Lambes and loved sheepe;
Adieu, ye Woodes, that oft my witnesse were:
  Adieu, good Hobbinoll, that was so true,
  Tell Rosalind, her Colin bids her adieu.
Note 1. tumult. [back]
Note 2. toads. [back]
Note 3. wicker net. [back]
Note 4. knewest. [back]
Note 5. too early. [back]
Note 6. effort. [back]
Note 7. sharp. [back]

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