Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
Colin Clouts Come Home Againe



  SIR, that you may see that I am not alwaies ydle as yee thinke, though not greatly well occupied, nor altogither undutifull, though not precisely officious, I make you present of this simple pastorall, unworthie of your higher conceipt for the meanesse of the stile, but agreeing with the truth in circumstance and matter. The which I humbly beseech you to accept in part of paiment of the infinite debt in which I acknowledge my selfe bounden unto you, for your singular favours and sundrie good turnes shewed to me at my late being in England, and with your good countenance protect against the malice of evill mouthes, which are alwaies wide open to carpe at and misconstrue my simple meaning. I pray continually for your happinesse. From my house of Kilcolman, the 27 of December, 1591.
Yours ever humbly,    
Ed. Sp.    

  [Colin Clout’s Come Home Again is the record of the poet’s expedition to England with Raleigh in 1589 and of what he found there at court. It was obviously written not long after his return to Kilcolman and sent to his friend as soon as done. About four years later, probably by way of revision for the press, he made changes inspired by intervening events.
  In a poem of such content, it was natural that he should adopt his old incognito of the Shepherd’s Calendar and appear as Colin Clout. In that character, he would naturally need his old friend and interlocutor, Hobbinol, to start the dialogue, and when he came to the theme of court love-making, he could hardly fail to sing a palinode upon his old mistress Rosalind. They were set personages of the fiction. Yet Colin Clout’s Come Home Again owes little to the Calendar; for its art is essentially more direct. In the earlier poem whatever facts of personal experience and opinion are to be discerned we see dimly and ambiguously through a kind of luminous fog: love-story and satire are altogether baffling. In the later, the story is almost as clear as a chronicle, the satire almost as direct and vivid as that of ‘Mother Hubberd’s Tale.’ Its pastoralism, indeed, is more a point of view than a set disguise, or, at least, the mask is worn lightly and removed at will. From the allegorical to the literal the style winds to and fro flexibly, according as the poet’s memories take form. It is free, not run in moulds. Beside it the beauties of the Calendar seem almost academic.]


THE SHEPHEARDS boy (best knowen by that name)
That after Tityrus first sung his lay,
Laies of sweet love, without rebuke or blame,
Sate (as his custome was) upon a day,
Charming his oaten pipe unto his peres,        5
The shepheard swaines that did about him play:
Who all the while, with greedie listfull eares,
Did stand astonisht at his curious skill,
Like hartlesse deare, dismayd with thunders sound.
At last when as he piped had his fill,        10
He rested him: and sitting then around,
One of those groomes (a jolly groome was he,
As ever piped on an oaten reed,
And lov’d this shepheard dearest in degree,
Hight Hobbinol) gan thus to him areed.        15
  ‘Colin, my liefe, my life, how great a losse
Had all the shepheards nation by thy lacke!
And I, poore swaine, of many, greatest crosse:
That, sith thy Muse first since thy turning backe
Was heard to sound as she was wont on hye,        20
Hast made us all so blessed and so blythe.
Whilest thou wast hence, all dead in dole did lie:
The woods were heard to waile full many a sythe,
And all their birds with silence to complaine:
The fields with faded flowers did seem to mourne,        25
And all their flocks from feeding to refraine:
The running waters wept for thy returne,
And all their fish with languour did lament:
But now both woods and fields and floods revive,
Sith thou art come, their cause of meriment,        30
That us, late dead, hast made againe alive.
But were it not too painfull to repeat
The passed fortunes, which to thee befell
In thy late voyage, we thee would entreat,
Now at thy leisure them to us to tell.’        35
  To whom the shepheard gently answered thus:
‘Hobbin, thou temptest me to that I covet:
For of good passed newly to discus,
By dubble usurie doth twise renew it.
And since I saw that Angels blessed eie,        40
Her worlds bright sun, her heavens fairest light,
My mind, full of my thoughts satietie,
Doth feed on sweet contentment of that sight:
Since that same day in nought I take delight,
Ne feeling have in any earthly pleasure,        45
But in remembrance of that glorious bright,
My lifes sole blisse, my hearts eternall threasure.
Wake then, my pipe! my sleepie Muse, awake!
Till I have told her praises lasting long:
Hobbin desires, thou maist it not forsake.        50
Harke then, ye jolly shepheards, to my song.’
  With that they all gan throng about him neare,
With hungrie eares to heare his harmonie:
The whiles their flocks, devoyd of dangers feare,
Did round about them feed at libertie.        55
  ‘One day,’ quoth he, ‘I sat (as was my trade)
Under the foote of Mole, that mountaine hore,
Keeping my sheepe amongst the cooly shade
Of the greene alders by the Mullaes shore.
There a straunge shepheard chaunst to find me out,        60
Whether allured with my pipes delight,
Whose pleasing sound yshrilled far about,
Or thither led by chaunce, I know not right:
Whom when I asked from what place he came,
And how he hight, himselfe he did ycleepe        65
The Shepheard of the Ocean by name,
And said he came far from the main-sea deepe.
He, sitting me beside in that same shade,
Provoked me to plaie some pleasant fit,
And when he heard the musicke which I made,        70
He found himselfe full greatly pleasd at it:
Yet æmuling my pipe, he tooke in hond
My pipe, before that æmuled of many,
And plaid theron; (for well that skill he cond)
Himselfe as skilfull in that art as any.        75
He pip’d, I sung, and when he sung, I piped,
By chaunge of turnes, each making other mery,
Neither envying other, nor envied,
So piped we, untill we both were weary.’
  There interrupting him, a bonie swaine,        80
That Cuddy hight, him thus atweene bespake:
‘And should it not thy readie course restraine,
I would request thee, Colin, for my sake,
To tell what thou didst sing, when he did plaie:
For well I weene it worth recounting was,        85
Whether it were some hymne, or morall laie,
Or carol made to praise thy loved lasse.’
  ‘Nor of my love, nor of my lasse,’ quoth he,
‘I then did sing, as then occasion fell:
For love had me forlorne, forlorne of me,        90
That made me in that desart chose to dwell.
But of my river Bregogs love I soong,
Which to the shiny Mulla he did beare,
And yet doth beare, and ever will, so long
As water doth within his bancks appeare.’        95
  ‘Of fellowship,’ said then that bony boy,
‘Record to us that lovely lay againe:
The staie whereof shall nought these eares annoy,
Who all that Colin makes do covet faine.’
  ‘Heare then,’ quoth he, ‘the tenor of my tale,        100
In sort as I it to that shepheard told:
No leasing new, nor grandams fable stale,
But auncient truth confirm’d with credence old.
  ‘Old Father Mole, (Mole hight that mountain gray
That walls the northside of Armulla dale)        105
He had a daughter fresh as floure of May,
Which gave that name unto that pleasant vale;
Mulla, the daughter of old Mole, so hight
The nimph, which of that water course has charge,
That, springing out of Mole, doth run downe right        110
To Buttevant, where spreading forth at large,
It giveth name unto that auncient cittie,
Which Kilnemullah cleped is of old:
Whose ragged ruines breed great ruth and pittie
To travailers which it from far behold.        115
Full faine she lov’d, and was belov’d full faine
Of her owne brother river, Bregog hight,
So hight because of this deceitfull traine
Which he with Mulla wrought to win delight.
But her old sire, more carefull of her good,        120
And meaning her much better to preferre,
Did thinke to match her with the neighbour flood,
Which Allo hight, Broadwater called farre:
And wrought so well with his continuall paine,
That he that river for his daughter wonne:        125
The dowre agreed, the day assigned plaine,
The place appointed where it should be doone.
Nath’lesse the nymph her former liking held;
For love will not be drawne, but must be ledde;
And Bregog did so well her fancie weld,        130
That her good will he got her first to wedde.
But, for her father, sitting still on hie,
Did warily still watch which way she went,
And eke from far observ’d, with jealous eie,
Which way his course the wanton Bregog bent,        135
Him to deceive, for all his watchfull ward,
The wily lover did devise this slight:
First into many parts his streame he shar’d,
That, whilest the one was watcht, the other might
Passe unespide to meete her by the way;        140
And then besides, those little streames so broken
He under ground so closely did convay,
That of their passage doth appeare no token,
Till they into the Mullaes water slide.
So secretly did he his love enjoy:        145
Yet not so secret, but it was descride,
And told her father by a shepheards boy.
Who, wondrous wroth for that so foule despight,
In great avenge did roll downe from his hill
Huge mightie stones, the which encomber might        150
His passage, and his water-courses spill.
So of a river, which he was of old,
He none was made, but scattred all to nought,
And, lost emong those rocks into him rold,
Did lose his name: so deare his love he bought.’        155
  Which having said, him Thestylis bespake:
‘Now by my life this was a mery lay,
Worthie of Colin selfe, that did it make.
But read now eke, of friendship I thee pray,
What dittie did that other shepheard sing?        160
For I do covet most the same to heare,
As men use most to covet forreine thing.’
  ‘That shall I eke,’ quoth he, ‘to you declare.
His song was all a lamentable lay,
Of great unkindnesse, and of usage hard,        165
Of Cynthia, the Ladie of the Sea,
Which from her presence faultlesse him debard.
And ever and anon, with singulfs rife,
He cryed out, to make his undersong:
“Ah! my loves queene, and goddesse of my life,        170
Who shall me pittie, when thou doest me wrong?”’
  Then gan a gentle bonylasse to speake,
That Marin hight: ‘Right well he sure did plaine,
That could great Cynthiaes sore displeasure breake,
And move to take him to her grace againe.        175
But tell on further, Colin, as befell
Twixt him and thee, that thee did hence dissuade.’
  ‘When thus our pipes we both had wearied well,’
Quoth he, ‘and each an end of singing made,
He gan to cast great lyking to my lore,        180
And great dislyking to my lucklesse lot,
That banisht had my selfe, like wight forlore,
Into that waste, where I was quite forgot.
The which to leave, thenceforth he counseld mee,
Unmeet for man in whom was ought regard-full,        185
And wend with him, his Cynthia to see,
Whose grace was great, and bounty most rewardfull:
Besides her peerlesse skill in making well,
And all the ornaments of wondrous wit,
Such as all womankynd did far excell,        190
Such as the world admyr’d and praised it:
So what with hope of good, and hate of ill,
He me perswaded forth with him to fare;
Nought tooke I with me, but mine oaten quill:
Small needments else need shepheard to prepare.        195
So to the sea we came; the sea? that is
A world of waters heaped up on hie,
Rolling like mountaines in wide wildernesse,
Horrible, hideous, roaring with hoarse crie.’
  ‘And is the sea,’ quoth Coridon, ‘so fearfull?’        200
  ‘Fearful much more,’ quoth he, ‘then hart can fear:
Thousand wyld beasts with deep mouthes gaping direfull
Therin stil wait poore passengers to teare.
Who life doth loath, and longs death to behold,
Before he die, alreadie dead with feare,        205
And yet would live with heart halfe stonie cold,
Let him to sea, and he shall see it there.
And yet as ghastly dreadfull as it seemes,
Bold men, presuming life for gaine to sell,
Dare tempt that gulf, and in those wandring stremes        210
Seek waies unknowne, waies leading down to hell.
For as we stood there waiting on the strond,
Cehold! an huge great vessell to us came,
Dauncing upon the waters back to lond,
As if it scornd the daunger of the same;        215
Yet was it but a wooden frame and fraile,
Glewed togither with some subtile matter,
Yet had it armes and wings, and head and taile,
And life to move it selfe upon the water.
Strange thing, how bold and swift the monster was,        220
That neither car’d for wynd, nor haile, nor raine,
Nor swelling waves, but thorough them did passe
So proudly that she made them roare againe!
The same aboord us gently did receave,
And without harme us farre away did beare,        225
So farre that land, our mother, us did leave,
And nought but sea and heaven to us appeare.
Then hartlesse quite and full of inward feare,
That shepheard I besought to me to tell,
Under what skie, or in what world we were,        230
In which I saw no living people dwell.
Who me recomforting all that he might,
Told me that that same was the regiment
Of a great shepheardesse, that Cynthia hight,
His liege, his ladie, and his lifes regent.        235
“If then,” quoth I, “a shepheardesse she bee,
Where be the flockes and heards, which she doth keep?
And where may I the hills and pastures see,
On which she useth for to feed her sheepe?”
“These be the hills,” quoth he, “the surges hie,        240
On which faire Cynthia her heards doth feed:
Her heards be thousand fishes, with their frie,
Which in the bosome of the billowes breed.
Of them the shepheard which hath charge in chief
Is Triton blowing loud his wreathed horne:        245
At sound whereof, they all for their relief
Wend too and fro at evening and at morne.
And Proteus eke with him does drive his heard
Of stinking seales and porcpisces together,
With hoary head and deawy dropping beard,        250
Compelling them which way he list, and whether.
And I among the rest, of many least,
Have in the ocean charge to me assignd:
Where I will live or die at her beheast,
And serve and honour her with faithfull mind.        255
Besides, an hundred nymphs, all heavenly borne,
And of immortall race, doo still attend
To wash faire Cynthiaes sheep, when they be shorne,
And fold them up, when they have made an end.
Those be the shepheards which my Cynthia serve        260
At sea, beside a thousand moe at land:
For land and sea my Cynthia doth deserve
To have in her commandement at hand.”
Thereat I wondred much, till, wondring more
And more, at length we land far off descryde:        265
Which sight much gladed me; for much afore
I feard least land we never should have eyde:
Thereto our ship her course directly bent,
As if the way she perfectly had knowne.
We Lunday passe; by that same name is ment        270
An island which the first to west was showne.
From thence another world of land we kend,
Floting amid the sea in jeopardie,
And round about with mightie white rocks hemd,
Against the seas encroching crueltie.        275
Those same, the shepheard told me, were the fields
In which Dame Cynthia her landheards fed,
Faire goodly fields, then which Armulla yields
None fairer, nor more fruitfull to be red.
The first to which we nigh approched was        280
An high headland thrust far into the sea,
Like to an horne, whereof the name it has,
Yet seemed to be a goodly pleasant lea:
There did a loftie mount at first us greet,
Which did a stately heape of stones upreare,        285
That seemd amid the surges for to fleet,
Much greater then that frame which us did beare:
There did our ship her fruitfull wombe unlade,
And put us all ashore on Cynthias land.’
  ‘What land is that thou meanst,’ then Cuddy sayd,        290
‘And is there other, then whereon we stand?’
  ‘Ah! Cuddy,’ then quoth Colin, ‘thous a fon,
That hast not seene least part of Natures worke:
Much more there is unkend then thou doest kon,
And much more that does from mens knowledge lurke.        295
For that same land much larger is then this,
And other men and beasts and birds doth feed:
There fruitfull corne, faire trees, fresh herbage is,
And all things else that living creatures need.
Besides most goodly rivers there appeare,        300
No whit inferiour to thy Funchins praise,
Or unto Allo or to Mulla cleare:
Nought hast thou, foolish boy, seene in thy daies.’
  ‘But if that land be there,’ quoth he, ‘as here,
And is theyr heaven likewise there all one?        305
And if like heaven, be heavenly graces there,
Like as in this same world where we do wone?’
  ‘Both heaven and heavenly graces do much more,’
Quoth he, ‘abound in that same land then this.
For there all happie peace and plenteous store        310
Conspire in one to make contented blisse:
No wayling there nor wretchednesse is heard,
No bloodie issues nor no leprosies,
No griesly famine, nor no raging sweard,
No nightly bodrags, nor no hue and cries:        315
The shepheards there abroad may safely lie,
On hills and downes, withouten dread or daunger:
No ravenous wolves the good mans hope destroy,
Nor outlawes fell affray the forest raunger.
There learned arts do florish in great honor,        320
And poets wits are had in peerlesse price:
Religion hath lay powre to rest upon her,
Advancing vertue and suppressing vice.
For end, all good, all grace there freely growes,
Had people grace it gratefully to use:        325
For God his gifts there plenteously bestowes,
But gracelesse men them greatly do abuse.’
  ‘But say on further,’ then said Corylas,
‘The rest of thine adventures, that betyded.’
  ‘Foorth on our voyage we by land did passe,’        330
Quoth he, ‘as that same shepheard still us guyded,
Untill that we to Cynthiaes presence came:
Whose glorie, greater then my simple thought,
I found much greater then the former fame;
Such greatnes I cannot compare to ought:        335
But if I her like ought on earth might read,
I would her lyken to a crowne of lillies,
Upon a virgin brydes adorned head,
With roses dight and goolds and daffadillies;
Or like the circlet of a turtle true,        340
In which all colours of the rainbow bee;
Or like faire Phebes garlond shining new,
In which all pure perfection one may see.
But vaine it is to thinke, by paragone
Of earthly things, to judge of things divine:        345
Her power, her mercy, and her wisedome, none
Can deeme, but who the Godhead can define.
Why then do I, base shepheard bold and blind,
Presume the things so sacred to prophane?
More fit it is t’ adore, with humble mind,        350
The image of the heavens in shape humane.’
  With that Alexis broke his tale asunder,
Saying: ‘By wondring at thy Cynthiaes praise,
Colin, thy selfe thou mak’st us more to wonder,
And, her upraising, doest thy selfe upraise.        355
But let us heare what grace she shewed thee,
And how that shepheard strange thy cause advanced.’
  ‘The Shepheard of the Ocean,’ quoth he,
‘Unto that Goddesse grace me first enhanced,
And to mine oaten pipe enclin’d her eare,        360
That she thenceforth therein gan take delight,
And it desir’d at timely houres to heare,
All were my notes but rude and roughly dight;
For not by measure of her owne great mynd
And wondrous worth she mott my simple song,        365
But joyd that country shepheard ought could fynd
Worth harkening to, emongst the learned throng.’
  ‘Why,’ said Alexis then, ‘what needeth shee,
That is so great a shepheardesse her selfe
And hath so many shepheards in her fee,        370
To heare thee sing, a simple silly elfe?
Or be the shepheards which do serve her laesie,
That they list not their mery pipes applie?
Or be their pipes untunable and craesie,
That they cannot her honour worthylie?’        375
  ‘Ah! nay,’ said Colin, ‘neither so, nor so:
For better shepheards be not under skie,
Nor better hable, when they list to blow
Their pipes aloud, her name to glorifie.
There is good Harpalus, now woxen aged        380
In faithfull service of faire Cynthia:
And there is Corydon, though meanly waged,
Yet hablest wit of most I know this day.
And there is sad Alcyon, bent to mourne,
Though fit to frame an everlasting dittie,        385
Whose gentle spright for Daphnes death doth tourn
Sweet layes of love to endlesse plaints of pittie.
Ah! pensive boy, pursue that brave conceipt,
In thy sweet Eglantine of Meriflure,
Lift up thy notes unto their wonted height,        390
That may thy Muse and mates to mirth allure.
There eke is Palin, worthie of great praise,
Albe he envie at my rustick quill:
And there is pleasing Alcon, could he raise
His tunes from laies to matter of more skill.        395
And there is old Palemon, free from spight,
Whose carefull pipe may make the hearer rew:
Yet he himselfe may rewed be more right,
That sung so long untill quite hoarse he grew.
And there is Alabaster, throughly taught        400
In all this skill, though knowen yet to few,
Yet, were he knowne to Cynthia as he ought,
His Eliseïs would be redde anow.
Who lives that can match that heroick song,
Which he hath of that mightie princesse made?        405
O dreaded Dread, do not thy selfe that wrong,
To let thy fame lie so in hidden shade:
But call it forth, O call him forth to thee,
To end thy glorie which he hath begun:
That when he finisht hath as it should be,        410
No braver poeme can be under sun.
Nor Po nor Tyburs swans so much renowned,
Nor all the brood of Greece so highly praised,
Can match that Muse when it with bayes is crowned,
And to the pitch of her perfection raised.        415
And there is a new shepheard late up sprong,
The which doth all afore him far surpasse:
Appearing well in that well tuned song
Which late he sung unto a scornfull lasse.
Yet doth his trembling Muse but lowly flie,        420
As daring not too rashly mount on hight,
And doth her tender plumes as yet but trie
In loves soft laies and looser thoughts delight.
Then rouze thy feathers quickly, Daniell,
And to what course thou please thy selfe advance:        425
But most, me seemes, thy accent will excell
In tragick plaints and passionate mischance.
And there that Shepheard of the Ocean is,
That spends his wit in loves consuming smart:
Full sweetly tempred is that Muse of his,        430
That can empierce a princes mightie hart.
There also is (ah ! no, he is not now)
But since I said he is, he quite is gone:
Amyntas quite is gone and lies full low,
Having his Amaryllis left to mone.        435
Helpe, O ye shepheards, helpe ye all in this,
Helpe Amaryllis this her losse to mourne:
Her losse is yours, your losse Amyntas is,
Amyntas, floure of shepheards pride forlorne.
He, whilest he lived, was the noblest swaine        440
That ever piped in an oaten quill:
Both did he other which could pipe maintaine,
And eke could pipe himselfe with passing skill.
And there, though last not least, is Aetion;
A gentler shepheard may no where be found;        445
Whose Muse, full of high thoughts invention,
Doth like himselfe heroically sound.
All these, and many others mo, remaine,
Now after Astrofell is dead and gone:
But while as Astrofell did live and raine,        450
Amongst all these was none his paragone.
All these do florish in their sundry kynd,
And do their Cynthia immortall make:
Yet found I lyking in her royall mynd,
Not for my skill, but for that shepheards sake.’        455
  Then spake a lovely lasse, hight Lucida:
‘Shepheard, enough of shepheards thou hast told,
Which favour thee and honour Cynthia:
But of so many nymphs which she doth hold
In her retinew, thou hast nothing sayd;        460
That seems, with none of them thou favor foundest,
Or art ingratefull to each gentle mayd,
That none of all their due deserts resoundest.’
  ‘Ah! far be it,’ quoth Colin Clout, ‘fro me,
That I of gentle mayds should ill deserve:        465
For that my selfe I do professe to be
Vassall to one, whom all my dayes I serve;
The beame of beautie sparkled from above,
The floure of vertue and pure chastitie,
The blossome of sweet joy and perfect love,        470
The pearle of peerlesse grace and modestie:
To her my thoughts I daily dedicate,
To her my heart I nightly martyrize:
To her my love I lowly do prostrate,
To her my life I wholly sacrifice:        475
My thought, my heart, my love, my life is shee,
And I hers ever onely, ever one:
One ever I all vowed hers to bee,
One ever I, and others never none.’
Then thus Melissa said: ‘Thrise happie mayd,        480
Whom thou doest so enforce to deifie,
That woods, and hills, and valleyes thou hast made
Her name to eccho unto heaven hie.
But say, who else vouchsafed thee of grace?’
  ‘They all,’ quoth he, ‘me graced goodly well,        485
That all I praise, but in the highest place,
Urania, sister unto Astrofell,
In whose brave mynd, as in a golden cofer,
All heavenly gifts and riches locked are;
More rich then pearles of Ynde, or gold of Opher,        490
And in her sex more wonderfull and rare.
Ne lesse praise worthie I Theana read,
Whose goodly beames, though they be over dight
With mourning stole of carefull wydowhead,
Yet through that darksome vale do glister bright.        495
She is the well of bountie and brave mynd,
Excelling most in glorie and great light:
She is the ornament of womankind,
And courts chief garlond with all vertues dight.
Therefore great Cynthia her in chiefest grace        500
Doth hold, and next unto her selfe advance,
Well worthie of so honourable place,
For her great worth and noble governance.
Ne lesse praise worthie is her sister deare,
Faire Marian, the Muses onely darling:        505
Whose beautie shyneth as the morning cleare,
With silver deaw upon the roses pearling.
Ne lesse praise worthie is Mansilia,
Best knowne by bearing up great Cynthiaes traine:
That same is she to whom Daphnaida        510
Upon her neeces death I did complaine.
She is the paterne of true womanhead,
And onely mirrhor of feminitie:
Worthie next after Cynthia to tread,
As she is next her in nobilitie.        515
Ne lesse praise worthie Galathea seemes,
Then best of all that honourable crew,
Faire Galathea, with bright shining beames
Inflaming feeble eyes that her do view.
She there then waited upon Cynthia,        520
Yet there is not her won, but here with us
About the borders of our rich Coshma,
Now made of Maa the nymph delitious.
Ne lesse praisworthie faire Neæra is,
Neæra ours, not theirs, though there she be,        525
For of the famous Shure the nymph she is,
For high desert advaunst to that degree.
She is the blosome of grace and curtesie,
Adorned with all honourable parts:
She is the braunch of true nobilitie,        530
Belov’d of high and low with faithfull harts.
Ne lesse praisworthie Stella do I read,
Though nought my praises of her needed arre,
Whom verse of noblest shepheard lately dead
Hath prais’d and rais’d above each other starre.        535
Ne lesse praisworthie are the sisters three,
The honor of the noble familie
Of which I meanest boast my selfe to be,
And most that unto them I am so nie:
Phyllis, Charillis, and sweet Amaryllis:        540
Phyllis the faire is eldest of the three;
The next to her is bountifull Charillis;
But th’ youngest is the highest in degree.
Phyllis, the floure of rare perfection,
Faire spreading forth her leaves with fresh delight,        545
That, with their beauties amorous reflexion,
Bereave of sence each rash beholders sight.
But sweet Charillis is the paragone
Of peerlesse price, and ornament of praise,
Admyr’d of all, yet envied of none,        550
Through the myld temperance of her goodly raies.
Thrise happie do I hold thee, noble swaine,
The which art of so rich a spoile possest,
And it embracing deare without disdaine,
Hast sole possession in so chaste a brest.        555
Of all the shepheards daughters which there bee,
And yet there be the fairest under skie,
Or that elsewhere I ever yet did see,
A fairer nymph yet never saw mine eie:
She is the pride and primrose of the rest,        560
Made by the Maker selfe to be admired,
And like a goodly beacon high addrest,
That is with sparks of heavenlie beautie fired.
But Amaryllis, whether fortunate,
Or else unfortunate, may I aread?        565
That freed is from Cupids yoke by fate,
Since which she doth new bands adventure dread.
Shepheard, what ever thou hast heard to be
In this or that praysd diversly apart,
In her thou maist them all assembled see,        570
And seald up in the threasure of her hart.
Ne thee lesse worthie, gentle Flavia,
For thy chaste life and vertue I esteeme:
Ne thee lesse worthie, curteous Candida,
For thy true love and loyaltie I deeme.        575
Besides yet many mo that Cynthia serve,
Right noble nymphs, and high to be commended:
But if I all should praise as they deserve,
This sun would faile me ere I halfe had ended.
Therefore in closure of a thankfull mynd        580
I deeme it best to hold eternally
Their bounteous deeds and noble favours shrynd,
Then by discourse them to indignifie.’
  So having said, Aglaura him bespake:
‘Colin, well worthie were those goodly favours        585
Bestowd on thee, that so of them doest make,
And them requitest with thy thinkfull labours.
But of great Cynthiaes goodnesse and high grace
Finish the storie which thou hast begunne.’
  ‘More eath,’ quoth he, ‘it is in such a case        590
How to begin, then know how to have donne.
For everie gift and everie goodly meed,
Which she on me bestowd, demaunds a day;
And everie day in which she did a deed
Demaunds a yeare it duly to display.        595
Her words were like a streame of honny fleeting,
The which doth softly trickle from the hive,
Hable to melt the hearers heart unweeting,
And eke to make the dead againe alive.
Her deeds were like great clusters of ripe grapes,        600
Which load the braunches of the fruitfull vine,
Offring to fall into each mouth that gapes,
And fill the same with store of timely wine.
Her lookes were like beames of the morning sun,
Forth looking through the windowes of the east,        605
When first the fleecie cattell have begun
Upon the perled grasse to make their feast.
Her thoughts are like the fume of franckincence,
Which from a golden censer forth doth rise,
And throwing forth sweet odours mounts fro thence        610
In rolling globes up to the vauted skies.
There she beholds, with high aspiring thought,
The cradle of her owne creation,
Emongst the seats of angels heavenly wrought,
Much like an angell in all forme and fashion.’        615
  ‘Colin,’ said Cuddy then, ‘thou hast forgot
Thy selfe, me seemes, too much, to mount so hie:
Such loftie flight base shepheard seemeth not,
From flocks and fields to angels and to skie.’
  ‘True,’ answered he, ‘but her great excellence        620
Lifts me above the measure of my might:
That, being fild with furious insolence,
I feele my selfe like one yrapt in spright.
For when. I thinke of her, as oft I ought,
Then want I words to speake it fitly forth:        625
And when I speake of her what I have thought,
I cannot thinke according to her worth.
Yet will I thinke of her, yet will I speake,
So long as life my limbs doth hold together,
And when as death these vitall bands shall breake,        630
Her name recorded I will leave for ever.
Her name in every tree I will endosse,
That, as the trees do grow, her name may grow:
And in the ground each where will it engrosse,
And fill with stones, that all men may it know.        635
The speaking woods and murmuring waters fall,
Her name Ile teach in knowen termes to frame:
And eke my lambs, when for their dams they call,
Ile teach to call for Cynthia by name.
And long while after I am dead and rotten,        640
Amongst the shepheards daughters dancing rownd,
My layes made of her shall not be forgotten,
But sung by them with flowry gyrlonds crownd.
And ye, who so ye be, that shall survive,
When as ye heare her memory renewed,        645
Be witnesse of her bountie here alive,
Which she to Colin her poore shepheard shewed.’
  Much was the whole assembly of those heards
Moov’d at his speech, so feelingly he spake,
And stood awhile astonisht at his words,        650
Till Thestylis at last their silence brake,
Saying: ‘Why, Colin, since thou foundst such grace
With Cynthia and all her noble crew,
Why didst thou ever leave that happie place,
In which such wealth might unto thee accrew;        655
And back returnedst to this barrein soyle,
Where cold and care and penury do dwell,
Here to keep sheepe, with hunger and with toyle?
Most wretched he, that is and cannot tell.’
  ‘Happie indeed,’ said Colin, ‘I him hold,        660
That may that blessed presence still enjoy,
Of fortune and of envy uncomptrold,
Which still are wont most happie states t’ annoy:
But I, by that which little while I prooved,
Some part of those enormities did see,        665
The which in court continually hooved,
And followd those which happie seemd to bee.
Therefore I, silly man, whose former dayes
Had in rude fields bene altogether spent,
Durst not adventure such unknowen wayes,        670
Nor trust the guile of Fortunes blandishment,
But rather chose back to my sheep to tourne,
Whose utmost hardnesse I before had tryde,
Then, having learnd repentance late, to mourne
Emongst those wretches which I there descryde.’        675
  ‘Shepheard,’ said Thestylis, ‘it seemes of spight
Thou speakest thus gainst their felicitie,
Which thou enviest, rather then of right
That ought in them blameworthie thou doest spie.’
  ‘Cause have I none,’ quoth he, ‘of cancred will        680
To quite them ill, that me demeand so well:
But selfe-regard of private good or ill
Moves me of each, so as I found, to tell,
And eke to warne yong shepheards wandring wit,
Which, through report of that lives painted blisse,        685
Abandon quiet home, to seeke for it,
And leave their lambes to losse, misled amisse.
For, sooth to say, it is no sort of life
For shepheard fit to lead in that same place,
Where each one seeks with malice and with strife,        690
To thrust downe other into foule disgrace,
Himselfe to raise; and he doth soonest rise
That best can handle his deceitfull wit
In subtil shifts, and finest sleights devise,
Either by slaundring his well deemed name,        695
Through leasings lewd and fained forgerie,
Or else by breeding him some blot of blame,
By creeping close into his secrecie;
To which him needs a guilefull hollow hart,
Masked with faire dissembling curtesie,        700
A filed toung furnisht with tearmes of art,
No art of schoole, but courtiers schoolery.
For arts of schoole have there small countenance,
Counted but toyes to busie ydle braines,
And there professours find small maintenance,        705
But to be instruments of others gaines.
Ne is there place for any gentle wit,
Unlesse to please, it selfe it can applie:
But shouldred is, or out of doore quite shit,
As base, or blunt, unmeet for melodie.        710
For each mans worth is measured by his weed,
As harts by hornes, or asses by their eares:
Yet asses been not all whose eares exceed,
Nor yet all harts, that hornes the highest beares.
For highest lookes have not the highest beares.        715
Nor haughtie words most full of highest thoughts:
But are like bladders blowen up with wynd,
That being prickt do vanish into noughts.
Even such is all their vaunted vanitie,
Nought else but smoke, that fumeth soone away;        720
Such is their glorie that in simple eie
Seeme greatest, when their garments are most gay.
So they themselves for praise of fooles do sell,
And all their wealth for painting on a wall;
With price whereof they buy a golden bell,        725
And purchace highest rowmes in bowre and hall:
Whiles single Truth and simple Honestie
Do wander up and downe despys’d of all;
Their plaine attire such glorious gallantry
Disdaines so much, that none them in doth call.’        730
  ‘Ah! Colin,’ then said Hobbinol, ‘the blame
Which thou imputest is too generall,
As if not any gentle wit of name,
Nor honest mynd might there be found at all.
For well I wot, sith I my selfe was there,        735
To wait on Lobbin (Lobbin well thou knewest)
Full many worthie ones then waiting were,
As ever else in princes court thou vewest.
Of which among you many yet remaine,
Whose names I cannot readily now ghesse:        740
Those that poore sutors papers do retaine,
And those that skill of medicine professe,
And those that do to Cynthia expound
The ledden of straunge languages in charge:
For Cynthia doth in sciences abound,        745
And gives to their professors stipends large.
Therefore unjustly thou doest wyte them all,
For that which thou mislikedst in a few.’
  ‘Blame is,’ quoth he, ‘more blamelesse generall,
Then that which private errours doth pursew:        750
For well I wot, that there amongst them bee
Full many persons of right worthie parts,
Both for report of spotlesse honestie,
And for profession of all learned arts,
Whose praise hereby no whit impaired is,        755
Though blame do light on those that faultie bee;
For all the rest do most-what far amis,
And yet their owne misfaring will not see:
For either they be puffed up with pride,
Or fraught with envie that their galls do swell,        760
Or they their dayes to ydlenesse divide,
Or drownded lie in pleasures wastefull well,
In which like moldwarps nousling still they lurke,
Unmyndfull of chiefe parts of manlinesse,
And do themselves, for want of other worke,        765
Vaine votaries of laesie Love professe,
Whose service high so basely they ensew,
That Cupid selfe of them ashamed is,
And mustring all his men in Venus vew,
Denies them quite for servitors of his.’        770
  ‘And is Love then,’ said Corylas, ‘once knowne
In court, and his sweet lore professed there?
I weened sure he was our god alone,
And only woond in fields and forests here.’
  ‘Not so,’ quoth he, ‘love most aboundeth there.        775
For all the walls and windows there are writ
All full of love, and love, and love my deare,
And all their talke and studie is of it.
Ne any there doth brave or valiant seeme,
Unlesse that some gay mistresse badge he beares:        780
Ne any one himselfe doth ought esteeme,
Unlesse he swim in love up to the eares.
But they of Love and of his sacred lere,
(As it should be) all otherwise devise,
Then we poore shepheards are accustomd here,        785
And him do sue and serve all otherwise.
For with lewd speeches, and licentious deeds,
His mightie mysteries they do prophane,
And use his ydle name to other needs,
But as a complement for courting vaine.        790
So him they do not serve as they professe,
But make him serve to them for sordid uses:
Ah! my dread lord, that doest liege hearts possesse,
Avenge thy selfe on them for their abuses!
But we poore shepheards, whether rightly so,        795
Or through our rudenesse into errour led,
Do make religion how we rashly go
To serve that god, that is so greatly dred;
For him the greatest of the gods we deeme,
Borne without syre or couples of one kynd,        800
For Venus selfe doth soly couples seeme,
Both male and female through commixture joynd.
So pure and spotlesse Cupid forth she brought,
And in the Gardens of Adonis nurst:
Where growing he his owne perfection wrought,        805
And shortly was of all the gods the first.
Then got he bow and shafts of gold and lead,
In which so fell and puissant he grew,
That Jove himselfe his powre began to dread,
And taking up to heaven, him godded new.        810
From thence he shootes his arrowes every where
Into the world, at randon as he will,
On us fraile men, his wretched vassals here,
Like as himselfe us pleaseth save or spill.
So we him worship, so we him adore        815
With humble hearts to heaven uplifted hie,
That to true loves he may us evermore
Preferre, and of their grace us dignifie:
Ne is there shepheard, ne yet shepheards swaine,
What ever feeds in forest or in field,        820
That dare with evil deed or leasing vaine
Blaspheme his powre, or termes unworthie yield.’
  ‘Shepheard, it seemes that some celestiall rage
Of love,’ quoth Cuddy, ‘is breath’d into thy brest,
That powreth forth these oracles so sage        825
Of that high powre, wherewith thou art possest.
But never wist I till this present day,
Albe of Love I alwayes humbly deemed,
That he was such an one as thou doest say,
And so religiously to be esteemed.        830
Well may it seeme, by this thy deep insight,
That of that god the priest thou shouldest bee:
So well thou wot’st the mysterie of his might,
As if his godhead thou didst present see.’
  ‘Of Loves perfection perfectly to speake,        835
Or of his nature rightly to define,
Indeed,’ said Colin, ‘passeth reasons reach,
And needs his priest t’ expresse his powre divine.
For long before the world he was ybore,
And bred above in Venus bosome deare:        840
For by his powre the world was made of yore,
And all that therein wondrous doth appeare.
For how should else things so far from attone,
And so great enemies as of them bee,
Be ever drawne together into one,        845
And taught in such accordance to agree?
Through him the cold began to covet heat,
And water fire; the light to mount on hie,
And th’ heavie downe to peize; the hungry t’ eat,
And voydnesse to seeke full satietie.        850
So, being former foes, they wexed friends,
And gan by litle learne to love each other:
So being knit, they brought forth other kynds
Out of the fruitfull wombe of their great mother.
Then first gan heaven out of darknesse dread        855
For to appeare, and brought forth chearfull day:
Next gan the earth to shew her naked head,
Out of deep waters which her drownd alway.
And shortly after, everie living wight
Crept forth like wormes out of her slimie nature,        860
Soone as on them the suns life giving light
Had powred kindly heat and formall feature:
Thenceforth they gan each one his like to love,
And like himselfe desire for to beget:
The lyon chose his mate, the turtle dove        865
Her deare, the dolphin his owne dolphinet;
But man, that had the sparke of reasons might,
More then the rest to rule his passion,
Chose for his love the fairest in his sight,
Like as himselfe was fairest by creation.        870
For beautie is the bayt which with delight
Doth man allure for to enlarge his kynd,
Beautie, the burning lamp of heavens light,
Darting her beames into each feeble mynd:
Against whose powre, nor god nor man can fynd        875
Defence, ne ward the daunger of the wound,
But, being hurt, seeke to be medicynd
Of her that first did stir that mortall stownd.
Then do they cry and call to Love apace,
With praiers lowd importuning the skie,        880
Whence he them heares, and when he list shew grace,
Does graunt them grace that otherwise would die.
So Love is lord of all the world by right,
And rules the creatures by his powrfull saw;
All being made the vassalls of his might,        885
Through secret sence which therto doth them draw.
Thus ought all lovers of their lord to deeme,
And with chaste heart to honor him alway:
But who so else doth otherwise esteeme,
Are outlawes, and his lore do disobay.        890
For their desire is base, and doth not merit
The name of love, but of disloyall lust:
Ne mongst true lovers they shall place inherit,
But as exuls out of his court be thrust.’
  So having said, Melissa spake at will:        895
‘Colin, thou now full deeply hast divynd
Of love and beautie, and with wondrous skill
Hast Cupid selfe depainted in his kynd.
To thee are all true lovers greatly bound,
That doest their cause so mightily defend:        900
But most, all wemen are thy debtors found,
That doest their bountie still so much commend.’
  ‘That ill,’ said Hobbinol, ‘they him requite,
For having loved ever one most deare:
He is repayd with scorne and foule despite,        905
That yrkes each gentle heart which it doth heare.’
  ‘Indeed,’ said Lucid, ‘I have often heard
Faire Rosalind of divers fowly blamed,
For being to that swaine too cruell hard,
That her bright glorie else hath much defamed.        910
But who can tell what cause had that faire mayd
To use him so that used her so well?
Or who with blame can justly her upbrayd,
For loving not? for who can love compell?
And sooth to say, it is foolhardie thing,        915
Rashly to wyten creatures so divine,
For demigods they be, and first did spring
From heaven, though graft in frailnesse feminine.
And well I wote that oft I heard it spoken,
How one that fairest Helene did revile,        920
Through judgement of the gods, to been ywroken,
Lost both his eyes, and so remaynd long while,
Till he recanted had his wicked rimes,
And made amends to her with treble praise:
Beware therefore, ye groomes, I read betimes,        925
How rashly blame of Rosalind ye raise.’
  ‘Ah! shepheards,’ then said Colin, ‘ye ne weet
How great a guilt upon your heads ye draw,
To make so bold a doome, with words unmeet,
Of thing celestiall which ye never saw.        930
For she is not like as the other crew
Of shepheards daughters which emongst you bee,
But of divine regard and heavenly hew,
Excelling all that ever ye did see.
Not then to her, that scorned thing so base,        935
But to my selfe the blame, that lookt so hie:
So hie her thoughts as she her selfe have place,
And loath each lowly thing with loftie eie.
Yet so much grace let her vouchsafe to grant
To simple swaine, sith her I may not love,        940
Yet that I may her honour paravant,
And praise her worth, though far my wit above.
Such grace shall be some guerdon for the griefe
And long affliction which I have endured:
Such grace sometimes shall give me some reliefe,        945
And ease of paine which cannot be recured.
And ye, my fellow shepheards, which do see
And heare the languours of my too long dying,
Unto the world for ever witnesse bee,
That hers I die, nought to the world denying        950
This simple trophe of her great conquest.’
  So having ended, he from ground did rise,
And after him uprose eke all the rest:
All loth to part, but that the glooming skies
Warnd them to draw their bleating flocks to rest.        955

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