Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.

  [Astrophel and the collection of obituary poems to which it serves as a kind of prologue were published in the same volume with Colin Clout’s Come Home Again, in 1595. The dedication was to Sidney’s widow, who in the spring of 1590 had become, by remarriage, the Countess of Essex. Sidney’s sister, the Countess of Pembroke, presumably furnished that ‘dolefull lay’ which is set down to ‘his sister that Clorinda hight.’ The authors of the other poems, though undeclared, can, all but one, be traced by contemporary evidence—which need not be retailed here.
  In 1595 most, if not all, of this poetry had been extant for several years: some of it had already seen print. The verses by the Countess of Pembroke would seem to be those referred to in ‘The Ruins of Time,’ which is of 1590:—
                        ‘who can better sing
Than thine owne sister, peerles ladie bright,
Which to thee sings with deep harts sorrowing,
Sorrowing tempered with deare delight?’
The last line fits the lament of Clorinda exactly. Bryskett’s poem, ‘The Mourning Muse of Thestylis,’ had been entered upon the Stationers’ Register in August, 1587, and had perhaps in due course been published, though no copy of the issue has survived. Matthew Roydon’s ‘Elegy’ and the two ‘Epitaphs’ had appeared in The Phœnix Nest of 1593, and are heard of earlier, Roydon’s poem in 1589, Raleigh’s in 1591. All the poems, except Astrophel itself, may very well date from the twelve-month following Sidney’s death in October, 1586.
  Concerning Astrophel the only evidence is that of the dedication to ‘The Ruins of Time.’ ‘Sithens my late cumming into England,’ writes Spenser, ‘some frends of mine, … knowing with howe straight bandes of duetie I was tied to him [i. e. Sidney] … have sought to revive them by upbraiding me, for that I have not shewed anie thankefull remembrance towards him or any of them [i. e. the Dudleys], but suffer their names to sleep in silence and forgetfulnesse. Whome chieflie to satisfie, or els to avoide that fowle blot of unthankefulnesse, I have conceived this small poeme.’ At the time of writing thus, in 1590, Spenser cannot have already composed Astrophel. Yet he probably did compose it before his return to Ireland. for, once back there, he would be far removed from occasions to commemorate Sidney. What the occasion of this volume was we cannot know. Quite possibly he had little to do with originating the anthology or with dedicating it to the Countess of Essex: his part may have been only to supply a general prologue. One may note that for this he contented himself with the stanza-form of the Countess of Pembroke’s elegy, a form which he had used in the Calendar and in such probably youthful work as ‘The Tears of the Muses,’ but which by 1590 his taste must surely have outgrown.]


SHEPHEARDS, that wont on pipes of oaten reed
Oft times to plaine your loves concealed smart,
And with your piteous layes have learnd to breed
Compassion in a countrey lasses hart,
Hearken, ye gentle shepheards, to my song,        5
And place my dolefull plaint your plaints emong.
To you alone I sing this mournfull verse,
The mournfulst verse that ever man heard tell;
To you, whose softened hearts it may empierse
With dolours dart for death of Astrophel:        10
To you I sing, and to none other wight,
For well I wot my rymes bene rudely dight.
Yet as they been, if any nycer wit
Shall hap to heare, or covet them to read,
Thinke he, that such are for such ones most fit,        15
Made not to please the living but the dead.
And if in him found pity ever place,
Let him be moov’d to pity such a case.
A GENTLE shepheard borne in Arcady,
Of gentlest race that ever shepheard bore,        20
About the grassie bancks of Hæmony
Did keepe his sheep, his litle stock and store.
Full carefully he kept them day and night,
In fairest fields; and Astrophel he hight.
Young Astrophel, the pride of shepheards praise,        25
Young Astrophel, the rusticke lasses love,
Far passing all the pastors of his daies,
In all that seemly shepheard might behove:
In one thing onely fayling of the best,
That he was not so happie as the rest.        30
For from the time that first the nymph, his mother,
Him forth did bring, and taught her lambs to feed,
A sclender swaine, excelling far each other
In comely shape, like her that did him breed,
He grew up fast in goodnesse and in grace,        35
And doubly faire wox both in mynd and face.
Which daily more and more he did augment,
With gentle usage and demeanure myld,
That all mens hearts with secret ravishment
He stole away, and weetingly beguyld.        40
Ne Spight it selfe, that all good things doth spill,
Found ought in him that she could say was ill.
His sports were faire, his joyance innocent,
Sweet without sowre, and honny without gall,
And he himselfe seemd made for meriment,        45
Merily masking both in bowre and hall:
There was no pleasure nor delightfull play,
When Astrophel so ever was away.
For he could pipe, and daunce, and caroll sweet,
Emongst the shepheards in their shearing feast;        50
As somers larke that with her song doth greet
The dawning day forth comming from the East.
And layes of love he also could compose:
Thrise happie she whom he to praise did chose.
Full many maydens often did him woo        55
Them to vouchsafe emongst his rimes to name,
Or make for them, as he was wont to doo
For her that did his heart with love inflame.
For which they promised to dight for him
Gay chapelets of flowers and gyrlonds trim.        60
And many a nymph both of the wood and brooke,
Soone as his oaten pipe began to shrill,
Both christall wells and shadie groves for-sooke,
To heare the charmes of his enchanting skill;
And brought him presents, flowers if it were prime,        65
Or mellow fruit if it were harvest time.
But he for none of them did care a whit,
(Yet wood gods for them often sighed sore,)
Ne for their gifts, unworthie of his wit,
Yet not unworthie of the countries store.        70
For one alone he cared, for one he sight,
His lifes desire, and his deare loves delight.
Stella the faire, the fairest star in skie,
As faire as Venus or the fairest faire,
(A fairer star saw never living eie,)        75
Shot her sharp pointed beames through purest aire.
Her he did love, her he alone did honor,
His thoughts, his rimes, his songs were all upon her.
To her he vowd the service of his daies,
On her he spent the riches of his wit:        80
For her he made hymnes of immortall praise,
Of onely her he sung, he thought, he writ.
Her, and but her, of love he worthie deemed;
For all the rest but litle he esteemed.
Ne her with ydle words alone he wowed,        85
And verses vaine, (yet verses are not vaine)
But with brave deeds, to her sole service vowed,
And bold atchievements, her did entertaine.
For both in deeds and words he nourtred was,
Both wise and hardie (too hardie, alas!)        90
In wrestling nimble, and in renning swift,
In shooting steddie, and in swimming strong:
Well made to strike, to throw, to leape, to lift,
And all the sports that shepheards are emong:
In every one he vanquisht every one,        95
He vanquisht all, and vanquisht was of none.
Besides, in hunting such felicitie,
Or rather infelicitie, he found,
That every field and forest far away
He sought, where salvage beasts do most abound.        100
No beast so salvage, but he could it kill;
No chace so hard, but he therein had skill.
Such skill, matcht with such courage as he had,
Did prick him foorth with proud desire of praise,
To seek abroad, of daunger nought y’drad,        105
His mistresse name, and his owne fame, to raise.
What need perill to be sought abroad,
Since round about us it doth make aboad?
It fortuned, as he that perilous game
In forreine soyle pursued far away,        110
Into a forest wide and waste he came,
Where store he heard to be of salvage pray.
So wide a forest and so waste as this,
Nor famous Ardeyn, nor fowle Arlo, is.
There his welwoven toyles and subtil traines        115
He laid the brutish nation to enwrap:
So well he wrought with practise and with paines,
That he of them great troups did soone entrap.
Full happie man (misweening much) was hee,
So rich a spoile within his power to see.        120
Eftsoones, all heedlesse of his dearest hale,
Full greedily into the heard he thrust,
To slaughter them, and worke their finall bale,
Least that his toyle should of their troups be brust.
Wide wounds emongst them many one he made,        125
Now with his sharp borespear, now with his blade.
His care was all how he them all might kill,
That none might scape (so partiall unto none):
Ill mynd, so much to mynd anothers ill,
As to become unmyndfull of his owne:        130
But pardon that unto the cruell skies,
That from himselfe to them withdrew his eies.
So as he rag’d emongst that beastly rout,
A cruell beast of most accursed brood
Upon him turnd (despeyre makes cowards stout)        135
And, with fell tooth accustomed to blood,
Launched his thigh with so mischievous might,
That it both bone and muscles ryved quight.
So deadly was the dint and deep the wound,
And so huge streames of blood thereout did flow,        140
That he endured not the direfull stound,
But on the cold deare earth himselfe did throw.
The whiles the captive heard his nets did rend,
And having none to let, to wood did wend.
Ah! where were ye this while, his shepheard peares,        145
To whom alive was nought so deare as hee?
And ye, faire mayds, the matches of his yeares,
Which in his grace did boast you most to bee?
Ah! where were ye, when he of you had need,
To stop his wound, that wondrously did bleed?        150
Ah, wretched boy, the shape of dreryhead,
And sad ensample of mans suddein end!
Full litle faileth but thou shalt be dead,
Unpitied, unplaynd, of foe or frend;
Whilest none is nigh, thine eylids up to close,        155
And kisse thy lips like faded leaves of rose.
A sort of shepheards, sewing of the chace,
As they the forest raunged on a day,
By fate or fortune came unto the place,
Where as the lucklesse boy yet bleeding lay;        160
Yet bleeding lay, and yet would still have bled,
Had not good hap those shepheards thether led.
They stopt his wound (too late to stop it was)
And in their armes then softly did him reare:
Tho (as he wild) unto his loved lasse,        165
His dearest love, him dolefully did beare.
The dolefulst beare that ever man did see
Was Astrophel, but dearest unto mee.
She, when she saw her love in such a plight,
With crudled blood and filthie gore deformed,        170
That wont to be with flowers and gyrlonds dight,
And her deare favours dearly well adorned,
Her face, the fairest face that eye mote see,
She likewise did deforme like him to bee.
Her yellow locks, that shone so bright and long,        175
As sunny beames in fairest somers day,
She fiersly tore, and with outragious wrong
From her red cheeks the roses rent away,
And her faire brest, the threasury of joy,
She spoyld thereof, and filled with annoy.        180
His palled face, impictured with death,
She bathed oft with teares and dried oft:
And with sweet kisses suckt the wasting breath
Out of his lips like lillies pale and soft:
And oft she cald to him, who answerd nought,        185
But onely by his lookes did tell his thought.
The rest of her impatient regret,
And piteous mone the which she for him made,
No toong can tell, nor any forth can set,
But he whose heart like sorrow did invade.        190
At last when paine his vitall powres had spent,
His wasted life her weary lodge forwent.
Which when she saw, she staied not a whit,
But after him did make untimely haste:
Forthwith her ghost out of her corps did flit,        195
And followed her make like turtle chaste;
To prove that death their hearts cannot divide,
Which living were in love so firmly tide.
The gods, which all things see, this same beheld,
And pittying this paire of lovers trew,        200
Transformed them, there lying on the field,
Into one flowre that is both red and blew:
It first growes red, and then to blew doth fade,
Like Astrophel, which thereinto was made.
And in the midst thereof a star appeares,        205
As fairly formd as any star in skyes,
Resembling Stella in her freshest yeares,
Forth darting beames of beautie from her eyes;
And all the day it standeth full of deow,
Which is the teares that from her eyes did flow.        210
That hearbe, of some, Starlight is cald by name,
Of others Penthia, though not so well:
But thou, where ever thou doest finde the same,
From this day forth do call it Astrophel:
And when so ever thou it up doest take,        215
Do pluck it softly for that shepheards sake.
Hereof when tydings far abroad did passe,
The shepheards all which loved him full deare,
And sure full deare of all he loved was,
Did thether flock to see what they did heare.        220
And when that pitteous spectacle they vewed,
The same with bitter teares they all bedewed.
And every one did make exceeding mone,
With inward anguish and great griefe opprest:
And every one did weep and waile and mone,        225
And meanes deviz’d to shew his sorrow best:
That from that houre since first on grassie greene
Shepheards kept sheep, was not like mourning seen.
But first his sister, that Clorinda hight,
The gentlest shepheardesse that lives this day,        230
And most resembling both in shape and spright
Her brother deare, began this dolefull lay.
Which, least I marre the sweetnesse of the vearse,
In sort as she it sung I will rehearse.
[Verses presumably by the Countess of Pembroke.]

AY me! to whom shall I my case complaine,
That may compassion my impatient griefe?
Or where shall I unfold my inward paine,
That my enriven heart may find reliefe?
Shall I unto the heavenly powres it show?
Or unto earthly men that dwell below?        240
To heavens? Ah! they, alas! the authors were,
And workers of my unremedied wo:
For they foresee what to us happens here,
And they foresaw, yet suffred this be so.
From them comes good, from them comes also il;        245
That which they made, who can them warne to spill?
To men? Ah! they, alas! like wretched bee,
And subject to the heavens ordinance:
Bound to abide what ever they decree,
Their best redresse is their best sufferance.        250
How then can they, like wretched, comfort mee,
The which no lesse need comforted to bee?
Then to my selfe will I my sorrow mourne,
Sith none alive like sorrowfull remaines:
And to my selfe my plaints shall back retourne,        255
To pay their usury with doubled paines.
The woods, the hills, the rivers shall resound
The mournfull accent of my sorrowes ground.
Woods, hills, and rivers now are desolate,
Sith he is gone the which them all did grace:        260
And all the fields do waile their widow state,
Sith death their fairest flowre did late deface.
The fairest flowre in field that ever grew
Was Astrophel; that was, we all may rew.
What cruell hand of cursed foe unknowne        265
Hath cropt the stalke which bore so faire a flowre?
Untimely cropt, before it well were growne,
And cleane defaced in untimely howre.
Great losse to all that ever him did see,
Great losse to all, but greatest losse to mee!        270
Breake now your gyrlonds, O ye shepheards lasses,
Sith the faire flowre which them adornd is gon:
The flowre which them adornd is gone to ashes;
Never againe let lasse put gyrlond on.
In stead of gyrlond, weare sad cypres noew,        275
And bitter elder, broken from the bowe.
Ne ever sing the love-layes which he made;
Who ever made such layes of love as hee?
Ne ever read the riddles which he sayd
Unto your selves, to make you mery glee.        280
Your mery glee is now laid all abed,
Your mery maker now, alasse! is dead.
Death, the devourer of all worlds delight,
Hath robbed you and reft fro me my joy:
Both you and me and all the world he quight        285
Hath robd of joyance, and left sad annoy.
Joy of the world and shepheards pride was hee:
Shepheards, hope never like againe to see.
Oh Death! that hast us of such riches reft,
Tell us at least, what hast thou with it done?        290
What is become of him whose flowre here left
Is but the shadow of his likenesse gone?
Scarse like the shadow of that which he was,
Nought like, but that he like a shade did pas.
But that immortall spirit, which was deckt        295
With all the dowries of celestiall grace,
By soveraine choyce from th’ hevenly quires select,
And lineally deriv’d from angels race,
O! what is now of it become, aread.
Ay me! can so divine a thing be dead?        300
Ah, no! it is not dead, ne can it die,
But lives for aie in blisfull Paradise:
Where like a new-borne babe it soft doth lie,
In bed of lillies wrapt in tender wise,
And compast all about with roses sweet,        305
And daintie violets from head to feet.
There thousand birds, all of celestiall brood,
To him do sweetly caroll day and night;
And with straunge notes, of him well understood,
Lull him a sleep in angelick delight;        310
Whilest in sweet dreame to him presented bee
Immortall beauties, which no eye may see.
But he them sees, and takes exceeding pleasure
Of their divine aspects, appearing plaine,
And kindling love in him above all measure,        315
Sweet love, still joyous, never feeling paine.
For what so goodly forme he there doth see,
He may enjoy from jealous rancor free.
There liveth he in everlasting blis,
Sweet spirit, never fearing more to die:        320
Ne dreading harme from any foes of his,
Ne fearing salvage beasts more crueltie.
Whilest we here, wretches, waile his private lack,
And with vaine vowes do often call him back.
But live thou there, still happie, happie spirit,        325
And give us leave thee here thus to lament:
Not thee that doest thy heavens joy inherit,
But our owne selves that here in dole are drent.
Thus do we weep and waile, and wear our eies,
Mourning in others our own miseries.        330
WHICH when she ended had, another swaine,
Of gentle wit and daintie sweet device,
Whom Astrophel full deare did entertaine,
Whilest here he liv’d, and held in passing price,
Hight Thestylis, began his mournfull tourne,        335
And made the Muses in his song to mourne.
And after him full many other moe,
As everie one in order lov’d him best,
Gan dight themselves t’ expresse their inward woe,
With dolefull layers unto the time addrest.        340
The which I here in order will rehearse,
As fittest flowres to deck his mournfull hearse.

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