Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Shepheardes Calender
  THIS Æglogue is made in the honour and commendation of good shepeheardes, and to the shame and disprayse of proude and ambitious pastours: such as Morrell is here imagined to bee.


Thom.  Is not thilke same a goteheard prowde,
  That sittes on yonder bancke,
Whose straying heard them selfe doth shrowde
  Emong the bushes rancke?
Mor.  What ho! thou jollye shepheards swayne,        5
  Come up the hyll to me:
Better is then the lowly playne,
  Als for thy flocke and thee.
Thom.  Ah, God shield, man, that I should clime,
  And learne to looke alofte;        10
This reede is ryfe, that oftentime
  Great clymbers fall unsoft.
In humble dales is footing fast,
  The trode is not so tickle,
And though one fall through heedlesse hast,        15
  Yet is his misse not mickle.
And now the Sonne hath reared up
  His fyriefooted teme,
Making his way betweene the Cuppe
  And golden Diademe:        20
The rampant Lyon hunts he fast,
  With Dogge of noysome breath,
Whose balefull barking bringes in hast
  Pyne, plagues, and dreery death.
Agaynst his cruell scortching heate        25
  Where hast thou coverture?
The wastefull hylls unto his threate
  Is a playne overture.
But if thee lust to holden chat
  With seely shepherds swayne,        30
Come downe, and learne the little what
  That Thomalin can sayne.
Mor.  Syker, thous but a laesie loord,
  And rekes much of thy swinck,
That with fond termes, and weetlesse words,        35
  To blere myne eyes doest thinke.
In evill houre thou hentest in hond
  Thus holy hylles to blame,
For sacred unto saints they stond,
  And of them han theyr name.        40
St. Michels Mount who does not know,
  That wardes the westerne coste?
And of St. Brigets Bowre, I trow,
  All Kent can rightly boaste:
And they that con of Muses skill        45
  Sayne most-what, that they dwell
(As goteheards wont) upon a hill,
  Beside a learned well.
And wonned not the great god Pan
  Upon Mount Olivet,        50
Feeding the blessed flocke of Dan,
  Which dyd himselfe beget?
Thom.  O blessed sheepe! O shepheard great,
  That bought his flocke so deare,
And them did save with bloudy sweat        55
  From wolves, that would them teare!
Mor.  Besyde, as holy fathers sayne,
  There is a hyllye place,
Where Titan ryseth from the mayne,
  To renne hys dayly race:        60
Upon whose toppe the starres bene stayed,
  And all the skie doth leane;
There is the cave where Phebe layed
  The shepheard long to dreame.
Whilome there used shepheards all        65
  To feede theyr flocks at will,
Till by his foly one did fall,
  That all the rest did spill.
And sithens shepheardes bene foresayd
  From places of delight:        70
Forthy I weene thou be affrayd
  To clime this hilles height.
Of Synah can I tell thee more,
  And of Our Ladyes Bowre:
But little needes to strow my store,        75
  Suffice this hill of our.
Here han the holy Faunes recourse,
  And Sylvanes haunten rathe;
Here has the salt Medway his sourse,
  Wherein the Nymphes doe bathe;        80
The salt Medway, that trickling stremis
  Adowne the dales of Kent,
Till with his elder brother Themis
  His brackish waves be meynt.
Here growes melampode every where,        85
  And teribinth, good for gotes:
The one, my madding kiddes to smere,
  The next, to heale theyr throtes.
Hereto, the hills bene nigher heven,
  And thence the passage ethe:        90
As well can prove the piercing levin,
  That seeldome falls bynethe.
Thom.  Syker, thou speakes lyke a lewde lorrell,
  Of heaven to demen so:
How be I am but rude and borrell,        95
  Yet nearer wayes I knowe.
To kerke the narre, from God more farre,
  Has bene an old sayd sawe,
And he that strives to touch the starres
  Oft stombles at a strawe.        100
Alsoone may shepheard clymbe to skye,
  That leades in lowly dales,
As goteherd prowd, that, sitting hye,
  Upon the mountaine sayles.
My seely sheepe like well belowe,        105
  They neede not melampode:
For they bene hale enough, I trowe,
  And liken theyr abode.
But, if they with thy gotes should yede,
  They soone myght be corrupted,        110
Or like not of the frowie fede,
  Or with the weedes be glutted.
The hylls where dwelled holy saints
  I reverence and adore:
Not for themselfe, but for the sayncts        115
  Which han be dead of yore.
And nowe they bene to heaven forewent,
  Theyr good is with them goe,
Theyr sample onely to us lent,
  That als we mought doe soe.        120
Shepheards they weren of the best,
  And lived in lowlye leas:
And sith theyr soules bene now at rest,
  Why done we them disease?
Such one he was (as I have heard        125
  Old Algrind often sayne)
That whilome was the first shepheard,
  And lived with little gayne:
As meeke he was as meeke mought be,
  Simple as simple sheepe,        130
Humble, and like in eche degree
  The flocke which he did keepe.
Often he used of hys keepe
  A sacrifice to bring,
Nowe with a kidde, now with a sheepe        135
  The altars hallowing.
So lowted he unto hys Lord,
  Such favour couth he fynd,
That sithens never was abhord
  The simple shepheards kynd.        140
And such, I weene, the brethren were
  That came from Canaan,
The brethren twelve, that kept yfere
  The flockes of mighty Pan.
But nothing such thilk shephearde was        145
  Whom Ida hyll dyd beare,
That left hys flocke to fetch a lasse,
  Whose love he bought to deare.
For he was proude, that ill was payd,
  (No such mought shepheards bee)        150
And with lewde lust was overlayd:
  Tway things doen ill agree.
But shepheard mought be meeke and mylde,
  Well eyed as Argus was,
With fleshly follyes undefyled,        155
  And stoute as steede of brasse.
Sike one (sayd Algrin) Moses was,
  That sawe hys Makers face,
His face, more cleare then christall glasse,
  And spake to him in place.        160
This had a brother, (his name I knewe)
  The first of all his cote,
A shepheard trewe, yet not so true
  As he that earst I hote.
Whilome all these were lowe and lief,        165
  And loved their flocks to feede,
They never stroven to be chiefe,
  And simple was theyr weede.
But now (thanked be God therefore)
  The world is well amend,        170
Their weedes bene not so nighly wore;
  Such simplesse mought them shend:
They bene yclad in purple and pall,
  So hath theyr God them blist,
They reigne and rulen over all,        175
  And lord it as they list:
Ygyrt with belts of glitterand gold,
  (Mought they good sheepeheards bene)
Theyr Pan theyr sheepe to them has sold;
  I saye as some have seene.        180
For Palinode (if thou him ken)
  Yode late on pilgrimage
To Rome, (if such be Rome) and then
  He sawe thilke misusage.
For shepeheards, sayd he, there doen leade,        185
  As lordes done other where;
Theyr sheepe han crustes, and they the bread;
  The chippes, and they the chere:
They han the fleece, and eke the flesh;
  (O seely sheepe the while!)        190
The corne is theyrs, let other thresh,
  Their hands they may not file.
They han great stores and thriftye stockes,
  Great freendes and feeble foes:
What neede hem caren for their flocks?        195
  Theyr boyes can looke to those.
These wisards weltre in welths waves,
  Pampred in pleasures deepe;
They han fatte kernes, and leany knaves,
  Their fasting flockes to keepe.        200
Sike mister men bene all misgone,
  They heapen hylles of wrath:
Sike syrlye shepheards han we none,
  They keepen all the path.
Mor.  Here is a great deale of good matter        205
  Lost for lacke of telling.
Now sicker I see, thou doest but clatter:
  Harme may come of melling.
Thou medlest more then shall have thanke,
  To wyten shepheards welth:        210
When folke bene fat, and riches rancke,
  It is a signe of helth.
But say me, what is Algrin, he
  That is so oft bynempt?
Thom.  He is a shepheard great in gree,        215
  But hath bene long ypent.
One daye he sat upon a hyll,
  As now thou wouldest me:
But I am taught, by Algrins ill,
  To love the lowe degree.        220
For sitting so with bared scalpe,
  An eagle sored hye,
That, weening hys whyte head was chalke,
  A shell fish downe let flye:
She weend the shell fishe to have broake,        225
  But therewith bruzd his brayne;
So now, astonied with the stroke,
  He lyes in lingring payne.
Mor.  Ah, good Algrin! his hap was ill,
  But shall be bett in time.        230
Now farwell, shepheard, sith thys hyll
  Thou hast such doubt to climbe.

        In medio virtus.

        In summo fælicitas.


  A goteheard. By gotes, in scrypture, be represented the wicked and reprobate, whose pastour also must needes be such.
  Banck is the seate of honor.
  Straying heard, which wander out of the waye of truth.
  Als, for also.
  Clymbe, spoken of ambition.
  Great clymbers, according to Seneca his verse.
        ‘Decidunt celsa, graviore lapsu.’
  Mickle, much.
  The sonne, a reason why he refuseth to dwell on mountaines, because there is no shelter against the scortching sunne, according to the time of the yeare, whiche is the whotest moneth of all.
  The Cupp and Diademe be two signes in the firmament, through which the sonne maketh his course in the moneth of July.
  Lion. Thys is poetically spoken, as if the Sunne did hunt a Lion with one dogge. The meaning whereof is, that in July the sonne is in Leo. At which tyme the Dogge starre, which is called Syrius, or Canicula, reigneth with immoderate heate, causing pestilence, drougth, and many diseases.
  Overture, an open place. The word is borrowed of the French, and used in good writers.
  To holden chatt, to talke and prate.
  A loorde was wont among the old Britons to signifie a lorde. And therefore the Danes, that long time usurped theyr tyrannie here in Brytanie, were called, for more dread and dignitie, Ludanes, sc. Lord Danes. At which time it is sayd, that the insolencie and pryde of that nation was so outragious in thys realme, that if it fortuned a Briton to be going over a bridge, and sawe a Dane set foote upon the same, he muste retorne back, till the Dane were cleane over, or els abyde the pryce of his displeasure, which was no lesse then present death. But being afterwarde expelled, that name of Lurdane became so odious unto the people, whom they had long oppressed, that even at this daye they use, for more reproche, to call the quartane ague the Fever Lurdane.
  Recks much of thy swinck, counts much of thy paynes.
  Weetelesse, not understoode.
  St. Michels Mount is a promontorie in the west part of England.
  A hill, Parnassus afforesayd.
  Pan, Christ.
  Dan. One trybe is put for the whole nation per synecdochen.
  Where Titan, the sonne. Which story is to be redde in Diodorus Syculus of the hyl Ida; from whence he sayth, all night time is to bee seene a mightye fire, as if the skye burned, which toward morning beginneth to gather into a rownd forme, and thereof ryseth the sonne, whome the poetes call Titan.
  The shepheard is Endymion, whom the poets fayne to have bene so beloved of Phœbe, sc. the moone, that he was by her kept a sleepe in a cave by the space of xxx yeares, for to enjoye his companye.
  There, that is, in Paradise, where, through errour of shepheards understanding, he sayth, all shepheards did use to feede theyr flocks, till one, (that is Adam) by hys follye and disobedience, made all the rest of hys ofspring be debarred and shutte out from thence.
  Synah, a hill in Arabia, where God appeared.
  Our Ladyes Bowre, a place of pleasure so called.
  Faunes or Sylvanes be of poetes feigned to be gods of the woode.
  Medway, the name of a ryver in Kent, which, running by Rochester, meeteth with Thames; whom he calleth his elder brother, both because he is greater, and also falleth sooner into the sea.
  Meynt, mingled.
  Melampode and terebinth be hearbes good to cure diseased gotes: of thone speaketh Mantuane, and of thother Theocritus.
  Nigher heaven. Note the shepheards simplenesse, which supposeth that from the hylls is nearer waye to heaven.
  Levin, lightning; which he taketh for an argument to prove the nighnes to heaven, because the lightning doth comenly light on hygh mountaynes, according to the saying of the poete:
        ‘Feriuntque summos fulmina montes.’
  Lorrell, a losell.
  A borrell, a playne fellowe.
  Narre, nearer.
  Hale, for hole.
  Yede, goe.
  Frowye, mustye or mossie.
  Of yore, long agoe.
  Forewente, gone afore.
  The firste shepheard was Abell the righteous, who (as Scripture sayth) bent hys mind to keeping of sheepe, as did hys brother Cain to tilling the grownde.
  His keepe, hys charge, sc. his flocke.
  Lowted, did honour and reverence.
  The brethren, the twelve sonnes of Jacob, which were shepemaisters, and lyved onelye thereupon.
  Whom Ida, Paris, which being the sonne of Priamus king of Troy, for his mother Hecubas dreame, which, being with child of hym, dreamed shee broughte forth a firebrand, that set all the towre of Ilium on fire, was cast forth on the hyll Ida; where being fostered of shepheards, he eke in time became a shepheard, and lastly came to knowledge of his parentage.
  A lasse. Helena, the wyfe of Menelaus king of Lacedemonia, was by Venus, for the golden aple to her geven, then promised to Paris, who thereupon with a sorte of lustye Troyanes, stole her out of Lacedemonia, and kept her in Troye: which was the cause of the tenne yeares warre in Troye, and the moste famous citye of all Asia most lamentably sacked and defaced.
  Argus was of the poets devised to be full of eyes, and therefore to hym was committed the keeping of the transformed cow, Io: so called, because that, in the print of a cowes foote, there is figured an I in the middest of an O.
  His name: he meaneth Aaron: whose name, for more decorum, the shephearde sayth he hath forgot, lest his remembraunce and skill in antiquities of holy writ should seeme to exceede the meanenesse of the person.
  Not so true, for Aaron, in the absence of Moses, started aside, and committed idolatry.
  In purple, spoken of the popes and cardinalles, which use such tyrannical colours and pompous paynting.
  Belts, girdles.
  Glitterand, glittering, a participle used sometime in Chaucer, but altogether in J. Goore.
  Theyr Pan, that is, the Pope, whom they count theyr god and greatest shepheard.
  Palinode, a shephearde, of whose report he seemeth to speake all thys.
  Wisards, greate learned heads.
  Welter, wallowe.
  Kerne, a churl or farmer.
  Sike mister men, suche kinde of men.
  Surly, stately and prowde.
  Melling, medling.
  Bett, better.
  Bynempte, named.
  Gree, for degree.
  Algrin, the name of a shepheard afforesayde, whose myshap he alludeth to the chaunce that happened to the poet Æschylus, that was brayned with a shellfishe.

  By thys poesye Thomalin confirmeth that which in hys former speach by sondrye reasons he had proved. For being both hymselfe sequestred from all ambition, and also abhorring it in others of hys cote, he taketh occasion to prayse the meane and lowly state, as that wherein is safetie without feare, and quiet without danger; according to the saying of olde philosophers, that vertue dwelleth in the middest, being environed with two contrary vices: whereto Morrell replieth with continuaunce of the same philosophers opinion, that albeit all bountye dwelleth in mediocritie, yet perfect felicitye dwelleth in supremacie. For they say, and most true it is, that happinesse is placed in the highest degree, so as if any thing be higher or better, then that streight way ceaseth to be perfect happines. Much like to that which once I heard alleaged in defence of humilitye, out of a great doctour, ‘Suorum Christus humillimus:’ which saying a gentle man in the company taking at the rebownd, beate backe again with lyke saying of another doctoure, as he sayde, ‘Suorum Deus altissimus.’

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.