Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Shepheardes Calender
  HEREIN Diggon Davie is devised to be a shepheard that, in hope of more gayne, drove his sheepe into a farre countrye. The abuses whereof, and loose living of popish prelates, by occasion of Hobbinols demaund, he discourseth at large.


  Hob.  Diggon Davie, I bidde her god day:
Or Diggon her is, or I missaye.
  Dig.  Her was her while it was daye light,
But now her is a most wretched wight.
For day, that was, is wightly past,        5
And now at earst the dirke night doth hast.
  Hob.  Diggon, areede, who has thee so dight?
Never I wist thee in so poore a plight.
Where is the fayre flocke thou was wont to leade?
Or bene they chaffred? or at mischiefe dead?        10
  Dig.  Ah! for love of that is to thee moste leefe,
Hobbinol, I pray thee gall not my old griefe:
Sike question ripeth up cause of newe woe,
For one opened mote unfolde many moe.
  Hob.  Nay, but sorrow close shrouded in hart,        15
I know, to kepe is a burdenous smart.
Eche thing imparted is more eath to beare:
When the rayne is faln, the cloudes wexen cleare.
And nowe, sithence I sawe thy head last,
Thrise three moones bene fully spent and past:        20
Since when thou hast measured much grownd,
And wandred, I wene, about the world rounde,
So as thou can many thinges relate:
But tell me first of thy flocks astate.
  Dig.  My sheepe bene wasted, (wae is me therefore!)        25
The jolly shepheard that was of yore
Is nowe nor jollye, nor shepehearde more.
In forrein costes, men sayd, was plentye:
And so there is, but all of miserye.
I dempt there much to have eeked my store,        30
But such eeking hath made my hart sore.
In tho countryes whereas I have bene,
No being for those that truely mene,
But for such as of guile maken gayne,
No such countrye as there to remaine.        35
They setten to sale their shops of shame,
And maken a mart of theyr good name.
The shepheards there robben one another,
And layen baytes to beguile her brother.
Or they will buy his sheepe out of the cote,        40
Or they will carven the shepheards throte.
The shepheards swayne you cannot wel ken,
But it be by his pryde, from other men:
They looken bigge as bulls that bene bate,
And bearen the cragge so stiffe and so state        45
As cocke on his dunghill crowing cranck.
  Hob.  Diggon, I am so stiffe and so stanck,
That uneth may I stand any more:
And nowe the westerne wind bloweth sore,
That nowe is in his chiefe sovereigntee,        50
Beating the withered leafe from the tree.
Sitte we downe here under the hill:
Tho may we talke and tellen our fill,
And make a mocke at the blustring blast.
Now say on, Diggon, what ever thou hast.        55
  Dig.  Hobbin, ah, Hobbin! I curse the stounde
That ever I cast to have lorne this grounde.
Wel-away the while I was so fonde
To leave the good that I had in hande,
In hope of better, that was uncouth:        60
So lost the dogge the flesh in his mouth.
My seely sheepe (ah, seely sheepe!)
That here by there I whilome usd to keepe,
All were they lustye, as thou didst see,
Bene all sterved with pyne and penuree.        65
Hardly my selfe escaped thilke payne,
Driven for neede to come home agayne.
  Hob.  Ah, fon! now by thy losse art taught
That seeldome chaunge the better brought.
Content who lives with tryed state        70
Neede feare no chaunge of frowning fate;
But who will seeke for unknowne gayne,
Oft lives by losse, and leaves with payne.
  Dig.  I wote ne, Hobbin, how I was bewitcht
With vayne desyre and hope to be enricht;        75
But, sicker, so it is as the bright starre
Seemeth ay greater when it is farre.
I thought the soyle would have made me rich;
But nowe I wote it is nothing sich.
For eyther the shepeheards bene ydle and still,        80
And ledde of theyr sheepe what way they wyll,
Or they bene false, and full of covetise,
And casten to compasse many wrong emprise.
But the more bene fraight with fraud and spight,
Ne in good nor goodnes taken delight,        85
But kindle coales of conteck and yre,
Wherewith they sette all the world on fire:
Which when they thinken agayne to quench,
With holy water they doen hem all drench.
They saye they con to heaven the high way,        90
But, by my soule, I dare undersaye
They never sette foote in that same troade,
But balk the right way and strayen abroad.
They boast they han the devill at commaund,
But aske hem therefore what they han paund:        95
Marrie! that great Pan bought with deare borrow,
To quite it from the blacke bowre of sorrowe.
But they han sold thilk same long agoe:
Forthy woulden drawe with hem many moe.
But let hem gange alone a Gods name;        100
As they han brewed, so let hem beare blame.
  Hob.  Diggon, I praye thee speake not so dirke.
Such myster saying me seemeth to mirke.
  Dig.  Then, playnely to speake of shepheards most what,
Badde is the best (this English is flatt.)        105
Their ill haviour garres men missay
Both of their doctrine, and of their faye.
They sayne the world is much war then it wont,
All for her shepheards bene beastly and blont:
Other sayne, but how truely I note,        110
All for they holden shame of theyr cote.
Some sticke not to say, (whote cole on her tongue!)
That sike mischiefe graseth hem emong,
All for they casten too much of worlds care,
To deck her dame, and enrich her heyre:        115
For such encheason, if you goe nye,
Fewe chymneis reeking you shall espye:
The fatte oxe, that wont ligge in the stal,
Is nowe fast stalled in her crumenall.
Thus chatten the people in theyr steads,        120
Ylike as a monster of many heads:
But they that shooten neerest the pricke
Sayne, other the fat from their beards doen lick:
For bigge bulles of Basan brace hem about,
That with theyr hornes butten the more stoute;        125
But the leane soules treaden under foote.
And to seeke redresse mought little boote;
For liker bene they to pluck away more,
Then ought of the gotten good to restore:
For they bene like foule wagmoires over-grast,        130
That if thy galage once sticketh fast,
The more to wind it out thou doest swinck,
Thou mought ay deeper and deeper sinck.
Yet better leave of with a little losse,
Then by much wrestling to leese the grosse.        135
  Hob.  Nowe, Diggon, I see thou speakest to plaine:
Better it were a little to feyne,
And cleanly cover that cannot be cured:
Such il as is forced mought nedes be endured.
But of sike pastoures howe done the flocks creepe?        140
  Dig.  Sike as the shepheards, sike bene her sheepe:
For they nill listen to the shepheards voyce,
But if he call hem at theyr good choyce:
They wander at wil and stray at pleasure,
And to theyr foldes yeed at their owne leasure.        145
But they had be better come at their cal;
For many han into mischiefe fall,
And bene of ravenous wolves yrent,
All for they nould be buxome and bent.
  Hob.  Fye on thee, Diggon, and all thy foule leasing!        150
Well is knowne that sith the Saxon king,
Never was woolfe seene, many nor some,
Nor in all Kent, nor in Christendome:
But the fewer woolves (the soth to sayne,)
The more bene the foxes that here remaine.        155
  Dig.  Yes, but they gang in more secrete wise,
And with sheepes clothing doen hem disguise:
They walke not widely as they were wont,
For feare of raungers and the great hunt,
But prively prolling to and froe,        160
Enaunter they mought be inly knowe.
  Hob.  Or prive or pert yf any bene,
We han great bandogs will teare their skinne.
  Dig.  Indeede, thy Ball is a bold bigge curre,
And could make a jolly hole in theyr furre.        165
But not good dogges hem needeth to chace,
But heedy shepheards to discerne their face:
For all their craft is in their countenaunce,
They bene so grave and full of mayntenaunce.
But shall I tell thee what my selfe knowe        170
Chaunced to Roffynn not long ygoe?
  Hob.  Say it out, Diggon, what ever it hight,
For not but well mought him betight:
He is so meeke, wise, and merciable,
And with his word his worke is convenable.        175
Colin Clout, I wene, be his selfe boye,
(Ah for Colin, he whilome my joye!)
Shepheards sich, God mought us many send,
That doen so carefully theyr flocks tend.
  Dig.  Thilk same shepheard mought I well marke:        180
He has a dogge to byte or to barke;
Never had shepheard so kene a kurre,
That waketh and if but a leafe sturre.
Whilome there wonned a wicked wolfe,
That with many a lambe had glutted his gulfe.        185
And ever at night wont to repayre
Unto the flocke, when the welkin shone faire,
Ycladde in clothing of seely sheepe,
When the good old man used to sleepe.
Tho at midnight he would barke and ball,        190
(For he had eft learned a curres call,)
As if a woolfe were emong the sheepe.
With that the shepheard would breake his sleepe,
And send out Lowder (for so his dog hote)
To raunge the fields with wide open throte.        195
Tho, when as Lowder was farre awaye,
This wolvish sheepe would catchen his pray,
A lambe, or a kidde, or a weanell wast:
With that to the wood would he speede him fast.
Long time he used this slippery pranck,        200
Ere Roffy could for his laboure him thanck.
At end, the shepheard his practise spyed,
(For Roffy is wise, and as Argus eyed)
And when at even he came to the flocke,
Fast in theyr folds he did them locke,        205
And tooke out the woolfe in his counterfect cote,
And let out the sheepes bloud at his throte.
  Hob.  Marry, Diggon, what should him affraye
To take his owne where ever it laye?
For had his wesand bene a little widder,        210
He would have devoured both hidder and shidder.
  Dig.  Mischiefe light on him, and Gods great curse!
Too good for him had bene a great deale worse:
For it was a perilous beast above all,
And eke had he cond the shepherds call,        215
And oft in the night came to the shepecote,
And called Lowder, with a hollow throte,
As if it the old man selfe had bene.
The dog his maisters voice did it weene,
Yet halfe in doubt he opened the dore,        220
And ranne out, as he was wont of yore.
No sooner was out, but, swifter then thought,
Fast by the hyde the wolfe Lowder caught:
And had not Roffy renne to the steven,
Lowder had be slaine thilke same even.        225
  Hob.  God shield, man, he should so ill have thrive,
All for he did his devoyre belive.
If sike bene wolves as thou hast told,
How mought we, Diggon, hem behold?
  Dig.  How, but with heede and watchfulnesse        230
Forstallen hem of their wilinesse?
Forthy with shepheard sittes not playe,
Or sleepe, as some doen, all the long day:
But ever liggen in watch and ward,
From soddein force theyr flocks for to gard.        235
  Hob.  Ah, Diggon! thilke same rule were too straight,
All the cold season to wach and waite:
We bene of fleshe, men as other bee:
Why should we be bound to such miseree?
What ever thing lacketh chaungeable rest,        240
Mought needes decay, when it is at best.
  Dig.  Ah! but Hobbinol, all this long tale
Nought easeth the care that doth me forhaile.
What shall I doe? what way shall I wend,
My piteous plight and losse to amend?        245
Ah, good Hobbinol! mought I thee praye
Of ayde or counsell in my decaye.
  Hob.  Now by my soule, Diggon, I lament
The haplesse mischief that has thee hent.
Nethelesse thou seest my lowly saile,        250
That froward fortune doth ever availe.
But were Hobbinoll as God mought please,
Diggon should soone find favour and ease.
But if to my cotage thou wilt resort,
So as I can I wil thee comfort:        255
There mayst thou ligge in a vetchy bed,
Till fayrer fortune shewe forth her head.
  Dig.  Ah, Hobbinol, God mought it thee requite!
Diggon on fewe such freendes did ever lite.

        Inopem me copia fecit.


  The dialecte and phrase of speache, in this dialogue, seemeth somewhat to differ from the comen. The cause whereof is supposed to be, by occasion of the party herein meant, who, being very freend to the author hereof, had bene long in forraine countryes, and there seene many disorders, which he here recounteth to Hobbinoll.
  Bidde her, bidde good morrow. For to bidde, is to praye, whereof commeth beades for prayers, and so they say, to bidde his beades, sc. to saye his prayers.
  Wightly, quicklye, or sodenlye.
  Chaffred, solde.
  Dead at mischiefe, an unusuall speache, but much usurped of Lidgate, and sometime of Chaucer.
  Leefe, deare.
  Ethe, easie.
  Thrise thre moones, nine monethes.
  Measured, for traveled.
  Wae, woe, Northernly.
  Eeked, encreased.
  Carven, cutte.
  Kenne, know.
  Cragge, neck.
  State, stoutely.
  Stanck, wearie or fainte.
  And nowe. He applieth it to the tyme of the yeare, which is in thend of harvest, which they call the fall of the leafe: at which tyme the westerne wynde beareth most swaye.
  A mocke, imitating Horace, ‘Debes ludibrium ventis.’
  Lorne, lefte.
  Soote, swete.
  Uncouthe, unknowen.
  Here by there, here and there.
  As the brighte, translated out of Mantuane.
  Emprise, for enterprise. Per syncopen.
  Contek, strife.
  Trode, path.
  Marrie that, that is, their soules, which by popish exorcismes and practices they damne to hell.
  Blacke, hell.
  Gange, goe.
  Mister, maner.
  Mirke, obscure.
  Warre, worse.
  Crumenall, purse.
  Brace, compasse.
  Encheson, occasion.
  Overgrast, overgrowen with grasse.
  Galage, shoe.
  The grosse, the whole.
  Buxome and bent, meeke and obedient.
  Saxon king, King Edgare that reigned here in Brytanye in the yeare of our Lord [957–975] which king caused all the wolves, whereof then was store in thys countrye, by a proper policie to be destroyed. So as never since that time there have ben wolves here founde, unlesse they were brought from other countryes. And therefore Hobbinoll rebuketh him of untruth, for saying there be wolves in England.
  Nor in Christendome. This saying seemeth to be strange and unreasonable: but indede it was wont to be an olde proverbe and comen phrase. The original whereof was, for that most part of England in the reigne of King Ethelbert was christened, Kent onely except, which remayned long after in mysbeliefe and unchristened. so that Kent was counted no part of Christendome.
  Great hunt, executing of lawes and justice.
  Enaunter, least that.
  Inly, inwardly: afforesayde.
  Prevely or pert, openly, sayth Chaucer.
  Roffy, the name of a shepehearde in Marot his Æglogue of Robin and the Kinge. Whome he here commendeth for greate care and wise governance of his flock.
  Colin Cloute. Nowe I thinke no man doubteth but by Colin is ever meante the authour selfe: whose especiall good freend Hobbinoll sayth he is, or more rightly Mayster Gabriel Harvey: of whose speciall commendation, aswell in poetrye as rhetorike and other choyce learning, we have lately had a sufficient tryall in diverse his workes, but specially in his Musarum Lachrymæ, and his late Gratulationum Valdinensium, which boke, in the progresse at Audley in Essex, he dedicated in writing to her Majestie, afterward presenting the same in print unto her Highnesse at the worshipfull Maister Capells in Hertfordshire. Beside other his sundrye most rare and very notable writings, partely under unknown tytles, and partly under counterfayt names, as hys Tyrannomastix, his Ode Natalitia, his Rameidos, and esspecially that parte of Philomusus, his divine Anticosmopolita, and divers other of lyke importance. As also, by the names of other shepheardes, he covereth the persons of divers other his familiar freendes and best acquayntaunce.
  This tale of Roffy seemeth to coloure some particular action of his. But what, I certeinlye know not.
  Wonned, haunted.
  Welkin, skie: afforesaid.
  A weanell waste, a weaned youngling.
  Hidder and shidder, he and she, male and female.
  Steven, noyse.
  Belive, quickly.
  What ever, Ovids verse translated.
        ‘Quod caret alterna requie durabile non est.’

  Forehaile, drawe or distresse.
  Vetchie, of pease strawe.

  This is the saying of Narcissus in Ovid. For when the foolishe boye, by beholding hys face in the brooke, fell in love with his owne likenesse: and not hable to content him selfe with much looking thereon, he cryed out, that plentye made him poore, meaning that much gazing had bereft him of sence. But our Diggon useth it to other purpose, as who that by tryall of many wayes had founde the worst, and through greate plentye was fallen into great penurie. This poesie I knowe to have bene much used of the author, and to suche like effecte as fyrste Narcissus spake it.

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