Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Shepheardes Calender
  IN Cuddie is set out the perfecte paterne of a poete, whiche, finding no maintenaunce of his state and studies, complayneth of the contempte of Poetrie, and the causes thereof: specially having bene in all ages, and even amongst the most barbarous, alwayes of singular accounpt and honor, and being indede so worthy and commendable an arte: or rather no arte, but a divine gift and heavenly instinct, not to bee gotten by laboure and learning, but adorned with both, and poured into the witte by a certain [Greek] and celestiall inspiration; as the author hereof els where at large discourseth in his booke called The English Poete, which booke being lately come to my hands, I mynde also by Gods grace, upon further advisement, to publish.


  Piers.  Cuddie, for shame! hold up thy heavye head,
And let us cast with what delight to chace
And weary thys long lingring Phoebus race.
Whilome thou wont the shepheards laddes to leade
In rymes, in ridles, and in bydding base:        5
Now they in thee, and thou in sleepe art dead.
  Cud.  Piers, I have pyped erst so long with payne,
That all mine oten reedes bene rent and wore:
And my poore Muse hath spent her spared store,
Yet little good hath got, and much lesse gayne.        10
Such pleasaunce makes the grashopper so poore,
And ligge so layd, when winter doth her straine.
The dapper ditties that I wont devise,
To feede youthes fancie and the flocking fry,
Delighten much: what I the bett forthy?        15
They han the pleasure, I a sclender prise:
I beate the bush, the byrds to them doe flye:
What good thereof to Cuddie can arise?
  Piers.  Cuddie, the prayse is better then the price,
The glory eke much greater then the gayne:        20
O what an honor is it, to restraine
The lust of lawlesse youth with good advice,
Or pricke them forth with pleasaunce of thy vaine,
Whereto thou list their trayned willes entice!
Soone as thou gynst to sette thy notes in frame,        25
O how the rurall routes to thee doe cleave!
Seemeth thou doest their soule of sense bereave,
All as the shepheard, that did fetch his dame
From Plutoes balefull bowre withouten leave:
His musicks might the hellish hound did tame.        30
  Cud.  So praysen babes the peacoks spotted traine,
And wondren at bright Argus blazing eye;
But who rewards him ere the more forthy?
Or feedes him once the fuller by a graine?
Sike prayse is smoke, that sheddeth in the skye,        35
Sike words bene wynd, and wasten soone in vayne.
  Piers.  Abandon then the base and viler clowne:
Lyft up thy selfe out of the lowly dust,
And sing of bloody Mars, of wars, of giusts:
Turne thee to those that weld the awful crowne,        40
To doubted knights, whose woundlesse armour rusts,
And helmes unbruzed wexen dayly browne.
There may thy Muse display her fluttryng wing,
And stretch her selfe at large from east to west:
Whither thou list in fayre Elisa rest,        45
Or if thee please in bigger notes to sing,
Advaunce the worthy whome shee loveth best,
That first the white beare to the stake did bring.
And when the stubborne stroke of stronger stounds
Has somewhat slackt the tenor of thy string,        50
Of love and lustihead tho mayst thou sing,
And carrol lowde, and leade the myllers rownde,
All were Elisa one of thilke same ring.
So mought our Cuddies name to heaven sownde.
  Cud.  Indeede the Romish Tityrus, I heare,        55
Through his Mecænas left his oaten reede,
Whereon he earst had taught his flocks to feede,
And laboured lands to yield the timely eare,
And eft did sing of warres and deadly drede,
So as the heavens did quake his verse to here.        60
But ah! Mecœnas is yclad in claye,
And great Augustus long ygoe is dead,
And all the worthies liggen wrapt in leade,
That matter made for poets on to play:
For, ever, who in derring doe were dreade,        65
The loftie verse of hem was loved aye.
But after vertue gan for age to stoupe,
And mighty manhode brought a bedde of ease,
The vaunting poets found nought worth a pease
To put in preace emong the learned troupe.        70
Tho gan the streames of flowing wittes to cease,
And sonnebright honour pend in shamefull coupe.
And if that any buddes of poesie
Yet of the old stocke gan to shoote agayne,
Or it mens follies mote be forst to fayne,        75
And rolle with rest in rymes of rybaudrye,
Or, as it sprong, it wither must agayne:
Tom Piper makes us better melodie.
  Piers.  O pierlesse Poesye, where is then thy place?
If nor in princes pallace thou doe sitt,        80
(And yet is princes pallace the most fitt)
Ne brest of baser birth doth thee embrace.
Then make thee winges of thine aspyring wit,
And, whence thou camst, flye backe to heaven apace.
  Cud.  Ah, Percy! it is all to weake and wanne,        85
So high to sore, and make so large a flight;
Her peeced pyneons bene not so in plight:
For Colin fittes such famous flight to scanne:
He, were he not with love so ill bedight,
Would mount as high and sing as soote as swanne.        90
  Piers.  Ah, fon! for love does teach him climbe so hie,
And lyftes him up out of the loathsome myre:
Such immortall mirrhor as he doth admire
Would rayse ones mynd above the starry skie,
And cause a caytive corage to aspire;        95
For lofty love doth loath a lowly eye.
  Cud.  All otherwise the state of poet stands:
For lordly Love is such a tyranne fell,
That, where he rules, all power he doth expell.
The vaunted verse a vacant head demaundes,        100
Ne wont with crabbed Care the Muses dwell:
Unwisely weaves, that takes two webbes in hand.
Who ever casts to compasse weightye prise,
And thinks to throwe out thondring words of threate,
Let powre in lavish cups and thriftie bitts of meate;        105
For Bacchus fruite is frend to Phæbus wise,
And when with wine the braine begins to sweate,
The nombers flowe as fast as spring doth ryse.
Thou kenst not, Percie, howe the ryme should rage.
O if my temples were distaind with wine,        110
And girt in girlonds of wild yvie twine,
How I could reare the Muse on stately stage,
And teache her tread aloft in buskin fine,
With queint Bellona in her equipage!
But ah! my corage cooles ere it be warme;        115
Forthy content us in thys humble shade,
Where no such troublous tydes han us assayde.
Here we our slender pipes may safely charme.
  Piers.  And when my gates shall han their bellies layd,
Cuddie shall have a kidde to store his farme.

        Agitante calescimus illo, &c.


  This Æglogue is made in imitation of Theocritus his xvi. Idilion, wherein hee reproved the tyranne Hiero of Syracuse for his nigardise towarde poetes, in whome is the power to make men immortal for theyr good dedes, or shameful for their naughty lyfe. And the lyke also is in Mantuane. The style hereof, as also that in Theocritus, is more loftye then the rest, and applyed to the heighte of poeticall witte.
  Cuddie. I doubte whether by Cuddie be specified the authour selfe, or some other. For in the eyght Æglogue the same person was brought in, singing a cantion of Colins making, as he sayth. So that some doubt that the persons be different.
  Whilome, sometime.
  Oaten reedes, Avena.
  Ligge so layde, lye so faynt and unlustye.
  Dapper, pretye.
  Frye is a bold metaphore, forced from the spawning fishes: for the multitude of young fish be called the frye.
  To restraine. This place seemeth to conspyre with Plato, who in his first booke de Legibus sayth, that the first invention of poetry was of very vertuous intent. For at what time an infinite number of youth usually came to theyr great solemne feastes called Panegyrica, which they used every five yeere to hold, some learned man, being more hable then the rest for speciall gyftes of wytte and musicke, would take upon him to sing fine verses to the people, in prayse eyther of vertue or of victory or of immortality, or such like. At whose wonderful gyft al men being astonied and as it were ravished with delight, thinking (as it was indeed) that he was inspired from above, called him vatem: which kinde of men afterwarde framing their verses to lighter musick (as of musick be many kinds, some sadder, some lighter, some martiall, some heroical: and so diversely eke affect the mynds of men) found out lighter matter of poesie also, some playing wyth love, some scorning at mens fashions, some powred out in pleasures: and so were called poetes or makers.
  Sence bereave. What the secrete working of musick is in the myndes of men, aswell appeareth hereby, that some of the auncient philosophers, and those the moste wise, as Plato and Pythagoras, held for opinion, that the mynd was made of a certaine harmonie and musicall nombers, for the great compassion and likenes of affection in thone and in the other, as also by that memorable history of Alexander: to whom when as Timotheus the great musitian playd the Phrygian melodie, it is said that he was distraught with such unwonted fury, that streight way rysing from the table in great rage, he caused himselfe to be armed, as ready to goe to warre, (for that musick is very warlike:) and immediatly when as the musitian chaunged his stroke into the Lydian and Ionique harmony, he was so furr from warring, that he sat as styl, as if he had bene in matters of counsell. Such might is in musick. Wherefore Plato and Aristotle forbid the Arcadian melodie from children and youth. For that being altogither on the fyft and vii. tone, it is of great force to molifie and quench the kindly courage, which useth to burne in yong brests. So that it is not incredible which the poete here sayth, that musick can bereave the soule of sence.
  The shepheard that, Orpheus: of whom is sayd, that by his excellent skil in musick and poetry, he recovered his wife Eurydice from hell.
  Argus eyes. Of Argus is before said, that Juno to him committed hir husband Jupiter his paragon, Iô, bicause he had an hundred eyes: but afterwarde Mercury, wyth hys musick lulling Argus aslepe, slew him and brought Iô away, whose eyes it is sayd that Juno, for his eternall memory, placed in her byrd the peacocks tayle: for those coloured spots indeede resemble eyes.
  Woundlesse armour, unwounded in warre, doe rust through long peace.
  Display, a poeticall metaphore: whereof the meaning is, that, if the poet list showe his skill in matter of more dignitie then is the homely Æglogue, good occasion is him offered of higher veyne and more heroicall argument in the person of our most gratious soveraign, whom (as before) he calleth Elisa. Or if mater of knighthoode and chevalrie please him better, that there be many noble and valiaunt men, that are both worthy of his payne in theyr deserved prayses, and also favourers of hys skil and faculty.
  The worthy. He meaneth (as I guesse) the most honorable and renowmed the Erle of Leycester, whom by his cognisance (although the same be also proper to other) rather then by his name he bewrayeth, being not likely that the names of noble princes be known to country clowne.
  Slack, that is when thou chaungest thy verse from stately discourse, to matter of more pleasaunce and delight.
  The millers, a kind of daunce.
  Ring, company of dauncers.
  The Romish Tityrus, wel knowen to be Virgile, who by Mecænas means was brought into the favour of the Emperor Augustus, and by him moved to write in loftier kinde then he erst had doen.
  Whereon. In these three verses are the three severall workes of Virgile intended. For in teaching his flocks to feede, is meant his Æglogues. In labouring of lands, is hys Bucoliques. In singing of wars and deadly dreade, is his divine Æneis figured.
  In derring doe, in manhoode and chevalrie.
  For ever. He sheweth the cause why poetes were wont be had in such honor of noble men, that is, that by them their worthines and valor shold through theyr famous posies be commended to al posterities. Wherefore it is sayd, that Achilles had never bene so famous, as he is, but for Homeres immortal verses: which is the only advantage which he had of Hector. And also that Alexander the Great, comming to his tombe in Sigeus, with naturall teares blessed him, that ever was his hap to be honoured with so excellent a poets work, as so renowmed and ennobled onely by hys meanes. Which being declared in a most eloquent oration of Tullies, is of Petrarch no lesse worthely sette forth in a sonet.
        ‘Giunto Alexandro a la famosa tomba
Del fero Achille, sospirando disse:
O fortunato, che si chiara tromba Trovasti,’ &c.
And that such account hath bene alwayes made of poetes, aswell sheweth this, that the worthy Scipio, in all his warres against Carthage and Numantia, had evermore in his company, and that in a most familiar sort, the good olde poet Ennius: as also that Alexander, destroying Thebes, when he was enformed, that the famous lyrick poet Pindarus was borne in that citie, not onely commaunded streightly, that no man should, upon payne of death, do any violence to that house, by fire or otherwise: but also specially spared most, and some highly rewarded, that were of hys kinne. So favoured he the only name of a poete. Whych prayse otherwise was in the same man no lesse famous, that when he came to ransacking of King Darius coffers, whom he lately had overthrowen, he founde in a little coffer of silver the two bookes of Homers works, as layd up there for speciall jewels and richesse, which he, taking thence, put one of them dayly in his bosome, and thother every night layde under his pillowe. Such honor have poetes alwayes found in the sight of princes and noble men: which this author here very well sheweth, as els where more notably.
  But after. He sheweth the cause of contempt of poetry to be idlenesse and basenesse of mynd.
  Pent, shut up in slouth, as in a coope or cage.
  Tom Piper, an ironicall sarcasmus, spoken in derision of these rude wits, whych make more account of a ryming rybaud, then of skill grounded upon learning and judgment.
  Ne brest, the meaner sort of men.
  Her peeced pineons, unperfect skil. Spoken wyth humble modestie.
  As soote as swanne. The comparison seemeth to be strange: for the swanne hath ever wonne small commendation for her swete singing: but it is sayd of the learned that the swan, a little before hir death, singeth most pleasantly, as prophecying by a secrete instinct her neere destinie. As wel sayth the poete elsewhere in one of his sonetts.
        ‘The silver swanne doth sing before her dying day,
As shee that feeles the deepe delight that is in death,’ &c.

  Immortall myrrhour, Beauty, which is an excellent object of poeticall spirites, as appeareth by the worthy Petrarchs saying,
        ‘Fiorir faceva il mio debile ingegno,
A la sua ombra, et crescer ne gli affanni.’

  A caytive corage, a base and abject minde.
  For lofty love. I think this playing with the letter to be rather a fault then a figure, aswel in our English tongue, as it hath bene alwayes in the Latine, called Cacozelon.
  A vacant imitateth Mantuanes saying, ‘vacuum curis divina cerebrum Poscit.’
  Lavish cups resembleth that comen verse, ‘Fæcundi calices quem non fecere disertum?’
  O if my. He seemeth here to be ravished with a poetical furie. For (if one rightly mark) the numbers rise so ful, and the verse groweth so big, that it seemeth he hath forgot the meanenesse of shepheards state and stile.
  Wild yvie, for it is dedicated to Bacchus, and therefore it is sayd, that the Mænades (that is, Bacchus franticke priestes) used in theyr sacrifice to carry thyrsos, which were pointed staves or javelins, wrapped about with yvie.
  In buskin. It was the maner of poetes and plaiers in tragedies to were buskins, as also in comedies to use stockes and light shoes. So that the buskin in poetry is used for tragical matter, as is said in Virgile, ‘Sola Sophocleo tua carmina digna cothurno.’ And the like in Horace, ‘Magnum loqui, nitique cothurno.’
  Queint, strange. Bellona; the goddesse of battaile, that is, Pallas, which may therefore wel be called queint, for that (as Lucian saith) when Jupiter hir father was in traveile of her, he caused his sonne Vulcane with his axe to hew his head. Out of which leaped forth lustely a valiant damsell armed at all poyntes, whom seeing Vulcane so faire and comely, lightly leaping to her, proferred her some cortesie, which the lady disdeigning, shaked her speare at him, and threatned his saucinesse. Therefore such straungenesse is well applyed to her.
  Æquipage, order.
  Tydes, seasons.
  Charme, temper and order: for charmes were wont to be made by verses, as Ovid sayth, ‘Aut si carminibus.’

  Hereby is meant, as also in the whole course of this Æglogue, that poetry is a divine instinct and unnatural rage passing the reache of comen reason. Whom Piers answereth epiphonematicos, as admiring the excellency of the skyll, whereof in Cuddie hee hadde alreadye hadde a taste.

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