Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Shepheardes Calender
  IN this xi. Æglogue he bewayleth the death of some mayden of greate bloud, whom he calleth Dido. The personage is secrete, and to me altogether unknowne, albe of him selfe I often required the same. This Æglogue is made in imitation of Marot his song, which he made upon the death of Loys the Frenche Queene: but farre passing his reache, and in myne opinion all other the Eglogues of this booke.


  The.  Colin, my deare, when shall it please thee sing,
As thou were wont, songs of some jouisaunce?
Thy Muse to long slombreth in sorrowing,
Lulled a sleepe through loves misgovernaunce:
Now somewhat sing whose endles sovenaunce        5
Emong the shepeheards swaines may aye remaine,
Whether thee list thy loved lasse advaunce,
Or honor Pan with hymnes of higher vaine.
  Col.  Thenot, now nis the time of merimake,
Nor Pan to herye, nor with love to playe:        10
Sike myrth in May is meetest for to make,
Or summer shade, under the cocked haye.
But nowe sadde winter welked hath the day,
And Phæbus, weary of his yerely taske,
Ystabled hath his steedes in lowlye laye,        15
And taken up his ynne in Fishes haske.
Thilke sollein season sadder plight doth aske,
And loatheth sike delightes as thou doest prayse:
The mornefull Muse in myrth now list ne maske,
As shee was wont in youngth and sommer dayes.        20
But if thou algate lust light virelayes,
And looser songs of love, to underfong,
Who but thy selfe deserves sike Poetes prayse?
Relieve thy oaten pypes that sleepen long.
  The.  The nightingale is sovereigne of song,        25
Before him sits the titmose silent bee:
And I, unfitte to thrust in skilfull thronge,
Should Colin make judge of my fooleree.
Nay, better learne of hem that learned bee.
And han be watered at the Muses well:        30
The kindlye dewe drops from the higher tree,
And wets the little plants that lowly dwell.
But if sadde winters wrathe, and season chill,
Accorde not with thy Muses meriment,
To sadder times thou mayst attune thy quill,        35
And sing of sorrowe and deathes dreeriment:
For deade is Dido, dead, alas! and drent,
Dido, the greate shepehearde his daughter sheene:
The fayrest may she was that ever went,
Her like shee has not left behinde I weene.        40
And if thou wilt bewayle my wofull tene,
I shall thee give yond cosset for thy payne:
And if thy rymes as rownd and rufull bene
As those that did thy Rosalind complayne,
Much greater gyfts for guerdon thou shalt gayne        45
Then kidde or cosset, which I thee bynempt.
Then up, I say, thou jolly shepeheard swayne,
Let not my small demaund be so contempt.
  Col.  Thenot, to that I choose thou doest me tempt:
But ah! to well I wote my humble vaine,        50
And howe my rymes bene rugged and unkempt:
Yet, as I conne, my conning I will strayne.
Up, then, Melpomene, thou mournefulst Muse of nyne!
Such cause of mourning never hadst afore:
Up, grieslie ghostes! and up my rufull ryme!        55
Matter of myrth now shalt thou have no more:
For dead shee is that myrth thee made of yore.
  Dido, my deare, alas! is dead,
  Dead, and lyeth wrapt in lead:
  O heavie herse!        60
Let streaming teares be poured out in store:
  O carefull verse!
Shepheards, that by your flocks on Kentish downes abyde,
Waile ye this wofull waste of Natures warke:
Waile we the wight whose presence was our pryde:        65
Waile we the wight whose absence is our carke.
The sonne of all the world is dimme and darke:
  The earth now lacks her wonted light,
  And all we dwell in deadly night:
  O heavie herse!        70
Breake we our pypes, that shrild as lowde as larke:
  O carefull verse!
Why doe we longer live, (ah, why live we so long?)
Whose better dayes death hath shut up in woe?
The fayrest floure our gyrlond all emong        75
Is faded quite, and into dust ygoe.
Sing now, ye shepheards daughters, sing no moe
  The songs that Colin made in her prayse,
  But into weeping turne your wanton layes:
  O heavie herse!        80
Now is time to die. Nay, time was long ygoe:
  O carefull verse!
Whence is it that the flouret of the field doth fade,
And lyeth buryed long in winters bale:
Yet soone as spring his mantle doth displaye,        85
It floureth fresh, as it should never fayle?
But thing on earth that is of most availe,
  As vertues braunch and beauties budde,
  Reliven not for any good.
  O heavie herse!        90
The braunch once dead, the budde eke needes must quaile:
  O carefull verse!
She, while she was, (that was, a woful word to sayne!)
For beauties prayse and plesaunce had no pere:
So well she couth the shepherds entertayne        95
With cakes and cracknells and such country chere.
Ne would she scorne the simple shepheards swaine,
  For she would cal hem often heame,
  And give hem curds and clouted creame.
  O heavie herse!        100
Als Colin Cloute she would not once dis-dayne.
  O carefull verse!
But nowe sike happy cheere is turnd to heavie chaunce,
Such pleasaunce now displast by dolors dint:
All musick sleepes where Death doth leade the daunce,        105
And shepherds wonted solace is extinct.
The blew in black, the greene in gray, is tinct;
  The gaudie girlonds deck her grave,
  The faded flowres her corse embrave.
  O heavie herse!        110
Morne nowe, my Muse, now morne with teares besprint.
  O carefull verse!
O thou greate shepheard, Lobbin, how great is thy griefe!
Where bene the nosegayes that she dight for thee?
The colourd chaplets, wrought with a chiefe,        115
The knotted rushringes, and gilte rosemaree?
For shee deemed nothing too deere for thee.
  Ah! they bene all yelad in clay,
  One bitter blast blewe all away.
  O heavie herse!        120
There of nought remaynes but the memoree.
  O carefull verse!
Ay me! that dreerie Death should strike so mortall stroke,
That can undoe Dame Natures kindly course:
The faded lockes fall from the loftie oke,        125
The flouds do gaspe, for dryed is theyr sourse,
And flouds of teares flowe in theyr stead perforse.
  The mantled medowes mourne,
  Theyr sondry colours tourne.
  O heavie herse!        130
The heavens doe melt in teares without remorse.
  O carefull verse!
The feeble flocks in field refuse their former foode,
And hang theyr heads, as they would learne to weepe:
The beastes in forest wayle as they were woode,        135
Except the wolves, that chase the wandring sheepe,
Now she is gon that safely did hem keepe.
  The turtle, on the bared braunch,
  Laments the wound that Death did launch.
  O heavie herse!        140
And Philomele her song with teares doth steepe.
  O carefull verse!
The water nymphs, that wont with her to sing and daunce,
And for her girlond olive braunches beare,
Now balefull boughes of cypres doen advaunce:        145
The Muses, that were wont greene bayes to weare,
Now bringen bitter eldre braunches seare:
  The Fatall Sisters eke repent
  Her vitall threde so soone was spent.
  O heavie herse!        150
Morne now, my Muse, now morne with heavie cheare.
  O carefull verse!
O trustlesse state of earthly things, and slipper hope
Of mortal men, that swincke and sweate for nought,
And shooting wide, doe misse the marked scope:        155
Now have I learnd, (a lesson derely bought)
That nys on earth assuraunce to be sought:
  For what might be in earthlie mould,
  That did her buried body hould.
  O heavie herse!        160
Yet saw I on the beare when it was brought.
  O carefull verse!
But maugre Death, and dreaded sisters deadly spight,
And gates of Hel, and fyrie furies forse,
She hath the bonds broke of eternall night,        165
Her soule unbodied of the burdenous corpse.
Why then weepes Lobbin so without remorse?
  O Lobb! thy losse no longer lament;
  Dido nis dead, but into heaven hent.
  O happye herse!        170
Cease now, my Muse, now cease thy sorrowes sourse:
  O joyfull verse!
Why wayle we then? why weary we the gods with playnts,
As if some evill were to her betight?
She raignes a goddesse now emong the saintes,        175
That whilome was the saynt of shepheards light:
And is enstalled nowe in heavens hight.
  I see thee, blessed soule, I see,
  Walke in Elisian fieldes so free.
  O happy herse!        180
Might I one come to thee! O that I might!
  O joyfull verse!
Unwise and wretched men, to weete whats good or ill,
Wee deeme of death as doome of ill desert:
But knewe we, fooles, what it us bringes until,        185
Dye would we dayly, once it to expert.
No daunger there the shepheard can astert:
  Fayre fieldes and pleasaunt layes there bene,
  The fieldes ay fresh, the grasse ay greene:
  O happy herse!        190
Make hast, ye shepheards, thether to revert:
  O joyfull verse!
Dido is gone afore (whose turne shall be the next?)
There lives shee with the blessed gods in blisse,
There drincks she nectar with ambrosia mixt,        195
And joyes enjoyes that mortall men doe misse.
The honor now of highest gods she is,
  That whilome was poore shepheards pryde,
  While here on earth she did abyde.
  O happy herse!        200
Ceasse now, my song, my woe now wasted is.
  O joyfull verse!
  The.  Ay, francke shepheard, how bene thy verses meint
With doolful pleasaunce, so as I ne wotte
Whether rejoyce or weepe for great constrainte!        205
Thyne be the cossette, well hast thow it gotte.
Up, Colin, up, ynough thou morned hast:
Now gynnes to mizzle, hye we homeward fast.

        La mort ny mord.


  Jouisaunce, myrth.
  Sovenaunce, remembraunce.
  Herie, honour.
  Welked, shortned, or empayred. As the moone being in the waine is sayde of Lidgate to welk.
  In lowly lay, according to the season of the moneth November, when the sonne draweth low in the south toward his tropick or returne.
  In Fishes haske. The sonne reigneth, that is, in the signe Pisces all November. A haske is a wicker pad. wherein they use to cary fish.
  Virelaies, a light kind of song.
  Bee watred. For it is a saying of poetes, that they have dronk of the Muses well Castalias, whereof was before sufficiently sayd.
  Dreriment, dreery and heavy cheere.
  The great shepheard is some man of high degree, and not, as some vainely suppose, God Pan. The person both of the shephearde and of Dido is unknowen, and closely buried in the authors conceipt. But out of doubt I am, that it is not Rosalind, as some imagin: for he speaketh soone after of her also.
  Shene, fayre and shining.
  May, for mayde.
  Tene, sorrow.
  Guerdon, reward.
  Bynempt, bequethed.
  Cosset, a lambe brought up without the dam.
  Unkempt, incompti; not comed, that is, rude and unhansome.
  Melpomene, the sadde and waylefull Muse, used of poets in honor of tragedies: as saith Virgile,
        ‘Melpomene tragico proclamat mæsta boatu.’

  Up griesly gosts, the maner of tragicall poetes, to call for helpe of furies and damned ghostes: so is Hecuba of Euripides, and Tantalus brought in of Seneca; and the rest of the rest.
  Herse is the solemne obsequie in funeralles.
  Wast of, decay of so beautifull a peece.
  Carke, care.
  Ah why, an elegant epanorthosis, as also soone after: nay, time was long ago.
  Flouret, a diminutive for a little floure. This is a notable and sententious comparison ‘A minore ad majus.’
  Reliven not, live not againe, sc. not in theyr earthly bodies: for in heaven they enjoy their due reward.
  The braunch. He meaneth Dido, who being, as it were, the mayne braunch now withered, the buddes, that is, beautie (as he sayd afore) can no more flourish.
  With cakes, fit for shepheards bankets.
  Heame, for home: after the northerne pronouncing.
  Tinct, deyed or stayned.
  The gaudie. The meaning is, that the things which were the ornaments of her lyfe are made the honor of her funerall, as is used in burialls.
  Lobbin, the name of a shepherd, which seemeth to have bene the lover and deere frende of Dido.
  Rushrings, agreeable for such base gyftes.
  Faded lockes, dryed leaves. As if Nature her selfe bewayled the death of the mayde.
  Sourse, spring.
  Mantled medowes, for the sondry flowres are like a mantle or coverlet wrought with many colours.
  Philomele, the nightingale: whome the poetes faine once to have bene a ladye of great beauty, till, being ravished by hir sisters husbande, she desired to be turned into a byrd of her name. Whose complaintes be very well set forth of Maister George Gaskin, a wittie gentleman, and the very chefe of our late rymers, who, and if some partes of learning wanted not (albee it is well knowen he altogyther wanted not learning) no doubt would have attayned to the excellencye of those famous poets. For gifts of wit and naturall promptnesse appeare in hym aboundantly.
  Cypresse, used of the old paynims in the furnishing of their funerall pompe, and properly the signe of all sorow and heavinesse.
  The fatall sisters, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, daughters of Herebus and the Nighte, whom the poetes fayne to spinne the life of man, as it were a long threde, which they drawe out in length, till his fatal howre and timely death be come; but if by other casualtie his dayes be abridged, then one of them, that is, Atropos, is sayde to have cut the threde in twain. Hereof commeth a common verse.
        ‘Clotho colum bajulat, Lachesis trahit, Atropos occat.’

  O trustlesse, a gallant exclamation, moralized with great wisedom, and passionate wyth great affection.
  Beare, a frame, wheron they use to lay the dead corse.
  Furies, of poetes be feyned to be three, Persephone, Alecto, and Megera, which are sayd to be the authours of all evill and mischiefe.
  Eternall night is death or darknesse of hell.
  Betight, happened.
  I see, a lively icon or representation, as if he saw her in heaven present.
  Elysian fieldes be devised of poetes to be a place of pleasure like Paradise, where the happye soules doe rest in peace and eternal happynesse.
  Dye would, the very expresse saying of Plato in Phædone.
  Astert, befall unwares.
  Nectar and ambrosia be feigned to be the drink and foode of the gods: ambrosia they liken to manna in scripture, and nectar to be white like creme, whereof is a proper tale of Hebe, that spilt a cup of it, and stayned the heavens, as yet appeareth. But I have already discoursed that at large in my Commentarye upon the Dreames of the same authour.
  Meynt, mingled.

  Which is as much to say as, death biteth not. For although by course of nature we be borne to dye, and being ripened with age, as with a timely harvest, we must be gathered in time, or els of our selves we fall like rotted ripe fruite fro the tree: yet death is not to be counted for evill, nor (as the poete sayd a little before) as doome of ill desert. For though the trespasse of the first man brought death into the world, as the guerdon of sinne, yet being overcome by the death of one that dyed for al, it is now made (as Chaucer sayth) the grene path way to life. So that it agreeth well with that was sayd, that Death byteth not (that is) hurteth not at all.

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