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




  MOST brave and noble Ladie, the things that make ye so much honored of the world as ye bee, are such as (without my simple lines testimonie) are throughlie knowen to all men; namely, your excellent beautie, your vertuous behavior, and your noble match with that most honourable lord, the verie paterne of right nobilitie: but the causes for which ye have thus deserved of me to be honoured (if honour it be at all) are, both your particular bounties, and also some private bands of affinitie, which it hath pleased your Ladiship to acknowledge. Of which whenas I found my selfe in no part worthie, I devised this last slender meanes, both to intimate my humble affection to your Ladiship, and also to make the same universallie knowen to the world; that by honouring you they might know me, and by knowing me they might honor you. Vouchsafe, noble Lady, to accept this simple remembrance, thogh not worthy of your self, yet such as perhaps, by good acceptance therof, ye may hereafter cull out a more meet and memorable evidence of your own excellent deserts. So recommending the same to your Ladiships good liking, I humbly take leave.
Your Ladiships humbly ever
Ed. Sp.    

[To what period this poem may belong has been somewhat disputed. On the whole, it would seem, like ‘Mother Hubberd’s Tale,’ to be early work revised, for though the allusions in the lament of Thalia refer that passage to 1589 or 1590, there are good grounds for believing that the poem first took form before 1580. Its doleful account of the state of literature, for instance, is quite at odds with that survey in Colin Clout’s Come Home Again (of 1591) wherein Spenser deals so sympathetically with his fellow poets, and is not unlike in tone to various passages in the Calendar. One can hardly understand, moreover, how, in 1590, even as a matter of convention, he could take so dismal a view of English literature. In 1580, on the other hand, before Sidney, Greene, Marlowe, and their fellows of the first great generation had begun to write, when, Spenser himself excepted, Lyly with his Euphues was the one brilliant name in English letters, such a view is quite conceivable. The matter might be argued much further, to the same result.  The general tone of the poem, its mental attitude, cannot but impress a modern reader somewhat unpleasantly. The complaint that ‘mightie peeres’ no longer care for the immortality which only poets can confer, that poets and scholars, ‘the learned,’ are left without patronage, may be set down partly to a trying personal experience. The note of contempt, however, and of arrogance that one is glad to believe youthful, the complaint of universal vulgarity, the cry that Ignorance and Barbarism have quite laid waste the fair realm of the Muses—all this comes near, in the end, to seeming insufferable. If the Areopagus, the select literary club in which Sidney and Dyer and Fulke Greville, with perhaps Spenser himself, discussed the condition of English letters and planned great reforms, if this cénacle is fairly represented by ‘The Tears of the Muses,’ it must have been, one thinks, a more than usually supercilious clique of young radicals. Yet what may be distasteful in the poem is not so much the underlying opinions, which for 1579 or 1580 are quite intelligible, as the particular tone or mood. In this one almost suspects an echo of Ronsard. For in the great movement by which, thirty years before the Areopagus and in much the same way, the Pléiade endeavored to regenerate French literature, Ronsard is notably distinguished from his colleagues by an odd faculty for making their common views offensive or ridiculous. His rampant egotism and utter deficiency in the sense of humor lured him at times, like his greater descendant Victor Hugo, into strange extravagances. Now, the members of the Areopagus knew the poets of the Pléiade well, especially Ronsard and Du Bellay. They seem to have felt that their own problem in England was not unlike that which these men had met in France. In them they found ideals with which they sympathized, opinions which seemed to be of value for their own difficulties. That the poet was directly inspired of God (or the gods), that great men could obtain immortality from the poets alone, that poetry must go hand in hand with learning, that the arch enemy of the Muses was Ignorance, that poetry in their day languished because the great were given over to luxury and the vulgar would listen only to a horde of unlearned and base rhymesters,—these theories of the Pléiade and various precepts for the elevation of their own mother tongue to a place beside the tongues of Greece and Rome were caught at by the youthful members of the Areopagus with very lively interest. In the work of Spenser they may be traced unmistakably, chiefly in ‘October,’ ‘The Ruins of Time,’ and ‘The Tears of the Muses.’ This last, unhappily, voices them in a tone which, as so often in Ronsard and rarely in Du Bellay, makes sympathy quite impossible.]


REHEARSE to me, ye sacred sisters nine,
The golden brood of great Apolloes wit,
Those piteous plaints and sorowfull sad tine,
Which late ye powred forth as ye did sit
Beside the silver springs of Helicone,        5
Making your musick of hart-breaking mone.
For since the time that Phœbus foolish sonne,
Ythundered through Joves avengefull wrath,
For traversing the charret of the Sunne
Beyond the compasse of his pointed path,        10
Of you, his mournfull sisters, was lamented,
Such mournfull tunes were never since invented.
Nor since that faire Calliope did lose
Her loved twinnes, the dearlings of her joy,
Her Palici, whom her unkindly foes,        15
The Fatall Sisters, did for spight destroy,
Whom all the Muses did bewaile long space,
Was ever heard such wayling in this place.
For all their groves, which with the heavenly noyses
Of their sweete instruments were wont to sound,        20
And th’ hollow hills, from which their silver voyces
Were wont redoubled echoes to rebound,
Did now rebound with nought but rufull cries,
And yelling shrieks throwne up into the skies.
The trembling streames which wont in chanels cleare        25
To romble gently downe with murmur soft,
And were by them right tunefull taught to beare
A bases part amongst their consorts oft,
Now forst to overflowe with brackish teares,
With troublous noyse did dull their daintie eares.        30
The joyous nymphes and lightfoote faeries
Which thether came to heare their musick sweet,
And to the measure of their melodies
Did learne to move their nimble shifting feete,
Now hearing them so heavily lament,        35
Like heavily lamenting from them went.
And all that els was wont to worke delight
Through the divine infusion of their skill,
And all that els seemd faire and fresh in sight,
So made by nature for to serve their will,        40
Was turned now to dismall heavinesse,
Was turned now to dreadfull uglinesse.
Ay me! what thing on earth, that all thing breeds,
Might be the cause of so impatient plight?
What furie, or what feend with felon deeds        45
Hath stirred up so mischievous despight?
Can griefe then enter into heavenly harts,
And pierce immortall breasts with mortall smarts?
Vouchsafe ye then, whom onely it concernes,
To me those secret causes to display;        50
For none but you, or who of you it learnes,
Can rightfully aread so dolefull lay.
Begin, thou eldest sister of the crew,
And let the rest in order thee ensew.
Heare, thou great Father of the Gods on hie,
That most art dreaded for thy thunder darts:
And thou our syre, that raignst in Castalie
And Mount Parnasse, the god of goodly arts:
Heare and behold the miserable state
Of us thy daughters, dolefull desolate.        60
Behold the fowle reproach and open shame,
The which is day by day unto us wrought
By such as hate the honour of our name,
The foes of learning and each gentle thought;
They, not contented us themselves to scorne,        65
Doo seeke to make us of the world forlorne.
Ne onely they that dwell in lowly dust,
The sonnes of darknes and of ignoraunce;
But they whom thou, great Jove, by doome unjust
Didst to the type of honour earst advaunce;        70
They now, puft up with sdeignfull insolence,
Despise the brood of blessed Sapience.
The sectaries of my celestiall skill,
That wont to be the worlds chiefe ornament,
And learned impes that wont to shoote up still,        75
And grow to hight of kingdomes government,
They underkeep, and with their spredding armes
Doo beat their buds, that perish through their harmes.
It most behoves the honorable race
Of mightie peeres true wisedome to sustaine,        80
And with their noble countenaunce to grace
The learned forheads, without gifts or gaine:
Or rather learnd themselves behoves to bee;
That is the girlond of nobilitie.
But ah! all otherwise they doo esteeme        85
Of th’ heavenly gift of wisdomes influence,
And to be learned it a base thing deeme;
Base minded they that want intelligence:
For God himselfe for wisedome most is praised,
And men to God thereby are nighest raised.        90
But they doo onely strive themselves to raise
Through pompous pride, and foolish vanitie;
In th’ eyes of people they put all their praise,
And onely boast of armes and auncestrie:
But vertuous deeds, which did those armes first give        95
To their grandsyres, they care not to atchive.
So I, that doo all noble feates professe
To register, and sound in trump of gold,
Through their bad dooings, or base slothfulnesse,
Finde nothing worthie to be writ, or told:        100
For better farre it were to hide their names,
Than telling them to blazon out their blames.
So shall succeeding ages have no light
Of things forepast, nor moniments of time,
And all that in this world is worthie hight        105
Shall die in darknesse, and lie hid in slime:
Therefore I mourne with deep harts sorrowing,
Because I nothing noble have to sing.
With that she raynd such store of streaming teares,
That could have made a stonie heart to weep,        110
And all her sisters rent their golden heares,
And their faire faces with salt humour steep.
So ended shee: and then the next anew
Began her grievous plaint, as doth ensew.
O who shall powre into my swollen eyes
A sea of teares that never may be dryde,
A brasen voice that may with shrilling cryes
Pierce the dull heavens and fill the ayer wide,
And yron sides that sighing may endure,
To waile the wretchednes of world impure?        120
Ah, wretched world! the den of wickednesse,
Deformd with filth and fowle iniquitie;
Ah, wretched world! the house of heavinesse,
Fild with the wreaks of mortall miserie;
Ah, wretched world, and all that is therein!        125
The vassals of Gods wrath, and slaves of sin.
Most miserable creature under sky
Man without understanding doth appeare;
For all this worlds affliction he thereby,
And Fortunes freakes, is wisely taught to beare:        130
Of wretched life the onely joy shee is,
And th’ only comfort in calamities.
She armes the brest with constant patience
Against the bitter throwes of dolours darts,
She solaceth with rules of sapience        135
The gentle minds, in midst of worldlie smarts:
When he is sad, shee seeks to make him merie,
And doth refresh his sprights when they be werie.
But he that is of reasons skill bereft,
And wants the staffe of wisedome him to stay,        140
Is like a ship in midst of tempest left
Withouten helme or pilot her to sway:
Full sad and dreadfull is that ships event:
So is the man that wants intendiment.
Whie then doo foolish men so much despize        145
The precious store of this celestiall riches?
Why doo they banish us, that patronize
The name of learning? Most unhappie wretches!
The which lie drowned in deep wretchednes,
Yet doo not see their owne unhappines.        150
My part it is and my professed skill
The stage with tragick buskin to adorne,
And fill the scene with plaint and outcries shrill
Of wretched persons, to misfortune borne:
But none more tragick matter I can finde        155
Than this, of men depriv’d of sense and minde.
For all mans life me seemes a tragedy,
Full of sad sights and sore catastrophees;
First comming to the world with weeping eye,
Where all his dayes, like dolorous trophees,        160
Are heapt with spoyles of fortune and of feare,
And he at last laid forth on balefull beare.
So all with rufull spectacles is fild,
Fit for Megera or Persephone;
But I, that in true tragedies am skild,        165
The flowre of wit, finde nought to busie me:
Therefore I mourne, and pitifully mone,
Because that mourning matter I have none.
Then gan she wofully to waile, and wring
Her wretched hands in lamentable wise;        170
And all her sisters, thereto answering,
Threw forth lowd shrieks and drerie dolefull cries.
So rested she: and then the next in rew
Began her grievous plaint, as doth ensew.
Where be the sweete delights of learnings treasure,
That wont with comick sock to beautefie
The painted theaters, and fill with pleasure
The listners eyes, and eares with melodie;
In which I late was wont to raine as queene,
And maske in mirth with graces well beseene?        180
O, all is gone! and all that goodly glee,
Which wont to be the glorie of gay wits,
Is layd abed, and no where now to see;
And in her roome unseemly Sorrow sits,
With hollow browes and greisly countenaunce,        185
Marring my joyous gentle dalliaunce.
And him beside sits ugly Barbarisme,
And brutish Ignorance, ycrept of late
Out of dredd darknes of the deep abysme,
Where being bredd, he light and heaven does hate:        190
They in the mindes of men now tyrannize,
And the faire scene with rudenes foule disguize.
All places they with follie have possest,
And with vaine toyes the vulgare entertaine;
But me have banished, with all the rest        195
That whilome wont to wait upon my traine,
Fine Counterfesaunce and unhurtfull Sport,
Delight and Laughter deckt in seemly sort.
All these, and all that els the comick stage
With seasoned wit and goodly pleasance graced,        200
By which mans life in his likest image
Was limned forth, are wholly now defaced;
And those sweete wits which wont the like to frame
Are now despizd, and made a laughing game.
And he, the man whom Nature selfe had made        205
To mock her selfe, and truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimick shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly meriment
Is also deaded, and in dolour drent.        210
In stead thereof scoffing Scurrilitie,
And scornfull Follie with Contempt is crept,
Rolling in rymes of shameles ribaudrie
Without regard, or due decorum kept;
Each idle wit at will presumes to make,        215
And doth the learneds taske upon him take.
But that same gentle spirit, from whose pen
Large streames of honnie and sweete nectar flowe,
Scorning the boldnes of such base-borne men,
Which dare their follies forth so rashlie throwe,        220
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
Than so himselfe to mockerie to sell.
So am I made the servant of the manie,
And laughing stocke of all that list to scorne,
Not honored nor cared for of anie;        225
But loath’d of losels as a thing forlorne:
Therefore I mourne and sorrow with the rest,
Untill my cause of sorrow be redrest.
Therewith she lowdly did lament and shrike,
Pouring forth streames of teares abundantly;        230
And all her sisters, with compassion like,
The breaches of her singulfs did supply.
So rested shee: and then the next in rew
Began her grievous plaint, as doth ensew.
Like as the dearling of the summers pryde,
Faire Philomele, when winters stormie wrath
The goodly fields, that earst so gay were dyde
In colours divers, quite despoyled hath,
All comfortlesse doth hide her chearlesse head
During the time of that her widowhead:        240
So we, that earst were wont in sweet accord
All places with our pleasant notes to fill,
Whilest favourable times did us afford
Free libertie to chaunt our charmes at will,
All comfortlesse upon the bared bow,        245
Like wofull culvers, doo sit wayling now.
For far more bitter storme than winters stowre
The beautie of the world hath lately wasted,
And those fresh buds, which wont so faire to flowre,
Hath marred quite, and all their blossoms blasted:        250
And those yong plants, which wont with fruit t’ abound,
Now without fruite or leaves are to be found.
A stonie coldnesse hath benumbd the sence
And livelie spirits of each living wight,
And dimd with darknesse their intelligence,        255
Darknesse more than Cymerians daylie night:
And monstrous Error, flying in the ayre,
Hath mard the face of all that semed fayre.
Image of hellish horrour, Ignorance,
Borne in the bosome of the black abysse,        260
And fed with Furies milke, for sustenaunce
Of his weake infancie, begot amisse
By yawning Sloth on his owne mother Night;
So hee his sonnes both syre and brother hight:
He, armd with blindnesse and with boldnes stout,        265
(For blind is bold) hath our fayre light defaced;
And gathering unto him a ragged rout
Of faunes and satyres, hath our dwellings raced,
And our chast bowers, in which all vertue rained,
With brutishnesse and beastlie filth hath stained.        270
The sacred springs of horsefoot Helicon,
So oft bedeawed with our learned layes,
And speaking streames of pure Castalion,
The famous witnesse of our wonted praise,
They trampled have with their fowle footings trade,        275
And like to troubled puddles have them made.
Our pleasant groves, which planted were with paines,
That with our musick wont so oft to ring,
And arbors sweet, in which the shepheards swaines
Were wont so oft their pastoralls to sing,        280
They have cut downe, and all their pleasaunce mard,
That now no pastorall is to bee hard.
In stead of them, fowle goblins and shriekowles
With fearfull howling do all places fill;
And feeble Eccho now laments and howles,        285
The dreadfull accents of their outcries shrill.
So all is turned into wildernesse,
Whilest Ignorance the Muses doth oppresse.
And I, whose joy was earst with spirit full
To teach the warbling pipe to sound aloft,        290
My spirits now dismayd with sorrow dull,
Doo mone my miserie in silence soft.
Therefore I mourne and waile incessantly,
Till please the heavens affoord me remedy.
Therewith shee wayled with exceeding woe,        295
And pitious lamentation did make,
And all her sisters, seeing her doo soe,
With equall plaints her sorrowe did partake.
So rested shee: and then the next in rew
Began her grievous plaint, as doth ensew.        300
Who so hath in the lap of soft delight
Beene long time luld, and fed with pleasures sweet,
Feareles through his own fault or Fortunes spight,
To tumble into sorrow and regreet,
Yf chaunce him fall into calamitie,        305
Findes greater burthen of his miserie.
So wee, that earst in joyance did abound,
And in the bosome of all blis did sit,
Like virgin queenes with laurell garlands cround,
For vertues meed and ornament of wit,        310
Sith Ignorance our kingdome did confound,
Bee now become most wretched wightes on ground.
And in our royall thrones, which lately stood
In th’ hearts of men to rule them carefully,
He now hath placed his accursed brood,        315
By him begotten of fowle Infamy;
Blind Error, scornefull Follie, and base Spight,
Who hold by wrong that wee should have by right.
They to the vulgar sort now pipe and sing,
And make them merrie with their fooleries;        320
They cherelie chaunt and rymes at randon fling,
The fruitfull spawne of their ranke fantasies;
They feede the eares of fooles with flattery,
And good men blame, and losels magnify.
All places they doo with their toyes possesse,        325
And raigne in liking of the multitude;
The schooles they fill with fond newfanglenesse,
And sway in court with pride and rashnes rude;
Mongst simple shepheards they do boast their skill,
And say their musicke matcheth Phœbus quill.        330
The noble hearts to pleasures they allure,
And tell their Prince that learning is but vaine;
Faire ladies loves they spot with thoughts impure,
And gentle mindes with lewd delights distaine;
Clerks they to loathly idlenes entice,        335
And fill their bookes with discipline of vice.
So every where they rule and tyrannize,
For their usurped kingdomes maintenaunce,
The whiles we silly maides, whom they dispize
And with reprochfull scorne discountenaunce,        340
From our owne native heritage exilde,
Walk through the world of every one revilde.
Nor anie one doth care to call us in,
Or once vouchsafeth us to entertaine,
Unlesse some one perhaps of gentle kin,        345
For pitties sake, compassion our paine,
And yeeld us some reliefe in this distresse;
Yet to be so reliev’d is wretchednesse.
So wander we all carefull comfortlesse,
Yet none doth care to comfort us at all;        350
So seeke we helpe our sorrow to redresse,
Yet none vouchsafes to answere to our call:
Therefore we mourne and pittilesse complaine,
Because none living pittieth our paine.
With that she wept and wofullie waymented,        355
That naught on earth her griefe might pacifie;
And all the rest her dolefull din augmented
With shrikes and groanes and grievous agonie.
So ended shee: and then the next in rew
Began her piteous plaint, as doth ensew.        360
Ye gentle spirits breathing from above,
Where ye in Venus silver bowre were bred,
Thoughts halfe devine, full of the fire of love,
With beawtie kindled and with pleasure fed,
Which ye now in securitie possesse,        365
Forgetfull of your former heavinesse:
Now change the tenor of your joyous layes,
With which ye use your loves to deifie,
And blazon foorth an earthlie beauties praise
Above the compasse of the arched skie:        370
Now change your praises into piteous cries,
And eulogies turne into elegies.
Such as ye wont, whenas those bitter stounds
Of raging love first gan you to torment,
And launch your hearts with lamentable wounds        375
Of secret sorrow and sad languishment,
Before your loves did take you unto grace;
Those now renew, as fitter for this place.
For I that rule in measure moderate
The tempest of that stormie passion,        380
And use to paint in rimes the troublous state
Of lovers life in likest fashion,
Am put from practise of my kindlie skill,
Banisht by those that love with leawdnes fill.
Love wont to be schoolmaster of my skill,        385
And the devicefull matter of my song;
Sweete love devoyd of villanie or ill,
But pure and spotles, as at first he sprong
Out of th’ Almighties bosome, where he nests;
From thence infused into mortall brests.        390
Such high conceipt of that celestiall fire,
The base-borne brood of Blindnes cannot gesse,
Ne ever dare their dunghill thoughts aspire
Unto so loftie pitch of perfectnesse,
But rime at riot, and doo rage in love;        395
Yet little wote what doth thereto behove.
Faire Cytheree, the mother of delight
And queene of beautie, now thou maist go pack;
For lo! thy kingdome is defaced quight,
Thy scepter rent, and power put to wrack;        400
And thy gay sonne, that winged God of Love,
May now goe prune his plumes like ruffed dove.
And ye three twins, to light by Venus brought,
The sweete companions of the Muses late,
From whom what ever thing is goodly thought        405
Doth borrow grace, the fancie to aggrate,
Go beg with us, and be companions still,
As heretofore of good, so now of ill.
For neither you nor we shall anie more
Finde entertainment, or in court or schoole:        410
For that which was accounted heretofore
The learneds meed is now lent to the foole;
He sings of love, and maketh loving layes,
And they him heare, and they him highly prayse.
With that she powred foorth a brackish flood        415
Of bitter teares, and made exceeding mone;
And all her sisters, seeing her sad mood,
With lowd laments her answered all at one.
So ended she: and then the next in rew
Began her grievous plaint, as doth ensew.        420
To whom shall I my evill case complaine,
Or tell the anguish of my inward smart,
Sith none is left to remedie my paine,
Or deignes to pitie a perplexed hart;
But rather seekes my sorrow to augment        425
With fowle reproach, and cruell banishment?
For they to whom I used to applie
The faithfull service of my learned skill,
The goodly off-spring of Joves progenie,
That wont the world with famous acts to fill;        430
Whose living praises in heroïck style,
It is my chiefe profession to compyle;
They all corrupted through the rust of time,
That doth all fairest things on earth deface,
Or through unnoble sloth, or sinfull crime,        435
That doth degenerate the noble race,
Have both desire of worthie deeds forlorne,
And name of learning utterly doo scorne.
Ne doo they care to have the auncestrie
Of th’ old heroës memorizde anew;        440
Ne doo they care that late posteritie
Should know their names, or speak their praises dew:
But die forgot from whence at first they sprong,
As they themselves shalbe forgot ere long.
What bootes it then to come from glorious        445
Forefathers, or to have been nobly bredd?
What oddes twixt Irus and old Inachus,
Twixt best and worst, when both alike are dedd,
If none of neither mention should make,
Nor out of dust their memories awake?        450
Or who would ever care to doo brave deed,
Or strive in vertue others to excell,
If none should yeeld him his deserved meed,
Due praise, that is the spur of dooing well?
For if good were not praised more than ill,        455
None would choose goodnes of his owne freewill.
Therefore the nurse of vertue I am hight,
And golden trompet of eternitie,
That lowly thoughts lift up to heavens hight,
And mortall men have powre to deifie:        460
Bacchus and Hercules I raised to heaven,
And Charlemaine, amongst the starris seaven.
But now I will my golden clarion rend,
And will henceforth immortalize no more,
Sith I no more finde worthie to commend        465
For prize of value, or for learned lore:
For noble peeres, whom I was wont to raise,
Now onely seeke for pleasure, nought for praise.
Their great revenues all in sumptuous pride
They spend, that nought to learning they may spare;        470
And the rich fee which poets wont divide
Now parasites and sycophants doo share:
Therefore I mourne and endlesse sorrow make,
Both for my selfe and for my sisters sake.
With that she lowdly gan to waile and shrike,        475
And from her eyes a sea of teares did powre,
And all her sisters, with compassion like,
Did more increase the sharpnes of her showre.
So ended she: and then the next in rew
Began her plaint, as doth herein ensew.        480
What wrath of gods, or wicked influence
Of starres conspiring wretched men t’ afflict,
Hath powrd on earth this noyous pestilence,
That mortall mindes doth inwardly infect
With love of blindnesse and of ignorance,        485
To dwell in darkenesse without sovenance?
What difference twixt man and beast is left,
When th’ heavenlie light of knowledge is put out,
And th’ ornaments of wisdome are bereft?
Then wandreth he in error and in doubt,        490
Unweeting of the danger hee is in,
Through fleshes frailtie and deceipt of sin.
In this wide world in which they wretches stray,
It is the onelie comfort which they have,
It is their light, their loadstarre and their day;        495
But hell and darkenesse and the grislie grave
Is ignorance, the enemie of grace,
That mindes of men borne heavenlie doth debace.
Through knowledge we behold the worlds creation,
How in his cradle first he fostred was;        500
And judge of Natures cunning operation,
How things she formed of a formelesse mas:
By knowledge wee do learne our selves to knowe,
And what to man, and what to God, wee owe.
From hence wee mount aloft unto the skie,        505
And looke into the christall firmament;
There we behold the heavens great hierarchie,
The starres pure light, the spheres swift movement,
The spirites and intelligences fayre,
And angels waighting on th’ Almighties chayre.        510
And there, with humble minde and high insight,
Th’ eternall Makers majestie wee viewe,
His love, his truth, his glorie, and his might,
And mercie more than mortall men can vew.
O soveraigne Lord, O soveraigne happinesse,        515
To see thee, and thy mercie measurelesse!
Such happines have they that doo embrace
The precepts of my heavenlie discipline;
But shame and sorrow and accursed case
Have they that scorne the schoole of arts divine,        520
And banish me, which do professe the skill
To make men heavenly wise through humbled will.
How ever yet they mee despise and spight,
I feede on sweet contentment of my thought,
And please my selfe with mine owne selfe-delight,        525
In contemplation of things heavenlie wrought:
So loathing earth, I looke up to the sky,
And being driven hence, I thether fly.
Thence I behold the miserie of men,
Which want the blis that wisedom would them breed,        530
And like brute beasts doo lie in loathsome den
Of ghostly darkenes, and of gastlie dreed:
For whom I mourne, and for my selfe complaine,
And for my sisters eake, whom they disdaine.
With that shee wept and waild so pityouslie,        535
As if her eyes had beene two springing wells:
And all the rest, her sorrow to supplie,
Did throw forth shrieks and cries and dreery yells.
So ended shee: and then the next in rew
Began her mournfull plaint, as doth ensew.        540
A dolefull case desires a dolefull song,
Without vaine art or curious complements,
And squallid fortune, into basenes flong,
Doth scorne the pride of wonted ornaments.
Then fittest are these ragged rimes for mee,        545
To tell my sorrowes that exceeding bee.
For the sweet numbers and melodious measures,
With which I wont the winged words to tie,
And make a tunefull diapase of pleasures,
Now being let to runne at libertie        550
By those which have no skill to rule them right,
Have now quite lost their naturall delight.
Heapes of huge words uphoorded hideously,
With horrid sound, though having little sence,
They thinke to be chiefe praise of poëtry;        555
And thereby wanting due intelligence,
Have mard the face of goodly poësie,
And made a monster of their fantasie.
Whilom in ages past none might professe,
But princes and high priests, that secret skill;        560
The sacred lawes therein they wont expresse,
And with deepe oracles their verses fill:
Then was shee held in soveraigne dignitie,
And made the noursling of nobilitie.
But now nor prince nor priest doth her maintayne,        565
But suffer her prophaned for to bee
Of the base vulgar, that with hands uncleane
Dares to pollute her hidden mysterie;
And treadeth under foote hir holie things,
Which was the care of kesars and of kings.        570
One onelie lives, her ages ornament,
And myrrour of her Makers majestie;
That with rich bountie and deare cherishment
Supports the praise of noble poësie:
Ne onelie favours them which it professe,        575
But is her selfe a peereles poëtresse.
Most peereles prince, most peereles poëtresse,
The true Pandora of all heavenly graces,
Divine Elisa, sacred Emperesse:
Live she for ever, and her royall p’laces        580
Be fild with praises of divinest wits,
That her eternize with their heavenlie writs.
Some few beside this sacred skill esteme,
Admirers of her glorious excellence,
Which being lightned with her beawties beme,        585
Are thereby fild with happie influence,
And lifted up above the worldes gaze,
To sing with angels her immortall praize.
But all the rest, as borne of salvage brood,
And having beene with acorns alwaies fed,        590
Can no whit savour this celestiall food,
But with base thoughts are into blindnesse led,
And kept from looking on the lightsome day:
For whome I waile and weepe all that I may.
Eftsoones such store of teares shee forth did powre,        595
As if shee all to water would have gone;
And all her sisters, seeing her sad stowre,
Did weep and waile and made exceeding mone;
And all their learned instruments did breake:
The rest untold no living tongue can speake.


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