Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
The Shepheardes Calender
  IN this Æglogue two shepheards boyes, taking occasion of the season, beginne to make purpose of love, and other pleasaunce which to springtime is most agreeable. The speciall meaning hereof is to give certaine markes and tokens to know Cupide, the poets god of love. But more particularlye. I thinke, in the person of Thomalin is meant some secrete freend, who scorned Love and his knights so long, till at length him selfe was entangled, and unwares wounded with the dart of some beautifull regard, which is Cupides arrow.


  Wil.  Thomalin, why sytten we soe,
As weren overwent with woe,
  Upon so fayre a morow?
The joyous time now nigheth fast,
That shall alegge this bitter blast,        5
  And slake the winters sorowe.
  Tho.  Sicker, Willye, thou warnest well:
For winters wrath beginnes to quell,
  And pleasant spring appeareth.
The grasse nowe ginnes to be refresht,        10
The swallow peepes out of her nest,
  And clowdie welkin cleareth.
  Wil.  Seest not thilke same hawthorne studde,
How bragly it beginnes to budde,
  And utter his tender head?        15
Flora now calleth forth eche flower,
And bids make ready Maias bowre,
  That newe is upryst from bedde.
Tho shall we sporten in delight,
And learne with Lettice to wexe light,        20
  That scornefully lookes askaunce;
Tho will we little Love awake,
That nowe sleepeth in Lethe lake,
  And pray him leaden our daunce.
  Tho.  Willye, I wene thou bee assott:        25
For lustie Love still sleepeth not,
  But is abroad at his game.
  Wil.  How kenst thou that he is awoke?
Or hast thy selfe his slomber broke?
  Or made previe to the same?        30
  Tho.  No, but happely I hym spyde,
Where in a bush he did him hide,
  With winges of purple and blewe.
And were not that my sheepe would stray,
The previe marks I would bewray,        35
  Whereby by chaunce I him knewe.
  Wil.  Thomalin, have no care forthy;
My selfe will have a double eye,
  Ylike to my flocke and thine:
For als at home I have a syre,        40
A stepdame eke, as whott as fyre,
  That dewly adayes counts mine.
  Tho.  Nay, but thy seeing will not serve,
My sheepe for that may chaunce to swerve,
  And fall into some mischiefe.        45
For sithens is but the third morowe
That I chaunst to fall a sleepe with sorowe,
  And waked againe with griefe:
The while thilke same unhappye ewe,
Whose clouted legge her hurt doth shewe,        50
  Fell headlong into a dell,
And there unjoynted both her bones:
Mought her necke bene joynted attones,
  She shoulde have neede no more spell.
Thelf was so wanton and so wood,        55
(But now I trowe can better good)
  She mought ne gang on the greene.
  Wil.  Let be, as may be, that is past:
That is to come, let be forecast.
  Now tell us what thou hast seene.        60
  Tho.  It was upon a holiday,
When shepheardes groomes han leave to play,
  I cast to goe a shooting.
Long wandring up and downe the land,
With bowe and bolts in either hand,        65
  For birds in bushes tooting,
At length within an yvie todde
(There shrouded was the little god)
  I heard a busie bustling.
I bent my bolt against the bush,        70
Listening if any thing did rushe,
  But then heard no more rustling.
Tho peeping close into the thicke,
Might see the moving of some quicke,
  Whose shape appeared not:        75
But were it faerie, feend, or snake,
My courage earnd it to awake,
  And manfully thereat shotte.
With that sprong forth a naked swayne,
With spotted winges like peacocks trayne,        80
  And laughing lope to a tree,
His gylden quiver at his backe,
And silver bowe, which was but slacke,
  Which lightly he bent at me.
That seeing I, levelde againe,        85
And shott at him with might and maine,
  As thicke as it had hayled.
So long I shott that al was spent:
Tho pumie stones I hastly hent,
  And threwe; but nought availed:        90
He was so wimble and so wight,
From bough to bough he lepped light,
  And oft the pumies latched.
Therewith affrayd I ranne away:
But he, that earst seemd but to playe,        95
  A shaft in earnest snatched,
And hit me running in the heele:
For then, I little smart did feele;
  But soone it sore encreased.
And now it ranckleth more and more,        100
And inwardly it festreth sore,
  Ne wote I how to cease it.
  Wil.  Thomalin, I pittie thy plight.
Perdie, with Love thou diddest fight:
  I know him by a token.        105
For once I heard my father say,
How he him caught upon a day,
  (Whereof he wilbe wroken)
Entangled in a fowling net,
Which he for carrion crowes had set,        110
  That in our peeretree haunted.
Tho sayd, he was a winged lad,
But bowe and shafts as then none had,
  Els had he sore be daunted.
But see, the welkin thicks apace,        115
And stouping Phebus steepes his face:
  Yts time to hast us homeward.

        To be wise and eke to love,
Is graunted scarce to god above.

        Of hony and of gaule in love there is store:
The honye is much, but the gaule is more.


  This Æglogue seemeth somewhat to resemble that same of Theocritus, wherein the boy likewise telling the old man, that he had shot at a winged boy in a tree, was by hym warned to beware of mischiefe to come.
  Overwent, overgone.
  Alegge, to lessen or aswage.
  To quell, to abate.
  Welkin, the skie.
  The swallow, which bird useth to be counted the messenger, and as it were, the forerunner, of springe.
  Flora, the goddesse of flowres, but indede (as saith Tacitus) a famous harlot, which, with the abuse of her body having gotten great riches, made the people of Rome her heyre: who, in remembraunce of so great beneficence, appointed a yearely feste for the memoriall of her, calling her, not as she was, nor as some doe think, Andronica, but Flora: making her the goddesse of all floures, and doing yerely to her solemne sacrifice.
  Maias bower, that is, the pleasaunt field, or rather the Maye bushes. Maia is a goddes and the mother of Mercurie, in honour of whome the moneth of Maye is of her name so called, as sayth Macrobius.
  Lettice, the name of some country lasse.
  Ascaunce, askewe or asquint.
  Forthy, therefore.
  Lethe is a lake in hell, which the poetes call the lake of forgetfulnes. For Lethe signifieth forgetfulnes. Wherein the soules being dipped, did forget the cares of their former lyfe. So that by Love sleeping in Lethe lake, he meaneth he was almost forgotten, and out of knowledge, by reason of winters hardnesse, when al pleasures, as it were, sleepe and weare oute of mynde.
  Assotte, to dote.
  His slomber: To breake Loves slomber is to exercise the delightes of love and wanton pleasures.
  Winges of purple, so is he feyned of the poetes.
  For als: He imitateth Virgils verse,
        ‘Est mihi namque domi pater, est injusta noverca, &c.’
  A dell, a hole in the ground.
  Spell is a kinde of verse or charme, that in elder tymes they used often to say over every thing that they would have preserved, as the nightspel for theeves, and the woodspell. And herehence, I thinke, is named the gospell, as it were Gods spell or worde. And so sayth Chaucer, ‘Listeneth Lordings to my spell.’
  Gange, goe.
  An yvie todde, a thicke bush.
  Swaine, a boye: for so is he described of the poetes to be a boye, sc. alwayes freshe and lustie: blindfolded, because he maketh no difference of personages: wyth divers coloured winges, sc. ful of flying fancies: with bowe and arrow, that is, with glaunce of beautye, which prycketh as a forked arrowe. He is sayd also to have shafts, some leaden, some golden: that is, both pleasure for the gracious and loved, and sorow for the lover that is disdayned or forsaken. But who liste more at large to behold Cupids colours and furniture, let him reade ether Propertius, or Moschus his Idyllion of wandring Love, being now most excellently translated into Latine, by the singuler learned man Angelus Politianus: whych worke I have seene, amongst other of thys poets doings, very wel translated also into Englishe rymes.
  Wimble and wighte, quicke and deliver.
  In the heele is very poetically spoken, and not without speciall judgement. For I remember that in Homer it is sayd of Thetis, that shee tooke her young babe Achilles, being newely borne, and, holding him by the heele, dipped him in the River of Styx. The vertue whereof is, to defend and keepe the bodyes washed therein from any mortall wound. So Achilles being washed al over, save onely his hele, by which his mother held, was in the rest invulnerable: therfore by Paris was feyned to bee shotte with a poysoned arrowe in the heele, whiles he was busie about the marying of Polyxena in the temple of Apollo: which mysticall fable Eustathius unfolding sayth: that by wounding in the hele is meant lustfull love. For from the heele (as say the best phisitions) to the previe partes there passe certaine veines and slender synnewes, as also the like come from the head, and are carryed lyke little pypes behynd the eares: so that (as sayth Hipocrates) yf those veynes there be cut asonder, the partie straighte becometh cold and unfruiteful. Which reason our poete wel weighing, maketh this shepheards boye of purpose to be wounded by Love in the heele.
  Latched, caught.
  Wroken, revenged.
  For once: In this tale is sette out the simplicitye of shepheards opinion of Love.
  Stouping Phæbus is a periphrasis of the sunne setting.

  Hereby is meant, that all the delights of love, wherein wanton youth walloweth, be but follye mixt with bitternesse, and sorow sawced with repentaunce. For besides that the very affection of love it selfe tormenteth the mynde, and vexeth the body many wayes, with unrestfulnesse all night, and wearines all day, seeking for that we can not have, and fynding that we would not have: even the selfe things which best before us lyked, in course of time and chaung of ryper yeares, whiche also therewithall chaungeth our wonted lyking and former fantasies, will then seeme lothsome and breede us annoyaunce, when yougthes flowre is withered, and we fynde our bodyes and wits aunswere not to suche vayne jollitie and lustfull pleasaunce.

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