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We are reaching the end of the year and now it is time too to reach the end of The Shepheardes Calender.  This year was harder to get through than I expected it to be…and so was this poem!  There was a lot of weird maudlin rustic business going on and a lot of terrifying politics.  The entire thing was nearly impossible to understand–even with help from trained commenters.  Perhaps you will not be entirely surprised that the conclusion of The Shepheardes Calender is sad and unfullfilling–since it ends the same way it started:  it is winter and Colin, the writer’s alter-ego and approximate protagonist of the piece is  lamenting his unhappy lot (and his unrequited love for Rosalind).

Colin compares the four seasons of the year to the four stages of human life, but he concludes that an early winter has blighted the fruits of fall and laments that winter will finish him off (which proved prophetic for Spenser, whose fortunes fell apart utterly which led him to an early death of starvation).  Like the November ecologue, the lament has the full force of conviction behind it and the poetry (my favorite passage of Spenser is the passage in the Fairy Queen, where Despair nearly defeats the RedCrosse knight by whispering syllabant words of negation and defeatism).  The Redcrosse knight is rescued by Una and Arthur…but no such figures hold out hope for shepheardes and poets, so we leave Colin heartbroken saying fairwell to his sheep as the cold settles ineluctably upon him.  Yet the poem is still here…and we are still talking about Spenser…Vivitur ingenio, caetera mortis erunt!

Without further comment, here is the conclusion of

The Shepheardes Calender

December

december.gif

Ægloga Duodecima.

 A R G V M E N T.

THis Æglogue (euen as the first beganne) is ended with a complaynte of Colin to God Pan. wherein as weary of his former wayes, he proportioneth his life to the foure seasons of the yeare, comparing hys youthe to the spring time, when he was fresh and free form loues follye. His manhoode to the sommer, which he sayth, was consumed with greate heate and excessiue drouth caused through a Comet or blasinge starre, by which he meaneth loue, which passion is comenly compared to such flames and immoderate heate. His riper yeares hee resembleth to an vnseasonable harueste wherein the fruites fall ere they be rype. His latter age to winters chyll & frostie season, now drawing neare to his last ende.

THe gentle shepheard satte beside a springe,
All in the shadowe of a bushy brere,
That Colin hight, which wel could pype and singe,
For he of Tityrus his songs did lere.
There as he satte in secreate shade alone,
Thus gan he make of loue his piteous mone. O soueraigne Pan thou God of shepheards all,
Which of our tender Lambkins takest keepe:
And when our flocks into mischaunce mought fall,
Doest save from mischeife the vnwary sheepe:
Als of their maisters hast no lesse regarde,
Then of the flocks, which thou doest watch and ward:

 I thee beseche (so be thou deigne to heare,
Rude ditties tund to shepheards Oaten reede,
Or if I euer sonet song so cleare,
As it with pleasaunce mought thy fancie feede)
Hearken awhile from thy greene cabinet,
The rurall song of carefull Colinet.

 Whilome in youth, when flowrd my ioyfull spring,
Like Swallow swift I wandred here and there:
For heate of heedlesse lust me so did sting,
That I of doubted daunger had no feare.
I went the wastefull woodes and forest wyde,
Withouten dreade of Wolues to bene espyed.

 I wont to raunge amydde the mazie thickette,
And gather nuttes to make me Christmas game:
And ioyed oft to chace the trembling Pricket,
Or hunt the hartlesse hare, til shee were tame.
What wreaked I of wintrye ages waste,
Tho deemed I, my spring would euer laste.

 How often haue I scaled the craggie Oke,
All to dislodge the Rauen of her neste:
Howe haue I wearied with many a stroke,
The stately Walnut tree, the while the rest
Vnder the tree fell all for nuts at strife:
For ylike to me was libertee and lyfe.

 And for I was in thilke same looser yeares,
(Whether the Muse so wrought me from my birth,
Or I tomuch beleeued my shepherd peres)
Somedele ybent to song and musicks mirth,
A good olde shephearde, Wrenock was his name,
Made me by arte more cunning in the same.

 Fro thence I durst in derring [doe] compare
With shepheards swayne, what euer fedde in field:
And if that Hobbinol right iudgement bare,
To Pan his owne selfe pype I neede not yield.
For if the flocking Nymphes did folow Pan,
The wiser Muses after Colin ranne.

 But ah such pryde at length was ill repayde,
The shepheards God (perdie God was he none)
My hurtlesse pleasaunce did me ill vpbraide,
My freedome lorne, my life he lefte to mone.
Loue they him called, that gaue me checkmate,
But better mought they haue behote him Hate.

 Tho gan my louely Spring bid me farewel,
And Sommer season sped him to display
(For loue then in the Lyons house did dwell)
The raging fyre, that kindled at his ray.
A comett stird vp that vnkindly heate,
That reigned (as men sayd) in Venus seate.

 Forth was I ledde, not as I wont afore,
When choise I had to choose my wandring waye:
But whether luck and loues vnbridled lore
Would leade me forth on Fancies bitte to playe:
The bush my bedde, the bramble was my bowre,
The Woodes can witnesse many a wofull stowre.

 Where I was wont to seeke the honey Bee,
Working her formall rowmes in Wexen frame:
The grieslie Todestool growne there mought I se
And loathed Paddocks lording on the same.
And where the chaunting birds luld me a sleepe,
The ghastlie Owle her grieuous ynne doth keepe.

 Then as the springe giues place to elder time,
And bringeth forth the fruite of sommers pryde:
Also my age now passed yougthly pryme,
To thinges of ryper reason selfe applyed.
And learnd of lighter timber cotes to frame,
Such as might saue my sheepe and me fro shame.

 To make fine cages for the Nightingale,
And Baskets of bulrushes was my wont:
Who to entrappe the fish in winding sale
Was better seene, or hurtful beastes to hont?
I learned als the signes of heauen to ken,
How Phoebe sayles, where Venus sittes and when.

 And tryed time yet taught me greater thinges,
The sodain rysing of the raging seas:
The soothe of byrds by beating of their wings,
The power of herbs, both which can hurt and ease:
And which be wont tenrage the restlesse sheepe,
And which be wont to worke eternall sleepe.

 But ah vnwise and witlesse Colin cloute,
That kydst the hidden kinds of many a wede:
Yet kydst not ene to cure thy sore hart roote,
Whose ranckling wound as yet does rifely bleede.
Why liuest thou stil, and yet hast thy deathes wound?
Why dyest thou stil, and yet aliue art founde?

 Thus is my sommer worne away and wasted,
Thus is my haruest hastened all to rathe:
The eare that budded faire, is burnt & blasted,
And all my hoped gaine is turned to scathe.
Of all the seede, that in my youth was sowne,
Was nought but brakes and brambles to be mowne.

 My boughes with bloosmes that crowned were at firste,
And promised of timely fruite such store,
Are left both bare and barrein now at erst:
The flattring fruite is fallen to grownd before.
And rotted, ere they were halfe mellow ripe:
My haruest wast, my hope away dyd wipe.

 The fragrant flowres, that in my garden grewe, 
Bene withered, as they had bene gathered long.
Theyr rootes bene dryed vp for lacke of dewe,
Yet dewed with teares they han be euer among.
Ah who has wrought my Ro[s]alind this spight
To spil the flowres, that should her girlond dight,

 And I, that whilome wont to frame my pype,
Vnto the shifting of the shepheards foote:
Sike follies nowe haue gathered as too ripe,
And cast hem out, as rotten an vnsoote.
The loser Lasse I cast to please nomore,
One if I please, enough is me therefore.

 And thus of all my haruest hope I haue 
Nought reaped but a weedye crop of care:
Which, when I thought haue thresht in swelling sheaue,
Cockel for corne, and chaffe for barley bare.
Soone as the chaffe should in the fan be fynd,
All was blowne away of the wauering wynd.

 So now my yeare drawes to his latter terme,
My spring is spent, my sommer burnt vp quite:
My harueste hasts to stirre vp winter sterne,
And bids him clayme with rigorous rage hys right.
So nowe he stormes with many a sturdy stoure,
So now his blustring blast eche coste doth scoure.

 The carefull cold hath nypt my rugged rynde,
And in my face deepe furrowes eld hath pight:
My head besprent with hoary frost I fynd,
And by myne eie the Crow his clawe dooth wright.
Delight is layd abedde, and pleasure past,
No sonne now shines, cloudes han all ouercast.

 Now leaue ye shepheards boyes yo[u]r merry glee,
My Muse is hoarse and weary of thys stounde:
Here will I hang my pype vpon this tree,
Was neuer pype of reede did better sounde.
Winter is come, that blowes the bitter blaste,
And after Winter dreerie death does hast.

 Gather ye together my little flocke,
My little flock, that was to me so liefe:
Let me, ah lette me in your folds ye lock,
Ere the breme Winter breede you greater griefe.
Winter is come, that blowes the balefull breath,
And after Winter commeth timely death.

 Adieu delightes, that lulled me asleepe,
Adieu my deare, whose loue I bought so deare:
Adieu my little Lambes and loued sheepe,
Adieu ye Woodes that oft my witnesse were:
Adieu good Hobbinol, that was so true,
Tell Rosalind, her Colin bids her adieu.

Colins Embleme.[Vivitur ingenio, caetera mortis erunt.]

Throughout October, I had the uneasy feeling that I was missing something….and lo! such was indeed the case… Sadly, I somehow forgot about the Shepheardes Calender October eclogue.  I am now faced with an unappealing choice.  Either I must publish the October chapter swiftly, before your memory of October fades away forever, or I must wait for next year.   The Shephearde’s Calender came out in 1579, and the passage of the years is not making it any easier to understand, so I think we better have a belated little piece of October in November.  On the plus side, the October eclogue actually makes sense: Cuddy is lamenting the poet’s life and the meager remuneration thereof. It all sounds too familiar somehow…. Here it is.

 

October.
[Woodcut for October]

 Ægloga decima.

 A R G V M E N T.

IN Cuddie is set out the perfecte paterne of a Poete, whishe finding no maintenaunce of his state and studies, complayneth of the contempte of Poetrie, and the causes thereof: Specially hauing bene in all ages, and euen amongst the most barbarous alwayes of singular accounpt & honor, & being indeede so worthy and commendable an arte: or rather no arte, but a diuine gift and heauenly instinct not to bee gotten by laboure and learning, but adorned with both: and poured into the witte by a certaine [enthusiasmos], 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 vpon further aduisement to publish. 

PIERS. CUDDY.

Cuddy, for shame hold up thy heavy Head,
And let us cast with what delight to chace,
And weary this long lingring Phoebus’ Race.
Whylom thou wont the Shepherd’s Lads to lead,
In Rimes, in Riddles, and in Bidding base:
Now they in thee, and thou in sleep art dead.

CUDDY.
Piers, I have piped earst so long with pain,
That all mine Oaten Reeds been rent and wore;
And my poor Muse hath spent her spared Store,
Yet little Good hath got, and much less Gain.
Such Pleasance makes the Grashopper so poor,
And lig so laid, when Winter doth her strain.

The dapper Ditties thee I wont devise,
To feed Youth’s Fancy, and the flocking Fry,
Delighten much: what I the bett for-thy?
They han the Pleasure, I a slender Prize.
I beat the Bush, the Birds to them do fly:
What good thereof to Cuddy can arise?

PIERS.
Cuddy, the Praise is better than the Price,
The Glory eke much greater than the Gain:
O what an honour is it, to restrain
The Lust of lawless Youth with good Advice?
Or prick them forth with Pleasance of thy Vein,
Whereto thou list their trained Wills entice.

Soon as thou ‘gins to set thy Notes in frame,
O how the rural Routs to thee do cleave!
Seemeth thou doost their Soul of Sense bereave,
All as the Shepherd, that did fetch his Dame
From Pluto’s baleful Bower withouten leave:
His Musick’s Might the hellish Hound did tame.

CUDDY.
So praysen Babes the Peacock’s spotted Train,
And wondren at bright Argus’ blazing Eye;
But who rewards him ere the more for-thy?
Or feeds him once the fuller by a grain?
Sike Praise is Smoke, that sheddeth in the Sky;
Sike Words been Wind, and wasten soon in vain.

PIERS.
Abandon then the base and viler Clown,
Lift up thy self out of the lowly Dust;
And sing of bloody Mars, of Wars, of Giusts;
Turn thee to those that weld the aweful Crown,
To doubted Knights, whose woundless Armour rusts,
And Helms unbruzed, wexen daily brown.

There may thy Muse display her fluttering Wing,
And stretch her self at large from East to West;
Whither thou list in fair Elisa rest,
Or if thee please in bigger Notes to sing,
Advance the Worthy whom she loveth best,
That first the white Bear to the Stake did bring.

And when the stubborn Stroke of stronger Stounds,
Has somewhat slackt the Tenor of thy String;
Of Love and Lustihead tho mayst thou sing,
And carrol loud, and lead the Millers round;
All were Elisa one of thilk same Ring,
So mought our Cuddy’s Name to Heaven sound.

CUDDY.
Indeed the Romish Tityrus, I hear,
Through his Mecoenas left his Oaten Reed,
Whereon he earst had taught his Flocks to feed;
And laboured Lands to yield the timely Ear;
And eft did sing of Wars and deadly Dreed,
So as the Heavens did quake his Verse to hear.

But ah! Mecoenas is yclad in Clay,
And great Augustus long ygo is dead;
And all the worthies liggen wrapt in Lead,
That matter made for Poets on to play.
For ever, who in Derring-do were dread,
The lofty Verse of hem was loved aye.

But after Vertue ‘gan for Age to stoup,
And mighty Manhood brought a bed of ease;
The vaunting Poets found nought worth a Pease,
To put in preace among the learned Troup:
Tho ‘gan the Streams of flowing Wits to cease,
And sunbright Honour pen’d in shameful Coup.

And if that any Budds of Poesy,
Yet of the old Stock ‘gan to shoot again:
Or it Mens Follies mote so force to fain,
And roll with rest in Rimes of Ribaudry;
Or as it sprang, it wither must again:
Tom Piper makes us better Melody.

PIERS.
O peerless Poesie, where is then thy place?
If not in Princes Palace thou dost sit
(And yet is Princes Palace the most fit)
Ne Breast of baser Birth doth thee embrace;
Then make thee Wings of thine aspiring Wit,
And, whence thou cam’st, fly back to Heaven apace.

CUDDY.
Ah Percy, it is all too weak and wan,
So high to sore and make so large a flight:
Her peeced Pineons been not so in plight,
For Colin fits such famous Flight to scan;
He, were he not with Love so ill bedight,
Would mount as high, and sing as soot as Swan.

PIERS.
Ah Fon, for Love does teach him climb so high
And lifts him up out of the loathsom Mire:
Such immortal Mirror, as he doth admire,
Would raise one’s Mind above the starry Sky,
And cause a caitive Courage to aspire:
For lofty Love doth loath a lowly Eye.

CUDDY.
All otherwise the state of Poet stands;
For lordly Love is such a Tyrant fell,
That where he rules, all Power he doth expell,
The vaunted Verse a vacant Head demands,
Ne wont with crabbed Care the Muses dwell:
Unwisely weaves, that takes two Webs in hand.

Who ever casts to compass weighty Prize,
And think to throw out thundering Words of Threat,
Let pour in lavish Cups and thrifty Bits of Meat;
For Bacchus’ Fruit is friend to Phoebus’ Wise:
And when with Wine the Brain begins to sweat,
The Numbers flow as fast as Spring doth rise.

Thou kenst not, Percie, how the Rime should rage;
O if my Temples were distain’d with Wine,
And girt in Girlonds of wild Ivy Twine,
How I could rear the Muse on stately Stage,
And teach her tread aloft in Buskin line,
With queint Bellona in her Equipage.

But ah, my Courage cools ere it be warm,
For-thy content us in this humble Shade:
Where no such troublous Tides han us assaid,
Here we our slender Pipes may safely charm.

PIERS.
And when my Goats shall han their Bellies laid,
Cuddy shall have a Kid to store his Farm.

CUDDY’S EMBLEM.
Agitante calescimus illo, &c.

 

The year progresses and we have finally reached autumn.  It’s time to get back to the Shepheardes Calender and see what Spenser has to say! For the month of September, Spenser has crafted a special (and especially hard-to-understand) treat for us.  The ninth installation of the poem is written in archaic west-country dialect touched with Welsh.  This eclogue is perhaps where Shepherdes Calender comes closest to Middle English.  And yet the language is modern, despite the pretensions to antiquity (which coincidentally, lead urbane 17th century poets to despise Spenser…and 18th century pastoralists to imitate his ).

Here is a quick synopsis: after falling on hard times, the shepherd Diggon Davie has sojourned to foreign parts in order to seek greater fortune.  However instead of finding wealth he found even greater penury among Catholic shepherds who must neglect their flocks to feed the appetites of priests and profligate lords.  The satire soon devolves into a complex political metaphor about rapacious foreign wolves, dangerous domestic foxes, and much argument about what sort of stalwart dogs are needed to protect good Englishmen…er, I mean “shepherds” from the same.

I really like the September eclogue with its hillfolk making fun of fancy popery and the profligate ways of foreign folks.  Even the yokel-talk seems oddly familiar (if you are having trouble with it, just read it aloud). I suspect it is not just West Virginians who will enjoy it.  Here is the full eclogue:

september

Shepheardes Calender VIIII: September

HOBBINOL. DIGGON DAVIE.

Diggon Davie, I bid her God-day:
Or Diggon her is, or I missay.

DIGGON
Her was her, while it was Day-light,
But now her is a most wretched Wight.
For Day that was, is wightly past,
And now at last the dirk Night doth haste.

HOBBINOL.
Diggon, areed who has thee so dight:
Never I wilt thee in so poor a plight.
Where is the fair Flock, thou west wont to lead?
Or been they chaffred? or at Mischief dead?

DIGGON
Ah, for love of that is to thee most leef,
Hobbinol, I pray thee gall not my old Grief:
Sike question rippeth up cause of new Woe;
For one open’d, mote unfold many mo.

HOBBINOL.
Nay, but Sorrow close shrouded in Heart,
I know, to keep is a burdenous smart.
Each thing imparted, is more eath to bear:
When the Rain is fallen the Clouds waxen clear.
And now sithence I saw thy head last,
Thrice three Moons been fully spent and past;
Since when thou hast measured much Ground,
And wandred weel about the World round,
So as thou can many things relate:
But tell me first of thy flock’s Estate.

DIGGON
My Sheep been wasted (woe is me therefore!)
The jolly Shepherd that was of yore,
Is now nor jolly, nor Shepherd more,
In foreign Coasts Men said, was plenty;
And so there is, but all of misery.
I dempt there much to have eeked my Store,
But such eeking hath made my Heart sore.
In tho Countries where I have been,
No being for those, that truly mean;
But for such as of Guile maken gain,
No such Country as there to remain.
They setten to Sale their Shops of shame,
And maken a Market of their good Name.
The Shepherds there robben one another,
And layen Baits to beguile her brother.
Or they will buy his Sheep out of the Coat,
Or they will carven the Shepherd’s Throat.
The Shepherd’s Swain you cannot well ken
But it be by his Pride, from other Men:
They looken big as Bulls that been bate,
And bearen the Crag so stiff and so state,
As Cock on his Dunghill, crowing crank.

HOBBINOL.
Diggon, I am so stiff and so stank,
That unneath may I stand any more:
And now the Western Wind bloweth sore,
That now is in his chief Sovereignty,
Beating the withered Leaf from the Tree.
Sit we down here under the Hill;
Tho may we talk and tellen our fill,
And make a Mock at the blustering Blast:
Now say on Diggon what ever thou hast.

DIGGON
Hobbin, ah Hobbin, I curse the Stound,
That ever I cast to have lorn this Ground.
Wele-away the while I was so fond,
To leave the Good that I had in hond,
In hope of better that was uncouth:
So lost the Dog the Flesh in his Mouth.
My seely Sheep (ah seely Sheep)
That hereby I whylom us’d to keep,
All were they lusty, as thou diddest see,
Been all starved with Pine and Penury;
Hardly my self escaped thilk pain,
Driven for Need to come home again.

HOBBINOL.
Ah Fon, now by thy Loss art taught,
That seldom change the better brought.
Content who lives with tried State,
Need fear no change of frowning Fate:
But who will seek for unknown Gain,
Oft lives by Loss, and leaves with Pain.

DIGGON
I wote ne, Hobbin, how I was bewitcht
With vain Desire, and Hope to be enricht.
But siker so it is, as the bright Star
Seemeth a greater, when it is far:
I thought the Soil would have made me rich;
But now I wote it is nothing sich.
For either the Shepherds been idle and still,
And led of their Sheep, what way they will:
Or they been false, and full of Covetise,
And casten to compass many wrong Emprise.
But more been fraught with Fraud and Spight,
Ne in Good nor Goodness taken delight;
But kindle Coals of Conteck and Yre,
Wherewith they set all the World on fire:
Which when they thinken again to quench,
With holy Water they doen hem all drench.
They say they con to Heaven the high-way;
But by my Soul I dare underlay,
They never set Foot in that same bode,
But balk the right way, and strayen abroad.
They boast they han the Devil at commaund;
But ask hem, therefore what they han paund:
Marry that great Pan bought with great borrow,
To quite it from the black Bower of Sorrow.
But they han sold thilk same long ago:
For they would draw with hem many mo.
But let hem gang alone a God’s Name;
As they han brewed, so let them bear blame.

HOBBINOL.
Diggon, I pray thee speak not so dirk:
Such myster saying me seemeth to mirk.

DIGGON
Then plainly to speak of Shepherds most what:
Bad is the best (this English is flat)
Their ill Haviour gars Men missay
Both of their Doctrine, and their Fay.
They say the World is much war than it wont,
All for her Shepherds is beastly and blont.
Other sain, but how truly I note,
All for they holden shame of their Cote:
Some stick not to say (hot Cole on her Tongue)
That sike mischief graseth hem emong,
All for they casten too much of World’s Care,
To deck her Dame, and enrich her Heir:
For such Encheason, if you go nie,
Few Chimneys reeken you shall espie:
The fat Oxe that woont lig in the Stall,
Is now fast stalled in her Crumenall.
Thus chatten the People in their steads,
Ylik as a Monster of many Heads.
But they that shooten nearest the prick,
Sain, other the Fat from their Beards do lick.
For big Bulls of Basan brace hem about,
That with their Horns butten the more stout:
But the lean Souls treaden under foot,
And to seek redress mought little boot;
For liker been they to pluck away more,
Than ought of the gotten good to restore.
For they been like foul Wagmoires overgrast,
That if any Galage once sticketh fast,
The more to wind it out thou dost swink,
Thou mought aye deeper and deeper sink.
Yet better leave off with a little loss,
Than by much wrestling to leefe the gross.

HOBBINOL.
Now, Diggon, I see thou speakest too plain;
Better it were a little to fain
And cleanly cover that cannot be cured:
Such Ill, as is forced, mought needs be endured.
But of sike Pastors how done the Flocks creep?

DIGGON
Sike as the Shepherds, sike been her Sheep,
For they nill listen to the Shepherd’s Voice:
But if he call hem, at their good choice,
They wander at will, and stay at pleasure,
And to their Folds yead at their own leasure.
But they had be better come at their call:
For many han unto mischief fall,
And ben of ravenous Wolves yrent,
All for they nould be buxome and bent.

HOBBINOL.
Fie on thee, Diggon, and all thy foul leasing:
Well is known that sith the Saxon King,
Never was Wolf seen, many nor some,
Nor in all Kent, nor in Christendom:
But the fewer Wolves (the sooth to sain)
The more been the Foxes that here remain.

DIGGON
Yes, but they gang in more secret wise,
And with Sheeps clothing doen hem disguise.
They talk not widely as they were woont,
For fear of Raungers and the great Hoont:
But privily prolling to and fro,
Enaunter they mought be inly know.

HOBBINOL.
Or privy or pert if any bin,
We have great Bandogs will sear their Skin.

DIGGON
Indeed thy Ball is a bold big Cur,
And could make a jolly hole in their Fur.
But not good Dogs hem needeth to chase,
But heedy Shepherds to discern their face:
For all their Craft is in their Countenance,
They been so grave, and full of maintenance.
But shall I tell thee what my self know,
Chaunced to Roffin not long ygoe?

HOBBINOL.
Say it out, Diggon, whatever it hight,
For not but well mought him betight.
He is so meek, wise, and merciable,
And with his word his work is convenable.
Colin Clout I ween be his self Boy,
(Ah for Colin he whylom my Joy
Shepherds sich, God mought us many send,
That doen so carefully their Flocks tend.)

DIGGON
Thilk same Shepherd mought I well mark,
He has a Dog to bite or to bark;
Never had Shepherd so keen a Cur,
That waketh, and if but a Leaf stur.
Whilom these wonned a wicked Wolf,
That with many a Lamb had gutted his Gulf,
And ever at night wont to repair
Unto the Flock, when the Welkin shone fair,
Yclad in clothing of seely Sheep,
When the good old Man used to sleep:
Tho at midnight he would bark and ball,
(For he had eft learned a Cur’s Call)
As if a Wolf were among the Sheep.
With that the Shepherd would break his Sleep,
And send out Lowder (for so his Dog hote)
To raunge the Fields with open throte.
Tho when as Lowder was far away,
This wolvish Sheep would catchen his Prey,
A Lamb, or a Kid, or a Weanell wast:
With that to the Wood would he speed him fast.
Long time he used this slippery prank,
Ere Roffy could for his Labour him thank.
At end, the Shepherd his practise spied,
(For Roffy is wise, and as Argus eyed)
And when at Even he came to the Flock,
Fast in their Folds he did them lock,
And took out the Woolf in his counterfeit Cote,
And let out the Sheeps-Blood at his throte.

HOBBINOL.
Marry Diggon, what should him affray
To take his own where ever it lay?
For had his Weasand been a little widder,
He would have devoured both hidder and shidder.

DIGGON
Mischief light on him, and God’s great Curse,
Too good for him had been a great deal wurse;
For it was a perillous Beast above all,
And eke had he con’d the Shepherd’s Call;
And oft in the night came to the Sheep-Cote,
And called Lowder, with a hollow Throte,
As if the old Man’s self had been.
The Dog his Maister’s Voice did it ween,
Yet half in doubt he open’d the door,
And ran out, as he was wont of yore.
No sooner was out, but swifter than Thought,
Fast by the Hide the Wolf Lowder caught;
And had not Roffy ren to the Steven,
Lowder had been slain thilk same Even.

HOBBINOL.
God shield Man, he should so ill have thrive,
All for he did his Devoir believe.
If sike been Wolves, as thou hast told,
How mought we, Diggon, hem behold?

DIGGON
How, but with Heed and Watchfullness,
Forstallen hem of their Wiliness.
For-thy with Shepherds fits not play,
Or sleep, as some doen, all the long day:
But ever liggen in watch and ward,
From suddain Force their Flocks for to gard.

HOBBINOL.
Ah Diggon, thilk same Rule were too straight,
All the cold Season to watch and wait.
We been of Flesh, Men as other be,
Why should we be bound to such Misery?
What-ever thing lacketh changeable Rest,
Mought needs decay, when it is at best.

DIGGON
Ah, but Hobbinol, all this long Tale
Nought easeth the Care that doth me forhaile;
What shall I do? what way shall I wend,
My piteous plight and loss to amend?
Ah good Hobbinol, mought I thee pray,
Of Aid or Counsel in my decay.

HOBBINOL.
Now by my Soul, Diggon, I lament
The hapless Mischief that has thee hent:
Netheless thou seest my lowly Sail,
That froward Fortune doth ever avail.
But were Hobbinol as God mought please,
Diggon should soon find favour and ease.
But if to my Cottage thou wilt resort,
So as I can, I will thee comfort;
There maist thou lig in a vetchy Bed,
Till fairer Fortune shew forth his head.

DIGGON
Ah Hobbinol, God mought it thee requite,
Diggon on few such Friends did ever lite.

DIGGON’S EMBLEM.
Inopem me copia fecit.

It’s time for our monthly installment of the Shepheardes Calender, an epic poetic journey through the 12 months of the year which takes the form of dialogues between classically-minded shepherds concerning love, poetry, sheep, and politics. Ultimately the poem is about nature and the nature of reality and, of course, it is about love. We have come half-way through the year, from January’s abject darkness to glowing light of June. The exceedingly beautiful month of May featured a very peculiar and dark sort of fable. Likewise glorious June features a sad tale of love lost… The beauteous shepherdess Rosalind has left Colin for his arch-rival…yet this lament is couched within lovely pastoral poetry.

What is going on with this thing anyway? Who are these people and what are they talking about? Spenser wrote his poems for sophisticated classically-trained courtiers who delighted in unraveling complicated intrigues and unmasking hidden figures.  By this time, it has become plain that the unhappy, but gifted Colin represents Spenser himself.  Likewise the figure of Tityrus, “the God of Shepherds,” is Chaucer, the progenitor of English verse.  The identity of Rosalind, who appeared back in January to inaugurate the entire work, would seem to be the central mystery of The Shephearde’s Calender, but who she is…whether she represents love in general, or fame, or poetry…or whether she is some actual golden haired beauty whom the melancholic Spenser fixated upon is lost in time.

The poetry of each season has an entirely different character just as the months are each different.  So far the words have been honeyed and filigreed to the point where they are too pretty to understand, but June features the summer solstice–the turn of the year.  As the year darkens and winds down, the poems become earthier and easier to understand.  Perhaps we can get some closure on this Colin/Rosalind romance then, but if things are not good in June, when will they be good?

Well, there are still six months to come, but for now, here is June’s Aeglogue:

june

Aeglogue

HOBBINOL. COLIN.
Lo! Colin, here the Place, whose pleasant Sight
From other Shades hath wean’d my wandring Mind:
Tell me, what wants me here, to work Delight?
The simple Air, she gentle warbling Wind,
So calm, so cool, as no where else I find:
The grassy Ground with dainty Daisies dight,
The Bramble Bush, where Birds of every kind
To th’ Water’s Fall their Tunes attemper right.

COLIN.
O! happy Hoblinol, I bless thy State,
That Paradise hast found which Adam lost.
Here wander may thy Flock early or late,
Withouten Dread of Wolves to been ytost;
Thy lovely Lays here mayst thou freely boast:
But I, unhappy Man! whom cruel Fate,
And angry God, pursue from Coast to Coast,
Can no where find, to shroud my luckless Pate.

HOBBINOL.
Then if by me thou list advised be,
Forsake the Soil, that so doth thee bewitch:
Leave me those Hills, where Harbrough nis to see,
Nor Holly-bush, nor Brere, nor winding Ditch;
And to the Dales resort, where Shepherds rich,
And fruitful Flocks been every where to see:
Here no Night-Ravens lodge, more black than Pitch,
Nor elvish Ghosts, nor ghastly Owls do flee.

But friendly Fairies, met with many Graces,
And lightfoot Nymphs can chace the lingring Night,
With Heydeguies, and trimly trodden Traces;
Whilst Sisters nine, which dwell on Parnass’ hight,
Do make them Musick, for their mere Delight;
And Pan himself to kiss their crystal Faces,
Will pipe and daunce, when Phoebe shineth bright:
Such peerless Pleasures have we in these Places.

COLIN.
And I, whilst Youth, and Course of careless Years,
Did let me walk withouten Links of Love,
In such Delights did joy amongst my Peers;
But riper Age such Pleasures doth reprove,
My Fancy eke from former Follies move
To stayed Steps: for time in passing wears
(As Garments doen, which wexen old above)
And draweth new Delights with hoary Hairs.

Tho couth I sing of Love, and tune my Pipe
Unto my plaintive Pleas in Verses made:
Tho would I seek for Queen-Apples unripe,
To give my Rosalind, and in Sommer Shade
Dight gawdy Girlonds, was my common Trade,
To crown her golden Locks: but Years more ripe,
And Loss of her, whose Love as Life I wayde,
Those weary wanton Toys away did wipe.

HOBBINOL.
Colin, to hear thy Rimes and Roundelays,
Which thou wert wont on wasteful Hills to sing,
I more delight, then Lark in Sommer Days:
Whose Eccho made the neighbour Groves to ring,
And taught the Birds, which in the lower Spring
Did shroud in shady Leaves from sunny Rays;
Frame to thy Song their cheerful cheriping,
Or hold their Peace, for shame of thy sweet Lays.

I saw Calliope with Muses moe,
Soon as thy Oaten Pipe began to sound,
Their Ivory Lutes and Tamburins forgo:
And from the Fountain, where they sate around,
Ren after hastily thy silver Sound.
But when they came, where thou thy Skill didst show,
They drew aback, as half with Shame confound,
Shepherd to see, them in their Art out-go

COLIN.
Of Muses, Hobbinol, I con no Skill,
For they been Daughters of the highest Jove,
And holden Scorn of homely Shepherds-Quill:
For sith I heard that Pan with Phoebus strove,
Which him to much Rebuke and Danger drove,
I never list presume to Parnass’ Hill,
But piping low, in shade of lowly Grove,
I play to please my self, albeit ill.

Nought weigh I, who my Song doth praise or blame,
Ne rive to win Renown, or pass the rest:
With Shepherd fits not follow flying Fame,
But feed his Flock in Fields, where falls him best.
I wote my Rimes been rough, and rudely drest;
The fitter they, my careful Case to frame:
Enough is me to paint out my Unrest,
And pour my piteous Plaints out in the same.

The God of Shepherds, Tityrus is dead,
Who taught me homely, as I can, to make:
He, whilst he lived, was the sovereign Head
Of Shepherds all, that been with Love ytake.
Well couth he wail his Woes, and lightly slake
The Flames, which Love within his Heart had bred,
And tell us merry Tales, to keep us wake,
The while our Sheep about us safely fed.

Now dead he is, and lieth wrapt in Lead,
(O why should Death on him such Outrage show!)
And all his passing Skill with him is fled,
The Fame whereof doth daily greater grow.
But if on me some little Drops would flow
Of that the Spring was in his learned Hed,
I soon would learn these Woods to wail my Woe,
And teach the Trees their trickling Tears to shed.

Then should my Plaints, caus’d of Discourtesee,
As Messengers of this my painful Plight,
Fly to my Love, wherever that she be,
And pierce her Heart with Point of worthy Wight;
As she deserves, that wrought so deadly Spight.
And thou, Menalcas, that by Treachery
Didst underfong my Lass to wax so light,
Should’st well be known for such thy Villany.

But since I am not, as I wish I were,
Ye gentle Shepherds, which your Flock do feed,
Whether on Hills, or Dales, or other where,
Bear witness all of this so wicked Deed:
And tell the Lass, whose Flowre is woxe a Weed,
And faultless Faith is turn’d to faithless Fear,
That she the truest Shepherd’s Heart made bleed,
That lives on Earth, and loved her most dear.

HOBBINOL.
O! careful Colin, I lament thy Case,
Thy Tears would make the hardest Flint to flow!
Ah! faithless Rosalind, and void of Grace,
That are the Root of all this rueful Woe!
But now is time, I guess, homeward to go;
Then rise, ye blessed Flocks, and home apace,
Lest Night with stealing Steps do you foreslo,
And wet your tender Lambs, that by you trace.

COLIN’S EMBLEM.
Gia speme spenta.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 4:1074-78]

hawthorn-blossom.jpg

Remember back when it was February and the world was a tattered veil of gray misery?  Well now it is glorious May, and it is hard to recall those dark times. The birds are singing.  The flowers are blooming. Shepherdesses float through Wall Street dressed in summer frocks. Fortunately we have poetry to keep us ever mindful of the darkness & perfidy of the world.

Below is the May installment of Shepheardes Calender: the poem starts out gloriously with exquisite descriptions of Arcadian revels.  There could hardly be a more sumptuous evocation of spring in the country.  If you cannot smell the blooming flowers and hear the songs of the happy youths, then your heart is devoid of pastoral poetry.

But then Spenser starts in with the animal metaphors and we sense that even in May we are not in a Disney movie.  First we have the ape which loves her baby so much that she throttles it by hugging it. Then there is the parable of the young kid who ignores his nanny goat’s stern warnings and opens up his door to the crafty fox..who has come dressed as a pathetic salesman.  This story has all sorts of double meanings, but right now there are so many foxes at the door it is hard to know what to make of it.   Spenser lived in England, where commerce rules…and he died penniless, so perhaps there is a lesson about business and businesspeople from the sly merchant fox.

Yet, even if this segment ends with a dark fable, there are many delights to be had herein.  Besides all of this sorry business about barely disguised tricksters lying and manipulating a gullible audience in order to make a meal of them couldn’t be valid in contemporary America…could it?

GOP 2016 Debate

Well…

Anyway, here is

may

Shepheardes Calender V: Maye

PALINODE. PIERS.

Is not this the merry Month of May,
When Love-Lads masken in fresh Array?
How falls it then, we no merrier been,
Ylike as others, girt in gawdy Green?
Our blonket Liveries been all too sad
For thilk same Season, when all is yclad
With Pleasance; the Ground with Grass, the Woods
With green Leaves, the Bushes with blossoming Buds.
Youth’s Folk now flocken in every where,
To gather May-Buskets, and smelling Breere:
And home they hasten the Posts to dight,
And all the Kirk-Pillers e’er Day-light,
With Hawthorn Buds, and sweet Eglantine,
And Girlonds of Roses, and Sops in Wine.
Such Merry-make holy Saints doth queam:
But we here sitten as drown’d in a Dream.

PIERS.
For Yonkers, Palinode, such Follies fit,
But we tway been Men of elder Wit.

PALINODE.
Siker this morrow, no longer ago,
I saw a Shole of Shepherds out-go,
With singing and shouting, and jolly Cheer:
Before them yode a lusty Tabrere,
That to the Many a Horn-pipe plaid,
Whereto they dauncen each one with his Maid.
To see these Folks make such Jouisaunce,
Made my Heart after the Pipe to daunce.
Tho to the green Wood they speeden them all,
To fetchen home May with their Musical;
And home they bringen in a Royal Throne,
Crowned as King: and his Queen attone
Was Lady Flora, on whom did attend
A fair Flock of Fairies, and a fresh Bend
Of lovely Nymphs. (O that I were there
To helpen the Ladies their May-Bush bear!)
Ah! Piers, been not thy Teeth on edge, to think
How great Sport they gainen with little Swink?

PIERS.
Perdy, so far an I from Envy,
That their Fondness inly I pity:
Those Faitours little regarden their Charge,
While they, letting their Sheep run at large,
Passen their time, that should be sparely spent,
In Lustihed, and wanton Merriment.
Thilk same been Shepherds for the Divel’s sted,
That playen while their Flocks be unfed.
Well it is seen their Sheep be not their own,
That letten them run at random alone.
But they been hired for little Pay,
Of other, that caren as little as they,
What fallen the Flock, so they han the Fleece,
And get all the Gain, paying but a Piece.
I muse, what Account both these will make,
The on for the Hire, which he doth take,
And th’ other for leaving his Lord’s Task,
When great Pan Account of Shepherds shall ask.

PALINODE.
Siker now I see thou speakest of Spight,
All for thou lackest some dele their Delight.
I (as I am) had rather be envied,
All were it of my Foe, that fonly pitied:
And yet, if need were, pitied would be,
Rather than other should scorn at me;
For pitied is Mishap that nas Remedy,
But scorned been Deeds of fond Foolery.
What shoulden Shepherds other things tend,
Than sith their God his Good does them send,
Reapen the Fruit thereof, that is pleasure,
The while they here liven at ease and leisure?
For when they been dead, their Good is ygo,
They sleepen in Rest, well as other moe;
Tho with them wends, what they spent in Cost,
But what they left behind them, is lost.
Good is no Good, but if it be spend;
God giveth Good for none other end.

PIERS.
Ah! Palinode, thou art a World’s Child:
Who touches Pitch, mote needs be defil’d.
But Shepherds (as Algrind used to say)
Mought not live ylike, as Men of the Lay.
With them it fits to care for their Heir,
Enaunter their Heritage do impair:
They must provide for means of Maintenance,
And to continue their wont Countenance.
But Shepherd must walk another way,
Sike worldly Sovenance he must fore-say.
The Son of his Loins, why should he regard
To leave enriched with that he hath spar’d?
Should not thilk God, that gave him that Good,
Eke cherish his Child, if in his ways he stood?
For if he mislive, in Lewdness and Lust,
Little boots all the Wealth and the Trust,
That his Father left by Inheritance,
All will be soon wasted with Misgovernance.
But through this, and other their Miscreance,
They maken many a wrong Chevisance,
Heaping up Waves of Wealth and Woe,
The Floods whereof shall them overflow.
Sike Mens Folly I cannot compare
Better than to the Ape’s foolish Care,
That is so enamoured of her young one,
(And yet God wote, such Cause hath she none)
That with her hard Hold, and straight embracing,
She stoppeth the Breath of her Youngling.
So oftentimes, whenas Good is ment,
Evil ensueth of wrong Intent.

The time was once, and may again retorn,
(For ought may happen that hath been beforn)
When Shepherds had none Inheritance,
Ne of Land, nor Fee in Sufferance;
But what might arise of the bare Sheep,
(Were it more or less) which they did keep.
Well I wis was it with Shepherds tho;
Nought having nought feared they to forgo,
For Pan himself was their Inheritance,
And little them served for their Maintenance.
The Shepherd’s God so well them guided,
That of nought they were unprovided:
Butter enough, Honey, Milk, and Whey,
And their Flocks Fleeces them to array.
But Tract of Time, and long Prosperity,
(That Nource of Vice, this of Insolency)
Lulled the Shepherds in such Security,
That not content with loyal Obeysance,
Some ‘gan to gape for greedy Governance,
And match themselves with mighty Potentates,
Lovers of Lordships, and Troublers of States.
Tho ‘gan Shepherds Swains to look aloft,
And leave to live hard, and learn to lig soft.
Tho under colour of Shepherds, some-while,
There crept in Wolves, full of Fraud and Guile,
That often devoured their own Sheep,
And often the Shepherd that did hem keep.
This was the first Sourse of Shepherds Sorrow,
That now nill be quit with bale, nor borrow.

PALINODE.
Three things to bear, been very burdenous,
But the fourth to forbear, is outrageous.
Women that of Love’s Longing once lust,
Hardly forbearen, but have it they must:
So when Choler is enflamed with Rage,
Wanting Revenge, is hard to assuage:
And who can counsel a thirsty Soul,
With Patience to forbear the offer’d Boul?
But of all Burdens, that a Man can bear,
Most is, a Fool’s Talk to bear and to hear.
I ween the Giant has not such a Weight,
That bears on his Shoulders the Heaven’s Height.
Thou findest fault, where nys to be found,
And buildest strong Wark upon a weak Ground:
Thou railest on Right, without Reason,
And blamest hem much, for small Encheason.
How woulden Shepherds live, if not so?
What, should they pinen in Pain and Woe?
Nay, say I thereto, by my dear Borrow,
If I may rest, I nill live in Sorrow.

Sorrow ne need to be hastened on:
For he will come without calling anon.
While Times enduren of Tranquillity,
Usen we freely our Felicity:
For when approachen the stormy Stowers,
We mought with our Shoulders bear off the sharp Showres.
And sooth to sain, nought seemeth sike Strife
That Shepherds so twiten each others Life,
And layen their Faults the Worlds before,
The while their Foes done each of hem scorn.
Let none mislike of that may not be amended:
So Conteck soon by Concord mought be ended.

PIERS.
Shepherd, I list no Accordance make
With Shepherd, that does the right way forsake:
And of the twain, if Choice were to me,
Had lever my Foe, than my Friend he be.
For what Concord hen light and dark sam?
Or what Peace has the Lion with the Lamb?
Such Faitours, when their false Hearts been hid,
Will do, as did the Fox by the Kid.

PALINODE.
Now Piers, of fellowship, tell us that Saying:
For the Lad can keep both our Flocks from straying.

PIERS.
Thilk same Kid (as I can well devise)
Was too very foolish and unwise.
For on a time, in Sommer Season,
The Goat her Dam, that had good Reason,
Yode forth abroad unto the green Wood,
To brouze, or play, or what she thought good:
But, for she had a motherly Care
Of her young Son, and Wit to beware,
She set her Youngling before her Knee,
That was both fresh and lovely to see,
And full of Favour, as Kid mought be.
His velvet Head began to shoot out,
And his wreathed Horns ‘gan newly sprout:
The Blossoms of Lust to bud did begin,
And sprung forth rankly under his Chin.

My Son (quoth she) and with that ‘gan weep:
(For careful Thoughts in her Heart did creep)
God bless thee, poor Orphan, as he mought me,
And send thee Joy of thy Jollity.
Thy Father (that Word she spake with Pain,
For a Sigh had nigh rent her Heart in twain)
Thy Father, had he lived this Day,
To see the Branches of his Body display,
How would he have joyed at this sweet Sight?
But ah! false fortune such Joy did him spight,
And cut off his Days with untimely Woe,
Betraying him unto the Trains of his Foe.
Now I a wailful Widow behight,
Of my old Age have this one Delight,
To see thee succeed in thy Father’s stead,
And flourish in Flowers of Lustihead.
For even so thy Father his Head upheld,
And so his haughty Horns did he weld.

Tho marking him with melting Eyes,
A thrilling Throb from her Heart did arise,
And interrupted all her other Speech,
With some old Sorrow that made a new Breach:
Seemed she saw in her Youngling’s Face
The old Lineaments of his Father’s Grace.
At last, her sullen Silence she broke,
And ‘gan his new-budded Beard to stroke.
Kiddy (quoth she) thou kenst the great Care
I have of thy Health and thy Welfare,
Which many wild Beasts liggen in wait,
For to entrap in thy tender State:
But most the Fox, Maister of Collusion:
For he has vowed thy last Confusion.
For-thy, my Kiddy, be ruled by me,
And never give trust to his Treacheree:
And if he chance come when I am abroad,
Spar the Yate fast, for fear of Fraud.
Ne for all his worst, nor for his best,
Open the Door at his Request.

So schooled the Goat her wanton Son,
That answered his Mother, All should be done.
Tho went the pensive Dame out of door,
And chaunc’d to stumble at the Threshold-Floor:
Her stumbling Step somewhat her amazed,
(For such as Signs of ill luck been dispraised)
Yet forth she yode, thereat half aghast,
And Kiddy the Door sparred after her fast.
It was not long after she was gone,
But the false Fox came to the Door anone.
Not as a Fox, for then he had be kend,
But all as a poor Pedlar he did wend:
Bearing a Truss of Trifles at his Back,
As Bells, and Babies, and Glasses in his Pack,
A Biggen he had got about his Brain,
For in his Head-piece he felt a sore Pain.
His hinder Heel was wrapt in a Clout,
For with great Cold he had got the Gout.
There at the Door he cast me down his Pack,
And laid him down, and groaned, alack! alack!
Ah! dear Lord, and sweet Saint Charity,
That some good body would once pity me.

Well heard Kiddy all this sore Constraint,
And leng’d to know the Cause of his Complaint:
Tho creeping close, behind the Wicket’s Clink,
Privily he peeped out through a Chink:
Yet not so privily but the Fox him spied,
For deceitful Meaning is double-eyed.

Ah! good young Maister (then ‘gan he cry)
Jesus bless that sweet Face I espy,
And keep your Corps from the careful Stounds,
That in my Carrion Carcass abounds.

The Kid, pitying his Heaviness,
Asked the Cause of his great Distress,
And also who, and whence that he were.

Tho he, that had well ycond his Lear,
Thus medled his Talk with many a Tear:
Sick, sick, alas! a little lack of dead,
But I be relieved by your beastly-head.
I am a poor Sheep; albe my Colour dun:
For with longer Travel I am brent in the Sun.
And if that my Grandsire me said, be true,
Siker I am very sybbe to you:
So be your Goodlihead do not disdain
The base Kinred of so simple Swain.
Of Mercy and Favour then I you pray,
With your Aid to forestall my near Decay.

Tho out of his Pack a Glass he took;
Wherein while Kiddy unwares did look,
He was so enamoured with the Newel,
That nought he deemed dear for the Jewel.
Tho opened he the Door, and in came
The false Fox, as he were stark lame.
His Tail he clapt betwixt his Legs twain,
Lest he should be descryed by his Train.

Being within, the Kid made him good Glee,
All for the Love of the Glass he did see.
After his Chear, the Pedlar ‘gan chat,
And tell many Leasings of this and that:
And how he could shew many a fine knack.
Tho shewed his Ware, and opened his Pack,
All save a Bell, which he left behind
In the Basket, for the Kid to find.
Which when he stooped down to catch,
He popt him in, and his Basket did latch:
Ne stayed he once, the Door to make fast,
But ran away with him in all haste.

Home when the doubtful Dame had her hide,
She mought see the Door stand open wide.
All aghast, loudly she ‘gan to call
Her Kid: but he nould answer at all.
Tho on the Floor she saw the Merchandise,
Of which her Son had set too dear a Price.
What Help? her Kid she knew well is gone:
She weeped and wailed, and made great moan.
Such end had the Kid, for he nould warned be
Of Craft coloured with Simplicity:
And such end perdy does all hem remain,
That of such Falsers Friendship been fain.

PALINODE.
Truly Piers, thou art beside thy Wit,
Furthest fro the Mark, weening it to hit.
Now I pray thee, let me thy Tale borrow
For our Sir John, to say to-morrow,
At the Kirk, when it is Holiday:
For well he means, but little can say.
But and if Foxes been so crafty, as so,
Much needeth all Shepherds hem to know.

PIERS.
Of their Falshood more could I recount,
But now the bright Sun ‘ginneth to dismount:
And for the dewy Night now draw’th night,
I hold it best for us home to hie.

PALINODE’S EMBLEM.
Pas men apistos apistei.

PIERS’S EMBLEM.
Tis d’ ara pistis apisto.

It is February, my least favorite month.  Now is when I most keenly envy you lucky readers who dwell in the Southern hemisphere (where February means something like August)–for here, in the temperate parts of the northern hemisphere, it is the coldest and worst part of the year.  The gray frozen waste of February also reminds me acutely of age swiftly sneaking up on me–and of all the terrible decisions I have made which have resulted in me being a worthless broke clerk. Yet February has one virtue–it is short.  So, before it is over (happy day!) we had better get to the Shepheardes Calender, the great 12 part seasonal poem by Edmund Spenser.  In this second section we find the young shepherd Cuddy complaining (like me) about February. He is rebuked by the ancient shepherd Thenot and they get into an argument about the changing seasons and about age versus youth.  Cuddy defends youth by boasting of his own amorous conquests.  Thenot rebukes Cuddy for being callow with an allegorical tale about the oak and the briar. Cuddy finds the (admittedly troubling) story long-winded and empty of meaning and the two fall out.  Ah…February!

Anyway, you came here to read Spenser, not to hear long-winded tirades against the (manifold) miseries of this wintry month.  So, without any more preamble, here are Spenser’s words:

february

Shepheardes Calender II: Februarie

CUDDY. THENOT.
Ah for pity, will rank Winter’s Rage
These bitter Blasts never ‘gin t’ asswage?
The keen Cold blows through my beaten Hide,
All as I were through the Body gride.
My ragged Ronts all shiver and shake,
As done high Towers in an Earthquake:
They wont in the Wind wag their wriggle Tails,
Peark as a Peacock; but now it avails.

THENOT.
Leudly complainest, thou lazy Lad,
Of Winter’s wrack for making thee sad?
Must not the World wend in his common Course,
From Good to Bad, and from Bad to Worse,
From Worse, unto that is Worst of all,
And then return to his former Fall?
Who will not suffer the stormy Time,
Where will he live till the lusty Prime?
Self have I worn out thrice thirty Years,
Some in much Joy, many in many Tears:
Yet never complained of Cold nor Heat,
Of Summer’s Flame, nor of Winter’s Threat
Ne never was to Fortune Foe-man,
But gently took, that ungently came.
And ever my Flock was my chief Care,
Winter or Summer they mought well fare.

CUDDY.
No marvel, Thenot, if thou can bear
Chearfully the Winter’s wrathful Chear;
For Age and Winter accord full nigh,
This chill, that cold, this crooked, that wry:
And as the lowring Weather looks down,
So seemest thou like Good-Friday to frown.
But my flowring Youth is Foe to Frost,
My Ship unwont in Storms to be tost.

THENOT.
The Sovereign of Seas he blames in vain,
That once Sea-beat, will to Sea again.
So loytring live you little Heard-Groom,
Keeping your Beasts in the budded Brooms.
And when the shining Sun laugheth once,
You deemen, the Spring is come at once.
Tho gin you, fond Flies, the Cold to scorn,
And crowing in Pipes made of green Corn,
You thinken to be Lords of the Year:
But eft, when ye count you freed from Fear,
Comes the breme Winter with chamfred Brows,
Full of Wrinkles and frosty Furrows,
Drerily shooting his stormy Dart,
Which cruddles the Blood, and pricks the Heart.
Then is your careless Courage accoyed,
Your careful Herds with cold be annoyed.
Then pay you the price of your Surquedry,
With weeping, and wailing, and misery.

CUDDY.
Ah foolish old Man, I scorn thy Skill,
That wouldst me, my springing Youth to spill.
I deem thy Brain emperished be,
Through rusty Eld, that hath rotted thee:
Or siker thy Head very totty is,
So on thy corb Shoulder it leans amiss.
Now thy self hath lost both lop and top,
Als my budding Branch thou wouldest crop:
But were thy Years green, as now been mine
To other Delights they would encline.
Tho wouldest thou learn to carol of Love,
And hery with Hymns thy Lasses Glove:
Tho wouldest thou pipe of Phillis’ Praise;
But Phillis is mine for many Days.
I wone her with a Girdle of Gelt,
Embost with Bugle about the Belt.
Such an one Shepherds would make full fain:
Such an one would make thee young again.

THENOT.
Thou art a Fon, of thy Love to boast:
All that is lent to Love will be lost.

CUDDY.
Seest how brag yond Bullock bears,
So smirk, so smooth, his pricked Ears?
His Horns been as brade, as Rainbow bent,
His Dewlap as lythe, as Lass of Kent.
See how he venteth into the Wind,
Weenest of Love is not his Mind?
Seemeth thy Flock thy Counsel can,
So rustless been they, so weak, so wan.
Cloathed with Cold, and hoary with Frost,
Thy Flock’s Father his Courage hath lost.
Thy Ewes that wont to have blown Blags,
Like wailful Widdows hangen their Crags.
The rather Lambs been starved with cold,
All for their Master is lustless and old.

THENOT.
Cuddy, I wot thou kenst little good,
So vainly to advance thy headless Hood.
For Youth is a Bubble blown up with Breath,
Whose Wit is Weakness, whose Wage is Death,
Whose Way is Wilderness, whose Inn Penaunce,
And stoop gallant Age, the host of Grievaunce.
But shall I tell thee a Tale of Truth,
Which I cond of Tityrus in my Youth,
Keeping his Sheep on the Hills of Kent?

CUDDY.
To nought more, Thenot, my Mind is bent,
Than to hear Novels of his devise;
They been so well thewed, and so wise,
What ever that good old Man bespake.

THENOT.
Many meet Tales of Youth did he make,
And some of Love, and some of Chivalry:
But none fitter than this to apply.
Now listen a while and hearken the end.

There grew an aged Tree on the Green,
A goodly Oak sometime had it been,
With Arms full strong and largely display’d,
But of their Leaves they were disaray’d:
The Body big and mightily pight,
Throughly rooted, and of wondrous height:
Whylom had been the King of the Field,
And mochel Mast to the Husband did yield,
And with his Nuts larded many Swine.
But now the gray Moss marred his Rine,
His bared Boughs were beaten with Storms,
His Top was bald, and wasted with Worms,
His Honour decay’d, his Braunches sere.

Hard by his side grew a bragging Breere,
Which proudly thrust into th’ Element,
And seemed to threat the Firmament.
It was embellisht with Blossoms fair:
And thereto aye wonted to repair
The Shepherd’s Daughters to gather Flowres,
To paint their Garlands with his Colowres;
And in his small Bushes used to shroud
The sweet Nightingale singing so loud;
Which made this foolish Breere wex so bold,
That on a time he cast him to scold,
And sneb the good Oak, for he was old.

Why standst there (quoth he) thou brutish Block?
Nor for Fruit, nor for Shadow serves thy Stock;
Seest how fresh my Flowers been spread,
Died in Lilly white, and Crimson red,
With Leaves engrained in lusty Green,
Colours meet to cloath a maiden Queen?
Thy waste Bigness but cumbers the Ground,
And dirks the beauty of my Blossoms round.
The mouldy Moss, which thee accloyeth,
My Cinamon Smell too much annoyeth.
Wherefore soon I rede thee hence remove,
Lest thou the price of my displeasure prove.
So spake this bald Breere with great disdain:
Little him answer’d the Oak again,
But yielded with Shame and Grief adaw’d,
That of a Weed he was o’er-craw’d.

It chaunced after upon a day,
The Husband-man’s self to come that way,
Of custom to surview his Ground,
And his Trees of State in compass round.
Him when the spightful Breere had espyed,
Causeless complained, and loudly cryed
Unto his Lord, stirring up stern Strife:

O my liege Lord, the God of my Life,
Pleaseth you pond your Suppliant’s Plaint,
Caused of Wrong, and cruel Constraint,
Which I your poor Vassal daily endure;
And but your Goodness the same recure,
Am like for desperate Dole to die,
Through felonous Force of mine Enemy.

Greatly aghast with this piteous Plea,
Him rested the good Man on the Lea,
And bad the Breere in his Plaint proceed.
With painted Words tho ‘gan this proud Weed,
(As most usen ambitious Folk)
His colour’d Crime with Craft to cloke.

Ah my Sovereign, Lord of Creatures all,
Thou Placer of Plants both humble and tall,
Was not I planted of shine own Hand,
To be the Primrose of all thy Land;
With flowring Blossoms, to furnish the Prime,
And scarlet Berries in Sommer-time?
How falls it then that this faded Oak,
Whose Body is sere, whose Branches broke,
Whose naked Arms stretch unto the Fire,
Unto such Tyranny doth aspire?
Hindring with his Shade my lovely Light,
And robbing me of the sweet Sun’s sight?
So beat his old Boughs my tender Side,
That oft the Blood springeth from Woundes wide:
Untimely my Flowers forced to fall,
That been the Honour of your Coronal:
And oft he lets his Canker-worms light
Upon my Branches, to work me more spight;
And oft his hoary Locks down doth cast,
Wherewith my fresh Flowrets been defast.
For this, and many more such Outrage,
Craving your Goodlyhead to assuage
The rancorous Rigour of his Might:
Nought ask I, but only to hold my Right;
Submitting me to your good Sufferaunce,
And praying to be garded from Grievaunce.

To this, this Oak cast him to reply
Well as he couth: But his Enemy
Had kindled such Coles of Displeasure,
That the good Man nould stay his Leasure,
But home him hasted with furious Heat:
Encreasing his wrath with many a threat,
His harmful Hatchet he hent in Hand,
(Alas, that it so ready mould stand!)
And to the Field alone he speedeth,
(Aye little help to harm there needeth)
Anger nould let him speak to the Tree,
Enaunter his Rage mought cooled be:
But to the Root bent his sturdy Stroak,
And made many wounds in the waste Oak.
The Axe’s edg did oft turn again,
As half unwilling to cut the Grain,
Seemed, the senseless Iron did fear,
Or to wrong holy Eld did forbear.
For it had been an antient Tree,
Sacred with many a Mystery,
And often crost with the Priest’s Crew,
And often hallowed with Holy water dew:
But sike Fancies weren Foolery,
And broughten this Oak to this Misery;
For nought mought they quitten him from
Decay, for fiercely the good Man at him did lay.
The Block oft groaned under his Blow,
And sighed to see his near Overthrow.
In fine, the Steel had pierced his Pith,
Tho down to the ground he fell forthwith.
His wondrous Weight made the ground to quake,
Th’ Earth shrunk under him, and seem’d to shake:
There lieth the Oak pitied of none.

Now stands the Breere like a Lord alone,
Puff’d up with Pride and vain Pleasance;
But all this Glee had no continuance;
For eftsoons Winter ‘gan to approach,
The blustering Boreas did encroach,
And beat upon the solitary Breere;
For now no succour was seen him neere.
Now ‘gan he repent his Pride too late,
For naked left and disconsolate,
The biting Frost nipt his Stalk dead,
The watry wet weighed down his Head,
And heaped Snow burdned him so sore,
That now upright he can stand no more;
And being down, is trode in the durt
Of Cattel, and brouzed, and sorely hurt.
Such was th’ End of this ambitious Breere,
For scorning Eld—

CUDDY.
Now I pray thee Shepherd, tell it not forth:
Here is a long Tale, and little worth.
So long have I listened to thy Speech,
That graffed to the Ground is my Breech:
My Heart-blood is well nigh frorn I feel,
And my Galage grown fast to my Heel:
But little ease of thy leud Tale I tasted,
Hie thee home Shepherd, the day is nigh wasted.

THENOT’S EMBLEM.
Iddio, perche e vecchio,
Fa suoi al suo essempio.

CUDDY’S EMBLEM.
Niuno vecchio,
Spaventa Iddio.

Edmund Spenser, oil painting by an unknown artist; in the collection of Pembroke College, Cambridge, England.

Edmund Spenser, oil painting by an unknown artist; in the collection of Pembroke College, Cambridge, England.

April is poetry month! For years I have shared my home and/or my heart with various poets—so I was going to feature some colorful and enigmatic contemporary poetry. Unfortunately none of my (living) poet friends has yet come to my aid with any relevant works. It therefore looks like I am going to have to rely on one of the great canonical poets of classical English literature to celebrate the beautiful discipline of poetry.

I wanted to feature a poem which combined three aspects: 1) the poem should have classical Greco-Roman flair; 2) it should be about bees or crowns (or maybe both); and 3) it should be really suggestive (because, let’s face it, we are talking about poetry—if you are reading this, you are old enough for adult things). The poem I found is actually a series of connected short poems by the great Edmund Spenser who was born around 1552 and died in 1599. Spenser is best known for The Faerie Queen, one of the most important and beautiful epic poems in English, but the work I selected by him has no formal title. I found a scholarly note which reads “These four short poems immediately follow Spenser’s “Amoretti” and precede his “Epithalamion”. Nothing seems known of their history. Editors have usually styled them “Poem I. Poem II.” &c. but they have no titles in any of the old impressions. We so continue them.”

The lack of title or history is appropriate. The work seems self-explanatory—an allegory concerning the pain of love written in the vein of both Catullus and Chaucer.  However just as Roman and Medieval poetry had unsettling edges and disconcerting depths, so to does Spenser’s poem about Cupid and the bee.

 

Detail of "Cupid Complaining to Venus" (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526, oil on canvas)

Detail of “Cupid Complaining to Venus” (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526, oil on canvas)

IN youth before I waxed old.
The blynd boy Venus baby,
For want of cunning made me bold,
In bitter byue to grope for honny.
But when he saw me stung and cry,
He tooke his wings and away did fly.
As Diane hunted on a day,
She chaunst to come where Cupid lay,
his quiuer by his head:
One of his shafts she stole away,
And one of hers did close conuay,
into the others stead:
With that loue wounded my loues hart,
but Diane beasts with Cupids dart.

I Saw in secret to my Dame,
How little Cupid humbly came:
and sayd to her All hayle my mother.
But when he saw me laugh, for shame:
His face with bashfull blood did flame,
not knowing Venus from the other,
Then neuer blush Cupid (quoth I)
for many haue err’d in this beauty.

VPon a day as loue lay sweetly slumbring,
all in his mothers lap:
A gentle Bee with his loud trumpet murm’ring,
about him flew by hap.
Whereof when he was wakened with the noyse,
and saw the beast so small:
Whats this (quoth he) that giues so great a voyce,
that wakens men withall.
In angry wize he flyes about,
and threatens all with corage stout.

TO whom his mother closely smiling sayd,
twixt earnest and twixt game:
See thou thy selfe likewise art lyttle made,
if thou regard the same.
And yet thou suffrest neyther gods in sky,
nor men in earth to rest:
But when thou art disposed cruelly,
theyr sleepe thou doost molest.
Then eyther change thy cruelty,
or giue lyke leaue vnto the fly.

NAthlesse the cruell boy not so content,
would needs the fly pursue:
And in his hand with heedlesse hardiment,
him caught for to subdue.
But when on it he hasty hand did lay,
the Bee him stung therefore:
Now out alasse (he cryde) and welaway,
I wounded am full sore:
The fly that I so much did scorne,
hath hurt me with his little horne.

VNto his mother straight he weeping came,
and of his griefe complayned:
Who could not chose but laugh at his fond game,
though sad to see him pained.
Think now (quod she) my sonne how great the smart
of those whom thou dost wound:
Full many thou hast pricked to the hart,
that pitty neuer found:
Therefore henceforth some pitty take,
when thou doest spoyle of louers make.

SHe tooke him streight full pitiously lamenting,
and wrapt him in her smock:
She wrapt him softly, all the while repenting,
that he the fly did mock.
She drest his wound and it embaulmed wel
with salue of soueraigne might:
And then she bath’d him in a dainty well
the well of deare delight.
Who would not oft be stung as this,
to be so bath’d in Venus blis.

THe wanton boy was shortly wel recured,
of that his malady:
But he soone after fresh againe enured,
his former cruelty.
And since that time he wounded hath my selfe
with his sharpe dart of loue:
And now forgets the cruell carelesse elfe,
his mothers heast to proue.
So now I languish till he please,
my pining anguish to appease.

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