Verse > Edmund Spenser > Complete Poetical Works
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Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1908.
 
The Shepheardes Calender
December
 
        
ÆGLOGA DUODECIMA
  
ARGUMENT
  THIS Æglogue (even 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 from loves follye; his manhoode to the sommer, which, he sayth, was consumed with greate heate and excessive drouth, caused throughe a comet or blasinge starre, by which hee meaneth love, which passion is comenly compared to such flames and immoderate heate; his riper yeares hee resembleth to an unseasonable harveste, wherein the fruites fall ere they be rype; his latter age to winters chyll and frostie season, now drawing neare to his last ende.

THE GENTLE shepheard satte beside a springe,
All in the shadowe of a bushye 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,        5
Thus gan he make of love his piteous mone.
 
‘O soveraigne Pan, thou god of shepheards all,
Which of our tender lambkins takest keepe,
And when our flocks into mischaunce mought fall,
Doest save from mischiefe the unwary sheepe,        10
Als of their maisters hast no lesse regard
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 ever sonet song so cleare        15
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 joyfull spring,
Like swallow swift I wandred here and there:        20
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 wolves to bene espyed.
 
‘I wont to raunge amydde the mazie thickette,        25
And gather nuttes to make me Christmas game;
And joyed oft to chace the trembling pricket,
Or hunt the hartlesse hare til shee were tame.
What recked I of wintrye ages waste?
Tho deemed I, my spring would ever laste.        30
 
‘How often have I scaled the craggie oke,
All to dislodge the raven of her nest!
Howe have I wearied, with many a stroke,
The stately walnut tree, the while the rest
Under the tree fell all for nuts at strife!        35
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 to much beleeved my shepherd peres,)
Somedele ybent to song and musicks mirth,        40
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 ever fedde in field:
And if that Hobbinol right judgement bare,        45
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)        50
My hurtlesse pleasaunce did me ill upbraide;
My freedome lorne, my life he lefte to mone.
Love they him called that gave me checkmate,
But better mought they have behote him Hate.
 
‘Tho gan my lovely spring bid me farewel,        55
And sommer season sped him to display
(For Love then in the Lyons house did dwell)
The raging fyre that kindled at his ray.
A comett stird up that unkindly heate,
That reigned (as men sayd) in Venus seate.        60
 
‘Forth was I ledde, not as I wont afore,
When choise I had to choose my wandring waye,
But whether Luck and Loves unbridled lore
Would leade me forth on Fancies bitte to playe.
The bush my bedde, the bramble was my bowre,        65
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 todestoole growne there mought I se,
And loathed paddocks lording on the same:        70
And where the chaunting birds luld me a sleepe,
The ghastlie owle her grievous ynne doth keepe.
 
‘Then as the springe gives place to elder time,
And bringeth forth the fruite of sommers pryde,
Also my age, now passed youngthly pryme,        75
To thinges of ryper reason selfe applyed,
And learnd of lighter timber cotes to frame,
Such as might save my sheepe and me fro shame.
 
‘To make fine cages for the nightingale,
And baskets of bulrushes, was my wont:        80
Who to entrappe the fish in winding sale
Was better seene, or hurtful beastes to hont?
I learned als the signes of heaven to ken,
How Phœbe fayles, where Venus sittes and when.
 
‘And tryed time yet taught me greater thinges:        85
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.        90
 
‘But ah, unwise 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 rifelye bleede!
Why livest thou stil, and yet hast thy deathes wound?        95
Why dyest thou stil, and yet alive art founde?
 
‘Thus is my sommer worne away and wasted,
Thus is my harvest hastened all to rathe:
The eare that budded faire is burnt and blasted,
And all my hoped gaine is turnd to scathe.        100
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:        105
The flattring fruite is fallen to grownd before,
And rotted ere they were halfe mellow ripe:
My harvest, wast, my hope away dyd wipe.
 
‘The fragrant flowres that in my garden grewe
Bene withered, as they had bene gathered long:        110
Theyr rootes bene dryed up for lacke of dewe,
Yet dewed with teares they han be ever among.
Ah! who has wrought my Rosalind this spight,
To spil the flowres that should her girlond dight?
 
‘And I, that whilome wont to frame my pype        115
Unto the shifting of the shepheards foote,
Sike follies nowe have gathered as too ripe,
And cast hem out as rotten and unsoote.
The loser lasse I cast to please nomore:
One if I please, enough is me therefore.        120
 
‘And thus of all my harvest hope I have
Nought reaped but a weedye crop of care:
Which, when I thought have thresht in swelling sheave,
Cockel for corne, and chaffe for barley, bare.
Soone as the chaffe should in the fan be fynd,        125
All was blowne away of the wavering wynd.
 
‘So now my yeare drawes to his latter terme,
My spring is spent, my sommer burnt up quite,
My harveste hasts to stirre up Winter sterne,
And bids him clayme with rigorous rage hys right:        130
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,        135
And by myne eie the crow his clawe dooth wright.
Delight is layd abedde, and pleasure past;
No sonne now shines, cloudes han all overcast.
 
‘Now leave, ye shepheards boyes, your merry glee;
My Muse is hoarse and weary of thys stounde:        140
Here will I hang my pype upon this tree;
Was never 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,        145
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.        150
 
‘Adieu, delightes, that lulled me asleepe;
Adieu, my deare, whose love I bought so deare;
Adieu, my little lambes and loved sheepe;
Adieu, ye woodes, that oft my witnesse were;
Adieu, good Hobbinol, that was so true:        155
Tell Rosalind her Colin bids her adieu.’

COLINS EMBLEME.
        [Vivitur ingenio: cætera mortis erunt.]


GLOSSE

  Tityrus, Chaucer, as hath bene oft sayd.
  Lambkins, young lambes.
  Als of their semeth to expresse Virgils verse.
        ‘Pan curat oves oviumque magistros.’

  Deigne, voutchsafe.
  Cabinet, Colinet, diminutives.
  Mazie: For they be like to a maze whence it is hard to get out agayne.
  Peres felowes and companions.
  Musick, that is poetry, as Terence sayth, ‘Qui artem tractant musicam,’ speking of poetes.
  Derring doe, aforesayd.
  Lions house. He imagineth simply that Cupid, which is Love, had his abode in the whote signe Leo, which is in middest of somer; a pretie allegory, whereof the meaning is, that love in him wrought an extraordinarie heate of lust.
  His ray, which is Cupides beame or flames of love.
  A comete, a blasing starre, meant of beautie, which was the cause of his whote love.
  Venus, the goddesse of beauty or pleasure. Also a signe in heaven, as it is here taken. So he meaneth that beautie, which hath alwayes aspect to Venus, was the cause of all his unquietnes in love.
  Where I was, a fine discription of the chaunge of hys lyfe and liking; for all things nowe seemed to hym to have altered their kindly course.
  Lording: spoken after the maner of paddocks and frogges sitting, which is indeed lordly, not removing nor looking once a side, unlesse they be sturred.
  Then as: the second part. That is, his manhoode.
  Cotes, sheepecotes: for such be the exercises of shepheards.
  Sale, or salow, a kind of woodde like wyllow, fit to wreath and bynde in leapes to catch fish withall.
  Phœbe fayles, the eclipse of the moone, which is alwayes in Cauda or Capite Draconis, signes in heaven.
  Venus, sc. Venus starre, otherwise called Hesperus, and Vesper, and Lucifer, both because he seemeth to be one of the brightest starres, and also first ryseth, and setteth last. All which skill in starres being convenient for shepheardes to knowe, Theocritus and the rest use.
  Raging seas. The cause of the swelling and ebbing of the sea commeth of the course of the moone, sometime encreasing, sometime wayning and decreasing.
  Sooth of byrdes, a kind of sooth saying used in elder tymes, which they gathered by the flying of byrds: first (as is sayd) invented by the Thuscanes, and from them derived to the Romanes, who, (as is sayd in Livie) were so supersticiously rooted in the same, that they agreed that every noble man should put his sonne to the Thuscanes, by them to be brought up in that knowledge.
  Of herbes: That wonderous thinges be wrought by herbes, aswell appeareth by the common working of them in our bodies, as also by the wonderful enchauntments and sorceries that have bene wrought by them; insomuch that it is sayde that Circe, a famous sorceresse, turned men into sondry kinds of beastes and monsters, and onely by herbes: as the poete sayth,
        ‘Dea sæva potentibus herbis,’ &c.

  Kidst, knewest.
  Eare, of corne.
  Scathe, losse, hinderaunce.
  Ever among, ever and anone.
  Thus is my, the thyrde parte, wherein is set forth his ripe yeres as an untimely harvest, that bringeth little fruite.
  The fragraunt flowres, sundry studies and laudable partes of learning, wherein how our poete is seene, be they witnesse, which are privie to his study.
  So now my yeere, the last part, wherein is described his age, by comparison of wyntrye stormes.
  Carefull cold, for care is sayd to coole the blood.
  Glee, mirth.
  Hoary frost, a metaphore of hoary heares scattred lyke to a gray frost.
  Breeme, sharpe and bitter.
  Adiew delights is a conclusion of all, where in sixe verses he comprehendeth briefly all that was touched in this booke. In the first verse his delights of youth generally: in the second, the love of Rosalind: in the thyrd, the keeping of sheepe, which is the argument of all Æglogues: in the fourth, his complaints: and in the last two, his professed frendship and good will to his good friend Hobbinoll.

EMBLEME.
  The meaning wherof is, that all thinges perish and come to theyr last end, but workes of learned wits and monuments of poetry abide for ever. And therefore Horace of his Odes, a work though ful indede of great wit and learning, yet of no so great weight and importaunce, boldly sayth,
        ‘Exegi monimentum ære perennius,
  Quod nec imber [edax], nec aquilo vorax,’ &c.
Therefore let not be envied, that this poete in his Epilogue sayth, he hath made a Calendar that shall endure as long as time, &c., folowing the ensample of Horace and Ovid in the like.
        ‘Grande opus exegi, quod nec Jovis ira, nec ignis,
  Nec ferrum poterit nec edax abolere vetustas,’ &c.
 
LOE! I have made a Calender of every yeare,
That steele in strength, and time in durance, shall outweare:
And if I marked well the starres revolution,
It shall continewe till the worlds dissolution,        160
To teach the ruder shepheard how to feede his sheepe,
And from the falsers fraud his folded flocke to keepe.
  Goe, lyttle Calender! thou hast a free passeporte:
Goe but a lowly gate emongste the meaner sorte:
Dare not to match thy pype with Tityrus hys style,        165
Nor with the Pilgrim that the Ploughman playde awhyle:
But followe them farre off, and their high steppes adore:
The better please, the worse despise; I aske no more.

MERCE NON MERCEDE.
 
 
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