Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
The Shepherd’s Wife’s Song
By Robert Greene (1558–1592)
 
AH, 1 what is love? It is a pretty thing,
As sweet unto a shepherd as a king;
          And sweeter too;
For kings have cares that wait upon a crown
And cares can make the sweetest love to frown.        5
          Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires do gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?
 
His flocks are folded, he comes home at night,
As merry as a king in his delight;        10
          And merrier too;
For kings bethink then what the state require,
Where shepherds careless carol by the fire:
          Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires do gain,        15
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?
 
He kisseth first, then sits as blithe to eat
His cream and curds as doth the king his meat;
          And blither too:
For kings have often fears when they do sup,        20
Where shepherds dread no poison in their cup.
          Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires do gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?
 
To bed he goes, as wanton then, I ween,        25
As is a king in dalliance with a queen;
          More wanton too;
For kings have many griefs affects 2 to move,
Where shepherds have no greater grief than love:
          Ah then, ah then,        30
If country loves such sweet desires do gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?
 
Upon his couch of straw he sleeps as sound
As doth a king upon his beds of down;
          More sounder too;        35
For cares cause kings full oft their sleep to spill, 3
Where weary shepherds lie and snort their fill:
          Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires do gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?        40
 
Thus with his wife he spends the year, as blithe
As doth the king at every tide or sithe; 4
          And blither too;
For kings have wars and broils to take in hand,
When shepherds laugh and love upon the land:        45
          Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires do gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain?
 
Note 1. From The Mourning Garment, 1590. Prof. Brown, of Canterbury College, New Zealand, in speaking of Robert Greene says: “Wild with the feverish life of an actor, yet penning songs that breathe in every line of rest … oblivious to the graces of his most virtuous wife, for the blandishments of a “sorry ragged quean’ and yet capable of uttering the most lyrical eulogy of rustic married life.” (Grosart’s Greene I. xlix.) [back]
Note 2. Affects: affections. [back]
Note 3. Spill: destroy. [back]
Note 4. Sithe: time (originally a journey, hence an occasion). [back]
 
 
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