1633 ca.

Shepheards Oracles: Eclogue VI. Arminius. Philamnus.

The Shepheards Oracles: Delivered in Certain Eglogues. By Fra: Quarles.

Francis Quarles

The curate Arminus discovers to Philamnus why his flock has been going astray, there being few distinguishing marks to divide Anglo-Catholic from Roman cattle. The clerical allegory resembles Milton's Lycidas more than Spenser's Julye.

George Saintsbury: "All Quarles's work is journey-work, but it is only fair to note the frequent wealth of fancy, the occasional felicity of expression, which illustrate this wilderness. I should not like to be challenged to produce twenty good lines of his in verse or prose written consecutively, yet it might be a still more dangerous challenge to produce any journalist in verse or prose of the present day who has written so much, and in whom the occasional flashes — the signs of poetical power in the individual and of what may be called poetical atmosphere in his 'surroundings' — are more frequent" History of Elizabethan Literature (1887) 378.

Shepheard, well met; Our losse hath made me bold
To search thy Dounes: Five weathers of our Fold
Have straggled from our Pastures, and have stray'd.

'Twas soundly watcht the whil'st: But have you made
Search no where else?

My hopes first led me hither;
His way lies every where that kens not whither;
Small moment, Shepheard, guides a doubtfull breast;
Our sheep oft turn their faces to the East,
Which led my hopefull fears (perchance too bold)
To make enquiry in your Eastern Fold.

And welcome: But me thinks the Roman Swains
Should tell you news: It had bin lesser pains
And to more purpose, (if my thoughts be cleare)
For you t' have made your first enquiry there:
There's but a slender ruinous hedge that bounds
And flightly limits your contiguous Grounds;
So poor a Fense, young Swain, that 'tis suppos'd
Yee feed in Common, though yee seem enclos'd:
Goe make a speedy, Triall, and search there.

My hopes renue.

And I renue my feare.

But gentle Shepheard, Here a second thought
Puzles my quickning hopes, and I am brought
Into a greater doubt: The Roman Brand
Is so, so like to ours; nay, ev'n doth stand
In th' selfe same place, that my unskilfull tongue
Dare make no Challenge: I am yet but young
And too too green to judge, and yet not made
Acquainted with the secrets of our Trade:
I'm doubtfull what to doe: It is all one
Not to make search, as seek, and finde unknowne.

Then, Swain, take my advice; If what I say
Please not thy fancy, try a better way.

Thanks, gentle Shepheard; you shall much endear
Your thankfull servant, and command his ear.

But Swain, acquaint me first (for it appears
Thou art as yet no Shepheard by thy years)
How often doth thy Master Shepheard feed
His numerous Flocks; They are a jolly Breed,
And well come on; How often doe they stand
Before his eye, and number'd by his hand?

Once in seven dayes, his food-providing care
Gives them a full Repast of dainty fare,
But for their daily diet, his command
Refers their welfare to my carefull hand.

Which of the seav'n may his grave wisdome keep
For this Repast? Or doe his ready sheep
Expect his Call, and wholly leave the day
To his wise pleasure?

What he will, he may:
The day is alterable; Pow'r is given
To him, to choose, so he choose one in seaven:
But yet his wisdome for the fashion sake
And his own quiet, hath bin pleas'd to make
Choice of the first.

Feeds he for by-respect?
Folds he for fashion? Better, quite neglect:
But does he totally devote that day
To his fair Flock?

He sends them pleas'd away,
Full fed with dainties, mingled with delight:
All day, they feed, and when the drooping Light
Begins to trebble the encreasing shades,
The Musick of the Oaten Reeds perswades
Their hearts to mirth; His wanton Rams grow brisk;
His Ewes begin to trip; his Lambs to frisk;
And whilst they sport and dance, the Love-sick Swains
Compose Rush-rings and Myrtleberry Chains,
And stuck with glorious King-cups, and their Bonnets
Adorn'd with Lawrell slips, chaunt their Love-sonnets
To stir the fires, and to encrease the flames
In the cold hearts of their beloved Dames.

Your Shepheard takes great pains; but his Reward
Will prove as heavy as his pains are hard:
But tell me, Swain, what dainty food is that
That makes your thriving flocks, so plump, so fat?
They make rich Shepheards, and encrease their stock;
Pan grant, your Shepheard make as rich a flock:
But what's that dainty food? here's none but wee,
I am no Sive: I prithee Swain, be free.

I know not, why; but I stand full possest,
My secrets finde a closet in thy brest;
Where I'le repose them: Know then, Shepheard, know,
There is a glorious Plant, that once did grow
In Priestly Arons Garden, in the dayes
Of Legall worship; this fair Plant did rayse
A swelling Husk, in whose rich womb there lay
Large Grains of Orient Pearl, which (as they say)
Rip'ned, but nere disclos'd till that blest morn
Wherein our good, our great God Pan was born;
Just then it open'd; and th' enclosed Grain
Unknownly vanisht; and then, clos'd again:
This wondrous Plant still flourisht, and her strength
Maintain'd her empty Husks, untill at length,
Ah me! our great Pan dyed, and then it droopt;
And had not brain-dissolved mortals stoopt
And watred her dry Roots with floods of tears,
'T had dyed, a fable to our faithlesse ears;
Which blessed Plant, whom these salt showres repair,
Was by a Roman-Shepheards holy Pray'r
And some days Fast, transplanted to the Lay
Of Roman Shepheards, fruitfull to this day.

But have those Pray'rs restor'd the Pearl again?

The Husks are plump; but yet they bear no Grain:

Those Husk-like Pray'rs, which vain devotion swels,
Come short for things of price, but home for shels.
But tell me, Swain, to what prodigious end
May these miraculous discourses tend?

Shepheard, I'le now perform (as you require)
My faithfull promise, and your fair desire:
These swellings Husks, which heretofore retain'd
This vanisht Pearl, for many years remain'd
Uselesse and vain, untill an after Age
More wisely curious, and maturely sage,
Made further search, and by experience found
Their vast and wide extended wombs abound
With precious oyle, whose aromatick sent,
Like fatning Amber, nourisht where it went:
This odoriferous, this unctious Juice
Our Roman Shepheards husband to their use
A thousand ways: with this their sacred hands
Varnish their painted Folds, manure their lands,
Sweeten their putrid Fodder, and improve
Their wel-contented Flocks in fear, and love:
Now gentle Shepheard; we, whose bord'ring bounds
Are ev'n contiguous with those Roman grounds,
Have secret traffick, and a fair commerce;
Though seeming foes, we under hand converse:
We plot, contrive, consult, we enterchange
Both wares and hearts, and yet are seeming strange;
This precious Oyle, (the hint of our discourse)
We hold in Common, without pray'r, or purse:
With this; our thriving Shepheards every day
Anoint their formall Temples, which display
Their glorious frowns; at whose severer brow
Their croutching Flocks doe tremble, fawn, and bow
Their curved bodies, and with reverence, stand
Creating Idols at their strict command:
With this restoring Oyle, they dulcifye
The meanest trash that ever Shepheards eye
Disdain'd; nay, oftentimes their flocks doe fare
No better then Chameleons in the ayre:
Not having substance; but with forc'd content,
Making their Maundy with an empty sent.

But Swain, me thinks, such kind of food should keep
The thriving Shepheard fatter then his sheep.

True, Shepheard; they seem lusty, though not full;
But what they want in flesh, they find in wooll.

But Swain, I wonder much they make not bold,
Sometimes to straggle to another Fold,
To mend so mean a diet?

Every day,
If not well watcht, some one or other stray
To your rich Plains: where if by chance ere found
They rue it dearely, though they scape the Pound.

We are poor Tenants, Swain; the Pound's not ours,
The Pound belongs to you; The Lordship's yours.

But Shepheard, when our rambling flocks oppresse
Your vally pastures, they as well transgresse
Our Mountain laws, which when our Swains present,
Our righteous scales weighs out the punishment
Companion to th' offence; Sometimes we fine,
Sometimes impound, and sometimes discipline
With sharper Censures: But what wrong is made
To you, our Lordship's sure to see you paid.

W' are paid indeed! your Lordship is so just
That smooth-fac'd mercy oftentimes is thrust
From your too just Assemblies; But young Swain,
What if some stragglers in your fleecy train
Should chance to wander to the Roman Fold?

As oft they doe: Why, Shepheard, we still hold
A fair compliance there; Alas, we stand
On equall tearms, not diff'ring much in Brand,
Nor soil, nor bone, nor number; Our proud Rams
Oft tup their Ewes, and then we share their Lambs;
And their's, by stealth, sometimes tup ours; and thus
As we did share their Lambs, they share with us;
That insomuch, not twice two Moons full past,
Unseen, I heard some conference at last,
It was their mutuall vote, That that sleight Fense
Which parts their neighb'ring hils were taken thence
By some indifferent hand; at length, concluded
That swift wing'd Time (whose crooked sithe intruded
Into the state of transitory things)
Would doe the deed.

Heav'n close or clip his wings.
But tell me Swain, (since thine own fair desert
Hath taught thee so much trust as to impart
Thy treasur'd secrets in my faithfull eare)
What are thy Shepheards ways? Are they severe,
Reserv'd, and strict? Or gives he free'r raines
To mirth and sports, as on our frolique Plaines
We Shepheards use?

Shepheard, the early days
Of my lifes Kalender can hardly rayse
So high a reck'ning to inform your eare
What his first ways and new-launcht courses were;
Nor can my credit warrant the report
Of doubtfull Fame, which oftentimes comes short,
And oft exceeds the letter of the Truth;
But here 'tis voic'd that his ingenious youth
Was tutor'd first, and trained up in sweet
And sacred Learning at Gamaliels feet
Under that famous Chappell, (which they say
Was since repair'd, whose memory to this day
Is fresh in our Records) where twice at least
In every twice twelve howres he came and blest
His hopefull fortunes; led a temp'rate life,
As far from idlenesse, as factious strife;
He was a painfull Shepheard, strict, severe,
And by report, a little too austere
Against those harmlesse sports and past'rall songs
And ceremonious Quintils, that belongs
To Shepheards rurall mirth; nay, more then so,
If fame be true, he was a Zelot too.
But since promotion rais'd him from the plaines
To Mountain service, where his flock remains
Committed to my charge, his zeale abates,
And richly cloth'd with Lordly silks he waites
In Courts of Princes, reveling out his dayes
In lavish feasts and frolique Roundelayes,
Carousing liberall healths to the deare name
Of this rare Beauty, or that Courtly Dame;
Commands, controls, usurps a power unknown,
Makes Laws, and puffs, and Lords it up and down:
That insomuch the Course he first began
Is quite forgot, and he another man.

O Swain, me thinks these rufflings ill befit
A Shepheards cloth; The Riots they commit,
Methinks should bring a scandall, and defame
Their publique callings, and their private name.

Ah Shepheard, were their glory not too bright
For scandall to eclipse, 'twould soon be night
With their Profession; but the Clouds that rise
Upon their darkned names so blurre the eies
Of their repute, that neighb'ring Swains deride
The bubling folly of their babling Pride,
Whilst passers by cry shame, when they behold
Such burly Shepheards and so bare a Fold.
Ah gentle Shepheard, how it gripes and wounds
My bleeding soul to see our mossy grounds
Parcht up and burnt, for want of timely show'rs,
Bought with our painfull Shepheards pray'rs, whilst yours
Flourish and prosper, watred with the dew
Of pleased heav'ns that blesse both them and you!

True Swain, the gracious hand of heav'n hath blest
Our fruitfull Plains; my thriving flocks have rest
And down-right feeding; what we gain we spend
With thankfull hearts, and what we spare we lend:
Roots are our food, and Russet is our clothing;
We have but little, and we want for nothing:
Streams quench our thirst, nor taste we what's delicious;
Our brain's not busie, nor our breasts ambitious,
We charm our cares, and chaunt away our sorrow,
We live to day, and care not for to morrow:
Thrice blessed be our great God Pan, that takes
A gracious pleasure in our pains, and makes
Our labours prosp'rous, and with sparing hand
Lends us enough, and courage to withstand
The gripes of fortune, and her frowns, for which
Our lowly hearts shall fly as high a pitch,
As they that impe their more ambitious wings
With Eagles plumes, and mount to Thrones of Kings.
But Swain, I am transported, and I fear
Too long delay hath wrong'd your patient ear;
My promise hath engag'd me as your guide
To search your stragglers that have stray'd aside.

Your blest example hath prescrib'd a way
To find my selfe that am the greater stray,
For which fair Shepheard, may the heav'ns encrease
Your perfect welfare in eternall peace.

Thanks gentle Swain; And if our homely Plains
May give you pleasure, purchas'd by our pains,
Enjoy it freely: But the evening damp
Begins to fall, and heavens declining Lamp
Bespeaks the doubtfull Twilight: Day (grown old)
Invites the fowls to Roost; my Sheep to Fold.

[pp. 60-72]