The occasion which provoked this translation of the Culex has not been recorded.
John Jortin: "Spenser should not have undertaken to translate the Culex. His version is in many places wrong, and in some, senseless; nor is it any wonder, for the original is so corrupted, that no sense can be made of many lines in it, without having recourse to conjecture, and where it is not corrupted, it is often very intricate and obscure" Remarks on Spenser's Poems (1734) 139.
William Oldys?: "Whatever injury (and undesignedly it should seem) he laboured under, and whatever was the event; it still wants the Oedipus he there speaks of: and the secret probably died with them. The translation however is masterly" Faerie Queene, ed. Church (1758) 1:xxvi.
John Upton: "This great man [Leicester] patronized our poet; and in the year 1579, sent him upon some employment into France. But Spenser fell under his displeasure for a while; and to make his peace, and show emblematically that with honest intentions he erred, like Virgil's harmless Gnat, he sent him a hasty translation of that poem, which perhaps he never designed should have been published, with a Sonnet prefixed by way of dedication.... If one may conjecture the occasion of this Great Lord's displeasure, it seems owing to some kind of officious sedulity in Spenser, who much desired to see his patron married to the Queen of England. The historians are full of the Queen's particular attachments to the Earl of Leicester" Faerie Queene (1758) 1:xvi-xvii.
Thomas Warton: "Spenser seems to have shown a particular regard to these two little poems, supposed to be the work of Virgil's younger years. Of the CULEX he has left a paraphrase, under the title of VIRGIL'S GNAT, dedicated to lord Leicester, who died in 1588. It was printed without a title page at the end of the TEARES OF THE MUSES, by Ed. Sp. London, imprinted for William Posonbie dwelling in Paules churchyard at the sign of the bishops head, 1591. From the CEIRIS he has copied a long passage, which forms the first part of the legend of Britomart in the third book of the FAIRY QUEEN" History of English Poetry (1774-81; 1840) 3:331.
John Payne Collier: "Virgil's Gnat, which some competent authorities have represented as 'a vague and arbitrary paraphrase of a poem' not properly belonging to Virgil — the Culex — may possibly have been, as some have fancied, a reprint in this edition of 1591. We do not think it likely, as all the other pieces in the volume were probably from manuscripts. It has no separate title-page; but it is preceded by a sonnet to the Earl of Leicester, which, of course, carries it back to a year preceding 1588. It darkly alludes to some disgrace into which the poet had fallen with his great patron, doubtless after Spenser's return from Ireland. The whole is enigmatical; and when critics object that it is by no means an accurate rendering of the original, they should remember, not merely the corruptions of text in that original and that the translator never intended it to be literal, but that it had, and was meant to have, a special reference to the unhappy circumstances of his own case. The expression in the heading of the introductory sonnet, that it had been 'long since dedicated' to Lord Leicester, is not, we think, to be understood to refer to any formal printed dedication, but only to mean that it had been addressed in manuscript to the Earl, in order to qualify his anger, if it failed to remove his displeasure" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:lxxxi.
We now have plaid (Augustus) wantonly,
Tuning our Song unto a tender Muse;
And like a Cobweb weaving slenderly,
Have only playd: let thus much then excuse
This Gnat's small Poem, that the whole History
Is but a Jest, tho Envy it abuse:
But who such Sports and sweet Delights doth blame,
Shall lighter seem than this Gnat's idle Name.
Hereafter, when as Season more secure
Shall bring forth Fruit, this Muse shall speak to thee
In bigger Notes, that may thy Sense allure,
And for thy Worth frame some fit Poesy:
The golden Offspring of Latona pure,
And Ornament of great Jove's Progeny,
Phoebus, shall be the Author of my Song,
Playing on Ivory Harp with Silver Strong.
He shall inspire my Verse with gentle Mood
Of Poet's Prince, whether he wonne beside
Fair Xanthus sprinkled with chimeras Blood;
Or in the Woods of Astery abide;
Or whereas Mount Parnasse, the Muses Brood,
Doth his broad Forehead like two Horns divide,
And the sweet Waves of sounding Castaly,
With liquid Foot doth slide down easily.
Wherefore ye Sisters, which the Glory be
Of the Pierian Streams, fair Naiades,
Go to, and dancing all in company,
Adorn that God: and thou holy Pales,
To whom the honest Care of husbandry
Returneth by continual success,
Have care for to pursue his footing light,
Through the wide Woods, and Groves, with green Leaves dight.
Professing thee, I lifted am aloft
Betwixt the Forest wide and starry Sky:
And thou most drad Octavius, which oft
To learned wits giv'st Courage worthily,
O come (thou sacred Child) come sliding soft,
And favour my Beginnings graciously:
For not these Leaves do sing that dreadful Sound,
When Giants Blood did stain Phlegraen Ground.
Nor how th' half-horsie People, Centaures hight,
Fought with the bloody Lapithaes at bord;
Nor how the East with tyrannous Despight
Burnt th' Attick Towers, and People slew with Sword;
Nor how Mount Athos through exceeding Might
Was digged down, nor yron Bands abord
The Pontick Sea by their huge Navy cast;
My Volume shall renown, so long since past.
Nor Hellespont trampled with Horses Feet,
When flocking Persians did the Greeks affray:
But my soft Muse, as for her power more meet,
Delights (with Phoebus' friendly leave) to play
An easie running Verse with tender Feet.
And thou (drad sacred Child) to thee alway,
Let everlasting lightsom Glory strive,
Through the World's endless Ages to survive.
And let an happy room remain for thee
Mongst heavenly Ranks, where blessed Souls do rest;
And let long lasting Life with joyous Glee,
As thy due Meed that thou deservest best,
Hereafter many Years remembred be
Among good Men, of whom thou oft art blest.
Live thou for ever in all Happiness:
But let us turn to our first Business.
The fiery Sun was mounted now on hight,
Up to the heavenly Towers, and shot each where
Out of his golden Charet glistering light;
And fair Aurora with her rosie Hair,
That baleful Darkness now had put to flight;
When as the Shepherd seeing Day appear,
His little Goats 'gan drive out of their Stalls,
To feed abroad, where Pasture best befalls.
To an high Mountain's top he with them went,
Where thickest Grass did cloath the open Hills:
They now amongst the Woods and Thickets ment.
Now in the Valleys wandring at their Wills,
Spread themselves far abroad through each Descent;
Some on the soft green Grass feeding their fills,
Some clambring through the hollow Cliffs on hie,
Nibble the bulky Shrubs, which grow thereby.
Others, the utmost Boughs of Trees do crop,
And brouze the woodbine Twiggs, that freshly bud;
This with full Bit doth catch the utmost top
Of some soft Willow, or new growen Stud:
This with sharp Teeth the Bramble-Leaves doth lop,
And chew the tender Prickles in her Cud;
The whiles another, high doth over-look
Her own like Image in a crystal Brook.
O the great Happiness which Shepherds have,
Who-so loaths not too much the poor Estate,
With Mind that ill use doth before deprave,
Ne measures all things by the costly rate
Of Riotise, and Semblants outward brave!
No such sad Cares, as wont to macerate
And rend the greedy Minds of covetous Men,
Do ever creep into the Shepherd's Den.
Ne cares he if the Fleece, which him arrays,
Be nor twice steeped in Assyrian Dye;
Ne glistering of Gold, which underlays
The Summer Beams, do blind his gazing Eye;
Ne Pictures Beauty, nor the glancing Rays
Of precious Stones, whence no good cometh by;
Ne yet his Cup embost with imagery
Of Boetus, or of Alcon's Vanity.
Ne ought the whelky Pearls esteemeth he,
Which are from Indian Seas brought far away:
But with pure Breast from careful Sorrow free,
On the soft Grass his Limbs doth oft display,
In sweet Spring-time, when Flowers variety
With sundry Colours paints the sprinkled Lay:
There lying all at ease, from Guile or Spight,
With Pipe of fenny Reeds doth him delight.
There he, Lord of himself, with Palm bedight,
His looser Locks doth wrap in Wreath of Vine;
There his Milk-dropping Goats be his delight,
And fruitful Pales, and the Forest green,
And darksom Caves in pleasant Vallies pight,
Whereas continual Shade is to be seen,
And where fresh springing Wells, as Crystal neat,
Do always flow, to quench his thirsty Heat.
O! who can lead a more happy Life,
Than he, that with clean Mind and Heart sincere,
No greedy Riches knows, nor bloody Strife,
No deadly Fight of warlike Fleet doth fear,
Ne runs in Peril of Foes cruel Knife,
That in the sacred Temples he may rear
A Trophee of his glittering Spoils and Treasure,
Or may abound with Riches above measure?
Of him his God is worshipt with his Syth,
And not with Skill of Craftman polished;
He joys in Groves, and makes himself full blyth,
With sundry Flowers in wild Fields gathered:
Ne Frankincense he from Panchaea buyth,
Sweet Quiet harbours in his harmless Head,
And perfect Pleasure builds her joyous Bowre,
Free from sad Cares, that rich Men's Hearts devowre.
This all his Care, this all his whole Endeavour,
To this his Mind and Senses he doth bend,
How he may flow in Quiet's matchless Treasour,
Content with any Food that God doth send;
And how his limbs, resolv'd through idle Leisour,
Unto sweet Sleep he may securely lend,
In some cool Shadow from the scorching Heat,
The whiles his Flock their chawed Cuds do eat.
O Flocks! O Fauns! and O ye pleasant Springs
Of Tempe, where the Country Nymphs are rife!
Through whose not costly Care each Shepherd sings
As merry Notes upon his rustick Fife,
As that Astraean Bard, whose Fame now rings
Through the wide World, and leads as joyful Life,
Free from all Troubles, and from worldly Toyl,
In which fond Men do all their Days turmoyl.
In such Delights, whilst thus his careless Time
This Shepherd drives, upleaning on his Batt,
And on shrill Reeds chaunting his rustick Rune,
Hyperion throwing forth his Beams full hott,
Into the highest top of Heaven 'gan clime;
And the World parting by an equal Lott,
Did shed his whirling Flames on either side,
As the great Ocean doth himself divide.
Then 'gan the Shepherd gather into one
His stragling Goats, and crave them to a Foord,
Whose caerule Stream, trembling in Pibble-stone,
Crept under Moss as green as any Goord.
Now had the Sun half Heaven overgone,
When he his Herd back from that water Foord
Drave from the force of Phoebus' boyling Ray,
Into thick Shadows, there themselves to lay.
Soon as he them plac't in thy sacred Wood
(O Delian Goddess) saw, to which of yore
Came the bad Daughter of old Cadmus' Brood,
Cruel Agave, flying Vengeance sore
Of King Nictileus, for the guilty Blood,
Which she with cursed Hands had shed before;
There she half frantick having slain her Son,
Did shroud her self, like Punishment to shun.
Here also playing on the grassie Green,
Wood-gods, and Satyres, and swift Dryades,
With many Fairies oft were dancing seen.
Not so much did Dan Orpheus repress
The Streams of Hebrus with his Songs, I ween,
As that fair Troop of wooddy Goddesses
Stay'd thee (O Peneas) pouring forth to thee,
From chearful Looks, great Mirth, and gladsom Glee.
The very Nature of the Place, resounding
With gentle Murmur of the breathing Air,
A pleasant Bowre with all Delight abounding
In the fresh Shadow did for them prepare,
To rest their Limbs with Weariness redounding.
For first, the high Palm-trees with Branches fair,
Out of the lowly Vallies did arise,
And high shoot up their Heads into the Skyes.
And them amongst the wicked Lotos grew,
Wicked, for holding guilefully away
Ulysses' Men, whom rapt with Sweetness new,
Taking to Host, it quite from him did stay;
And eke those Trees, in whose transformed Hue,
The Sun's sad Daughters wail'd the rash Decay
Of Phaeton, whose Limbs with Lightning rent,
They gathering up, with sweet Tears did lament.
And that same Tree, in which Demophoon,
By his Disloyalty lamented sore,
Eternal Hurt left unto many one:
Whom als accompanied the Oak, of yore
Through fatal Charms transform'd to such an one;
The Oak, whose Acorns were our Food, before
That Ceres' Seed of mortal Men was known,
Which first Triptoleme taught how to be sown.
Here also grew the rougher-rinded Pine,
The great Argoan Ship's brave Ornament,
Whom golden Fleece did make an heavenly Sign;
Which coveting, with his high top's extent,
To make the Mountains touch the Stars Divine,
Decks all the Forest with Embellishment;
And the black Holm that loves the watry Vale,
And the sweet Cypress, sign of deadly Bale.
Emongst the rest, the clambring Yvie grew,
Knitting his wanton Arms with grasping hold,
Lest that the Poplar happily should rew
Her Brother's Strokes, whose Boughs she doth enfold
With her lythe Twigs, till they the Top survew,
And paint with pallid Green her Buds of Gold.
Next did the Myrtle Tree to her approach,
Nor yet unmindful of her old Reproach.
But the small Birds in their wide Boughs embowring,
Chaunted their sundry Tunes with sweet Consent,
And under them a silver Spring forth pouring
His trickling Streams, a gentle Murmure sent:
Thereto the Frogs, bred in the slimie scowring
Of the moist Moores, their jarring Voyces bent;
And shrill Grashoppers, chirped them around:
All which the airy Eccho did resound.
In this so pleasant place, this Shepherd's Flock
Lay every where, their weary Limbs to rest,
On every Bush, and every hollow Rock,
Where breathe on them the whistling Wind mote best:
The whiles the Shepherd self tending his Stock,
Sate by the Fountain side, in Shade to rest,
Where gentle slumbring Sleep oppressed him,
Display'd on Ground, and seized every Lim.
Of Trechery or Trains nought took he keep,
But loosly on the grassy Green dispred,
His dearest Life did trust to careless Sleep.
Which weighing down his drouping drowsie Hed,
In quiet Rest his molten Heart did steep,
Devoid of Care, and Fear of all Falshed:
Had not inconstant Fortune, bent to ill,
Bid strange mischance his Quietness to spill.
For at his wonted time, in that same Place,
An huge great Serpent, all with Speckles pide,
To drench himself in morish Slime did trace,
There from the boyling Heat himself to hide:
He passing by with rolling wreathed Pace,
With brandish'd Tongue the empty Air did gride,
And wrapt his scaly Boughts with fell Despight,
That all things seem'd appalled at his sight.
Now more and more having himself enroll'd,
His glittering Brest he lifteth up on hie,
And with proud Vaunt his Head aloft doth hold;
His Crest above spotted with Purple Dye,
On every side did shine like scaly Gold,
And his bright Eyes glauncing full dreadfully,
Did seem to flame out Flakes of flashing Fire,
And with stern Looks to threaten kindled Yre.
Thus-wise long time he did himself dispace
There round about, when as at last he spide
Lying along before him in that place
That Flock's grand Captain, and most trusty Guide:
Eftsoons more fierce in Visage and in Pace,
Throwing his firy Eyes on every Wide,
He cometh on, and all things in his way
Full sternly rends, that might his Passage stay.
Much he disdains that any one should dare
To come unto his Haunt; for which intent
He inly burns, and gins straight to prepare
The Weapons, which to him Nature had lent:
Felly he hisseth, and doth fiercely stare,
And hath his Jaws with angry Spirits rent,
That all his Track with bloody Drops is stain'd,
And all his Folds are now in length out-strain'd.
Whom thus at point prepared to prevent,
A little Noursling of the humid Air,
A Gnat, unto the sleepy Shepherd went,
And marking where his Eye-lids twinkling rare,
Shew'd the two Pearls, which Sight unto him lent,
Through their thin Coverings appearing fair,
His little Needle there infixing deep,
Warn'd him awake, from Death himself to keep.
Wherewith enrag'd, he fiercely 'gan upstart,
And with his Hand him rashly bruizing slew,
As in avengement of his heedless Smart,
That straight the Spirit out of his Senses flew,
And Life out of his Members did depart:
When suddenly casting aside his View,
He spide his Foe with felonous Intent,
And fervent Eyes to his Destruction bent.
All suddenly dismay'd, and heartless quight,
He fled aback; and catching hasty hold
Of a young Alder hard beside him pight,
It rent, and streight about him 'gan behold,
What God or Fortune would assist his Might.
But whether God or Fortune made him bold,
It's hard to read: yet hardy Will he had
To overcome, that made him less adrad.
The scalie Back of that most hideous Snake,
Enwrapped round, oft faining to retire,
And oft him to assail, he fiercely strake,
Whereas his Temples did his Creast-front tyre;
And for he was but slow, did Sloth off shake,
And gazing ghastly on (for Fear and Ire
Had blent so much his Sense, that less he fear'd;)
Yet when he saw him slain, himself he chear'd.
By this, the Night forth from the darksome Bowre
Of Herebus her teemed Steeds 'gan call,
And lazie Vesper in his timely Howre,
From golden Oeta 'gan proceed withall:
Whenas the Shepherd after this sharp Stowre,
Seeing the doubled Shadows low to fall,
Gathering his straying Flock, does homeward fare,
And unto Rest his weary Joynts prepare.
Into whose Sense so soon as lighted Sleep
Was entred, and now loosing every Lim,
Sweet slumbring Dew in Carelesness did steep,
The Image of that Gnat appear'd to him,
And in sad Tearms 'gan sorrowfully weep,
With grisly Countenance and Visage grim,
Wailing the Wrong which he had done of late,
In steed of Good, hastening his cruel Fate.
Said he, what have I Wretch deserv'd, that thus
Into this bitter Bale I am out-cast,
Whilst that thy Life more dear and precious
Was than mine own, so long as it did last?
I now in lieu of Pains so gracious,
Am tost in th' Air with every windy Blast:
Thou safe delivered from sad Decay,
Thy careless Limbs in loose Sleep doost display.
So livest thou: but my poor wretched Ghost
Is forc'd to ferry over Lethe's River,
And spoil'd of Charon, to and fro am tost.
Seest thou not, how all Places quake and quiver,
Lightned with deadly Lamps on every Post?
Tisiphone each where doth shake and shiver
Her flaming Fire-brond, encountring me,
Whose Locks uncombed cruel Adders be.
And Cerberus, whose many Mouths do bay,
And bark out Flames, as if on Fire he fed;
Adown whose Neck in terrible array,
Ten thousand Snakes cralling about his Hed
Do hang in heaps, that horribly affray,
And bloody Eyes do glister fiery red:
He oftentimes me dreadfully doth threaten,
With painful Torments to be sorely beaten.
Ay me, that thanks so much should fail of Meed,
For that I thee restor'd to Life again,
Even from the Door of Death and deadly Dreed.
Where then is now the Guerdon of my Pain?
Where the Reward of my so piteous Deed?
The Praise of Pity vanish'd is in vain,
And th' antique Faith of Justice long agone
Out of the Land is fled away and gone.
I saw another's Fate approaching fast,
And left mine own his Safety to tender;
Into the same mishap I now am cast,
And shun'd Destruction doth Destruction render:
Not unto him that never hath trespast,
But Punishment is due to the Offender.
Yet let Destruction be the Punishment,
So long as thankful Will may it relent.
I carried am into waste Wilderness,
Waste Wilderness, amongst Cymmerian Shades,
Where endless Pains and hideous Heaviness
Is round about me heaps in darksom Glades.
For there huge Othos sits in sad Distress,
Fast bound with Serpents that him oft invades;
Far off beholding Ephialtes tide,
Which once assail'd to burn this World so wide.
And there is mournful Tityus, mindful yet
Of thy Displeasure, O Latona fair;
Displeasure too implacable was it,
That made him Meat for wild Fowls of the Air:
Much do I fear among such Fiends to sit,
Much do I fear back to them to repair,
To the black Shadows of the Stygian Shore,
Where wretched Ghosts sit wailing ever-more.
There next the utmost Brink doth he abide,
That did the Banquets of the Gods bewray,
Whose Throat through Thirst, to nought nigh being dride,
His Sense to seek for Ease turns every way:
And he that in Avengement of his Pride,
For scorning to the sacred Gods to pray,
Against a Mountain rolls a mighty Stone,
Calling in vain for Rest, and can have none.
Go ye with them, go cursed Damosells,
Whose bridal Torches foul Erynnis tynd,
And Hymen at your Spousals sad foretells
Tydings of Death and Massacre unkind:
With them that cruel Colchid Mother dwells,
The which conceiv'd in her revengeful Mind,
With bitter Wounds her own dear Babes to slay,
And murdred Troups upon great Heaps to lay.
There also those two Pandionian Maids,
Calling on Itis, Itis evermore,
Whom (wretched Boy) they slew with guilty Blades;
For whom the Thracian King lamenting sore,
Turn'd to a Lapwing, foulie them upbraids,
And fluttering, round about them still does soare:
There now they all eternally complain
Of others Wrong, and suffer endless Pain.
But the two Brethren born of Cadmus' Blood,
Whilst each does for the Soveraignty contend,
Blind through Ambition, and with Vengeance wood,
Each doth against the other's Body bend
His cursed Steel, of neither well withstood,
And with wide Wounds their Carcases doth rend;
That yet they both do mortal Foes remain,
Sith each with Brother's bloodie Hand was slain.
Ah! (weladay) there is no end of Pain,
Nor change of Labour may intreated be;
Yet I beyond all these am carried fain,
Where other Powers far different I see,
And must pass over to th' Elysian Plain:
There grim Persephone encountring me,
Doth urge her Fellow-Furies earnestly,
With their bright Firebronds me to terrifie.
There chaste Alceste lives inviolate,
Free from all Care; for that her Husband's Days
She did prolong, by changing Fate for Fate.
Lo there lives also the immortal Praise
Of Womankind, most faithful to her Mate,
Penelope: And from her far aways
A ruless Rout of Young-men, which her woo'd,
All slain with Darts, lie wallowed in their Blood.
And sad Eurydice thence now no more
Must turn to Life, but there detained be,
For looking back, being forbid before:
Yet was the Guilt thereof, Orpheus, in thee.
Bold sure he was, and worthy Spirit bore,
That durst those lowest Shadows go to see;
And could believe that any thing could please
Fell Cerberus, or Stygian Powers appease.
Ne fear'd the burning Waves of Phlegeton,
Nor those same mournful Kingdoms, compassed
With rusty Horrour and foul Fashion,
And deep-dig'd Vaults; and Tartar covered
With bloody Night and dark Confusion,
And Judgment-Seats, whose Judge is deadly dred;
A Judge, that after Death doth punish sore
The Faults, which Life hath trespassed before.
But valiant Fortune made Dan Orpheus bold;
For the swift running Rivers still did stand,
And the wild Beasts their Fury did with-hold,
To follow Orpheus' Musick through the Land;
And th' Oakes, deep grounded in the earthly Mold,
Did move, as if they could him understand:
And the shrill Woods, which were of Sense bereav'd,
Through their hard Bark his silver Sound receav'd.
And eke the Moon her hasty Steeds did stay,
Drawing in Teems along the starry Sky;
And didst (O monthly Virgin) thou delay
Thy nightly Course, to hear his Melody?
The same was able with like lovely Lay,
The Queen of Hell to move as easily,
To yield Eurydice unto her Fere,
Back to be borne, though it unlawful were.
She (Lady) having well before approv'd
The Fiends to be too cruel and severe,
Observ'd th' appointed way, as her behov'd,
Ne ever did her Eye-sight turn arere,
Ne ever spake, ne cause of speaking mov'd:
But cruel Orpheus, thou much crueller,
Seeking to kiss her, brok'st the Gods Decree,
And thereby mad'st her ever damn'd to be.
Ah! but sweet Love of Pardon worthy is,
And doth deserve to have small Faults remitted;
If Hell at least, things lightly done amiss,
Knew how to pardon, when ought is omitted:
Yet are ye both received into Bliss,
And to the Seats of happy Souls admitted.
And you beside the honourable Band
Of Great Heroes, do in order stand.
There be the two stout Sons of Aeacus,
Fierce Peleus, and the hardy Telamon,
Both seeming now full glad and joyeous
Through their Sire's dreadful Jurisdiction,
Being the Judge of all that horrid House:
And both of them by strange Occasion,
Renown'd in Choice of happy Marriage
Through Venus' Grace, and Vertue's Carriage.
For th' one was ravish'd of his own Bond-maid,
The fair Ixione, captiv'd from Troy;
But th' other was with Thetis' Love assaid,
Great Nereus his Daughter, and his Joy.
On this side them there is a Young-man laid,
Their Match in Glory, mighty, fierce, and coy;
That from th' Argolick Ships, with furious Ire,
Bett back the Fury of the Trojan fire.
O! who would not recount the strong Divorces
Of that great War, which Trojans oft beheld,
And oft beheld the warlike Greekish Forces,
When Teucrian Soil with bloody Rivers swell'd,
And wide Sigaean Shores were spred with Corses,
And Simois and Xanthus' Blood out-weld,
Whilst Hector raged with outrageous Mind,
Flames, Weapons, Wounds in Greeks Fleet to have tynd.
For Ida's self, in Aid of that fierce Fight,
Out of her Mountains ministred Supplies,
And like a kindly Nurse, did yield (for spight)
Store of Firebronds out of her Nurseries,
Unto her foster Children, that they might
Inflame the Navy of their Enemies,
And all the Rhaetean Shore to Ashes turn,
Where lay the Ships, which they did seek to burn.
'Gainst which the noble Son of Telamon
Oppos'd himself, and thwarting his huge Shield,
Them barter bad, 'gainst whom appear'd anon,
Hector, the Glory of the Trojan Field:
Both fierce and furious in Contention
Encountred, that their mighty Strokes so shrild,
As the great Clap of Thunder, which doth rive
The ratling Heavens, and Clouds asunder drive.
So th' one with Fire and Weapons did contend
To cut the Ships, from turning home again
To Argos, th' other strove for to defend
The Force of Vulcan with his Might and Main.
Thus th' one Aeacide did his Fame extend,
But th' other joy'd, that on the Phrygian Plain
Having the Blood of vanquish'd Hector shed,
He compass'd Troy thrice with his Body ded.
Again great Dole on either Party grew,
That him to death unfaithful Paris sent;
And also him that false Ulysses slew,
Drawn into Danger through close Ambushment:
Therefore from him Laertes' Son his View
Doth turn aside, and boasts his good Event
In working of Strymonian Rhaesus' Fall,
And eft in Dolon's subtile Surprisall.
Again the dreadful Cycons him dismay,
And black Laestrigones, a People stout;
Then greedy Scilla, under whom there bay
Many great Bandogs, which her gird about:
Then do the Aetnean Cyclops him affray,
And deep Charybdis gulphing in and out;
Lastly, the squalid Lakes of Tartary,
And griesly Fiends of Hell him terrify.
There also goodly Agamemnon boasts
The Glory of the Stock of Tantalus,
And famous Light of all the Greekish Hosts,
Under whose Conduct most victorious,
The Dorick Flames consum'd the Iliack Posts.
Ah! but the Greeks themselves more dolorous,
To thee, O Troy! paid Penance for thy Fall,
In th' Hellespont being nigh drowned all.
Well may appear by proof of their Mischance,
The changeful Turning of Mens slippery State,
That none, whom Fortune freely doth advance,
Himself therefore to Heaven would elevate:
For lofty Type of Honour through the Glance
Of Envy's Dart, is down in Dust prostrate;
And all that vaunts in worldly Vanity,
Shall fall through Fortune's Mutability.
Th' Argolick Power returning home again,
Enrich'd with Spoils of th' Ericthonian Towre,
Did happy Wind and Weather entertain,
And with good speed the foamy Billows scour:
No sign of Storm, no fear of future Pain,
Which soon ensued them with heavy Stoure,
Nereis to the Seas a Token gave,
The whiles their crooked Keels the Surges clave.
Suddenly, whether through the Gods Decree,
Or hapless rising of some froward Star,
The Heavens on every side enclowded be:
Black Storms and Fogs are blowen up from far,
That now the Pilot can no Load-star see,
But Skies and Seas do make most dreadful War;
The Billows striving to the Heavens to reach,
And th' Heavens striving them for to impeach.
And in Avengement of their bold Attempt,
Both Sun and Stars, and all the heavenly Powres
Conspire in one to wreak their rash Contempt,
And down on them to fall from highest Towres;
The Sky in pieces seeming to be rent,
Throws Lightning forth, and Hail, and harmful Showres,
That Death on every side to them appears
In thousand Forms, to work more ghastly Fears.
Some in the greedy Floods are sunk and drent,
Some on the Rocks of Caphareus are thrown;
Some on th' Euboick Cliffs in pieces rent;
Some scatter'd on the Hercaean Shores unknown;
And many lost, of whom no Moniment
Remains, nor Memory is to be shown:
Whilst all the Purchase of the Phrygian Prey
Tost on salt Billows, round about doth stray.
Here many other like Heroes be,
Equal in Honour to the former Crue,
Whom ye in goodly Seats may placed see,
Descended all from Rome by Linage due,
From Rome, that holds the World in Sovereignty,
And doth all Nations unto her subdue:
Here Fabii and Decii do dwell,
Horatii, that in Vertue did excel.
And here the antique Fame of stout Camill
Doth ever live, and constant Curtius,
Who stiffly bent his vowed Life to spill
For Country's Health, a Gulf most hideous
Amidst the Town with his own Corps did fill,
T' appease the Powers; and prudent Mutius,
Who in his Flesh endur'd the scorching Flame,
To daunt his Foe by Ensample of the same.
And here wise Curius, his Companion
Of noble Vertues, lives in endless Rest;
And stout Flaminius, whose Devotion
Taught him the Fires scorn'd Fury to detest;
And here the Praise of either Scipion
Abides in highest place above the best,
To whom the ruin'd Walls of Carthage vow'd,
Trembling their Forces, found their Praises loud.
Live they for ever through their lasting Praise:
But I, poor Wretch, am forced to return
To the sad Lakes, that Phoebus' sunny Rays
Do never see, where Souls do always mourn,
And by the wailing Shores to waste my Days,
Where Phlegeton with quenchless Flames doth burn;
By which just Minos righteous Souls doth sever
From wicked ones, to live in Bliss for ever.
Me therefore thus the cruel Fiends of Hell
Girt with long Snakes, and thousand yron Chains,
Through Doom of that their cruel Judge, compel
With bitter Torture and impatient Pains,
Cause of my Death, and just Complaint to tell.
For thou art he, whom my poor Ghost complains
To be the Author of her Ill unwares,
That careless hear'st my intollerable Cares.
Them therefore as bequeathing to the Wind,
I now depart, returning to thee never,
And leave this lamentable Plaint behind.
But do thou haunt the soft down-rolling River,
And wild green Woods, and fruitful Pastures mind,
And let the flitting Air my vain Words sever.
Thus having said, he heavily departed
With piteous Cry, that any would have smarted.
Now when the sloathful Fit of Life's sweet Rest
Had left the heavy Shepherd, wondrous Cares
His inly grieved Mind full sore opprest;
That baleful Sorrow he no longer bears,
For that Gnat's Death, which deeply was imprest:
But bends whatever Power his aged Years
Him lent, yet being such, as through their Might
He lately shew his dreadful Foe in Fight.
By that same River lurking under Green,
Eftsoons he 'gins to fashion forth a Place;
And squaring it in Compass well beseen,
There plotteth out a Tomb by measured Space:
His yron-headed Spade tho making clean,
To dig up Sods out of the flowrie Grass,
His Work he shortly to good purpose brought,
Like as he had conceiv'd it in his Thought.
An Heap of Earth he hoorded up on high,
Enclosing it with Banks on every side,
And thereupon did raise full busily
A little Mount, of green Turfs edified:
And on the Top of all, that Passers by
Might it behold, the Tomb he did provide,
Of smoothest Marble-stone in order set,
That never might his lucky Scape forget.
And round about he taught sweet Flowres to grow;
The Rose engrained in pure Scarlet Dye,
The Lilly fresh, and Violet below,
The Marigold, and chearful Rosemary,
The Spartan Myrtle, whence sweet Gum does flow,
The purple Hyacinth, and fresh Costmary
And Saffron sought for in Cilician Soil,
And Laurel, th' Ornament of Phoebus' Toil;
Fresh Rhododaphne, and the Sabine Flowre
Matching the Wealth of th' antient Frankincence,
And pallid Ivy building his own Bowre;
And Box, yet mindful of his old Offence;
Red Amaranthus, luckless Paramour;
Ox-eye still green, and bitter Patience;
Ne wants there pale Narciss, that in a Well
Seeing his Beauty, in Love with it fell.
And whatsoever other Flowre of Worth,
And whatso other Herb of lovely Hue
The joyous Spring out of the Ground brings forth,
To clothe her self in Colours fresh and new;
He planted there, and rear'd a Mount of Earth,
In whose high Front was writ as doth ensue:
To thee, small Gnat, in lieu of his Life saved,
The shepherd hath thy Death's Record engraved.
[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 4:1149-68]