1591
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Visions of Petrarch. Formerly translated.

Complaints. Containing sundrie small Poemes of the Worlds Vanitie. Whereof the next Page maketh mention. By Ed. Sp.

Edmund Spenser


John Payne Collier: "The Visions of Bellay and Petrarch in this volume had been printed, with variations, more than twenty years before they appeared here. They were unquestionably the very earliest extant work of Spenser, having been inserted by Vandernoodt in his Theatre, &c. for Voluptuous Worldlings, which came out in 1569, when Spenser was not more than sixteen years old. Petrarch's Visions are there called Epigrams, and Vandernoodt professed to have rendered them himself from the Brabant language into English. In the same way he asserts that he had translated the Visions of Bellay 'out of Dutch into English.' The most plausible solution seems to be, that Spenser translated them for him, while Vandernoodt took the credit of it. The Visions of Bellay Vandernoodt calls Sonnets, and it is remarkable that they are in blank-verse, as he printed them, although, when republished by Spenser in the volume before us, he changed them from blank verse into the ordinary form of the rhyming sonnet. The Visions of Petrarch were originally printed in rhyme, but some of them were then only of twelve lines. Spenser subsequently added an additional couplet to such as were deficient" Bibliographical and Critical Account (1866) 4:84.

F. G. Fleay: "These also (except the last sonnet) were published in the Theater for Worldlings, in the same way as the above [Visions of Bellay], without any acknowledgement of Spenser's authorship. They were reprinted, with the additional sonnet, in the Complaints. They are all in sonnet form. No dedication is prefixed. In the 1591 edition, 'formerly translated' is added in the title" Guide to Chaucer and Spenser (1877) 83.

Thomas Corser: "They are among the earliest productions of Spenser's muse, and from the circumstance of his being born in 1550, and their being published in this work [Vander Noot] in 1569, the year in which he entered the University of Cambridge, must have been written when he was not more than sixteen years of age" Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 10 (1880) 315.



Being one day at my Window all alone,
So many strange things happened me to see,
As much it grieveth me to think thereon.
At my right Hand a Hind appear'd to me,
So fair as mote the greatest God delite;
Two eager Dogs did her pursue in Chace,
Of which the one was black, the other white:
With deadly Force so in their cruel Race
They pincht the Haunches of that gentle Beast,
That at the last, and in short time I spide,
Under a Rock where she alas opprest,
Fell to the Ground, and there untimely dide.
Cruel Death vanquishing so noble Beauty,
Oft makes me wail so hard a Destiny.

After at Sea a tall Ship did appear,
Made all of Heben and white Ivory,
The Sails of Gold, of Silk the Tackle were,
Mild was the Wind, calm seem'd the Sea to be,
The Sky each where did show full bright and fair;
With rich Treasures this gay Ship fraited was:
But sudden Storm did so turmoil the Air,
And tumbled up the Sea, that she (alas!)
Strake on a Rock, that under Water lay,
And perished past all Recovery.
O how great Ruth and sorrowful Assay,
Doth vex my Spirit with Perplexity,
Thus in a moment to see lost and dround
So great Riches as like cannot be found!

The heavenly Branches did I see arise
Out of the fresh and lusty Laurel-Tree,
Amidst the young green Wood: of Paradise
Some noble Plant I thought my self to see:
Such store of Birds therein yshrouded were,
Chanting in shade their sundry Melody,
That with their Sweetness I was ravisht nere.
While on this Laurel fixed was mine Eye,
The Sky 'gan every where to over-cast,
And darkned was the Welkin all about,
When sudden Flash of Heaven's Fire outbrast,
And rent this Royal Tree quite by the Root.
Which makes me much and ever to complain;
For no such Shadow shall be had again.

Within this Wood, out of a Rock did rise
Spring of Water, mildly tumbling down,
Whereto approached not in any wise
The homely Shepherd, nor the ruder Clown;
But many Muses, and the Nymphs withal,
That sweetly in Accord did tune their Voyce
To the soft Sounding of the Waters Fall,
That my glad Heart thereat did much rejoyce.
But while therein I took my chief Delight,
I saw (alas!) the gaping Earth devour
The Spring, the Place, and all clean out of sight:
Which yet aggrieves my Heart even to this hour,
And wounds my Soul with ruful Memory,
To see such Pleasures gone so suddenly.

I saw a Phoenix in the Wood alone,
With purple Wings, and Crest of golden Hue:
Strange Bird he was, whereby I thought anone,
That of some heavenly Wight I had the view;
Until he came unto the broken Tree,
And to the Spring, that late devoured was.
What say I more? each thing at last we see
Doth pass away: the Phoenix there (alas!)
Spying the Tree destroid, the Water dride,
Himself smote with his Beak, as in disdain,
And so forthwith in great Despite he dide:
That yet my Heart burns in exceeding Pain,
For ruth and pity of so hapless Plight;
O let mine Eyes no more see such a light.

At last, so fair a Lady did I spy,
That thinking yet on her, I burn and quake;
On Herbs and Flowres she walked pensively,
Mild, but yet Love she proudly did forsake:
White seem'd her Robes, yet woven so they were,
As Snow and Gold together had been wrought.
Above the Waste a dark Cloud shrouded her,
A stinging Serpent by the Heel her caught;
Wherewith she languisht as the gather'd Flowre,
And well assur'd she mounted up to Joy.
Alas, on Earth so nothing doth endure,
But bitter Grief and sorrowful Annoy:
Which make this Life wretched and miserable,
Tossed with Storms of Fortune variable.

When I beheld this tickle trustless State
Of vain World's Glory, flitting to and fro,
And mortal Men tossed by troublous Fate,
In restless Seas of Wretchedness and Woe;
I with I might this weary Life forgo,
And shortly turn unto my happy Rest,
Where my free Spirit might not any mo
Be vext with Sights, that do her Peace molest.
And ye fair Lady, in whose bounteous Brest
All heavenly Grace and Vertue shrined is,
When ye these Rimes do read, and view the rest,
Loath this base World, and think of Heaven's Bliss:
And though ye be the fairer of God's Creatures,
Yet think, that Death shall spoil your goodly Features.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 5:1379-82]