Edmund Spenser celebrates Queen Elizabeth in some of his most elaborate verse; while early readers wondered at its intricacy, this lyric manner did not long survive the Elizabethan era and was only sporadically revived by later pastoralists. Compare the elaborate pageantry of Thomas Blenerhasset's Revelation of the True Minerva (1582), apparently the first published imitation of the Shepheardes Calender. Lines 27-152 are adapted by William Webbe in "The Sapphick Verse" in his Discourse of English Poetrie (1586).
John Hughes: "The Design of this Aeglogue is to introduce a Panegyrick, in the Pastoral Kind, on Queen Elizabeth: It begins with a Complaint of Hobbinol (a Shepherd mention'd in the first Aeglogue) for Colin's neglect of his Friendship for the sake of Rosalind, with whom he was fallen in Love; and from the mentioning of Colin's Skill in Poetry, Hobbinol takes occasion to recite one of his Songs or Poems, on Elisa, Queen of Shepherds" Works of Spenser (1715) 4:1058.
Thomas Warton: "Without expatiating upon the nature of such a royal entertainment as this [at Kenelworth Castle], I shall observe from it that the LADY OF THE LAKE (and consequently the romance [by Malory] which supply'd this fiction) was a very popular character in the reign of queen Elizabeth; and we may add, that it is not improbable that Spenser might allude in the above-cited verses to some of the circumstances in this part of the queen's entertainment; for queen Elisabeth, the Fayre Elisa, is the lady whom the LADIES OF LAKE are represented as repairing to, in that eclogue. Nor is it improbable that this lady was often exhibited upon other occasions. Nor is it improper to remark in this place that Ben. Johnson has introduced her, together with king Arthur and Merlin, in an entertainment before the court of James I. called PRINCE HENRIES BARRIERS" Observations on the Faerie Queene (1754) 23-24.
John Upton: "'tis plain from Spenser's Pastorals, first published in the year 1579, and from the notes printed with them by his friend E. K. (whose name was Kerke, if I guess right) that he was known to Sir Philip Sidney before the publication of them. Hear what Hobbinol says in the Fourth Eclogue). 'Colin thou kenst the Southern Shepheards boy, | Him Love hath wounded with a deadly dart.' Hobbinol means Gabriel Harvey, Colin Spenser, and the Southern Shepheard Sir Philip Sidney" Preface to The Faerie Queene (1758) vi-vii.
Gentleman's Magazine: "Spenser's incongruities, as well as his beauties, are without end. See his Shep. Cal. April.... From the ridiculous insignia of 'violins' and 'Tamborins' ["June"], that are here assigned to the Muses, we might almost be led to imagine that Spenser had seen a painting by Carlo Maratti, who have very facetiously drawn Apollo, playing on the fiddle, surrounded by the nine muses" 56 (February 1786) 136.
There was a translation of the song into Latin, now in B.M. MS Harleian 532; circa 1600; see Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) 71.
Selected notes from Todd's Works of Spenser (1805):
The red-rose &c.] E. K. observes that Spenser here alludes to the union of the Houses of Lancaster and York, the white and red rose; queen Elizabeth being the daughter of King Henry VIII. in whom these two Families were first united. I should be inclined to think, that the lines are a mere compliment to the queen's complexion, which was remarkably delicate, though rather inclined to pale; and that the learned commentator was here guilty of too much refinement, but that he declares to have been most intimately acquainted with Spenser and "privie to all his designs." There is a Sonnet of Lord Brooke to this purpose, Sonn. lxxi. p. 228, Workes, &c. 1633. "Under a throne I saw a Virgin sit, | The red and white rose quarter'd in her face." How susceptible this admired heroine was of the most absurd flattery paid to her person, may be seen from many curious proofs, collected by Mr. Walpole, Royal and Nob. Authors, edit. 2. Lond. 1579, vol. i. p. 141. More compliments are also paid to the queen's beauty in this Pastoral. She was then forty-five years old. This however was more allowable in a poem. The present age sees her charms and her character in their proper colours! T. WARTON.
Hee blusht to see another sunne belowe, | Ne durst againe &c.] Mr. Bowle saw with me that Milton has copied this stanza in his Hymn on the Nativity, st. 7. See also G. Fletcher on a subject similar to Milton's, in his Christ's Victorie, p. 1, st. 78. — "Heaven awakened all his eyes | To see another sunne at midnight rise." T. WARTON.
Tell me good Hobbinol, what gars thee greet?
What! hath some Wolf thy tender Lambs ytorn?
Or is thy Bag-pipe broke, that sounds so sweet?
Or art thou of shy loved Lass forlorn?
Or been thine Eyes attempred to the Year,
Quenching the gasping Furrows Thirst with Rain?
Like April Shower, so stream the trickling Tear,
Adown thy Cheek, to quench thy thirsty Pain.
Nor this, nor that, so much doth make me mourn,
But for the Lad, whom long I lov'd so dear,
Now loves a Lass, that all his Love doth scorn;
He plung'd in pain, his tressed Locks doth tear.
Shepherds Delights he doth them all forswear;
His pleasant Pipe, which makes us merriment,
He wilfully hath broke, and doth forbear
His wonted Songs, wherein he all out-went.
What is he for a Lad, you so lament?
Is Love such pinching pain, to them that prove?
And hath he Skill to make so excellent,
Yet hath so little Skill to bridle Love?
Colin thou kens the Southern Shepherd's Boy:
Him Love hath wounded with a deadly Dart.
Whylom on him was all my Care and Joy,
Forcing with Gifts to win his wanton Heart.
But now from me his madding Mind is start,
And wooes the Widdow's Daughter of the Glenne:
So now fair Rosalind hath bred his smart;
So now his Friend is changed for a Frenne.
But if his Ditties be so trimly dight,
I pray thee Hobbinol record some one,
The whiles our Flocks do graze about in sight,
And we close shrouded in this shade alone.
Contented I: Then will I sing his Lay,
Of fair Elisa, Queen of Shepherds all;
Which once he made, as by a Spring he lay,
And tuned it unto the Water's Fall.
Ye dainty Nymphs, that in this blessed Brook
Do bathe your Breast,
Forsake your watry Bowers, and hither look,
At my request.
And eke you Virgins that on Parnasse dwell,
Whence floweth Helicon, the learned Well,
Help me to blaze Her worthy Praise,
Which in her Sex doth all excel.
Of fair Elisa be your silver Song,
That blessed Wight,
The Flower of Virgins; may she flourish long
In princely Plight.
For she is Syrinx' Daughter without spot;
Which Pan the Shepherd's God of her begot
So sprung her Grace
Of heavenly Race,
No mortal Blemish may her blot.
See, where she sits upon the grassy Green,
(O seemly sight!)
Yclad in Scarlet, like a Maiden Queen,
And Ermines white.
Upon her Head a Cremosin Coronet,
With Damask Roses, and Daffadillies set:
And Primroses green,
Embellish the sweet Violet.
Tell me, have ye seen her Angelike Face,
Like Phoebe fair?
Her heavenly Haviour, her princely Grace,
Can you well compare?
The red Rose medled with the white yfere,
In either Cheek depeinten lively chear;
Her modest Eye,
Where have you seen the like but there?
I saw Phoebus thrust out his golden Head,
Upon her to gaze:
But when he saw how broad her Beams did spread,
It did him amaze.
He blusht to see another Sun below,
Ne durst again his fiery Face out-show:
Let him, if he dare,
His Brightness compare
With hers, to have the overthrow.
Shew thy self Cynthia, with thy silver Rays,
And be not abasht:
When she the Beams of her Beauty displays.
O how art thou dasht?
But I will not match her with Latona's Seed:
Such Folly great sorrow to Niobe did breed.
Now she is a Stone,
And makes daily mone,
Warning all other to take heed.
Pan may be proud that ever he begot
Such a Bellibone,
And Syrinx rejoice; that ever was her lot
To bear such an one.
Soon as my Younglings crying for the Dam,
To her will I offer a Milk-white Lamb:
She is my Goddess plain,
And I her Shepherd's Swain,
Albe forswonk and forswat I am.
I see Calliope speed her to the place,
Where my Goddess shines:
And after her the other Muses trace
With their Violines.
Been they not Bay-branches, which they do bear,
All for Elisa in her Hand to wear?
So sweetly they play,
And sing all the way,
That it a Heaven is to hear.
Lo, how finely the Graces can it foot
To the Instrument:
They dauncen deffly, and singen soote,
In their Merriment.
Wants not a fourth Grace, to make the Dance even?
Let that Room to my Lady be yeven.
She shall be a Grace
To fill the fourth place,
And reign with the rest in Heaven.
And whither renns this Bevy of Ladies bright,
Ranged in a row?
They been all Ladies of the Lake behight,
That unto her go.
Cloris, that is the chiefest Nymph of all,
Of Olive Branches bears a Coronall:
Olives been for Peace,
When Wars do surcease:
Such for a Princess been principal.
Ye Shepherd's Daughters, that dwell on the Green,
Hye you there apace:
Let none come there but that Virgins been,
To adorn her Grace.
And when you come, whereas she is in place,
See that your Rudeness do not you disgrace;
Bind your Fillets fast;
And gird in your Waste,
For more Fineness, with a taudry Lace.
Bring hither the Pink, and purple Cullumbine,
Bring Coronations, and Sops in Wine,
Worn of Paramours.
Strow me the Ground with Daffadowndillies,
And Cowslips, and Kingcups, and loved Lillies:
The pretty Pawnce,
And the Chevisaunce,
Shall match with the fair Flowre-Delice.
Now rise up, Elisa, decked as thou art
In royal Ray;
And now ye dainty Damsels may depart
Each one his way.
I fear, I have troubled your Troops too long:
Let Dame Elisa thank you for her Song.
And it you come heather,
When Damsins I geather,
I will part them all you among.
And was thilk same Song of Colin's own making?
Ah! foolish Boy, that is with Love yblent:
Great pity is, he be in such taking,
For nought caren, that been so leudly bent.
Siker I hold him for a greater Fon,
That loves the thing he cannot purchase.
But let us homeward; for Night draweth on,
And twinkling Stars the Daylight hence chase.
O quam te memorem Virgo!
O Dea certe!
[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 4:1058-63]