1579
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Shepheardes Calender XII: December.

The Shepheardes Calender conteyning Twelve Aeglogues proportionable to the Twelve Monethes. Entitled to the noble and vertuous Gentleman most worthy of all Titles both of Learning and Chevalrie M. Philip Sidney.

Edmund Spenser


The concluding eclogue, in which Colin Clout gives a looks back over his happy youth and misfortunes in love became something of a touchstone in later treatments of the poetical vocation; countless romantic poets developed this theme, not usually in pastoral verse to be sure, but in the sonnets, odes, and descriptive poems then regarded as the most poetic of literary forms. Compare Spenser's narrative to Cowley's description of his vocational moment in "Of Myself" (1664) and that in James Beattie's Minstrel (1771), which in turn inspired Byron's Childe Harold (1812).

John Hughes: "This last Aeglogue, like the first, is a Soliloquy of Colin, reflecting on the Pleasures and Levities of his Youth, the Progress of his riper Years, and complaining that his Life is now blasted, and brought to its Winter Season, thro' his long and hopeless Passion for Rosalind" Works of Spenser (1715) 4:1113.

Selected notes from Todd's Works of Spenser (1805):

This, which is one of his most finished and elegant pastorals, is literally translated from old Clement Marot; which is not observed by the commentator, E. K. T. WARTON.

The reader, who shall follow Mr. Warton's directions in comparing the French and English poets, will rather contend, I am persuaded, that Spenser's translation is not absolutely literal, but improved by considerable variations. TODD.

It cannot be denied that Spenser, in the Shepherd's Calendar, has most ably exhibited delightful scenes of rural simplicity, although indeed with no new imagery. The best images, Mr. Warton observes, are in those Eclogues which he has translated or imitated from Marot. It is an absurdity, says the same critick, to make shepherds deliver learned truths in rustick dialect. However, the English Pastoral of modern times has derived much of its success from an attention to Spenser's liveliness of description and to the innocence of his characters. TODD.



The gentle Shepherd sate besides a Spring:
All in the Shadow of a bushy Brere,
That Colin hight, which well could pipe and sing,
For he of Tityrus his Songs did lere:
There as he sate in secret Shade alone,
Thus 'gan he make of Love his piteous Moan.

O sovereign Pan! thou God of Shepherds all,
Which of our tender Lambkins takest keep;
And when our flocks into mischance mought fall,
Do'st save from mischief the unwary Sheep:
Als of their Maisters hast no less regard
Than of the Flocks, which thou dost watch and ward!

I thee beseech (so be thou deign to hear
Rude Ditties tun'd to Shepherd's Oaten Reed,
Or if I ever Sonnet sung so clear,
As it with pleasaunce mought thy Fancy feed)
Hearken awhile from thy green Cabinet,
The lawrel Song of careful Colinet.

Whilom in Youth, when flowr'd my youthful Spring,
Like Swallow swift, I wandred here and there;
For Heat of heedless Lust me so did sting,
That I oft doubted Danger had no Fear:
I went the wastful Woods and Forrest wide,
Withouten dread of Wolves to been espide.

I wont to range amid the mazy Thicket,
And gather Nuts to make me Christmas-game:
And joyed oft to chace the trembling Pricket,
Or hunt the heartless Hare, till she were tame.
What wrecked I of wintry Ages wast?
Tho deemed I my Spring would ever last.

How often have I scal'd the craggy Oak,
All to dislodge the Raven of her Nest?
How have I wearied with many a Stroke,
The stately Walnut-Tree, the while the rest
Under the Tree fell all for Nuts at strife?
For like to me was Liberty and Life.

And for I was in thilk same looser Yeers,
(Whether the Muse so wrought me from my Birth,
Or I too much believ'd my Shepherd Peers)
Somedele ybent to Song and Musick's Mirth;
A good old Shepherd, Wrenock was his Name,
Made me by Art more cunning in the same.

From thence I durst in Derring to compare
With Shepherd's Swain, whatever fed in Field:
And if that Hobbinol right judgment bare,
To Pan his own self Pipe I need not yield.
For if the flocking Nymphs did follow Pan,
The wiser Muse after Colin ran.

But ah such Pride at length was ill repaid!
The Shepherd's God (perdy God was he none)
My hurtless Pleasance did me ill upbraid;
My Freedom lorn, my Life he left to mone.
Love they him called, that gave me Checkmate,
But better mought they have behote him Hate.

Tho 'gan my lovely Spring bid me farewel,
And Sommer Season sped him to display
(For Love then in the Lion's House did dwell)
The raging Fire that kindled at his Ray.
A Comet stir'd up that unkindly Heat,
That reigned (as Men said) in Venus' Seat.

Forth was I led, not as I wont afore,
When Choice I had to chuse my wandring way;
But whither Luck and Love's unbridled Lore
Would lead me forth on Fancies bit to play:
The Bush my Bed, the Bramble was my Bow'r,
The Woods can witness many a woeful Stow'r.

Where I was wont to seek the hony Bee,
Working her formal Rowms in wexen Frame:
The griesly Todestool grown there mought I see,
And loathed Paddocks lording on the same.
And where the chaunting Birds lull'd me asleep,
The ghastly Owl her grievous Inn doth keep.

Then as the Spring gives place to elder Time,
And bringeth forth the Fruit of Sommer's Pride;
All so my Age, now passed youthly Prime,
To things of riper Season self apply'd:
And learn'd of lighter Timber Cotes to frame,
Such as might save my Sheep and me from Shame.

To make fine Cages for the Nightingale,
And Baskets of Bulrushes was my wont;
Who to entrap the Fish in winding Sale,
Was better seen, or hurtful Beasts to hunt?
I learned als the Signs of Heaven to ken,
How Phoebus fails, where Venus sits, and when.

And tried Time yet taught me greater things,
The suddain rising of the raging Seas;
The Sooth of Birds by beating of their Wings,
The Pow'r of Herbs, both which can hurt and ease:
And which be wont t' enrage the restless Sheep,
And which be wont to work eternal Sleep.

But ah unwise and witless Colin Clout!
That kydst the hidden Kinds of many a Weed;
Yet kydst not ene to cure thy sore Heart-root,
Whose rankling Wound as yet does rifely bleed.
Why liv'st thou still, and yet hast thy Death's Wound?
Why diest thou still, and yet alive art found?

Thus is my Sommer worn away and wasted;
Thus is my Harvest hasten'd all too rathe:
The Ear that budded fair, is burnt and blasted,
And all my hoped Gain is turn'd to Scathe.
Of all the Seed that in my Youth was sown,
Was none but Brakes and Brambles to be mown.

My Boughs and Bloosmes, that crowned were at first,
And promised of timely Fruit such store,
Are left both bare and barren now at erst,
The flattering Fruit is fallen to ground before,
And rotted e'er they were half mellow ripe:
My Harvest waste, my Hope away did wipe.

The fragrant Flowers, that in my Garden grew,
Been wither'd, as they had been gather'd long;
Their Roots been dried up for lack of Dew,
Yet dew'd with Tears they hen been e'er among.
Ah! who has wrought my Rosalind this Spight,
To spill the Flowers that should her Girlond dight?

And I, that whilom wont to frame my Pipe
Unto the shifting of the Shepherd's Foot,
Sike Follies now have gather'd, as too ripe,
And cast hem out, as rotten and unsoot.
The looser Lass I cast to please no more,
One if I please, enough is me therefore.

And thus of all my Harvest-Hope, I have
Nought reaped but a weedy Crop of Care;
Which, when I thought have thresh'd in swelling Sheave,
Cockle for Corn, and Chaff for Barly bare:
Soon as the Chaff should in the Fan be fin'd,
All blown away was of the wavering Wind.

So now my Year draws to my latter Term,
My Spring is spent, my Sommer burnt up quite;
My Harvest hastes to stir up Winter stern,
And bids him claim with rigorous Rage his Right:
So now he storms with many a sturdy Stour,
So now his blustring Blast each Coast doth scour.

The careful Cold hath nipt my rugged Rind,
And in my Face deep Furrows Eld hath plight;
My Head besprent with hoary Frost I find,
And by mine Eye the Crow his Claw doth wright:
Delight is laid abed, and Pleasure past,
No Sun now shines, Clouds hen all over-cast.

Now leave, you Shepherds Boys, your merry Glee,
My Muse is hoarse and weary of this Stound;
Here will I hang my Pipe upon this Tree,
Was never Pipe of Reed did better sound:
Winter is come, that blows the bitter Blast,
And after Winter drery Death does haste.

Gather together ye my little Flock,
My little Flock that was to me most lief:
Let me, ah! let me in your Folds ye lock,
E'er the breme Winter breed your greater Grief.
Winter is come, that blows the baleful Breath,
And after Winter cometh timely Death.

Adieu Delights, that lulled me asleep;
Adieu my Dear, whose Love I bought so dear;
Adieu my little Lambs and loved Sheep;
Adieu ye Woods, that oft my Witness were:
Adieu good Hobbinol, that was so true,
Tell Rosalind, Colin bids her adieu.

COLIN'S EMBLEM.
Vivitur ingenio, caeter mortis erunt.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 4:1113-18]