Perkin invites Rowland to sing in emulation of Spenser, who has recently yielded his oaten reed to pursue the Faerie muse: "In thy sweete song so blessed may'st thou bee, | For learned Collin laies his pipes to gage, | And is to fayrie gone a Pilgrimage: | The more our mone." Rowland (Drayton) of course demurrs, but then proceeds to sing an elaborate pastoral eulogy for Beta (Queen Elizabeth) in emulation of Spenser's Aprill.
John Payne Collier: "But if Spenser passed over Drayton without notice [in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe], Drayton, in his earliest prophane work, duly applauded Spenser: we refer to his Idea, the Shepheards Garland, 4to. 1593; so that he appears to have been one of the first, if not the very first poet, who, after the publication of The Faerie Queene, in 1590, spoke of, or alluded to it. He did so covertly and delicately, but at the same time very intelligibly, in a passage in his third Eclogue, where Perkin is soliciting Rowland (Drayton's own name for himself) to sing in praise of Queen Elizabeth, whom he here styles Beta:— 'In thy sweet song to blessed may'st thou bee! | For learned Colin laies his pipes to gage, | And is to Fayrie gone a pilgrimage; | The more our mone.' The meaning of course is, that Rowland, is to sing in praise of Beta, because Colin (i.e. Spenser) had left off piping pastorals, and, to the regret of his friends, had gone to Fairy Land in order to continue his great poem" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:xcix.
Oliver Elton: "stanza 4, learned Colin lays his pipes to gate and is to faerie gone a pilgrimage. This is in A, 1593, when Spenser had published the first three, but not yet the last three, books of the Faerie Queene, and when he had given up pastoral. In 1606 the allusion was left, as applicable to his death. The last line, 'the more our moan,' applies to Spenser's engrossment with literature in 1593, in 1606 to his death (1599)" Introduction to Michael Drayton (1895) 56-57.
Oliver Elton: "His power of pure singing grew late and slow. In the earlier volume he did much by following close upon the Calendar. From the shepherd dialect that spoils that poem, from the habit, traceable perhaps first to Petrarch's Latin pastorals, of prudently obscure invective against foes in church or state, he turns away. But, after Spenser, he uses the pastoral in one of its most primitive extensions, for panegyric; the third eclogue containing an ode to the queen that may well compare with April. And in other traditions he acquiesces. A shepherd of skill, neglected by the world and by a harsh lady, he yet meditates a higher strain, like Colin in October; his 'simple reed Shall with a far more glorious rage infuse'" Introduction to Michael Drayton (1895) 13.
W. W. Greg: "Drayton shows himself more skilful in dealing with the lyrical stanza than most of his fellow imitators" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 104.
Herbert E. Cory: "The next eclogue contains a charming imitation of Spenser's famous Eliza song in April: — 'O thou fayre silver Thames! O cleerest chrystall flood!'" "Spenserian Pastoral PMLA 25 (1910) 247.
Tillotson and Newdigate: "The immediate model is Aprill, and the song especially shows some striking resemblances.... Perkin's commentary on the state of poetry may be compared with October; Perkin's exhortation to Rowland, and the latter's modesty, with both October and November" Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1931-61) 5:7.
Rowland and Perkin both Ifeere,
In field upon a day,
With little Robin redbrests Round,
Doe passe the time away.
Rowland for shame awake thy drowsie muse,
Time plaies the hunts-up to thy sleepie head,
Why li'st thou here as thou hadst long been dead,
Foule idle swayne?
Who ever heard thy pipe and pleasing vaine,
And doth but heare this scurrill minstralcy,
These noninos of filthie ribauldry,
That doth not muse.
Then slumber not with foule Endymion,
But tune thy reede to dapper virelayes,
And sing a while of blessed Betas prayse,
Faire Beta she:
In thy sweete song so blessed may'st thou bee,
For learned Collin laies his pipes to gage,
And is to fayrie gone a Pilgrimage:
The more our mone.
What Beta? shepheard, she is Pans belov'd,
Faire Betas praise beyond our straine doth stretch,
Her notes too hie for my poore pipe to reach,
Poore oten reede:
So farre unfit to speake of worthies deede,
But set my stops unto a lower kay,
Whereas a horne-pipe I may safelie play,
With flatterie my muse could never fage,
Nor could affect such vaine scurrility,
To please lewd Lorrels, in their foolery,
Too base and vile:
Nor but a note yet will I raise my stile,
My selfe above Will Piper to advance,
Which so bestirs him at the morris dance,
For pennie wage.
Rowland, so toyes oft times esteemed are,
And fashions ever changing with the time,
Then frolick it a while in lustie rime,
With mirth and glee:
And let me heare that Roundelay of thee,
Which once thou sangst to me in Janeveer,
When Robin-redbrest sitting on a breere,
The burthen bare.
Well needes I must yet with a heavie hart:
But were not Beta sure I would not sing,
Whose praise the ecchoes never cease to ring,
Unto the skies.
Be blith good Rowland then, and cleere thine eyes:
And now sith Robin to his roost is gone,
Good Rowland then supplie the place alone,
And shew thy arte.
O thou fayre silver Thames: O cleerest chrystall flood,
Beta alone the Phenix is, of all thy watery brood,
The Queene of Virgins onely she:
And thou the Queene of floods shalt be:
Let all thy Nymphes be joyfull then to see this happy day,
Thy Beta now alone shalbe the subject of my laye.
With daintie and delightsome straines of sweetest virelayes:
Come lovely shepheards sit we down and chant our Betas prayse:
And let us sing so rare a verse,
Our Betas prayses to rehearse,
That little Birds shall silent be, to heare poore shepheards sing,
And rivers backward bend their course, and flow unto the spring.
Range all thy swannes faire Thames together on a rancke,
And place them duely one by one, upon thy stately banck,
Then set together all agood,
Recording to the silver flood,
And crave the tunefull Nightingale to helpe you with her lay,
The Osel and the Throstlecocke, chiefe musick of our maye.
O see what troups of Nimphs been sporting on the strands,
And they been blessed Nimphs of peace, with Olives in their hands.
How meryly the Muses sing,
That all the flowry Medowes ring,
And Beta sits upon the banck, in purple and in pall,
And she the Queene of Muses is, and weares the Corinall.
Trim up her Golden tresses with Apollos sacred tree,
O happy sight unto all those that love and honor thee,
The Blessed Angels have prepar'd,
A glorious Crowne for thy reward,
Not such a golden Crowne as haughtie Caesar weares,
But such a glittering starry Crowne as Ariadne beares.
Make her a goodly Chapilet of azur'd Colombine,
And wreath about her Coronet with sweetest Eglentine:
Bedeck our Beta all with Lillies,
And the dayntie Daffadillies,
With Roses damask, white, and red, and fairest flower delice,
With Cowslips of Jerusalem, and cloves of Paradice.
O thou fayre torch of heaven, the dayes most deerest light,
And thou bright-shyning Cinthya, the glory of the night:
You starres the eyes of heaven,
And thou the glyding leven,
And thou O gorgeous Iris with all strange Colours dyed,
When she streams foorth her rayes, then dasht is all your pride.
See how the day stands still, admiring of her face,
And time loe stretcheth foorth her armes, thy Beta to imbrace,
The Syrens sing sweete layes,
The Trytons sound her prayse,
Goe passe on Thames and hie thee fast unto the Ocean sea,
And let thy billowes there proclaime thy Betas holy-day.
And water thou the blessed roote of that greene Olive tree,
With whose sweete shadow, al thy bancks with peace preserved be,
Lawrell for Poets and Conquerours,
And mirtle for Loves Paramours:
That fame may be thy fruit, the boughes preserv'd by peace,
And let the mournful Cipres die, now stormes and tempests cease.
Wee'l straw the shore with pearle where Beta walks alone,
And we wil pave her princely Bower with richest Indian stone,
Perfume the ayre and make it sweete,
For such a Goddesse it is meete,
For if her eyes for purity contend with Tytans light,
No marvaile then although they so doe dazell humaine sight.
Sound out your trumpets then, from Londons stately towres,
To beat the stormie windes aback and calme the raging showres,
Set too the Cornet and the flute,
The Orpharyon and the Lute,
And tune the Taber and the pipe, to the sweet violons,
And move the thunder in the ayre, with lowdest Clarions.
Beta long may thine Altars smoke, with yeerely sacrifice,
And long thy sacred Temples may their Saboths solemnize,
Thy shepheards watch by day and night,
Thy Mayds attend the holy light,
And thy large empyre stretch her armes from east unto the west,
And thou under thy feet mayst tread, that foule seven-headed beast.
Thanks gentle Rowland for my Roundelay,
And bless'd be Beta burthen of thy song,
The shepheards Goddesse may she florish long,
O happie she.
Her yeares and dayes thrice doubled may they bee:
Triumphing Albion clap thy hands for joy,
And pray the heavens may shield her from anoy,
So will I pray.
So doe, and when my milk-white eawes have yeande,
Beta shall have the firstling of the foulde,
I'le burnish all his hornes with finest gould,
And paynt his fleece with purple grayne.
Beleeve me as I am true shepheards swayne,
Then for thy love all other I forsake,
And unto thee my selfe I will betake,
With fayth unfayn'd.
Ipse ego thura dabo, fumosis candidus aris:
Ipse feram ante tuos munera vota pedes.