Gorbo invites the aged Wynken to "tell a tale of Gawen or Sir Guy, | Of Robin Hood, or of good Clem a Clough." But the downcast poet can only bewail the death of Sir Philip Sidney: "Elphin is dead, and in his grave is laid, | Our lives delight whilst lovely Elphin lived, | What cruell fate hath so the time betraid, | The widow world of all her joyes deprived." Wynken eulogizes Sidney in a song of Rowland's, closely modeled on the rustic dirge in Spenser's November: "Our mirth is now depriv'd of all her glory, | Our Taburins in dolefull dumps are drownd. | Our viols want their sweet and pleasing sound, | Our melodie is mar'd." The Sidney passage was excised in the two later versions of Drayton's pastorals.
The name "Wynken" is taken from Wynken de Worde, an associate of the printer Caxton; "Clem a Clough" is the title of a popular ballad.
Nathaniel Baxter: "O noble Drayton well didst thou rehearse, | Our Damages in dryrie Sable verse" in Sir Philip Sydneys Ourania (1606) Sig M4v.
Edmond Malone: "It may be observed, that a few years after the verses under our consideration were published [Spenser's Tears of the Muses], Drayton, in like manner, eulogized Sir Philip Sidney, under the invented name of Elphin; which was manifestly formed by a transposition of the letters in the first syllable, or abbreviation, of his Christian name [Phil], and of the only letters that are sounded in the last syllable of his surname [ne]; for the anagrammatists, as the learned in that art inform us, claim the licence of disregarding such letters as are silent and inefficient, in which predicament the final letter in Sidney stands. By this process 'Philne' was obtained; and then, by transposition, 'Elphin.' Sidney also, himself (and Spenser after him), with a similar allusion to the first syllable of his Christian name, preferring to it a Greek word of the same import with the fictitious name of his mistress [Stella], had denominated himself 'Astrophil'; though, for some reason or other, perhaps with a view to throw a veil over the conceit, the word, in their time, was generally written 'Astrophel'" Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare (1790; 1821) 2:202-04.
Oliver Elton: "His youthful rubbish, probably voluminous, has not all perished. As early as 1587 he may have written the elegy on Sidney (1586), under the name of Elphin, printed in 1593, though never afterwards, in the fourth of his eclogues. But the scrap of evidence adduced for this supposition is not conclusive" Introduction to Michael Drayton (1895)10.
Oliver Elton: "Winken ... Commonly identified with Warner, for no very good reason" Introduction to Michael Drayton (1895) 61.
Herbert E. Cory: "Drayton laments the death of Sidney under the name Elphin. This pastoral elegy is also under great obligations to Spenser; for it is inspired by the lament for Dido in November which Spenser, in his turn, had adapted from Marot. In his revised edition Drayton supplanted this lyric with an elegy far less Spenserian" "Spenserian Pastoral" PMLA 25 (1910) 248.
Tillotson and Newdigate: "This eclogue introduces another common pastoral form in the dirge, used by Theocritus, Virgil, Mantuan, and Spenser. Both the setting and the dirge itself show the influence of November (and occasionally September), and the introduction of an aged shepherd longing for death may derive from Daphnaida (1591). Drayton probably knew Marot's Loyse de Savoye ... which Spenser echoes in November. The opening has some resemblance to that of Barclay, Ecl. IV (modelled on Mantuan, V), and to Thomas Watson's Eglogue ... upon Walsingham (1590). The closest parallel, however, is found in the Eclogue by 'A. W.' in Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, 1602, 'made long since upon the death of Sir Phillip Sidney,' a brilliant piece of Spenserian pastiche" Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1931-61) 5:8.
Dennis Kay: "Pastoral becomes by implication an ideal and potentially heavenly mode of existence (and thus of writing): through imitation and reiteration (whether of ceremonies, words, pastimes, or employment), those who are alive may both praise their distinguished predecessors and claim kinship with them. And such reflections appear in the context of Drayton's youthful self-presentation as a disciple of Sidney and Spenser, as one who aspired to attain their standing through studious imitation of their art and diligent preservation of their values. But when Drayton came to revise the poem for his Eglogs of 1606, the optimistic resolution was purged: nostalgia had edged into satire" Melodious Tears (1990) 76.
Wynken bewayleth Elphins losse,
The God of Poesie,
With Rowlands rime ecleepd the tears
Of the greene Hawthorne tree.
Well met good Wynken, whither doest thou wend?
How hast thou far'd sweet shepherd many a yeer?
May Wynken thus his daies in darkenes spend?
Who I have knowne for piping had no peere?
Where been those fayre flocks thou wert wont to guide?
What? been they dead? or hap'd on some mischance,
Or mischiefe hath their master else betide,
Or Lordly Love hath cast thee in a trance.
What man? lets still be merie whilst we may,
And take a truce with sorrow for a time,
And let us passe this wearie winters day,
In reading Riddles, or in making rime.
Ah woe's me Gorbo, mirth is farre away,
Mirth may not sojourne with black malcontent,
The lowring aspect of this dismall day,
The winter of my sorrow doth augment.
My song is now a swanne-like dying song,
And my conceipts, the deepe conceipts of death,
My heart becom'n a very hell of wrong,
My breast the irksome prison of my breath.
I loth my life, I loth the dearest light,
Com'n is my night, when once appeeres the day,
The blessed sunne seemes odious in my sight,
No song may like me but the shreech-owles lay.
What mayst thou be, that old Wynkin de word,
Whose thred-bare wits o'rworne with melancholly,
Once so delightsome at the shepheards boord,
But now forlorne with thy selves self-wild folly.
I think thou dot'st in thy gray-bearded age,
Or brusd with sinne, for thy youths sin art sory,
And vow'st for thy? a solemne pilgrimage,
To holy Hayles or Patricks Purgatory.
Come sit we downe under this Hawthorne tree.
The morrowes light shall lend us daie enough,
And tell a tale of Gawen or Sir Guy,
Of Robin Hood, or of good Clem a Clough.
Or else some Romant unto us areed,
Which good olde Godfrey taught thee in thy youth,
Of noble Lords and Ladies gentle deede,
Or of thy love, or of thy lasses truth.
Gorbo, my Comfort is accloyd with care,
A new mishap my wonted joyes hath crost:
Then mervaile not although my musicke jarre,
When she the Author of her mirth hath lost,
Elphin is dead, and in his grave is laid,
Our lives delight whilst lovely Elphin lived,
What cruell fate hath so the time betraid,
The widow world of all her joyes deprived.
O cursed death, Lives fearfull enemie,
Times poysned sickle: Tyrants revenging pride:
Thou blood-sucker, Thou childe of infamie:
Devouring Tiger: slaughtering homicide:
Ill hast thou done, and ill may thee betide.
Naught hast thou got, the earth hath wonne the most,
Nature is payd the interest of her due,
Pan hath receav'd, what him so dearly cost,
O heavens his vertues doe belong to you.
A heavenly clowded in a humaine shape,
Rare substance, in so rough a barcke Iclad,
Of Pastorall, the lively springing sappe,
Though mortall thou, thy fame immortall made.
Spel-charming Prophet, sooth-divining seer,
O heavenly musicke of the highest spheare,
Sweet sounding trump, soule-ravishing desire,
Thou stealer of mans heart, inchanter of the eare.
God of Invention, Joves deere Mercury,
Joy of our Lawrell, pride of all our joy:
The essence of all Poets divinitie,
Spirit of Orpheus: Pallas lovely boy.
But all my words shalbe dissolv'd to teares,
And my tears fountaines shall to rivers grow:
These Rivers to the floods of my dispaires,
And these shall make an Ocean of my woe.
His rare desarts, shall kindle my desire,
With burning zeale, the brands of mine unrest,
My sighes in adding sulphure to this fire,
Shall frame another Aetna in my breast.
Planets reserve your playnts till dismall day,
The ruthles rockes but newly have begonne,
And when in drops they be dissolv'd away,
Let heavens begin to weepe when earth hath done.
Then tune thy pipe and I will sing a laye,
Upon his death by Rowland of the rocke,
Sitting with me this other stormy day,
In yon fayre field attending on our flock.
This shall content me Wynken wondrous well,
And in this mistie wether keepe us waking,
To heare of him, who whylome did excell,
In such a song of learned Rowlands making.
Melpomine put on thy mourning Gaberdine,
And set thy song unto the dolefull Base,
And with thy sable vayle shadow thy face,
With weeping verse,
Attend his hearse,
Whose blessed soule the heavens doe now enshrine.
Come Nymphs and with your Rebecks ring his knell,
Warble forth your wamenting harmony,
And at his drery fatall obsequie,
With Cypres bowes,
Maske your fayre Browes,
And beat your breasts to chyme his burying peale.
Thy birth-day was to all our joye, the even,
And on thy death this dolefull song we sing,
Sweet Child of Pan, and the Castalian spring,
Unto our endles mone,
From us why art thou gone,
To fill up that sweete Angels quier in heaven.
O whylome thou thy lasses dearest love,
When with greene Lawrell she hath crowned thee,
Immortall mirror of all Poesie:
The Muses treasure,
The Graces pleasure,
Reigning with Angels now in heaven above.
Our mirth is now depriv'd of all her glory,
Our Taburins in dolefull dumps are drownd.
Our viols want their sweet and pleasing sound,
Our melodie is mar'd
And we of joyes debard,
Oh wicked world so mutable and transitory.
O dismall day, bereaver of delight,
O stormy winter sourse of all our sorrow,
O most untimely and eclipsed morrow,
To rob us quite
Of all delight,
Darkening that starre which ever shone so bright:
Oh Elphin, Elphin, Though thou hence be gone,
In spight of death yet shalt thou live for aye,
Thy Poesie is garlanded with Baye:
And still shall blaze
Thy lasting prayse:
Whose losse poore shepherds ever shall bemone.
Come Girles, and with Carnations decke his grave,
With damaske Roses and the hyacynt:
Come with sweete Williams, Marjoram and Mynt,
With precious Balmes,
With hymnes and psalmes,
His funerall deserves no lesse at all to have.
But see where Elphin sits in fayre Elizia,
Feeding his flocke on yonder heavenly playne,
Come and behold, yon lovely shepheards swayne,
Piping his fill,
On yonder hill,
Tasting sweete Nectar, and Ambrosia.
Oh how thy plaints (sweete friend) renew my payne,
In listning thus to thy lamenting cries:
That from the tempest of my troubled brayne,
See how the floods been risen in mine eyes.
And being now a full tide of our teares,
It is full time to stop the streame of griefe,
Lest drowning in the floods of our despaires,
We want our lives, wanting our soules reliefe.
But now the sunne beginneth to decline,
And whilest our woes been in repeating here,
Yon little elvish moping Lamb of mine,
Is all betangled in yon crawling Brier.
Optima prima fere manibus rapiuntur avaris:
Implentur numeris deteriora suis.