1594
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Shepherds Content.

The Affectionate Shepheard. Containing the Complaint of Daphnis for the Love of Ganymede.

Richard Barnfield


43 stanzas, an afterpiece to the Affectionate Shepheard, "containing a description of country life and scenery, together with a lamentation for Sidney, a hymn to love, a praise of the poets, and other similar matter" W. W. Greg, Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 112. The complete title is "The Shepherds Content. Or the Happines of a Harmles Life. Written upon the occasion of the former Subject." The Affectionate Shepheard was anonymously published.

Richard Barnfield addresses Cupid: "By thee great Collin lost his libertie, | By thee sweet Astrophil forwent his joy." "Prick-song" refers to notes "pricked" in a musical score; "Amyntas" is Richard Barnfield's friend Thomas Watson; "Rowland" is Michael Drayton.

Willy Maley: "sigs. Ev-Eii echoes FQ VI viiii 19ff. There is also a reference to Col. and SC on sig. Eiii" Spenser Chronology (1994) 62.



Of all the kindes of common Countrey life,
Me thinkes a Shepheards life is most Content;
His State is quiet Peace, devoyd of strife;
His thoughts are pure from all impure intent,
His Pleasures rate sits at an easie rent:
He beares no mallice in his harmles hart,
Malicious meaning hath in him no part.

He is not troubled with th' afflicted minde,
His cares are onely over silly Sheepe;
He is not unto Jealozie inclinde,
(Thrice happie Man) he knowes not how to weepe;
Whil'st I the Treble in deepe sorrowes keepe;
I cannot keepe the Meane; for why (alas)
Griefes have no meane, though I for meane doo passe.

No Briefes nor Semi-Briefes are in my Songs,
Because (alas) my griefe is seldome short;
My Prick-Song's alwayes full of Largues and Longs,
(Because I never can obtaine the Port
Of my desires: Hope is a happie Fort.)
Prick-song (indeed) because it pricks my hart;
And Song, because sometimes I ease my smart.

The mightie Monarch of a royall Realme,
Swaying his Scepter with a Princely pompe;
Of his desires cannot so steare the Healme,
But sometime falls into a deadly dumpe,
When as he heares the shrilly-sounding Trumpe
Of forren Enemies, or home-bred Foes;
His minde of griefe, his hart is full of woes.

Or when bad subjects gainst their Soveraigne
(Like hollow harts) unnaturally rebell,
How carefull is he to suppresse againe
Their desperate forces, and their powers to quell
With loyall harts, till all (againe) be well:
When (being subdu'd) his care is rather more
To keepe them under, than it was before.

Thus is he never full of sweete Content,
But either this or that his joy debars:
Now Noble-men gainst Noble-men are bent,
Now Gentlemen and others fall at jarrs:
Thus is his Countrey full of civill warrs;
He still in danger sits, still fearing Death:
For Traitors seeke to stop their Princes breath.

The whylst the other hath no enemie,
Without it be the Wolfe and cruell Fates
(Which no man spare): when as his disagree,
He with his sheep-hooke knaps them on the pates,
Schooling his tender Lambs from wanton gates.
Beasts are more kinde then Men, Sheepe seeke not blood
But countrey caytives kill their Countreyes good.

The Courtier he fawn's for his Princes favour,
In hope to get a Princely ritch Reward;
His tongue is tipt with honey for to glaver;
Pride deales the Deck whilst Chance doth choose the Card;
Then comes another and his Game hath mard;
Sitting betwixt him, and the morning Sun;
Thus Night is come before the Day is done.

Some Courtiers carefull of their Princes health,
Attends his Person with all dilligence
Whose hand's their hart; whose welfare is their wealth,
Whose safe Protection is their sure Defence,
For pure affection, not for hope of pence:
Such is the faithfull hart, such is the minde,
Of him that is to Vertue still inclinde.

The skilfull Scholler, and brave man at Armes,
First plies his Booke, last fights for Countries Peace;
Th' one feares Oblivion, th' other fresh Alarmes:
His paines nere ende, his travailes never cease;
His with the Day, his with the Night increase:
He studies how to get eternall Fame,
The Souldier fights to win a glorious Name.

The Knight, the Squire, the Gentleman, the Clowne,
Are full of crosses and calamities;
Lest fickle Fortune should begin to frowne,
And turne their mirth to extreame miseries:
Nothing more certaine than incertainties;
Fortune is full of fresh varietie:
Constant in nothing but inconstancie.

The wealthie Merchant that doth crosse the Seas,
To Denmarke, Poland, Spaine, and Barbarie;
For all his ritches, lives not still at ease;
Sometimes he feares ship-spoyling Pyracie,
Another while deceipt and treacherie
Of his owne Factors in a forren Land:
Thus doth he still in dread and danger stand.

Well is he tearmd a Merchant-Venturer,
Since he doth venter lands, and goods, and all:
When he doth travell for his Traffique far,
Little he knowes what fortune may befall,
Or rather what mis-fortune happen shall:
Sometimes he splits his Ship against a rocke;
Loosing his men, his goods, his wealth, his stocke.

And if he so escape with life away,
He counts himselfe a man most fortunate,
Because the waves their rigorous rage did stay,
(When being within their cruell powers of late,
The Seas did seeme to pittie his estate)
But yet he never can recover health,
Because his joy was drowned with his wealth.

The painfull Plough-swaine, and the Husband-man
Rise up each morning by the breake of day,
Taking what toyle and drudging paines they can,
And all is for to get a little stay;
And yet they cannot put their care away:
When Night is come, their cares begin afresh,
Thinking upon their Morrowes busines.

Thus everie man is troubled with unrest,
From rich to poore, from high to low degree:
Therefore I thinke that man is truly blest,
That neither cares for wealth nor povertie,
But laughs at Fortune and her foolerie;
That gives rich Churles great store of golde and fee,
And lets poore Schollers live in miserie,

O fading Branches of decaying Bayes,
Who now will water your dry-wither'd Armes?
Or where is he that sung the lovely Layes
Of simple Shepheards in their Countrey Farmes?
Ah he is dead, the cause of all our harmes:
And with him dide my joy and sweete delight;
And cleare to Clowdes, the Day is turnd to Night.

SYDNEY, The Syren of this latter Age;
SYDNEY, The Blasing-starre of England's glory;
SYDNEY, The wonder of wise and sage;
SYDNEY, The Subject of true Vertues story:
This Syren, Starre, this Wonder, and this Subject;
In dumbe, dim, gone, and mard by Fortunes Object.

And thou my sweete Amintas vertuous minde,
Should I forget thy Learning or thy Love;
Well might I be accounted but unkinde,
Whose pure affection I so oft did prove:
Might my poore Plaints hard stones to pitty move;
His losse should be lamented of each Creature,
So great his Name, so gentle was his Nature.

But sleepe his soule in sweet Elysium,
(The happy Haven of eternall rest:)
And let me to my former matter come,
Proving by Reason, Shepheards life is best,
Because he harbours Vertue in his Brest,
And is content (the chiefest thing of all)
With any fortune that shall him befall.

He sits all Day lowd-piping on a Hill,
The whilst his flocke about him daunce apace,
His hart with joy, his eares with Musique fill:
Anon a bleating Weather beares the Bace,
A Lambe the Treble; and to his disgrace
Another answers like a middle Meane:
Thus every one to beare a Part are faine.

Like a great King he rules a little Land,
Still making Statutes, and ordayning Lawes;
Which if they breake, he beates them with his Wand:
He doth defend them from the greedy Jawes
Of rav'ning Woolves, and Lyons bloudy Pawes.
His Field, his Realme; his Subjects are his Sheepe;
Which he doth still in due obedience keepe.

First he ordaines by Act of Parlament,
(Holder by custome in each Countrey Towne)
That if a sheepe (with any bad intent)
Presume to breake the neighbour Hedges downe,
Or haunt strange Pastures that be not his owne;
He shall be pounded for his lustines,
Untill his Master finde out some redres.

Also if any prove a Strageller
From his owne fellowes in a forraine field,
He shall be taken for a wanderer,
And forc'd himselfe immediatly to yeeld,
Or with a wyde-mouth'd Mastive Curre be kild.
And if not claimd within a twelve-month's space,
He shall remaine with Land-lord of the place.

Or if one stray to feede far from the rest,
He shall be pincht by his swift pye-bald Curre;
If any by his fellowes be opprest,
The wronger (for he doth all wrong abhorre)
Shall be well bangd so long as he can sturre.
Because he did anoy his harmeles Brother,
That meant not harme to him nor any other.

And last of all, if any wanton Weather,
With briers and brambles teare his fleece in twaine,
He shall be forc'd t' abide cold frosty weather,
And powring showres of ratling stormes of raine,
Till his new fleece begins to grow againe:
And for his rashnes he is doom'd to goe
Without a new Coate all the Winter throw.

Thus doth he keepe them, still in awfull feare,
And yet allowes them liberty inough;
So deare to him their welfare doth appeare,
That when their fleeces gin to waxen rough,
He combs and trims them with a Rampicke bough,
Washing them in the streames of silver Ladon,
To cleanse their skinnes from all corruption.

Another while he wooes his Country Wench,
(With Chaplets crowed, and gaudy girlonds dight)
Whose burning Lust her modest eye doth quench,
Standing amazed at her heavenly sight,
(Beauty doth ravish Sense with sweet Delight)
Clearing Arcadia with a smoothed Browe
When Sun-bright smiles melts flakes of driven snowe.

Thus doth he frollicke it each day by day,
And when Night comes drawes homeward to his Coate,
Singing a Jigge or merry Roundelay;
(For who sings commonly so merry a Noate,
As he that cannot chop or change a groate.)
And in the winter Nights (his chiefe desire)
He turns a Crabbe or Cracknell in the fire.

He leads his Wench a Country Horn-pipe Round,
About a May-pole on a Holy-day;
Kissing his lovely Lasse (with Garlands Crownd)
With whoopping heigh-ho singing Care away;
Thus doth he passe the merry month of May:
And all th' yere after in delight and joy;
(Scorning a King) he cares for no annoy.

What though with simple cheere he homely fares?
He lives content, a King can doo no more;
Nay not so much, for Kings have manie cares:
But he hath none; except it be that sore
Which yong and old, which vexeth ritch and poore,
The pangs of Love. O! who can vanquish Love,
That conquers Kingdomes, and the Gods above?

Deepe-wounding Arrow, hart-consuming Fire;
Ruler of Reason, slave to tyraunt Beautie;
Monarch of harts, Fuell of fond desire,
Prentice to Folly, foe to fained Duetie.
Pledge of true Zeale, Affections moitie;
If thou kilst where thou wilt, and whom it list thee
(Alas) how can a silly Soule resist thee?

By thee great Collin lost his libertie,
By thee sweet Astrophel forwent his joy;
By thee Amyntas wept incessantly,
By thee good Rowland liv'd in great annoy;
O cruell, peevish, vylde, blind-seeing Boy:
How canst thou hit their harts, and yet not see?
(If thou be blinde, as thou art faind to bee).

A Shepheard loves no ill, but onely thee;
He hath no care, but onely by thy causing:
Why doost thou shoot thy cruell shafts at mee?
Give me some respite, some short time of pausing:
Still my sweet Love with bitter lucke th' art sawcing:
Oh, if thou hast a minde to shew thy might;
Kill mightie Kings, and not a wretched wight.

Yet (O Enthraller of infranchizd harts)
At my poor hart if thou wilt needs be ayming,
Doo me the favour show me both thy Darts,
That I may chuse the best for my harts mayming,
(A free consent is priviledged from blaming:)
Then pierce his hard hart with thy golden Arrow,
That thou my wrong, that he may rue my sorrow.

But let mee feele the force of thy lead Pyle,
What should I doo with love when I am old?
I know not how to flatter, fawne, or smyle;
Then stay thy hand, O cruell Bow-man hold:
For if thou strik'st me with thy dart of gold,
I sweare to thee (by Joves immortall curse)
I have more in my hart, than in my purse.

The more I weepe, the more he bends his Brow,
For in my hart a golden Shaft I finde:
(Cruell, unkinde) and wilt thou leave me so?
Can no remorce nor pittie move thy minde?
Is mercie in the Heavens so hard to finde?
Oh, then it is no mervaile that on earth
Of kinde Remorce there is so great a dearth.

How happie were a harmles Shepheards life,
If he had never knowen what Love did meane;
But now fond Love in every place is rife,
Staining the purest Soule with spots uncleane,
Making thicke purses, thin; and fat bodies, leane:
Love is a fiend, a fire, a heaven, a hell;
Where pleasure, paine, and sad repentance dwell.

There are so manie Danaes now a dayes,
That love for lucre; paine for gaine is sold:
No true affection can their fancie please,
Except it be a Jove to raine downe gold
Into their laps, which they wyde open hold:
If legem pone comes, he is receav'd,
When Vix haud habeo is of hope bereav'd.

Thus have I showed in my Countrey vaine
The sweet Content that Shepheards still injoy;
The mickle pleasure, and the little paine
That ever doth awayte the Shepheards Boy:
His hart is never troubled with annoy.
He is a King, for he commaunds his Sheepe;
He knowes no woe, for he doth seldome weepe.

He is a Courtier, for he courts his Love;
He is a Scholler, for he sings sweet Ditties;
He is a Souldier, for he wounds doth prove;
He is the fame of Townes, the shame of Citties:
He scornes false Fortune, put true Vertue pitties.
He is a Gentleman, because his nature
Is kinde and affable to everie Creature.

Who would not then a simple Shepheard bee,
Rather than be a mightie Monarch made?
Since he injoyes such perfect libertie,
As never can decay, nor never fade:
He seldome sits in dolefull Cypresse shade,
But lives in hope, in joy, in peace, in blisse:
Joying all joy with this content of his.

But now good-fortune lands my little Boate
Upon the shoare of his desired rest:
Now I must leave (awhile) my rurall noate,
To thinke on him whom my soule loveth best;
He that can make the most unhappie, blest:
In whose sweete lap Ile lay me downe to sleepe,
And never wake till Marble-stones shall weepe.

[sigs Ev-F4v]