Young Philides attempts to persuade the elderly Eglon to take an active role in public life; Eglon uses the examples of Lucullus and Cicero to argue that retirement is best.
John Payne Collier: "In his Fig for Momus, which contains some poetical pieces written before 1592, though not printed till 1595, Lodge inserts an Eclogue in which Lord Burghley, under the name of Eglon, is made one of the interlocutors, his partner in the dialogue being Philides: by that appellation we might understand Lodge himself, if he had not in another pastoral taken the name of Golde, the letters of his own patronymic perverted. It is to be observed, though the fact is not mentioned in the usual biographies of Lord Burghley, that in 1591, full of grief and age, he retired to a small cottage near his mansion of Theobald's, determined from that time to abandon all attention to, or interest in, public affairs. Here Philides is supposed to meet with the ancient Lord Treasurer, and thus addresses him: — 'What wrong or discontent, old Eglon, hath witheld | Thine honorable age from governing the state? [ . . .]' Eglon replies: — 'Ah, Philides! the taste of trouble I have felt; | Mine actions misconceiv'd, my zeale esteem'd impure [....]' From thence the ancient statesman proceeds to vindicate himself from the accusations of Spenser, or from such as had been cast upon him by other parties, especially dwelling upon the false charge of avarice.... We know, as a matter of history, that Burghley did return to public life, and that he persevered to the last in the same line of conduct that had given Spenser and others too good reason to complain" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:lxxxv-vi.
W. W. Greg: "Now we find Lodge dedicating his four eclogues respectively to Colin, Menalcas, Rowland, and Daniel. Who Menalcas was is uncertain; not, it would seem, a poet" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 113.
What wrong, or discontent, old Eglon hath with-held
Thine honorable age from governing the state?
Why liv'st thou thus apart, whose wisdome wont to shield
Our kingdome from the stormes of foes, and home-bred hate.
Ah Philides, the tast of trouble I have felt,
Mine actions misconceav'd, my zeale esteem'd impure.
My policie deceite, (where faithfullie I delt)
These wrongs, (all undeserv'd) have made me live obscure:
Besides, my youthfull yeares were cancel'd by mine age,
(The verie Inne of griefes, of sicknes, and of cares,)
Time bids me now prepare, with death some warre to wage
And thinke upon mine end, and shun these worldlie snares:
And time it is (God wot) when age hath got the start,
To flie from publique noyse, and brawles of judgement feate,
For now my wits waxe weake, and scarce yeeld use of art,
My limmes are stiffe and starke, my pulses faintly beate.
And this late-purchas'd age, (besides all other paines)
Is subject to contempts, accus'd of avarice,
And youth, with selfe conceit, hath so bewitcht his braines,
As he esteemeth yeares, wits chiefest prejudice.
Can men so farre forget the reverence and awe,
They should in justice, yeeld to silver-suted haires?
Is duetie so despis'd, (enjoyn'd by natures lawe)
That youth impugneth age, in mannaging affaires?
Then worse then Ethnicks farre, may Chriftians be esteem'd,
For both among the Greeks and Romanes, I have red,
Such honors given to eld, that nothing happie seem'd
Wherein their counsell mist, and wisedome had not led:
In Solons happie lawes, in olde Licurgus schooles,
In Numas sage decrees, and grave Prometheus books,
Amercements were set downe for such misgovern'd fooles,
As did maligne at eld, and loath their reverent looks:
For where they first ordain'd, the Gods should be ador'd,
Next, that the silly poore, should want no due reliefe,
They lastlie, did command the yonger to afford
All honour unto age, and still to hould them chiefe:
The Romane Senate wont, in giving dignities
To take respect of yeares, of judgement, and discretion,
The Lacedemon state, in all their soverainties,
Did yeeld their publique charge, to aged mens possession:
Taught by these flouring states, by men so fortunate,
(As reading what they did, our mindes are stir'd to follow)
I wonder that our world, should so degenerate,
From perfect awe, and carrie harts so hollow?
Ah Philides, forbeare to wonder at the time,
There must be some contempt, before a plague succeede:
I see great stormes at hand, and sigh to see them clime,
Whose fall I might bewaile, before it come indeede.
But let all reasons passe, of envie, and disgrace,
Sufficient to with-draw, a man from common weale,
Not these alone procure, me leave mine honored place
But this, because tis time with state no more to deale:
The houre prefixt is come, the revolution fixt,
Wherein I must, and will, give over governement;
Taught by those happie men, whose weale, with sorrow mixt,
Did make them leave the world, which danger doth present:
Oh when I sadlie thinke of olde Lucullus wit,
Who having fortune thrall, and fame attending him,
Thought good to leave the world, when he had conquer'd it,
And rather cease in time, then sincke, in hope to swim:
I cannot chuse but smile, because by like advise
I flie from froward hate, (as olde Metellus did)
And leave ungratefull men, (as erst did Scipio wise)
Deeming it happines in private to be hid:
Had Cicero forethought, how sweet this course had beene
When he had master'd fame, and conquer'd Cateline,
His Tusculanum then, he had more often seene,
And left ungratfull Rome, before he did decline:
But hope of further fame, so fondlie him besotted,
That wrastling with lewd chance, at last he caught the fall,
And where he presuppos'd, true fame was him allotted,
There lost he his desire, his fortunes, life, and all:
His lessons make me wise; these warnings are mine armes;
Wherewith I conquer chance, and false Rhamnusias as traines,
And now deere Philides, my mind no trouble farmes,
And great content is bought, with little thrift of gaines.
Thy reasons have their waight, and so have wonne my hart,
As I will leave the world, and come and live with thee:
So doing thou art wise, who from the world doth part,
Begins to travell on to true felicitie.