1603 ca.

Ecloga Octava. Ida and Opilio.

Modern Language Quarterly 4 (1901) 85-91.

Edward Fairfax

Opil and Ida debate the relative wealth of ancient and modern times, with Opil lauding the age of discovery and the vast riches discovered in the New World. Ecloga Octava is one of three surviving eclogues of a set of twelve, edited for MLQ, with textual and explanatory notes, by W. W. Greg.

W. W. Greg: "The MS. of the eclogue is unfortunately imperfect at the end, two leaves only being preserved, which form folios 5 and 6 of the collection in which they occur [B.M. Addit. MS. 11743" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 85.

Herbert E. Cory: "In the same year [1603] Edward Fairfax is said, on the authority of his son, to have written twelve eclogues, all of which are now lost but two. These are of that particular Spenserian cast which exploited religious allegory in the harsh vein of Mantuan.... William Fairfax's annotations on his father's pastorals are preserved in a letter from Brian Fairfax to Bishop Atterbury (1704). William Fairfax says that they were written in the first year of King James. They were never published during Fairfax's lifetime, at least" "Spenserian Pastoral" PMLA 25 (1910) 255 &n.


Opilio skornes the dayes of ould
And boasts the wealth of praesent times,
Rekons what sailors brought home gould,
Or found new trades in unknowne Climes.

Bright may this riseing beame on Ida shine!
Crowne thy blith forhead with this wreath of beach
And bless the morning with some himne divine.
Hear'st not how Philomele her babe doth teach?
How sweet shee chirps? but sing the best shee can,
There is noe Musicke like the voice of man.

There dull conceit, who cut Terpanders string,
And his gross eare, who caus'd the Lords of Rome
To force the morning birds leave of to sing,
Could of my Musick give a fitter dome
Then thy deepe cunning; let my reed be still,
Except Pans judge sitt yet on Tmolus hill.

But if thou deigne to tune thy seavenfould
Sitt in this shade or that unpollisht cave,
Where the wild vine with clusters never ripe
Orefrets the vault, and where the yong Nimphs have
There dancing schoole, but thrust the Ladies out,
Or be their Orpheus while they friske about.

Nor is thy rubeck out of tune soe farre;
But this the fault of skilful singers is,
To be most squemish when most prai'd they arre,
Though unbesought they never cease; such blis,
Such comfort, in your selves you poets find;
But that the common fault is of mankind.

But, Ida, let us sing or Rufus death,
Or Monforts treasons, or great Warwicks fraies,
Or to what dittie els thou list give breath;
Praise if thou wilt the sheephards of our dayes,
That find each yeare new lands, new seas, new starrs,
And thence bring pearls in ropes and gold in barrs.

How is this age with wealth and wisdome blest!
How poore and simple were the elder times,
That wanted all the gourd found in the west
And thought the world not wonned in three climes,
And he that of Antipodes durst tell
Was tearm'd an Heretick and damn'd to hell.

They had no house with goulden [tiles which] shone,
They lacks the ransome of the Peruan king,
Pedrarias pearle and Moralis stone
And pretious trees that did in Puna spring,
With other blessing which those countreys yield,
Devine Tobacco and rich Cucheneild.

Stay, sheephard, stay, for thou condemnest those
Thou keenest not; perdie the times of ould
Were not soe rude or poore as you suppose;
They wanted neither Jewels, stones nor gourd,
Let Cleopatras pearle, Pithius his vine,
Nonius his Opall, match those Jemmes of shine.

The Persian Darichs who can number them,
Talents of Greece and Sesterties of Rome?
Who weighes the Shekels of Hierusalem,
That did from Ophir and from Sheba come
Doubtless our saylors noe such riches find
In Lunaches, and Cacoas of Inde.

Yea but there wealth to them was nothing worth,
Their ignorance knew not to use their good,
They only tooke what until'd earth brought forth
When caves were howses, leaves clothes, Akornes food;
The earths rich parts, that silke, spice, unguents send,
They kn[e]w not, Finister was ther worlds end.

Perchance thou hast some curious feaster scene,
That serves his wildfoule with ther feathers on,
And wraps up Antick-like his napkins cleene,
Or know'st that Lord of France with pearle and ston
That sawceth all his meate, or hast hard tell
In how rich towres Dorados Ingas dwell.

If soe, yet did those dayes our times surpass
In costly buildings, utensils and [cheare];
Let Ciprus house that earth[s] seaventh wonder was,
Let Aesops platter, Celers barbell deare,
Let Plotins fatall perfumes witnesse bee,
They were as rich, as wise, as mad as wee.

Nor did there knowledge with cape vincent end
Plato can tell thee of Atlantis land;
The place where Salomon for gourd did send
Is by the Parian gulfe; Eudoxus fend
The point Speranza, and those men of Inde
Metellus saw, the Norwest streit did find.

And if that navy, which the stormes sterne blast
In the third Henries dayes to England brought,
King Fucusur upon this Island cast,
When from his owne expel'd new lands he sought
In ships five massed, built of Chinas mould,
Then was the Northeast passage sail'd of ould.

The land of nusquam where king Nemo dwels,
Utopia and Lucians realme of lights,
Fronter Atlantis whereof Plato tels,
And he that to the west his voiage dights
To seeke for Ophir, may teach Salomon
To saile from Joppa, not from Ezion.

Noe, noe, that earths back side, that nether land,
Where like deepe fretworke in some heighroof'd hall,
The mountains hang and towres reversed stand,
If they wist whether, ready still to fall,
To our forefathers ever was unkend,
They thought the earth had bounder side and end.

But wise Columbus wist the world was round,
That night was but earths shade, that the sun beame
His midnight light bestowed on some ground
Not all on waves and fishes in the streame,
And of the globe tree knew the sea possess
But the seaventh part, firme land was all the rest.

Thereby tree gathered many people dwelt
Twixt Spaine and China, and what god they feared,
What wealth they had, what heat or could they fealt
He longed to discrie, and that way steard,
Where a new world he found, yet on the same
Americk entered, and it beares his name.

I will not praise the Ruffian that first found
The calme Southsea, nor yet the man who past
The Ocean[s] stormy mouth, nor him to ground
That Mutezumas spatious pallace cast,
Nor the bould swinheard to his freed untrew
Who kil'd the ransom'd king of rich Peru.

But listen, while I praise in rurall songe
Such hardie groomes as this faire Isle sent forth
To grope their way in darke nights halfe-years long,
To feele the July winter of the North,
To sweat at Christmas with the lines whot aire
Or droope in six months showres by springs of Zaire.

The chiefe of these and all the rest biside
Is he that on this ball of sea and land
Did three long years in joyfull tryumph ride
And the vast round girt in a golden band,
Grand pilot of the world, who learn'd this feat
Of the wise stearman of Noyes carrak great.

Great Amurath did to his picture bend
And at his name Rome did an earthquake feele,
Spaines Jennet proud he did to stable send,
Which stamps to powder with his brazen heele
The worlds halfe conquer'd globe, but now surpriz'd,
The stall houlds him whom scant the world suffiz'd.

Noe thunders rage, no Tuffons furious rore,
Noe lions strange which rise, no spouts that fall
Dismai'd his courage, but from Albion's shore,
From Tarenat, from Helens garden smal
To London safe he brought his Argo backe;
And yet this Jason doth his Orpheus lack.

His fellow rivall of his honour sought
For mines of gourd on Metas unknown side,
England admir'd the savages he brought,
But when his oare was in the furnace bide
It proved Marcasite, the shining rocks
Beguile his eyes, soe fortune vertue mocks.

Oft he neigh perish't in the frozen piles
Of swimeing Ice, while longe he sought in vaine
A passage that way to Moluccas Iles.
Nor he that three times saild that cowrse againe,
Had better happ, but with bare hope came home;
The time for that discovery is not come.

And hee the shores and creekes of new found Land
Who lett to farme and fished all the banke,
Lost his delight upon an unknowne sand,
And lost himselfe when his light frigot sanke,
And yet some say that from the Ocean maine
He will returne when Arthur comes againe.

Of those that with the Russ our trade began
The first were turned by Arzinas frost
To images of Ice, and some that ran
To vaigats and Petzora there were lost;
Soe merciless, alas, is wave and winde,
U[n]happy [P]akin, thou art hard to find!

[Gregg (1901) 86-88]