1607
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Cuckow.

The Cuckow. Richardus Niccols, in Artibus Bac. Oxon.

Richard Niccols


Richard Niccols's beast fable describes the vicissitudes of the nightingale Casta who is obviously a poet, and likely a figure for Michael Drayton. If the nightingale is Drayton, the Cuckow might be Samuel Daniel, the presumptive laureate, who upon the accession of King James garnered the prizes Drayton might have expected to have received. But perhaps the hoarse voice of the Cuckow glances at the songs and satires of John Donne, who also had friends at court. Compare Drayton's complaints in his Shepheards Garland (1606) or his lament to Browne of Tavistock that the song of "our old Shepheards" is "utterly neglected in these days" Britannias Pastorals (1613) Sig. A4v.

Thomas Warton: "Milton, I suppose, had been reading this poem of the Cuckow just before he wrote his song ["May Morning"], and so imperceptibly adopted some of its thoughts and expressions. And here it may be observ'd, that in criticising upon Milton, [Ben] Johnson, Spenser, and some other of our elder poets, not only a competent knowledge of all antient classical learning is requisite, but also an acquaintance with those books, which, though now forgotten and lost, were yet in repute about the time in which each author respectively wrote, and which it is most likely he had red" Observations on the Faerie Queene (1754) 243.

Henry Headley: "This description [pp. 6-11] was immediately taken from Spenser's Bower of Bliss, Faerie Queene, B. ii. cant. 12.... Sylvester, in his translation of Du Bartas, has borrowed many of Niccols' lines from this description, which he has printed with very slight alterations, and amongst other expressions he applies this ["Jets from perch to perch"] to vice. It will be sufficient to refer to the passage, p. 101, edit. 1641" Specimens of Ancient English Poetry (1787; 1810) 75n, 78-79n. [In fact, Sylvester had published his translation in 1605.]

Restituta or ... English Literature Revived: "The present performance originated perhaps by Drayton's Owl, is loosely allegorical, and consists of a singing contention between Dan Cuckow and the Ovidian Philomel, or Casta, which somewhat resembles that between Pan and Apollo: while Phoebe, or Cynthia, and her nymphs (the Midases) are made umpires to the controversy" 2 (1815) 2.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Richard Niccols, b. 1584, educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, best known by his completion and rearrangement of the Mirror for Magistrates: his supplement to the edition of 1619 is entitled A Winter Night's Dream" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 2:1472.

John Payne Collier: "In the course of the poem, Niccols has several allusions to Spenser, of whom he was a diligent reader. Malbecco and Helinore are two persons whose names he introduces, and near the end he speaks of 'the Bower of Blisse.' As The Beggars Ape was an imitation of Spenser's Mother Hubberds Tale, so The Cuckow was in some respects a more remote imitation of Drayton's Owl, which had been published in 1604" Bibliographical and Critical Account (1866) 3:49.

Hoyt H. Hudson: "The language and style of this poem are reminiscent and imitative of Spenser, though of The Faerie Queene more often than of Mother Hubberds Tale. Indeed, since Niccols's subject was chastity, it was natural that he should give, as he evidently did, days and nights to the study of Book III of The Faerie Queene, wherein Spenser treats specially of that subject" "Hepwith's Spenserian Satire" (1934) 62.

Thomas Warton notes Milton's borrowings from this poem, Observations (1762) 2:126-27; a list is also given in Thomas Corser, Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 9 (1879) 72-74. Ray Heffner and Frederick M. Padelford select eleven passages illustrative of borrowings from the Faerie Queene: "throughout the poem, phrasing and episodes are reminiscent of Spenser"; Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) 115-17.

Joseph Spence owned a copy of this volume; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 2:156.



When Perseus bride, that starre of heaven had fled
The Dragons paw by helpe of Gorgons head,
And on the sea-gods golden-edged brim
Her gold-out-glistering lockes began to trim:
Then did the lustie Ram with horned crest
Rouse up Europas grim-curl'd headed beast,
Who loudly bellowing did chase away
The tedious night, and call'd backe cheerefull day.
For then Hyperions son, the daies bright king
In pompe did court the Ladie of the spring;
And she againe in all her rich aray
Did wanton with him in lascivious play,
Untill her wombe with loves sweet fruit did grow,
The sweetest fruit, that wombe did ever grow:
For it brought forth the worlds admired birth,
The faire dame Flora, fairest child on earth;
Who in short time did grow so great in fame
For needle worke, that never any dame,
Although her cunning were exceeding rare
With faire dame Floraes skill might make compare:
To show the which, the world she set on wing
Of sweet delight, to welcome in the spring:
The moyntaine tops she clad in coate of greene.
And spotted them with gold as they had been
Starrie Olympi; and the vales below
She deckt with daintier worke, then art can show;
Upon the ground mantled in verdent hew,
Out of her fruitfull lap each day she threw,
The choicest flowers, that any curious eye
In natures garden ever did espie:
The loftie trees, whose leavie lockes did shake
And with the wind did daliance seeme to make,
Shee with sweet breathing blossomes did adorne,
That seem'd to laugh the winter past to scorne,
Who when mild Zephirus did gently blow
Delightfull odors round about did throw;
While joyous birds beneath the leavie shade,
With pleasant singing sweet respondence made
Unto the murmuring streames, that seem'd to play
With silver shels, that in their bosom lay:
Thus with delight did Flora decke each thing
To welcome in her mother joyfull spring,
Who had not long triumph'd in this our clime
Before the tidings of her joyous prime
Were spread abroad, which, when those birds that shrunke
Into the wooden walles of hollow trunck,
For truth did heare, abroad they boldly came
To welcome Lady Ver, that lovely dame
Mong'st whom two chiefe there were, Dan Cuckow hight;
In whom god Vulcans love tooke most delight,
The other that sweet singer Philomel,
Or Casta hight, whom Phoebe loved well:
These two were chiefe, that in contention stood
Amongst the pleasant singers of the wood
To be chiefe carroler and lead the ring,
Of all the rest to welcome in the spring.
Dan Cuckow was a bird hatcht in that houre,
When Mars did sport in Cythereas bowre,
Whereby the note, which his hoarse voice doth beare
Is harsh and fatall to the wedded eare:
But little Philomela farre more blest
Was foster'd in faire Phoebes owne deare brest,
Whom she no more the Nightingale did name;
But to consort her nature to the same
Shee call'd her Casta, word of much import,
And made her chiefe of birds in their confort.
Betwixt Dan Cuckow and this little bird
Th' approach of spring a great contention stird,
Who should be deem'd the chiefe of birds to bring
The happie tidings of th' approaching spring:
For Philomel once in a pearlie morne,
When heaven with sun-bright lookes did earth adorne
Hearing each bird record her curious lay,
Unto the wood with speed did take her way,
Where shee did presse into the thickest throng
And did so sweetly in delicious song
Chaunt out aloude her welcome to the spring,
That all the birds did cease to heare her sing:
But as she sate admir'd of every one,
Redoubling quavers in division,
And sweetly warbling out that chastest song,
Which Phoebe taught to her when shee was young,
Dan Cuckow came, and from his greedie throate
Breathing out ditties of an unchast note,
As wroth that other birds should seeke to make
Her mistres of the quier, thus boldly spake:
Thou wretch (said he) what high aspiring spirit
Doth harbor in thy brest? what is thy merit
That thou should'st be chiefe carroler to sing
Amongst us all to welcome in the spring?
Is not my dame the goddesse of delight,
And Queene of Love, whose altars are bedight
With broad blowne blossomes of the blooming spring,
Of budding youth: then cease and let mee sing;
For I of birds am chiefest in her sight
And in my ditties she takes most delight:
Then cease thou fondling cease, and let me sing
A pleasing welcome to the wanton spring.
This said, he chaunted out his wonted lay;
Which did in woods all wedded birds affray:
But little Casta nought at all dismaide,
Being safely shrowded in the leavie shade
Return'd this short replie: (Cuckow) (quoth shee)
What thou hast said, I graunt; yet now heare me.
Where daintie dames are dight to wanton fin
Loosely arraid youths wandring eyes to win,
Whom slick-hair'd slipper-losels do dispoile
Of beauties, bud with loves sweete seeming toile,
While smock sworne boyes stand by and keepe account,
How oft aloft they lustily do mount;
There with good right may thy harsh sounding throate
Without controll record thy bastard note.
But in all woods, where my faire virgin dame
With her chaste Nymphes did keepe laborious game
To slacke the strength of loves bow-bending string,
Thou must not speake thy welcome to the spring:
For Phoebes selfe with all her Nymphes consent
Did make me cheefe of birds, for that intent.
This said, Dan Cuckow perfect in the sleight
Of cunning guile, and knowing loves delight
Had thrill'd their hearts, that in faire Phoebes grove
Once rang'd at will in scorne of Ladie love,
Made this replie: (quoth he) seeing thou dost vaunt
Of Phoebe and her Nymphes, thereby to daunt
My courage in this claime, I do agree,
That they decide the cause 'twixt thee and mee;
And if they judge thy note the sweeter sound,
Cheefe singer of the quier, thou shalt be crown'd:
But if to them my song more pleasing be,
To make me cheefe in woods, thou shalt agree.
Casta being swift to give such counsell eare
Supposing Phoebes Nymphes, such love did beare
To chaster thoughts, that they would all detect
The unchaste dittie of Dan Cuckowes brest,
Was well contented that it should be so
And with Dan Cuckow for this cause did go,
Unto the bower of blisse, for so it hight,
Where then those Nymphes to be did most delight.
It is a place, that thoughts cannot devise
A plot more like unto a Paradise;
Shall I compare it to Cytheron greene,
On which the warre-god did compresse loves queene,
Or to Adonis garden farre renown'd,
In which eternall spring is ever found,
O farre more pleasant is this pleasant place,
Then all the blisfull bowers beneath heavens face,
It seated is farre in a pleasant wood,
Where many a loftie Joviall tree hath stood,
Not much unlike, that wood by thornie grove
Full of the tree erected unto Jove,
Which seated is upon the Northern Strand,
Where Saxon Segberts sacred tower doth stand,
By which the Prince of Albions watrie deepes
From the French Ocean with swift currant sweepes,
Wasting each yeare by his Labrynthian strand,
More then a thousand keele from forren land,
Who oft, when Boreas at their safetie raves
And with proud blasts doth cuffe the silver waves,
Do nimble fetch Lavoltoes up and downe
Upon the waves in scorne of Boreas frowne:
And such a famous wood, as that, is this,
In which doth stand the pleasant bower of blisse:
Unto the which, when as Dan Cuckow came
Knowing each way, that led throughout the same,
With Philomel he tooke the ready way,
Which to the bower of blisse directly lay,
Where in the way they both amazed stood
To see the pleasance of that pleasant wood,
There many blissefull bowers they did behold;
Whose dwellers neither vext with heate nor cold
Did there enjoy all things, that might delight
The curious eie of any living wight:
For plentie there to lavish in her gift
Furnisht each place in scorne of niggard thrift;
There many Nymphes of more then heavenly hew
Had their abode; although alas but few
Amongst them all did come of heavenly kind
So hard it is to gaine the gifts of mind:
Yet stately portance, unto them was given
And in proportion like the states of heaven
They bare themselves: yet want both will and power
From loves assault to shield faire beauties bower
And more to beautifie the goodly frames,
Which God and nature gave these goodly dames,
Gentrie their cradles at their birth did rock
And drew their linage from an auncient stock:
But what alas availes the vading flower
Of beauties bud in those, that have no power
To guid the least part of the weaker sence
And learne the lesson of pure continence?
Or what is birth to those, that so they winne
The seeming sweetnes of alluring sinne?
Bastard their birth and all their stock deprave
To gaine the thing, which appetite doth crave:
Beautie in such, though much, is but disgrace,
And high borne birth, though kingly, yet but base.
For faire is foule, where vertue is unknowne,
And birth is base, where gifts of grace are none.
From hence Dan Cuckow with faire Philomel,
(Acquainted with each passage very well)
Forward proceeded in this pleasant wood
Untill they came unto that place, where stood
The bower of blisse it selfe, so fairely deckt,
That never eye beheld so faire aspect:
In th' outer portch late many a slick hear'd Squier
Of pleasing semblance, full of loose desire,
Of feature fit to feast a Ladies eie;
But manlie exercise unfit to trie:
Their cunning did consist in sleights of love,
With which from loyaltie they oft did move
Ladies fraile hearts: for unto many a one
They vow'd themselves; though faithful unto none,
Unto the secrets of the unchaste sheet
They sworne were, an oath for such unmeet:
For which their service oftentimes they fed
On ransackt sweetnes of the nuptiall bed:
But let nor such discourse defile my pen
With argument, of such reprochfull men;
Let it suffice that such, as they do bring
Dan Cuckow heere to welcome in our spring.
Mong'st these, there was a squier of greatest place
And cheefest held in that great Ladies grace,
Which dwelt in this same bower: for many a night
With her he stole a snatch of loves delight:
For he was lustie, young, fit for her tooth,
And her great wealth did well content his youth.
Yet he was false, disloyall to his dame;
For in his common talke devoid of shame
He of his Ladies favour was too francke,
For which I con that lover little thanke;
He was the usher to this daintie dame
And Vanitie men gave him unto name,
To whom Dan Cuckow often louting low
By his obsequious signes his mind did show
And chaunted out to Philomels disgrace
His unchaste note, well knowne in that same place:
For this same Squier full well I wot did know
Dan Cuckowes note and unto him did go,
Where seeing little Casta by him stand,
Cause of their comming friendly did demaund:
Dan Cuckow proud of such an intertaine
Did tell the jarre begun betwixt them twaine,
Who should be cheefe of all the birds to sing
As herbenger to welcome in the spring,
And now to end the same, they both were come
Agreed to stand unto the wood-Nymphes doome;
Wherefore they crav'd accesse unto his dame,
That with her Nymphes me might decide the same:
This gentle Squier soone graunted their requests
And kindlie did conduckt his new come guests
Into an inward court, where they should stay,
Till to his dame their message he did say;
Where, while they staid, with great delight they spent
The time in viewing this faire continent,
This bower of blisse, this paradise of pleasure,
Where lavish plentie did exceed all measure;
The inner portch seem'd entrance to intice,
It fashion'd was with such quaint rare device,
The top with cannopie of greene was spred
Thicken'd with leaves of th' Ivies wanton bed,
About the which the Eglentine did twine
His prickling armes the branches to combine,
Bearing sweete flowers of more then fragrant odour,
Which stellified the roofe with painted colour;
On either side the vine did broad dilate
His swollen veines with wreathings intricate,
Whose bunches to the ground did seeme t' incline,
As freely offring of their luscious wine:
Through this same portch went many a worthy wight
Unto the bower of blisse, both day and night,
Who at their entrance fresh and flush as May
Did beare themselves adorn'd in rich aray:
But few return'd without the common curse
Ot strange disease of emptinesse in purse,
Who wanting golden shewers for Danaes lap,
As discontented with their sad mishap
Walkt to and fro, forlorne in deepe disdaine
With willow braunch, for prise of all their paine.
From this same portch, a walke directly lay,
Which to the bower it selfe did leade the way
With fruit-trees thicke beset on either side,
Whose goodly fruit themselves did seeme to hide
Beneath the leaves, as lurking from the eies
Of strangers greedie view, fearing surprise,
Whose arched bowes and leavie twigs together
With true love knots intangled each in other,
Seem'd painted walles, on which when Zephire blew
They spread themselves, disclosing unto view
The blossomes, buds, the birds and painted flies
That in their leaves lay hid from strangers eies
This walke of people never emptie was:
For to the bower of blisse one could not passe;
But that the way did swarme with jetting jacks,
Who bare upon their french diseased backes,
Whole manners, castles, townes and Lordships sold
Cut out in clippings and in shreds of gold:
Their chambring fortitude they did descrie
By their soft maiden voice and flickering eie,
Their womans manhood by their cloaths perfum'd,
Coy lookes, curl'd lockes, and thin beards halfe consum'd,
Whose nice, effeminate and base behaviour
Was counted comely, neate and cleanly gesture;
This pleasant walke, when gentle Philomel
And Cuckow her proud foe had viewed well
Passing forth, one loe there they did behold
High lifted up with loftie roofe of gold
The bower of blisse, in which there did abide
The Ladies selfe, that should their cause decide
On which the heavens still in a stedfast state
Look't alway blithe, diverting froward fate,
Not suffering ycie frost, or scorching sunne
To vex th' inhabitants, that there did wonne:
For there eternall spring doth ever dwell,
Nay they of other season ought can tell
They labour notwith hands of industrie
To furrow up the earthes fertilitie,
Bubbles of sweate decline not from their brow,
Ne stooping labour makes their backes to bow:
Yet plentie of all fruits upon their ground,
Seedlesse and artlesse every where is found:
Unto this bower Dan Cuckow and his mate
Approaching nigh, loe standing at the gate,
Which framed was of purest Ivorie
All painted ore with many a historie,
So sweetly wrought, that arte in them did seeme
To mocke at nature as of no esteeme,
Eftsoones they heard a pleasing harmonie
0f musikes most melodious minstralsie,
There sweet voic'd birds, soft winds and waters fall,
With voice and Violl made agreement all,
The birds unto the voice did sweetly sing,
The voice did speake unto the Viols string,
That to the wind did sound now high now low,
The wind to waters fall did gently flow;
Thus birds,voice, Violl, winds and waters all
Did sing, did speake, did sound, did blow, did fall:
As thus Dan Cuckow and his opposite,
The Nightingale stood harkening with delight
Unto this musike, loe that Squire came
Hight Vanitie with answere from his dame,
That 'gainst the morne themselves they should prepare,
Their cause in ample manner to declare;
For with her Nymphes in judgement she would sit,
And which of them, they should efteeme most fit,
She would denounce for cheefe in woods to sing,
As herbinger unto the joyfull spring:
This newes did glad them both; for both did feed
Themselves with hope: although but one could speed
And both prepar'd each other to excell
In the next morne, to beare away the bell:
The little Philomel with curious care,
Sitting alone her ditties did prepare,
And many tunes, whose harmonie did passe
All musike else that ere invented was.
One while the meane part shee did sweetly warble
The tennor now, the Base and then the trebble:
Then all at once with many parts in one,
Dividing sweetly in division;
Now some sweete straine to mind she doth restore,
Which all the winter she had conn'd before,
And with such cunning deskants thereupon,
That curious art nere doctrin'd any one
With Lute, with Violl, or with voice in quier
That to her matchlesse musike might aspire:
Meane time Dan Cuckow, knowing that his voice
Had no varietie, no change, no choice:
But through the wesand pipe of his harsh throate
Cri'd only Cuckow, that prodigious note,
That want with wits supplie he did amend
And made that Squier, Vanitie his friend,
Who did so worke for him, as it befell
That judgement went against poore Philomel.
The time came on, and th' Opall coloured morne,
Bright cheekt Aurora leaving all forlorne
Old Tython in his bed, did up arise
Opening the gates of the orientall skies,
Through which the daies bright king came dauncing out
With glorious golden lockes bespread about
His shoulders broad; from whence such luster came,
That all the world did seeme a golden flame:
For then Auroraes trumpe, the peasants clocke,
Daies herbinger, the bloody crested cocke
With flaggie wings had beate black night away,
And sung sweet tidings of approaching day,
At which both birds up starting from their rest
Quaintly to plead their cause, themselves addrest,
Which with her Nymphes, that day in solemne state
The Ladie of this bower should debate,
Which flying fame upon her wings did beare,
Making it vulgar newes in every eare,
And with her silver trumpe did Echo out
Report thereof, in all the woods about;
Which once being blowen abroad, all the whole quier
Of singers in the wood with great desire,
(To know in this same strife, who should prevaile
Dan Cuckow, or the little Nightingale)
Came flocking, through the aire, and as they flew,
Their divers warbling notes about they threw;
There came the Larke, who still as me did flie
With outstretcht' wings aspir'd the cloud brow'd skie,
There Progne came who did present for food
In tragicke feast, her owne deare Itis blood
To bloodie Tereus, in avengment fell
Of sister deare Pandions Philomel,
Who now transform'd unto the sent-strong Swallow,
Shaftlike did flie through the skies concave hollow;
With these there came the Thrush, that loves the grape,
The speckled Spinck, that lives by gummie sappe,
The Redbreast sweet, that loves the lookes of men,
The lustfull Sparrow and the little Wren,
The chattering Pie, the quick conceited Stare,
The golden Finch and Linnot singing rare
With many more, whose notes the aire did fill
With true consort, sweet worke of natures skill,
Who to the bower of blisse did take their way
To heare the jarre decided, that same day,
Which the approach of spring did late excite
Betwixt Dan Cuckow and his opposite:
The place, in which this matter should be tride
Was in a greene pailde round on every side,
In which was pight a stately cannopie;
For that great Ladie and her companie,
Many a courtly Nymph of great estate,
That should that day Dan Cuckowes cause debate
Who being pearcht aloft in open sight
Upon a leavelesse braunch, had well ydight
And decks his plumes to make a pleasant show
When he should pleade his cause against his foe
Who on the other side her selfe did place,
In hope Dan Cuckow foulely to disgrace
Nor doubting but those Nymphes for Phoebes sake
In this so just a cause, her part would take:
The time being come, loe like as when Joves bride,
Heavens Ivory fingered queene in pompe doth ride
To heavens high court, above the Planets seaven,
To sit in counsell with the gods of heaven:
Even so forth comes that faire renowmed dame,
Chiefest of all the bower of blisse, that came
To judge the controversie that befell,
Betwixt Dan Cuckow and faire Philomel,
Shee was a Ladie gaudie in attire
And to content th' affect of her desire,
Th' earthes golden bowels often wounded were
And th' Indian slave with steele did often teare
The hard rockes rubie ribs in hope to find
Treasure to pleasure her disdainfull mind:
Proudly she pass'd it with a princely gate,
As earth had been too meane for her estate,
Looking to heaven with her disdainfull eies;
For humble object she did still dispise:
Yet was her birth but meane, and her esteeme
Respectively compar'd, but base did seeme,
Loosely she was aray'd in wanton weed
Which wanderers eies did with inticement feed,
For she was clad in robe of tissue thinne,
Through which so brim appear'd her snowie skin,
That it did seeme to those, that did it see,
No whit obscur'd, but farre more white to bee;
Her Ivorie brests did ever open lie
To readie spoile of gazers greedie eie,
And both her lillie paps were bare to winne
Her lovers melting heart to wanton sinne;
Her name the which was Meehafasto hight
Her double nature did expresse aright:
With her there hither came a goodly crew
Of lovely Nymphes of seeming Angels hue,
Featur'd each where in bodies lineament,
As if they late had left the firmament,
Or as if heavens divine triplicitie,
Out of some fift unknowne simplicitie,
For there complexions hue had fram'd some mixture,
Passing the homely gift of common nature;
But pittie 'twas, such angell seeming creatures
With ulcerous minds deform'd such heavenly features:
For they were wanton, full of loose desire
And in their heart did nourish lustfull fire,
With glauncing lookes, like summers evening lights
They could allure the rash beholders fights
And Heliotropon-like with sun-like skill
Could cause soft hearts to turne unto their will
When they lift speake, their words like to a lake
Breaking through rocks of rubie, seem'd to make
Celestiall musike with their pleasing sound,
Amongst the silver pearles, that stood around,
With which they Syren-like could often move
Modest Hypolitus to wanton love,
They all acoutered were in sundrie fashion,
Seeming t' have been all of a severall nation,
Some in the antique Roman Lords attire
Did shape themselves, as seeming to aspire
Some captaines place, or as if they had been
Symiramis, that manlike monster queene,
In Persian loose aray, some did delight,
Or rather disaray, so loosely dight,
In the french doublet some againe did jet
Wanting but slops to make a man compleat,
Some on their heads did beare the fatall signe,
Which of fooles future fortune did divine,
Others againe Morisko caps did weare
Maid-marrian like with brooches in each care
And Indian-like did paint inch thicke in view;
Though natures red and white were Angels hew.
Thus with their fashions strange varietie,
They did bewray their minds inormitie:
For things externall sought with strong affect
Internall thoughts both good and bad detect,
Which, when the little Casta did behold
Poore bird her fearefull heart did wax stone cold:
But now too late mee did repent, that shee
Had made them judges of her cause to bee:
For thither now, they were alreadie come
According to their minds to give their doome,
Where heapes of people thronging in the way
Did earlie waite for them by breake of day
To know, what bird should beare away the bell
The bastard Cuckow or faire Philomel:
The judges being set, up straight did stand,
The crier of the court who did command
High, with shrill voice and great authoritie
A generall silence through the companie;
Which done forth stept the little Casta hight,
Who being pearcht aloft in open sight
After obeysance to those damsels made,
That were as judges set, thus boldly said:
(Fairest of faire) who from the joyous prime
Of your great birth, untill this very time,
Have trained been in this celestiall place,
This bower of blisse in vertue and in grace,
For vertues sake vouchsafe with silent pause
To heare poore Philomela plead her cause.
What once I have been, now I need not tell,
Nor what I am, I know, yee know it well:
Yee know, that once, when in great Athens towne
My Sire, good king Pandion wore the crowne,
A Ladie then I was, as now yee bee
And daughter to a king, till wo is mee,
The Thracian king, whose lust-burnt thoughts did flame
And burne in foule desire, did worke my shame:
In Thracian woods (O ever be forgot
The place in which mine honor he did blot)
In Thracian woods (I say) the tyrant fell
Unto his will did force poore Philomel,
And led his wicked acte I should descrie
The cruell edged steele he did applie
Unto my tongue, and with most bitter smart
Did rob me of the Echo of my heart:
All this and more then this, yee all do know
So common is poore Philomelaes woe.
Yee know likewise how in avengement fell
My furious sister, Progne did compell
The lustfull Tereus in a fatall feast
To swallow downe into his lust-burnt brest
His owne deare sonne, his Itis, that sweet youth,
Whose death breeds in my heart eternall ruth:
For which when as the tyrant did decree
With wrathfull sword to wreake revenge on me
Heaven pittie tooke and gave to me this shape,
By which his fell intent I did escape,
And as an exile from all mens abode
I since have lived in the desert wood,
Where sitting once on humble thorne alone
And in my wofull ditties making mone
For my old Sire, Pandion, that good King,
Whose timelesse death my sad mischance did bring;
Loe, That great Huntresse of renowmed fame
The Ladie Phoebe following the game
In the wild wood hath silent stood in pittie
To heare the sad tunes of my dolefull dittie,
And being mov'd with deepe remorse of mind
That fates had been so cruell and unkind
'Gainst me poore wretch; she did vouchsafe to show
Compassion towards me in my bitter woe.
While in these woods and forrests she did use,
Mongst all the quier for chiefe, she did me chuse
To be her bird, and while shee was my dame
Not Philomel, but Casta was my name,
And, for I was the daughter of a King,
Shee made me cheefe of all the quier to sing,
And in her woods ordained me the shade
To shroude my selfe from Tereus bloodie blade:
But loe alas, what time hath brought to pace,
Loe heere a tyrant, worse then Tereus was,
Loe heere Dan Cuckow my sterne enemie
Claiming my right with proud authoritie,
Who this same blissefull place as death did shun,
When as my dame in these same woods did wonne.
(O) how it irkes me, that a bird so base
Pandions princely daughter should disgrace,
Who by condition of his qualitie
Unto the world discries his bastardie:
Is't not inough, that once I being a dame
Yborne of auncient Kings of worthie fame
Now live a bird loathing mans companie
In desert woods for love to chastitie,
And in the echoing mountaines loudly sing
Phoebes chaste song, when as the lustie spring
Stirres up young bloods, that with my chaster layes
I may recall them from their wanton waies?
But must a bird the basest of the crue
In all the woods stand up to wrest my due
Unto his lot, which Phoebe did ordaine
Should unto me for ever more remaine?
Nor is it yet enough alas, that I
From stately palaces of kings do flie,
Still dreading Tereus lothsome luxurie
To live in woods farre from all companie
But must another Tereus seeke t' expell
From woods likewise the forlorne Philomel?
Alas it so, where shall I hide my head,
Where shall I shun th' inevitable dread
Of bloodie Tereus hot lust-sparkling face,
If nor in woods, nor house I shall have place?
To you therefore (faire Nymphes) to your just doome
That as the umpiers of my cause are come
I do appeale, not doubting but the love
You beare to Phoebus name your hearts will move
In this so just a cause to pittie mee,
That was as deare to her as deare might bee.
Which if yee do, your fame shall never die
And Castas selfe shall sing your praise on hie.

This said, shee breathed from her brest so cleare
The sweetest layes, that eare did ever heare
To which all other birds about the place
Did tune their divers notes to do her grace
As in approvance of her worth to sing
As chiefe in woods to welcome in the spring,
Which did so daunt Dan Cuckowes daring pride
That oft he thought his shamefull head to hide:
But knowing well that he had friends in place
That of those partiall Nymphes had got him grace,
Feare set aside, and his obeysance made,
Unto those Nymphes these words he boldly said:
(Yee glorious offspring of great honors bed,
Vertues faire impes, mirrors of womanhed,
Bright Angel-like sweet Nymphes, whole beauties blaze
Adornes the world like Tytans golded rayes)
Vouchsafe with gentle patience for a space
Your gratious silence, while I pleade my case.
The jarre begun betwixt my foe and me,
The subject of my purps'd speech should be;
But first both words and wit, I must applie
To make an answere to mine enemie.
Though of my birth no boaster I will be
Seeing in this cause it nought availeth me;
Yet, that I may, that scandalisme refute,
Which my false foe doth unto me impute,
Know that Joves bird, the Eagle prince of ayre
Did foster me being young with tender care,
In whose proud neast ybuilt, in Joviall Tree
My dame by secret stelth conveied me.
In that same clime, where Aestas sits in pride
Beneath the tropick of hot sommers guide,
The crabbed Cancer, where in earthes coole cels,
The hot sun painted people ever dwels,
Not far from whence great Nilus evermore
With fruitfull waves doth warm th' Egyptian shore,
There was I bred, and there my fame first grew,
Which thence long since about the wide world flew.
For South from thence the land of Cyprus lies,
Whereas the people use to sacrifice
To loves faire Queene, of whom I wonne great grace,
When she was wroth with people of that place;
For once being sore offended with them all
And musing with her selfe, what plague should fall
Upon their heads, she chaunc'd to cast her eie
Upon an horne, which she did soone applie
Unto their browes, whereby they straight forsooke
Their former shape, and Oxe-like was their looke:
But they blind buzzards could not see the same,
Whereby the lesser was their griefe and shame,
Till ore their goodly heads, I wav'd my wing
And cuckow in their ears aloud did sing;
Which when they heard, like raging Buls they bore
Their loftie heads, and with loud bellowing rore
Did show their jealous thoughts: for which men say
They called are Cerastes to this day:
And for this fact of mine the Cyprian dame,
The Queene of love did give to me for name
The song, which I did sing and did decree,
That I thenceforth her only bird should be;
She bore me to that garden of great fame,
Which yet of her Adonis beares the name,
Where she herselfe did teach me how to sing,
Her sweet delights unto the youthfull spring;
And did appoint, that the yeares youthly prime
Should be the season of my singing time:
For well she knew, that season did belong
Unto the nature of my pleasant song;
As for my foe, although her layes be sweet:
Yet be they sad patheticall unmeet
To be recorded, when the lustie spring
Tidings of pleasure to the world doth bring,
More fit with little Redbrest on a thorne
To beare a part, and helpe her for to mourne
For losse of sommer, when cold winters breath
To all our pleasures threatens hatefull death:
Then (gentle dames, great Ladies of delight)
Who in this bower of blisse both day and night
Have your abode, where winter lowres
Ne on your heads powres downe his stormie shewers;
Let it be seene that ye have need of none
The sommer past in winter to bemone:
So shall Dan Cuckow sing your lasting praise
Before loves Queene in his delightfull lades.
This said, he chaunted out his Cuckows song,
Which laughter bred among'st the thickest throng,
Nor any prettie bird about the place
Would in their song vouchsafe to do him grace.
But see the chaunce the Nymphes being in a pause
And in consult how to decide this cause,
And each one being husht with greedie eare
To heare that sentence, which they least did feare,
Or all the Nymphes up stood the chiefest dame
And thus this unjust sentence did proclaime:
(O all yee singers of the woods sweet quier)
Heare now the doome, which ye did long desire,
And (ye) twixt whom the jarre begun but late,
As yet hangs in suspence without debate,
Know that each others cause doth now abide
In equall ballance, which we thus decide.
Seeing to the nature of each others song,
Two parts of all the yeare seeme to belong,
That part in equall doome we will ordaine,
Which is most meet for either of you twaine;
First touching Philomel, seeing that her dittie
Is alwaies passionate and moving pittie,
Seeing with her, when she sings in wofull wise
The echoing mountaines seeme to sympathize,
And rockes to weepe, and trees do seeme to grone,
When in lameming layes she list to mone
In that sad time, when Boreas winged scouts
Locks up the fruitfull Terras water spouts,
And with congealing puffes do crystalize
The cloud-like waves of Neptunes liquid skies;
Let Philomel in her pathetike straine
For sommers losse in leavelesse woods complaine,
Lest, when her dolefull ditties she doth sing
She do disturbe the pleasance of our spring:
But for Dan Cuckow seeing he never sings,
But when sweet Zephirus on gentle wings,
Breathing good morrowes to the faire Aurora,
Begins each day to kisse his wanton Flora.
We thinke it meete, that he be chiefe to sing,
Where ere he meets the Ladie of the spring.
And seeing, when earth hath lost her flowring May
He cannot sing for greefe of her decay,
Here let him stay, where he may ever sing
Seeing heere with us we have eternall spring.
This is our doome and thus we do debate
The cause betwixt Dan Cockow and his mate.
Thus having said, she ceast, and thereupon
Such murmur, as we heare in woods, that grone,
When winds rouz'd up throngh hollow grounds do break,
Such noise was heard 'mong'st those, that heard her speake;
And all the quier of birds about the place
Did droope and hang the head, for such disgrace
To wronged Philomel, and for her sake,
A mournefull melodie did seeme to make:
But what alas availes their distcontent,
Those partiall judges rose, and with them went
Dan Cuckow singing his triumphant song,
While Philomel bewailes her helpelesse wrong,
Who being unjustly robbed of her right
And from the bower of blisse exiled quite,
Calling to mind, how that she once had been
The happie daughter of a King and Queene,
And since that she in shape of bird did live,
What honor Phoebes selfe to her did give,
Now from all future hope being quite cast downe,
Orecome with griefe, she fell in suddaine swoune,
And groveling in the dust on her sad brest,
With deadly sorrowe being sore opprest,
Poore bird she hung the wing and gasp'd for breath
Seeming to yeeld unto the panges of death;
To whom her sister Progne standing by
With speed to her recovery did flie,
And hovering over her, made pitious plaint
For to revive her, that began to faint,
Dead was her heart, to see her sister lie
In such a traunce and often wish't to die,
Shee strock't her temples with her pretie beake
And raysing up her limbes, that were so weake,
With gentle touch did feele each tender part,
And drove to strengthen her now dying heart:
Unto her aide the gentle Redbrest came,
The Wren, and fruitfull Titmouse, that sterne dame,
Who did applie their helpe at need so well,
That now the flitting life of Philomel
Halfe conquer'd with cold death, did make retreate
Unto the heart, the house of native heate;
Which, when her sister Progne did espie
These words of comfort, shee did soone applie;
(Ay me) quoth she, (deare sister) thou that are
Now made the image of unpatient smart,
Why dost thou not in these sad passions show
Thy wonted patience in afflicting woe,
And to our counsell lend thy listening eare,
The which may teach thee patiently to beare
This rufull sorrow, which doth stop thy breath
And seekes to hasten thy untimely death;
Speake (O deare sister) speake, and tell us why
Thy soule with griefe opprest should seeke to die.
She having said, the wofull Philomel,
Whose sad soule all this while in traunce did dwell,
Did lift up th' heavie windowes of her eies
And spake these rufull words in wofull wise.
Tempestuous chaunce her utmost spite hath spent,
And at me wretch her utmost dart hath sent,
Nor any plague is left, that me can tell,
With which t' oppresse the forlorne Philomel,
For since the time, that I, as well you know
Was, (woe alas that now I am not so)
Pandions daughter in my virgins state,
I have endur'd sterne fortunes utmost hate.
Can I forget my Thracian slaverie
Beneath falsie Tereus lustfull villanie,
Or cease to thinke upon my virgins rape,
With losse of tongue and Ladies lovely shape?
Yea can I live and leave to have in mind
Fortunes last wrong, not least, but most unkind
Those Nymphes late doome, I meane, by whose decree
A forlorne outcast I shall ever bee?
For from Dan Cuckowes song my shame doth spring
And where alas, will not Dan Cuckow sing?
Sith then, to me poore wretch by cruell fate
Naught else is left of former princely state
But shame and woe, why do I longer feed
On loathed light, which wo afresh will breed?
This said, she sunke againe in deadly swound:
But Progne quickly rais'd her up from ground,
Thrice did she sincke as dead, and thrice againe
Did Progne raise her up with busie paine;
At last, when life her setled place did take
To comfort her, the little Wren thus spake:
Now certes madame Philomel, quoth she,
You have great cause of plaint we all do see,
The which I weene would pierce the stoutest heart
And launch the boldest brest with bleeding smart;
Yet comfort to you take, and do not you
Let passions rage rob reason of her due;
Thinke with your selfe, as now too true it is,
That in this pleasant place, this bower of blisse,
Since that Dan Cuckow findeth entertaine,
For us no certaine safetie doth remaine:
For well we see the Nymphes of this same place
Have given over that same wonted chase
Of harmefull beasts, which Pheobe did delite
Following strange game with greedie appetite:
Yea 'tis reported many Satyrs rude
Into their company themselves intrude,
By whose inticementyou they did forsake
In their false doome Dan Cuckowes part to take
Then do not greeve at this their unjust doome,
Ne thinke your selfe disgrac'd as overcome
Before such dames; for grace it seemes to me
To be disgrac'd of those, that gracelesse be:
But swage your griefe in this so ruefull case,
And go with us unto our dwelling place,
Where though alone in desert place it be;
Yet there from feare of foes you shall be free:
For as dame Titmouse and Redbrest can tell
Dan Cuckow seldome sings, where we do dwell,
True, (neighbour Wren) the Redbrest did replie,
We live in safetie, though in penurie;
And if dame Philomel with us will go,
Such kindnesse as poore Robbins bower can show
She shall command, and though in that same wood,
None of the courtly birds have their abode;
Yet there do many gentle singers dwell,
That will be loving unto Philomel.
Yea; quoth the Titmouse, neither shall she there
Of proud Dan Cuckowes threatnings stand in feare.
For all birds there his bastard note abhors
And evermore do make him deadly wars,
Twice sixe stout sonnes, ae this same very houre
I have now living in my little bower,
All which shall serve the wronged Philomel
Against Dan Cuckow, if with us she dwell:
Thus did these birds with gentle speech assay
Sad Philomelaes greefe to drive sway;
But long it was, ere sorrow would depart,
It was so deepely setled in her heart:
Yet at the length the Swallow Progne hight
Did so perswade her, that she tooke her flight
With little Titmouse, Robbin and the Wren
To desert woods farre from th' abodes of men:
But Progne selfe returned backe againe
To Trinobant, where she doth still remaine:
Thus from the bower of blisse was Plilomel
Exil'd for aye in forraine woods to dwell
While there Dan Cuckow as chiefe bird did sing
To tell the pleasures of the youthfull spring:
The mansion house, in which poore Philomel,
Did with her new companions daily dwell,
Was in a rocke, whose head it selfe did shroud
In mistie cloake of many a wandring cloud,
And whole thicke mossie sides and hollow wombe
To many a bird did yeeld much building roome,
It seated was downe in a valley low,
Where many a silver gliding streame did flow,
And leavie woods in arbor wise did stand,
As made by art, and not by natures hand.
From right side of this rocke, there issued out
A crystall spring which flowed round about
The bottome of the rock, whose upper brim
Thick set with hearbes and flowers smelt sweet and trim:
In th' hollow of this rock the humming swarmes
Of honie flies, whose bodies nature armes
With biting stings did beare a murmuring base
Unto the spring, that trickling downe apace
From of the rock did meanely seeme to warbble
Among'st the pibble stones unto the trebble,
Which many prettie birds did seeme to sing,
Hovering about the rocke with painted wing:
This was the place of Philomels abode
With her companions in the defert wood,
Where all the time of those long fasting houres,
When as the heavenly crab with his eight oares
Doth in the starrie Zodiack softly row,
Felicitie did in abundance softly flow,
Whereby faire Philomel did find no misse
Of wonted pleasure in the bower of blisse:
For there where curious art her helpe denide,
There natures selfe, that want with store supplide:
If Boreas did at any time offend her
The hollow rock a remedie did lend her:
If Phoebus hurt her with his fierie rayes,
She found redresse beneath the leavie spraies,
To whose coole shades she safely might retreate,
When earth did crack beneath hevens burning heate:
If she did hunger after wonted baite,
The goodly fruit of every tree did waite
Upon her will: yea much varietie
Of painted flies for her satietie
At hand in this her dwelling place she found,
So fruitfull was this pleasant plot of ground:
If she did thirst, or heate did her annoy,
What pleasure did she take, what gladsome joy
Unto the silver gliding stream to flie,
That rowled through the bordering wood fast by:
For when she stooping steep'd her tender beake
Into the wave, it oft would seeme to breake,
And feeling her soft bosome pant and beate
Would bid her bath and quench her boiling heate:
Mean time flowers seem'd to laugh and buds to spring,
Trees seem'd to bloome and blossomes forth to bring,
And winds to coole the scorching of the sun,
While by the brinke the currant smooth did run,
Which oft did please this prettie bird so well,
That in that place she still desir'd to dwell.
But long alas, this pleasure did not last;
For long it was not, ere the earth defac'd
By winters sad approch was forc'd to leave
That pompe, which from the spring she did receave;
For what thing is't subelementarie,
That still continues and doth never varie?
What thing retaines one forme that ever lives
And place unto another never gives?
Alas, nought permanent with us doth stay:
For end and offspring have succesive sway:
Eternall time, that auncient enemie
To vading natures prodigalitie
Remorselesse of all things with Sithe cuts downe
The growing glorie of this earthes renowne;
And as he flies with swift wings to and fro
By his decree, all things do come and go.
And so at length, where Philomel did dwell
Sad winter came, and sommer bad farewell.
With cold th' ayres lower region gan to shiver
And daily to the earth did downe deliver
The fleece-like yvorie flakes of heavenly snow,
Which from the neighbour region fast did flow;
For then from heavens point perpendicular
Hyperion in his spheare orbicular
Running his wonted race with oblique course,
His repercusse beames beat with lesser force
Upon his butt, the ball of earth, whereby
A weake reflection, to our aire did flie:
Then did the fruitfull earth begin to faint,
When that warme wonted comfort it did want,
Which from the gentle breathing aire should come,
To cherish up the fruit of her bigge wombe,
Whose sorrowes wrathfull winter to augment
Did muster up his forces with intent
To spoile her daughter sweet Pomonaes loves
With her Autumnus in the shadie groves,
Whom to withstand bold Auster, that brave Knight
Joyn'd forces with Autumnus for the fight,
And oftentimes brav'd Boreas in the field
Pomonaes fruits from his proud blasts to shield:
But raging Hyems to inforce the warre
All his bold Legions did revoke from farre,
Which in three batatiles he did thus divide
To quell stout Auster, and Autumnus pride,
The hidious stormes, that beate downe brazen wals
And horrid tempests that make tennis bals
Of mightie mountaines in the vauntgard went
To give the onset with bold hardiment,
Whose stubborne rankes with haileshot did abound
And drifts of snow their foe-men to confound,
Whom lustie Boreas full of daunting dread
Did unto boisterous battaile boldly lead:
The middle ward, great Hyems selfe did guide,
Who to the field like great god Mars did ride:
For on a winged cloud he sate on high
Deckt in strange armour dreadfull to the eie,
Upon his breast a curace he did beare
Of ycie mettall made, which far more cleare
Then crystall shone: for like the crystall skie
It could subdue the gazers greedie eie,
Thereby his blade did hang in snow-white sheath,
With which he us'd t' imploy works of cold death
Mong'st those, that needie were, and could not arme
Themselves to shun the stroke of his strong arme,
His ycie Helmet powdered with white snow
Great terror and bright glory both did show,
And in the steade of plume stood thereupon
A bunch of ysacles by nature growen;
Which with pure snow being sprinckled diverslie
Did seeme to daunce and leape for jollitie:
His shield, which at his back parts he did settle,
Was neatly fram'd of Diamondlike mettell,
Hewen out of ycie rocks in Scythian land
By nature wrought, and not by Artists hand,
On which for badge did stand in ramping pride
Cold Capricorne the shivering winters guide.
In such like armes was wrathfull Hyems clad,
Whose lookes a terror to his armes did adde:
His browes contract above his gloomie eies,
On which the hoarie heares did bristled rise,
And Jove-like looke with grim stiffe buggle beard
Made his owne powers, that marcht by him, affeard.
To guard his person round about him stood
Whole hoastes of mists and many a roaring floud:
And thus to field the second battell went
Under conduct of Hyems regiment.
The third Battalion to the field did goe
Beneath great Eurus standard 'gainst the foe,
Who being Lord of th' Easterne parts, that lie,
Where great Apollo first doth mount the skie:
Many bold bands of souldiers brought from farre,
To serve the mightie Hyems in this warre;
In service with him for light horsemen came,
Those light swift winged winds, that beare the name
Of Boreas and of Eurus both; for whom
To serve in these same warres they all were come,
With these th' humorous vapors joyn'd their powers
The gloomie fogs, and duskie drizeling showers,
Whole troopes of drowzie mistes, of dewe and frost,
Who of themselves could make a mightie hoast.
And thus did Hyems his whole powers divide,
Which winged were with clouds on either side
Of whose approch when Autumne first did heare,
His heart stroke dead, began to faint for feare:
Yet calling mightie Auster to his aide
And gentle Zephirus, his part he made,
As able as he could, and boldly went
To frustrate winter of his proud intent;
Unto his aide the King of forrests all
Came backt with his consorts, whom some do call
The tree of Jove, with whom there came from farre
Fields, forrests, woods, and groves unto this warre.
Thus did both parts prepare with all their might
To meete each other in th' appointed fight.
The time being come, before the fight began
Downe from the hilles the torrents swiftly ran,
As scouts from Hyems campe to take survey
Of Autumnes host, that in the valleys lay,
Which all the birds about both neere and farre
Tooke as a warning of th' approching warre,
And for themselves provided all in hast
Untill the danger of the warre were past:
Mong'st whom the little Redbrest with great care
Of Philomel her friend did make repaire
Unto the rock, where she and Philomel
This dangerous time might both in safetie dwell:
Then came proud Hyems forward to the fight
Downe from the ayrie mountaines that ere pight
In th' articke side, whereas the Dragons traine
Divides the wrathfull beares by Charles his waine:
The battels joyn'd, and both the hosts did meet,
Where lustie Auster cuffe for cuffe did greet
The mightie Boreas selfe, whose verie breath
Did powder-like blast other foes to death:
Then came the stormes and tempests to the fight
In blacke, fresh, gloomie horror all bedight,
With smouldering fume, thick driftes of drizeling raine,
Commixt with haileshot, full of deadly bane,
Who at the first their foes did soone confound,
Rending up woods and forrests from the ground,
Whose leavie heads disperst about did flie,
Tost to and fro, like feathers in the skie:
Then to the reskew with the westerne King
Milde Zephirus, came Autumne, who did bring
Many swift winged winds, who with great might
At first incounter did renue the fight:
For many justing clouds, that came in course
With bold intent to beare their violent force
Being hem'd in round about, could not abide,
But deadly wounded were on every side,
Who fearing in their cloudie shapes to die
In humerous thin drops away did flie:
But now to gaine the glorie of the day,
Loe, Eurus came, who at his first assay
By violent force did end the doubtfull fight
And turn'd his foes into inglorious flight.

Meane time, great Autumne tooke his love aside,
His faire Pomonas selfe, whom he did hide
In wooden walles of forrests, woods and groves,
From mightie Hyems false inveigling loves,
While he with Zephirus and Auster flew
To Tytans Westerne house, there to renew
Their powers 'gainst Aries should the yeare recall
To free Pomona from great Hyems thrall:
Meantime great winter in triumphant wise
Over his captive foes did tyrannize,
The silver brookes that sweetly wound about
The pleasant bankes with wreathings in and out,
With Adamantine-like strong ycie bands,
He fast did bind within the hollow lands:
The Crystall springs, that from the mountaines side
With pleasing sound to ground did gently glide
And brackish streames, that gushed from the rock
With strong congealed frost he up did lock:
The flowring fields, woods, hilles and mountaines greene
And valleyes, that before to laugh were seene,
In stead of fresh greene colour, now were clad
In hoarie hue, that made them looke full sad;
Yea every thing, for want of heate halfe dead
In winters thraldome, droop't and hung the head:
Yet all this time of winters wrathfull reigne,
When all things did in deepe distresse complaine,
Dan Cuckow in the bower of blisse did sing
His joylull note, where dwels eternall spring:
Where, while that he did live both day and night
Drencht in the daintie dregs of deepe delight,
With little Redbrest forlorne Philomel
In hollow rock inconsolate did dwell,
Where she poore bird in many a dolefull straine
The Nymphes late unjust doome did much complaine,
Which was the cause of all her miserie,
That liv'd before in chiefe felicitie.
The state, which fortune erst to her did give
Compar'd to this, in which she now did live,
Did trebble sorrow on her dying heart
A fresh reviving her forgotten smart,
For miserie to those most bitter is
That tasted once the sweets of happie blisse,
Which little Redbrest did perceive right well
In her companion gentle Philomel:
For once when Philomel and she together
In hollow rocke sate shrowded from the weather
Still as the Redbrest in sweet notes did sing
A sad complaint for absence of the spring,
So did poore Philomel her griefe to show
In sad record recount her former woe:
To whom the Redbrest mov'd with melting pitie
To heare the sad tunes of her dolefull dittie,
These words of comfort spake: (sister) quoth she,
I see that winters blasts displeasant be,
And in your thoughts renewes the memorie
Of your precedent lives felicitie,
Whereby I know, your sorrow is the more,
That haplesse now liv'd happie heretofore:
But now unto my words your listening lend,
By which perhaps your sorrowes may have end:
Each yeare, when winter cause of all our woe,
Upon these woods with cold keene breath doth blow,
From hence compeld I usually do flie,
To famous Trynobantum, here fast by,
Whereas your sister Progne builds her bowers,
Safe from the threates of winters stormie showers,
For heaven that heere lookes grim with gloomie face
With milde aspect beholds that happie place,
There, not as heere th' inhabitants do know
Colld winters rage, nor doth proud Boreas blow
So sharpe and keene: but in the welkin faire
The milder windes do tosse the gentle aire;
There also many gentle Nymphes do dwell,
That may compare with those that do excell
In beautie bright; for eye did never see
More faire then in great Trynobantum be,
To whom I do nor doubt, if that we go,
But they to Philomel will favour show,
And though those Nymphes, that in the bower of blisse
Have their abode, 'gainst thee have done amisse:
Yet they no doubt will pitie thy complaint
And drive Dan Cuckow from great Trynobant;
And in our way, as we together flie
Lest we be destitute of company,
In this our jorney with us well I know
Our neighbours Titmouse and dame Wren wil go:
Then be not sad, helpe never comes too late,
And time perhaps may turne your froward fate.
This said, sad Philomel no answere made
But making doubt of that, which Redbrest said,
Sometimes she thought it best to live content
In th' hollow rock all danger to prevent:
But when proud Boreas blasts her heart did daunt,
She thought it best to flie to Trynobant.
Thus divers doubts did in her thoughts arise,
Nor what was best to do could she devise,
Untill her neighbours Wren and Titmouse came
Who with perswasive speech her mind did frame
To Trynobant with them along to go,
Unto the faire Nymphes there, her cause to show
To trie if they for Castas sake would chase
The unchaste Cuckow from their dwelling place:
Thus by perswasion of those prettie birds,
The gentle Philomela soone accords
To go with them, though, as it came to passe,
The sequell prov'd their labour fruitlesse was.
For in their journey loe, as they did flee,
Taking their covert flight from tree to tree,
Not daring to be seene in open skie,
About great Trynobant they did espie
The swift-wing'd swallow making her strong flight,
Sister to Plilomela, Progne hight;
To whom right glad they tooke their ready way
Each one recording her delightsome lay,
Which did so loudly echo in the ayre,
That Progne heard it, as they came from farre,
And drawing nie to know what it might be
Staying her swift strong flight loe, she did see
Her sister Philomel with other birds,
To whom with wonderment she spake these words;
(O heavens) what chaunce is this, what see I heere
Pandions Philomel, my sister deare?
Alas, what sad mishap is now befell,
That you have left the place where you did dwell,
Great perill, which I wot you little know,
In coming hither, you do undergoe.
Sister (said Philomel) no great mischaunce
Hath happen'd unto me, nor ignorance
Of peril in the way hath made me bold:
But forced by stormie winters bitter cold.
My friends and I have lately left our home
And for reliefe to Trynobant are come,
Where you do live in chiefe felicitie,
Free from the thrall of winters tyrannie.
Alas (good sister) Progne did replie,
Let not that vaine opinion in your eie
Go currant, which the idiot multitude
Out of blind ignorance doth still conclude,
That meane estate is greatest miserie
And high esteeme the chiefe felicitie:
For high or low, rich are not rich indeed,
And great states still on discontent do feed.
What dreadfull danger dogs him at the heele,
That proudly vaunts on top of Fortunes wheele
What daunting dread his stealing steps attend,
Whose climing thoughts do ayme at honors end?
Who feares to fall, but he that sits on high,
Or feeles th' infection of an envious eie
For envy evermore her poison spits
At those, that most in fortunes favour sits,
The heavie care, that wounds the mind with woe
Seldome forsakes the giddie feet that goe,
Where treades the steps of high authoritie,
So fleeting is this earthes felicitie:
For wavering chaunce about him still doth fie,
That proudly seekes to build his hopes on high,
Of which a president, I well may bee
Unto you all, such is my chaunce you see:
For fate and nature having both decreed,
That I in loftie tops of towers should breed,
While you my happie sister Philomel
Should in the woods and forrests safely dwell,
About the bower of bliss once did not I,
A long time safely build my bowers on high,
Till by my foes, they all were overthrowne
And young ones slaine, which I shall ever mone:
For those false Nymphes which sentence gave 'gainst thee
On proud Dan Cuckowes side, did all agree,
Because beneath the windowes of their towers
My custome was to build my secret bowers,
That I for ever should be chased thence
To seeke my fortunes though for no offence:
For loe no crime 'gainst me they could object,
But that because, they said I did detect
Their chamber sports, and truth to say mine eye
Such obscene sports did oft times there espie,
That very shame bids me forbeare to tell
The nuptiall band breake play, that there befell:
Wherfore from thence long since they did me chase,
Since when I lived have in this same place,
Whereas you say, I build my lowly bowers
Safe from the threates of winters stormie showers:
Yet in such feare of these, that use to feed
On beauties spoile, about those bowers I breed:
That would my fate had been to live alone
In forrests wide, though winter made me mone.
She having said, this answere Redbrest made:
Certes (dame Progne) you have wisely said,
For better 'tis to live we all agree
In meane estate content, from danger free,
Then in the blind worlds deem'd felicitie
In trouble, care and minds perplexitie;
But we to Trynobant not only come,
For that we grieve at winters blasts at home:
But seeing many a bright cheek'd gentle dame
Dwels heere in Trynobant we hither came,
That so thy sister Philomel might trie,
If they for love to honor'd chastitie
Would drive Dan Cuckow from this place with shame
And raise againe sad Castaes dying name.
To this thus Progne did returne replie.
Alas (good Redbrest) thy fraile shallow eie
Nought but th' externall species doth behold,
Deeming all things that glister perfect gold:
Each winter, when thou hither dost repaire
Our Nymphes being spreetly vigorous and faire,
Thou deem'st their minds to be as wise and wittie,
As in proportion, they be faire and prettie:
But thou art blind; for do but marke with me
Their witlesse actions, and thou soone shalt see
Their faire but foule; their wit, but wanton will,
Their wisedomes quintessence loves idle skill,
For heere in Trynobant with their consent
Dan Cuckow sings his layes with merriment,
Venus no more on Ida hilles is seene,
In Paphos temples, nor Cytheron greene:
But long ago hath bid them all farewell
Heere in great Trynobant with us to dwell:
For heere the lustie Queene of love adornes
The poore Cerastes with the welked hornes,
Here the Propoetides devoid of sense,
Those women pictures of true impudence,
By the great power of loves luxurious Queene
Are turn'd to stones, women no more are seene.
For which Pigmalion leads a single life
And feares strange things, not daring wed a wife.
She having spoken, all the other birds
Long silent stood amaz'd at those her words
Till Titmouse spake, quoth she, what you do tell
Is verie strange and we perceive right well,
That gentle Casta here shall find small grace,
Seeing such strange Nymphes do dwell in this same place:
But what doth cause them with such impudence
In spite of modesties pure excellence
So much degenerate from heavenly kind?
Sure pinching want doth much oppresse the minde:
0r else with Danae for love of gold
They kindly suffer friends to be too bold.
No certes (Titmouse) Progne did replie,
Nor love of gold, nor pinching penurie:
But plentie, pleasure, ease and idlenesse,
Is cause of their deare deem'd voluptuousnes,
Whereby they oft times rather give then take
The golden gifts, that minds immodest make,
Heere need not Jove come take a sleepelesse nap
With golden showers in Danaes lovely lap.
For heere our lustie Danaes, if he want
Will shower downe gold on him, if he but graunt:
In nights black vaile, he need not hide his head
If he intend to go t' Amphytrions bed,
For th' Alcumenaes here both day and night
Will meet him any where for loves delight,
If Daphne heere do runne, she slackes her pace
Till Phoebus catch her, whom she must embrace,
And heere if lovely Syrinx do intend
Who runne from rugged Pan: yet in the end
She seeming faint her swifter course will stay,
That she may be the pipe, when Pan doth play:
For neither Pans high hornes nor rugged beard
Can make the Nymphes in this same place affeard.
Fie, fie (dame Progne) quoth the little Wren,
In sooth 'gainst them, thou hast too bitter been,
I do not thinke that such incontinence
Can lurke beneath the glorious excellence
Of such rare beautie, which doth seeme t' excell
In these faire dames, that in this place do dwell;
Yet if in them such light demeanor be,
Doubtlesse they do not make it knowne to thee,
How then canst thou such things, as these relate
With their close deeds not being intimate?
Progne replied; unwisely have you said
Me with untruth ungentlie to upbraid;
For know dame Wren, that what I late did show
Is nothing in respect of that I know:
For in my neast built wondrous by my wit
Beneath their chamber-windowes I do sit,
Where if your selfe were present but one day,
You would speake more then lately I did say.
For there oft times I do both see and heare
Those things that shame to tell bids me forebeare.
This said, the other birds all silent sate
As modestly forbearing, t' aske of that
Which Prognes selfe did seeme halfe sham'd to tell
Untill at last spake gentle Philomel
And said (deare sister) hide not what you know;
Because the thing breeds shame which thou shalt show
For to the author of the sin be shame,
Not unto him, that's guiltlesse in the same,
Nor should examples of immodestie
Offend the modest eares of chasitie,
For vertues glorious shine, then shines most bright,
When 'tis oppos'd to vice her opposite,
As whitest things seeme fairest to the eye,
When they be match'd with blacke their contrarie.
Wherefore (deare sister) speake and boldly tell
The shameless deeds of dames that heere do dwell,
So shall we sing about the world so wide,
That which their chamber wals now seeme to hide,
Of which perhaps when they hereafter heare
To do the like henceforth they will forbeare.
She having said, thus Progne made replie
If that ye will (ye birds) that I descrie
And draw the curtaines of the unchaste bed,
Where Mars and Venus hornes old Vulcans head,
Come neare and listen, lest the obscene sound
Of my strange speech do in the ayre abound,
And in the same do breed corruption,
From whence may spring a foule infection
Of those hot furious, fierie, lustfull beasts,
That toil'd with lust, do loath loves vulgar feasts,
Whom nature cannot furnish with excesse
In kind-like game: but that some monstrous messe
They do affect, I will not heere speake much
Lest I offend; my meaning is of such
As imitate Romes Semiramida,
Or that Italian Cortigiana,
And put in practise th' art of Aretine,
At which both heaven and nature doth repine,
And with that Lybian lustfull foule Syrenea,
That woman monster Dodecamechana
In Venus act devise twelve sundrie measures
With lustie lads at full to take their pleasures;
Nor will I tell, though many be of these
That with Athlanta and Hyppomenes
Do Stalion-like run madding out of season
To quench their lust, 'gainst nature and 'gainst reason;
Nor here to shew to you is my intent
That execrable squirtlike instrument,
Which lust burnt, fierie, female monsters use:
In fruitless lust, to natures vile abuse:
For these are things not fitting speech of birds:
But best befitting roughest Satyrs words.
I only here intend to make report
Of that same common counted cuckow sport,
Which by our dames is deem'd a lawfull game,
Though impudence it selfe blush at the fame,
(I meane of th' old Malbeccoes of our age)
Who justly beare Cornuted Vulcans badge.
In Trynobant as to and fro I flie
It hath been oftentimes my chaunce t' espie
An old cold Januarie jet before
A fresh young May, a spreetly Helinore,
Unequall both in yeares and in affection,
And also far unlike in their condition;
Yet to the blind-ey'd world it did appeare,
That May did love her Januarie deare;
Which I scarse trusting with a curious eie
Have closely trackt their steps the truth to trie:
And loe, while he hath set his thoughts upon
His horded heapes, his May being left alone,
He being close at his accounts above,
While she beneath sits longing after love,
In steps me March clad like a lustie Knight,
Or pleasant Aprill full of sweet delight,
Who in loves wanton art, nor wanting skill
Hath slights enow t' assault fresh May at will;
But what needs long assault where none doth shield
For gentle heart she is as prone to yeeld,
As he t' assault, which well this younker knowes,
Though seeming strange awhile with her he glose,
For by her touching, stroking, gentle pressing,
Her rubbing, wringing, wrestling, wanton thrusting,
Coy looking, culling and kind intertaine
He finds enough and knowes her meaning plaine:
For gentle May no proffer'd time will lose,
When as from home old Januarie goes,
And then the unchaste kisses common flies,
Which Hymens strongest nuptiall bands unties,
Then beautie sets the eies of lust on fire,
And fancie breakes forth into strong desire,
And lastly lust doth in a moment space
Make Januaries browes bud forth apace,
Which neither he, nor any else do see,
Though it be commonly well knowne to me:
For these be objects common to my sight,
As in my bowers I sit, both day and night.
Then say ye birds, if in this place can dwell
My sister Casta gentle Philomel.
Ay me, quoth Philomel, the more my griefe,
That I poore wretch can no where find reliefe:
For where alas, shall Casta find a place,
Where proud Dan Cuckow sings not her disgrace?
Great Phoebes name is now extincted quite,
Whose fame whilom the golden starres did smite,
Where else are her faire Nymphes, whose beauties blaze
Did decke the world with like to Phoebus raies,
Who with the flower of heavenly chastitie
Their beauties garland did so dignifie,
That Venus brat, though deem'd a god of power,
With all his flames could never scorch their flower?
But now alas, faire Phoebes daintie rose,
Which many Nymphes did in their brests inclose,
And with great care did tender it more deare,
Then dearest life, doth no where now appeare,
Else why doth Casta suffer such disgrace,
While that the Cuckow sings in every place.
As thus she spake, not far they did espy,
How proud Dan Cuckow to and fro did flie,
Who vaunting in the ayre with outstretch'd wing
His bastard note triumphantly did sing;
At whom the Swallow, Robbin, and the Wren,
And Titmouse, as if they imag'd had been,
With eager thoughts did flie, whom they in chase
A long time did pursue from place to place,
Oft did they flap him with their feathered quils,
And peckt and beat him with their tender bils,
Untill from out of sight he quite was fled
And in some covert place had hid his head:
But they returning backe, where making mone,
They late had left poore Philomel alone,
Loe, they beheld, how the poore bird did sit
Halfe dead with torment of her wofull fit.
To whom poore birds being mov'd with melting pitie
Each one did strive to tune her dolefull dittie,
Long sate they sympathizing in their song
The wofull record of poore Castaes wrong,
Nor of sweet comfort could they ought partake,
Untill at length the little Wren thus spake:
(My loving friends and fellow birds) quoth she,
Great grief doth vex your troubled thoughts I see:
But fond it is in sorrow still to dwell
And seeke no meanes sad sorrow to expell:
For grief, that breeds despaire, nere finds reliefe,
When good advice doth master greatest greife;
Then know, that though no Nymph of this same place
Nor of the bower of blisse will take to grace,
The forlorne Casta, Phoebes only bird,
Yet meaner places may perchaunce afford
Some gentle dame, although of meane degree,
That unto Philomel would gratious be;
And well I do remember, in that place
There wonnes a vertuous Nymph of goodly grace,
Where I do safely build my lowly bowers
To shrowd my selfe from winters stormie showers:
In humble cottage she doth still remaine,
The happie daughter of a countrie swaine,
And though she live upon meane maintenance,
Yet with such grace and goodly governance,
She doth demeane her selfe, that many be
Of greater state, that want her genterie,
For little would ye weene, that such a great grace
Had any lodging in so meane a place
She hath to wit hight Virginia to name,
Who though but meane, yet of exceeding fame:
For loe, that Squier, that lives in deepe despaire
Of gaining grace of Columbel the faire,
Unto an endlesse taske by her being ti'd
To wander each where, though the world so wide,
To prove how many damsels he could find,
That chastely did retaine a constant mind,
Did of three hundred dames find but this one,
That unto loves delight would not be wonne:
Then (gentle Philomel) lay by thy griefe,
And of this dame let us go seeke reliefe,
Upon whose bosome thou maiest sit and sing
The virgin beautie of her youthful spring,
Where proud Dan Cuckow dares not come in place,
Much lesse dares sing his layes in thy disgrace.
The Wren thus having spoke, the other birds
With Castaes selfe did like well of her words,
And with the Wren would straight unto that wood,
Where that same virgin dame had her abode:
But gentle Progne she must stay behind,
As being forbidden by the fates unkind;
Since her in shape of bird they first did hide,
Nere to frequent the woods and forrests wide;
Parting therefore from her with weeping eies
Her sister Philomell spake in this wise.
Sister (quoth she) the stubborne fates decree,
That from each other we must parted bee:
For thou alas maiest nor frequent the wood,
Nor may I come, where thou hast thy abode:
For now (aye me) hard hap doth me compell
Unto the bower of blisse, to bid farewell,
And unto Trynobant, where woe is mee
My dearest sister thou shalt live and see
My hatefull foe, Dan Cuckow proudly sing
In my dispight to welcome in the spring:
But must we then alas, for ever part,
The thought of which augments our wofull smart,
Must thus Pandions daughters bid farewell,
For ever in the world apart to dwell?
We must alas: wherefore compel'd by fate,
Whose malice heaven it selfe may not abate,
Unto the world and thee I bid farewell
In desert woods for evermore to dwell.
Thus having said, both did with wofull heart
Each from the other heavily depart,
Sad Progne back to Trynobant did flie,
And gentle Philomel in companie
Of little Redbrest, Titmouse and the Wren,
Did take her way far from the abodes of men
Unto that place, where dwelt that gentle dame,
Of whom the Wren did speake: where when she came,
Of that faire Nymph she found such intertaine,
That never more she thence return'd againe.

[pp. 1-51]