1609
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Hymen at the Marriage of my most deare Cousins Mr. W. and M. R.

The Purple Island, or the Isle of Man: together with Piscatorie Eclogs and other Poeticall Miscellanies. By P. F.

Rev. Phineas Fletcher


An epithalamium in thirteen irregular Spenserians (ababccC) notable for its conceitedness: "His breast a shelf of purest alabaster, | Where Love's self sailing often shipwrackt sitteth: | Hers a twin-rock, unknown but to th' ship-master; | Which though him safe receives, all other splitteth." The variable refrain takes the alexandrine in a stanza pattern invented by Phineas Fletcher. An Hymen was published in with the Purple Island and Fletcher's other minor poetry in 1633.

Edwin Guest: "The popularity of this [Spenserian] stanza soon gave rise to numerous imitations. All of them were formed on one or other of two principles; either, as in Spenser's stanza, by adding an alexandrine to some well-known combination (generally to one of the ballet-staves), or by the substitution of such alexandrine for the last verse of the stanza. Such imitations I would class (together with Spenser's own stanza) under the general title of Spenser-staves — thus giving to these peculiarly English combinations the name of the great English poet, who first brought the principle into notice, on which they have been constructed.... Phineas Fletcher, in his very singular poem, entitled The Purple Island, has used a Spenser-stave, fashioned on the ballet-stave of six verses.... Giles Fletcher, 'the Spenser of his age,' as Quarles termed him, has left us another kind of Spenser-stave in the poem which celebrates Christ's Triumph upon Earth" History of English Rhythms (1838) 2:390-91.

Herbert E. Cory: "Phineas Fletcher (1582-1650) served his apprenticeship in that green-sickness of love which distressed young Colin Clout. Various love-lyrics, now ardent, now bitter, now cynical, all bearing the stamp of extreme youth, establish this. He came into the more ample and pure air of the best sonnets of the Amoretti and the Epithalamion as is evidenced by To My Onely Chosen Valentine and Wife, and a Hymen, in close imitation of Spenser's marriage-hymn" "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 315.

Abram Barnett Langdale: "Walter Robarts took Margaret Robarts, the poet's Gemma, as his bride in 1610 or shortly before. Apparently Fletcher made the long journey to Cranbrook or Glassenbury so that he might be present at the nuptials, and as his offering he wrought his lovely 'An Hymen at the Marriage of my most deare Cousins, Mr. W. and M. R." Phineas Fletcher (1937) 53-54.

Frank S. Kastor: "The conceits are notably forced, mixed, and exaggerated in a most unskillful way.... The sound effects in 'Love's self sailing often shipwrackt sitteth' are distinctly clumsy. On the whole, the poem is a prosaic and apprentice piece" Giles and Phineas Fletcher (1978) 83.

Alexander Fraser Tytler: "The greatest fault, perhaps, that can be found in Fletcher's poetry, is that studied quaintness of expression which is too frequently to be met with. The formality of an antithesis, which was so much the fashion of the age in which he wrote, is entirely opposite to the language of passion. It is surprising to think how universally so depraved a taste should have then prevailed, and how powerful it must have been, when Shakspeare himself was often carried away with the torrent. And yet, with all this, we find that in old compositions, even these quaintnesses of expressions, which would disgust in compositions of the present time, have an effect which is sometimes not unpleasing, as they suggest to the mind the idea of a distinct and less refined state of society, and of the progressive advancement of taste; reflections that always afford pleasure" Piscatory Eclogues (1771) 40.



Chamus, that with thy yellow-sanded stream
Slid'st softly down where thousand Muses dwell,
Gracing their bowres, but thou more grac'd by them;
Heark Chamus, from thy low-built greeny cell;
Heark, how our Kentish woods with Hymen ring,
While all the Nymphs, and all the shepherds sing,
Hymen, oh Hymen, here thy saffron garment bring.

With him a shoal of goodly shepherd-swains;
Yet he more goodly then the goodliest swain:
With her a troop of fairest wood-nymphs trains;
Yet she more fair then fairest of the train:
And all in course their voice attempering,
While the woods back their bounding Echo fling,
Hymen, come holy Hymen; Hymen lowd they sing.

His high-built forehead almost maiden fair,
Hath made an hundred Nymphs her chance envying:
Her more then silver skin, and golden hair,
Cause of a thousand shepherds forced dying.
Where better could her love then here have nested?
Or he his thoughts more daintily have feasted?
Hymen, come Hymen; here thy saffron coat is rested.

His looks resembling humble Majesty,
Rightly his fairest mothers grace befitteth:
In her face blushing, fearfull modesty,
The Queens of chastity and beauty, sitteth:
There cheerfulnesse all sadnesse farre exileth:
Here love with bow unbent all gently smileth.
Hymen come, Hymen come; no spot thy garment 'fileth.

Love's bow in his bent eye-brows bended lies,
And in his eyes a thousand darts of loving:
Her shining starres, which (fools) we oft call eyes,
As quick as heav'n it self in speedy moving;
And this in both the onely difference being,
Other starres blinde, these starres indu'd with seeing.
Hymen, come Hymen; all is for thy rites agreeing.

His breast a shelf of purest alabaster,
Where Love's self sailing often shipwrackt sitteth:
Hers a twin-rock, unknown but to th' ship-master;
Which though him safe receives, all other splitteth:
Both Love's high-way, yet by Love's self unbeaten,
Most like the milky path which crosses heaven.
Hymen, come Hymen; all their marriage joyes are even.

And yet all these but as gilt covers be;
Within, a book more fair we written finde:
For Nature, framing th' Alls epitome,
Set in the face the Index of the minde.
Their bodies are but Temples, built for state,
To shrine the Graces in their silver plate:
Come Hymen, Hymen come, these Temples consecrate.

Hymen, the tier of hearts already tied;
Hymen, the end of lovers never ending;
Hymen, the cause of joyes, joyes never tried;
Joyes never to be spent, yet ever spending:
Hymen, that sow'st with men the desert sands;
Come, bring with thee, come bring thy sacred bands:
Hymen, come Hymen, th' hearts are joyn'd, joyn thou the hands.

Warrant of lovers, the true seal of loving,
Sign'd with the face of joy; the holy knot,
That bindes two hearts, and holds from slippery moving;
A gainfull losse, a stain without a blot;
That mak'st one soul as two, and two as one;
Yoke lightning burdens; love's foundation:
Hymen, come Hymen, now untie the maiden zone.

Thou that mad'st Man a brief of all thou mad'st,
A little living world, and mad'st him twain,
Dividing him whom first thou one creat'st,
And by this bond mad'st one of two again,
Bidding her cleave to him, and him to her,
And leave their parents, when no parents were:
Hymen, send Hymen from thy sacred bosome here.

See where he goes, how all the troop he cheereth,
Clad with a saffron coat, in's hand a light;
In all his brow not one sad cloud appeareth:
His coat all pure, his torch all burning bright.
Now chant we Hymen, shepherds; Hymen sing:
See where he goes, as fresh as is the Spring.
Hymen, oh Hymen, Hymen, all the valleys ring.

Oh happy pair, where nothing wants to either,
Both having to content, and be contented;
Fortune and nature being spare to neither!
Ne're may this bond of holy love be rented,
But like two parallels, run a level race,
In just proportion, and in even space.
Hymen, thus Hymen will their spotlesse marriage grace.

Live each of other firmly lov'd, and loving;
As farre from hate, as self-ill, jealousie:
Moving like heav'n still in the self same moving;
In motion ne're forgetting constancy.
Be all your dayes as this; no cause to plain:
Free from satiety, or (but lovers) pain.
Hymen, so Hymen still their present joyes maintain.

[sigs G4-H1v]