William Browne of Tavistock's cycle of seven sour and satirical eclogues is grouped around a central pastoral elegy that laments the passing of virtue. Browne's satirical tone, which likely owes something to Inns of Court attitudes, reflects a general difference between Spenserian poetics in the reigns of Elizabeth and James. Along with the appended pastorals by Browne's friends, the Shepheards Pipe gives an unusually vivid account of life in a Spenserian coterie — under cover of allegory, of course. The author appears as "Willie," George Wither as "Roget," Thomas Manwood as "Philarete," Christopher Brooke as "Cuttie."
The tale told by Roget in the first eclogue is taken from Thomas Occleve (1369?-1426), a follower of Chaucer: "one of the Privy Seal, composed first this tale, and was never till now imprinted. As this shall please, I may be drawn to publish the rest of his works, being all perfect in my hands. He wrote in Chaucer's time" Poems, ed. Goodwin (1893) 2:119n. Browne reportedly began a literary history, which has never come to light. Thus Nathaniel Carpenter: "as hee hath already honoured his countrie in his elegant and sweet Pastoralls, so questionless will easily be intreated a little farther to grace it by drawing out the line of his Poeticke Auncesters, beginning in Josephus Iscanus and ending in himselfe" Geography Delineated (1625) 263; in Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 2:74.
Thomas Davies: "This admirable collection of Eclogues was become so scarce, that if the Rev. Mr. Tho. Warton had not lent his own copy to be transcribed, the Publick might have been deprived of so valuable a treasure" Works of William Browne (1772) 1:iii.
Thomas Campbell: "Occleve speaks of himself as Chaucer's scholar. He has, at least, the merit of expressing thin sincerest enthusiasm for his master. But it is difficult to controvert the character which has been generally assigned to him, that of a flat and feeble writer. Excepting the adoption of his story of Fortunatus, by William Browne, in his pastorals, and the modern republication of a few of his pieces, I know not of any public compliment which has ever been paid to his poetical memory" Specimens of British Poets (1819; 1841) xlvii.
Robert Aris Willmott: "The poem is contributed by Roget, already pointed out as the pastoral name of Wither, and in a note at the end of the first eclogue it is said, 'as this shall please, I may be drawn to publish the rest of his works, being all perfect in my hands.' Occleve has been called the disciple of Chaucer, and it will presently be seen, from the assistance furnished to the Rev. William Bedwell, in his antiquarian pursuits, by Wither, that he was considered "a man of exquisite judgment in that kind of learning." We may be justified, therefore, in awarding to him the merit of the publication of this old poem" Lives of Sacred Poets (1834) 91.
George Saintsbury: "Browne was the first to print, as part of his own Shepherd's Pipe, but with full attribution, Occleve's tale of Jonathas. Perhaps the story, though it is one of Occleve's best pieces of work, did not please; for Browne never carried out his intention of giving the rest, which he says were 'all perfect in his hands.' One cannot but be sorry that he did not say something of the versification, which looks all the odder beside his own sweet and fluent style. Probably he thought, as almost everybody did for some three centuries, that you were not to expect any system in these old poets" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 2:118.
Herbert E. Cory: "After 1603 the strict Spenserian pastoral seems not to have been written for fully ten years. But in 1614 appeared William Browne's Shepheards Pipe, which takes rank with Drayton's Shepheards Garland as one of the best productions of this type. The first eclogue tells how 'Roget and Willie both ymet | Upon a greeny ley | With roundelays and tales are set | To spend the length of day.' Willy (Browne) opens with the usual exhortation, so familiar to readers of the Spenserian pastoral, to sing and to praise the fair season. We can see how admirably Browne carries on the turn given to Spenserian pastoralism by Drayton, the lightness, the brighter swifter play of fancy, the greater impulse towards pure song. Roget replies with a surliness that is in admirable keeping with the disgruntled Wither, whose virulent moral satires were not relished by his foes. Wither, indeed, had been imprisoned in 1613 for his frankness, and this eclogue was doubtless intended as a comforting tribute. Roget is, however, finally persuaded to sing, in a lighter vein, 'What I did here Song agone in Janivere | Of a skilful aged sire, As we toasted by the fire.' Roget proceeds to retail a Chaucerian narrative of Thomas Occleve's, which Browne merely transcribes with slight modernizations. Browne, like Drayton, took the hint of Februarie and sought to enliven his pastorals by the introduction of a Chaucerian tale" "Spenserian Pastoral" PMLA 25 (1910) 256-57.
Joan Grundy: "Not only do the eclogues portray a series of literary friendships; they also vividly suggest the existence of a particular homogeneous community.... Some of the evidence suggests that what is represented here is the social and literary life of the Inns of Court, or at any rate of that section of it comprising these writers and their friends" The Spenserian Poets (1969) 83.
The volume attracted answering verses by Richard Brathwaite in 'Upon the General Sciolists or Poettasters of Britannie' in Strappado for the Divell (1615).
Roget and Willy both ymet,
Upon a greeny ley,
With rondelays and tales are set.
To spend the length of day.
Roget, droope not, see the spring
Is the earth enamelling,
And the birds on every Tree
Greete this morne with melody:
Heark, how yonder Thrustle chants it,
And her mate as proudly vants it;
See how every streame is drest
By her Margine, with the best
Of Flora's gifts; she seemes glad
For such Brookes such flowres she had.
All the trees are quaintly tyred
With greene buds, of all desired;
And the Hauthorne every day
Spreads some little shew of May:
See the Prim rose sweetely set
By the much-lov'd Violet
All the Bankes do sweetly cover,
As they would invite a Lover
With his Lasse, to see their dressing
And to grace them by their pressing
Yet in all this merry tyde
When all cares are laid aside,
Roget sits as if his bloud
Had not felt the quickning good
Of the Sun, nor cares to play,
Or with songs to passe the day
As he wont: Fye, Roget, fye,
Raise thy head, and merrily
Tune us somewhat to thy reed:
See our Flockes do freely feed,
Heere we may together sit,
And for Musicke very fit
Is this place; from yonder wood
Comes an Eccho shrill and good,
Twice full perfectly it will
Answere to thine Oaten quill.
Roget, droope not then, but sing
Some kind welcome to the Spring.
Ah Willie, Willie, why should I,
Sound my notes of jollity?
Since no sooner can I play
Any pleasing Roundelay,
But some one or other still
'Gins to descant on my Quill;
And will say, by this, he me
Meaneth in his Minstrelsie.
If I chance to name an Asse
In my song, it comes to passe,
One or other sure will take it
As his proper name, and make it
Fit to tell his nature too.
Thus what e're I chance to do
Happens to my losse, and brings
To my name the venom'd stings
Of ill report: How should I
Sound then notes of jollity?
Tis true indeed, we say all
Rub a gal'd horse on the gall,
Kicke he wil, storme and bite,
But the horse of sounder plight
Gently feeles his Masters hand.
In the water thrust a brand
Kindled in the fire, 'twill hisse,
When a sticke that taken is
From the Hedge, in water thrust,
Never rokes as would the first,
But endures the waters touch:
Roget, so it fares with such
Whose owne guilt hath them enflam'd,
Rage whene're their vice is blam'd.
But who in himselfe is free
From all spots, as Lillies be,
Never stirres, do what thou can.
If thou slander such a man
Yet he's quiet, for he knowes
With him no such vices close.
Onely he that is indeed
Spotted with the leprous seed
Of corrupted thoughts, and hath
An ulcerous soule in the path
Of reproofe, he straight will brall
If you rub him on the gall.
But in vaine then shall I keepe
These my harmlesse flock of sheepe
And though all the day I tend them,
And from Wolves and Foxes shend them.
Wicked Swaines that beare mee spight,
In the gloomy vaile of night,
Of my fold will draw the pegges,
Or else breake my lambkins legges.
Or unhang my Weathers bell,
Or bring bryers from the dell,
And them in my fold by peeces
Cast, to tangle all their fleeces.
Welladay! such churlish Swaynes
Now and then lurke on our plaines:
That I feare, a time, ere long
Shall not heare a Sheepherds song,
Nor a Swayne shall take in task
Any wrong, nor once unmaske
Such as do with vices rife
Soyle the Sheepherds happy life:
Except he meanes his Sheepe shall bee
A prey to all their injury.
This causeth mee I do no more
Chant so as I wont of yore:
Since in vaine then should I keepe
These my harmlesse flocke of Sheepe.
Yet if such thou wilt not sing,
Make the Woods and Vallies ring
With some other kind of lore,
Roget hath enough in store,
Sing of love, or tell some tale,
Praise the flowers, the Hils, the Vale:
Let us not heere idle be;
Next day I will sing to thee.
Harke on knap of yonder Hill
Some sweet Sheepherds tune his quill;
And the Maidens in a round
Sit (to heare him) on the ground;
And if thou begin, shall wee
Grac'd be with like company.
And to gird thy Temples bring
Garlands for such fingering.
Then raise thee Roget.
Whom I honour for thy strain,
Though it would beseeme me more
To attend thee and thy lore:
Yet least thou might'st find in me
A neglect of courtesie,
I will sing what I did leere
Long agon in Janiueere
Of a skilfull aged Sire,
As we toasted by the fire.
Sing it out, it needs must be
Very good what comes from thee.
Whilome an Emperour prudent and wise,
Raigned in Rome, and had sonnes three
Which he had in great chieretee and great prise,
And when it shop so, that th' infirmitee
Of death, which no wight may eschew or flee,
Him threw downe in his bed, hee let do call
His sonnes, and before him they came all.
And to the first he said in this maneere,
All th' eritage which at the dying
Of my fadir, he me left, all in feere
Leave I thee: And all that of my buying
Was with my peny, all my purchasing,
My second sonne bequeath I to thee,
And to the third sonne thus said hee:
Unmoveable good, right none withouten oath
Thee give I may; but I to thee devise
Jewels three, a Ring, a Brooch and a Cloth:
With which, and thou bee guied as the wise,
Thou may'st get all that ought thee suffice;
Who so that the Ring useth still to weare
Of all folkes the love hee shall conquere.
And who so the Broch beareth on his breast,
It is eke of such vertue and such kind,
That thinke upon what thing him liketh best,
And he as blive shall it have and finde.
My words sonne imprint well in mind:
The Cloth eke hath a mervailous nature,
Which that shall be committed to thy cure.
Who so sit on it, if he wish where
In all the world to beene, he suddenly
Without more labour shall be there.
Sonne those three jewels bequeath I
To thee, unto this effect certainely
That to study of the Universitee
Thou go, and that I bid and charge thee.
When he had thus said the vexation
Of death so hasted him, that his spirit
Anon forsooke his habitation
In his body, death would no respyte
Him yeve at all: he was of his life quitte.
And buried was with such solemnity,
As fell to his Imperiall dignity.
Of the yongest sonne I tell shall,
And speake no more of his brethren two,
For with them have I not to do at all.
Thus spake the mother Jonathas unto:
Sin God hath his will of thy father do,
To thy father's Will, would I me conforme,
And truly all his Testament performe.
He three Jewels, as thou knowest well:
A Ring, a Broch, and a Cloth thee bequeath,
Whose vertues, he thee told every deal,
Or that he pass'd hence and yalde up the breath:
O good God, his departing, his death
Full grievously sticketh unto mine heart,
But suffered mot been all how sore it smart.
In that case women have such heavinesse,
That it not lyeth in my cunning aright
You tell of so great sorrow the excesse,
But wise women can take it light,
And in short while put unto the flight
All sorrow and woe, and catch againe comfort:
Now to my tale make I my resort.
Thy father's will, my sonne, as I said ere,
Will I performe, have heere the ring and go
To study anon, and when that thou art there,
As thy father thee bade, do even so,
And as thou wilt my blessing have also.
Shee unto him as swythe tooke the Ring
And bade him keepe it well, for any thing.
Hee went unto the study generall
Where he gat love enough, and acquaintance
Right good and friendly, the ring causing all,
And on a day to him befell this chance,
With a woman, a morsell of pleasance
By the streets of the University,
As he was in his walking, met he.
And right as blive he had with her a tale,
And therewithall sore in her love he brent;
Gay, fresh and piked was she to the sale,
For to that end, and to that intent
She thither came, and both forth they went,
And he a pistle rowned in her eare,
Nat wot I what, for I ne came nat there.
She was his Paramour, shortly to sey.
This man to folkes all was so leefe,
That they him gave abundance of money,
He feasted folke, and stood at high boncheefe;
Of the lacke of good, he felt no griefe,
All whiles the ring he with him had;
But fayling it his friendship gan sad.
His Paramour which that ycalled was
Fellicula, marvailed right greatly
Of the dispences of this Jonathas,
Sin she no peny at all with him sy,
And on a night as there she lay him by
In the bed, thus she to him spake and said,
And this petition assoile him praid.
O reverent sir, unto whom, quoth she,
Obey I would ay with hearts humblenesse,
Since that ye han had my virginitie,
You I beseech of your high gentlenesse,
Tellith me whence comth the good and richesse
That yee with feasten folke, and han no store,
By ought I see can, ne gold, ne tresore.
If I tell it, quoth he, par aventure
Thou wilt discover it, and out it publish,
Such is womans inconstant nature,
They cannot keep Counsell worth a rish:
Better is my tongue keepe, than to wish
That I had kept close that is gone at large,
And repentance is thing that I mote charge.
Nay good sir, quoth she, holdeth me not suspect
Doubteth nothing, I can be right secree,
Well worthy were it me to been abject
From all good company, if I, quoth she
Unto you should so mistake me.
Be not adread your counsell me to shew.
Well, said he, thus it is at words few:
My father the ring which that thou maist see
On my finger, me at his dying day
Bequeath'd, which this vertue and propertee
Hath, that the love of men he shall have aye
That weareth it, and there shall be no nay
Of what thing that him liketh aske and crave
But with good will, he shall as blive it have.
Through the rings virtuous excellence
Thus am I rich, and have ever ynow.
Now Sir, yet a word by your licence
Suffreth me to say, and to speake now:
Is it wisedome, as that it seemeth you,
Weare it on your finger continually?
What wouldst thou meane, quoth he, thereby?
What perill thereof might there befall?
Right great, quoth she, as yee in company
Walke often, fro your finger might it fall,
Or plucked off been in a ragery
And so be lost, and that were folly:
Take it me, let me been of it wardeine,
For as my life keepe it would I certaine.
This Jonathas, this innocent yong man,
Giving unto her words full credence,
As youth not avised best be can,
The Ring her tooke of his insipience.
When this was done, the heat and the fervence
Of love which he beforne had purchased,
Was quench'd, and love's knot was unlaced.
Men of their gifts to stint began.
Ah, thought he, for the ring I not ne beare,
Faileth my love; fetch me, woman
(Said he) my Ring, anon I will it weare.
She rose, and into chamber dresseth her,
And when she therein had been a while,
Alasse (quoth she), out on falshood and gyle,
The chest is broken, and the Ring take out.
And when he heard her complaint and cry,
He was astonied sore, and made a shout,
And said, Cursed be the day that I
Thee met first, or with mine eyne sy.
She wept and shewed outward cheere of wo,
But in her heart was it nothing so.
The ring was safe enough, and in her Chest
It was, all that she said was leasing,
As some woman other while at best
Can lye and weepe when is her liking.
This man saw her woe, and sayd Dearling
Weep no more, Gods help is nye,
To him unwiste how false she was and slye.
He twyned thence, and home to his countree
Unto his mother the streight way he went,
And when she saw thither comen was he,
My sonne, quoth she, what was thine intent
Thee, fro the schoole, now to absent?
What caused thee fro schoole hither to hye?
Mother, right this, said he, nat would I lye.
Forsooth, mother, my ring is a goe,
My Paramour to keepe I betooke it,
And it is lost, for which I am full woe,
Sorrowfully unto mine heart it sit.
Sonne, often have I warned thee, and yet
For thy profit I warn thee, my sonne,
Unhonest women thou hereafter shunne.
Thy brooch anon right woll I to thee fet,
She brought it him, and charged him full deep
When he it tooke, and on his breast it set,
Bet than his ring he should it keepe,
Lest he the losse bewaile should and weepe.
To the university shortly to seyne,
In what he could, he hasted him ageine.
And when he comen was, his Paramour
Him met anon, and unto her him tooke
As that he did erst, this yong revelour,
Her company he nat a deale forsooke,
Though he cause had, but as with the hooke
Of her sleight he beforne was caught and hent,
Right so he was deceived oft and blent.
And as through vertue of the Ring before
Of good he had abundance and plentee
While it was with him, or he had it lore:
Right so through virtue of the brooch had hee
What good him list; she thought, how may this be,
Some privy thing now causeth this richesse:
As did the Ring herebefore, I gesse.
Wondring hereon she praid him, and besought
Besily night and day, that tell he would
The cause of this; but he another thought,
He meant it close for him it kept be should,
And a long time it was or he it told.
She wept aye too and too, and said: alasse,
The time and houre that ever I borne was!
Trust ye not on me, Sir? she seid,
Lever me were be slaine in this place,
By that good Lord that for us all died,
Then purpose againe you any fallace;
Unto you would I be my live's space
As true, as any woman in earth is
Unto a man doubteth nothing of this.
Small may she doe, that cannot well byheet,
Though not performed be such a promesse.
This Jonathas thought her words so sweet,
That he was drunke of the pleasant sweetnesse
Of them, and of his foolish tendernesse.
Thus unto her he spake, and said tho,
Be of good comfort, why weepest thou so?
And she thereto answered thus, sobbing,
Sir quoth she, my heavinesse and dreed
Is this; I am adread of the leesing
Of your brooch, as Almighty God forbeed
It happen so. Now what so God thee speed,
Said he, wouldest thou in this case counsaile.
Quoth she, that I keep it might sans faile.
He said, I have a fear and dread algate,
If I so did thou wouldst it leese
As thou lostest my ring, now gon but late.
First God pray I, quoth she, that I not cheese,
But that my heart as the cold frost may freeze,
Or else be it brent with wild fire:
Nay, surely it to keepe is my desire.
To her words credence he gave pleneere,
And the brooch tooke her, and after anone,
Whereas he was beforne full leefe and cheere
To folke, and had good, all was gone,
Good and friendship him lacked, there was none.
Woman, me fetch the brooch, quoth he; swythee
Into thy chamber for it goe; hye thee.
She into chamber went, as then he bad,
But she not brought that he sent her fore,
She meant it nat; but as she had be mad
Her clothes hath she all to rent and tore,
And cryd alasse, the brooch away is bore.
For which I wole anon right with my knife
My selfe slay, I am weary of my life.
This noice he heard, and blive he to her ran,
Weening she would han done as she spake,
And the knife in all haste that he can
From her tooke, and threw it behind his back,
And said, ne for the losse, ne for the lacke
Of the brooch, sorrow not, I forgive all,
I trust in God, that yet us helpe he shall.
To th' Emperesse his mother this yong man
Againe him dresseth, he went her unto,
And when she saw him, she to wonder gan,
She thought now somewhat there is misdoe,
And said, I dread thy Jewels two
Been lost now, percase the brooch with the ring.
Mother, he said, yea, by heaven King.
Sonne, thou wotst well no jewel is left
Unto thee now, but the cloth pretious
Which I thee take shall, thee charging eft
The company of women riotous
Thou flee, least it be to thee so grievous
That thou it nat sustaine shalt ne beare
Such company on my blessing forbeare.
The cloth she felt, and it hath him take,
And of his Lady his mother his leave
He tooke, but first this forward gan he make
Mother, said he, trusteth this weel and leeve,
That I shall seyn, for sooth ye shall it preeve,
If I leese this cloth, never I your face
Henceforth see wole, ne you pray of grace.
With God's help I shall do well ynow.
Her blessing he tooke, and to study is go,
And as beforne told have I unto you,
His Paramour his privy mortal foe
Was wont to meet him, right even so
She did then, and made him pleasant cheere:
They clip and kisse and walke homeward in feere.
When they were enterd in the house, he sprad
This cloth upon the ground, and thereon sit,
And bad his Paramour, this woman bad,
To sit also by him adowne on it.
She doth as he commandeth and bit,
Had she this thought and vertue of the cloth
Wist, to han set on it had she been loth.
She for a while was full sore affesed.
This Jonathas wish in his heart gan:
Would God that I might thus been eased,
That as on this cloth I and this woman
Sit heare, as farre were, as that never man
Or this came, and unneth had he so thought,
But they with the cloth thither weren brought.
Right to the worlds end, as that it were.
When apperceived had she this, she cry'd
As thogh she through girt had be with a spear.
Harrow! alasse that ever shope this tide!
How came we hither? Nay, he said, abide,
Worse is coming; here sole wole I thee leave,
Wild beasts shallen thee devour or eave.
For thou my Ring and Brooch hast fro me holden.
O reverent Sir! have upon me pitee,
Quoth she, if yee this grace do me wolden,
As bring me home again to the Cittee
Where as I this day was, but if that yee
Them have again, of foule death do me dye
Your bountee on me kythe, I mercy cry,
This Jonathas could nothing beware,
Ne take ensample of the deceites tweine
That she did him beforne, but feith him bare,
And her he commanded on death's peine
Fro such offences thenceforth her restreine:
She swore, and made thereto foreward,
But herkneth how she bore her afterward.
Whan she saw and knew that the wrath and ire
That he to her had borne, was gone and past,
And all was well: she thought him eft to fire,
In her malice aye stood she stedfast,
And to inquire of him was not agast
In so short time how that it might be
That they came thither out of her contree.
Such vertue hath this cloth on which we sit,
Said he, that where in this world us be list
Sodeinly with the thought shallen thither flit,
And how thither come unto us unwist:
As thing fro farre, unknowne in the mist.
And therewith, to this woman fraudulent
To sleep he said, have I good talent.
Let see, quoth he, stretch out anon thy lap,
In which wole I my head downe lay and rest.
So was it done, and he anon gan nap,
Nap? nay, he slept right well, at best.
What doth this woman, one the ficklest
Of women all, but that cloth that lay
Under him, she drew lyte and lyte away.
Whan she it had all: would God, quoth she,
I were as I was this day morning!
And therewith this root of iniquitee
Had her wish, and sole left him there sleeping.
O Jonathas! like to thy perishing
Art thou, thy paramour made hath thy berd;
Whan thou wakest, cause hast thou to be ferd.
But thou shalt do full well; thou shalt obteene
Victory on her; thou hast done some deed
Pleasant to thy mother, well can I weene,
For which our Lord quite shall thy meed,
And thee deliver out of thy woful dreed.
The child whom that the mother useth blesse
Full often sythe is eased in distresse.
When he awoke, and neither he ne fond
Woman ne cloth, he wept bitterly,
And said, Alasse! now is there in no lond
Man worse I know begon then am I
On every side his looke he cast, and sy
Nothing but birds in the aire flying,
And wild beasts about him renning.
Of whose sight he full sore was agrysed.
He thought, all this well deserved I have,
What ayled me to be so evil avised,
That my counsell could I nat keepe and save?
Who can foole play? who can mad and rave?
But he that to a woman his secree
Discovereth, the smart cleaveth now on me.
He thus departeth as God would harmlesse,
And forth of aventure his way is went,
But whitherward he draw, he conceitlesse
Was, he nat knew to what place he was bent.
He past a water which was so fervent
That flesh upon his feet left it him none,
All cleane was departed from the bone.
It shope so that he had a little glasse,
Which with that water anon filled he,
And whan he further in his way gone was,
Before him he beheld and saw a tree
That fair fruit bore, and in great plentee:
He ate thereof, the taste him liked well,
But he there-through became a foule mesel.
For which unto the ground for sorrow and wo
He fell, and said, cursed be that day
That I was borne, and time and hour also
That my mother conceived me, for ay
Now am I lost, alasse and well away!
And when some deel slaked his heavinesse,
He rose, and on his way he gan him dresse.
Another water before him he sye,
Which (sore) to comen in he was adrad
But nathelesse, since thereby, other way
Ne about it there could none be had,
He thought, so streitly am I bestad,
That though it sore me affese or gast,
Assoile it wole I, and through it he pass'd.
And right as the first water his flesh
Departed from his feet, so the secownd
Restored it, and made all whole and fresh:
And glad was he, and joyfull that stownd
When he felt his feet whole were and sound
A violl of the water of that brooke
He fild, and fruit of the tree with him tooke.
Forth his journey this Jonathas held,
And as he his looke about him cast,
Another tree from a farre he beheld,
To which he hasted, and him hied fast.
Hungry he was, and of the fruit he thrast
Into his mouth, and eate of it sadly,
And of the lepry he purged was thereby.
Of that fruit more he raught, and thence is gone;
And a fair Castle from a farre, saw he
In compasse of which heads many one
Of men there hung, as he might well see,
But not for that he shun would, or flee;
He thither him dresseth the streight way
In that ever that he can or may.
Walking so, two men came him ageine,
And saiden thus: deare friend, we you pray
What man be ye? Sirs, quoth he, certain
A leech I am, and though my self it say,
Can for the health of sicke folks well purvay.
They said him: of yonder castle the King
A leper is, and can whole be for nothing.
With him there hath bin many a sundry leech
That undertooke him well to cure and heale
On paine of their heads, but all to seech
Their Art was; 'ware that thou not with him deale,
But if thou canst the charter of health enseale;
Lest that thou leese thy head, as didden they,
But thou be wise thou finde it shall no pley.
Sirs, said he, you thanke I of your reed,
For gently ye han you to me quit:
But I nat dread to loose mine heed,
By Gods helpe full safe keepe I will it;
God of his grace such cunning and wit
Hath lent me, that I hope I shall him cure,
Full well dare I me put in aventure.
They to the king's presence han him lad,
And him of the fruit of the second tree
He gave to eate, and bad him to be glad,
And said, anon your health han shall yee;
Eke of the second water him gave he
To drinke, and whan he those two had received
His Lepry from him voided was and weived.
The King (as unto his high dignity
Convenient was) gave him largely,
And to him said, If that it like thee
Abiden here, I more habundantly
Thee give wole. My Lord sickerly,
Quoth he, faine would I your pleasure fulfill.
And in your high presence abide still.
But I no while may with you abide
So mochill have I to done elsewhere.
Jonathas every day to the sea side
Which was nye, went, to looke and enquere
If any ship drawing hither were
Which him home to his country lead might,
And on a day of ships had he sight
Well a thirty, toward the Castle draw,
And at time of Evensong, they all
Arriveden, of which he was full faw,
And to the shipmen cry he gan and call,
And said, if it so hap might and fall,
That some of you me home to my countree
Me bring would, well quit should he bee.
And told them whither that they shoulden go.
One of the shipmen forth start at last,
And to him said, my ship and no moe
Of them that here been, doth shop and cast
Thither to wend; let see, tell on fast,
Quoth the shipman, that thou for my travaile
Me give wilt, if that I thither saile.
They were accorded; Jonathas forth goeth
Unto the King to aske him licence
To twine thence, to which the king was loth,
And nathlesse with his benevolence,
This Jonathas from his magnificence
Departed is, and forth to the shipman
His way he taketh, as swyth as he can.
Into the ship he entreth, and as blive
As winde and wether good shope to be,
Thither as he purposed him arrive
They sailed forth, and came to the Cittee
In which this Serpentine woman was, shee
That had him terned with false deceitis,
But where no remedy followeth, streit is.
Turnes been quit, all be they good or bad
Sometime; though they put been in delay.
But to my purpose, she deemed he had
Been devoured with beasts many a day
Gone, she thought he delivered was for ay.
Folke of the Cittee knew not Jonathas,
So many a yeare was past, that he there was.
Misliking and thought changed eke his face,
Abouten he go'th, and for his dwelling
In the Cittee, he hired him a place,
And therein exercised his cunning
Of Physicke, to whom weren repairing
Many a sicke wight, and all were healed,
Well was the sick man that with him dealed.
Now shope it thus that this Fellicula,
(The well of deceivable doublenesse,
Follower of the steps of Dallida)
Was then exalted unto high richesse,
But she was fallen into great sicknesse
And heard seine, for not might it been hid
How masterfull a leech he had him kid.
Messages solemne to him she sent,
Praying him to do so mochill labour
As come and see her; and he thither went.
Whan he her saw, that she his Paramour
Had been he well knew, and for that dettour
To her he was, her he thought to quite
Or he went, and no longer it respite.
But what that he was, she ne wist nat:
He saw her urine, and eke felt her pous,
And said, the sooth is this plaine and flat,
A sicknesse han yee strange and mervailous,
Which to avoid is wonder dangerous:
To heale you there is no way but one,
Leech in this world other can finde none.
Aviseth you whether you list it take
Or not, for I told have you my wit.
Ah sir, said she, for Gods sake,
That way me shew, and I shall follow it,
What ever it be: for this sicknesse sit
So nigh mine heart, that I wot not how
Me to demean, tell on, I pray yow.
Lady yee must openly you confesse,
And if against good conscience and right,
Any good han ye take more or lesse,
Beforne this houre, of any manner wight,
Yield it anon; else not in the might
Of man is it, to give a medicine
That you may heale of your sicknes and pine.
If any such thing be, tell out thy reed,
And yee shall been all whole I you beheet;
Else mine Art is naught, withouten dreed.
O Lord she thought, health is a thing full sweet
Therewith desire I soverainly to meet:
Since I it by confession may recover,
A foole am I but I my guilt discover.
How falsely to the sonne of th' Emperor
Jonathas, had she done, before them all
As yee han heard above, all that error
By knew she; O Fellicula thee call
Well may I so, for of the bitter gall
Thou takest the beginning of thy name,
Thou root of malice and mirrour of shame.
Than said Jonathas, where are those three
Jewels, that thee fro the Clerke with-drew?
Sir in a Coffer at my beds feet yee
Shall finde them; open it, and so pray I you.
He thought not to make it queint and tow
And say nay, and strain courtesie,
But with right good will thither he gan hye.
The Coffer he opened, and them there fond.
Who was a glad man but Jonathas? who
The ring upon a finger of his hond
He put, and the brooch on his breast also,
The cloth eke under his arme held he tho;
And to her him dresseth to done his cure.
Cure mortall, way to her sepulture.
He thought rue she should, and fore-thinke
That she her had unto him mis bore.
And of that water her he gave to drinke,
Which that his flesh from his bones before
Had twined, wherethrough he was almost lore,
Nad he relieved been, as ye above
Han heard, and this he did eke for her love.
Of the fruit of the tree he gave her ete,
Which that him made into the Leper stert,
And as blive in her wombe gan they fret
And gnaw so, that change gan her hert,
Now harkneth how it her made smert.
Her wombe opened, and out fell each intraile
That in her was, thus it is said, sans faile.
Thus wretchedly (lo) this guile-man dyde,
And Jonathas with jewels three
No lenger there thought to abide,
But home to the Empresse his mother hasteth he,
Whereas in joy and in prosperitee
His life led he to his dying day,
And so God us grant that we do may.
By my hooke this is a Tale
Would befit our Whitson-ale:
Better cannot be, I wist,
Descant on it he that list.
And full gladly give I wold
The best Cosset in my fold
And a Mazor for a fee,
If this song thou'lt teachen me.
'Tis so quaint and fine a lay,
That upon our revel day
If I sung it, I might chance
(For my paines) be tooke to dance
With our Lady of the May.
Roget will not say thee nay,
If thou deem'st it worth thy paines.
Tis a song, not many Swaines
Singen can, and though it be
Not so deckd with nicetee
Of sweet words full neatly chused
As are now by Shepheards used:
Yet if well you sound the sense,
And the Morals excellence,
You shall finde it quit the while,
And excuse the homely stile.
Well I wot, the man that first
Sung this Lay, did quench his thirst,
Deeply as did ever one
In the Muses Helicon.
Many times he hath been seen
With the Fairies on the greene,
And to them his Pipe did sound,
Whilst they danced in a round.
Mickle solace would they make him,
And at mid-night often wake him,
And convey him from his roome
To a field of yellow broome;
Or into the Medowes, where
Mints perfume the gentle Aire,
And where Flora spends her treasure:
There they would begin their measure.
If it chanc'd nights sable shrouds
Muffled Cinthia up in clowds,
Safely home they then would see him,
And from brakes and quagmires free him.
There are few such swaines as he
Now adayes for harmony.
What was he thou praisest thus?
Scholler unto Tityrus:
Tityrus the bravest Swaine
Ever lived on the plaine,
Taught him how to feed his Lambes,
How to cure them, and their Dams:
How to pitch the fold, and then
How he should remove agen:
Taught him when the Corne was ripe,
How to make an Oaten Pipe,
How to joyne them, how to cut them,
When to open, when to shut them,
And with all the skill he had
Did instruct this willing lad.
Happy surely was that Swaine!
And he was not taught in vaine:
Many a one that prouder is,
Han not such a song as this,
And have garlands for their meed,
That but jarre as Skeltons reed.
Tis too true: but see the Sunne
Hath his journey fully run;
And his horses all in sweate,
In the Ocean coole their heate;
Sever we our sheepe and fold them,
'Twill be night ere we have told them.