1615 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Eclogue III. Myrtilus.

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

Rev. Phineas Fletcher


A love-lament in twenty stanzas of an uncommon pattern (abbaacc). The third eclogue, possibly the first to be written, opens with a paraphase of Spenser's famous lines in Januarye: "A Shepheards boye (no better doe him call)." Myrtil, smitten by the sight of the fair Coelia, launches into an ocean-going love plaint: "Love stirres desire; desire, like stormy winde, | Blows up high swelling waves of hope, and fear: | Hope on his top my trembling heart doth bear | Up to my heav'n, but straight my lofty minde | By fear sunk in despair deep drown'd I finde." The stanza may be a Spenserian variation on that used by Michael Drayton in the sixth eclogue of his Shepherds Garland (abbacc).

Alexander Fraser Tytler: "Myrtilus, a young fisher, captivated with the love of Celia, is painted sitting on the banks of the river Medway, heedless of his occupation, while his thoughts are solely employed on his mistress. He complains to the sea-nymphs and seas; and, comparing them to the state of his own mind, endeavours by various means to soften the cruel object of his affections. This Eclogue is expressive of all that vicissitude of passions which the ardency of love can inspire" Piscatorie Eclogs and Poetical Miscellanies (1771) 38.

Abram Barnett Langdale: "The plague reappeared in the autumn of 1606, and on November 6 Caius College again granted leaves of absence until the end of the Christmas vacation. Fletcher departed on November 3 and did not reappear in the college hall until Christmas Day. It is almost certain that the events described in the third piscatory eclogue belong to this winter holiday. There we learn that the poet went to the shore of the silver Medway, which, no doubt, was his piscatorial way of saying Cranbrook and its environs" Phineas Fletcher (1937) 41.

Frank S. Kastor: "Eclogue III, 'Myrtilus,' may well have been the first one written for the Piscatorie Eclogues; for Phineas abandoned the pseudonym Myrtil about 1606-08" Giles and Phineas Fletcher (1978) 86.



A fisher-lad (no higher dares he look)
Myrtil, sat down by silver Medwayes shore:
His dangling nets (hung on the trembling oare)
Had leave to play, so had his idle hook,
While madding windes the madder Ocean shook.
Of Chamus had he learnt to pipe, and sing,
And frame low ditties to his humble string.

There as his boat late in the river stray'd,
A friendly fisher brought the boy to view
Coelia the fair, whose lovely beauties drew
His heart from him into that heav'nly maid:
There all his wandring thoughts, there now they staid.
All other fairs, all other love defies,
In Coelia he lives, for Coelia dies.

Nor durst the coward woo his high desiring,
(For low he was, lower himself accounts;
And she the highest height in worth surmounts)
But sits alone in hell his heav'n admiring,
And thinks with sighs to fanne, but blows his firing.
Nor does he strive to cure his painfull wound;
For till this sicknesse never was he sound.

His blubber'd face was temper'd to the day;
All sad he look't, that sure all was not well;
Deep in his heart was hid an heav'nly hell;
Thick clouds upon his watrie eye-brows lay,
Which melting showre, and showring never stay:
So sitting down upon the sandy plain,
Thus 'gan he vent his grief, and hidden pain;

You sea-born maids, that in the Ocean reigne,
(If in your courts is known Loves matchlesse power,
Kindling his fire in your cold watry bower)
Learn by your own to pity others pain.
Tryphon, that know'st a thousand herbs in vain,
But know'st not one to cure a love-sick heart,
See here a wound, that farre outgoes thy art.

Your stately seas (perhaps with loves fire) glow,
And over-seeth their banks with springing tide,
Mustring their white-plum'd waves with lordly pride,
They soon retire, and lay their curl'd heads low;
So sinking in themselves they backward go:
But in my breast full seas of grief remain,
Which ever flow, and never ebbe again.

How well, fair Thetis, in thy glasse I see,
As in a crystal, all my raging pains!
Late thy green fields slept in their even plains,
While smiling heav'ns spread round a canopie:
Now tost with blasts, and civil enmitie,
While whistling windes blow trumpets to their fight,
And roaring waves, as drummes, whet on their spite.

Such cruel storms my restles heart command:
Late thousand joyes securely lodged there,
Ne fear'd I then to care, ne car'd to fear;
But pull'd the prison'd fishes to the land,
Or (spite of windes) pip't on the golden sand:
But since love sway'd my breast, these seas alarms
Are but dead pictures of my raging harms.

Love stirres desire; desire, like stormy winde,
Blows up high swelling waves of hope, and fear:
Hope on his top my trembling heart doth bear
Up to my heav'n, but straight my lofty minde
By fear sunk in despair deep drown'd I finde.
But (ah!) your tempests cannot last for ever;
But (ah!) my storms (I fear) will leave me never.

Haples, and fond! too fond, more haples swain,
Who lovest where th' art scorn'd, scorn'st where th' art loved:
Or learn to hate, where thou hast hatred proved;
Or learn to love, where thou art lov'd again:
Ah cease to love, or cease to woo thy pain.
Thy love thus scorn'd is hell; do not so earn it;
At least learn by forgetting to unlearn it.

Ah fond, and haples swain! but much more fond,
How canst unlearn by learning to forget it,
When thought of what thou should'st unlearn does whet it,
And surer ties thy minde in captive bond?
Canst thou unlearn a ditty thou hast con'd?
Canst thou forget a song by oft repeating?
Thus much more wilt thou learn by thy forgetting.

Haplesse, and fond! most fond, more haplesse swain!
Seeing thy rooted love will leave thee never,
(She hates thy love) love thou her hate for ever:
In vain thou hop'st, hope yet, though still in vain:
Joy in thy grief, and triumph in thy pain:
And though reward exceedeth thy aspiring,
Live in her love, and die in her admiring.

Fair-cruel maid, most cruel, fairer ever,
How hath foul rigour stol'n into thy heart?
And on a comick stage hath learnt thee art
To play a Tyrant-tragical deceiver?
To promise mercy, but perform it never?
To look more sweet, maskt in thy looks disguise,
Then Mercy self can look with Pities eyes?

Who taught thy honied tongue the cunning slight,
To melt the ravisht eare with musicks strains?
And charm the sense with thousand pleasing pains?
And yet, like thunder roll'd in flames, and night,
To break the rived heart with fear and fright?
How rules therein thy breast, so quiet state,
Spite leagu'd with mercy, love with lovelesse hate?

Ah no, fair Coelia, in thy sunne-like eye
Heav'n sweetly smiles; those starres soft loving fire,
And living heat, not burning flames inspire:
Love's self enthron'd in thy brows ivorie,
And every grace in heavens liverie:
My wants, not thine, me in despairing drown:
When hell presumes, no mar'l if heavens frown.

Those gracefull tunes, issuing from glorious spheares,
Ravish the eare and soul with strange delight,
And with sweet Nectar fill the thirsty sprite;
Thy honied tongue, charming the melted eares,
Stills stormy hearts, and quiets frights and fears:
My daring heart provokes thee; and no wonder,
When earth so high aspires, if heavens thunder.

See, see, fair Coelia, seas are calmly laid,
And end their boisterous threats in quiet peace;
The waves their drummes, the windes their trumpets cease:
But my sick love (ah love full ill apayd!)
Never can hope his storms may be allayd;
But giving to his rage no end, or leisure,
Still restles rests: Love knows no mean or measure.

Fond boy, she justly scorns thy proud desire,
While thou with singing would'st forget thy pain:
Go strive to empty the still-flowing main:
Go fuell seek to quench thy growing fire:
Ah foolish boy! scorn is thy musicks hire.
Drown then these flames in seas: but (ah!) I fear
To fire the main, and to want water there.

There first thy heav'n I saw, there felt my hell;
There smooth-calm seas rais'd storms of fierce desires;
There cooling waters kindled burning fires,
Nor can the Ocean quench them: in thy cell
Full stor'd with pleasures, all my pleasures fell.
Die then, fond lad: ah, well my death may please thee:
But love, (thy love) not life, not death, must ease me.

So down he swowning sinks; nor can remove,
Till fisher-boyes (fond fisher-boyes) revive him,
And back again his life and loving give him:
But he such wofull gift doth much reprove:
Hopelesse his life; for hopelesse is his love.
Go then, most loving, but most dolefull swain:
Well may I pitie; she must cure thy pain.

[pp. 14-19]