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

Eclogue V. Nicaea.

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

Rev. Phineas Fletcher


The fifth eclogue is probably the last to be written: Fletcher has shifted the name of his eidolon from Thyrsil to Algon and describes his situation upon leaving Cambridge. Algon utters a love complaint and is comforted by his new friend Damon: "Take courage, Algon; I will teach thee woo. | Cold beggars freez our gifts: thy faint suit breeds her no." Nicaea, the object of desire, then appears and permits herself to be argued into accepting Algon. Abram Barnett Langdale identifies Algon with Fletcher, Nicaea with Fletcher's wife Elizabeth Vincent and Damon with his patron, Sir Henry Willoughby; (1937) 62n, 73. The 26 stanzas of this eclogue are in stanzas of varying patterns with the Spenserian alexandrine.

Alexander Fraser Tytler: "Algon, walking sorrowfully along the banks of the Trent, is met by Damon, who kindly enquires the cause of his affection; but at the same time upbraids him, that, while all nature is gay and joyful, he alone should grieve. Algon describes his feelings, and Damon from thence discovers his passion for Nicaea. Algon complains of his fate, and Damon comforts him by teaching him how to win his mistress's affection. Nicaea herself is introduced, and yields at length to the suit of Algon, and intercession of Damon" Piscatorie Eclogs and Poetical Miscellanies (1771) 68.

Abram Barnett Langdale: Phineas Fletcher "had taken the high road to matrimony. The events of his courtship, largely internal and cardiac, are narrated in the fifth Piscatorie Eclog, where the swain dubs himself Algon, and his lady, Nicaea. She was the person subsequently addressed in a little anagram, "To my onely chosen Valentine and wife — Maystress Elisabeth Vincent" Phineas Fletcher (1937) 74-75.

Henry Marion Hall: "Fletcher's second love poem, the April eclogue, is not closely imitated from the Calender, but forms a companion piece with Spenser's June, in which Colin tells Hobinoll his ill fortune in love, and is comforted by him. Just so a fisher confides his feelings to a friend, and the opening lines show that the idyll is autobiographical, and that it was probably finished after the poet left the university, about 1616" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 120.

Frank S. Kastor: "Algon is Phineas' new name; Damon is probably Henry Willoughby; the rivers Trent and Derwin meet in Derbyshire near Risley Hall where Phineas went from Cambridge; and Nicaea, the beloved of Algon, is Elizabeth Vincent whom Phineas married in 1615" Giles and Phineas Fletcher (1978) 87.



DAMON. ALGON. NICAEA.

The well known fisher-boy, that late his name,
And place, and (ah for pity!) mirth had changed;
Which from the Muses spring, and churlish Chame
Was fled, (his glory late, but now his shame:
For he with spite the gentle boy estranged)
Now 'long the Trent with his new fellows ranged:
There Damon (friendly Damon) met the boy,
Where lordly Trent kisses the Darwin coy,
Bathing his liquid streams in lovers melting joy.

DAMON.
Algon, what lucklesse starre thy mirth hath blasted?
My joy in thee, and thou in sorrow drown'd.
The yeare with winter storms all rent and wasted
Hath now fresh youth and gentler seasons tasted:
The warmer sunne his bride hath newly gown'd,
With firie arms clipping the wanton ground,
And gets an heav'n on earth: that primrose there,
Which 'mongst those violets sheds his golden hair,
Seems the sunnes little sonne, fixt in his azure spheare.

Seest how the dancing lambes on flowrie banks
Forget their food, to minde their sweeter play?
Seest how they skip, and in their wanton pranks
Bound o're the hillocks, set in sportfull ranks?
They skip, they vault; full little caren they
To make their milkie mothers bleating stay.
Seest how the salmons (waters colder nation)
Lately arriv'd from their sea-navigation,
How joy leaps in their heart, shew by their leaping fashion?

What witch enchants thy minde with sullen madnes?
When all things smile, thou onely sitt'st complaining.

ALGON.
Damon, I, onely I, have cause of sadnesse:
The more my wo, to weep in common gladnesse:
When all eyes shine, mine onely must be raining;
No winter now, but in my breast, remaining:
Yet feels this breast a summers burning fever:
And yet (alas!) my winter thaweth never:
And yet (alas!) this fire eats and consumes me ever.

DAMON.
Within our Darwin, in her rockie cell
A Nymph there lives, which thousand boys hath harm'd;
All as she gliding rides in boats of shell,
Darting her eye, (where spite and beauty dwell:
Ay me, that spite with beautie should be arm'd!)
Her witching eye the boy, and boat hath charm'd.
No sooner drinks he down that poisonous eye,
But mourns and pines: (ah piteous crueltie!)
With her he longs to live; for her he longs to die.

ALGON.
Damon, what Tryphon taught thine eye the art
By these few signes to search so soon, so well,
A wound deep hid, deep in my fester'd heart,
Pierc't by her eye, Loves, and deaths pleasing dart?
Ah, she it is, an earthly heav'n, and hell,
Who thus hath charm'd my heart with sugred spell.
Ease thou my wound: but (ah!) what hand can ease,
Or give a medicine that such wound may please;
When she my sole Physician is my souls disease?

DAMON.
Poore boy! the wounds which spite and Love impart,
There is no ward to fence, no herb to ease.
Heav'ns circling folds lie open to his dart:
Hells Lethe's self cools not his burning smart:
The fishes cold flame with this strong disease,
And want their water in the midst of seas:
All are his slaves, hell, earth, and heav'n above:
Strive not i' th' net, in vain thy force to prove.
Give, woo, sigh, weep, and pray: Love's only cur'd by love.

ALGON.
If for thy love no other cure there be,
Love, thou art cureles: gifts, prayers, vows, and art,
She scorns both you and me: nay Love, ev'n thee:
Thou sigh'st her prisoner, while she laughs as free.
What ever charms might move a gentle heart,
I oft have try'd, and shew'd the earnfull smart,
Which eats my breast: she laughs at all my pain:
Art, prayers, vows, gifts, love, grief, she does disdain:
Grief, love, gifts, vows, prayers, art; ye all are spent in vain.

DAMON.
Algon, oft hast thou fisht, but sped not straight;
With hook and net thou beat'st the water round:
Oft-times the place thou changest, oft the bait;
And catching nothing, still, and still dost wait:
Learn by thy trade to cure thee: time hath found
In desp'rate cures a salve for every wound.
The fish long playing with the baited hook,
At last is caught: Thus many a Nymph is took;
Mocking the strokes of Love, is with her striking strook.

ALGON.
The marbles self is pierc't with drops of rain:
Fires soften steel, and hardest metals try:
But she more hard then both: such her disdain,
That seas of tears, Aetna's of love are vain.
In her strange heart (weep I, burn, pine, or die)
Still reignes a cold, coy, carelesse apathie.
The rock that bears her name, breeds that hard stone
With goats bloud onely softned, she with none:
More precious she, and (ah!) more hard then diamond.

That rock I think her mother: thence she took
Her name and nature: Damon, Damon, see,
See where she comes, arm'd with a line and hook:
Tell me, perhaps thou think'st, in that sweet look,
The white is beauties native tapestrie;
'Tis crystall, (friend) yc'd in the frozen sea:
The red is rubies; these two joyn'd in one,
Make up that beauteous frame: the difference none
But this; she is a precious, living, speaking stone.

DAMON.
No gemme so costly, but with cost is bought:
The hardest stone is cut, and fram'd by art:
A diamond hid in rocks is found, if sought:
Be she a diamond, a diamond's wrought.
Thy fear congeales, thy fainting steels her heart.
I'le be thy Captain, boy, and take thy part:
Alcides self would never combat two.
Take courage, Algon; I will teach thee woo.
Cold beggars freez our gifts: thy faint suit breeds her no.

Speak to her, boy.

ALGON.
Love is more deaf then blinde.

DAMON.
She must be woo'd.

ALGON.
Love's tongue is in the eyes.

DAMON.
Speech is Love's dart.

ALGON.
Silence best speaks the minde.

DAMON.
Her eye invites.

ALGON.
Thence love and death I finde.

DAMON.
Her smiles speak peace.

ALGON.
Storms breed in smiling skies.

DAMON.
Who silent loves?

ALGON.
Whom speech all hope denies.

DAMON.
Why should'st thou fear?

ALGON.
To Love Fear's neare akinne.

DAMON.
Well, if my cunning fail not, by a gin
(Spite of her scorn, thy fear) I'le make thee woo, and winne.

What, ho, thou fairest maid, turn back thine oare,
And gently deigne to help a fishers smart.

NICAEA.
Are thy lines broke? or are thy trammels tore?
If thou desir'st my help, unhide the sore.

[DAMON.]
Ah gentlest Nymph, oft have I heard, thy art
Can soveraigne herbs to every grief impart:
So mayst thou live the fishers song, and joy,
As thou wilt deigne to cure this sickly boy.
Unworthy they of art, who of their art are coy.

His inward grief in outward change appeares;
His cheeks with sudden fires bright-flaming glow;
Which quencht, end all in ashes: storms of teares
Becloud his eyes, which soon forc't smiling cleares:
Thick tides of passions ever ebbe, and flow:
And as his flesh still wastes, his griefs still grow.

NICAEA.
Damon, the wounds deep rankling in the minde
What herb could ever cure? what art could finde?
Blinde are mine eyes to see wounds in the soul most blinde.

ALGON.
Hard maid, t'is worse to mock, then make a wound:
Why should'st thou then (fair-cruel) scorn to see
What thou by seeing mad'st? my sorrows ground
Was in thy eye, may by thy eye be found.
How can thy eye most sharp in wounding be,
In seeing dull? these two are one in thee,
To see, and wound by sight: thy eye the dart.
Fair-cruel maid, thou well hast learn'd the art,
With the same eye to see, to wound, to cure my heart.

NICAEA.
What cures thy wounded heart?

ALGON.
Thy heart so wounded.

NICAEA.
Is't love to wound thy love?

ALGON.
Loves wounds are pleasing.

NICAEA.
Why plain'st thou then?

ALGON.
Because thou art unwounded.
Thy wound my cure: on this my plaint is grounded.

NICAEA.
Cures are diseases, when the wounds are easing:
Why would'st thou have me please thee by displeasing?

ALGON.
Scorn'd love is death; loves mutuall wounds delighting:
Happie thy love, my love to thine uniting.
Love paying debts grows rich; requited in requiting.

DAMON.
What lives alone, Nicaea? starres most chaste
Have their conjunctions, spheares their mixt embraces,
And mutuall folds. Nothing can single last:
But die in living, in increasing waste.

NICAEA.
Their joyning perfects them, but us defaces.

ALGON.
That's perfect which obtains his end: your graces
Receive their end in love. She that's alone
Dies as she lives: no number is in one:
Thus while she's but her self, she's not her self, she's none.

NICAEA.
Why blam'st thou then my stonie hard confection,
Which nothing loves? thou single nothing art.

ALGON.
Love perfects what it loves; thus thy affection
Married to mine, makes mine and thy perfection.

NICAEA.
Well then, to passe our Tryphon in his art,
And in a moment cure a wounded heart;
If fairest Darwin, whom I serve, approve
Thy suit, and thou wilt not thy heart remove;
I'le joyn my heart to thine, and answer thee in love.

The sunne is set; adieu.

ALGON.
'Tis set to me;
Thy parting is my ev'n, thy presence light.

NICAEA.
Farewell.

ALGON.
Thou giv'st thy wish; it is in thee:
Unlesse thou wilt, haplesse I cannot be.

DAMON.
Come Algon, cheerly home; the theevish night
Steals on the world, and robs our eyes of sight.
The silver streams grow black: home let us coast:
There of loves conquest may we safely boast:
Soonest in love he winnes, that oft in love hath lost.

[pp. 27-34]