The sixth eclogue is a rather stylized argument between Thomalin and Thyrsis concerning various forms of love; Thomalin attempting to steer his smitten friend away from the erotic varieties. The stanza is ottava rima with an appended Spenserian alexandrine. Abram Barnett Langdale sees in stanza 18 an allusion to Faerie Queene 3.4.43, where Tryphon heals Cymoent in Neptune's bower: "Then heark how Tryphons self did salve my paining, | While in a rock I sat of love complaining; | My wounds with herbs, my grief with counsel sage restraining."
Alexander Fraser Tytler: "Thomalin is painted lying oppress'd with grief on the banks of Chame. Thirsil his friend endeavours to comfort him, and enquires the cause of his affliction. Thomalin describes to him his feelings, but is ignorant of the cause till Thirsil discovers that he is in love, and from his own experience enumerates the various disguises which love assumes to enter the heart. Thirsil then endeavours to subdue his friend's passion, by showing the weakness of the causes which gave rise to it; in which he partly succeeds, by Thomalin's being willing to be cured of his disease" Piscatorie Eclogs and Poetical Miscellanies (1771) 88.
George Saintsbury: "He tried in the Piscatory Eclogues yet another septet, rhyme-royal with the last line extended to an Alexandrine, his brother's stanza, an ordinary rhyme-royal, sixtains, Spenserians with triplet ending, quintets with Alexandrine close, heptasyllabic couplets; and in his Miscellanies various short lyrical measures. He is never prosodically incompetent; but he seems to suffer from a kind of prosodic figetiness" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 2:117.
Henry Marion Hall: "The remaining Idyll of love, the May, evidently records how Fletcher's friend Tomkins, later organist of St. Paul's, confided to him an affair which he had at college" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 121.
A fisher-boy that never knew his peer
In daintie songs, the gentle Thomalin,
With folded arms, deep sighs, and heavy cheer
Where hundred Nymphs, and hundred Muses inne,
Sunk down by Chamus brinks; with him his deare,
Deare Thirsil lay; oft times would he begin
To cure his grief, and better way advise;
But still his words, when his sad friend he spies,
Forsook his silent tongue, to speak in watrie eyes.
Under a sprouting vine they carelesse lie,
Whose tender leaves bit with the Eastern blast,
But now were born, and now began to die;
The latter warned by the formers haste,
Thinly for fear salute the envious skie:
Thus as they sat, Thirsil embracing fast
His loved friend, feeling his panting heart
To give no rest to his increasing smart,
At length thus spake, while sighs words to his grief impart:
Thomalin, I see thy Thirsil thou neglect'st,
Some greater love holds down thy heart in fear;
Thy Thirsils love, and counsel thou reject'st;
Thy soul was wont to lodge within my eare:
But now that port no longer thou respect'st;
Yet hath it still been safely harbour'd there.
My eare is not acquainted with my tongue,
That either tongue, or eare should do thee wrong:
Why then should'st thou conceal thy hidden grief so long?
Thirsil, it is thy love that makes me hide
My smother'd grief from thy known faithfull eare:
May still my Thirsil safe, and merry 'bide;
Enough is me my hidden grief to bear:
For while thy breast in hav'n doth safely ride,
My greater half with thee rides safely there.
So thou art well; but still my better part,
My Thomalin, sinks loaden with his smart:
Thus thou my finger cur'st, and wound'st my bleeding heart.
How oft hath Thomalin to Thirsil vowed,
That as his heart, so he his love esteem'd!
Where are those oaths? where is that heart bestowed,
Which hides it from that breast which deare it deem'd,
And to that heart room in his heart allowed?
That love was never love, but onely seem'd.
Tell me, my Thomalin, what envious thief
Thus robs thy joy: tell me, my liefest lief:
Thou little lov'st me, friend, if more thou lov'st thy grief.
Thirsil, my joyous spring is blasted quite,
And winter storms prevent the summers ray:
All as this vine, whose green the Eastern spite
Hath di'd to black, his catching arms decay,
And letting go their hold for want of might,
Mar'l winter comes so soon, in first of May.
Yet see the leaves do freshly bud again:
Thou drooping still di'st in this heavie strain:
Nor can I see or end or cause of all thy pain.
No marvel, Thirsil, if thou dost not know
This grief, which in my heart lies deeply drown'd:
My heart it self, though well it feels his wo,
Knows not the wo it feels: the worse my wound,
Which though I rankling finde, I cannot show.
Thousand fond passions in my breast abound;
Fear leagu'd to joy, hope and despair together,
Sighs bound to smiles; my heart though prone to either,
While both it would obey, 'twixt both obeyeth neither.
Oft blushing flames leap up into my face;
My guiltlesse cheek such purple flash admires:
Oft stealing tears slip from mine eyes apace,
As if they meant to quench those causelesse fires.
My good I hate; my hurt I glad embrace:
My heart though griev'd, his grief as joy desires:
I burn, yet know no fuel to my firing:
My wishes know no want, yet still desiring:
Hope knows not what to hope, yet still in hope aspiring.
Too true my fears: alas, no wicked sprite,
No writhel'd witch, with spells or powerfull charms,
Or hellish herbs digg'd in as hellish night,
Gives to thy heart these oft and fierce alarms:
But Love, too hatefull Love, with pleasing spite,
And spitefull pleasure, thus hath bred thy harms,
And seeks thy mirth with pleasance to destroy.
'Tis Love, my Thomalin, my liefest boy;
'Tis Love robs me of thee, and thee of all thy joy.
Thirsil, I ken not what is hate, or Love,
Thee well I love, and thou lov'st me as well;
Yet joy, no torment, in this passion prove:
But often have I heard the fishers tell,
He's not inferiour to the mighty Jove;
Jove heaven rules; Love Jove, heav'n, earth, and hell:
Tell me, my friend, if thou dost better know:
Men say, he goes arm'd with his shafts, and bow;
Two darts, one swift as fire, as lead the other slow.
Ah heedlesse boy! Love is not such a lad,
As he is fancy'd by the idle swain;
With bow and shafts, and purple feathers clad;
Such as Diana (with her buskin'd train
Of armed Nymphs along the forrests glade
With golden quivers) in Thessalian plain,
In level race outstrips the jumping Deer
With nimble feet; or with a mighty spear
Flings down a bristled bore, or els a squalid bear.
Love's sooner felt, then seen: his substance thinne
Betwixt those snowy mounts in ambush lies:
Oft in the eyes he spreads his subtil ginne;
He therefore soonest winnes, that fastest flies.
Fly thence my deare, fly fast, my Thomalin:
Who him encounters once, for ever dies:
But if he lurk between the ruddy lips,
Unhappie soul that thence his Nectar sips,
While down into his heart the sugred poison slips!
Oft in a voice he creeps down through the eare:
Oft from a blushing cheek he lights his fire:
Oft shrouds his golden flame in likest hair:
Oft in a soft-smooth skin doth close retire:
Oft in a smile; oft in a silent tear:
And if all fail, yet Vertue's self he'l hire:
Himself's a dart, when nothing els can move.
Who then the captive soul can well reprove,
When Love, and Vertue's self become the darts of Love?
Sure, Love it is, which breeds this burning fever:
For late (yet all too soon) on Venus day,
I chanc't (Oh cursed chance, yet blessed ever!)
As carelesse on the silent shores I stray,
Five Nymphs to see (five fairer saw I never)
Upon the golden sand to dance and play:
The rest among, yet farre above the rest,
Sweet Melite, by whom my wounded breast,
Though rankling still in grief, yet joyes in his unrest.
There to their sportings while I pipe, and sing,
Out from her eyes I felt a firie beam,
And pleasing heat (such as in first of Spring
From Sol, inn'd in the Bull, do kindly stream)
To warm my heart, and with a gentle sting
Blow up desire: yet little did I dream
Such bitter fruits from such sweet roots could grow,
Or from so gentle eye such spite could flow:
For who could fire expect hid in an hill of snow?
But when those lips (those melting lips) I prest,
I lost my heart, which sure she stole away:
For with a blush she soon her guilt confest,
And sighs (which sweetest breath did soft convey)
Betraid her theft: from thence my flaming breast
Like thundring Aetna burns both night and day:
All day she present is, and in the night
My wakefull fancie paints her full to sight:
Absence her presence makes, darknes presents her light.
Thomalin, too well those bitter sweets I know,
Since fair Nicaea bred my pleasing smart:
But better times did better reason show,
And cur'd those burning wounds with heav'nly art.
Those storms of looser fire are laid full low;
And higher love safe anchours in my heart:
So now a quiet calm does safely reigne.
And if my friend think not my counsel vain;
Perhaps my art may cure, or much asswage thy pain.
Thirsil, although this witching grief doth please
My captive heart, and Love doth more detest
The cure, and curer, then the sweet disease;
Yet if my Thirsil doth the cure request,
This storm, which rocks my heart in slumbring ease,
Spite of it self, shall yeeld to thy behest.
Then heark how Tryphons self did salve my paining,
While in a rock I sat of love complaining;
My wounds with herbs, my grief with counsel sage restraining.
But tell me first; Why should thy partial minde
More Melite, then all the rest approve?
Thirsil, her beautie all the rest did blinde,
That she alone seem'd worthy of my love.
Delight upon her face, and sweetnesse shin'd:
Her eyes do spark as starres, as starres do move:
Like those twin-fires, which on our masts appear,
And promise calms. Ah that those flames so clear
To me alone should raise such storms of hope and fear!
If that which to thy minde doth worthiest seem,
By thy wel-temper'd soul is most affected;
Canst thou a face worthy thy love esteem?
What in thy soul then love is more respected?
Those eyes which in their spheare thou, fond, dost deem
Like living starres, with some disease infected,
Are dull as leaden drosse: those beauteous rayes,
So like a rose, when she her breast displayes,
Are like a rose indeed; as sweet, as soon decayes.
Art thou in love with words? her words are winde,
As flit as is their matter, flittest aire.
Her beautie moves? can colours move thy minde?
Colours in scorned weeds more sweet, and fair.
Some pleasing qualitie thy thoughts doth binde?
Love then thy self. Perhaps her golden hair?
False metall, which to silver soon descends!
Is't pleasure then which so thy fancie bends?
Poore pleasure, that in pain begins, in sorrow ends!
What? is't her company so much contents thee?
How would she present stirre up stormy weather,
When thus in absence present she torments thee?
Lov'st thou not one, but all these joyn'd together?
All's but a woman. Is't her love that rents thee?
Light windes, light aire; her love more light then either.
If then due worth thy true affection moves,
Here is no worth. Who some old hagge approves,
And scorns a beauteous spouse, he rather dotes, then loves.
Then let thy love mount from these baser things,
And to the highest love, and worth aspire:
Love's born of fire, fitted with mounting wings;
That at his highest he might winde him higher;
Base love, that to base earth so basely clings!
Look as the beams of that celestiall fire
Put out these earthly flames with purer ray;
So shall that love this baser heat allay,
And quench these coals of earth with his more heav'nly day.
Raise then thy prostrate love with towring thought;
And clog it not in chains, and prison here:
The God of fishers deare thy love hath bought:
Most deare he loves: for shame, love thou as deare.
Next, love thou there, where best thy love is sought;
My self, or els some other fitting peer.
Ah might thy love with me for ever dwell!
Why should'st thou hate thy heav'n, and love thy hell?
She shall not more deserve, nor cannot love so well.
Thus Tryphon once did wean my fond affection;
Then fits a salve unto th' infected place,
(A salve of soveraigne and strange confection)
Nepenthe mixt with Rue, and Herb-de-grace:
So did he quickly heal this strong infection,
And to my self restor'd my self apace.
Yet did he not my love extinguish quite:
I love with sweeter love, and more delight:
But most I love that Love, which to my love ha's right.
Thrice happy thou that could'st! my weaker minde
Can never learn to climbe so lofty flight.
If from this love thy will thou canst unbinde;
To will, is here to can: will gives thee might:
'Tis done, if once thou wilt; 'tis done, I finde.
Now let us home: for see, the creeping night
Steals from those further waves upon the land.
To morrow shall we feast; then hand in hand
Free will we sing, and dance along the golden sand.