1614 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Shepheards Sirena.

The Battaile of Agincourt. Fought by Henry the Fift of that Name, King of England, against the whole Power of the French: under the Raigne of their Charles the Sixt, Anno Dom. 1415. The Miseries of Queene Margarite, the infortunate Wife, of that most infortunate King Henry the Sixt. Nimphidia, the Court of Fayrie. The Quest of Cinthia. The Shepheards Sirena. The Moone-Calfe. Elegies upon sundry Occasions. By Michaell Drayton Esquire.

Michael Drayton


An eclogue: "part of the same constellation that included Browne's Shepheards Pipe and Wither's Shepherds Hunting" Tillotson and Newdigate, Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1931-61) 5:207. The Shepheards Sirena was withheld from publication until 1627, after the death of King James.

1748 editor: "His Pastorals intituled The Quest of CYNTHIA, and The Shepherd's SIRENA, are exquisite Performances, and will appear such to every true Judge, as they have all the Beauties, and all the Graces of which that Kind of Poetry is susceptible.... There is indeed a little Sprinkling of antiquated Words, but the Choice is so judiciously made that it does not obscure the Sense, as in Spenser often, and sometimes even in Shakespear, but gives it that natural Rudeness, that pleasing Rusticity, which makes the Doric Dialect so charming in the Works of Theocritus, and is indeed essentially necessary to Pastoral" Works (1748) 9.

Harold H. Child: "There is a marked difference between Drayton's earlier Spenserian pastorals Idea (though these were not, as we have seen, an extreme example of their form), and these later essays in the same field. In the two poems of 1627, there is an airy grace, a frank unreality that makes no attempt either to approximate to the real world of the country from which it draws its symbols, or to proclaim its difference from the world of town and court, the thought of which used to weigh heavily on earlier singers of the golden age" Cambridge History of English Literature (1910) 4:222.

Tillotson and Newdigate: "'Angry Olcon' must be the same as the Olcon of Drayton's eighth eclogue: that is, James I. And that may supply a natural reason for Drayton's delay in publication; he waited until after the death of the King. Caution would be the more advisable after the experience of Wither, whose 'dogs,' as he clearly tells us, were responsible for his imprisonment, and who was in trouble again with Withers Motto in 1621. It seems at least possible that the last part of Drayton's poem sprang from his association with Browne and Wither, who shared his views on the state of poetry, and that it was written at a date near to their own similar complaints, perhaps a little before Wither's imprisonment in March 1614" Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1931-61) 5:208.

Joan Grundy: "In the Shepheards Sirena Drayton portrays a situation as particular as those presented in the poems of Browne and Wither. This poem is, in its concluding section, his companion-piece to The Shepheards Pipe and The Shepheards Hunting. (We notice, for instance, the same use of the possessive adjectives — 'our flocks,' 'our downes'.) Drayton's statement is obscure, yet precise. He sees the swineherds massing for attack" The Spenserian Poets (1969) 86.



DORILUS in sorrowes deepe,
Autumne waxing olde and chill,
As he sate his Flocks to keepe,
Underneath an easie hill:
Chanc'd to cast his eye aside
Of those fields, where he had seene,
Bright SIRENA Natures pride,
Sporting on the pleasant greene:
To whose walkes the Shepheards oft,
Came her god-like foote to finde,
And in places that were soft,
Kist the print there left behinde;
Where the path which she had troad,
Hath thereby more glory gayn'd,
Then in heav'n that milky rode,
Which with Nectar Hebe stayn'd:
But bleake Winters boystrous blasts,
Now their fading pleasures chid,
And so fill'd them with his wastes,
That from sight her steps were hid.
Silly Shepheard sad the while,
For his sweet SIRENA gone,
All his pleasures in exile:
Layd on the colde earth alone.
Whilst his gamesome cut-tayld Curre,
With his mirthlesse Master playes,
Striving him with sport to stirre,
As in his more youthfull dayes,
DORILUS his Dogge doth chide,
Layes his well-tun'd Bagpype by,
And his Sheep-hooke casts aside,
There (quoth he) together lye.
When a Letter forth he tooke,
Which to him SIRENA writ,
With a deadly downe-cast looke,
And thus fell to reading it.

DORILUS my deare (quoth she)
Kinde Companion of my woe,
Though we thus divided be,
Death cannot divorce us so;
Thou whose bosome hath beene still,
Th' onely Closet of my care,
And in all my good and ill,
Ever had thy equall share:
Might I winne thee from thy Fold,
Thou shouldst come to visite me,
But the Winter is so cold,
That I feare to hazard thee:
The wilde waters are waxt hie,
So they are both deafe and dumbe,
Lov'd they thee so well as I,
They would ebbe when thou shouldst come;
Then my coate with light should shine,
Purer then the Vestall fire:
Nothing here but should be thine,
That thy heart can well desire:
Where at large we will relate,
From what cause our friendship grewe,
And in that the varying Fate,
Since we first each other knewe:
Of my heavie passed plight,
As of many a future feare,
Which except the silent night,
None but onely thou shalt heare;
My sad heart it shall releeve,
When my thoughts I shall disclose,
For thou canst not chuse but greeve,
When I shall recount my woes;
There is nothing to that friend,
To whose close uncranied brest,
We our secret thoughts may send,
And there safely let it rest:
And thy faithfull counsell may,
My distressed case assist,
Sad affliction else may sway
Me a woman as it list:
Hither I would have thee haste,
Yet would gladly have thee stay,
When those dangers I forecast,
That may meet thee by the way,
Doe as thou shalt thinke it best,
Let thy knowledge be thy guide,
Live thou in my constant breast,
Whatsoever shall betide.

He her Letter having red,
Puts it in his Scrip againe,
Looking like a man halfe dead,
By her kindenesse strangely slaine;
And as one who inly knew,
Her distressed present state,
And to her had still been true,
Thus doth with himselfe delate.

I will not thy face admire,
Admirable though it bee,
Nor thine eyes whose subtile fire
So much wonder winne in me:
But my marvell shall be now,
(And of long it hath bene so)
Of all Woman kind that thou
Wert ordain'd to taste of woe;
To a Beauty so divine,
Paradise in little done,
O that Fortune should assigne,
Ought, but what thou well mightst shun,
But my counsailes such must bee,
(Though as yet I them conceale)
By their deadly wound in me,
They thy hurt must onely heale,
Could I give what thou do'st crave
To that passe thy state is growne,
I thereby thy life may save,
But am sure to loose mine owne,
To that joy thou do'st conceive,
Through my heart, the way doth lye,
Which in two for thee must clave
Least that thou shouldst goe awry.
Thus my death must be a toy,
Which my pensive breast must cover;
Thy beloved to enjoy,
Must be taught thee by thy Lover.
Hard the Choise I have to chuse,
To my selfe if friend I be,
I must my SIRENA loose,
If not so, shee looseth me.

Thus whilst he doth cast about,
What therein were best to doe,
Nor could yet resolve the doubt,
Whether he should stay or goe:
In those Feilds not farre away,
There was many a frolike Swaine,
In fresh Russets day by day,
That kept Revells on the Plaine.
Nimble Tom, sirnam'd the Tup,
For his Pipe without a Peere,
And could tickle Trenchmore up,
As t'would joy your heart to heare.
RALPH as much renown'd for skill,
That the Taber touch'd so well;
For his Gittern, little GILL,
That all other did excell.
Rock and Rollo every way,
Who still led the Rusticke Ging,
And could troule a Roundelay,
That would make the Feilds to ring,
COLLIN on his Shalme so cleare,
Many a high-pitcht Note that had,
And could make the Ecchos nere
Shout as they were wexen mad.
Many a lusty Swaine beside,
That for nought but pleasure car'd,
Having DORILUS espy'd,
And with him knew how it far'd.
Thought from him they would remove,
This strong melancholy fitt,
Or so, should it not behove,
Quite to put him out of's witt;
Having learnt a Song, which he
Sometime to SIRENA sent,
Full of Jollity and glee,
When the Nimph liv'd neere to Trent,
They behinde him softly gott,
Lying on the earth along,
And when he suspected not,
Thus the Joviall Shepheards song.

Neare to the Silver Trent,
Sirena dwelleth:
Shee to whom Nature lent
All that excelleth:
By which the Muses late,
And the neate Graces,
Have for their greater state
Taken their places:
Twisting an Anadem,
Wherewith to Crowne her,
As it belong'd to them
Most to renowne her.

CHROUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swanes sing her,
And with their Musick,
Along let them bring her.

Tagus and Pactolus
Are to thee Debter,
Nor for their gould to us
Are they the better:
Henceforth of all the rest,
Be thou the River,
Which as the daintiest,
Puts them downe ever,
For as my precious one,
O'r thee doth travell,
She to Pearle Parragon
Turneth thy gravell.

CHORUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swanns sing her,
And with their Musicke,
Along let them bring her.

Our mournefull Philomell,
That rarest Tuner,
Henceforth in Aperill
Shall wake the sooner,
And to her shall complaine
Grom the thicke Cover,
Redoubling every straine
Over and over:
For when my Love too long
Her Chamber keepeth;
As though it suffered wrong,
The Morning weepeth.

CHORUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swaines sing her,
And with their Musick,
Along let them bring her.

Oft have I seene the Sunne,
To doe her honour,
Fix himselfe at his noone,
To looke upon her,
And hath guilt every Grove,
Every Hill neare her,
With his flames from above,
Striving to cheere her,
And when shee from his sight
Hath her selfe turned,
He as it had beene night,
In Cloudes hath mourned:

CHORUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swanns sing her,
And with their Musicke,
Along let them bring her.

The Verdant Meades are seene,
When she doth view them,
In fresh and gallant Greene,
Straight to renewe them,
And every little Grasse
Broad it selfe spreadeth,
Proud that this bonny Lasse
Upon it treadeth:
Nor flower is so sweete
In this large Cincture
But it upon her feete
Leaveth some Tincture.

CHORUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swanes sing her,
And with their Musick,
Along let them bring her.

The Fishes in the Flood,
When she doth Angle,
For the Hooke strive a good
Them to intangle;
And leaping on the Land
From the cleare water,
Their Scales upon the sand
Lavishly scatter;
Therewith to pave the mould
Whereon she passes,
So her selfe to behold,
As in her glasses.

CHORUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swanns sing her,
And with their Musicke,
Along let them bring her.

When shee lookes out by night,
The Starres stand gazing,
Like Commets to our sight
Fearefully blazing,
As wondring at her eyes,
With their much brightnesse,
Which so amaze the skies,
Dimming their lightnesse,
The raging Tempests are Calme,
When shee speaketh,
Such most delightsome balme,
From her lips breaketh.

CHORUS:
On thy Banke,
In a Rancke, &c.

In all our Brittany,
Ther's not a fayrer,
Nor can you fitt any:
Should you compare her.
Angels her eye-lids keepe
All harts surprizing,
Which looke whilst she doth sleepe
Like the Sunnes rising:
She alone of her kinde
Knoweth true measure,
And her unmatched mind
Is Heavens treasure:

CHORUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swanes sing her,
And with their Musick,
Along let them bring her.

Fayre Dove and Darwine cleere
Boast yee your beauties,
To Trent your Mistres here
Yet pay your duties,
My Love was higher borne
Tow'rds the full Fountaines,
Yet she doth Moorland scorne,
And the Peake Mountaines;
Nor would she none should dreame,
Where she abideth,
Humble as is the streame,
Which by her slydeth,

CHORUS:
On thy Bancke,
In a Rancke,
Let thy Swanns sing her,
And with their Musicke,
Along let them bring her.

Yet my poore Rusticke Muse,
Nothing can move her,
Nor the meanes I can use,
Though her true Lover:
Many a long Winters night
Have I wak'd for her,
Yet this my piteous plight,
Nothing can stirre her.
All thy Sands silver Trent
Downe to the Humber,
The sighes that I have spent
Never can number.
On thy Banke
In a Ranke,
Let thy Swans sing her
And with their Musicke
along let them bring her.

Taken with this suddaine Song,
Least for mirth when he doth looke,
His sad heart more deepely stong,
Then the former care he tooke,
At their laughter and amaz'd,
For a while he sat aghast,
But a little having gaz'd,
Thus he them bespake at last.

Is this time for mirth (quoth he)
To a man with griefe opprest,
Sinfull wretches as you be,
May the sorrowes in my breast,
Light upon you one by one,
And as now you mocke my woe,
When your mirth is turn'd to moane,
May your like then serve you so.

When one Swaine among the rest
Thus him merily bespake,
Get thee up thou arrant beast,
Fits this season love to make?
Take thy Sheephooke in thy hand,
Clap thy Curre and set him on,
For our fields ti's time to stand,
Or they quickely will be gon.
Rougish Swinheards that repine
At our Flocks, like beastly Clownes,
Sweare that they will bring their Swine,
And will wroote up all our Downes:
They their Holly whips have brac'd,
And tough Hazell goades have gott;
Soundly they your sides will baste,
If their courage faile them not.
Of their purpose if they speed,
Then your Bagpypes you may burne,
It is neither Droane nor Reed
Shepheard, that will serve your turne:
Angry OLCON sets them on,
And against us part doth take
Ever since he was out-gone,
Offring Rymes with us to make.
Yet if so our Sheepe-hookes hold,
Dearely shall our Downes be bought,
For it never shall be told,
We our Sheep-walkes sold for naught.
And we here have got us Dogges,
Best of all the Westerne breed,
Which though Whelps shall lug their Hogges,
Till they make their eares to bleed:
Therefore Shepheard come away,
When as DORILUS arose,
Whistles Cut-tayle from his play,
And along with them he goes.

[pp. 143-52]