1630
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Muses Elizium VI: The Sixt Nimphall.

The Muses Elizium, lately discovered, by a new way over Parnassus. The Passages therein, being the Subject of ten sundry Nymphalls, leading three Divine Poemes, Noahs Floud. Moses, his Birth and Miracles. David and Golia. By Michael Drayton Esquire.

Michael Drayton


An inventive contention between a forester, a fisherman, and a shepherd permits Michael Drayton to demonstrate the variety of his pastoral muse.

Drayton's late pastorals (and especially Nimphidia) found admirers among eighteenth-century readers, they "fully refute the Notion that the Harmony of Numbers in English Poesy was unknown 'till Waller stole the Secret from Fairfax; whereas any Critic who has an Ear, must allow that there is hardly a Poem in Waller more numerous than these of Mr. Drayton, or in every other Circumstance more correct" Works of Drayton (1748) 9.

Henry Marion Hall: "Drayton's poem is almost free from the fetters of classic forms. It is a contest, but one of the stuff of dreams, in a land of delightful make-believe. In such a fairy sphere it is not at all surprising to find the nymphs, fair arbitresses, praising the songs, and at the end crowning all three singers with fresh garlands" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 144-45.

Tillotson and Newdigate: "The metre of the debate and its parallels in Poly Olbion suggest that it may be material originally devised for that poem. There is a rather similar debate between a Ranger (Silvio) and a Shepherd (Gemulo) in Act I of the Maydes Metamorphosis, 1600; but D's technical knowledge of the three crafts is unusual, and testifies to his rural experience" Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1931-61) 5:222.



A Woodman, Fisher, and a Swaine
This Nimphall through with mirth maintaine,
Whose pleadings so the Nimphes doe please,
That presently they give them Bayes.

SILVIUS. HALCIUS. MELANTHUS.

Cleere had the day bin from the dawne,
All chequerd was the Skye,
Thin Clouds like Scarfs of Cobweb Lawne
Vayld Heaven's most glorious eye.
The Winde had no more strength then this,
That leasurely it blew,
To make one leafe the next to kisse,
That closly by it grew.
The Rils that on the Pebbles playd,
Might now be heard at will;
This world they onely Musick made,
Else every thing was still.
The Flowers like brave embraudred Gerles,
Lookt as they much desired,
To see whose head with orient Pearles,
Most curiously was tyred;
And to it selfe the subtle Ayre,
Such soverainty assumes,
That it receiv'd too large a share
From natures rich perfumes.
When the Elizian Youth were met,
That were of most account,
And to disport themselves were set
Upon an easy Mount:
Neare which, of stately Firre and Pine
There grew abundant store,
The Tree that weepeth Turpentine,
And shady Sicamore.
Amongst this merry youthfull trayne
A Forrester they had,
A Fisher, and a Shepheards swayne
A lively Countrey Lad:
Betwixt which three a question grew,
Who should the worthiest be,
Which violently they pursue,
Nor stickled would they be.
That it the Company doth please
This civill strife to stay,
Freely to heare what each of these
For his brave selfe could say:
When first this Forrester (of all)
That Silvius had to name,
To whom the Lot being cast doth fall,
Doth thus begin the Game,

SILVIUS.
For my profession then, and for the life I lead
All others to excell, thus for my selfe I plead;
I am the Prince of sports, the Forrest is my Fee,
He's not upon the Earth for pleasure lives like me;
The Morne no sooner puts her Rosye Mantle on,
But from my quyet Lodge I instantly am gone,
When the melodious Birds from every Bush and Bryer
Of the wilde spacious Wasts, make a continuall quire;
The motlied Meadowes then, new vernisht with the Sunne
Shute up their spicy sweets upon the winds that runne,
In easly ambling Gales, and softly seeme to pace,
That it the longer might their lushiousnesse imbrace:
I am clad in youthfull Greene, I other colours scorne,
My silken Bauldrick beares my Beugle, or my Horne,
Which setting to my Lips, I winde so lowd and shrill,
As makes the Ecchoes showte from every neighbouring Hill:
My Doghooke at my Belt, to which my Lyam's tyde,
My Sheafe of Arrowes by, my Woodknife at my Syde,
My Crosse-bow in my Hand, my Gaffle or my Rack
To bend it when I please, or it I list to slack,
My Hound then in my Lyam, I by the Woodmans art
Forecast, where I may lodge the goodly Hie-palm'd Hart,
To viewe the grazing Heards, so sundry times I use,
Where by the loftiest Head I know my Deare to chuse,
And to unheard him then, I gallop o'r the ground
Upon my wel-breath'd Nag, to cheere my earning Hound.
Sometime I pitch my Toyles the Deare alive to take,
Sometime I like the Cry, the deepe-mouth'd Kennell make,
Then underneath my Horse, I staulke my game to strike,
And with a single Dog to hunt him hurt, I like.
The Silvians are to me true subjects, I their King,
The stately Hart, his Hind doth to my presence bring,
The Buck his loved Doe, the Roe his tripping Mate,
Before me to my Bower, whereas I sit in State.
The Dryads, Hamadryads, the Satyres and the Fawnes
Oft play at Hyde and Seeke before me on the Lawnes,
The frisking Fayry oft when horned Cinthia shines
Before me as I walke dance wanton Matachynes,
The numerous feathered flocks that the wild Forrests haunt
Their Silvan songs to me, in cheerefull dittyes chaunte,
The shades like ample Sheelds, defend me from the Sunne,
Through which me to refresh the gentle Rivelets runne,
No little bubling Brook from any Spring that falls
But on the Pebbles playes me pretty Madrigals.
I' th' morne I clime the Hills, where wholsome winds do blow,
At Noone-tyde to the Vales, and shady Groves below,
T'wards Evening I againe the Chrystall Floods frequent,
In pleasure thus my life continually is spent.
As Princes and great Lords have Pallaces, so I
Have in the Forrests here, my Hall and Gallery
The tall and stately Woods; which underneath are Plaine,
The Groves my Gardens are, the Heath and Downes againe
My wide and spacious walkes, then say all what ye can,
The Forester is still your only gallant man.

He of his speech scarce made an end,
But him they load with prayse,
The Nimphes most highly him commend,
And vow to give him Bayes:
He's now cryde up of every one,
And who but onely he,
The Forrester's the man alone,
The worthyest of the three.
When some then th' other farre more stayd,
Wil'd them a while to pause,
For there was more yet to be sayd,
That might deserve applause,
When Halcius his turne next plyes,
And silence having wonne,
Roome for the fisher man he cryes,
And thus his Plea begunne.

HALCIUS.
No Forrester, it so must not be borne away,
But heare what for himselfe the Fisher first can say,
The Chrystall current Streames continually I keepe,
Where every Pearle-pav'd Foard, and every Blew-eyd deepe
With me familiar are; when in my Boate being set,
My Oare I take in hand, my Angle and my Net
About me; like a Prince my selfe in state I steer,
Now up, now downe the Streame, now am I here, now ther,
The Pilot and the Fraught my selfe; and at my ease
Can land me when I list, or in what place I please,
The Silver-scaled Sholes, about me in the Streames,
As thick as ye discerne the Atoms in the Beames,
Neare to the shady Banck where slender Sallowes grow,
And Willows their shag'd tops downe t'wards the waters bow,
I shove in with my Boat to sheeld me from the heat,
Where chusing from my Bag, some prov'd especiall bayt,
The goodly well growne Trout I with my Angle strike,
And with my bearded Wyer I take the ravenous Pike,
Of whom when I have hould, he seldome breakes away
Though at my Lynes full length, soe long I let him play
Till by my hand I finde he well-nere wearyed be,
When softly by degrees I drawe him up to me.
The lusty Samon to, I oft with Angling take,
Which me above the rest most Lordly sport doth make,
Who feeling he is caught, such Frisks and bounds doth fetch,
And by his very strength my Line soe farre doth stretch,
As drawes my floating Corcke downe to the very ground,
And wresting of my Rod, doth make my Boat turne round.
I never idle am, some tyme I bayt my Weeles,
With which by night I take the dainty silver Eeles,
And with my Draughtnet then, I sweepe the streaming Flood,
And to my Tramell next, and Cast-net from the Mud,
I beate the Scaly brood, noe hower I idely spend,
But wearied with my worke I bring the day to end:
The Naiides and Nymphes that in the Rivers keepe,
Which take into their care, the store of every deepe,
Amongst the Flowery flags, the Bullrushes and Reed,
That of the Spawne have charge (abundantly to breed)
Well mounted upon Swans, their naked bodys lend
To my discerning eye, and on my Boate attend,
And dance upon the Waves, before me (for my sake)
To th' Musick the soft wynd upon the Reeds doth make.
And for my pleasure more, the rougher Gods of Seas
From Neptunes Court send in the blew Neriades,
Which from his bracky Realme upon the Billowes ride
And beare the Rivers backe with every streaming Tyde,
Those Billowes gainst my Boate, borne with delightfull Gales
Oft seeming as I rowe to tell me pretty tales,
Whilst Ropes of liquid Pearle still load my laboring Oares,
As streacht upon the Streame they stryke me to the Shores:
The silent medowes seeme delighted with my Layes,
As sitting in my Boate I sing my Lasses praise,
Then let them that like, the Forrester up cry,
Your noble Fisher is your only man say I.

This Speech of Halcius turn'd the Tyde,
And brought it so about,
That all upon the Fisher cryde,
That he would beare it out;
Him for the speech he made, to clap
Who lent him not a hand,
And said t'would be the Waters hap,
Quite to put downe the Land.
This while Melanthus silent sits,
(For so the Shepheard hight)
And having heard these dainty wits,
Each pleading for his right;
To heare them honor'd in this wise,
His patience doth provoke,
When for a Shepheard roome he cryes,
And for himselfe thus spoke.

MELANTHUS.
Well Fisher you have done, and Forrester for you
Your Tale is neatly tould, s'are both, to give you due,
And now my turne comes next, then heare a Shepherd speak:
My watchfulnesse and care gives day scarce leave to break,
But to the Fields I haste, my folded flock to see,
Where when I finde, nor Woolfe, nor Fox, hath injur'd me,
I to my Bottle straight, and soundly baste my Throat,
Which done, some Country Song or Roundelay I roate
So merrily; that to the musick that I make,
I Force the Larke to sing ere she be well awake;
Then Baull my cut-tayld Curre and I begin to play,
He o'r my Shephooke leapes, now th' one, now th' other way,
Then on his hinder feet he doth himselfe advance,
I tune, and to my note, my lively Dog doth dance,
Then whistle in my Fist, my fellow Swaynes to call,
Downe goe our Hooks and Scrips, and we to Nine-holes fall,
At Dust-point, or at Quoyts, else are we at it hard,
All false and cheating Games, we Shepheards are debard;
Survaying of my sheepe if Ewe or Wether looke
As though it were amisse, or with my Curre, or Crooke
I take it, and when once I finde what it doth ayle,
It hardly hath that hurt, but that my skill can heale;
And when my carefull eye, I cast upon my sheepe
I sort them in my Pens, and sorted soe I keepe:
Those that are bigst of Boane, I still reserve for breed,
My Cullings I put off, or for the Chapman feed.
When the Evening doth approach I to my Bagpipe take,
And to my Grazing flocks such Musick then I make,
That they forbeare to feed; then me a King you see,
I playing goe before, my Subjects followe me,
My Bell-weather most brave, before the rest doth stalke,
The Father of the flocke, and after him doth walke
My writhen-headed Ram, with Posyes crownd in pride
Fast to his crooked hornes with Rybands neatly ty'd.
And at our Shepheards Board that's cut out of the ground,
My fellow Swaynes and I together at it round,
With Greencheese, clouted Cream, with Flawns, and Custards, stord,
Whig, Sider, and with Whey, I domineer a Lord,
When shering time is come I to the River drive,
My goodly well-fleec'd Flocks: (by pleasure thus I thrive)
Which being washt at will; upon the shering day,
My wooll I foorth in Loaks, fit for the wynder lay,
Which upon lusty heapes into my Coate I heave,
That in the Handling feeles as soft as any Sleave,
When every Ewe two Lambes, that yeaned hath that yeare,
About her new shorne neck a Chaplet then doth weare;
My Tarboxe, and my Scrip, my Bagpipe, at my back,
My sheephooke in my hand, what can I say I lacke;
He that a Scepter swayd, a sheephooke in his hand,
Hath not disdaind to have; for Shepheards then I stand;
Then Forester and you my Fisher cease your strife;
I say your Shepheard leads your onely merry life.

They had not cryd the Forester,
And Fisher up before,
So much: but now the Nimphes preferre,
The Shephard ten tymes more,
And all the Ging goes on his side,
Their Minion him they make,
To him themselves they all apply,
And all his partie take;
Till some in their discretion cast,
Since first the strife begunne
In all that from them there had past
None absolutly wonne;
That equall honour they should share;
And their deserts to showe,
For each a Garland they prepare,
Which they on them bestowe,
Of all the choisest flowers that weare,
Which purposly they gather,
With which they Crowne them, parting there,
As they came first together.

[pp. 50-57]