1633 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Shepheards Oracles: Eglogue I. Gallio. Britannus.

The Shepheards Oracles: Delivered in Certain Eglogues. By Fra: Quarles.

Francis Quarles


The Shepheards Oracles consist of ten (sometimes 11) posthumously published theological eclogues, with a preface by "Jo. Marriot." Francis Quarles takes Spenser and Phineas Fletcher as his English exemplars, though the down to earth realism uses to record the manners and speech of his factionaries is quite beyond that of his models and anticipates the pastoral realism of the next century.

The "eleventh" eclogue is Quarles's Shepheards Oracle (1644), apparently written some time after the original set of ten.

In the first eclogue Gallius, a Hugenot clergyman complains about the French clergy, sexual licence, and the massacre of Protestants. Britannus advises him to travel to Troynovant (London) to look for the remnants of his flock and seek for assistance from King Charles.

Herbert E. Cory: "It is a versified religious pamphlet in which outlandish shepherds, allegorical figures for various sects, abuse each other roundly. Catholicism, of course, is very roughly handled. The influence of Spenser is remote but perceptible" "Spenserian Pastoral" (1910) 262.

W. W. Greg: "The interest of the volume lies not so much in its poetic merit, which is considerable, as in the fact that it deals with almost every form of religious controversy at a critical point in English history" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 118.

The publisher, John Marriot, added a preface when the poems were published in 1645:

Reader,

Though the Authour had some years before his lamented death, composed, review'd, and corrected these Eglogues; yet, he left no Epistle to the Reader, but onely a Title, and a blanke leafe for that purpose.

Whether he meant some Allegoricall exposition of the Shepheard's names, or their Eglogues, is doubtfull: but tis certain, that as they are, they appear a perfect pattern of the Author; whose person, and minde, were both lovely, and his conversation such as distill'd pleasure, knowledge, and vertue, into his friends and acquaintance

'Tis confest, these Eglogues are not so wholly divine as many of his publisht Meditations, which speak his affections to be set upon things that are above; and yet even such men have their intermitted howres, and (as their company gives occasion) commixtures of heavenly and earthly thoughts.

You are therefore requested to fancy him cast by fortune into the company of some yet unknown Shepheards: and you have a liberty to believe 'twas by this following accident.

He in a Summer's morning (about that howre when the great eye of Heaven first opens it selfe to give light to us mortals) walking a gentle pace towards a brook (whose Spring-head was not far distant from his peacefull habitation) fitted with Angle, Lines, and Flyes: Flyes proper for that season (being the fruitfull Month of May;) intending all diligence to beguile the timerous Trout, (with which that watry element abounded) observ'd a more then common concourse of Shepheards, all bending their unwearied steps towards a pleasant Meadow within his present prospect, and had his eyes made more happy to behold the two fair Shepheardesses Amaryllis and Aminta strewing the foot-paths with Lillies and Ladysmocks, so newly gathered by their fair hands, that they yet smelled more sweet then the morning, and immediately met (attended with Clora, Clorinda, and many other Wood-nymphs) the fair and vertuous Parthenia: who after a courteous salutation and inquiry of his intended Journey, told him the neighbour Shepheards of that part of Arcadia had dedicated that day to be kept holy to the honour of their great God Pan; and, that they had designed her Mistress of a love-feast, which was to be kept that present day, in an Arbour built that morning, for that purpose; she told him also, that Orpheus would bee there, and bring his Harp, Pan his Pipe, and Titerus his Oaten-reed, to make musick at this feast; shee therefore perswaded him, not to lose, but change that daye's pleasure: before he could return an answer they were unawares entred into a living moving Lane, made of Shepheards and Pilgrimes; who had that morning measur'd many miles to be eye-witnesses of that day's pleasure; this Lane led them into a large Arbour, whose wals were made of the yeelding Willow, and smooth Beech boughs: and covered over with Sycamore leaves, and Honysuccles. I might now tell in what manner (after her first entrance into this Arbour) Philoclea (Philoclea the fair Arcadian Shepheardesse) crown'd her Temples with a Garland, with what flowers, and by whom 'twas made; I might tell what guests (besides Astrea and Adonis) were at this feast; and who (beside Mercury) waited at the Table, this I might tell: but may not, cannot expresse what musick the Gods and Wood-nymphs made within; and the Linits, Larks, and Nightingales about this Arbour, during this holy day: which began in harmlesse mirth, and (for Bacchus and his gang were absent) ended in Love and place, which Pan (for he onely can doe it) continue in Arcadia, and restore to the disturbed Island of Britannia, and grant that each honest Shepheard may again sit under his own Vine and Fig-tree, and feed his own flock, and with love enjoy the fruits of peace, and be more thankfull.

Reader, at this time and place, the Authour contracted a friendship with certain single-hearted Shepheards; with whom (as he return'd from his River-recreations) he often rested himselfe, and whilest in the calm evening their flocks fed about them, heard that discourse, which (with the Shepheards' names) is presented in these Eglogues.

A friend of the Authour's wisht me to tell thee so, this 23. of Novem. 1645.

JO: MARRIOT.

(Sigs A3-A4v)



GALLIO.
Heaven-blest Britannus; thou, whose Oaten Reed
Sings thy True-Love, whilst thy proud flocks do feed
Secure about thee, on this fruitfull Brow:
Above all Shepheards, O how blest art Thou!
Your fruitfull Pastures flourish, and appeare
Fresh, and in perfect verdure all the yeare:
No Summers fire, nor Winters frost impaire
Your thriving Plains, continuing fresh and faire,
And full of vigor, like th' Elysian Lay,
Where every season's like the month of May:
Your milkwhite Ewes inrich your peacefull grounds,
No snarles of Foxes, nor the yelps of Hounds
Disturbe their quiet; whilst your sporting Lambs,
With bended knees, draw blessings from their dams.
How happy! O how more then all the rest,
In the wide world, are Britaine Shepheards blest.

BRITANNUS.
True, Gallio, we poore Shepheards doe inherit
A happinesse transcending farre our merit;
We have no griefe, no misery but this;
Senselesse we are, and blind to our owne Blisse:
Goods without evills are oftentimes despis'd,
And common happinesse is lowly priz'd:
But tel me Gallio, make relation how
Your pastures flourish, and what flocks have you:
What kind of government doe you live under,
That mak'st our State the object of your wonder.

GALLIO.
Ah, gentle Shepheard, there, there lyes the Corne
That wrings poore Gallios toe: O! there's the thorne
That stings my bleeding heart. The sad relation
Of our dysasters, will revive such passion
In my spent bosome, that each wounding word
Will prove a dagger, and each line a sword:
Come, sit thee downe beneath this shady Beech,
And lend thine eare: Full hearts are eas'd by speech,
I'le tell thee, whilst thy busie flocks doe feed.

BRITANNUS.
Wounds fester, Swaine, the lesse, the more they bleed:
Speake freely then, and this sad heart of mine
Shall comfort thee, or else shall bleed with thine.

GALLIO.
Then, Shepheard, know: There was a time (alas!
My heart even faints to think that word, There was)
Wherein our fruitfull Pastures were as fair
As faithfull Shepheards, by their fervent prayer,
Could make them, trench'd, and quickset round about,
Could neither Fox get in, nor Flocks get out:
Deep were the Trenches, and divinely fill'd
With living waters, waters that were still'd
In heavens great Limbeck, whose celestiall power
Exceeds a strong beliefe; but this short hower
We have to spend, can onely give a touch
In things of large discourse; Onely thus much,
The German Spaw (nor yet your Britain Bath)
Hath not such vertue, as this water hath:
Now my Britannus, needs me not to tell
How rare's the kernell, when so sweet's the shell;
Amongst wise Shepheards is not often found
Costly inclosures, and a barren ground;
No, no, Britannus; the bright eye of day,
That in twelve measur'd howers, does survay
The moity of this earth, did ne'er behold
More glorious Pastures: Nay, I dare be bold
(With awefull reverence to our great God Pan)
To say, that heaven could not devise on man
A Good we had not, nor augment our store
(If earth makes happy) with one blessing more:
Our flocks were faire, and fruitfull, and stood sound;
Our grounds enricht them; they enricht the ground:
The Alpine mountaines could not boast nor show
So pure a whitenesse, white surpassing snow:
Our ub'rous Ewes were evermore supply'd
With twins, attending upon either side,
Whose milk-abounding bags did overflow:
They fed our Lambs, and fill'd our dayry too:
In those past daies our Shepheards knew not what
Red-water meant; that common language, Rott,
Was neither fear'd, nor knowne; nor did they feare
That heart-confounding name of Massacre:
There was no putrid Scabbe to exercise
The malice of the maggot-blowing flies,
Whose Prince, Belzebub, (if report be true)
Breath'd forth his loud Retreat, and raging drew
His buzzing Army thence; and, for a time,
Led them to forage in another Clime;
And, to conclude, no Shepheard ere did keep
More thriving grounds; nor grounds, more dainty sheep:
O my Britannus, in those halcyon daies,
Our jolly Shepheards thirsted after praise,
Not servil wages; They were, then, ambitious
Of Fame; whose flocks should be the most auspicious;
Who, by most care, should most encrease their fold;
They hunted after faire report, not Gold:
They were good Shepheards, and they lov'd their sheep,
Watch'd day and night: One eye would never sleep:
Small Cottages would serve their turnes; That day
Knew no such things as Robes: A Shepheards gray
Would cloath their backs: for, being homly drest,
Their sheep, whose fleece they wore, would know them best:
They were good Shepheards; seldome durst they feed
On Cates, or drink the Juice that does proceed
From dangerous vines, for feare the fumes should steep
Their braines too much, and they neglect their sheep:
They were good Shepheards; these would every day
Twise tell their flocks, and, then, at night, convay
A secret blessing, got by fervent prayer,
Into their peacefull bosomes unaware;
They were good Shepheards; They would even lay downe
Their dearest lives, nay more, the eternall Crowne
Of promis'd Immortality, to keep
Their lambs from danger, and preserve their sheep:
But now, ah! now, those precious daies are done
With us poore Shepheards: ah! those times are gone,
Gone like our joyes, and never to returne:
Our joyes are gone, and we left here, to mourne:
Let this relation of those times of old,
Suffice; the rest were better be untold.

BRITANNUS.
My dearest Gallio, had it pleased heaven,
I wish no further matter had been given
To thy discourse: it would have pleas'd mine eare,
And eas'd thy tongue t' have pitch'd thy period here;
But since our God, that can doe nothing ill,
Hath sent a Change, we must submit our will;
What he hath made the subject of thy story,
Feare not to tell; his ends are his own glory:
There's nothing constant here; the States of Kings,
As well as Shepheards, are but tickle things:
Good daies, on earth, continue but a while;
We must have vinegar as well as oyle:
There must be rubs; can earth admit all levell?
The hist'ry of a State is good and evill.
Speake then my Gallio, this attentive eare
Can not heare worse then 'tis prepar'd to heare.

GALLIO.
Know'st thou Britannus, what, in daies of old,
Our great God Pan, by Oracle foretold
Of that brave City (whose proud buildings stood
As firme as earth, till stain'd with Shepheards blood)
That there's a time should come, wherein not one
Should live to see a stone upon a stone?
And is not, now, that prophecy made good?
Growes not grasse there, where these proud buildings stood?
Nay, my Britannus, what concernes us more,
Did not that Oracle, in times of yore,
Threaten to send his Foxes from their Holds,
Into our Vines? and Wolves into our Folds?
To breake our Fences, and to make a way
For the wilde Boare to ramble, and to prey
Where ere he pleas'd? O gentle Shepheard, thus,
Thus that prophetick evill's made good in us:
Our Hedge is broken, and our Pastures yeeld
But slender profit: All's turn'd Common-field:
Our Trenches are fill'd up: our crystall Springs
Are choak'd with Earth, and Trash, and baser things:
Our Shepheards are growne Plough-men all, and now
Our generous Crooke is turn'd a crooked Plough:
Shepheards build Halls, and carry Princely ports,
Their woolls are chang'd to silks; their Cotts to Courts:
They must have hospitable Barnes to keep
Riot on foot: no matter now for Sheep;
Turne them to graze upon the common Fallowes,
Whilst the luxurious Shepheard swills, and wallowes
In his own vomit: Having swallowed downe
Goblets of wine, he snorts in beds of Doun,
Whilst his poore Lambs, his poore neglected Lambs
Bend fruitless knees before their milkless Dams:
Nay, my Britannus, now these pamper'd Swaines
Are grown so idle, that they think it paines
To sheare their fleeces: No, they must be pickt
And rins'd in holy-water (they are strict
To touch defiled things) must be presented
Upon the knee, as if they had repented
Their service, and for which they must deserve
But what? A Dispensation now to sterve.

BRITANNUS.
But stay, my Gallio, let not my attention
Too farre exceed my slower apprehension;
'Tis better manners t' interrupt, then heare
Things serious with an ill-instructed eare:
Make me conceive your forain acceptation
Of that ambiguous word of Dispensation.

GALLIO.
It is a tearm that forain Shepheards use
Too much, (I was about to say, abuse.)
In elder times, when Pastors tooke delight
To feed their flocks, and not their appetite,
It was a word exprest (now faln asleep
To that true sense) A feeding of the sheep:
But now 'tis alter'd, and it does appeare
Diffring as much, as they from what they were:
And if your gentle patience will excuse it,
A word too much shall tell you how they use it:
In times of yore the pious minded Swaine
Finding base Sodomy, and Incest raigne
In looser brests, taught their obedient Sheep
T' observe those laws that Goats refus'd to keep,
Forbidding Twins to couple, and the Rams
To take a carnall knowledge of their Dams:
To which intent it was their studious care
To sever all such flocks as might not paire:
So much those holy Swaines abominated
Unnaturall Incest (as we finde related)
That even among their sheep they thought it good
To punish such enormous crimes with bloud,
Not to be us'd for sacrifice, nor food:
But now Britannus, times are growne more course,
Declin'd from good to bad; from bad to worse:
Those rules are broke by these licentious times,
Lawes are esteem'd no lawes; and crimes no crimes.
'Tis true, our Rascall-sheep, whose fly-blown skin
Hath lost her fleece, and brings no profit in,
To such, the law continues firm and strict,
On such the hand of justice does inflict
The height of law; But those, whose fleecy loines
Beare thriving burdens, there th' Edict injoines
An easie penance: sisters with their brothers,
And budding Rams may tup with their own mothers:
(O! where the sacred bell of profit rings,
Murthers are merits, Rapes are veniall things)
Such may transgresse their pleasures, such may doe
Their lists, be'incestuous with their Shepheard too.
Such may have Pardons for elapsed crimes,
And cheape Indulgences for present times:
Nay, more then that, a Twin-producing suitor
Shall finde a Dispensation for the future:
A liberty to sinne for yeares, or life, our Nation
(In a more shadow'd tearm) tearms Dispensation.

BRITANNUS.
Monsters of monsters! O prodigious shame
To all mankind, and staine to Shepheards name!
I thought, our Shepheards had deserv'd the stile
Of bad, till now; and (to speake truth) a while,
Upon the entrance of thy sad complaint,
I fear'd thy gamesome wit began to paint,
In shadow'd Scopticks, some that beare the Crook
In our blest Island; to which end, I took
Ungranted leave to hinder your relation,
With a forc'd ignorance of Dispensation,
To feele thy bent; But now my jealous eares
Are made unhappy losers by their feares:
But tell me Gallio, (for the eye of heaven
Is yet unclos'd, and hath not quite made even
With earth) where graze thy flocks, and to whose keep
Hast thou committed thy absented sheep.

GALLIO.
Nor dare, nor can I tell, unlesse thine eares
Will give me leave to mingle words with teares,
And teares with blood, and blood with saddest moanes,
And moanes with sobs, and sobs with deepest groanes:
O my Britannus, 'tis not yet two yeares
Twise fully told, since my abundant teares
Began to flow: I had, I had, till than,
The fairest flock that ever eye of man
Beheld, with envy; (ah! I had but few,
My deare Britannus, if compar'd with you:)
But 'twas a thriving flock: for bone and fleece,
Arcadia, no nor all the plaines in Greece
Could show the like: it was my onely griefe,
That my report (exceeding all beliefe)
Was counted fictious: when I made my boast,
'Twas thought but my affections voice, at most:
Ah gentle Swaine, the poorest Lamb I had
Did beare a fleece, nay such a fleece, as clad
A naked brother, and the meanest Ewe
In all my flock did suckle ne'er so few
As Twins, besides the surplusage, that fed
A leash of Orphans, in their mothers stead:
Nay, (as these eyes can witnesse) on a day,
One of my weaker yeanlings hapt to stray,
Where, being fast upon a crooked Bryer,
The rest came in, and gently did supply her
With all the strength they could; I could not choose
But smile, to see while some assaid to loose
The prisoners bands, they hung as fast as shee,
But in the end they set my yeanling free:
O my Britannus, when they heard my voyce,
How my poore Lambs would frisk, and even rejoyce
To see their Shepheard! They would come and stand
About me, and take Ivy from my hand;
But O my God, what patience shall I crave,
To tell the rest! what patience shall I have!

Upon a night (It was a night as dark
As was the deed; there was no glimm'ring spark
That would vouchsafe to shoot his feeble rayes
From heaven, (alas! why did no Comet blaze
Against such hideous things?) upon that night
Rusht in a rout of Wolves (no Jesuite
Was sharper bent to kill:) Into my Fold
They rusht, they slue, they spar'd nor young nor old.
O! the next morning all my flock lay dead,
All but some few, that being wounded fled:
My self, that held ten thousand lifes not deare
To save my dearer flock, they wounded there,
Upon the rescue: Ah! they grip'd me sore,
Yet let me live, to wound my soule the more.
But gentle Shepheard, I am lately told,
Some of my scatter'd sheep have been so bold
To seek for refuge in the British Fold:
Long have I sought, like one that knowes not whither
To guide his wandring steps, I hapned hither:
O, canst thou tell me tidings? Canst thou give me
At least some hopes of comfort to relieve me?

BRITANNUS.
Towards bright Titans evening Court there lyes
From hence ten miles not fully measur'd thrice,
A glorious Citie, called by the name
Of Troynovant, a place of noted fame
Throughout the Christian world, of great renowne
For charitable deeds, a place well knowne
For good and gratious Government; in briefe,
A place for common Refuge, and reliefe
To banisht Shepheards, and their scatter'd Sheep;
There our great Pans Vice-gerent now does keep
His royall Court, whose gracious hand hath store
Of soverain Balsames apt for every sore:
In that brave City, there be folds provided
For Sheep of diverse Quarters, all divided
One from the other, ready to receive
Affrighed flocks, and bounteous to releive
Their severall wants: Hast Gallio, hast thee thither,
And if thou misse thy ends, returne thee hither,
And make Britannus happy to enjoy thee,
Untill thy pleased God shall re-imploy thee.

GALLIO.
Thankes gentle Shepheard; let that God encrease
Thy flocks: and give thy soule eternall peace.

[pp. 1-12]