1641
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Animadversions upon the Remonstrants Defence, against Smectymnuus.

Animadversions upon the Remonstrants Defence, against Smectymnuus.

John Milton


Commenting on church livings, John Milton turns to Spenser's "Maye" eclogue on corruption in the church; there is also an allusion to the Cave of Mammon: "Doe they thinke then that all these meaner and superfluous things come from God, & the divine gift of learning from the den of Plutus, or the cave of Mammon."

The Spenser passage drew a belated reply from Henry Stubbe in "A Light Shining out of Darknes" (1659): "But since whatever I say may possibly be looked upon as Time-serving, and not spoken out of a due inquiry into the posture of affaires, which would happen upon so great changes and alterations as to the Ministry, I shall recommend to the City of London some verses of their Poet Laureate, the famous Spencer, who dyed too many years ago that he should write out of favour to any in our times, and I think he was not deemed a Sectarian. In the Eclogue of May under the false Shepheard Palinode, he lively personates our Presbyteriall Ministers, whose whole life is a recantation of the pastorall vow, and whose profession to forsake the world, as they use the matter boggs them deeper into the world" p. 175.

Thomas Babington Macaulay: "It is to be regretted that the prose writings of Milton should, in our time, be so little read. As compositions, they deserve the attention of every man who wishes to become acquainted with the full power of the English language. They abound with passages, compared with which the finest declamations of Burke sink into insignificance. They are a perfect field of cloth of gold. The style is stiff, with gorgeous embroidery. Not even in the earlier books of the Paradise Lost has he ever risen higher than in those parts of his controversial works in which his feelings, excited by conflict, find a vent in bursts of devotional and lyric rapture. It is, to borrow his own majestic language, 'a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies'" "Milton" Edinburgh Review 42 (August 1825) 345.

David Norbrook: "In 1606 a group of presbyterians reissued 'The Plowman's Tale' and included marginal annotations which referred to 'The Shepheardes Calender.' In his anti-episcopal 'Animadversions' (1641) Milton quoted from Piers's prophecy in the 'May" eclogue of an eventual return of the church to primitive purity: 'The time was once, and may againe retorne ... | When shepheardes had none inheritaunce, | Ne of land, nor fee in sufferance . . .' In the last days of the Commonwealth Milton's friend Henry Stubbes likewise quoted this passage [in A Light Shining Out of Darknes] to show that Spenser had prophesied the Puritan revolution" Poetry and Politics (1984) 60-61.




Such a high calling therefore as this, sends not for those drossy spirits that need the lure, and whistle of earthly preferment, like those animals that fetch, and carry for a morsell, no. She can find such as therefore study her precepts, because she teaches to despise preferment. And let not those wretched Fathers thinke they shall impoverish the Church of willing, and able supply, though they keep back their sordid sperm begotten in the lustinesse of their avarice, and turne them to their malting-kils, rather let them take heed what lessons they instill into that lump of flesh which they are the cause of, lest, thinking to offer him as a present to God, they dish him out for the Devill. Let the novice learn first to renounce the world, and so give himselfe to God, and not therefore give himselfe to God, that hee may close the better with the World, like that false Shepheard Palinode in the Eclogue of May, under whom the Poet lively personates our Prelates, whose whole life is a recantation of their pastorall vow, and whose profession to forsake the World, as they use the matter, boggs them deeper into the world: Those our admired Spencer inveighs against, not without some presage of these reforming times.

The time was once, and may againe returne
(For oft may happen that hath been beforn)
When Shepheards had none inheritance
Ne of land, nor fee in sufferance,
But what might arise of the bare sheep,
(Were it more or lesse) which they did keep.
Well ywis was it with Shepheards tho,
Nought having, naught feared they to forgoe
For Pan himselfe was their inheritance
And little them served for their maintenance,
The Shepheards God so well them guided,
That of naught they were unprovided
Butter enough, honey, milk, and whay,
And their flock fleeces them to array.
But tract of Time, and long prosperity
(That nurse of vice, this of insolency)
Lulled the Shepheards in such security
That not content with loyall obeysance
Some gan to gape for greedy governance,
And match themselves with mighty potentates
Lovers of Lordships, and troublers of States.
Tho gan Shepheards Swaines to looke aloft
And leave to live hard, and learne to lig soft.
Tho under colour of Shepheards some while
There crept in wolves full of fraud and guile
That often devoured their owne Sheep,
And often the Shepheard that did them keepe,
This was the first source of shepheards sorrow
That now nill be quit with bale, nor borrow.

By all this wee may conjecture, how little wee neede feare that the unguilding of our Prelates will prove the woodening of our Priests. . . .


[pp. 57-59]