Nereides: Eclogue I.

Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues.

Rev. William Diaper

William Diaper is less beholden to renaissance piscatory than one might expect. His eclogues, as the title proclaims, are not "piscatories" since the speakers are not fishermen but tritons and mermaids. This cycle of fourteen poems thus stands in relation to piscatory somewhat as does Michael Drayton's Muses Elizium to pastoral: a highly conventionalized literary form yields to a taste for romantic invention and strange variety. The imagined world in Nereides is characterized by restless, watery mutability, though not the corruption, which the nereides associate with life on land. In effect, the speakers are fairies whose character is neither good nor evil but merely natural. The number fourteen may be a temporal signifier like the twelve months of the Shepheardes Calender or the four seasons of Pope's Pastorals, indicating a double-week.

In the first eclogue, a dialogue between Cymothoe and Glaucus, William Diaper uses the story of the fisherman-turned-merman to transit from the familiar world of pastoral to the less familiar realm of piscatory. Cymothoe complains that she has been neglected by Glaucus after she had taken the trouble to teach him the ways of the sea: "I show'd you islands yet unknown to men, | Where wanton Nereids meet, and sport unseen. | Oft have I wound in plaits the yielding reed, | And plac'd the well-wrought garland on your head." Glaucus, who seems to represent William Diaper here, pledges his faith and the nymph proposes a tour of the watery deeps. The story of Glaucus, from Ovid, had been treated rather differently by Thomas Lodge in "The most pithie and pleasant Historie of Glaucus" (1589).

Henry Marion Hall: "'Nereides or Sea-Eclogues,' by ... Diaper are the first English poems, written after Drayton's nymphal, that employ Sannazarian imagery, though strictly speaking, only one of them is a fisher eclogue. In his Journal to Stella, Swift particularly mentions this as the earliest book of its kind in our literature, and says that Lord Bolinbroke sent the author the then important sum of twenty pounds. He might have said that it is the only book of its kind in any literature, without being guilty of a gross misstatement" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 155.

Dorothy Broughton: "The kinship between the works of Sannazaro and Diaper is more superficial than their respective claims suggest, the essential differences between piscatory and maritime 'pastoral' being pronounced enough to subdivide the sea-eclogue into two separate genres" Complete Works (1952) xxviii.

A copy of the Sea-Eclogues appears in the 1769 sale catalogue of the libraries of William Duncombe and Joseph Spence; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 2:225.


Think, Glaucus, you were once a fishing swain,
Till urg'd by potent herbs you left the plain;
That you were bred on earth, you fully prove,
And thence you know to feign deceitful love.
But think, ingrate, when first you hither came,
How strange you look'd, how awkwardly you swam.
When artless first you try'd the unknown sea,
I taught you how to plow the liquid way;
I show'd you all the secrets of the deep,
And vaulted rocks where weary Tritons sleep.
I show'd you islands yet unknown to men,
Where wanton Nereids meet, and sport unseen.
Oft have I wound in plaits the yielding reed,
And plac'd the well-wrought garland on your head.
Oft have I choicest fish with labour caught,
And the sweet prey to you a present brought.
To me in vain love-sick Palaemon cry'd,
While I regardless past with sullen pride;
Oft the kind youth would near Cymothoe swim,
And fondly ask, if I would bath with him.
Yet you, an earth-born wretch, ungrateful prove,
No more Cymothoe, but Cyano love;
Blue-ey'd Cyano love, that matchless fair,
Though flat her nose, and thin her falling hair;
The Nymph, whom most despise, and none admire,
Glaucus alone pursues with fond desire.
Since then I am (too credulous) betray'd,
I'll live no more a wretched worthless maid;
Since you are false, I'll leave the hated sea,
And yield my self to fishermen a prey.
I shall on shore be as a monster shown,
And trumpeted for pence through ev'ry Town,
While you well-pleas'd with lov'd Cyano toy,
And in some conscious cliff the beauteous Nymph enjoy.
Thus sadly plaining fond Cymothoe said,
And Glaucus thus appeas'd the angry maid.

Cymothoe wrongs her Glaucus, and her self,
To think I languish for that scaly elf.
The wanton Nymph indeed has often strove
To bribe my service, and engage my love,
With gifts of shining pearls, and thought to please
With coral twigs, and fragrant ambergris;
But still I sought the trifling maid to shun;
(Your love preserves what first your beauty won)
Nor shall I e'er that happy time forget,
When first I left my boat, and fishing-net;
And how you taught me artfully to swim,
To dive for pearls, and steepy rocks to climb;
You taught to hunt the shark, and boldly stride
The flouncing horse, and quell his foamy pride.
Believe not, Fair, that I can prove untrue,
Or any Water-beauty love, but you.
No, first the waves shall lose their biting salts,
The winds shall cease to sound in hollow vaults,
And wanton fish shall leave their native seas,
And bask on earth, or browze on leavy trees.

If Glaucus will be kind, and constant prove,
Let us review those scenes of former love,
And sink embracing to th' abyss below,
Where spiry herbs, and lovely coral grow;
The ocean has its groves, and gloomy shades,
And crystal springs below, and cooling glades.
Fond you once thought that nothing here cou'd please,
But we have fairer meads, and taller trees
Than you on sun-burnt, sapless earth cou'd boast,
Whose fading beauties are too quickly lost.
The glories of their spring are soon defac'd
By miry storms, and tost by ev'ry blast.

But see, the birds in noisy troops are join'd,
I hear the distant murmurs of the wind.
The vapours into dark confusion blend,
And will e'er long in sudden spouts descend.
The angry waves begin their uncouth noise,
And teeming clouds bring down the falling skies.
Hast then, my Glaucus, to those peaceful meads
And reedy plains, where hoary Phorcys feeds
His numerous herds; where neither storms nor rain
Molest the trees, nor incommode the swain;
Where unmixt waters are as crystal clear,
And warm as summer glooms, and fine as air.
A faintish light shines through the watry green,
And lets us see enough, but — not be seen;
The spangl'd glories of the plain reveals
With Pebbles checquer'd, and with azure shells.
Dive, Glaucus, swift, and let us sinking move
Down to the center of the world, and — Love.

[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:214-16]