1712
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Nereides: Eclogue IV.

Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues.

Rev. William Diaper


Muraena comments on the miseries suffered by humankind, as opposed to the inhabitants of the maritime arcadia: "They are expos'd to cold, expos'd to heat, | In different seasons mourn a different fate; | Uneasy still the wretched caitiff moves | To breezy mountains, or to sheltering groves. | While we no cloathing need, no change of rules, | The sea in winter warms, in summer cools." Palaemon explains that humans are punished for despising their Maker. In reply to Muraena's question, Palaemon gives an explanation for the tides that betrays a woeful ignorance of Newton's discovery of gravity.

Henry Marion Hall: "The religious allegory of Spenser was not looked on with favor in Diaper's day, but one group of the Neriedes, related to the eclogues contrasting shepherd life with that at court, reminds us of the old motive in the complacent view which tritons take of their own state, with their scorn for the baser ways of men. In one poem Muraena from the summit of a rock views with contemptuous pity toiling shepherds with their bleating flocks, and tells how much happier than human beings live with merry mermen. Another presents two tritons moralizing on the false pride of mortals, and declaring the futility of searching to understand the mysteries which Heaven denies to our weaker sight before we become spirits. In tone this is the most serious of the set, but it imitates the amoeboean songs in Sannazaro's third poem, in which ridiculous lists of fish are substituted for the classic flower lists. Diaper utilizes these catalogues to illustrate the greatness of the Creator, as proved by the marvels of ocean" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 159.



MURAENA, PALAEMON.

MURAENA.
From this high cliff is an unusual view,
And here our eyes uncommon scenes pursue.
I see the verdure of yon distant plains,
Where bleating flocks are fed by tuneful swains.
But ah! how wretched are those earth-born slaves,
Compar'd with us, who cut through shining waves?
They are expos'd to cold, expos'd to heat,
In different seasons mourn a different fate;
Uneasy still the wretched caitiff moves
To breezy mountains, or to sheltering groves.
While we no cloathing need, no change of rules,
The sea in winter warms, in summer cools.
I've seen the labouring plowman's daily toil
For a new crop to fit the stubborn soil,
While Heaven supplies our wants without our sweat,
We ne'er are hungry, but we have to eat.
Why should we thus by partial Heaven be blest;
With neither grief, nor doubt, nor toil opprest;
While those on earth of happiness despair,
In pain, and anguish die, and live in care?

PALAEMON.
I've heard (for thus the wise Melampus said)
Two different kinds of men by Heaven were made,
The one to swim, and sport in briny seas,
Th' other to range on earth, or sit at ease,
Under the covert of the shadowing trees.
To each a guardian spirit was assign'd
To guide their passions, and inform their mind:
But he on earth, ingrate! would wildly rove,
Despis'd his Maker, and abus'd his love.
Enraged at this the guardian Daemon flew,
And bid him his own blinded will pursue;
Thus earthy men deserted by their guide
Can't rule their giddy thoughts, nor stem the coming tide;
But still are doom'd slaves to their darling lust,
Are all deceitful, cruel, and unjust;
Restless desires their wearied soul distract,
They know not what they are, nor, why they act.
While we content with what the Gods approve,
Do nought but ever sing, and ever love.

MURAENA.
But see—
The tide swells on the shore, and forward creeps,
And with new slime besmears the sandy heaps.
What makes this constant flux? I've often thought
The cause is wondrous, and in vain I sought.

PALAEMON.
The cause is wondrous plain; the wise will prove
The nature of a fluid is to move:
In every liquid there's a constant roll;
An eddy, tho' unseen, disturbs the whole.
The gliding parts with secret motion flow;
Were they at rest, they would to hardness grow.
As washings left in rocks, by Winters frost
Are fix'd to solid ice, and all the motion's lost.

MURAENA.
Happy are those who know the secret cause
Of strange effects, and Nature's hidden laws.
But leave the rocks; for rising fogs appear,
And cold land-breezes chill the troubled air.

[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:225-27]