1712
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Nereides: Eclogue VI.

Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues.

Rev. William Diaper


The fourth eclogue offers piscatory reflections on mutability in nature and in love as Lycon relates the songs of Anthis and Cete. The refrain of the first describes a changeful world: "Since nothing here we fix'd or constant find, | Why should the Nereid boast a settled mind?" But Cete takes the opposite view: "Resistless charms are in a lovely face, | But spotless Virtue has a nobler grace."

George Atherton Aitken: "Swift took much interest in a small poet called Diaper, a young fellow who had written some Eclogues: 'I hate to have any new wits rise, but when they do rise I will encourage them: but they tread on our heels and thrust us off the stage'" Cambridge History of English Literature (1913) 9:140.



LYCON, ANTHIS, CETE.

LYCON.
Anthis and Cete comb'd their flowing hair,
And tun'd to pleasing sounds the trembling air,
While hoary Phorcys sat on floating weed,
And slowly drove th' unwilling herd to feed.
Attend, ye fish, and all around me throng,
While I repeat the Nymph's alternate song.

ANTHIS.
"Think, how to day a gentle western breeze
With pleasing gales danc'd on the circling seas,
It swept the calmer surface of the main,
And smooth'd the waters to a smiling plain;
But now diffusive sweets from spicy hills
Are born on Eastern winds, and waft their blended smells.
The Dolphins lash the waves with bending tails,
And ev'ry ship with speedy current sails.
Since nothing here we fix'd or constant find,
Why should the Nereid boast a settled mind?

"The restless Fish who left the open sea,
And swam to every creek, and winding bay,
To th' ocean now in shoals return again,
While empty nets deceive the fishing swain.
Now shortening days are griev'd by northern isles,
While from encreasing cold, and snowy wilds,
The starving birds in numerous flocks repair
To happier climates, and to warmer air.
Since nothing here we fix'd or constant find,
Why should the Nereid boast a settled Mind?

"Though late the tides have threaten'd all the coast,
Now, since the waning moon her strength has lost,
They own their weakness, and are heard no more,
But, creeping, hardly cover half the shore:
When she directs, the swelling floods increase,
And sounding waters raise the troubled seas;
But when she horned frowns, the tumults cease,
The waves are still, and hush'd in sullen peace.
Since nothing here we fix'd or constant find,
Why should the Nereid boast a settled mind?

"The conscious fish the heav'nly motions feel,
And thus confin'd within his native shell,
All dry and lean the mournful Oyster lies,
(And Fishers then the tastless prey despise);
But when the Moon looks down all over bright,
They juicy grow, nourish'd with heavenly light.
Since nothing here we fix'd or constant find,
Why should the Nereid boast a settled mind?

"Calthinoe lov'd a Triton-youth, and swore
Her heart (thus fix'd by him) should rove no more
But when repeated loves began to cloy,
The wiser Nymph embrac'd a kinder boy."

LYCON.
Thus Anthis sung, and Cete thus reply'd,
While angry winds oppos'd the rising tide:

CETE.
"Resistless charms are in a lovely face,
But spotless Virtue has a nobler grace.
Alcon did never yet inconstant rove,
Or break repeated vows, or change his love.
Careful he shuns the streights, and narrow seas,
Where altering scenes the fickle Mer-man please.
For all is restless, and unsettled there;
The waves, and winds alike inconstant are.
But the unfathom'd deep is still the same,
And alway smiling with an easy calm.
The waters here a constant peace maintain,
And in soft murmurs lovingly complain.
The winds themselves are not uncertain here,
But their fix'd seasons know, each circling year.
From th' East the Summer trade-winds never fail
To sweep the ocean with a fresher gale.
Such is his love; no change it undergoes,
By Reason fix'd, and no repentance knows."

LYCON.
Thus said the nymph; and now the day retires,
While sparkling waves appear like kindled fires.
The distant rocks shine with deceitful light,
And thus increase the terrors of the night.

[Nichols, Select Collection (1780-84) 5:230-32]