1610 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To my ever honoured Cousin W. R. Esquire.

The Purple Island, or the Isle of Man: together with Piscatorie Eclogs and other Poeticall Miscellanies. By P. F.

Rev. Phineas Fletcher


Seven irregular Spenserians (ababbcC) in which the doleful Phineas Fletcher wishes himself away from Cambridge and living retired at home: "There would I sit safe from the stormie showers, | And laugh the troublous windes, and angrie sky. | Piping (ah!) might I live, and piping might I die!" There he might hope to emulate Virgil, presumably by writing more of The Purple Island: "And teach my tender Muse to raise her quill; | And that high Mantuan shepherd self to dare; | If ought with that high Mantuan shepherd mought compare."

Herbert E. Cory: "We are left not quite certain whether we ought to regard Fletcher as a charlatan or as a true poet. It would be impossible to give space to a complete enumeration of Fletcher's echoes There are many formal tricks, too, which the zealous pupil is no lean assiduous in reproducing. We have seen that Fletcher is indefatigable in his experiments with variations of the Spenserian stanza. But he never tries the more difficult stanza itself. And a study of his use of the alexandrine, a dangerous line for English poets, does not add much to our faith in him. Various cheap and easy devices, violent antitheses, elaborate play on words, arc made use of to make the final lines prominent. For Fletcher had learned from his master that each alexandrine in a perfect stanza must be memorable to bring about the supreme close. But he did not, like Spenser, have an inexhaustible treasury of fancy and sensuous music to draw from. The School of the Fletchers indulged too often in alexandrines both rhetorical and halting. Almost invariably a very heavy caesura, in the middle of the line, divides it unpleasantly and destroys the rich flow. But Fletcher can, on occasion, display real imagination and write verses heavy with rich music" "Spenser, the Fletchers, and Milton" UCPMP 2 (1912) 324-25.



Strange power of home, with how-strong-twisted arms
And Gordian-twined knot dost thou enchain me?
Never might fair Calisto's doubled charms,
Nor powerfull Circe's whispering so detain me,
Though all her art she spent to entertain me;
Their presence could not force a weak desire:
But (oh!) thy powerfull absence breeds still-growing fire.

By night thou try'st with strong imagination
To force my sense 'gainst reason to belie it:
Me thinks I see the fast-imprinted fashion
Of every place, and now I fully eye it;
And though with fear, yet cannot well denie it,
Till the morn bell awakes me; then for spite
I shut mine eyes again, and wish back such a night.

But in the day, my never-slak't desire
Will cast to prove by welcome forgerie,
That for my absence I am much the nigher;
Seeking to please with soothing flatterie.
Love's wing is thought; and thought will soonest fly,
Where it findes want: then as our love is dearer,
Absence yeelds presence; distance makes us nearer.

Ah! might I in some humble Kentish dale
For ever eas'ly spend my slow-pac'd houres;
Much should I scorn fair Aeton's pleasant vale,
Or Windsor Tempe's self, and proudest towers:
There would I sit safe from the stormie showers,
And laugh the troublous windes, and angrie sky.
Piping (ah!) might I live, and piping might I die!

And would my luckie fortune so much grace me,
As in low Cranebrook, or high Brenchly's hill,
Or in some cabin neare thy dwelling place me,
There would I gladly sport, and sing my fill,
And teach my tender Muse to raise her quill;
And that high Mantuan shepherd self to dare;
If ought with that high Mantuan shepherd mought compare.

There would I chant either thy Gemma's praise,
Or els my Fusca; (fairest shepherdesse)
Or when me list my slender pipe to raise,
Sing of Eliza's fixed mournfulnesse,
And much bewail such wofull heavinesse;
Whil'st she a dear-lov'd Hart (ah lucklesse!) slew:
Whose fall she all too late, too soon, too much, did rue.

But seeing now I am not as I would,
But here among th' unhonour'd willows shade,
The muddy Chame doth me enforced hold;
Here I forsweare my merry piping trade:
My little pipe of seven reeds ymade
(Ah pleasing pipe!) I'le hang upon this bough.
Thou Chame, and Chamish Nymphs, bear witness of my vow.

[pp. 61-62]