1621
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Shepherdesse.

Bosworth-field: with a Taste of the Variety of other Poems, left by Sir John Beaumont, Baronet, deceased: set forth by his Sonne, Sir John Beaumont, Baronet; and dedicated to the Kings most excellent Majestie.

Sir John Beaumont


A pastoral compliment addressed to the Duke of Rutland and his son-in-law George Villiers on the occasion of their visit to Garendon, near Sir John Beaumont's seat at Grace Dieu. The topical references in the poem are explained at length by Roger D. Sell in his edition of The Shorter Poems of Sir John Beaumont (1974). A country maiden (the poet's wife Elizabeth) pays a visit to the Rutland family at Garendon, where she meets a warm reception: "There that sweet Nymph had seene this Countrey Dame | For singing crown'd, whence grew a world of fame | Among the Sheepcotes, which in her rejoyce, | And know no better pleasure then her voyce. | The glitt'ring Ladies gather'd in a ring, | Intreate the silly Shepherdesse to sing" p. 102. Returning, she begs her love (Beaumont himself), "a simple Shepherd Swaine" to tell of those she had seen, and he replies by singing the praises of the family. The rustic manner of the poem likely owes something to that of the poet's good friend, Michael Drayton.



A Shepherdesse, who long had kept her flocks
On stony Charnwoods dry and barren rocks,
In heate of Summer to the vales declin'd,
To seek fresh pasture for her Lambes halfe pin'd.
She (while her charge was feeding) spent the houres
To gaze on sliding Brookes, and smiling flowres.
This having largely stray'd, she lifts her sight,
And viewes a Palace full of glorious light.
She finds the entrance open, and as bold
As Countrey Maids, that would the Court behold,
She makes an offer, yet againe she strayes,
And dares not dally with those Sunny rayes.
Here lay a Nymph, of beauty most divine,
Whose happy presence caus'd the house to shine;
Who much converst with mortals, and could know
No honour truly high, that scornes the low:
For she had oft been present, though unseene,
Among the Shepherds daughters on the Greene,
Where ev'ry homebred Swaine desires to prove
His Oaten Pipe, and Feet before his Love,
And crownes the ev'ning, when the daies are long,
With some plaine Dance, or with a Rurall song.
Nor were the women nice to hold this sport,
And please their Lovers in a modest sort.
There that sweet Nymph had seene this Countrey Dame
For singing crown'd, whence grew a world of fame
Among the Sheepcotes, which in her rejoyce,
And know no better pleasure then her voyce.
The glitt'ring Ladies gather'd in a ring,
Intreate the silly Shepherdesse to sing:
She blusht and sung, while they with words of praise,
Contend her songs above their worth to raise.
Thus being chear'd with many courteous signes,
She takes her leave, for now the Sunne declines,
And having driven home her flocks againe,
She meets her Love, a simple Shepherd Swaine;
Yet in the Plaines he had a Poets name:
For he could Roundelayes and Carols frame,
Which, when his Mistresse sung along the Downes,
Was thought celestiall Musick by the Clownes.
Of him she begs, that he would raise his mind
To paint this Lady, whom she found so kind:
You oft (said she) have in our homely Bow'rs
Discours'd of Demi-gods and greater pow'rs:
For you with Hesiode sleeping learnt to know
The race divine from heav'n to earth below.
My Deare (said he) the Nymph whom thou hast seene,
Most happy is of all that live betweene
This Globe and Cynthia, and in high estate,
Of wealth and beauty hath an equall mate,
Whose love hath drawne uncessant teares in floods,
From Nymphs, that haunt the waters and the woods.
Of Iris to the ground hath bent her bow
To steale a kisse, and then away to goe:
Yet all in vaine, he no affection knowes
But to this Goddesse, whom at first he chose:
Him she enjoyes in mutuall bonds of love:
Two hearts are taught in one small point to move.
Her Father high in honour and descent,
Commands the Sylvans on the Northside Trent.
He at this time for pleasure and retreate,
Comes downe from Belvoir his ascending seate,
To which great Pan had lately honour done:
For there he lay, so did his hopefull Sonne.
But when this Lord by his accesse desires
To grace our Dales, he to a house retires,
Whose walles are water'd with our silver Brookes,
And makes the Shepherds proud to view his lookes.
There in that blessed house you also saw
His Lady, whose admired vertues draw
All hearts to love her, and all tongues invite
To praise that ayre where she vouchsafes her light.
And for thy further joy thine eyes were blest,
To see another Lady, in whose brest
True Wisedome hath with Bounty equall place,
As Modesty with Beauty in her face.
She found me singing Floraes native dowres,
And made me sing before the heav'nly pow'rs:
For which great favour, till my voice be done,
I sing of her, and her thrice-noble sonne.

[pp. 101-104]