1635
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thyrsis. A Pastorall Elegie in the person of Sir Kenelme Digby, on the Death of his Noble Lady, the Lady Venetia Digby.

The Shepheards Holy-Day. A Pastorall Tragi-Comaedie. Acted before both their Majesties at White-Hall, by the Queenes Servants. With an Elegie on the Death of the most Noble Lady, the Lady Venetia Digby. Written by J. R.

Joseph Rutter


A pastoral elegy in mixed measures in the manner of Spenser, addressed by "J. R." to his patron Sir Kenelm Digby. Rutter's preface informs readers that the elegy was composed while the poet was resident with Digby; the elegy is more personal than pastoral elegies tend to be. The speaker is Sir Kenelm himself, and since Digby was a great admirer of Spenser, the manner of the poem is doubtless intended as a compliment to the patron's taste.

The stanzas, which vary slightly between the frame and the complaint, are all in the rhyme pattern of Spenser's Astrophel, with a variable refrain added to close the verse paragraphs in the complaint proper. Rutter makes some sparing use of archaisms, playing with pastoral simplicity as he introduces his character: "You Nymphs (if any doe inhabite here) | (And I have heard that Nymphs in waters dwell,) | Lend to my carefull Verse a gentle eare, | Whilst I, the saddest wight that ere did tell | His owne mishaps, unfold to you my case | In this your balefull place" sig. Hv. "Water" becomes a running topic, both to recall Digby's status as a naval commander and as a metaphor for worldly mutability.

As appears from his Observations on Spenser, Digby was a Platonist; Rutter's elegy uses neoplatonic conceits to depict Venetia Digby's relation to nature and Kenelm Digby's relation to his wife, whose translation to heaven he intends to emulate by following her example in avoiding Nature's snares: "Your painted glories are of baser stuffe, | Made to delude those that with halfe eyes see: | He that's abstracted from you, stands much higher, | And greater things admire" sig. H3. The conclusion describes a monument Digby erected to his wife. In his notes to Spenser's November Henry John Todd compares Venetia's translation to the equivalent passage in Spenser.

Of Venetia Digby, John Aubrey reports: "Anno ... (quaere the countesse of Thanet) much against his mother's, etc., consent, he maried that celebrated beautie and courtezane, Mrs. Venetia Stanley, whom Richard earle of Dorset kept as his concubine, had children by her, and setled on her an annuity of £500 per annum; which after Sir K. D. maried was unpayd by the earle; and for which annuity Sir Kenelme sued the earle, after mariage, and recovered it. He would say that a handsome lusty man that was discreet might make a vertuose wife out of a brothell-house. This lady carried herselfe blamelessly, yet (they say) he was jealous of her. She dyed suddenly, and hard-hearted woemen would censure him severely" Brief Lives (1898) 1:226.



The gentlest Swaine that Arcady ere bred,
Who Thyrsis hight, the saddest of that name,
Close by a Rivers side his heavy head
Laid downe, as he with teares would fill the same,
Regarding nought that might him pleasance give,
Since what was his delight, had left to live.

And whilst that other Shepheards of his ranke,
(If any Shepheard of his ranke might be)
Plaid on their merry Pipes upon some banke,
Making the hills resound their jollity,
Hee in sad plight his woefull daies did spend,
Their joyous sports caring not to attend.

There as hee by that silent water lay,
Regardlesse of his youth, and lusty head,
His swelling grief in vaine he did assay
To vent in grievous plaints, which more it fed,
Whilst to the ruthlesse waves he did relate
The story of his losse, and heavy Fate.

You Nymphs (if any doe inhabite here)
(And I have heard that Nymphs in waters dwell,)
Lend to my carefull Verse a gentle eare,
Whilst I, the saddest wight that ere did tell
His owne mishaps, unfold to you my case
In this your balefull place.
If to the Sea, of which you branches are,
I ever honour did, when list me change
My Shepheards staffe, to seeke adventures farre
In the wide Ocean, where I long did range,
And brought renowne home to my native soyle,
The glory of my toyle,
Doe not mistake, nor offer to compare
Those dayes with these, wherein my griefe exceeds
The joy, which once I had, to see my faire
Welcome me home, and gratulate my deeds,
Which to atchieve, her grace as well did move,
As did my countries love.
But now with her those graces all are gone,
Weepe with me waters to make up my moane.

Gone is my Love: and why then doe I see
Nature the same, as ere shee was before,
Since to her making all her fancies shee
Wisely imploy'd, and she could give no more?
Though shee should frame the most caelestiall mould
That ere the Earth did hold,
To draw from all the heads of noble blood
The best, and to infuse it into one,
To make a mixture of all faire and good.
Rare Symmetry, and sweete proportion,
Was it to shew that such a thing might be
Without eternitie?
It was, and wee are taught how fraile the trust
Is that wee give unto mortality,
How soone shee is resolved into dust,
Whom erst the world so beautifull did see.
But you were just that tooke her, though unkinde
In leaving me behinde:
Alas! why was I left thus all alone?
Weepe with mee waters to make up my moane.

Shee's gone, and I am here; yet doe I finde
With some small joy the languishing decay
Of th' other halfe, which she has left behind:
For halfe of me with her shee bore away
Unto those fields, where shee immortall is,
Heaped with heavenly blisse.
I see her faire soule in that blessed place,
Where joy for ever dwells: and now I know,
How in a dreame she saw an Angells face,
And it admiring, wisht she might be so:
Which the celestiall powers would not deny,
So did shee sleeping dye.
So did shee breake the bonds of heavy night,
And when shee wak't, wak't to eternall day
Where shee in formes Angelicke now is dight,
And sees her maker, and shall see for aye.
O happy soule, I will not thee envy,
O let me rather flye
Unto that blessed place, where thou art gone,
Then waters, weepe no more, but end your moane.

I come; yet something does retard me here,
The pledges of our love thou left'st with me:
Those whom thou living didst account so deare,
Who still with mee preserve thy memory;
For their lov'd sakes yet must I longer stay,
Then will I post away.
Then to thy lasting name I have uprear'd
A Monument, which time shall ne're deface,
And made the world which as yet have not heard
Of thy rare vertues, and thy honour'd race,
Know who thou wert, and that thou wentst from hence
At Natures great expence.
Then world farewell, you I have seene enough,
And know how to despise your vanity:
Your painted glories are of baser stuffe,
Made to delude those that with halfe eyes see:
He that's abstracted from you, stands much higher,
And greater things admire.
'Tis you I leave, to goe where shee is gone,
Then waters weepe no more, here end your moane.

This to the empty winds and waters, hee
Alas, in vaine, (they car'd not for his teares)
Did thus unfold to ease his misery:
When too, that Messenger of night appears;
For the falne Sun (which warn'd him to be gone)
Chang'd to the light uncertaine of the Moone.

[sigs H-H3]