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THE SHEPHERD'S WEEK.
In Six Pastorals,
Libeat mihi sordida rura,
Atque humiles habitare casas--
To the courteous Reader.
Gworthily) to diverse worthy wits, that in this
our island of Britain, in all rare sciences so greatly abounding, more especially in all kinds of poesy highly flourishing, no poet (though otherways of notable cunning in roundelays) hath hit on the right simple Eclogue, after the true ancient guise of Theocritus, before this mine attempt.
Other poet travailing in this plain highway of pastoral know I none. Yet, certes, such it behoveth a pastoral to be, as nature in the country affordeth; and the manners also meetly copied from the rustical folk therein. In this also my love to my native country Britain much pricketh me forward, to describe aright the manners of our own honest and laborious ploughmen, in no wise, sure, more unworthy a British poet's imitation, than those of Sicily or Arcady; albeit, not ignorant I am what a rout and rabblement of critical gallimawfry hath been made of late days by certain young men of insipid delicacy, concerning I wist not what Golden Age, and other outrageous conceits, to which they would confine pastoral; whereof, I avow, I account nought at all, knowing no age so justly to be instiled Golden, as this of our sovereign lady Queen Anne.
This idle trumpery (only fit for schools and school-boys) unto that ancient Doric shepherd Theocritus, or his mates, was never known; he rightly throughout his fifth Idyl, maketh his louts give foul language, and behold their goats at rut in all simplicity.
Ωίπολος οκκ' εσοχή τους μηκάδας για βαλουνε
Verily, as little pleasance receiveth a true homebred taste from all the fine finical newfangled.
fooleries of this gay Gothic garniture, wherewith they so nicely bedeck their court clowns, or clown courtiers, (for which to call them rightly, I wot not) as would a prudent citizen journeying to his country farms, should he find them occupied by people of this motley make, instead of plain, down-right, hearty, cleanly folk, such as be now tenants to the burgesses of this realm.
Furthermore, it is my purpose, gentle Reader, to set before thee, as it were, a picture, or rather lively landscape of thy own country, just as thou mightest see it, didst thou take a walk into the fields at the proper season; even as Maister Milton hath elegantly set forth the same.
As one who long in populous city pent,
Thou wilt not find my shepherdesses idly piping on oaten reeds; but milking the kine, tying up the sheaves, or if the hogs are astray, driving them to their styes. My shepherd gathereth none other nosegays but what are the growth of our own fields; he sleepeth not under myrtle shades, but under a hedge; nor doth he vigilantly defend his flocks from wolves, because there are none, as Maister Spenser well observeth,
Well is known that since the Saxon King
For as much as I have mentioned Maister Spenser, soothly 1 must acknowledge him a bard of sweetest memorial. Yet hath his shepherd's boy at sometimes raised his rustic reed to rhymes more rumbling than rural. Diverse grave points also hath he handled of churchly matter, and doubts in religion daily arising, to great clerks only appertaining. What liketh me best are his names, indeed right simple and meet for the country, such as Lobbin, Cuddy, Hobbinol, Diggon, and others, some of which I have made bold to borrow. Moreover, as he called his Eclogues, The Shepherd's Calendar, and divided the same into the twelve months, I have chosen (peradventure not over rashly) to name mine by the days of the week, omitting Sunday or the Sabbath, ours being supposed to be Christian shepherds, and to be then at church-worship. Yet further of many of Maister Spenser's Eclogues it may be observed,
though months they be called, of the said months therein nothing is specified, wherein I have also esteemed him worthy mine imitation.
That principally, courteous Reader, whereof I would have thee to be advertised, (seeing I depart from the vulgar usage) is touching the language of my shepherds; which is, soothly to say, such as is neither spoken by the country maiden or the courtly dame; nay, not only such as in the present times is not uttered, but was never uttered in times past, and, if I judge aright, will never be uttered in times future; it having too much of the country to be fit for the court; too much of the court to be fit for the country; too much of the language of old times to be fit for the present; too much of the present to have been fit for the old; and too much of both to be fit for any time to come. Granted also it is, that in this my language I seem unto myself as a London mason, who calculateth his work for a term of years, when he buildeth with old materials upon a ground-rent that is not his own, which soon turneth to rubbish and ruins. For this point no reason can I allege, only deep-learned ensamples having led me thereunto,
But here again much comfort ariseth in me, from the hopes, in that I conceive, when these words in the course of transitory things shall decay, it may so hap, in meet time, that some lover of simplicity shall arise, who shall have the hardiness to render these mine Eclogues into such more modern dialect as shall be then understood, to which end, glosses and explications of uncouth pastoral terms are annexed.
Gentle Reader, turn over the leaf, and entertain thyself with the prospect of thine own country, limned by the painful hand of
Thy loving countryman,
To the Right Hon. the Lord Viscount Bolingbroke.
O I, who erst beneath a tree
Sung Bumkinet and Bowzybee,
At this, in tears was Cicly seen,
For me, when as I heard that death
While thus we stood as in a stound,
Quoth I, Please God I'll hie with glee To court, this Arbuthnot to see.'I sold my sheep and lambkins too, For silver loops and garment blue; My boxen hautboy, sweet of sound, For lace that edg'd mine hat around; For Lightfoot and my scrip I got A gorgeous sword, and eke a knot.
So forth I far'd to court with speed, Of soldier's drum withouten dreed; For peace allays the shepherd's fear Of wearing cap of grenadier.
There saw I ladies all-a-row Before their Queen in seemly show. No more I'll sing Buxoma brown, Like goldfinch, in her Sunday gown; Nor Clumsilis, nor Marian bright, Nor damsel that Hobnelia hight; But Lansdown fresh as flower of May, And Berkeley lady blithe and gay, And Anglesey, whose speech exceeds The voice of pipe or oaten reeds, And blooming Hyde, with eyes so rare, And Montague beyond compare. Such ladies fair would I depaint In roundelay or sonnet quaint.
There many a worthy wight I've seen In ribbon blue and ribbon green; As Oxford, who a wand doth bear, Like Moses, in our Bibles, fair ; Who for our traffic forms designs, And gives to Britain Indian mines. Now, shepherds! clip your fleecy care, Ye maids! your spinning-wheels prepare, Ye weavers! all your shuttles throw, And bid broad-cloths and serges grow, For trading free shall thrive again, Nor leasings leud affright the swain.
There saw I St. John, sweet of mien, Full stedfast both to church and queen;