Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SHEPHEARDES CALENDER: MAY, by EDMUND SPENSER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE SHEPHEARDES CALENDER: MAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Is not thilke the mery moneth of may
Last Line: I hold it best for us home to hye.
Alternate Author Name(s): Clout, Colin
Variant Title(s): The Old Shepherd's May Song
Subject(s): Country Life; May (month); Religion; Theology


Pal. Is not thilke the mery moneth of May,
When love lads masken in fresh aray?
How falles it then, we no merrier bene,
Ylike as others, girt in gawdy greene?
Our bloncket liveryes bene all to sadde
For thilke same season, when all is ycladd
With pleasaunce: the grownd with grasse, the wods
With greene leaves, the bushes with bloosming buds.
Yougthes folke now flocken in every where,
To gather may buskets and smelling brere:
And home they hasten the postes to dight,
And all the kirke pillours eare day light,
With hawthorne buds, and swete eglantine,
And girlonds of roses and sopps in wine.
Such merimake holy saints doth queme,
But we here sytten as drownd in a dreme.
Piers. For younkers, Palinode, such follies fitte,
But we tway bene men of elder witt.
Pal. Sicker, this morrowe, ne lenger agoe,
I sawe a shole of shepeheardes outgoe
With singing, and shouting, and jolly chere:
Before them yode a lusty tabrere,
That to the many a horne pype playd,
Whereto they dauncen eche one with his mayd.
To see those folkes make such jouysaunce,
Made my heart after the pype to daunce.
Tho to the greene wood they speeden hem all,
To fetchen home May with their musicall:
And home they bringen in a royall throne,
Crowned as king; and his queene attone
Was Lady Flora, on whom did attend
A fayre flocke of faeries, and a fresh bend
Of lovely nymphs. O that I were there,
To helpen the ladyes their maybush beare!
Ah, Piers! bene not thy teeth on edge, to thinke
How great sport they gaynen with little swinck?
Piers. Perdie, so farre am I from envie,
That their fondnesse inly I pitie.
Those faytours little regarden their charge,
While they, letting their sheepe runne at large,
Passen their time, that should be sparely spent,
In lustihede and wanton meryment.
Thilke same bene shepeheardes for the Devils stedde,
That playen while their flockes be unfedde.
Well is it seene, theyr sheepe bene not their owne,
That letten them runne at randon alone.
But they bene hyred for little pay
Of other, that caren as little as they
What fallen the flocke, so they han the fleece,
And get all the gayne, paying but a peece.
I muse what account both these will make,
The one for the hire which he doth take,
And thother for leaving his lords taske,
When great Pan account of shepeherdes shall aske.
Pal. Sicker, now I see thou speakest of spight,
All for thou lackest somedele their delight.
I (as I am) had rather be envied,
All were it of my foe, then fonly pitied:
And yet, if neede were, pitied would be,
Rather then other should scorne at me:
For pittied is mishappe that nas remedie,
But scorned bene dedes of fond foolerie.
What shoulden shepheards other things tend,
Then, sith their God his good does them send,
Reapen the fruite thereof, that is pleasure,
The while they here liven, at ease and leasure?
For when they bene dead, their good is ygoe,
They sleepen in rest, well as other moe.
Tho with them wends what they spent in cost,
But what they left behind them is lost.
Good is no good, but if it be spend:
God giveth good for none other end.
Piers. Ah, Palinodie! thou art a worldes child:
Who touches pitch mought needes be defilde.
But shepheards (as Algrind used to say)
Mought not live ylike as men of the laye:
With them it sits to care for their heire,
Enaunter their heritage doe impaire:
They must provide for meanes of maintenaunce,
And to continue their wont countenaunce.
But shepheard must walke another way,
Sike worldly sovenance he must foresay.
The sonne of his loines why should he regard
To leave enriched with that he hath spard?
Should not thilke God that gave him that good
Eke cherish his child, if in his wayes he stood?
For if he mislive in leudnes and lust,
Little bootes all the welth and the trust
That his father left by inheritaunce:
All will be soone wasted with misgovernaunce.
But through this, and other their miscreaunce,
They maken many a wrong chevisaunce,
Heaping up waves of welth and woe,
The floddes whereof shall them overflowe.
Sike mens follie I cannot compare
Better then to the apes folish care,
That is so enamoured of her young one,
(And yet, God wote, such cause hath she none)
That with her hard hold, and straight embracing,
She stoppeth the breath of her youngling.
So often times, when as good is meant,
Evil ensueth of wrong entent.
The time was once, and may againe retorne,
(For ought may happen, that hath bene beforne)
When shepeheards had none inheritaunce,
Ne of land, nor fee in sufferaunce,
But what might arise of the bare sheepe,
(Were it more or lesse) which they did keepe.
Well vwis was it with shepheards thoe:
Nought having, nought feared they to forgoe.
For Pan himselfe was their inheritaunce,
And little them served for their mayntenaunce.
The shepheards God so wel them guided,
That of nought they were unprovided,
Butter enough, honye, milke, and whay,
And their flockes fleeces, them to araye.
But tract of time, and long prosperitie,
(That nource of vice, this of insolencie,)
Lulled the shepheards in such securitie,
That not content with loyall obeysaunce,
Some gan to gape for greedie governaunce,
And match them selfe with mighty potentates,
Lovers of lordship and troublers of states.
Tho gan shepheards swaines to looke a loft,
And leave to live hard, and learne to ligge soft:
Tho, under colour of shepeheards, somewhile
There crept in wolves, ful of fraude and guile,
That often devoured their owne sheepe,
And often the shepheards that did hem keepe.
This was the first sourse of shepheards sorowe,
That now nill be quitt with baile nor borrowe.
Pal. Three thinges to beare bene very burdenous,
But the fourth to forbeare is outragious:
Wemen that of loves longing once lust,
Hardly forbearen, but have it they must:
So when choler is inflamed with rage,
Wanting revenge, is hard to asswage:
And who can counsell a thristie soule,
With patience to forbeare the offred bowle?
But of all burdens that a man can beare,
Moste is, a fooles talke to beare and to heare.
I wene the geaunt has not such a weight,
That beares on his shoulders the heavens height.
Thou findest faulte where nys to be found,
And buildest strong warke upon a weake ground:
Thou raylest on right withouten reason,
And blamest hem much, for small encheason.
How shoulden shepheardes live, if not so?
What! should they pynen in payne and woe?
Nay saye I thereto, by my deare borrowe,
If I may rest, I nill live in sorrowe.
Sorrowe ne neede be hastened on:
For he will come, without calling, anone.
While times enduren of tranquillitie,
Usen we freely our felicitie.
For when approchen the stormie stowres,
We mought with our shoulders beare of the sharpe showres.
And sooth to sayne, nought seemeth sike strife,
That shepheardes so witen ech others life,
And layen her faults the world beforne,
The while their foes done eache of hem scorne.
Let none mislike of that may not be mended:
So conteck soone by concord mought be ended.
Piers. Shepheard, I list none accordaunce make
With shepheard that does the right way forsake.
And of the twaine, if choice were to me,
Had lever my foe then my freend he be.
For what concord han light and darke sam?
Or what peace has the lion with the lambe?
Such faitors, when their false harts bene hidde,
Will doe as did the Foxe by the Kidde.
Pal. Now Piers, of felowship, tell us that saying:
For the ladde can keepe both our flocks from straying.
Piers. Thilke same Kidde (as I can well devise)
Was too very foolish and unwise.
For on a tyme in sommer season,
The Gate her dame, that had good reason,
Yode forth abroade unto the greene wood,
To brouze, or play, or what shee thought good.
But, for she had a motherly care
Of her young sonne, and wit to beware,
Shee set her youngling before her knee,
That was both fresh and lovely to see,
And full of favour as kidde mought be.
His vellet head began to shoote out,
And his wreathed horns gan newly sprout;
The blossomes of lust to bud did beginne,
And spring forth ranckly under his chinne.
'My sonne,' quoth she, (and with that gan weepe;
For carefull thoughts in her heart did creepe)
'God blesse thee, poore orphane, as he mought me,
And send thee joy of thy jollitee.
Thy father,' (that word she spake with payne;
For a sigh had nigh rent her heart in twaine)
'Thy father, had he lived this day,
To see the braunche of his body displaie,
How would he have joyed at this sweete sight!
But ah! false Fortune such joy did him spight,
And cutte of hys dayes with untimely woe,
Betraying him into the traines of hys foe.
Now I, a waylfull widdowe behight,
Of my old age have this one delight,
To see thee succeede in thy fathers steade,
And florish in flowres of lustyhead:
For even so thy father his head upheld,
And so his hauty hornes did he weld.'
Tho marking him with melting eyes,
A thrilling throbbe from her hart did aryse,
And interrupted all her other speache
With some old sorowe that made a newe breache:
Seemed shee sawe in the younglings face
The old lineaments of his fathers grace.
At last her solein silence she broke,
And gan his newe budded beard to stroke.
'Kiddie,' quoth shee, 'thou kenst the great care
I have of thy health and thy welfare,
Which many wyld beastes liggen in waite
For to entrap in thy tender state:
But most the Foxe, maister of collusion;
For he has voued thy last confusion.
Forthy, my Kiddie, be ruld by mee,
And never give trust to his trecheree.
And if he chaunce come when I am abroade,
Sperre the yate fast, for feare of fraude;
Ne for all his worst, nor for his best,
Open the dore at his request.'
So schooled the Gate her wanton sonne,
That answerd his mother, all should be done.
Tho went the pensife damme out of dore,
And chaunst to stomble at the threshold flore:
Her stombling steppe some what her amazed,
(For such as signes of ill luck bene dispraised)
Yet forth shee yode, thereat halfe aghast:
And Kiddie the dore sperred after her fast.
It was not long after shee was gone,
But the false Foxe came to the dore anone:
Not as a foxe, for then he had be kend,
But all as a poore pedler he did wend,
Bearing a trusse of tryfles at hys backe,
As bells, and babes, and glasses, in hys packe.
A biggen he had got about his brayne,
For in his headpeace he felt a sore payne:
His hinder heele was wrapt in a clout,
For with great cold he had gotte the gout.
There at the dore he cast me downe hys pack,
And layd him downe, and groned, 'Alack! alack!
Ah, deare Lord! and sweete Saint Charitee!
That some good body woulde once pitie mee!'
Well heard Kiddie al this sore constraint,
And lengd to know the cause of his complaint:
Tho, creeping close behind the wickets clinck,
Prevelie he peeped out through a chinck:
Yet not so previlie but the Foxe him spyed:
For deceitfull meaning is double eyed.
'Ah, good young maister!' then gan he crye,
'Jesus blesse that sweete face I espye,
And keepe your corpse from the carefull stounds
That in my carrion carcas abounds.'
The Kidd, pittying hys heavinesse,
Asked the cause of his great distresse,
And also who and whence that he were.
Tho he, that had well ycond his lere,
Thus medled his talke with many a teare:
'Sicke, sicke, alas! and little lack of dead,
But I be relieved by your beastlyhead.
I am a poore sheepe, albe my coloure donne:
For with long traveile I am brent in the sonne.
And if that my grandsire me sayd be true,
Sicker, I am very sybbe to you:
So be your goodlihead doe not disdayne
The base kinred of so simple swaine.
Of mercye and favour then I you pray,
With your ayd to forstall my neere decay.'
The out of his packe a glasse he tooke,
Wherein while Kiddie unwares did looke,
He was so enamored with the newell,
That nought he deemed deare for the jewell.
Tho opened he the dore, and in came
The false Foxe, as he were starke lame.
His tayle he clapt betwixt his legs twayne,
Lest he should be descried by his trayne.
Being within, the Kidde made him good glee,
All for the love of the glasse he did see.
After his chere, the pedler can chat,
And tell many lesings of this and that,
And how he could shewe many a fine knack.
Tho shewed his ware and opened his packe,
All save a bell, which he left behind
In the basket for the Kidde to fynd.
Which when the Kidde stooped downe to catch,
He popt him in, and his basket did latch;
Ne stayed he once, the dore to make fast,
But ranne awaye with him in all hast.
Home when the doubtfull damme had her hyde,
She mought see the dore stand open wyde.
All agast, lowdly she gan to call
Her Kidde; but he nould answere at all.
Tho on the flore she sawe the merchandise
Of which her sonne had sette to dere a prise.
What helpe? her Kidde shee knewe well was gone:
Shee weeped, and wayled, and made great mone.
Such end had the Kidde, for he nould warned be
Of craft coloured with simplicitie:
And such end, perdie, does all hem remayne
That of such falsers freendship bene fayne.
Pal. Truly, Piers, thou art beside thy wit,
Furthest fro the marke, weening it to hit.
Now I pray thee, lette me thy tale borrowe
For our Sir John to say to morrowe
At the kerke, when it is holliday:
For well he meanes, but little can say.
But and if foxes bene so crafty as so,
Much needeth all shepheards hem to knowe.
Piers. Of their falshode more could I recount:
But now the bright sunne gynneth to dismount;
And, for the deawie night now doth nye,
I hold it best for us home to hye.

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