Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SHEPHERD'S PIPE: THIRD ECLOGUE, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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THE SHEPHERD'S PIPE: THIRD ECLOGUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Old neddy's poverty they moan
Last Line: Up, and let us go.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Poverty


THE ARGUMENT.

OLD Neddy's poverty they moan,
Who whilom was a swain
That had more sheep himself alone,
Than ten upon the plain.

PIERS. THOMALIN.

Thomalin.

WHERE is every piping lad
That the fields are not yclad
With their milk-white sheep?
Tell me: is it holiday,
Or if in the month of May
Use they long to sleep?

Piers.

Thomalin, 'tis not too late,
For the turtle and her mate
Sitten yet in nest:
And the thrustle hath not been
Gath'ring worms yet on the green,
But attends her rest.
Not a bird hath taught her young,
Nor her morning's lesson sung
In the shady grove:
But the nightingale in dark
Singing woke the mounting lark:
She records her love.
Not the sun hath with his beams
Gilded yet our crystal streams;
Rising from the sea,
Mists do crown the mountains' tops,
And each pretty myrtle drops:
'Tis but newly day.
Yet see, yonder (though unwist)
Some man cometh in the mist;
Hast thou him beheld?
See he crosseth o'er the land
With a dog and staff in hand,
Limping for his eld.

Thomalin.

Yes, I see him, and do know him,
And we all do rev'rence owe him,
'Tis the aged sire
Neddy, that was wont to make
Such great feasting at the wake,
And the blessing-fire.
Good old man! she how he walks
Painful and among the balks,
Picking locks of wool!
I have known the day when he
Had as much as any three,
When their lofts were full.
Underneath yond hanging rocks
All the valley with his flocks
Was whilom overspread:
He had milch-goats without peers,
Well-hung kine, and fatten'd steers
Many hundred head.
Wilkin's cote his dairy was,
For a dwelling it may pass
With the best in town.
Curds and cream with other cheer
Have I had there in the year
For a greeny gown.
Lasses kept it, as again
Were not fitted on the plain
For a lusty dance:
And at parting, home would take us,
Flawns or syllabubs to make us
For our jouisance.
And though some in spite would tell,
Yet old Neddy took it well;
Bidding us again
Never at his cote be strange:
Unto him that wrought this change,
Mickle be the pain!

Piers.

What disaster, Thomalin,
This mischance hath cloth'd him in,
Quickly tellen me.
Rue I do his state the more,
That he clipped heretofore
Some felicity.
Han by night accursed thieves
Slain his lambs, or stol'n his beeves,
Or consuming fire
Brent his shearing-house, or stall;
Or a deluge drowned all,
Tell me it entire?
Have the winters been so set
To rain and snow, they have wet
All his driest lair:
By which means his sheep have got
Such a deadly, cureless rot,
That none living are?

Thomalin.

Neither waves, nor thieves, nor fire,
Nor have rots impoor'd this sire;
Suretyship, nor yet
Was the usurer helping on
With his damn'd extortion,
Nor the chains of debt.
But deceit that ever lies
Strongest arm'd for treacheries
In a bosom'd friend:
That (and only that) hath brought it:
Cursed be the head that wrought it,
And the basest end!
Grooms he had, and he did send them
With his herds a-field, to tend them.
Had they further been!
Sluggish, lazy, thriftless elves;
Sheep had better kept themselves
From the foxes' teen.
Some would kill their sheep, and then
Bring their master home agen
Nothing but the skin;
Telling him, how in the morn
In the fold they found them torn,
And ne'er lying lin.
If they went unto the fair
With a score of fatten'd ware,
And did chance to sell,
If old Neddy had again
Half his own, I dare well sain,
That but seldom fell.
They at their return would say,
Such a man or such would pay,
Well known of your hyne.
Alas, poor man! that subtle knave
Undid him, and vaunts it brave,
Though his master pine.
Of his master he would beg
Such a lamb that broke his leg;
And if there were none,
To the fold by night he'd hie,
And them hurt full ruefully
Or with staff or stone.
He would have petitions new,
And for desp'rate debts would sue
Neddy had forgot:
He would grant: the other then
Tears from poor and aged men:
Or in jails they rot.
Neddy, lately rich in store,
Giving much, deceived more,
On a sudden fell;
Then the steward lent him gold,
Yet no more than might be told
Worth his master's cell.
That is gone, and all beside
(Well-a-day, alack the tide)!
In a hollow den
Underneath yond gloomy wood
Wons he now, and wails the brood
Of ingrateful men.

Piers.

But, alas! now he is old,
Bit with hunger, nipp'd with cold.
What is left him,
Or to succour or relieve him,
Or from wants oft to reprieve him?

Thomalin.

All's bereft him,
Save he hath a little crowd,
He in youth was of it proud,
And a dog to dance:
With them he on holidays
In the farmers' houses plays
For his sustenance.

Piers.

See; he's near, let's rise and meet him,
And with dues to old age greet him;
It is fitting so.

Thomalin.

'Tis a motion good and sage.
Honour still is due to age:
Up, and let us go.





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