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Edmund Spenser


What ever man he be, whose heavie minde,

With griefe of mournefull great mishap opprest,

Fit matter for his cares increase would finde:

Let reade the rufull plaint herein exprest

Of one (I weene) the wofulst man alive,

Even sad Alcyon, whose empierced brest

Sharpe sorrowe did in thousand peeces rive.

But who so else in pleasure findeth sense,

Or in this wretched life dooth take delight,

Let him be banisht farre away from hence:

Ne let the Sacred Sisters here be hight,

Though they of sorrowe heavilie can sing;

For even their heavie song would breede delight:

But here no tunes, save sobs and grones, shall ring.

In stead of them and their sweet harmonie,

Let those three Fatall Sisters, whose sad hands

Doo weave the direfull threds of destinie,

And in their wrath breake off the vitall bands,

Approach hereto: and let the dreadfull queene

Of darkenes deepe come from the Stygian strands,

And grisly ghosts, to heare this dolefull teene.

In gloomie evening, when the wearie sun

After his dayes long labour drew to rest,

And sweatie steedes, now having over-run

The compast skie, gan water in the west,

I walkt abroade to breath the freshing ayre

In open fields, whose flowring pride, opprest

With early frosts, had lost their beautie faire.

There came unto my minde a troublous thought,

Which dayly dooth my weaker wit possesse,

Ne lets it rest, untill it forth have brought

Her long borne infant, fruit of heavinesse,

Which she conceived hath through meditation

Of this worlds vainnesse and lifes wretchednesse,

That yet my soule it deepely doth empassion.

So as I muzed on the miserie

In which men live, and I of many most,

Most miserable man, I did espie

Where towards me a sory wight did cost,

Clad all in black, that mourning did bewray,

And Jaakob staffe in hand devoutly crost,

Like to some pilgrim come from farre away.

His carelesse locks, uncombéd and unshorne,

Hong long adowne, and bearde all overgrowne,

That well he seemd to be sum wight forlorne:

Downe to the earth his heavie eyes were throwne

As loathing light; and ever as he went,

He sighéd soft, and inly deepe did grone,

As if his heart in peeces would have rent.

Approaching nigh, his face I vewéd nere,

And by the semblant of his countenance

Me seemd I had his person seene elsewhere,

Most like Alcyon seeming at a glaunce;

Alcyon he, the jollie shepheard swaine,

That wont full merrilie to pipe and daunce,

And fill with pleasance every wood and plaine.

Yet halfe in doubt because of his disguize,

I softlie sayd, "Alcyon!" Therewithall

He lookt aside as in disdainefull wise,

Yet stayéd not: till I againe did call.

Then turning back, he saide with hollow sound,

"Who is it that dooth name me, wofull thrall,

The wretchedst man that treades this day on ground?"

"One whome like wofulnesse, impressed deepe,

Hath made fit mate thy wretched case to heare,

And given like cause with thee to waile and weepe:

Griefe findes some ease by him that like does beare.

Then stay, Alcyon, gentle shepheard, stay,"

Quoth I, "till thou have to my trustie eare

Committed what thee dooth so ill apay."

"Cease, foolish man," saide he halfe wrothfully,

"To seeke to heare that which cannot be told:

For the huge anguish, which dooth multiply

My dying paines, no tongue can well unfold:

Ne doo I care that any should bemone

My hard mishap, or any weepe that would,

But seeke alone to weepe, and dye alone."

"Then be it so," quoth I, "that thou art bent

To die alone, unpitiéd, unplained;

Yet ere thou die, it were convenient

To tell the cause which thee theretoo constrained,

Least that the world thee dead accuse of guilt,

And say, when thou of none shalt be maintained,

That thou for secret crime thy blood hast spilt."

"Who life dooes loath, and longs to bee unbound

From the strong shackles of fraile flesh," quoth he,

"Nought cares at all what they that live on ground

Deeme the occasion of his death to bee:

Rather desires to be forgotten quight,

Than question made of his calamitie;

For harts deep sorrow hates both life and light.

"Yet since so much thou seemst to rue my griefe,

And carest for one that for himselfe cares nought,

(Signe of thy love, though nought for my reliefe:

For my reliefe exceedeth living thought,)

I will to thee this heavie case relate.

Then harken well till it to ende be brought,

For never didst thou heare more haplesse fate.

"Whilome I usde (as thou right well doest know)

My little flocke on westerne downes to keepe,

Not far from whence Sabrinaes streame doth flow,

And flowrie bancks with silver liquor steepe:

Nought carde I then for worldly change or chaunce,

For all my joy was on my gentle sheepe,

And to my pype to caroll and to daunce.

"It there befell, as I the fields did range

Fearelesse and free, a faire young Lionesse,

White as the native rose before the chaunge

Which Venus blood did in her leaves impresse,

I spied playing on the grassie playne

Her youthfull sports and kindlie wantonnesse,

That did all other beasts in beawtie staine.

"Much was I movéd at so goodly sight,

Whose like before mine eye had seldome seene,

And gan to cast how I her compasse might,

And bring to hand, that yet had never beene:

So well I wrought with mildnes and with paine,

That I her caught disporting on the grene,

And brought away fast bound with silver chaine.

"And afterwards I handled her so fayre,

That though by kind shee stout and salvage were,

For being borne an auncient lions haire,

And of the race that all wild beastes do feare,

Yet I her fram'd and wan so to my bent,

That shee became so meeke and milde of cheare

As the least lamb in all my flock that went.

"For shee in field, where ever I did wend,

Would wend with me, and waite by me all day:

And all the night that I in watch did spend,

If cause requir'd, or els in sleepe, if nay,

Shee would all night by mee or watch or sleepe;

And evermore when I did sleepe or play,

She of my flock would take full warie keepe.

"Safe then and safest were my sillie sheepe,

Ne fear'd the wolfe, ne fear'd the wildest beast,

All were I drown'd in carelesse quiet deepe:

My lovelie Lionesse without beheast

So carefull was for them and for my good,

That when I waked, neither most nor least

I found miscaried or in plaine or wood.

"Oft did the shepheards, which my hap did heare,

And oft their lasses, which my luck envide,

Daylie resort to me from farre and neare,

To see my Lyonesse, whose praises wide

Were spred abroad; and when her worthinesse

Much greater than the rude report they tri'de,

They her did praise, and my good fortune blesse.

"Long thus I joyéd in my happinesse,

And well did hope my joy would have no end:

But oh! fond man! that in worlds ficklenesse

Reposedst hope, or weenedst her thy frend

That glories most in mortall miseries,

And daylie doth her changefull counsels bend,

To make new matter fit for tragedies!

"For whilest I was thus without dread or dout,

A cruell Satyre with his murdrous dart,

Greedie of mischiefe, ranging all about,

Gave her the fatall wound of deadly smart,

And reft fro me my sweete companion,

And reft fro me my love, my life, my hart:

My Lyonesse (ah, woe is mee!) is gon.

"Out of the world thus was she reft awaie,

Out of the world, unworthie such a spoyle;

And borne to heaven, for heaven a fitter pray;

Much fitter than the lyon which with toyle

Alcides slew, and fixt in firmament:

Her now I seek throughout this earthlie soyle,

And seeking misse, and missing doe lament."

Therewith he gan afresh to waile and weepe,

That I for pittie of his heavie plight

Could not abstaine mine eyes with teares to steepe:

But when I saw the anguish of his spright

Some deale alaid, I him bespake againe:

"Certes, Alcyon, painfull is thy plight,

That it in me breeds almost equall paine.

"Yet doth not my dull wit well understand

The riddle of thy lovéd Lionesse;

For rare it seemes in reason to be skand,

That man, who doth the whole worlds rule possesse,

Should to a beast his noble hart embase,

And be the vassall of his vassalesse:

Therefore more plaine aread this doubtfull case."

Then sighing sore, "Daphne thou knewest," quoth he;

"She now is dead": ne more endured to say,

But fell to ground for great extreamitie;

That I, beholding it, with deepe dismay

Was much appald, and lightly him uprearing,

Revokéd life, that would have fled away,

All were my self through griefe in deadly drearing.

Then gan I him to comfort all my best,

And with milde counsaile strove to mitigate

The stormie passion of his troubled brest:

But he thereby was more empassionate;

As stubborne steed, that is with curb restrained,

Becomes more fierce and fervent in his gate;

And breaking foorth at last, thus dearnelie plained:


"What man henceforth, that breatheth vitall ayre,

Will honour Heaven, or heavenlie powers adore,

Which so unjustlie doe their judgments share

Mongst earthly wights, as to afflict so sore

The innocent as those which do transgresse,

And do not spare the best or fairest more

Than worst or fowlest, but doe both oppresse?

"If this be right, why did they then create

The world so fayre, sith fairenesse is neglected?

Or whie be they themselves immaculate,

If purest things be not by them respected?

She faire, shee pure, most faire, most pure she was,

Yet was by them as thing impure rejected:

Yet shee in purenesse heaven it selfe did pas.

"In purenesse and in all celestiall grace,

That men admire in goodlie womankinde,

She did excell, and seem'd of angels race,

Living on earth like angell new divinde,

Adorn'd with wisedome and with chastitie,

And all the dowries of a noble mind,

Which did her beautie much more beautifie.

"No age hath bred (since fayre Astræa left

The sinfull world) more vertue in a wight,

And when she parted hence, with her she reft

Great hope, and robd her race of bountie quight:

Well may the shepheard lasses now lament,

For dubble losse by her hath on them light,

To loose both her and bounties ornament.

"Ne let Elisa, royall shepheardesse,

The praises of my parted love envy,

For she hath praises in all plenteousnesse

Powr'd upon her, like showers of Castaly,

By her own shepheard, Colin her owne shepherd,

That her with heavenly hymnes doth deifie,

Of rusticke muse full hardly to be betterd.

"She is the rose, the glorie of the day,

And mine the primrose in the lowly shade:

Mine? ah, not mine! amisse I mine did say:

Not mine, but His which mine awhile her made:

Mine to be His, with Him to live for ay.

O that so faire a flower so soone should fade,

And through untimely tempest fall away!

"She fell away in her first ages spring,

Whil'st yet her leafe was greene, and fresh her rinde,

And whil'st her braunch faire blossomes foorth did bring,

She fell away against all course of kinde:

For age to dye is right, but youth is wrong;

She fel away like fruit blowne downe with winde:

Weepe, shepheard, weepe, to make my undersong.


"What hart so stony hard, but that would weepe,

And poure foorth fountaines of incessant teares?

What Timon, but would let compassion creepe

Into his brest, and pierce his frosen eares?

In stead of teares, whose brackish bitter well

I wasted have, my heart blood dropping weares,

To thinke to ground how that faire blossome fell.

"Yet fell she not as one enforst to dye,

Ne dyde with dread and grudging discontent,

But as one toyld with travaile downe doth lye,

So lay she downe, as if to sleepe she went,

And closde her eyes with carelesse quietnesse;

The whiles soft death away her spirit hent,

And soule assoyld from sinfull fleshlinesse.

"Yet ere that life her lodging did forsake,

She, all resolv'd and ready to remove,

Calling to me (ay me!) this wise bespake:

'Alcyon! ah, my first and latest love!

Ah! why does my Alcyon weepe and mourne,

And grieve my ghost, that ill mote him behove,

As if to me had chanst some evill tourne?

" 'I, since the messenger is come for mee

That summons soules unto the bridale feast

Of his great Lord, must needes depart from thee,

And straight obay his soveraine beheast

Why should Alcyon then so sore lament

That I from miserie shall be releast,

And freed from wretched long imprisonment?

" 'Our daies are full of dolor and disease,

Our life afflicted with incessant paine,

That nought on earth may lessen or appease.

Why then should I desire here to remaine?

Or why should he that loves me, sorie bee

For my deliverance, or at all complaine

My good to heare, and toward joyes to see?

" 'I goe, and long desired have to goe,

I goe with gladnesse to my wishéd rest,

Whereas no worlds sad care, nor wasting woe,

May come their happie quiet to molest,

But saints and angels in celestiall thrones

Eternally Him praise that hath them blest;

There shall I be amongst those blessed ones.

" 'Yet ere I goe, a pledge I leave with thee

Of the late love, the which betwixt us past,

My young Ambrosia; in lieu of mee

Love her: so shall our love for ever last.

Thus, deare, adieu! whom I expect ere long.'

So having said, away she softly past;

Weepe, shepheard, weepe, to make mine undersong.


"So oft as I record those piercing words,

Which yet are deepe engraven in my brest,

And those last deadly accents, which like swords

Did wound my heart and rend my bleeding chest,

With those sweet sugred speaches doo compare

The which my soule first conquerd and possest,

The first beginners of my endlesse care;

"And when those pallid cheekes and ashy hew,

In which sad Death his pourtraicture had writ,

And when those hollow eyes and deadly view,

On which the clowde of ghastly night did sit,

I match with that sweet smile and chearfull brow,

Which all the world subdued unto it;

How happie was I then, and wretched now!

"How happie was I, when I saw her leade

The shepheards daughters dauncing in a rownd!

How trimly would she trace and softly tread

The tender grasse, with rosie garland crownd!

And when she list advance her heavenly voyce,

Both Nimphs and Muses nigh she made astownd,

And flocks and shepheards causéd to rejoyce.

"But now, ye shepheard lasses, who shall lead

Your wandring troupes, or sing your virelayes?

Or who shall dight your bowres, sith she is dead

That was the lady of your holy dayes?

Let now your blisse be turned into bale,

And into plaints convert your joyous playes,

And with the same fill every hill and dale.

"Let bagpipe never more be heard to shrill,

That may allure the senses to delight;

Ne ever shepheard sound his oaten quill

Unto the many, that provoke them might

To idle pleasance: but let ghastlinesse

And drery horror dim the chearfull light,

To make the image of true heavinesse.

"Let birds be silent on the naked spray,

And shady woods resound with dreadfull yells;

Let streaming floods their hastie courses stay,

And parching drougth drie up the christall wells;

Let th' earth be barren, and bring foorth no flowres,

And th' ayre be fild with noyse of dolefull knells,

And wandring spirits walke untimely howres.

"And Nature, nurse of every living thing,

Let rest her selfe from her long wearinesse,

And cease henceforth things kindly forth to bring,

But hideous monsters full of uglinesse;

For she it is that hath me done this wrong;

No nurse, but stepdame cruell mercilesse.

Weepe, shepheard, weepe, to make my undersong.


"My litle flocke, whom earst I lov'd so well,

And wont to feede with finest grasse that grew,

Feede ye hencefoorth on bitter astrofell,

And stinking smallage, and unsaverie rew;

And when your mawes are with those weeds corrupted,

Be ye the pray of wolves: ne will I rew

That with your carkasses wild beasts be glutted.

"Ne worse to you, my sillie sheepe, I pray,

Ne sorer vengeance wish on you to fall

Than to my selfe, for whose confusde decay

To carelesse heavens I doo daylie call:

But heavens refuse to heare a wretches cry;

And cruell Death doth scorne to come at call,

Or graunt his boone that most desires to dye.

"The good and righteous he away doth take,

To plague th' unrighteous which alive remaine:

But the ungodly ones he doth forsake,

By living long to multiplie their paine:

Els surely death should be no punishment,

As the great Judge at first did it ordaine,

But rather riddance from long languishment.

"Therefore my Daphne they have tane away;

For worthie of a better place was she:

But me unworthie willéd here to stay,

That with her lacke I might tormented be.

Sith then they so have ordred, I will pay

Penance to her according their decree,

And to her ghost doo service day by day.

"For I will walke this wandring pilgrimage,

Throughout the world from one to other end,

And in affliction wast my better age:

My bread shall be the anguish of my mind,

My drink the teares which fro mine eyes do raine,

My bed the ground that hardest I may fynd:

So will I wilfully increase my paine.

"And she, my love that was, my saint that is,

When she beholds from her celestiall throne

(In which shee joyeth in eternall blis)

My bitter penance, will my case bemone,

And pitie me that living thus doo die:

For heavenly spirits have compassion

On mortall men, and rue their miserie.

"So when I have with sorrowe satisfide

Th' importune Fates, which vengeance on me seeke,

And th' heavens with long languor pacifide,

She, for pure pitie of my sufferance meeke,

Will send for me; for which I daylie long,

And will till then my painfull penance eeke.

Weep, shepheard, weep, to make my under song.


"Hencefoorth I hate what ever Nature made,

And in her workmanship no pleasure finde:

For they be all but vaine, and quickly fade,

So soone as on them blowes the northern winde;

They tarrie not, but flit and fall away,

Leaving behind them nought but griefe of minde,

And mocking such as thinke they long will stay.

"I hate the heaven, because it doth withhold

Me from my love, and eke my love from me;

I hate the earth, because it is the mold

Of fleshly slime and fraile mortalitie;

I hate the fire, because to nought it flyes,

I hate the ayre, because sighes of it be,

I hate the sea, because it teares supplyes.

"I hate the day, because it lendeth light

To see all things, and not my love to see;

I hate the darknesse and the drery night,

Because they breed sad balefulnesse in mee;

I hate all times, because all times doo fly

So fast away, and may not stayéd bee,

But as a speedie post that passeth by.

"I hate to speake, my voyce is spent with crying:

I hate to heare, lowd plaints have duld mine eares:

I hate to tast, for food withholds my dying:

I hate to see, mine eyes are dimd with teares:

I hate to smell, no sweet on earth is left:

I hate to feele, my flesh is numbd with feares:

So all my senses from me are bereft.

"I hate all men, and shun all womankinde;

The one, because as I they wretched are,

The other, for because I doo not finde

My love with them, that wont to be their starre:

And life I hate, because it will not last,

And death I hate, because it life doth marre,

And all I hate, that is to come or past.

"So all the world, and all in it I hate,

Because it changeth ever too and fro,

And never standeth in one certaine state,

But still unstedfast round about doth goe,

Like a mill wheele, in midst of miserie,

Driven with streames of wretchednesse and woe,

That dying lives, and living still does dye.

"So doo I live, so doo I daylie die,

And pine away in selfe-consuming paine:

Sith she that did my vitall powres supplie,

And feeble spirits in their force maintaine,

Is fetcht fro me, why seeke I to prolong

My wearie daies in dolor and disdaine?

Weep, shepheard, weep, to make my undersong.


"Why doo I longer live in lifes despight,

And doo not dye then in despight of death?

Why doo I longer see this loathsome light,

And doo in darknesse not abridge my breath,

Sith all my sorrow should have end thereby,

And cares finde quiet? Is it so uneath

To leave this life, or dolorous to dye?

"To live I finde it deadly dolorous;

For life drawes care, and care continuall woe:

Therefore to dye must needes be joyeous,

And wishfull thing this sad life to forgoe.

But I must stay; I may it not amend;

My Daphne hence departing bad me so;

She bad me stay, till she for me did send.

"Yet, whilest I in this wretched vale doo stay,

My wearie feete shall ever wandring be,

That still I may be readie on my way,

When as her messenger doth come for me:

Ne will I rest my feete for feeblenesse,

Ne will I rest my limmes for fraïltie,

Ne will I rest mine eyes for heavinesse.

"But, as the mother of the gods, that sought

For faire Euridyce, her daughter deere,

Throghout the world, with wofull heavie thought,

So will I travell whilest I tarrie heere,

Ne will I lodge, ne will I ever lin,

Ne when as drouping Titan draweth neere

To loose his teeme, will I take up my inne.

"Ne sleepe (the harbenger of wearie wights)

Shall ever lodge upon mine ey-lids more,

Ne shall with rest refresh my fainting sprights,

Nor failing force to former strength restore:

But I will wake and sorrow all the night

With Philumene, my fortune to deplore,

With Philumene, the partner of my plight.

"And ever as I see the starres to fall,

And under ground to goe, to give them light

Which dwell in darknes, I to minde will call

How my faire starre (that shinde on me so bright)

Fell sodainly and faded under ground;

Since whose departure, day is turnd to night,

And night without a Venus starre is found.

"But soone as day doth shew his deawie face,

And calls foorth men unto their toylsome trade,

I will withdraw me to some darksome place,

Or some deepe cave, or solitarie shade;

There will I sigh and sorrow all day long,

And the huge burden of my cares unlade.

Weep, shepheard, weep, to make my undersong.


"Hence foorth mine eyes shall never more behold

Faire thing on earth, ne feed on false delight

Of ought that framéd is of mortall moulde,

Sith that my fairest flower is faded quight:

For all I see is vaine and transitorie,

Ne will be helde in anie stedfast plight,

But in a moment loose their grace and glorie.

"And ye, fond men, on Fortunes wheele that ride,

Or in ought under heaven repose assurance,

Be it riches, beautie, or honors pride,

Be sure that they shall have no long endurance,

But ere ye be aware will flit away;

For nought of them is yours, but th' onely usance

Of a small time, which none ascertaine may.

"And ye, true lovers, whom desastrous chaunce

Hath farre exiled from your ladies grace,

To mourne in sorrow and sad sufferaunce,

When ye doo heare me in that desert place

Lamenting lowde my Daphnes elegie,

Helpe me to wayle my miserable case,

And when life parts, vouchsafe to close mine eye.

"And ye, more happie lovers, which enjoy

The presence of your dearest loves delight,

When ye doo heare my sorrowfull annoy,

Yet pittie me in your empassiond spright,

And thinke that such mishap as chaunst to me

May happen unto the most happiest wight;

For all mens states alike unstedfast be.

"And ye, my fellow shepheards, which do feed

Your carelesse flocks on hils and open plaines,

With better fortune than did me succeed,

Remember yet my undeserved paines;

And when ye heare that I am dead or slaine,

Lament my lot, and tell your fellow swaines

That sad Alcyon dyde in lifes disdaine.

"And ye, faire damsels, shepheards dere delights,

That with your loves do their rude hearts possesse,

When as my hearse shall happen to your sightes,

Vouchsafe to deck the same with cyparesse;

And ever sprinckle brackish teares among,

In pitie of my undeserv'd distresse,

The which I, wretch, endured have thus long.

"And ye, poore pilgrims, that with restlesse toyle

Wearie your selves in wandring desert wayes,

Till that you come where ye your vowes assoyle,

When passing by ye read these wofull layes

On my grave written, rue my Daphnes wrong,

And mourne for me that languish out my dayes.

Cease, shepheard, cease, and end thy undersong."

Thus when he ended had his heavie plaint,

The heaviest plaint that ever I heard sound,

His cheekes wext pale, and sprights began to faint,

As if againe he would have fallen to ground;

Which when I saw, I (stepping to him light)

Amoovéd him out of his stonie swound,

And gan him to recomfort as I might.

But he no waie recomforted would be,

Nor suffer solace to approach him nie,

But casting up a 'sdeinfull eie at me,

That in his traunce I would not let him lie,

Did rend his haire, and beat his blubbred face,

As one disposéd wilfullie to die,

That I sore griev'd to see his wretched case.

Tho when the pang was somewhat overpast,

And the outragious passion nigh appeased,

I him desirde, sith daie was overcast

And darke night fast approchéd, to be pleased

To turne aside unto my cabinet,

And staie with me, till he were better eased

Of that strong stownd which him so sore beset.

But by no meanes I could him win there-to,

Ne longer him intreate with me to staie,

But without taking leave he foorth did goe

With staggring pace and dismall lookes dismay,

As if that Death he in the face had seene,

Or hellish hags had met upon the way:

But what of him became I cannot weene.