The Mask of Mutability

So, forth issued the Seasons of the year;
First, lusty Spring, all dight in leaves of flowers
That freshly budded and new blooms did bear
(In which a thousand birds had built their bowers
That sweetly sung, to call forth paramours);
And in his hand a javelin he did bear,
And on his head (as fit for warlike stours)
A gilt engraven morion he did wear;
That as some did him love, so others did him fear.
Then came the jolly Summer, being dight
In a thin silken cassock coloured green,
That was unlined all, to be more light;
And on his head a garland well beseen
He wore, from which, as he had chafed been,
The sweat did drop; and in his hand he bore
A bow and shafts, as he in forest green
Had hunted late the libbard or the boar,
And now would bathe his limbs, with labour heated sore.
Then came the Autumn all in yellow clad,
As though he joyed in his plenteous store,
Laden with fruits that made him laugh, full glad
That he had banished hunger, which to-fore
Had by the belly oft him pinched sore.
Upon his head a wreath that was enrolled
With ears of corn of every sort he bore;
And in his hand a sickle he did hold,
To reap the ripened fruits the which the earth had yold.
Lastly, came Winter clothed all in frieze,
Chattering his teeth for cold that did him chill,
Whilst on his hoary beard his breath did freeze;
And the dull drops that from his purpled bill
As from a limbec did adown distil.
In his right hand a tipped staff he held,
With which his feeble steps he stayed still;
For he was faint with cold, and weak with eld,
That scarce his loosed limbs he able was to weld.
These, marching softly, thus in order went,
And after them, the Months all riding came;
First, sturdy March with brows full sternly bent,
And armed strongly, rode upon a ram,
The same which over Hellespontus swam:
Yet in his hand a spade he also hent,
And in a bag all sorts of seeds ysame,
Which on the earth he strewed as he went,
And filled her womb with fruitful hope of nourishment.
Next came fresh April full of lustihead,
And wanton as a kid whose horn new buds;
Upon a bull he rode, the same which led
Europa floating through th' Argolic floods;
His horns were gilden all with golden studs
And garnished with garlands goodly dight
Of all the fairest flowers and freshest buds
Which th'earth brings forth, and wet he seemed in sight
With waves, through which he waded for his love's delight.
Then came fair May, the fairest maid on ground,
Decked all with dainties of her season's pride,
And throwing flowers out of her lap around:
Upon two brethren's shoulders she did ride,
The twins of Leda; which on either side
Supported her like to their sovereign queen.
Lord! how all creatures laughed, when her they spied,
And leaped and danced as they had ravished been!
And Cupid self about her fluttered all in green.
And after her, came jolly June arrayed
All in green leaves, as he a player were;
Yet in his time, he wrought as well as played,
That by his plough-irons mote right well appear:
Upon a crab he rode, that him did bear
With crooked crawling steps an uncouth pace,
And backwards yode, as bargemen wont to fare,
Bending their force contrary to their face,
Like that ungracious crew which feigns demurest grace.
Then came hot July boiling like to fire,
That all his garments he had cast away;
Upon a lion raging yet with ire
He boldly rode and made him to obey:
It was the beast that whilom did foray
The Nemaean forest, till th'Amphytrionide
Him slew, and with his hide did him array;
Behind his back a scythe, and by his side
Under his belt he bore a sickle circling wide.
The sixth was August, being rich arrayed
In garment all of gold down to the ground:
Yet rode he not, but led a lovely maid
Forth by the lily hand, the which was crowned
With ears of corn, and full her hand was found;
That was the righteous virgin, which of old
Lived here on earth, and plenty made abound;
But, after wrong was loved and justice sold,
She left th'unrighteous world and was to heaven extolled.
Next him, September marched eke on foot;
Yet was he heavy laden with the spoil
Of harvest's riches, which he made his boot,
And him enriched with bounty of the soil:
In his one hand, as fit for harvest's toil,
He held a knife-hook; and in th'other hand
A pair of weights, with which he did assoil
Both more and less, where it in doubt did stand,
And equal gave to each as justice duly scanned.
Then came October full of merry glee;
For yet his noll was totty of the must,
Which he was treading in the wine-fats sea,
And of the joyous oil, whose gentle gust
Made him so frolic and so full of lust:
Upon a dreadful scorpion he did ride,
The same which by Diana's doom unjust
Slew great Orion; and eke by his side
He had his ploughing share and coulter ready tied.
Next was November, he full gross and fat,
As fed with lard, and that right well might seem;
For he had been a-fatting hogs of late,
That yet his brows with sweat did reek and steam,
And yet the season was full sharp and breem;
In planting eke he took no small delight:
Whereon he rode, not easy was to deem;
For it a dreadful Centaur was in sight,
The seed of Saturn and faire Nais, Chiron hight.
And after him, came next the chill December:
Yet he through merry feasting which he made,
And great bonfires, did not the cold remember;
His Saviour's birth his mind so much did glad:
Upon a shaggy-bearded goat he rode,
The same wherewith Dan Jove in tender years,
They say, was nourished by th'Idaean maid;
And in his hand a broad deep bowl he bears;
Of which he freely drinks an health to all his peers.
Then came old January, wrapped well
In many weeds to keep the cold away;
Yet did he quake and quiver like to quell,
And blow his nails to warm them if he may;
For they were numbed with holding all the day
An hatchet keen, with which he felled wood,
And from the trees did lop the needless spray:
Upon an huge great earth-pot steane he stood;
From whose wide mouth there flowed forth the Roman flood.
And lastly, came cold February, sitting
In an old waggon, for he could not ride;
Drawn of two fishes for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slide
And swim away: yet had he by his side
His plough and harness fit to till the ground,
And tools to prune the trees, before the pride
Of hasting prime did make them burgeon round.
So past the twelve Months forth, and their due places found.
And after these, there came the Day, and Night,
Riding together both with equal pace,
Th'one on a palfrey black, the other white;
But Night had covered her uncomely face
With a black veil, and held in hand a mace,
On top whereof the moon and stars were pight,
And sleep and darkness round about did trace:
But Day did bear, upon his sceptre's height,
The goodly sun, encompassed all with beames bright.
Then came the Hours, fair daughters of high Jove
And timely Night, the which were all endued
With wondrous beauty fit to kindle love;
But they were virgins all, and love eschewed,
That might forslack the charge to them foreshewed
By might Jove; who did them porter make
Of heaven's gate (whence all the gods issued)
Which they did daily watch, and nightly wake
By even turns, ne ever did their charge forsake.
And after all came Life, and lastly Death;
Death with most grim and grisly visage seen,
Yet is he nought but parting of the breath;
Ne ought to see, but like a shade to ween,
Unbodied, unsouled, unheard, unseen.
But Life was like a fair young lusty boy,
Such as they feign Dan Cupid to have been,
Full of delightful health and lively joy,
Decked all with flowers, and wings of gold fit to employ.
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