A Pastoral

From thence into the open fields he fled,
Whereas the herds were keeping of their neat,
And shepherds singing to their flocks, that fed,
Lays of sweet love and youth's delightful heat:
Him thither eke for all his fearful threat
He followed fast, and chased him so nigh,
That to the folds, where sheep at night do seat,
And to the little cots, where shepherds lie
In winter's wrathful time, he forced him to fly.
There on a day as he pursued the chase,
He chanced to spy a sort of shepherd grooms,
Playing on pipes, and carolling apace,
The whiles their beasts there in the budded brooms
Beside them fed, and nipped the tender blooms;
For other worldly wealth they cared nought.
To whom Sir Calidore yet sweating comes,
And them to tell him courteously besought,
If such a beast they saw, which he had thither brought.
They answered him, that no such beast they saw,
Nor any wicked fiend, that mote offend
Their happy flocks, nor danger to them draw:
But if that such there were (as none they kenned)
They prayed high God him far from them to send.
Then one of them him seeing so to sweat,
After his rustic wise, that well he weened,
Offered him drink, to quench his thirsty heat,
And if he hungry were, him offered eke to eat.
The knight was nothing nice, where was no need,
And took their gentle offer; so adown
They prayed him sit, and gave him for to feed
Such homely what, as serves the simple clown,
That doth despise the dainties of the town.
Tho having fed his fill, he there beside
Saw a fair damsel, which did wear a crown
Of sundry flowers, with silken ribbands tied,
Yclad in home-made green that her own hands had dyed.
Upon a little hillock she was placed
Higher than all the rest, and round about
Environed with a garland, goodly graced,
Of lovely lasses, and them all without
The lusty shepherd swains sat in a rout,
The which did pipe and sing her praises due,
And oft rejoice, and oft for wonder shout,
As if some miracle of heavenly hue
Were down to them descended in that earthly view.
And soothly sure she was full fair of face,
And perfectly well shaped in every limb,
Which she did more augment with modest grace,
And comely carriage of her countenance trim,
That all the rest like lesser lamps did dim;
Who her admiring as some heavenly wight,
Did for their sovereign goddess her esteem,
And carolling her name both day and night,
The fairest Pastorella her by name did hight.
Ne was there herd, ne was there shepherd's swain,
But her did honour, and eke many a one
Burnt in her love, and with sweet pleasing pain
Full many a night for her did sigh and groan.
But most of all the shepherd Coridon
But her did languish, and his dear life spend;
Yet neither she for him, nor other none
Did care a whit, ne any liking lend:
Though mean her lot, yet higher did her mind ascend.
Her whiles Sir Calidore there viewed well,
And marked her rare demeanour, which him seemed
So far the mean of shepherds to excel,
As that he in his mind her worthy deemed,
To be a prince's paragon esteemed,
He was unwares surprised in subtle bands
Of the blind boy, ne thence could be redeemed
By any skill out of his cruel hands,
Caught like the bird, which gazing still on others stands.
So stood he still long gazing thereupon,
Ne any will had thence to move away,
Although his quest were far afore him gone:
But after he had fed, yet did he stay,
And sat there still, until the flying day
Was far forth spent, discoursing diversely
Of sundry things, as fell, to work delay;
And evermore his speech he did apply
To th' herds, but meant them to the damsel's fantasy.
By this the moisty night approaching fast
Her dewy humour 'gan on th' earth to shed,
That warned the shepherds to their homes to haste
Their tender flocks, now being fully fed,
For fear of wetting them before their bed;
Then came to them a good old aged sire,
Whose silver locks bedecked his beard and head,
With shepherd's hook in hand, and fit attire,
That willed the damsel rise; the day did now expire.
He was to wit by common voice esteemed
The father of the fairest Pastorell,
And of herself in very deed so deemed;
Yet was not so, but as old stories tell
Found her by fortune, which to him befell,
In th' open fields an infant left alone,
And taking up brought home, and nursed well
As his own child; for other he had none,
That she in tract of time accompted was his own.
She at his bidding meekly did arise,
And straight unto her little flock did fare:
Then all the rest about her rose likewise,
And each his sundry sheep with several care
Gathered together, and them homeward bare;
Whilst every one with helping hands did strive
Amongst themselves, and did their labours share,
To help fair Pastorella, home to drive
Her fleecy flock; but Coridon most help did give.
But Meliboee (so hight that good old man)
Now seeing Calidore left all alone,
And night arrived hard at hand, began
Him to invite unto his simple home;
Which though it were a cottage clad with loam,
And all things therein mean, yet better so
To lodge, than in the savage fields to roam.
The knight full gladly soon agreed thereto,
Being his heart's own wish, and home with him did go.
There he was welcomed of that honest sire,
And of his aged beldame homely well;
Who him besought himself to disattire,
And rest himself, till supper time befell.
By which home came the fairest Pastorell,
After her flock she in their fold had tied,
And supper ready dight, they to it fell
With small ado, and nature satisfied,
The which doth little crave contented to abide.
Tho when they had their hunger slaked well,
And the fair maid the table ta'en away,
The gentle knight, as he that did excel
In courtesy, and well could do and say,
For so great kindness as he found that day,
'Gan greatly thank his host and his good wife;
And drawing thence his speech another way,
'Gan highly to commend the happy life,
Which shepherds lead, without debate or bitter strife.
"How much' (said he) "more happy is the state,
In which ye, father, here do dwell at ease,
Leading a life so free and fortunate,
From all the tempests of these worldly seas,
Which toss the rest in dangerous disease;
Where wars, and wrecks, and wicked enmity
Do them afflict, which no man can appease,
That certes I your happiness envy,
And wish my lot were placed in such felicity.'
"Surely my son' (then answered he again)
"If happy, then it is in this intent,
That having small, yet do I not complain
Of want, ne wish for more it to augment,
But do myself, with that I have, content;
So taught of nature, which doth little need
Of foreign helps to life's due nourishment:
The fields may food, my flock my raiment breed;
No better do I wear, no better do I feed.
"Therefore I do not any one envy,
Nor am envied of any one therefore;
They, that have much, fear much to lose thereby,
And store of cares doth follow riches' store.
The little that I have grows daily more
Without my care, but only to attend it;
My lambs do every year increase their score,
And my flock's father daily doth amend it.
What have I, but to praise th' Almighty, that doth send it?
"To them that list the world's gay shows I leave,
And to great ones such follies do forgive,
Which oft through pride do their own peril weave,
And through ambition down themselves do drive
To sad decay, that might contented live.
Me no such cares nor cumbrous thoughts offend,
Ne once my mind's unmoved quiet grieve,
But all the night in silver sleep I spend,
And all the day, to what I list, I do attend.
"Sometimes I hunt the fox, the vowed foe
Unto my lambs, and him dislodge away;
Sometimes the fawn I practise from the doe,
Or from the goat her kid how to convey;
Another while I baits and nets display,
The birds to catch, or fishes to beguile:
And when I weary am, I down do lay
My limbs in every shade, to rest from toil,
And drink of every brook, when thirst my throat doth boil.
"The time was once, in my first prime of years,
When pride of youth forth pricked my desire,
That I disdained amongst mine equal peers
To follow sheep, and shepherds' base attire:
For further fortune then I would inquire.
And leaving home, to royal court I sought;
Where I did sell myself for yearly hire,
And in the Prince's garden daily wrought:
There I beheld such vainness, as I never thought.
With sight whereof soon cloyed, and long deluded
With idle hopes, which them do entertain,
After I had ten years myself excluded
From native home, and spent my youth in vain,
I 'gan my follies to myself to plain,
And this sweet peace, whose lack did then appear.
Tho back returning to my sheep again
I from thenceforth have learned to love more dear
This lowly quiet life, which I inherit here.'
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