The Shepherd's Hunting, The - Fifth Eclogue

THE Argument .

Philarete Alexis moves

To embrace the Muse's loves;

Bids him never careful seem

Of another's disesteem;

Since to them it may suffice,

They themselves can justly prize.

P HILARETE , A LEXIS .

Philarete.

A LEXIS , if thy worth do not disdain

The humble friendship of a meaner swain,

Or some more needful business of the day

Urge thee to be too hasty on thy way;

Come, gentle shepherd, rest thee here by me

Beneath the shadow of this broad-leaved tree

For though I seem a stranger, yet mine eye

Observes in thee the marks of courtesy;

And if my judgment err not, noted too

More than in those that more would seem to do.

Such virtues thy rare modesty doth hide,

Which by their proper lustre I espied;

And though long masked in silence they have been,

I have a wisdom through that silence seen;

Yea, I have learned knowledge from thy tongue,

And heard when thou hast in concealment sung;

Which me the bolder and more willing made

Thus to invite thee to this homely shade.

And though, it may be, thou couldst never spy

Such worth in me I might be known thereby;

In thee I do; for here my neighbouring sheep

Upon the border of these downs I keep;

Where often thou at pastorals and plays

Hast graced our wakes on summer-holidays;

And many a time with thee at this cold spring

Met I, to hear your learned shepherds sing,

Saw them disporting in the shady groves,

And in chaste sonnets woo their chaster loves;

When I, endued with the meanest skill,

'Mongst others have been urged to use my quill;

But, 'cause but little cunning I had got,

Perhaps thou saw'st me, though thou knew'st me not.

Alexis.

Yes, Philarete! I know thee, and thy name;

Nor is my knowledge grounded all on Fame.

Art thou not he, that but this other year

Scaredst all the wolves and foxes in this shire,

And in a match at football lately tried,

Having scarce twenty Satyrs on thy side,

Held'st play, and though assailed kept'st thy stand

'Gainst all the best tried ruffians in the land?

Didst thou not then in doleful Sonnets moan,

When the beloved of great Pan was gone,

And at the wedding of fair Thame and Rhine,

Sing of their glories to thy Valentine?

I know it, and I must confess that long,

In one thing I did to thy nature wrong;

For till I marked the aim thy Satires had,

I thought them over-bold, and thee half mad.

But, since I did more nearly on thee look,

I soon perceived that I had all mistook:

I saw, that of a cynic thou mad'st show,

Where since I find, that thou wert nothing so;

And that of many thou much blame hadst got,

Whenas thy innocence deserved it not.

But that too good opinion thou hast seemed

To have of me, not so to be esteemed,

Prevails not aught to stay him who doth fear

He rather should reproofs than praises hear.

'Tis true, I found thee plain and honest too,

Which made me like, then love, as now I do;

And, though a stranger, this to thee I'll say,

Where I do love, I am not coy to stay.

Philarete.

Thanks, gentle swain, that dost so soon unfold,

What I to thee as gladly would have told,

And thus thy wonted courtesy exprest

In kindly entertaining this request!

Sure, I should injure much my own content,

Or wrong thy love, to stand on compliment,

Who hast acquaintance in one word begun

As well as I could in an age have done;

Or by an overweening slowness mar

What thy more wisdom hath brought on so far.

Then sit thou down, and I'll my mind declare,

As freely as if we familiars were;

And if thou wilt but deign to give me ear,

Something thou may'st for thy more profit hear.

Alexis.

Philarete! I willingly obey.

Philarete.

Then know, Alexis! from that very day

Whenas I saw thee at thy shepherd's cote,

Where each, I think, of other took first note;

I mean that pastor, who by Tavy's springs

Chaste shepherds' loves in sweetest numbers sings,

And with his music, to his greater fame,

Hath late made proud the fairest nymphs of Thame;

E'en then, methought, I did espy in thee

Some unperceived and hidden worth to be;

Which in thy more apparent virtues shined;

And, among many, I in thought divined,

By something my conceit had understood,

That thou wert marked one of the Muses' brood.

That made me love thee; and that love I bear

Begot a pity, and that pity, care:

Pity I had to see good parts concealed,

Care I had how to have that good revealed;

Since 'tis a fault admitteth no excuse

To possess much, and yet put nought in use.

Hereon I vowed, if we two ever met,

The first request that I would strive to get,

Should be but this, that thou wouldst show thy skill,

How thou couldst tune thy verses to thy quill,

And teach thy Muse in some well-framed song,

To show the art thou hast suppressed so long;

Which if my new acquaintance may obtain,

I will for ever honour this day's gain.

Alexis.

Alas! my small experience scarce can tell

So much as where those nymphs the Muses, dwell;

Nor, though my slow conceit still travels on,

Shall I e'er reach to drink of Helicon,

Or, if I might so favoured be, to taste

What those sweet streams but overflow in waste,

And touch Parnassus where it low'st doth lie;

I fear my skill would hardly fly so high.

Philarete.

Despair not, man! the gods have prized nought

So dear, that may not be with labour bought;

Nor need thy pain be great, since Fate and Heaven,

That, as a blessing, at thy birth have given.

Alexis.

Why, say they had?

Philarete.

Then use their gifts thou must,

Or be ungrateful, and so be unjust;

For if it cannot truly be denied

Ingratitude men's benefits do hide,

Then more ungrateful must he be, by odds,

Who doth conceal the bounty of the gods.

Alexis.

That's true indeed; but Envy haunteth those

Who, seeking fame, their hidden skill disclose;

Where else they might, obscured from her espying,

Escape the blasts and danger of envying.

Critics will censure our best strains of wit,

And purblind Ignorance misconstrue it;

And, which is bad, yet worse than this doth follow,

Most hate the Muses and contemn Apollo.

Philarete.

So let them: why should we their hate esteem?

Is't not enough we of ourselves can deem?

'Tis more to their disgrace that we scorn them,

Than unto us that they our art contemn.

Can we have better pastime than to see

Their gross heads may so much deceived be,

As to allow those doings best, where wholly

We scoff them to their face and flout their folly?

Or to behold black Envy in her prime,

Die self-consumed whilst we vie lives with time,

And in despite of her, more fame attain

Than all her malice can wipe out again?

Alexis.

Yea; but if I applied me to those strains,

Who should drive forth my flocks unto the plains,

Which, whilst the Muses rest and leisure crave,

Must watering, folding, and attendance have?

For if I leave with wonted care to cherish

Those tender herds, both I and they should perish.

Philarete.

Alexis, now I see thou dost mistake:

There is no meaning thou thy charge forsake;

Nor would I wish thee so thyself abuse

As to neglect thy calling for thy Muse;

But let these two so each of other borrow,

That they may season mirth and lessen sorrow.

Thy flock will help thy charges to detray,

Thy Muse to pass the long and tedious day;

Or whilst thou tun'st sweet measures to thy reed,

Thy sheep, to listen, will more near thee feed;

The wolves will shun them, birds above thee sing,

And lambkins dance about thee in a ring.

Nay, which is more; in this thy low estate,

Thou in contentment shalt with monarchs mate:

For mighty Pan and Ceres to us grants

Our fields and flocks shall help our outward wants;

The Muses teach us songs to put off cares,

Graced with as rare and sweet conceits as theirs;

And we can think our lasses on the greens

As fair or fairer than the fairest queens;

Or, what is more than most of them shall do,

We'll make their juster fames last longer too,

And have our lines by greatest Princes graced,

When both their name and memory's defaced.

Therefore, Alexis, though that some disdain

The heavenly music of the rural plain,

What is't to us if they, o'erseen, contemn

The dainties which were ne'er ordained for them?

And though that there be other-some envy

The praises due to sacred Poesy,

Let them disdain and fret till they are weary,

We in ourselves have that shall make us merry;

Which he that wants, and had the power to know it,

Would give his life that he might die a poet.

Alexis.

A brave persuasion.

Philarete.

Here thou seest me pent

Within the jaws of strict imprisonment,

A forlorn shepherd, void of all the means

Whereon man's common hope in danger leans;

Weak in myself, exposed to the hate

Of those whose envies are insatiate;

Shut from my friends, banished from all delights;

Nay, worse, excluded from the sacred rites.

Here I do live, 'mongst outlaws marked for death,

As one unfit to draw the common breath;

Where those who to be good did never know,

Are barred from the means should make them so.

I suffer, 'cause I wished my country well;

And what I more must bear, I cannot teil.

I'm sure they give my body little scope,

And would allow my mind as little hope:

I waste my means, which of itself is slender,

Consume my time, perhaps my fortunes hinder,

And many crosses have, which those that can

Conceive no wrong that burts another man

Will not take note of; though if half so much

Should light on them, or their own persons touch,

Some that themselves, I fear, most worthy think,

With all their helps would into baseness shrink,

But, spite of hate and all that spite can do.

I can be patient yet and merry too.

That slender Muse of mine, by which my name,

Though scarce deserved, hath gained a little fame,

Hath made me unto such a fortune born,

That all misfortunes I know how to scorn;

Yea, midst these bonds can slight the great'st that be,

As much as their disdain mis'steems of me.

This cave, whose very presence some affrights,

I have oft made to echo forth delights;

And hope to turn, if any justice be,

Both shame and care on those that wished it me.

For while the world rank villaintes affords,

I will not spare to paint them out in words,

Although I still should into troubles run.

I knew what man could act ere I begun;

And I'll fulfil what my Muse draws me to,

Maugre all jails and purgatories too;

For whilst she sets me honest tasks about,

Virtue, or she, I know, will bear me out;

And if, by Fate, the abused power of some,

Must in the world's eye leave me overcome,

They shall find one fort yet, so fenced, I trow,

It cannot fear a mortal's overthrow.

This hope and trust that great power did infuse,

That first inspired into my breast a Muse,

By whom I do and ever will contemn

All those ill haps, my foes' despite, and them.

Alexis.

Th'ast so well, young Philarete! played thy part,

I am almost in love with that sweet art;

And if some power will but inspire my song,

Alexis will not be obscured long.

Philarete.

Enough, kind pastor! But oh, yonder see

Two honest shepherds walking hither, be

Cuddy and Willy, that so dearly love,

Who are repairing into yonder grove.

Let's follow them; for never braver swains

Made music to their flocks upon these plains.

They are more worthy, and can better tell

What rare contents do with a poet dwell.

Then, while our sheep the short sweet grass do shear,

And till the long shade of the hills appear,

We'll hear them sing; for though the one be young,

Never was any that more sweetly sung.

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