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A ROMANESQUE :
SETTING FORTII ROW ENGLAND'S ARCH-POET WENT INTO YE NORTII COUNTRIE; AND WHAT
EXSUED CONCERNING THE FAIR MISTRESS ROSALIND.
To the Worshippfull, my very singular good friend, I never did suppose there had been anie of the
Mr. GABRIEL Harvey, Fellow of Trinity College name of Spenser so rude and unfashioned as in Cambridge.
these my poor cousins : nor that such uninEwebuchts, June, 1578. formed minds could claim kindred, not only Good MR. GABRIEL,—It is easy to be per- with your poor Immerito, but c'en with Chloris ceived, by your most courteous and kindlie and Phyllis and sweet Amaryllis, and all the letter, that distance hath no ill effect upon dear Spenserian girls at Althorp. We sit and your friendship: and, that you may be certified feed in one huge common hall or kitchen, with how much I am in all things your humble ser- the hinds, the only distinction being made by vant, I proceed forthwith to answer every one the salt. They have a peculiar Doric of their of your inquiries; the rather that in this remote own, wherein gate stands for goat, sicker for and salvage corner of the world, leisure and
sure, ken for know, greet for weep, and so forth, inclination are no longer, as they have too often ad infinitum, whereby I am but just beginning becn, unnaturally divorced.
to see my way through the difficulties of an First, for my whereabouts—Truly, methinks unknown dialect. As I sit at the casement, my father in his forecast for cheap and quiet conning Theocritus by the last rays of the quarters, where I might study my fill at the setting sun, Whar's Hobby ? says one. Hob's lowest charges, needed not to have sent me so afield, answers another. A'must be astir by nigh unto the extremest verge of civilization. three o'clock the morrow's morn, quoth one, to In this remote and pelting farm-house, on the clout the leg o' th' auld ewe that fell headlong skirts of a lonely moor, with a deep forest and into the dyke, unluckie beast, and unjointed sundry mountainous bleak hills betwixt it and baith her banes.
• Better get Gammer the nearest town, one might as well wear a Gaff to recde a spell o'er her, says another. sheepskin at once, and browze on all fours. Spell me nae spells, sayth the first, I misdoubt Neighbours there are none; and, from day- they’re uncanny :-mought her neck but a' been dawn to dusk, when the men are all afield, not jointed, a' trow she'd a needed nae spell. Gie a soul is on the premises except myself to de- me the milk, I'll e'en fced the cosset-lamb and fend the women, (who, in regard of looks, are sae turn in. Anon he comes back with tho libels on their sex,) from the intrusions of such empty bicker, draws back a sliding pannel, Turlurus and Jacks-o'-Bedlam as, with roaring scuffles off his brogues, and in two minutes you voices and sturdy importunities, find their way hear him snoring. Jenny clears away the into even such lone corners as these, to scare remains of our homely supper, consisting of the female folk with wild looks and threats, curds, cracknels, ewe-milk cheese, and marand obtain from their fears what they could not vellous weak oaten ale, and brings mine uncle look for from their charity.
his flapped cloth nightcap, which she tics Next, for my kindred. I must confess to you ancath his chin. He calls on ono to sing,
VOL. II. X. 8.
another to pipe; and Cuddy, who bleats like unseen life were casily modulated into the one of his own lambs, commences a border whispers of Hamadryades. ballad, to which the bagpipe aptly joins the While I was footing it along in a pleasing doleful cries of the wounded. One of these enough kind of fool's paradise, revolving rustical roundelays hath a burthen of “Hey ho, thoughts, some of which were idle, some serious, holiday,” so much to my fancy, that I have en- I was aware of a soft stir among the branches; deavoured to adapt it to less uncouth rhymes, and presently, with no ungentler warning, and to indoctrinate therewith the minds of these there issues forth, along a little grass-grown young dullards : howbeit, after sundrie vain bridletrack, a fair young lady, all in black efforts to commit them to memory, they pro- bedight, mounted on a silver-grey ass ; at whose nounced “ the auld was better.” Malgre their heels followed a deformed urchin of some ten verdict, I shall appeal to a higher court, or twelve summers, who bare, in lieu of a wherein, should it be confirmed by your better cudgel, which the light-footed animal seemed judgment, I shall have nought to say in its not to need, a wallet or fardel almost beyond arrest. And so, with greeting to all friends, I his might. I had scarce time to ask myself rest, good Mr. Gabriel, your loving
whether or no this were a vision of ye Queen IMMERITO.
of the Fairies, when ye fair creature and her Sta sano ed amami.-Show the roundel to attendant flceted past me and soe away among none, unless it be to Master Philip Sidney, ye boughs ; leaving me agape like a clown at
what should rather have transformed a clown
into a worshipper of the ideal. I know not of II.
a certainty, Master Gabriel, how long I may A thousand sithes I curse that careful hour Wherein I went the neighb'ring town to see,
have stood or strayed in this amazed fashion, And eke ten thousand sithes I bless the stour
when a few pattering drops proved ye preWherein I saw soe fayr a sight as she.
cursors of a most violent rain-storm, which preSPENSER's Shepheard's Calender.
sently drove me into the thickest covert I could Good Mr. GABRIEL, -Having patiently find. Now, had I, like the manikin in the awaited your answer these three weeks, which Christmas tale, strewed my path with crumbs, period methought might reasonably elapse I might with some certainty have retraced it. before my looking for it, I could no longer 'Stead of which, when the rain bated, I found brook suspense, and resolved to undertake so many foottracks tending hither and thither, mine own errand to the next town, where, be- that if the path to heaven were equallie diflike, the precious missive might be lying in ficult to make out, methinketh there be few negligent and unsafe hands. Taking a stout would attain unto Eternal Life. My judgstaff rather for my companion than defence, I ment being thus defaulted, I was special glad footed it across the moor with no worse nor to behold a girl with a pitcher on her shoulder, better co-mates than mine own thoughts; wending through the wood. I made towards when, o'suddain, from out a hollow tree, there her with speed; but, alack, the rude damsel no starts me a creature, half man, half fiend, sooner caught sight of me than she took to her tricked, salvage-fashion, in leaves and branches, heels as though her life lay on the wager, I twined over and about the poor tattered rags following ; nor ever stopt till she reached the that appeared aneath his foliage. I do protest door of a poor wattled cabin propped up atween he had so much of the faun about him as that a couple of old oaks that inclined their arms I lookt at his feet to see if they were cloven; towards each other like Baucis and Philemon. but albeit he had a hare-lip, he did not divide Herein she entered, all panting, and set the the hoof, and his uncouth gibbering betrayed door against me; nor should I have been likely him a hopeless Bedlamite, rather than an evil to make good mine entrance but for the sudden creature of sylvan or infernal origin. Money re-appearance of my Queen o' the Fairies, who, he would none; a few suckets I chanced to lighting from her ass, which of itself forthwith have about me were willingly accepted, and trotted under cover, added her voice to the after sundry mowings and congées, he sprung light tap which, methinketh, would scarce of away into ye woods like a squirrel.
itself have unclosed that inhospitable portal, This satyr-like apparition so haunted my and thereat obtained prompt admission; I folfancy, that, in the wild wood-paths into which lowing, neither let nor hindered. Now, withI now struck, I seemed to behold ever and inside of this crazy tenement, by the glooming anon contorted forms and grinning visages light of a drowsy fire, there sate an old crone, gleaming amid the gnarred trunks and leafy nigh doubled in two with age, stone-blind, and alleys; while the occasional vague sounds of little short of stone-deaf, a mumbling o'er a
wooden rosary, the which, it escaped me not, her daughter whipt from her hands and hid away among a parcel of old rags, while ye young
fair lady was busied a drawing forth a loaf from the poke borne by the hunch-backed urchin. Quoth she, since thou, goody, canst no longer spare Gillian to fetch thy dole, lo, I have brought it to thee
praise God, not me, for what thou hast, and let me have an old woman's blessing.
After some farther parley, she cast towards me a look of inquiring wonderment; whereon I professed my business to be none other than to ask my way and await the overblowing of the storm. Since that is all, quoth she, methinks, we shall now both find that the rain hath stayed ; and, concerning your path, which I know not how you can well have missed, you have but to follow on my track some hundred paces and it will lie plainly before you. To guide the blind and set travellers on their way, my father was wont to reckon among the acts
Quoth I, if it may please you, gentle mistress, I would fain see you through the wood without immediate hurrying on mine own errand, for there is one in the forest who, perhaps, may waken fear in the young and tender. She looked at me in pretty wonder, and made answer, I have known every dell and dingle from childhood, and never had reason to fear. . . At what would you scare me? ... There is a wild man in the woods, quoth I, who lapt forth but now from a hollow tree. She laught, and lightly replied, Do you mean my foster-brother, poor Lime-blossom? he is neither elf nor warlock, but a poor harmless lunatick, that loves me well, and oft brings me his little offerings of dew-berries, cloud-berries, and birds' eggs, and posies of dog-roses and dame violets. I left him a loaf in his nest but now. There is no harm in him, sir .... his hollow roof rendereth him unintelligible of speech, and the heat of his brain prevents his sleeping save i' the open air ; but the poor afflicted creature sayeth his prayers after a fashion, and never raised his hand against anything bigger than a weasel.
So saying, she layd her hand on the silvergrey ass, saying Stand still, thou gadling ! and sprang lightly into her seat, when, at the mere shaking of her white rein, it commenced a quick amble which required my brisk walking to keep up with.
Sure, madam, quoth I, determined not to let the conversation drop, the hovel we have just left might all to pass for the stronghold of Superstition and Ignorance. . . Of helpless
Eld and Penury say, rather, if you needs must personify, quoth she. The girl is an epilepticke, and 'twas well you frighted her not into one of her fits. I am obliged, ever and anon, when I see them coming, to take her by the arm and shake her well. The old crone, her mother, was born before the blessed advent of Truth amongst us, and I know of no other way to show her times are mended than to supply her temporal wants, for, alack, the avenues to her inner being are well nigh closed. Methinks, quoth I, your appearance in their cell must seem like the coming of Truth and Light unto them. Nay, quoth she, the old dame holds quite otherwise, and esteems me as benighted and heteroclite as the times. In her opinion, the old were better.
And, in some sort, were they not ? quoth I. How mean you? quoth she. Soe then, to show off my learning, and enjoy a free gallop on my hobby, I must needs read her a lecture on times and seasons since the world began, commencing at the golden age, with all that poets and sages
have said and sung of the reign of Astræa. She hearkened unto me at first with her pretty eyebrows slightly raised, and her rosy lips, half parted, yielded ever and anon unto a smile; but, as I went on extolling the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, beyond all the people that existed before or since, her brow clouded more and more, she was once or twice about to interrupt me, but each time checked herself until I had run myself out o' breath ; when, having made quite sure I had sayd my say, she opened her lips and with sweet austerity replied
The wisdom of man is foolishness with God. Where will you find your vaunted age of virtue, whenas the only book that never lieth tells us that sin entered the world with the very first pair, and fratricide with the second ? while, in the days of the sixth from Adam, the general corruption had become so great that the thoughts of men's hearts were only of evil continually. Do you say, then, you find it in the age immediately succeeding the flood, when the world was young and fresh baptized, and the arch of hope first spanned the sky?... or among the dwellers in the sacred land ? or in wiser Egypt? Alas! you are still to seek ; and as for your Greek fables of Astræa, Bacchus, and Hercules, we know too well of them that framed them, that, professing themselves wise they were as fools, and glorified not God, neither were thankful. As to the calculations of your Ptolemy, and your fears that the sun, who hath so far strayed to ye south since the learned Egyptian took his height,
may yet fall off so as that we may at length lose his light altogether, I yet trust, for all that, to be lighted by him at grey dawn and throughout the livelong day as long as I breathe; remembering the promise of Him who made the sun stand still, that, while the world endureth, night and day, seed-time and harvest shall not fail. And now, sir, there lies your path: fare
well. In sooth, having now reached the border of the wood, we came upon the wide bleak moor, with a cart-road running straight across, on and on, and ever on, as it would seem to an illimitable distance: and I lift up mine eyes and beheld a file of pack-horses laden with their stuff, wearily pursuing this road a good way in advance, with a man beside them, bending forward against the wind, and holding on his slouched hat. He was making for the town of which I was in quest; and when I turned about to thank my guide so charming, she had won away among the brakes without so much as a rustle.
At nightfall, I questioned all and sundry concerning her, but could get no answer beyond, I dinna ken. Of the salvage man, moro news was to be had, albeit vague and coutradictory. One held him harmless; another vouched him for malign. They called him not Lime-blossom, but Lob-lie-i'-th’-sun ; because that Colin, seeking a strayed lamb, had once stumbled on him in a parcel of dried leaves, among which nought of him was to be descried but a pair of great brown eyes, the very reflexes of lazy enjoyment. And, on Colin's making him comprehend his loss, the salvage man did bestir himself without a word, to help him in his quest, and did, in fact, shortly appear with the weary lamb on his shoulders, cast about his neck like a necklace. Cuddy, on 'tother hand, deponed to having come unawares upon his lair while nutting in the wood; and, whilst examining with curiosity its intertexture of wool, mossos, and rushes, and its hoard of berries, apples, and dry crusts, the Sylvan flew upon him from behind, lapt on him like a panther, and so fought him about the eyes as that he was glad to make a hasty retreat, and took good heed never to go nigh the hollow tree thenceforward. Howbeit, he admits he might have been harder hit.
Multum vale.—Commend me to E. K., and to that other esteemed person you wot of. I incloso a few more ragged rhymings, the fruit of much leisure and a vagrant fancy, which I, strangely enow, submit to the umpire whose condemnation is most feared by his undeserving friend. Never more truly y"
III. DEAR MR. GABRIEL,—I hold myself the humble debtor of the worshippful Master P. Sidney for his exprest opinion of my poor versing: in special, for his saying that it seemed to him as though Tityrus had left his reed-pipe beside some sylvan fountain among tufts of asphodel and wild hyacinth, where, after lying long unknempt, it had at length been found by the only hand that could master its stops.
This praise is, I know, far beyond my desert; nathelesse, as prophesies sometimes fulfil themselves, so the commendation of the masters of our craft oft inciteth to a self-emulation and heavenly daring, which lead to success that our efforts had else ne'er attained.
Touching his considerable objection to the union of Scottish dialect with Arcadian
may answer that my dialect is not Scottish nor even wholly North Countrie, any more than my Colin and Cuddy are the Colin and Cuddy of Ewebuchts farm. I do opine, that, after all writ and said by master-spirits aforetime, the materials that still lie about us on every side are so infinitely various, as that a man who hath a turn for any one branch, say pastorals for instance, may copy neither Virgil nor Theocritus, and yet make up a rural world of his own, as complete in its several parts as the Arcadian; something which never hath been nor shall be, but so consistent and lively in itself that all shall admit it well might have been.
Now if, having achieved this much and othermuch, our poet doth furthermore of his own caprice and wilding will find his pleasure in here and there displaying a certain sleight of hand and masterful cunning in translating, rendering, or imitating, here such a line, there such a passage, from such a favourite predecessor, 'tis no plagiary, much less thievery, but an allowed license granted and made use of through all time, that is to say, very likely from the days of the second or third that ever wrote at all.
Now, with respect unto obsolete words, drawn, for example, from old Dan Geoffrey's pure well-head of poesy, Mr. Sidney knoweth that Tully says how an ancient, solempne word doth oftentimes make the style seem grave, and, as 'twere, reverent, like as be the grey hairs of old age, for which we instinctively feel a kind of religious regard.
This much in defence of mine Aeginomon Logi ..... my Goatherds' Tales, wherein, if I now and then take a word by the nape of the neck and bend it to the shape I list, or cap its head, or clip its feet, or dress it alla Francesa