The Shepheardes Calender: October
Note on this Renascence Editions text:
This edition is copyright © The University of Oregon; it is distributed for scholarly and nonprofit purposes only. Risa S. Bear
A R G V M E N T.
Pierce. Cuddie.CVddie, for shame hold vp thy heauye head,
Agitante calescimus illo &c.
This Æglogue is made in imitation of Theocritus his xvi. Idilion, wherein hee reproued the Tyranne Hiero of Syracuse for his nigardise towarde Poetes, in whom is the power to make men immortal for theyr good dedes, or shameful for their naughty lyfe. And the lyke also is in Mantuane, The style hereof as also that in Theocritus, is more loftye then the rest, and applyed to the heighte of Poeticall witte.
Cuddie) I doubte whether by Cuddie be specified the authour selfe, or some other. For in the eyght Æglogue the same person was brought in, singing a Cantion of Colins making, as he sayth. So that some doubt, that the persons be different.
To restraine.) This place seemeth to conspyre with Plato, who in his first booke de Legibus sayth, that the first inuention of Poetry was of very vertuous intent. For at what time an infinite number of youth vsually came to theyr great solemne feastes called Panegyrica, which they vsed euery fiue yeere to hold, some learned man being more hable then the rest, for speciall gyftes of wytte and Musicke, would take vpon him to sing fine verses to the people, in prayse [eyther] of vertue or of victory or of immortality or such like. At whose wonderful gyft al men being astonied and as it were rauished, with delight, thinking (as it was indeede) that he was inspired from aboue, called him vatem: which which kinde of men afterwarde framing their verses to lighter musick (as of musick be many kinds, some sadder, some lighter, some martiall, some heroicall: and so diuersely eke affect the mynds of men) found out lighter matter of Poesie also, some playing wyth loue, some scorning at mens fashions, some powred out in pleasures, and so were called Poetes or makers.
Sence bereaue) what the secrete working of Musick is in the myndes of men, aswell appeareth, hereby, that some of the auncient Philosophers, and those the moste wise, as Plato and Pythagoras held for opinion, that the mynd was made of a certaine harmonie and musicall nombers, for the great compassion & likenes of affection in thone and in the other as also by that memorable history of Alexander: to whom when as Timotheus the great Musitian playd the Phrygian melodie, it is said, that he was distraught with such vnwonted fury, that streight way rysing from the table in great rage, he caused himselfe to be armed, as ready to goe to warre (for that musick is very warlike:) And immediately whenas the Musitian chaunged his stroke into the Lydian and Ionique harmony, he was so furr from warring, that he sat as styl, as if he had bene in mattes of counsell. Such might is in musick. wherefore Plato and Aristotle forbid the Aradian Melodie from children and youth. for that being altogither on the fyft and vij, tone, it is of great force to molifie and quench the kindly courage, which vseth to burne in yong brests. So that it is not incredible which the Poete here sayth, that Musick can bereaue the soule of sence.
Argus eyes) of Argus is before said, that Iuno to him committed hir husband Iupiter his Paragon Io, bicause he had an hundred eyes: but afterwarde Mercury wyth his Musick lulling Argus asleepe, slew him and brought Io away, whose eyes it is sayd that [Iuno] for his eternall memory placed in her byrd the Peacocks tayle. for those coloured spots indeede resemble eyes.
Display) A poeticall metaphore: whereof the meaning is, that if the Poet list showe his skill in matter of more dignitie, then is the homely Æglogue, good occasion is him offered of higher veyne and more Heroicall argument, in the person of our most gratious soueraign, whom (as before) he calleth Elisa. Or if mater of knighthoode and cheualrie please him better, that there be many Noble & valiaunt men, that are both worthy of his payne in their deserued prayses, and also fauourers of hys skil and faculty.
The worthy) he meaneth (as I guesse) the most honorable and renowmed the Erle of Leycester, whom by his cognisance (although the same be also proper to other) rather then by his name he bewrayeth, being not likely, that the names of noble princes be known to country clowne.
Whereon) in these three verses are the three seueral workes of Virgile intended. For in teaching his flocks to feede, is meant his Æglogues. In labouring of lands, is hys Bucoliques. In singing of wars and deadly dreade, is his diuine Æneis figured.
For euer) He sheweth the cause, why Poetes were wont be had in such honor of noble men; that is, that by them their worthines & valor shold through theyr famous Posies be commended to al posterities. wherfore it is sayd, that Achilles had neuer bene so famous, as he is, but for Homeres immortal verses. which is the only aduantage, which he had of Hector. And also that Alexander the great comming to his tomb in Sigeus, with naturall teares blessed him, that euer was his hap to be honoured with so excellent a Poets work: as so renowmed and ennobled onely by hys meanes. which being declared in a most eloquent Oration of Tulies, is of Petrarch no lesse worthely sette forth in a sonet
Giunto Alexandro a la famosa tombaAnd that such account hath bene alwayes made of Poetes, aswell sheweth this that the worthy Scipio in all his warres against Carthage and Numantia had euermore in his company, and that in a most familiar sort the goode olde Poete Ennius: as also that Alexander destroying Thebes, when he was enformed that the famous Lyrick Poet Pindarus was borne in that citie, not onely commaunded streightly, that no man should vpon payne of death do any violence to that house by fire or otherwise: but also specially spared most, and some highly rewarded, that were of hys kinne. So fauoured he the only name of a Poete. whych prayse otherwise was in the same man no lesse famous, that when he came to ransacking of king Darius coffers, whom he lately had ouerthrowen, he founde in a little coffer of siuer two bookes of Homers works, as layd vp there for speciall iewells and richesse, which he taking thence, put one of them dayly in his bosome, and thother euery night layde vnder his pillowe. Such honor haue Poetes alwayes found in the sight of princes and noble men. which this author here very well sheweth, as els where more notably.
As soote as Swanne) The comparison seemeth to be strange: for the swanne hath euer wonne small commendation for her sweete singing: but it is sayd of the learned that the swan a little before hir death, singeth most pleasantly, as prophecying by a secrete instinct her neere destinie As wel sayth the Pote elswhere in one of his sonetts. The siluer swanne doth sing before her dying day As shee that feeles the deepe delight that is in death &c.
Fiorir faceua il mio debile ingegnoA caytiue corage) a base and abiect minde.
O if my) He seemeth here to be rauished with a Poeticall furie. For (if one rightly mark) the numbers rise so ful, & the verse groweth so big, that it seemeth he hath forgot the meanenesse of shepheards state and stile.
Wild yuie) for it is dedicated to Bacchus & therefore it is sayd that the Maenades (that is Bacchus franticke priestes) vsed in theyr sacrifice to carry Thyrsos, which were pointed staues or Iauelins, wrapped about with yuie.
In buskin) it was the maner of Poetes & plaiers in tragedies to were buskins, as also in Comedies to vse stockes & light shoes. So that the buskin in poetry is vsed for tragical matter, as it said in Virgile. Sola sophocleo tua carmina digna cothurno.
Queint) strange Bellona; the goddese of battaile, that is Pallas, which may therefore wel be called queint for that (as Lucian saith) when Iupiter hir father was in traueile of her, he caused his sonne Vulcane with his axe to hew his head. Out which leaped forth lustely a valiant damsell armed at all poyntes, whom seeing Vulcane so faire & comely, lightly leaping to her, proffered her some cortesie, which the Lady disdeigning, shaked her speare at him, and threatned his saucinesse. Therefore such [straungenesse] is well applyed to her.
Aut si carminibus.
Hereby is meant, as also in the whole course of this Æglogue, that Poetry is a diuine instinct and vnnatural rage passing the reache of comen reason. Whom Piers answereth Epiphonematicos as admiring the excellencye of the skyll whereof in Cuddie hee hadde alreadye hadde a taste.
Go on to November.