The Shepheardes Calender: December

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

[Woodcut for December]

 Ægloga Duodecima.

 A R G V M E N T.

THis Æglogue (euen as the first beganne) is ended with a complaynte of Colin to God Pan. wherein as weary of his former wayes, he proportioneth his life to the foure seasons of the yeare, comparing hys youthe to the spring time, when he was fresh and free form loues follye. His manhoode to the sommer, which he sayth, was consumed with greate heate and excessiue drouth caused through a Comet or blasinge starre, by which he meaneth loue, which passion is comenly compared to such flames and immoderate heate. His riper yeares hee resembleth to an vnseasonable harueste wherein the fruites fall ere they be rype. His latter age to winters chyll & frostie season, now drawing neare to his last ende.
THe gentle shepheard satte beside a springe,
All in the shadowe of a bushy brere,
That Colin hight, which wel could pype and singe,
For he of Tityrus his songs did lere.
There as he satte in secreate shade alone,
Thus gan he make of loue his piteous mone.

 O soueraigne Pan thou God of shepheards all,
Which of our tender Lambkins takest keepe:
And when our flocks into mischaunce mought fall,
Doest save from mischeife the vnwary sheepe:
Als of their maisters hast no lesse regarde,
Then of the flocks, which thou doest watch and ward:

 I thee beseche (so be thou deigne to heare,
Rude ditties tund to shepheards Oaten reede,
Or if I euer sonet song so cleare,
As it with pleasaunce mought thy fancie feede)
Hearken awhile from thy greene cabinet,
The rurall song of carefull Colinet.

 Whilome in youth, when flowrd my ioyfull spring,
Like Swallow swift I wandred here and there:
For heate of heedlesse lust me so did sting,
That I of doubted daunger had no feare.
I went the wastefull woodes and forest wyde,
Withouten dreade of Wolues to bene espyed.

 I wont to raunge amydde the mazie thickette,
And gather nuttes to make me Christmas game:
And ioyed oft to chace the trembling Pricket,
Or hunt the hartlesse hare, til shee were tame.
What wreaked I of wintrye ages waste,
Tho deemed I, my spring would euer laste.

 How often haue I scaled the craggie Oke,
All to dislodge the Rauen of her neste:
Howe haue I wearied with many a stroke,
The stately Walnut tree, the while the rest
Vnder the tree fell all for nuts at strife:
For ylike to me was libertee and lyfe.

 And for I was in thilke same looser yeares,
(Whether the Muse so wrought me from my birth,
Or I tomuch beleeued my shepherd peres)
Somedele ybent to song and musicks mirth,
A good olde shephearde, Wrenock was his name,
Made me by arte more cunning in the same.

 Fro thence I durst in derring [doe] compare
With shepheards swayne, what euer fedde in field:
And if that Hobbinol right iudgement bare,
To Pan his owne selfe pype I neede not yield.
For if the flocking Nymphes did folow Pan,
The wiser Muses after Colin ranne.

 But ah such pryde at length was ill repayde,
The shepheards God (perdie God was he none)
My hurtlesse pleasaunce did me ill vpbraide,
My freedome lorne, my life he lefte to mone.
Loue they him called, that gaue me checkmate,
But better mought they haue behote him Hate.

 Tho gan my louely Spring bid me farewel,
And Sommer season sped him to display
(For loue then in the Lyons house did dwell)
The raging fyre, that kindled at his ray.
A comett stird vp that vnkindly heate,
That reigned (as men sayd) in Venus seate.

 Forth was I ledde, not as I wont afore,
When choise I had to choose my wandring waye:
But whether luck and loues vnbridled lore
Would leade me forth on Fancies bitte to playe:
The bush my bedde, the bramble was my bowre,
The Woodes can witnesse many a wofull stowre.

 Where I was wont to seeke the honey Bee,
Working her formall rowmes in Wexen frame:
The grieslie Todestool growne there mought I se
And loathed Paddocks lording on the same.
And where the chaunting birds luld me a sleepe,
The ghastlie Owle her grieuous ynne doth keepe.

 Then as the springe giues place to elder time,
And bringeth forth the fruite of sommers pryde:
Also my age now passed yougthly pryme,
To thinges of ryper reason selfe applyed.
And learnd of lighter timber cotes to frame,
Such as might saue my sheepe and me fro shame.

 To make fine cages for the Nightingale,
And Baskets of bulrushes was my wont:
Who to entrappe the fish in winding sale
Was better seene, or hurtful beastes to hont?
I learned als the signes of heauen to ken,
How Phoebe sayles, where Venus sittes and when.

 And tryed time yet taught me greater thinges,
The sodain rysing of the raging seas:
The soothe of byrds by beating of their wings,
The power of herbs, both which can hurt and ease:
And which be wont tenrage the restlesse sheepe,
And which be wont to worke eternall sleepe.

 But ah vnwise and witlesse Colin cloute,
That kydst the hidden kinds of many a wede:
Yet kydst not ene to cure thy sore hart roote,
Whose ranckling wound as yet does rifely bleede.
Why liuest thou stil, and yet hast thy deathes wound?
Why dyest thou stil, and yet aliue art founde?

 Thus is my sommer worne away and wasted,
Thus is my haruest hastened all to rathe:
The eare that budded faire, is burnt & blasted,
And all my hoped gaine is turned to scathe.
Of all the seede, that in my youth was sowne,
Was nought but brakes and brambles to be mowne.

 My boughes with bloosmes that crowned were at firste,
And promised of timely fruite such store,
Are left both bare and barrein now at erst:
The flattring fruite is fallen to grownd before.
And rotted, ere they were halfe mellow ripe:
My haruest wast, my hope away dyd wipe.

 The fragrant flowres, that in my garden grewe, 
Bene withered, as they had bene gathered long.
Theyr rootes bene dryed vp for lacke of dewe,
Yet dewed with teares they han be euer among.
Ah who has wrought my Ro[s]alind this spight
To spil the flowres, that should her girlond dight,

 And I, that whilome wont to frame my pype,
Vnto the shifting of the shepheards foote:
Sike follies nowe haue gathered as too ripe,
And cast hem out, as rotten an vnsoote.
The loser Lasse I cast to please nomore,
One if I please, enough is me therefore.

 And thus of all my haruest hope I haue 
Nought reaped but a weedye crop of care:
Which, when I thought haue thresht in swelling sheaue,
Cockel for corne, and chaffe for barley bare.
Soone as the chaffe should in the fan be fynd,
All was blowne away of the wauering wynd.

 So now my yeare drawes to his latter terme,
My spring is spent, my sommer burnt vp quite:
My harueste hasts to stirre vp winter sterne,
And bids him clayme with rigorous rage hys right.
So nowe he stormes with many a sturdy stoure,
So now his blustring blast eche coste doth scoure.

 The carefull cold hath nypt my rugged rynde,
And in my face deepe furrowes eld hath pight:
My head besprent with hoary frost I fynd,
And by myne eie the Crow his clawe dooth wright.
Delight is layd abedde, and pleasure past,
No sonne now shines, cloudes han all ouercast.

 Now leaue ye shepheards boyes yo[u]r merry glee,
My Muse is hoarse and weary of thys stounde:
Here will I hang my pype vpon this tree,
Was neuer pype of reede did better sounde.
Winter is come, that blowes the bitter blaste,
And after Winter dreerie death does hast.

 Gather ye together my little flocke,
My little flock, that was to me so liefe:
Let me, ah lette me in your folds ye lock,
Ere the breme Winter breede you greater griefe.
Winter is come, that blowes the balefull breath,
And after Winter commeth timely death.

 Adieu delightes, that lulled me asleepe,
Adieu my deare, whose loue I bought so deare:
Adieu my little Lambes and loued sheepe,
Adieu ye Woodes that oft my witnesse were:
Adieu good Hobbinol, that was so true,
Tell Rosalind, her Colin bids her adieu.

Colins Embleme.

[Vivitur ingenio, caetera mortis erunt.]


Tityrus) Chaucer as hath bene oft sayd.

Lambkins) young lambes.

Als of their) Semeth to expresse Virgils verse. Pan curat oues ouiumque magistros.

Deigne) voutchsafe.

[C]abinet)Colinet) dimi nutines.

Mazie) For they be like to a maze whence it is hard to get out agayne.

Peres) felowes and companions.

Musick) that is Poetry as Terence sayth Qui artem tractant musicam, speking of Poetes.

]Derring doe) aforesayd.

Lions house) He imagineth simply that Cupid, which is loue, had his abode in the whote signe Leo, which is in middest of somer; a pretie allegory, whereof the meaning is, that loue in him wrought an extaordinarie heate of lust.

His ray) which is Cupids beame or flames of Loue.

A Comete) a blasing starre, meant of beautie, which was the cause of his whote loue.

Venus) the goddesse of beauty or pleasure. Also a signe in heauen, as it is here taken. So he meaneth that beautie, which hath alwayes aspect to Venus, was the cause of all his vnquietnes in loue.

Where I was) a fine description of the chaunge of hys lyfe and liking, for all things nowe seemed to hym to have altered their kindly course.

Lording) Spoken after the manner of Paddocks and Frogges sitting which is indeed Lordly, not remouing nor looking once aside, vnlesse they be sturred.

Then as) The second part. That is his manhoode.

Cotes) sheepecotes. for such be the exercises of the shepheards.

Sale) or Salow a kind of woodde like the wyllow, fit to wreath and bynde in leapes to catch fish withall.

Phoebe sayles) The Eclipse of the Moone, which is alwayes in Cauda or Capite Draconis, signes in heauen.

Venus) .s. Venus starre, otherwise called Hesperus and Vesper and Lucifer, both because he seemeth to be one of the brightest starres, and also first ryseth and setteth last. All which still in starres being conuenient for shepheardes to knowe as Theocritus and the rest vse.

Raging seaes) The cause of the swelling and ebbing of the sea commeth of the course of the Moone, sometime encreasing, sometime wayning and decreasing.

Sooth of byrdes) A kind of sooth saying vsed in elder tymes, which they gathered by the flying of byrds; First (as is sayd) [in]vented by the Thuscanes and from them deriued to the Romanes, who (as is sayd in Liuie) were so supersticiously rooted in the same, that they agreed that euery Noble man should put his sonne to the Thuscanes, by them to be brought vp in that knowledge.

Of herbes) That wonderous thinges be wrought by herbes, aswell appeareth by the common working of them in our bodies, as also by the wonderful enchauntments and sorceries that haue bene wrought by them; insomuch that it is sayde that Circe a famous sorceresee turned men into sondry kinds of beastes & Monsters, and onely by herbes: as the Poete sayth Dea saeua potentibus herbis &c.

Kidst) knewest.

Eare) of corne.

Scathe) losse hinderaunce.

Euer among) Euer and anone.

This is my) The thyrde parte wherein is set forth his ripe yeres as an vntimely haruest, that bringeth little fruite.

The f[r]agraunt flowres) sundry studies and laudable partes of learning, wherein how our Poete is seene, be they witnesse which are priuie to his study.

So now my yeare) The last part, wherein is described his age by comparison of wyntrye stormes.

Carefull cold) for care is sayd to coole the blood.

Glee[)] mirth[.]

Hoary frost) A metaphore of hoary heares scattred lyke to a gray frost.

Breeme) sharpe and bitter.

Adiew delights) is a conclusion of all. where in sixe verses he comprehendeth briefly all that was touched on in this booke. In the first verse his delights of youth generally. in the second, the loue of Rosalind, in the thyrd, the keeping of the sheepe, which is the argument of all Æglogues. In the fourth his complaints. And in the last two his professed frendship and good will to his good friend Hobbinoll.


The meaning whereof is that all thinges perish and come to theyr last end, but workes of learned wits and monuments of Poetry abide for euer. And therefore Horace of his Odes a work though ful indeede of great wit & learning, yet of no so great weight and importaunce boldly sayth. 

Exigi monimentum aere perennius,
Quod noc imber nec aquilo vorax &c. 
Therefore let not be enuied, that this Poete in his Epilogue sayth he hath mad a Calendar, that shall endure as long as time &c. folowing the example of Horace and Ouid in the like. 
Grande Opus exegi quae nec Iouis ira nec ignis,
Nec ferum poterit nec edax abolere vetustas &c.

Loe I haue made a Calender for euery yeare,
That steele in strength, and time in durance shall outweare:
And if I marked well the starres reuolution,
It shall continewe till the worlds dissolution.
To teach the ruder shepheard how to feed his sheepe,
And from the falsers fraud his folded flocke to keepe.
Goe lyttle Calender, thou hast a free passeporte,
Goe but a lowly gate emongste the meaner sorte.
Dare not to match thy pipe with Tityrus his style,
Nor with the Pilgrim that the Ploughman playde a whyle:
But followe them farre off, and their high steppes adore,
The better please, the worse despise, I aske nomore.
Merce non mercede.

[Printer's Mark]

 Imprinted at London by Hugh
Singleton, dwelling in Creede lane
at the signe of the gylden
Tunn neere vnto

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