Representative Poetry Online
  Poet Index   Poem Index   Random   Search  
  Introduction   Timeline   Calendar   Glossary   Criticism   Bibliography  
  RPO   Canadian Poetry   UTEL  
by Name
by Date
by Title
by First Line
by Last Line
Short poem

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

The Shepheardes Calender: April

APRILL: Ægloga Quarta

              1Tell me good Hobbinoll, what garres thee greete?
              2What? hath some Wolfe thy tender Lambes ytorne?
              3Or is thy Bagpype broke, that soundes so sweete?
              4Or art thou of thy loved lasse forlorne?

              5Or bene thine eyes attempred to the yeare,
              6Quenching the gasping furrowes thirst with rayne?
              7Like April shoure, so stremes the trickling teares
              8Adowne thy cheeke, to quenche thy thristye payne.

              9Nor thys, nor that, so muche doeth make me mourne,
            10But for the ladde, whome long I lovd so deare,
            11Nowe loves a lasse, that all his love doth scorne:
            12He plongd in payne, his tressed locks dooth teare.

            13Shepheards delights he dooth them all forsweare,
            14Hys pleasaunt Pipe, whych made us meriment,
            15He wylfully hath broke, and doth forbeare
            16His wonted songs, wherein he all outwent.

            17What is he for a Ladde, you so lament?
            18Ys love such pinching payne to them, that prove?
            19And hath he skill to make so excellent,
            20Yet hath so little skill to brydle love?

            21Colin thou kenst, the Southerne shepheardes boye:
            22Him Love hath wounded with a deadly darte.
            23Whilome on him was all my care and joye,
            24Forcing with gyfts to winne his wanton heart.

            25But now from me hys madding mynd is starte,
            26And woes the Widdowes daughter of the glenne:
            27So nowe fayre Rosalind hath bredde hys smart,
            28So now his frend is chaunged for a frenne.

            29But if hys ditties bene so trimly dight,
            30I pray thee Hobbinoll, recorde some one:
            31The whiles our flockes doe graze about in sight,
            32And we close shrowded in thys shade alone.

            33Contented I: then will I singe his laye
            34Of fayre Elisa, Queene of shepheardes all:
            35Which once he made, as by a spring he laye,
            36And tuned it unto the Waters fall.

            37Ye dayntye Nymphs, that in this blessed Brooke
            38      doe bathe your brest,
            39Forsake your watry bowres, and hether looke,
            40      at my request:
            41And eke you Virgins, that on Parnasse dwell,
            42Whence floweth Helicon the learned well,
            43      Helpe me to blaze
            44      Her worthy praise,
            45Which in her sexe doth all excell.

            46Of fayre Eliza be your silver song,
            47      that blessed wight:
            48The flowre of Virgins, may shee florish long,
            49      In princely plight.
            50For shee is Syrinx daughter without spotte,
            51Which Pan the shepheards God of her begot:
            52      So sprong her grace
            53      Of heavenly race,
            54No mortall blemishe may her blotte.

            55See, where she sits upon the grassie greene,
            56      (O seemely sight)
            57Yclad in Scarlot like a mayden Queene,
            58      And Ermines white.
            59Upon her head a Cremosin coronet,
            60With Damaske roses and Daffadillies set:
            61      Bayleaves betweene,
            62      And Primroses greene
            63Embellish the sweete Violet.

            64Tell me, have ye seene her angelick face,
            65      Like Ph{oe}be fayre?
            66Her heavenly haveour, her princely grace
            67      can you well compare?
            68The Redde rose medled with the White yfere,
            69In either cheeke depeincten lively chere.
            70      Her modest eye,
            71      Her Majestie,
            72Where have you seene the like, but there?

            73I sawe Ph{oe}bus thrust out his golden hedde,
            74      upon her to gaze:
            75But when he sawe, how broade her beames did spredde,
            76      it did him amaze.
            77He blusht to see another Sunne belowe,
            78Ne durst againe his fyrye face out showe:
            79      Let him, if he dare,
            80      His brightnesse compare
            81With hers, to have the overthrowe.

            82Shewe thy selfe Cynthia with thy silver rayes,
            83      and be not abasht:
            84When shee the beames of her beauty displayes,
            85      O how art thou dasht?
            86But I will not match her with Latonaes seede,
            87Such follie great sorow to Niobe did breede.
            88      Now she is a stone,
            89      And makes dayly mone,
            90Warning all other to take heede.

            91Pan may be proud, that ever he begot
            92      such a Bellibone,
            93And Syrinx rejoyse, that ever was her lot
            94      to beare such an one.
            95Soone as my younglings cryen for the dam,
            96To her will I offer a milkwhite Lamb:
            97      Shee is my goddesse plaine,
            98      And I her shepherds swayne,
            99Albee forswonck and forswatt I am.

          100I see Calliope speede her to the place,
          101      where my Goddesse shines:
          102And after her the other Muses trace,
          103      with their Violines.
          104Bene they not Bay braunches, which they doe beare,
          105All for Elisa in her hand to weare?
          106      So sweetely they play,
          107      And sing all the way,
          108That it a heaven is to heare.

          109Lo how finely the graces can it foote
          110      to the Instrument:
          111They dauncen deffly, and singen soote,
          112      in their meriment.
          113Wants not a fourth grace, to make the daunce even?
          114Let that rowme to my Lady be yeven:
          115      She shalbe a grace,
          116      To fyll the fourth place,
          117And reigne with the rest in heaven.

          118And whither rennes this bevie of Ladies bright,
          119      raunged in a rowe?
          120They bene all Ladyes of the lake behight,
          121      that unto her goe.
          122Chloris, that is the chiefest Nymph of al,
          123Of Olive braunches beares a Coronall:
          124      Olives bene for peace,
          125      When wars doe surcease:
          126Such for a Princesse bene principall.

          127Ye shepheards daughters, that dwell on the greene,
          128      hye you there apace:
          129Let none come there, but that Virgins bene,
          130      to adorne her grace.
          131And when you come, whereas shee is in place,
          132See, that your rudeness doe not you disgrace:
          133      Binde your fillets faste,
          134      And gird in your waste,
          135For more finesse, with a tawdrie lace.

          136Bring hether the Pincke and purple Cullambine,
          137      With Gelliflowres:
          138Bring Coronations, and Sops in wine,
          139      worne of Paramoures.
          140Strowe me the ground with Daffadowndillies,
          141And Cowslips, and Kingcups, and loved Lillies:
          142      The pretie Pawnce,
          143      And the Chevisaunce,
          144Shall match with the fayre flowre Delice.

          145Now ryse up Elisa, decked as thou art,
          146      in royall aray:
          147And now ye daintie Damsells may depart
          148      echeone her way,
          149I feare, I have troubled your troupes to longe:
          150Let dame Eliza thanke you for her song.
          151      And if you come hether,
          152      When Damsines I gether,
          153 I will part them all you among.

          154And was thilk same song of Colins owne making?
          155Ah foolish boy, that is with love yblent:
          156Great pittie is, he be in such taking,
          157For naught caren, that bene so lewdly bent.

          158Sicker I hold him, for a greater fon,
          159That loves the thing, he cannot purchase.
          160But let us homeward: for night draweth on,
          161And twincling starres the daylight hence chase.

          162O quam te memorem virgo?

          163O dea certe.


1] First published pseudonymously, under the name "Immerito," in 1579, with an introductory letter to Spenser's friend Gabriel Harvey and notes or "glosses" by "E.K.," possibly Edward Kirke, another Cambridge friend. It was reissued four times in Spenser's lifetime. The text here printed is based on the first edition. The poem is a series of twelve pastoral eclogues "proportionable to the twelve monethes," suggested by the pastorals of Theocritus, Virgil, Mantuan, and Marot; the idea of a "shepherds' almanac" perhaps came from the widely known Kalendrier des Bergers. Spenser follows "the example of the best and most auncient Poetes," especially Virgil, in beginning his poetic career with pastorals, employs the traditional modes of pastoral, e.g., the debate, the singing-match, the love-complaint, the elegy, with incidental satiric and personal allusions, and in his use of archaic and dialectal forms, interestingly defended by E. K. in his introduction, consciously imitates the "homely" language of Theocritus and displays his admiration for Chaucer, though Sidney, to whom the poem was dedicated, disapproved of this practice. E.K. classifies the eclogues as "plaintive," "recreative," and "moral, which for the most part be mixed with some satyrical bitternesse." "Aprill" is recreative; "October" is moral.
"This Æglogue is purposely intended to the honor and prayse of our most gracious sovereigne, Queene Elizabeth" (E.K.).
Æloga: mistakenly for Lat. ecloga (Gr. eklog{ee}), a selection or short poem. E.K. derives ecloga from Gr. aigonom{o}n logoi, "goatherds' tales," hence the spelling.
Thenot: presumably one of Spenser's Cambridge friends; the name comes from Marot's pastorals.
Hobbinoll: Gabriel Harvey.
garres thee greete: "causeth thee weepe and complain" (E.K.); Northern dialect.

5] attempred: "agreeable to the season of the yeare, that is Aprill, which moneth is most bent to showres and seasonable rayne" (E.K.).

10] the ladde: Colin Clout (i.e., Spenser), whose love-complaintis the theme of "January" and "June."

11] a lasse: Rosalind; see line 27.

17] What is he for a Ladde: what kind of lad can he be?

18] prove: experience it.

19] to make: "to rime and versifye" (E.K.).

21] kenst: knowest.
the Southerne shepheardes boye: probably a reference to the fact that in 1578 Spenser was secretary to John Young, Bishop of Rochester.

24] Forcing: striving.

25] is starte: is turned away.

26-27] the Widdowes daughter . . .fayre Rosalind. We do not know who Rosalind was, though there have been many guesses. In a note to "January" E.K. says that Rosalind "is ... a feigned name, which being wel ordered [i.e., it is an anagram] wil bewray the very name of hys love," and in his note to this passage adds that she is called "the Widdowes daughter of the glenne" to "concele the person," for "shee is a Gentle woman of no meane house."

28] frenne: stranger (OE.fremde).

29] trimly dight: neatly fashioned.

41] Virgins: the nine Muses, daughters of Memory, "whose abode the Poets faine to be on Parnassus, a hill in Grece, for that in that countrye specially florished the honor of all excellent studies" (E.K.).

42] Helicon: in the classical tradition a mountain in Boeotia, from which sprang the fountains of the Muses, Hippocrene and Aganippe; Spenser follows the mediaeval tradition in calling Helicon a well; Chaucer calls it "Elicon the clere well."

43] blaze: proclaim.

50] Syrinx: "a Nymph of Arcadia, whom when Pan being in love pursued, she flying from him, of the Gods was turned into a reede" (E.K.).

51] Pan: "by that name, oftymes ... be noted kings and mighty Potentates; and in some places Christ himselfe, who is the verye Pan and god of Shepheardes'' (E.K.).

59] Cremosin: crimson.

65] Ph{oe}be: "the moone, whom the Poets faine to be sister unto Phoebus, that is the Sunne" (E.K.); in late classical mythology Phoebe was identified with Diana (Cynthia); see line 82.

68] the Redde rose ... yfere: not only a tribute to the Queen's complexion, but a reference to the union of the houses of York and Lancaster in the Tudor line.
medled: mingled.
yfere: together.

81] to have the overthrow: to be sure to be worsted.

86-90] Niobe, daughter of Tantalus and wife of Amphion, boasted that her seven sons and seven daughters made her superior to Leto (Latona) who had only two, Apollo and Diana. In revenge Apollo and Diana slew her children with arrows, and she wept until transformed into stone.

92] Bellibone: fair maid.

99] Though tired and covered with sweat.

100] Calliope: the Muse of epic poetry.

104] Bay braunches: ''the signe of honor and victory'' (E.K.).

109] the graces: "three sisters, the daughters of Jupiter (whose names are Aglaia, Thalia, Euphrosyne . . .), otherwise called Charites, that is thanks. Whom the Poets feyned to be the Goddesses of al bountie and comelines'' (E.K.). See F.Q., VI, x, xxii-xxiv below.

111] deffly: nimbly, gracefully.
soote: sweetly.

118] rennes: runs.

120] Ladyes of the lake. The Lady of the Lake, from the Arthurian legend, was one of the allegorical figures in the famous entertainment presented to Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth in 1575.
behight: called.

121] Chloris: the nymph who had "chiefdome and soveraigntye of al flowres and greene herbes" (E.K.).

135] tawdrie lace: lace sold at the fair of St. Audrey (Etheldreda), October 17.

136-44] Such "flower passages'' as this were commonplaces in late Latin literature. Spenser's passage was often imitated by later poets, e.g. by Drayton, John Fletcher, and perhaps by Milton in Lycidas.
Coronations: carnations.
Sops in wine: clove-pinks.
Pawnce: pansy.
Chevisaunce: not identified.
flowre Delice: fleur-de-lis, as in the royal coat of arms.

152] Damsines: damson-plums.

154] thilk: this.

155] yblent: blinded.

156] taking: condition.

157] caren: the Middle English plural form.

158] Sicker: certainly.
fon: fool.

162] Thenots Embleme. Both "emblems", or "Poesyes" as E.K. calls them, come from Aeneas' address to Venus in Virgil, Æneid, I, 327-28: ''What shall I call thee' O maiden? ... O goddess surely !''

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: [Edmund Spenser] Immerito, The shepheardes calender conteyning twelue æglogues proportionable to the twelue monethes (H. Singleton, 1579). STC 23089. Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1968. PR 2359 A1 1579A ROBA.
First publication date: 1579
RPO poem editor: Millar MacLure
RP edition: 3RP 1.34.
Recent editing: 4:2002/5/23

Rhyme: ababccddc

Other poems by Edmund Spenser