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TO THAT RIGHT NOBLE GENTLEMAN, THOMAS WALSINGHAM ESQ., MOST PRAISEWORTHY FOR HIS VIRTUES, AND A PATRON OF LETTERS, GREETINGS FROM THOMAS WATSON
I AM wont to sing of carefree wood nymphs, the playful thefts of the foam-born goddess, of happy Graces and nymphs in the cool shade, or jokes mixed with witty sallies. But now a new aspect of things turns me to serious matters, and my Muse sounds a gloomy lyre. I fashion these verses against my will, with a groan I dissolve into sad elegies, a funeral dirge. Nor do I shed tears alone: all England mourns, wailing, unkempt with torn hair. For, alas the Fates, great Francis has died, he who was the Meliboeus of our Arcady, a man who warded off baleful storms from me when a winter tempest blowing from the South struck my sail, thanks to your intervention. I am duty-bound to issue piteous plaints, and to add my tears to yours. And for your part, mercifully deign to hear my pious complaints: while I am Corydon, you be my Tityrus. We shall both mourn Meliboeus, taken from us; we shall mourn him, as his friend mourned stolen Hyle.
Desirous to uphold your eminence,
AN ECLOGUE UPON THE DEATH OF THE RIGHT HONORABLE SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM, LATE PRINCIPAL SECRETARY TO HER MAJESTY, AND A MEMBER OF HER MOST HONORABLE PRIVY COUNCIL
Tityrus, since our flocks are now spread over the pasture’s pleasant green, and we are seated, pray tell me in the shade of this tree, what new fates are bringing these careworn sorrows. Why are your signs rivaling the soft zephyr, threatening to battle with the serene sky — you who are wont to exhibit your Muse on a peaceful pipe, and soothe the winds when they are bent on strife? What means your squalid dress, betokening cares? Why are there sobs in your breast, tears in your eye? Why has gauntness settled on your face, complaint in your mouth? Come, tell me, if it be permitted to soothe your sorrow by the telling, or at least for me to join my plaints to your weeping. To have a companion in grief is no small thing.
O Corydon, Corydon, don’t inquire more closely into my reasons and renew my dire sorrow with conversation. My sad wound will be reopened by your friendly overture, and the laments of friends will be of no avail to this mourner: leave off trying to apply a balm to incurable ills. Through the forests, lacking in light, in solitude I shall pour forth complaints against the cruel stars of the firmament, bewailing the misfortunes of this wretched life like a bereaved turtledove perched on a rotten branch.
By the three Graces and joyous wood nymphs, who have led so many dances over these very fields, by Flora’s colorful garland and Ceres’ crown, by the satyrs and Pans, by Faunus’ venerable godhead, by the crystal waters of the Thames, by Diana’s lairs or, if you prefer, by sacred Elisa’s name, and finally by the flower of Amyntas, lately transformed, a blood-red flower, pledge of true love, I beseech you, do not hide this concealed wound in your breast Pray disclose the cause of such sorrow. I, who have enjoyed laughter with you under a springtime sun, shall now mourn winter’s stormy times with you: we shall share one lot, one mind.
Against my will, you compel me to reveal the source of my silent grief, by your earnest entreaties and our bond of friendship. Hear what my bitter groaning will allow me to say: alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. So, Corydon, if you have anything to sing (for we call you too a bard of Arcady), begin your dirge, for anxious sighs hold my tongue in check.
I make my beginning.. Join me in mourning, divine Muses, and you, Apollo, lord of the laurel-clad hill. Let a river of tears flood Pegasus’ bank; by the Muses’ doing, let my laments don black wings and go a-flying worldwide. Let us Arcadians, though we be older than the moon and the stars, a race dear to heaven’s gods, forgetful of our wonted piety, with a hoarse grumble rail at high Olympus’ whirling flames. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Does such wrath possess the minds of the gods that neither the shining virtue of an excellent shepherd, nor his prudent wisdom in handling affairs, nor his heart endowed with Pallas’ manifold arts, nor his learned eloquence, reminiscent of sweet Pericles, nor his pious, ardent zeal for defending his nation, nor his wide-awake care for our Diana’s security, nor his high title, the pedigree and distinction of his ancestors, nor the countless things in which he shone with honor were able to soothe Saturn’s malign aspect, the moon’s harmful chill, the heat of Mars? O stern stars, o baleful heaven, alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. And yet, you heavens, forgive my legitimate sorrow. In a way I had not believed possible, a wretched distraction of mind, piety, and love’s ardent zeal compelled me. Ah, I am ashamed to have spoken ill of the gods: he fell by the fault of the Destinies, not of yours. O eternal Father, Who drives the clouds by Your nod, and Who bids the glittering fires of both the fixed and rotating heavens to do their duties and bathe the earth with their moving rays, observe the deeds of the dire Sisters, who never know how to be sparing of virtue: restrain them with harsh penalties and avenging punishment. For, old age not yet calling him, our shepherd, alas the fates, Meliboeus had died before his time. If I pray for something greater than what is right for mortals, grant this one thing to Your poor petitioner: let that god, most assuredly the glory of our countryside, who as a messenger properly does Your bidding, descend to the dark bower of Juno of Avernus, by the waters of the rushing Phlegethon let him rail at the unkind Destinies, and order them to cease their involvement in the destinies of shepherds, since they unwind their threads so hastily. Henceforth let this task reside in heaven’s citadel, a task fit for the gods. What can the children of Night and Erebus achieve, save to break bright threads? Morta plucks the fresh rose with her black claw. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Evil Morta, alas, is jealous of the best shepherds. In the past she has robbed Astrophil of the breath of life, your delight, Meliboeus, and the fair bridegroom of Hyale, that shining little nymph, while the Fates allowed.
When the Spanish lion had come down from the Pyrenees and crossed the wide sea in his voyage, and at length in his violence would have fed on Belgian cattle, Astrophil, armed with steel and fire-hardened stakes, burst forth from our lands and savaged that raging lion in doughty battle, for the sole love of virtue. Tears and groans forbid me from telling the rest. I return to his father-in-law. While mourning his son-in-law’s travails, alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time.
Now tell, my friends, if you can, who will perform the dead man’s office of fencing the rivers with a hilly bank, lest they stray across the flowery meadows? Who will ditch the fields lest the waters also cause widespread damage to the happy crops and rich fields, a thing, alas, to be mourned by the poor farmers? Who will use dip to cure the lazy sheep of the scab, heal other ills that assault their bodies, and wash their filthy fleece in the river? Who will take the gentle lambs, the fearful lambs, and the tender kids, to the high mountains, and, when they are full, lead them back to the barn at nightfall? Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Who will cut the fallow soil with his plow, so he may entrust his rich seeds to the furrows and put his toothed harrow to the broken sod? Who will reap and bind the harvest, carry it from the field in creaking wagons, and place it in the barns, when Sirius has parched the grain with his burning star? Who will diminish the shepherds’ suits, their stones set aside, and soften savage quarrels with his counsels, private feuds with his eloquence, when every man walks on another’s property and does not condescend to be fenced in by established boundaries? Who will be concerned with the public good of the countryside, now bereft? Who will mingle serious things with the playful, the useful with the pleasant? Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time.”
Once your strident reed used to please my ears, when it would sing to the swans of Paris, that divided city washed by the waters of the Seine, a happy city, if it would obey a lawful king. I recall how your youthful plucking was dear to men of good sense, you seemed like a swallow to us hoopoes. But now, o Corydon, how you have changed from those days! Your erstwhile Muse has been overwhelmed by these new complaints, and while you mourn Meliboeus’ death with your pious song, to all of Arcady you seem a swan. But so you may recover your wearied faculties, I shall raucously embroider on your tune with my song. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. While this dirge is being sung in piteous verses, o all living things that our original parent bestowed upon the earth, the freezing sea, the wide sky, come running all to join in our sad plaints, so that the fair image of all the world and its gloomy murmuring may bear witness to my tears.
First, all you shapes that the great Judge set in the zodiac, mourn along with me. Let Cancer temper my heat with a rain of tears; let summer’s Leo fill the air with its roaring, and Aries refuse to gambol. Let the Amphora pour forth eternal weeping: what can you do but weep? Alas the fate, Meliboeus has died before his time. Let Libra not balance the day with its daystar glowing against the night, for shadowy darkness is more friendly to mourners than is the shining face of day: light is fit for the lighthearted. Let Sagittarius wound the Destinies’ cruel godhead with tainted arrows, so that, tormented by dire poison, they may disturb fearful Orcus with their horrible howls. Let slothful Capricorn bring on the chills of lingering frost, Pisces swim in his rainwaters, Taurus gore with his horn, Scorpio sting with its menacing tail, let the Gemini twins never rescue sinking ships. And you, finally, shining Virgo, rend your cheeks with your nails: what should remain save sadness? Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. And you winding expanses of shining heaven, o match your features to my cares: while the lower world is weeping let not the home of the gods dissolve in laughter. But there is no need, Saturn, to pray you to grieve, for you are naught else but grieving. For if Orpheus, in my view the greatest of shepherds’ bards, truly divulged Olympus’ movements and powers, leaden and chill you are as you run your orbit with morose progress and sadness, groaning, tears, lamentations, sorrows, crazed shadows, terror, discord, and pallor crowd upon your heels, sweetest companion to us during this season of death, since, alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time.
And you, Jupiter, you famous son of a Cretan nymph, who rules a praiseworthy realm on the next planet, put aside your old spirits, ready for joy, let the grace of your salubrious star be changed, nor restrain the raging god with your friendly virtue. Let Mars’ flaming quarters shed strife in human hearts, nor let bloody slaughter be halted because you take pity, or let wrath suffer restraint. Be kind to the world no more, golden sun; and you, Venus, who proceeds or follows the sun (but in its season), melt in tears, and you, dearest Mercury, confound Phoebus’ light with your cap turned against him, for, alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. And you last of the moving spheres (but the first for me), while you submit to various changes and create them in turn, cease to steal Phoebus’ light, so that night’s wings may veil the earth with dense darkness, so that the miserable Arcadians will long for no solace from the sky, made miserable by the death of their excellent shepherd. Let all mortal things mourn the eclipse of your light, let fearful sovereigns and peoples tremble, when you create an appearance of night in night’s absence. Let such a large supply of water fall from your face that the sea transcends all its bounds. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Now hear my heavy plaints, breathable air, and let whatever your embrace, spread through the void, contains deign to join me in drawing forth a fearful dirge. Let the waters drawn from the sky by the sea’s rays change into rain. Let tears form clouds, sighs be causes of winds, discords become seeds of varied lightning. Fiery pyramids, burning candles, flaming arrows, flying sparks, meteors, apparitions, hail, thunder, falling stars, and all which are born in mid-air, let them come come down, producing portents for our sorrows. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time.
Now I have had my rest. You, Tityrus, recuperate while I attempt to utter again the lamentations I had broken off, put a limit on your grave complaints. We shall both sing, weeping by turns, let us both put our necks to the yoke. You, I confess, touched on great themes with your high buskin, recounting the tracts of heaven, the virtues of that remote sphere. But my small Muse will creep on the ground, and will contrive nothing save pastoral verse with her humble song: my simplicity is content with unschooled Muses. Yet would that I had drunk from the sacred font waters worthy of Meliboeus’ perpetual praise, and that I could soften solid crags with my singing! Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Hasten here, all you spirits of the spacious countryside, you deities prostrate on the turf, your cheeks drenched with humors flowing down from your brains above, with your various murmurs support our Muses, for Meliboeus was yours. And you elegant Graces, cease for a while to gladden the groves with your sweet sounds, or under a peaceful sun to comb the ruddy hair at your necks. Never dance with nimble gestures to the sweet music of the bagpipe. Let satyrs cease to frolic with nymphs, let tears be their sole pleasure The times demand new customs. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. In the forests let every bare tree, shed of its leaves, mourn its lost verdure. Let the sap of the juniper pour out, its body gashed, and thick drops from the burgeoning bark of the myrrh tree. In the forests let the ravens caw, the owl, screech owl, and vulture scream, let the starlings and grackles shriek, with the untaught cuckoos redoubling their monotonous tunes. But let the thrush, finch, robin, lark, goldfinch, and the other sweet-whistling songbirds hold their silence. In the forest let the wild oxen, bears, wolves, the gnashing boar and the lioness in the company of her cubs savage the neighboring air with their fearful complaints: alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Bow your heads now, you crops in the barren fields, nor let the slender stalk bear up the heavy grain now that the farmer who used to reap you has been taken away. Wither now, you vines in the barren fields, the cluster is dying as it grows on its new branch, as he who used to tend the vines has perished. But now, you unripe fruit in the barren fields, you chestnuts, pears, prunes and lemons, your planter has fallen, he who used to pluck the apples. Depart now, you fair flowers, from the barren fields, you lilies, narcissi, marigolds, violets and roses, for he who used to be our gardener, alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. O briars of the barren countryside, viburnums and brambles, o dales, fields, mountains, o mournful Echo, o bee mourning your dead sovereign, o fountains, streams, fords, rivers, pulls and marshes, and you, you frog who croaks near weed-choked ponds, and you nymphs who dwell in rocky underwater caverns, ever-verdant with soft moss, o cattle, swine, sheep and shepherds, children, boys, youths, men and gaffers, grave housewives, brides and unwed girls — everything that breathes the breath of life in Arcady, o join me in pouring forth complaints. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time.
Leave these things to me: they are more befitting for me, whom growing sorrow burns with its mordant cares. You are fallen, o sweet Meliboeus, o sweet uncle, o father: o what are you not, o masculine glory of our countryside, stout bulwark of our Elisa? Just as an oak or mighty ash that overtops the rest. thrusting up its head into the lofty clouds, though it suffers the strike of violent lightning and, contending the winds that race around and above it, though rains flow through its foliage and apertures, remains unwearied by black lightning, struggling wind, and rainfall: not otherwise did he bear all of Fortune’s turnings, yet always stays constant, always loyal to Elisa. But alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Rightly, Corydon, with your shout you summon the countryside to join in complaining. But so that the whole world might join us in deploring the bitter setting of its stolen sun, it is my desire to compel the deities that rule on the land, and to penetrate the deep with my grieving, for Amphitrite holds all in his bosom. Come hither, o father Neptune, threaten base heaven with your trident, for with none of its stars did it restrain the wrath of merciless Erebus and the Fates. Let heaven’s patience not commit such a sin with impunity, let Jupiter be made to live beneath the waters, while you on high decree laws to destiny: alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Come hither, o Glaucus, you ancient seer, son of Nereus, you who never foretells amiss. And you, Phorcys, son of land and sea, come with Ceto your consort, who bore a serpent destined to guard the golden fruit of an orchard, a wonderful monster; and you too, Palaemon, who at length have gained new names, and once deceived the eye, taking on so many varied shapes. Come to us, seer, rising from the Carpathian Sea, and Tethis, and younger Thetis. And quickly let all the gods and goddesses of the sea, the nymphs Pherusa, Ligaea, Lamprothoe, Melita, Galataea and Cynothoe, consume whole rivers in weeping with us. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time. Meanwhile let Triton sound his resounding conch over the surrounding sea to all the expanses of the earth, and with his hoarse music celebrate Meliboeus’ funeral, sad music, and let the blue sea bring this to all the regions that line in either hemisphere, whispering its unusually sad rumor, let it roll in plains over countless shores. Let not the playful dolphins thus break to the surface that they may capture little boys, or they themselves again be captivated by Arion’s lyre. Rather, let their eyes overflow with weeping. Let now the wicked siren shed warm, sincere tears, tearing her unbound hair. Alas the fates, Meliboeus has died before his time.
Now, Tityrus, we have indulged enough in tears: listen for a whole, tune your voice to my speech as I discuss better things, inspired by heaven’s spirit. For, I know not how, my heart is brimming with joy after those womanish lamentations. Rejoice with me, since, together with yourself, I have brightened these cloudy times with sentiments wholeheartedly shared: let the weather shine fair for us both. There is no cause for such long grieving. Ah, wrongly we complained that Meliboes met a grim end, for he is free of the shackles of hateful matter and, trading this sad earth for a tranquil star, he wonders at the evening light with open eyes. Placed above the heaven lest envy snatch away virtue’s rewards, as some god has informed us, he has imbibed beakers of life-strengthening nectar, and laughs at our complaints from above the clouds. Tityrus, let us sing a victory hymn to this blessed man.
For our Meliboeus is enlisted in heaven’s legions, which are arranged in nine divisions (if the ancient bard is to be trusted). There the fiery Seraphim shine and, filled with divine liquor, the Cherubim have superhuman wisdom; there the Thrones weigh all mortal things by their fair judgment, the Dominions take their name from their sacred task; there the Principalities disclose mysteries to lesser citizens of heaven, and the throng of Powers wield indomitable weaponry; the Virtues work wonders, and there too the Archangel sings, bearing great tidings to the world, and the Company of Angels announce lesser ones. Tityrus, let us sing a victory hymn to this blessed man. Meliboeus inhabits divine citadels with the gods above, fed on ambosial feasts; looking down from his high citadel, looking through shining Olympus’ stars, with his friendly countenance he gives consolation to Arcady. And while his spirit dwells among the stars, out of duty let us heap his body with violets, fragrant acanthus, ruddy roses, casia, thyme, and aromatics. Lest his funeral lack its due honor, let us veil his limbs in a shroud, in fair tapestries, limbs worthy of your tomb, famed Mausolus. Let us keep watch by nights over his sad corpse, on all sides reciting verses full of eulogies. Tityrus, let us sing a victory hymn to this blessed man.
Let us console Dryas, overwhelmed by her great sorrow (alas, I fear), as once Laodamia, seeking to grasp the thin shade of her husband, died of love. With honor let us console Hyale, clinging to her mother’s side, joining her complaints to him, raising her soft arms to the merciless heavens, arms more shining than the snows of Thrace, into whose welcome bondage Astrophil so often ran, as the elms crave to be wrapped by the winding vines. And finally let us build a black bier, with banners, escutcheons, and the insignia of dark hangings, such as decorate the face and threatening brow of the tiger. Tityrus, let us sing a victory hymn to this blessed man. But especially let us both, and all the countryside with us, try to console Diana. She is the chief of this realm, the glory of this kingdom; she is the Cybele of our sky and our Sibyl; she is a lover of piety, a friend to tranquil peace. With her personal virtues she is an ornament to her race and her forebears. She speaks in many tongues. A poet herself, she favors poets, she favors the learned though more learned herself. She has the bearing of Juno, the character of Minerva, the beauty of Venus. Though an unwed virgin, she surpasses kings as much as the oak towers over the murex. But why speak of her? For she is greater than my power of song, fit to be sung by your buskin, sweet Spenser, as honey of Hyblus resides in your measures. You too join us in consoling our grieving goddess, as often as she bewails Meliboeus’ sad funeral with her precious tears, for you are our Apollo. Tell her (for you are mighty with your happy Muse) that, though Meliboeus has died, countless excellent men of Arcady live on, men of the same stamp as Meliboeus. Remind her of Damaetus, than whom none is more outstanding, nobody of greater wit, nobody more eloquent nor graver of mien, nor more ready to snatch up arms. This is Damaetus, who tempers the wrath of the law, a man whom our Diana’s venerable godhead calls Hatton. Remind her of Damon, Nestor-like in his advanced years and counsel, never advising anything but the truth. For what elderly Nestor was to Atreus’ great son, he who was worth more to the father of his country than many an Ajax, such is ancient Damon to our Elisa. Damon preserves the royal treasury for its proper use, he whom once the Arcadians named Cecil. Remind her of Aegon, who has touched the neighboring seas in his barque, doing the work of a mighty Neptune, and subdues the monstrous seals on our shore. Men of an earlier age called him Howard. And lsstly enumerate Mopsus, Daphnis, Alphesiboeus and Menalcus, a man of the forests, prosperous and wise, and the rest of the shepherds as many as with sincere hearts and restless eyes vigilantly protect Elisa from the avid enemy.. These names will put an end to her ambrosial tears.