Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 648 pages of information about Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama.

This certainly bears on the face of it a close resemblance to Spenser’s measure.  There are, moreover, occasional difficulties in this method of scansion, some lines refusing to accommodate themselves to the Procrustean methods of sixteenth-century editors, and exactly similar anomalies are to be found in Spenser.  Such, for instance, are the lines in the May eclogue: 

    Tho opened he the dore, and in came
    The false Foxe, as he were starke lame.

Now these lines may be written in strict Chaucerian English thus: 

    Tho opened he the dore, and inne came
    The false fox, as he were starke lame,

and they at once become perfectly metrical.  Under these circumstances there can, I think, be little doubt as to the literary parentage of Spenser’s accentual measure.[102]

Like the archaic dialect, this homely measure tends to bring Spenser’s shepherds closer to their actual English brethren.  And hereby, it should be frankly acknowledged, the incongruity of the speakers and their discourse is emphasized and increased.  That discourse, it is true, runs on pastoral themes, but the disguise and allegory have worn thin with centuries of use.  We can no longer separate the words from the allusions, and consequently we can no longer accept the speakers in their unsophisticated shepherd’s role.  Yet it was precisely the desire to give reality to these transparent phantasms that led Spenser to endow them with a rustic speech.  Whether he failed or succeeded the paradox of the form remains about equal.[103]

The importance of the Shepherd’s Calender was early recognized, not only by friendly critics, but by the general public likewise, and six editions were called for in less than twenty years.  Not long after its appearance John Dove, a Christ Church man, who appears to have been ignorant of the authorship, turned the whole into Latin verse, dedicating the manuscript to the Dean.[104] Another Latin version is found in manuscript in the British Museum copy of the edition of 1597, and after undergoing careful revision finally appeared in print in 1653.  This was the work of one Bathurst, a fellow of Spenser’s own college of Pembroke at Cambridge.[105]

The Shepherd’s Calender was Spenser’s chief contribution to pastoral; indeed it was by so much his most important contribution that it would hardly be worth while examining the others did they not bear witness to a certain change in his attitude towards the pastoral ideal.

The first of these later works is the isolated but monumental eclogue entitled Colin Clouts come Home again, of which the dedication to Raleigh is dated 1591, though it was not published till four years later.  This, perhaps the longest and most elaborate eclogue ever written, describes how the Shepherd of the Ocean, that is Raleigh, induced Colin Clout, who as before represents Spenser, to leave his rustic retreat in

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Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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