When we turn to original verse, the first group of poets to arrest our attention is the court circle which gathered round Sir Philip Sidney. There is a poem by his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, preserved in Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody, and there headed ’A Dialogue between two Shepherds, Thenot and Piers, in Praise of Astrea.’ It was composed for the entertainment of the queen, and was no doubt sung or recited in character. Such was likewise the mode of production of Sir Philip’s ’Dialogue between two Shepherds, uttered in a pastoral show at Wilton,’ which is more rustic in character. Astrophel and Stella supplies a graceful ’complaint to his flock’ against the cruelty of
Stella, fiercest shepherdess,
Fiercest, but yet fairest ever;
Stella, whom the heavens still bless,
Though against me she persever.
Though I bliss inherit never.
The Poetical Rhapsody again preserves two others, the outcome of Sidney’s friendship with Greville and Dyer. The first is a song of welcome; the second, headed ‘Dispraise of a Courtly Life,’ ends with the prayer:
Only for my two loves’
In whose love I pleasure take;
Only two do me delight
With the ever-pleasing sight;
Of all men to thee retaining,
Grant me with these two remaining.
Of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, the loyal admirer and biographer of Sidney, who desired on his tomb no better passport to posterity than that he had been Sir Philip’s friend, we have among other works published in 1633 a series of so-called sonnets recording his love for the fair Caelica. There is a thin veil of pastoralism over the whole, with here and there a more definite note as in ‘Sonnet’ 75, a poem of over two hundred lines lamenting his lady’s cruelty—
Shepheardesses, yet marke
The Martyrdome of Philocell.
Of Sir Edward Dyer’s works no early edition was published. Such isolated poems as have survived were collected by Grosart in 1872 from a variety of sources. If the piece entitled Cynthia is authentic, it gives him a respectable place beside Greville among the minor pastoralists of his day. Lastly, in connexion with Sidney we may note a curious poem which appeared in the first edition of the Arcadia only. It is a ‘bantering’ eclogue, in which the shepherds Nico and Pas first abuse one another and then fall to a comic singing match. It is evidently suggested by the fifth Idyl of Theocritus, and is a fair specimen of a very uncommon class in English. Akin to this is the burlesque variety, of which we have already met with examples in Lorenzo’s Nencia and Pulci’s Beca, and which is almost equally rare with us. A specimen will be found in the not very successful eclogue in Greene’s Menaphon. The following is as near as the author was able to approach to Lorenzo’s delicately playful tone: