Talis apud tales, talis
sub tempore tali:
Subque meo tali judice, talis ero.
CHLORIS OR, THE COMPLAINT OF THE PASSIONATE DESPISED SHEPHERD by WILLIAM SMITH
The sub-title of Chloris arouses an expectation that is gratified in the pastoral modishness of the sonnets. Corin sits under the “lofty pines, co-partners of his woe,” with oaten reed at his lips, and calls on sylvans, lambkins and all Parnassans to testify to the beauty and cruelty of Chloris. The attitude is a self-conscious one, yet the poem reveals little of the personality of the author beyond the facts of his youthfulness and of his devotion to “the most excellent and learned Shepheard, Colin Cloute.” It was in 1595, but one year before the publication of Chloris, that Spenser had sung his own sonnets of true love, and it is perhaps on this account that William Smith finds him in a mood favourable to the defence of a young aspirant. At any rate, the language of the dedication rings with something more than mere desire for distinguished patronage. The youth looks with a beautiful humility upward toward the greater but “dear and most entire beloved” poet. His own sonnets, he says, are “of my study the budding springs”; they are but “young-hatched orphan things.” He nowhere boasts that they will give immortal renown to the scornful beauty, but modestly promises that if her cruel disdain does not ruin him, the time shall come when he “more large” her “praises forth shall pen.” Chloris had once been favourable, as sonnet forty-eight distinctly shows, but the cycle does not bring any happy conclusion to the story. Corin is left weeping but faithful, and the picture of Chloris is composed of such faint outlines only as the sonneteer’s conventions can delineate. Beyond this no certain information in regard to poet or honoured lady has yet been unearthed.
For all its formality, however, the sonnet-cycle is not wanting in touches of real feeling and lines of musical sweetness; the writer shows considerable skill in the management of rime, and in structure he adopts the form preferred by Shakespeare, whose “sugared sonnets” may by this date have passed beneath his eye. The melodies piped by other sonnet-shepherds re-echo with a great deal of distinctness in Covin’s strains; nevertheless he has himself taken a draught from the true Elizabethan fount of lyric inspiration, and the nymph Chloris with her heart-robbing eye well deserves a place on the snow-soft downs where the sonneteering shepherds were wont to assemble.