The Shepheardes Calender: April

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.
APRILL: Ægloga Quarta
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?
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,
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.
20Yet hath so little skill to brydle love?
22Him Love hath wounded with a deadly darte.
23Whilome on him was all my care and joye,
27So nowe fayre Rosalind hath bredde hys smart,
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:
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.
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.
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,
66Her heavenly haveour, her princely grace
67      can you well compare?
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
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?
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
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,
101      where my Goddesse shines:
102And after her the other Muses trace,
103      with their Violines.
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.
110      to the Instrument:
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.
119      raunged in a rowe?
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,
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,
153 I will part them all you among.
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. Back to Line
5] attempred: "agreeable to the season of the yeare, that is Aprill, which moneth is most bent to showres and seasonable rayne" (E.K.). Back to Line
10] the ladde: Colin Clout (i.e., Spenser), whose love-complaintis the theme of "January" and "June." Back to Line
11] a lasse: Rosalind; see line 27. Back to Line
17] What is he for a Ladde: what kind of lad can he be? Back to Line
18] prove: experience it. Back to Line
19] to make: "to rime and versifye" (E.K.). Back to Line
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. Back to Line
24] Forcing: striving. Back to Line
25] is starte: is turned away. Back to Line
26] 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." Back to Line
28] frenne: stranger (OE.fremde). Back to Line
29] trimly dight: neatly fashioned. Back to Line
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.). Back to Line
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." Back to Line
43] blaze: proclaim. Back to Line
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.). Back to Line
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.). Back to Line
59] Cremosin: crimson. Back to Line
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. Back to Line
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. Back to Line
81] to have the overthrow: to be sure to be worsted. Back to Line
86] 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. Back to Line
92] Bellibone: fair maid. Back to Line
99] Though tired and covered with sweat. Back to Line
100] Calliope: the Muse of epic poetry. Back to Line
104] Bay braunches: ''the signe of honor and victory'' (E.K.). Back to Line
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. Back to Line
111] deffly: nimbly, gracefully.
soote: sweetly. Back to Line
118] rennes: runs. Back to Line
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. Back to Line
121] Chloris: the nymph who had "chiefdome and soveraigntye of al flowres and greene herbes" (E.K.). Back to Line
135] tawdrie lace: lace sold at the fair of St. Audrey (Etheldreda), October 17. Back to Line
136] 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. Back to Line
152] Damsines: damson-plums. Back to Line
154] thilk: this. Back to Line
155] yblent: blinded. Back to Line
156] taking: condition. Back to Line
157] caren: the Middle English plural form. Back to Line
158] Sicker: certainly.
fon: fool. Back to Line
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 !'' Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Millar MacLure
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.34.