The Shepheardes Calender: October

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.
OCTOBER: Ægloga Decima
3And weary thys long lingring Phoebus race.
4Whilome thou wont the shepheards laddes to leade,
6Now they in thee, and thou in sleepe art dead.
7Piers, I have pyped erst so long with payne,
8That all mine Oten reedes bene rent and wore:
9And my poore Muse hath spent her spared store,
10Yet little good hath got, and much lesse gayne,
13The dapper ditties, that I wont devise,
14To feede youthes fancie, and the flocking fry,
16They han the pleasure, I a sclender prise.
17I beate the bush, the byrds to them doe flye:
18What good thereof to Cuddie can arise?
19Cuddie, the prayse is better, then the price,
20The glory eke much greater then the gayne:
21O what an honor is it, to restraine
22The lust of lawlesse youth with good advice:
25Soone as thou gynst to sette thy notes in frame,
26O how the rurall routes to thee doe cleave:
27Seemeth thou dost their soule of sence bereave,
29From Plutoes balefull bowre withouten leave:
30His musicks might the hellish hound did tame.
31So praysen babes the Peacoks spotted traine,
33But who rewards him ere the more for thy?
34Or feedes him once the fuller by a graine?
35Sike prayse is smoke, that sheddeth in the skye,
36Sike words bene wynd, and wasten soone in vayne.
37Abandon then the base and viler clowne,
38Lyft up thy selfe out of the lowly dust:
42And helmes unbruzed wexen dayly browne.
43There may thy Muse display her fluttryng wing,
44And stretch her selfe at large from East to West:
45Whither thou list in fayre Elisa rest,
46Or if thee please in bigger notes to sing,
48That first the white beare to the stake did bring.
53All were Elisa one of thilke same ring.
54So mought our Cuddies name to Heaven sownde.
56Through his Mec{oe}nas left his Oaten reede,
57Whereon he earst had taught his flocks to feede,
58And laboured lands to yield the timely eare,
59And eft did sing of warres and deadly drede,
60So as the Heavens did quake his verse to here.
61But ah Mec{oe}nas is yclad in claye,
62And great Augustus long ygoe is dead:
64That matter made for Poets on to play:
66The loftie verse of hem was loved aye.
67But after vertue gan for age to stoupe,
68And mighty manhode brought a bedde of ease:
69The vaunting Poets found nought worth a pease,
71Tho gan the streames of flowing wittes to cease,
72And sonnebright honour pend in shamefull coupe.
73And if that any buddes of Poesie,
74Yet of the old stocke gan to shoote agayne:
77Or as it sprong, it wither must agayne:
79O pierlesse Poesye, where is then thy place?
80If nor in Princes pallace thou doe sitt:
81(And yet is Princes pallace the most fitt)
82Ne brest of baser birth doth thee embrace.
83Then make thee winges of thine aspyring wit,
84And, whence thou camst, flye backe to heaven apace.
85Ah Percy it is all to weake and wanne,
86So high to sore, and make so large a flight:
90Would mount as high, and sing as soote as Swanne.
91Ah fon, for love does teach him climbe so hie,
92And lyftes him up out of the loathsome myre:
94Would rayse ones mynd above the starry skie.
96For lofty love doth loath a lowly eye.
97All otherwise the state of Poet stands,
99That where he rules, all power he doth expell.
101Ne wont with crabbed care the Muses dwell.
102Unwisely weaves, that takes two webbes in hand.
104And thinks to throwe out thondring words of threate:
105Let powre in lavish cups and thriftie bitts of meate,
107And when with Wine the braine begins to sweate,
108The nombers flowe as fast as spring doth ryse.
109Thou kenst not Percie howe the ryme should rage.
111And girt in girlonds of wild Yvie twine,
113And teache her tread aloft in buskin fine,
114With queint Bellona in her equipage.
115But ah my corage cooles ere it be warme,
120Cuddie shall have a Kidde to store his farme.
121Agitante calescimus illo


1] "In Cuddie is set out the perfecte paterne of a Poete, whiche finding no maintenaunce of his state and studies, complayneth of the contempte of Poetrie, and the causes thereof'' (E.K.).
Pierce. This speaker, whose name comes from Piers Plowman, appears in "May'' as a Protestant pastor attacking ecclesiastical abuses.
Cuddie. ''I doubte whether by Cuddie be specified the authour selfe, or some other" (E.K.). Back to Line
2] cast: plan. Back to Line
5] bydding base: the game of prisoner's base. Back to Line
11] a reference to the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. Back to Line
12] ligge so layd: lie so "faynt and unlustye" (E.K.). Back to Line
15] what I the bett for thy: what gain have I for that? Back to Line
23] vaine: poetic talent. Back to Line
24] trayned: allured. Back to Line
28] Orpheus, whose playing on the lyre held wild beasts spellbound, rescued his wife Eurydice from Hades, but lost her when he looked back as he had been warned by Persephone not to do. The hellish hound is Cerberus, guardian of hell-gates. The Orphic lyre is a conventional symbol of poetic power. Back to Line
32] Argus: the herdsman set by Juno to watch over Io, the beloved of Jupiter, whom the jealous Juno had turned into a heifer; he had eyes all over his body. When Mercury killed him, Juno placed his eyes in the peacock's tail. Back to Line
39] giusts: jousts, tournaments. Back to Line
40] weld: bear. Back to Line
41] doubted: redoubted. Back to Line
47] The reference is to Queen Elizabeth's favourite, the Earl of Leicester, whose coat of arms bore the heraldic device of the Earls of Warwick, a bear and "ragged staff." Back to Line
49] stounds: blows. Back to Line
50] The metaphor is from the strings of the lyre, which, strongly plucked, would become slacker in tension and produce notes of a lower pitch. Back to Line
51] lustihed: pleasure. Back to Line
52] the Myllers rownde: "a kind of daunce" (E.K.). Back to Line
55] The Romish Tityrus is Virgil, who was favoured by the emperor Augustus Caesar and whose patron was Maecenas. Virgil's progress from the pastoral Eclogues (his Oaten reede) through the Georgics, or poems of Agriculture (1aboured lands) to the epic Æneid (treating of warres) was thought of as the perfect pattern of a poet's development. Back to Line
63] the Worthies: the Nine Worthies, Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus, Hector, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Arthur, Charlemagne, Godfrey of Bouillon.
liggen: lie. Back to Line
65] who in derring doe were dreade: who in chivalric deeds inspired awe. Back to Line
70] To put in preace emong: to compare with. Back to Line
75] Or: either.
mote be forst to fayne: might be forced to imitate; the poet's art is a "feigning" (Sidney). Back to Line
76] rybaudrye: ribaldry. Back to Line
78] Tom Piper: the bagpiper who accompanied Morris-dancers, hence a rude and vulgar poet. Back to Line
87] peeced pyneons: "unperfect skil, spoken with humble modestie" (E.K.).
in plight: in condition. Back to Line
88] The line means: For Colin to attempt such great things in poetry. Back to Line
89] ill bedight: stricken (see "Aprill,'' lines 11-12). Back to Line
93] immortal mirrhor: heavenly beauty. Back to Line
95] caytive corage: "a base and abject minde" (E.K.). Back to Line
98] fell: fearful. Back to Line
100] vacant: free. Back to Line
103] prise: enterprise. Back to Line
106] Wine is an aid to poetic inspiration. Back to Line
110] "He seemeth here to be ravished with a Poeticall furie" (E.K.). The ivy was sacred to Bacchus. Back to Line
112] He would be able to write tragedy. The buskin was the high boot (cothurnus) worn by the actors in Attic tragedy. Bellona was the Roman goddess of war, here queint (strange and beautiful). Back to Line
116] For thy: therefore. Back to Line
117] assayde: assailed. Back to Line
118] charme: "temper and order" (E.K.). Back to Line
119] Gates: goats (Northern dialect). Back to Line
121] Cuddies Embleme. The whole verse, from Ovid, Fasti, VI, 5, is Est deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo: "There is a deity in us, and by that power we are inspired." E.K. notes: "Hereby is meant, as also in the whole course of this 'glogue, that Poetry is a divine instinct and unnatural rage passing the reache of comen reason." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Millar MacLure
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.38.