Percy's Reliques - Harpalus.

Harpalus.

AN ANCIENT ENGLISH PASTORAL.

            This beautiful poem, which is perhaps the first attempt at pastoral writing in our language, is preserved among the "Songs and Sonnettes" of the Earl of Surrey, &c. 4to. in that part of the collection, which consists of pieces by "uncertain auctours." These poems were first published in 1557, ten years after that accomplished nobleman fell a victim to the tyranny of Henry VIII.: but it is presumed most of them were composed before the death of Sir Thomas Wyatt in 1541.-- See Surrey's Poems, 4to. folios 19, 49.

            Though written perhaps near half a century before the "Shepherd's Calendar,"[ 1] this will be found far superior to any of those eclogues, in natural unaffected simplicity of style, in easy flow of versification, and all other beauties of pastoral poetry. Spenser ought to have profited snore by so excellent a model.

PHYLIDA was a faire mayde,
As fresh as any flowre;
Whom Harpalus the herdeman prayed
To be his paramour.

Harpalus, and eke Corin,
Were herdmen both yfere:
And Phylida could twist and spinne,
And thereto sing full clere.

But Phylida was all tò coye,
For Harpalus to winne:
For Corin was her onely joye,
Who forst her not a pinne.

How often would she flowers twine?
How often garlandes make
Of couslips and of colombine?
And al for Corin's sake.

But Corin, he had haukes to lure,
And forced more the field:
Of lovers lawe he toke no cure;
For once he was begilde.

Harpalus prevailed nought,
His labour all was lost;
For he was fardest from her thought,
And yet he loved her most.

Therefore waxt he both pale and loane,
And dry as clot of clay:
His fleshe it was consumed cleane,
His colour gone away.

His beard it had not long be shave;
His heare hong all unkempt:
A man most fit even for the grave,
Whom spitefull love had spent.

His eyes were red, and all forewacht;
His face besprent with teares:
It semde unhap had him long hatcht,
In mids of his dispaires.

His clothes were blacke, and also bare;
As one forlorne was he;
Upon his head always he ware
A wreath of wyllow tree.

His beastes he kept upon the hyll,
And he sate in the dale;
And thus with sighes and sorrowes shril,
He gan to tell his tale.

"Oh Harpalus!" (thus would he say)
"Unhappiest under sunne!
The cause of thine unhappy day,
By love was first begunne.

"For thou wentest first by sute to seeke
A tigre to make tame,
That settes not by thy love a leeke;
But makes thy griefe her game.

"As easy it were for to convert
The frost into a flame;
As for to turne a frowarde hert,
Whom thou so faine wouldst frame.

"Corin he liveth carelesse
He leapes among the leaves:
He eates the frutes of thy redresse:
Thou reapst, he takes the sheaves.

"My beastes a whyle your foode refraine,
And harke your herdmans sounde;
Whom spitefull love, alas! hath slaine,
Through-girt with many a wounde.

"O happy be ye, beastès wild,
That here your pasture takes:
I se that ye be not begilde
Of these your faithfull makes.

"The hart he feedeth by the hinde:
The bucke harde by the do:
The turtle-dove is not unkinde
To him that loves her so.

"The ewe she hath by her the ramme:
The yong cow hath the bull:
The calfe with many a lusty lambe
Do fede their hunger full.

"But, wel-away! that nature wrought
The, Phylida, so faire:
For I may say that I have bought
Thy beauty all to deare.

"What reason is that crueltie
With beautie should have part?
Or els that such great tyranny
Should dwell in womans hart?

"I see therefore to shape my death
She cruelly is prest;
To th' ende that I may want my breath:
My dayes been at the best.

"O Cupide, graunt this my request,
And do not stoppe thine eares;
That she may feele within her Brest
The paines of my dispaires:

"Of Corin who is carelesse,
That she may crave her fee:
As I have done in great distresse,
That loved her faithfully.

"But since that I shall die her slave;
Her slave, and eke her thrall:
Write you, my frendes, upon my grave
This chaunce that is befall.

"'Here lieth unhappy Harpalus
By cruell love now slaine:
Whom Phylida unjustly thus
Hath murdred with disdaine.'"

NOTES

1. First published in 1579.

 

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