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Sir Philip Sidney

Annibale Carracci. River Landscape, c1590
Annibale Carracci. River Landscape, c1590.


The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, 1593    


[The Shipwreck; or, Absent Urania]          

It was in the time that the earth begins to put on her new apparel against the approach of her lover, and that the sun running a most even course, becomes an indifferent arbiter between the night and the day, when the hopeless shepherd Strephon was come to the sands, which lie against the island of Cithera; where viewing the place with a heavy kind of delight, and sometimes casting his eyes to the isleward, he called his friendly rival the pastor Claius unto him; and setting first down in his darkened countenance a doleful copy of what he would speak, "O my Claius," said he, "hither we are now come to pay the rent, for which we are so called by over-busy remembrance, remembrance, restless remembrance, which claims not only this duty of us, but for it will have us forget ourselves. I pray you, when we were amid our flock, and that of other shepherds some were running after their sheep, strayed beyond their bounds; some delighting their eyes with seeing them nibble upon the short and sweet grass; some medicining their sick ewes; some setting a bell for an ensign of a sheepish squadron; some with more leisure inventing new games of exercising their bodies, and sporting their wits; did remembrance grant us any holiday, either for pastime or devotion, nay either for necessary food, or natural rest, but that still it forced our thoughts to work upon this place, where we last (alas! that the word last should so long last) did graze our eyes upon her ever-flourishing beauty, did it not still cry within us? 'Ah, you base-minded wretches!—are your thoughts so deeply bemired in the trade of ordinary worldlings, as for respect of gain some paltry wool may yield you, to let so much time pass without knowing perfectly her estate, especially in so troublesome a season; to leave that shore unsaluted from which you may see to the island where she dwelleth; to leave those steps unkissed wherein Urania printed the farewell of all beauty?' Yonder, my Claius, Urania lighted; the very horse, methought, bewailed to be so disburdened: and as for thee, poor Claius, when thou wentest to help her down, I saw reverence and desire so divide thee, that thou didst at one instant both blush and quake, and instead of bearing her wert ready to fall down thyself. There she sat vouchsafing my cloak (then most gorgeous) under her: at yonder rising on the ground she turned herself, looking back towards her wonted abode, and because of her parting, bearing much sorrow in her eyes, the lightsomeness whereof had yet so natural a cheerfulness that it made even sorrow seem to smile; at that turning she spake to us all, opening the cherry of her lips, and Lord how greedily mine ears did feed upon the sweet words she uttered. And here she laid her hand over thine eyes, when she saw the tears springing in them, as if she would conceal them from other, and yet herself feel some of thy sorrow. But woe is me, yonder, yonder, did she put her foot into the boat, at that instant, as it were, dividing her heavenly beauty between the earth and the sea. But when she was embarked, did you not mark how the winds whistled and the seas danced for joy, how the sails did swell with pride, and all because they had Urania? O Urania, blessed be thou Urania, the sweetest fairness, and fairest sweetness!"

With that word his voice brake so with sobbing, that he could say no farther; and Claius thus answered:

"Alas my Strephon," said he, "what needs this score to reckon up only our losses? What doubt is there, but that the sight of this place doth call our thoughts to appear at the court of affection, held by that racking steward remembrance? As well may sheep forget to fear when they spy wolves, as we can miss such fancies when we see any place made happy by her treading. Who can choose that saw her, but think where she stayed, where she walked, where she turned, where she spoke? But what of all this? No, no, let us think with consideration, and consider with acknowledging, and acknowledge with admiration, and admire with love, and love with joy in the midst of all woes. Let us in such sort think, I say, that our poor eyes were so enriched as to behold and our low hearts so exalted as to love a maid who is such, that as the greatest thing the world can show is her beauty, so the least thing that may be praised in her is her beauty. Certainly as her eyelids are more pleasant to behold than two white kids climbing up a fair tree, and browsing on its tenderest branches, and yet they are nothing comparing to the day-shining stars contained in them; and as her breath is more sweet than a gentle south-west wind, which comes creeping over flowery fields and shadowed waters in the extreme heat of summer; and yet is nothing, compared to the honey-flowing speech that breath doth carry: no more all that our eyes can see of her (though when they have seen her, what else they shall ever see is but dry stubble after clover-grass) is to be matched with the flock of unspeakable virtues laid up delightfully in that best builded fold."

He was going on with his praises, but Strephon bade him stay and look: and so they both perceived a thing which floated, drawing nearer and nearer to the bank; but rather by favorable working of the sea than by any self-industry. They doubted awhile what it should be till it was cast up even hard before them, at which time they fully saw that it was a man. Whereupon running for pity's sake unto him, they found his hands (as it should appear, constanter friends to his life than his memory) fast gripping upon the edge of a square small coffer which lay all under his breast: else in himself no show of life, so that the board seemed to be but a bier to carry him to the land to his sepulchre. So drew they up a young man of goodly shape, and well-pleasing favor, that one would think death had in him a lovely countenance; and that, though he were naked, nakedness was to him an apparel. That sight increased their compassion, and their compassion called up their care; so that lifting his feet above his head, making a great deal of salt water come out of his mouth, they laid him upon some of their garments, and fell to rub and chafe him, till they brought him to recover both breath, the servant, and warmth, the companion, of living. At length opening his eyes, he gave a great groan (a doleful note, but a pleasant ditty, for by that they found not only life but strength of life in him). They therefore continued on their charitable office until, his spirits being well returned, he — without so much as thanking them for their pains — gat up, and looking round about to the uttermost limits of sight, and crying upon the name of Pyrocles, nor seeing nor hearing cause of comfort, "What," said he, "and shall Musidorus live after Pyrocles's destruction?"

Therewithal he offered wilfully to cast himself into the sea: a strange sight to the shepherds, to whom it seemed that before being in appearance dead, yet had saved his life, and now coming to his life, should be a cause to procure his death; but they ran unto him, and pulling him back (then too feeble for them) by force stickled that unnatural fray.

"I pray you," said he, "honest men, what such right have you in me, as not to suffer me to do with myself as I list, and what policy have you to bestow a benefit where it is counted an injury?"

They hearing him speak in Greek (which was their natural language) became the more tender-hearted towards him, and considering by his calling and looking that the loss of some dear friend was the great cause of his sorrow, told him, they were poor men that were bound, by course of humanity, to prevent so great a mischief; and that they wished him, if opinion of some body's perishing bred such desperate anguish in him, that he should be comforted by his own proof, who had lately escaped as apparent danger as any might be.

"No, no," said he, "it is nor for me to attend so high a blissfulness: but since you take care of me, I pray you find means that some barque may be provided, that will go out of the haven that if it be possible we may find the body, far, far too precious food for fishes: and that for hire I have within this casket of value sufficient to content them."

[The shepherds, doing Musidorus's bidding, find Pyrocles alive; but just as they are about to rescue him, a pirate galley suddenly appears and carries him of. They then continue their attentions to Musidorus.]

"Now, Sir," said they, "thus for ourselves it is; we are in profession but shepherds, and in this country of Laconia little better than strangers, and therefore neither in skill nor ability of power greatly to stead you. But what we can present unto you is this: Arcadia, of which country we are, is but a little way hence; and even upon the next confines there dwelleth a gentleman, by name Kalander, who vouchsafest much favor unto us: a man who for his hospitality is so much haunted, that no news stir but comes to his ears; for his upright dealings so beloved of his neighbors, that he hath many ever ready to do him their utmost service; and by the great good will our prince bears him may soon obtain to use of his name and credit, which hath a principal sway, not only in his own Arcadia, but in all these countries of Peloponnesus: and (which is worth all) all these things give him not so much power, as his nature gives him will to benefit: so that it seems no music is so sweet to his ears as deserved thanks. To him we will bring you, and there you may recover again your health, without which you cannot be able to make any diligent search for your friend; and therefore you must labour for it. Besides, we are sure the comfort of courtesy and ease of wise counsel shall not be wanting."

Musidorus (who, besides he was merely unacquainted in the country, had his wits astonished with sorrow) gave easy consent to that from which he saw no reason to disagree: and therefore (defraying the mariners with a ring bestowed upon them) they took their journey through Laconia; Claius and Strephon by course carrying his chest for him, Musidorus only bearing in his countenance evident marks of a sorrowful mind, supported with a weak body; which they perceiving, and knowing that the violence of sorrow is not, at the first, to be striven withal (being like a mighty beast sooner tamed with following than overthrown by withstanding), they gave way unto it, for that day and the next; never troubling him, either with asking questions or finding fault with his melancholy; but rather fitting to his dolour, dolorous discourses of their own and other folks' misfortunes. Which speeches, though they had not a lively entrance to his senses shut up in sorrow, yet like one half asleep he took hold of much of the matter spoken unto him, for that a man may say, e'er sorrow was aware, they made his thoughts bear away something else beside his own sorrow, which wrought so in him, that at length he grew content to mark their speeches, then to marvel at such wit in shepherds, after to like their company, and lastly to vouchsafe conference: so that the third day after, in the time that the morning did strew roses and violets in the heavenly floor against the coming of the sun, the nightingales (striving one with the other which could in most dainty variety recount their wrong-caused sorrow) made them put off their sleep, and rising from under a tree (which that night had been their pavilion) they went on their journey, which by and by welcomed Musidorus's eyes (wearied with the wasted soil of Laconia) with delightful prospects.

There were hills which garnished their proud heights with stately trees; humble valleys whose base estate seemed comforted with the refreshing of silver rivers; meadows enamelled with all sorts of eye-pleasing flowers; thickets, which, being lined with most pleasant shade, were witnessed so too by the cheerful disposition of many well-tuned birds; each pasture stored with sheep feeding with sober security, while the pretty lambs with bleating oratory craved the dams' comfort; here a shepherd's boy piping, as though he should never be old; there a young shepherdess knitting, and withal singing, and it seemed that her voice comforted her hands to work and her hands kept time to her voice-music. As for the houses of the country (for many houses came under their eye) they were all scattered, no two being one by the other, and yet not so far off as that it barred mutual succour: a show, as it were, of an accompanable solitariness and of a civil wildness. "I pray you," said Musidorus, then first unsealing his long silent lips: "what countries be these we pass through, which are so divers in show, the one wanting no store, the other having no store but of want?"

"The country," answered Claius, "where you were cast ashore and are now past through is Laconia, not so poor by the barrenness of the soil (though in itself not passing fertile) as by a civil war, which being these two years within the bowels of that estate, between the gentlemen and the peasants (by them named the Helots), hath in this sort as it were disfigured the face of nature, and made it so unhospitable as now you have found it.

"But this country where now you set your foot is Arcadia: and even hard by is the house of Kalander, whither we lead you. This country being thus decked with peace and (the child of peace) good husbandry, these houses you see so scattered are of men, as we two are, that live upon the commodity of their sheep; and therefore in the division of the Arcadian estate are termed shepherds: a happy people, wanting little, because they desire not much."

"What cause then," said Musidorus, "made you venture to leave this sweet life, and put yourself in yonder unpleasant and dangerous realm?" "Guarded with poverty," answered Strephon, "and guided with love." "But now," said Claius, "since it hath pleased you to ask anything of us, whose baseness is such as the very knowledge is darkness, give us leave to know something of you, and of the young man you so much lament, that at least we may be the better instructed to inform Kalander, and he the better know how to proportion his entertainment."

Musidorus, according to the agreement between Pyrocles and him to alter their names, answered that he called himself Palladius and his friend Daiphantus; "but till I have him again," said he, "I am indeed nothing, and therefore my story is nothing; his entertainment (since so good a man he is) cannot be so low as I count my estate; and in sum, the sum of all his courtesy may be to help me by some means to seek my friend."

They perceived he was not willing to open himself farther, and therefore without farther questioning brought him to the house; about which they might see (with fit consideration both of the air, and the prospect, and the nature of the ground) all such necessary additions to a great house as might well show Kalander knew that provision is the foundation of hospitality, and thrift the fuel of magnificence. The house itself was built of fair and strong stone, not affecting so much any extraordinary kind of fineness as an honorable representing of a firm stateliness. The lights, doors and stairs rather directed to the use of the guest than to the eye of the artificer; and yet as the one chiefly heeded, so the other not neglected; each place handsome without curiosity, and homely without loathsomeness; not so dainty as not to be trod on, nor yet flubbered up with good-fellowship; all more lasting than beautiful, but that the consideration of the exceeding lastingness made the eye believe it was exceeding beautiful. The servants not so many in number, as cleanly in apparel and serviceable in behaviour, testifying even in their countenances that their master took as well care to be served as of them that did serve. One of them was forthwith ready to welcome the shepherds as men whom though they were poor their master greatly favoured; and understanding by them that the young man with them was much to be accounted of, for that they had seen tokens of more than common greatness, howsoever now eclipsed with fortune, he ran to his master, who came presently forth, and pleasantly welcoming the shepherds, but especially applying himself to Musidorus, Strephon privately told him all what he knew of him, and particularly that he found this stranger was loth to be known.

"No," said Kalander speaking aloud, "I am no herald to inquire of men's pedigrees; it sufficeth me if I know their virtues; which (if this young man's face be not a false witness) do better apparel his mind, than you have done his body." While he was thus speaking, there came a boy in show like a merchant's prentice, who, taking Strephon by the sleeve delivered him a letter, written jointly both to him and Claius, from Urania, which they no sooner had read but that with short leave taking of Kalander (who quickly guessed and smiled at the matter) and once again (though hastily) recommending the young man unto him, they went away, leaving Musidorus even loth to part with them, for the good conversation he had had of them and obligation he accounted himself tied in unto them: and therefore, they delivering his chest unto him, he opened it, and would have presented them with two very rich jewels, but they absolutely refused them, telling him that they were more than enough rewarded in the knowing of him, and without hearkening unto a reply (like men whose hearts disdained all desires but one) gat speedily away, as if the letter had brought wings to make them fly. But by that sight Kalander soon judged that his guest was of no mean calling; and therefore the more respectfully entertaining him, Musidorus found his sickness (which the fight, the sea and late travel had laid upon him) grow greatly, so that fearing some sudden accident, he delivered the chest to Kalander, which was full of most precious stones gorgeously and cunningly set in divers manners, desiring him he would keep those trifles, and if he died, he would bestow so much of it as was needful, to find out and redeem a young man, naming himself Daiphantus, as then in the hands of Laconian pirates.

But Kalander seeing him faint more and more, with careful speed conveyed him to the most commodious lodging in his house, where being possessed with an extreme burning fever he continued some while with no great hope of life; but youth at length got the victory of sickness, so that in six weeks the excellence of his returned beauty was a credible ambassador of his health, to the great joy of Kalander, who, as in his time he had by certain friends that dwelt near the sea in Missenia set forth a ship and a galley to seek and succour Daiphantus, so at home did he omit nothing which he thought might either profit or gratify Palladius....

But Palladius having gotten his health, and only staying there to be in place where he might hear answer of the ships set forth, Kalander one afternoon led him abroad to a well-arrayed ground he had behind his house, which he thought to show him before his going, as the place himself more than in any other delighted. The backside of the house was neither field, garden nor orchard; or rather it was both field, garden and orchard: for as soon as the descending of the stairs had delivered them down, they came into a place cunningly set with trees of the most tastepleasing fruits: but scarcely had they taken that into their consideration before they were suddenly stept into a delicate green; of each side of the green a thicket, and behind the thickets again new beds of flowers, which being under the trees the trees were to them a pavillion, and they to the trees a mosaical floor, so that it seemed that Art therein would needs be delightful, by counterfeiting his enemy Error and making order in confusion.

In the midst of all the place was a fair pond whose shaking crystal was a perfect mirror to all the other beauties, so that it bear show of two gardens; one in deed, the other in shadows. And in one of the thickets was a fine fountain made thus: a naked Venus of white marble, wherein the graver had used such cunning that the natural blue veins of the marble were framed in fit places to set forth the beautiful veins of her body. At her breast she had her babe Æneas, who seemed, having begun to suck, to leave that to look upon her fair eyes, which smiled at the babe's folly, meanwhile the breast running.

Hard by was a house of pleasure built for a summer-retiring place; whither Kalander leading him he found a square room full of delightful pictures made by the most excellent workmen of Greece. There was Diana when Actaeon saw her bathing; in whose cheeks the painter had set such a colour as was mixed between shame and disdain, and one of her foolish nymphs, who weeping, and withal lowering, one might see the workman meant to set forth tears of anger. In another table was Atalanta, the posture of whose limbs was so lively expressed, that if the eyes were only judges, as they be the only seers, one would have sworn the very picture had run. Besides many more, as of Helena, Omphale, Iole: but in none of them all beauty seemed to speak so much as in a large table, which contained a comely old man, with a lady of middle-age, but of excellent beauty, and more excellent would have been deemed, but that there stood between a young maid, whose wonderfulness took away all beauty from her, but that which it might seem she gave her back again by her very shadow. And such difference (being known that it did indeed counterfeit a person living) was there between her and all the other, though goddesses, that it seemed the skill of the painter bestowed on the other new beauty, but that the beauty of her bestowed new skill on the painter. Though he thought inquisitiveness an uncomely guest he could not choose but ask who she was, that bearing show of one being indeed could with natural gifts go beyond the reach of invention. Kalander answered, that it was made by Philoclea, the younger daughter of his prince, who also with his wife were contained in that table: the painter meaning to represent the present condition of the young lady, who stood watched by an overcurious eye of her parents; and that he would also have drawn her eldest sister, esteemed her match for beauty, in her shepherdish attire, but that rude clown her guardian would not suffer it; neither durst he ask leave of the prince, for fear of suspicion. Palladius perceived that the matter was wrapped up in some secrecy, and therefore would, for modesty, demand no farther; but yet his countenance could not but with dumb eloquence desire it. Which Kalander perceiving, "Well," said he, "my dear guest, I know your mind, and I will satisfy it: neither will I do it like a niggardly answer, going no farther than the bounds of the question; but I will discover unto you as well that wherein my knowledge is common with others, as that which by extraordinary means is delivered unto me; knowing so much in you (though not long acquainted) that I shall find your ears faithful treasurers." So then sitting down in two chairs, and sometimes casting his eye to the picture, he thus spake:

"This country Arcadia among all the provinces of Greece, hath ever been had in singular reputation; partly for the sweetness of the air and other natural benefits, but principally for the welltempered minds of the people who (finding the shining title of glory, so much affected by other nations, doth help little to the happiness of life) are the only people which, as by their justice and providence give neither cause nor hope to their neighbors to annoy, so are they not stirred with false praise to trouble others' quiet, thinking it a small reward for the wasting of their own lives in ravening, that their posterity should long after say they had done so. Even the muses seem to approve their good determination by choosing this country for their chief repairing place, and by bestowing their perfections so largely here that the very shepherds have their fancies lifted to so high conceits that the learned of other nations are content both to borrow their names and imitate their cunning.

"Here dwelleth and reigneth this prince (whose picture you see) by name Basilius; a prince of sufficient skill to govern so quiet a country, where the good minds of the former princes had set down good laws, and the well-bringing up of the people doth serve as a most sure bond to hold them. But to be plain with you, he excels in nothing so much as the jealous love of his people, wherein he does not only pass all his foregoers but, as I think, all the princes living. Whereof the cause is, that though he exceed not in the virtues which get admiration, as depth of wisdom, height of courage, and largeness of magnificence, yet he is notable in those which stir affection, as truth of word, meekness, courtesy, mercifulness, and liberty.

"He being already well stricken in years, married a young princess, named Gynecia, daughter to the king of Cyprus, of notable beauty, as by her picture you see: a woman of great wit, and in truth of more princely virtues than her husband; of most unspotted chastity; but of so working a mind and so vehement spirits that a man may say, it was happy that she took a good course for otherwise it would have been terrible.

"Of these two are brought into the world two daughters, so beyond measure excellent in all the gifts alloted to reasonable creatures that we may think that they were born to show that nature is no stepmother to that sex, how much soever some men (sharp-witted only in evil speaking) have sought to disgrace them. The elder is named Pamela; by many men not deemed inferior to her sister: for my part, when I marked them both, methought there was (if at least such perfections may receive the word of more) more sweetness in Philoclea but more majesty in Pamela: methought love played in Philoclea's eyes, and threatened in Pamela's; methought Philoclea's beauty only persuaded, but so persuaded as all hearts must yield; Pamela's beauty used violence, and such violence as no heart could resist. And it seems that such proportion is between their minds: Philoclea so bashful, as though her excellencies had stolen into her ere she was aware; so humble, that she will put all pride out of countenance; in sum, such proceeding as will stir hope but teach hope good manners. Pamela of high thoughts who avoids not pride with not knowing her excellencies, but by making that one if her excellencies to be void of pride; her mother's wisdom, greatness, nobility, but (if I can guess aright) knit with a more constant temper. Now then, our Basilius being so publicly happy as to be a prince, and so happy in that happiness as to be a beloved prince; and so in his private estate blessed as to have so excellent a wife and so over-excellent children, hath of late taken a course which yet makes him more spoken of than all these blessings. For having made a journey to Delphos, and safely returned, within short space, he brake up his court, and retired himself, his wife and children, into a certain forest hereby which he called his desert; wherein (besides an house appointed for stables and lodgings for certain persons of mean calling who do all household services) he hath builded two fine lodges: in the one of them himself remains with his younger daughter Philoclea (which was the cause they three were matched together in this picture) without having any other creature living in that lodge with him.

"Which though it be strange, yet not strange as the course he hath taken with the princess Pamela whom he hath placed in the other lodge: but how think you accompanied? Truly with none other than one Dametas, the most arrant doltish clown that I think ever was without the privilege of a bauble, with his wife Miso and his daughter Mopsa, in whom no wit can devise anything wherein they may pleasure her but to exercise her patience and to serve for a foil of her perfections. This loutish clown is such that you never saw so ill-favoured a visor; his behaviour such that he is beyond the degree of ridiculous; and for his apparel, even as I would wish him: Miso his wife so handsome a beldam, that only her face and her splayfoot have made her accused for a witch; only one good point she hath, having a forward mind in a wretched body. Between these two personages (who never agree in any humour, but in disagreeing) is issued forth Mistress Mopsa, a fit woman to participate of both their perfections."

The English Novel Before the Nineteenth Century.
A. B. Hopkins and H. S. Hughes, Eds.
Boston: Ginn and Company, 1915. 88-100.

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