3.5.4. Robert Greene, Menaphon, 1589


Greene’s MENAPHON [1] was published in 1589, 1599, 1605, 1610, 1616 and 1634.
The scene, and something in the style and construction of the fable, were perhaps suggested by Sir Philip Sidney’s celebrated romance, though that work did not appear in print till 1590. Each commences with consulting the oracle at Delphos; whose dark responses are in both fulfilled in an equally improbable manner.

To make Sephestia, under the disguised name and character of Samela[2], at once the object of the amorous attachment of her father, her husband, and her son, each unable to discover the identity of a person so nearly connected with them, is a revolting improbability; which shows the gross and unsettled taste both of the writer and of the age, that could endure, and still more, could even admire, such a fable. The style also of this production is, as it seems to me, more liable to that imputation of “a vast excess of allusion” in which Greene is accused to have followed the fashion set by John Lily.

The poetry interspersed in this romance is pastoral and pleasing, and far exceeds, both in the character, of its ingredients and in the spirit with which they are combined, much of that which obtained the applause and led the fashion of the subsequent reign of king James. Greene’s pieces, however, still continued popular throughout that reign, yet not without having made somewhat of a descent from the court to the country, and from the drawingroom to the servants'-hall; for metaphysical conceits became now the ambition of the palace, and learning was encouraged to exercise her usurped triumph over genius.


Camillas alarum to slumbering Euphues, in his melancholie cell at Silexedra [3]. Wherein are deciphered the variable effects of fortune, the wonders of love, the triumphes of inconstant time. Displaying in sundrie conceipted passions (figured in a continuate historie) the trophees that vertue carrieth triumphant, maugre the wrath of envie, or the resolution of fortune. A worke worthie the youngest eares for pleasure, or the gravest censures for principles. Robertus Greene in Artibus Magister.

Omne tulit punctum.[4]

LONDON Printed by T. O. for Sampson Clarke, and are to be sold behinde the Royall Exchange. 1589.



DEMOCLES, king of Arcadia, sent two of his chief lords to Delphos, to consult the oracle regarding the future fate of his kingdom. The answer was, “more full of doubts to amaze, than fraught with hope to comfort.” But the king endeavoured to appease the anxieties of his people, who framed their thoughts by his example.

Meanwhile, MENAPHON, the king's shepherd, walking to the Sea-shore to look after his flock, beheld fragments of a ship floating on the waves. Wondering at this sight, he sate still to observe the event, when he perceived a woman holding a child in her arms, and an old man assisting her to climb the mountain, both in an agony of sorrow. Yet as the baby laughed, the mother at moments smiled through her grief; and sung over him the beautiful ditty,

Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee:
When thou art old, there's grief enough for thee.
    Mother's wag, pretty boy,
    Father's sorrow, father's joy!
    When thy father first did see
    Such a boy by him and me,
    He was glad, I was woe,
    Fortune changed made him so:
    When he had left his pretty boy,
    Last his sorrow, first his joy.
Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee:
When thou art old, there's grief enough for thee.
    Streaming tears that never stint,
    Like pearl drops from a flint,
    Fell by course from his eyes,
    That one another's place supplies:
    Thus he griev'd in every part,
    Tears of blood fell from his heart,
    When he left his pretty boy,
    Father's sorrow, father's joy.
Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee:
When thou art old, there's grief enough for thee.
    The wanton smiled, father wept,
    Mother cried, baby leapt:
    More he crowed, more he cried,
    Nature could not sorrow hide.
    He must go, he must kiss
    Child and mother, baby bliss:
    For he left his pretty boy,
    Father's sorrow, father's joy.
Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee:
When thou art old, there's grief enough for thee.


With this lullaby the baby fell asleep, and SEPHESTIA, the mother, covering it with a mantle, gave full vent to her own complaints; while LAMEDOX, the old man, endeavoured to comfort her;  though the daughter of a king, “exiled by him from the hope of a crown; banished from from the pleasures of the court,” and parted from her lover, MAXIM[I]US [5].

MENAPHON, hitherto “an atheist in love” was so struck with her beauty, that he now swore, there was “no god but Cupid.” A conversation ensued, by LAMEDON'S inquiry about the course of the country. SEPHESTIA now represented herself as SAMELA, a native of Cyprus, of mean birth, and widow of a poor gentleman, thrown on the present shore by shipwreck.

MENAPHON received them in his cottage, where they gratefully accepted his hospitality, which was under the conduct of his sister CARMELA. They retired to rest; but MENAPHON'S slumbers were disturbed by the deep wound which his heart had received. The next morning MENAPHON led them abroad to see his flocks; when he endeavoured to interest SAMELA by a display of his pastoral wealth, and by speeches of admiration and love; which she parried with great skill, so as to discourage without offending him. SAMELA now reconciled herself to a rural life, and would often herself lead the flocks to the field; when she attracted the notice of DORON, a neighbour of MENAPHON, who described her to his friend MELICERTUS in the poem,


Like to Diana in her summer weed,
Girt with a crimson robe of brightest dye,
     goes fair SAMELA.
Whiter than be the flocks that straggling feed,
When wash'd by Arethusa faint they lie,
     is fair SAMELA.
As fair Aurora in her morning grey,
Deck'd with the ruddy glister of her love,
     is fair SAMELA.
Like lovely Thetis on a calmed day,
When as her brightness Neptune's fancy move,
     shines fair SAMELA.
Her tresses gold, her eyes like glassy, streams,
Her teeth are pearl, the breasts are ivory
     of fair SAMELA.
Her cheeks, like rose and lily, yield forth gleams,
Her brows' bright arches fram'd of ebony:
     thus fair SAMELA.
Passeth fair Venus in her bravest hue,
And Juno in the shew of majesty,
     for she's SAMELA.
Pallas in wit: all three if you will view,
For beauty, wit, and matchless dignity,
     yield to SAMELA.

"Thou hast,' quoth MELICERTUS, "made such a description, as if Priamus' young boy should paint out the perfection of his Greekish paramour. Methinks the idea of her person represents itself an object to my fancy; and that I see in the discovery of her excellence the rare beauties of ." And with that he broke off abruptly with such a deep sigh, as it seemed his heart should have broken, sitting as the Lapithes, when they gazed on Medusa.
DORON, marvelling at this sudden event, was half afraid, as if some apoplexy had astonied his senses; so that cheering up his friend, he demanded what the cause was of this sudden conceit. MELICERTUS, no niggard in discovery of his fortunes, began thus. "I tell thee, DORON, before I kept sheep in Arcadia, I was a shepherd elsewhere, so famous for my flocks as MENAPHON for his folds; beloved of the nymphs, as he liked of the country damsels; coveting in my loves to use Cupid's wings, to soar high in my desires, though myself were born to base fortunes. The hobby catcheth no prey, unless she mount beyond her mark; the palm-tree beareth most boughs where it groweth highest; and love is most fortunate where his courage is resolute, and though beyond his compass. Grounding therefore on these principles, I fixed mine eyes on a nymph, whose parentage was great, but her beauty far more excellent; her birth was by many degrees greater than mine, and my worth by many descents less than hers; yet knowing Venus loved Adonis, and Luna Endymion, that Cupid had bolts feathered with the plumes of a crow, as well as with the pens of an eagle, I attempted, and courted her. I found her looks lightning disdain, and her forehead to contain favours for others, and frowns for me: when I alledged faith, she crossed me with Aeneas; when loyalty, she told me of Jason; when I swore constancy, she questioned me of Demophoon; when I craved a final resolution to my fatal passions, she filled her brows full of wrinkles, and her eyes full of fury, turned her back, and shook me off with a Non placet.

Soon afterwards MENAPHON persuaded SAMELA to accompany him and his sister to a shepherd's meeting. She consented, and went under the disguise of a russet dress of CARMELA. There she met PESANA, a herdsman's daughter, who had been an unsuccessful candidate for MENAPHON'S love, and MELICERTUS, who no sooner saw her than he was struck with melancholy at the likeness she bore to a beloved mistress of whom death had deprived him. All the company were delighted with her beauty, and insisted on making her the mistress of their feast.

When at length SAMELA'S eyes glanced on the looks of MELICERTUS, she also perceived such a likeness to her dead lord, that for some time she could not refrain from gazing upon him. These glances did not escape the notice of MENAPHON, whom they filled with furious jealousy; while MELICERTUS, filled with another sort of curiosity, was resolved to question the fair shepherdess, in whom he felt a mutual interest. A long dialogue follows, in which she displays both her wit and her sense.

“The orgies which the Bacchanals kept in Thessalia, the feasts which the melancholy Saturnists founded in Danuby, were never so quailed with silence, but on their festival days they did frolic amongst themselves with many pleasant parleys: were it not a shame, then, that we of Arcadia, famous for the beauty of our nymphs, and the amorous roundelays of our shepherds, should disgrace Pan's holiday with such melancholy dumps? Courteous country swains, shake off this sobriety; and seeing we have in our company damsels both beautiful and wise, let us entertain them with prattle to try our wits, and tire our time.” To this they all agreed with a plaudit. “Then,” quoth MELICERTUS, “by your leave, since I was first in motion, I will be first in question, and therefore new-come shepherdess, first to you.” At this SAMELA blushed, and he began thus.

“Fair damsel! when Nereus chatted with Juno he had pardon, in that his prattle came more to pleasure the goddess, than to ratify his own presumption: if I, mistress, be over bold, forgive me; I request not to offend, but to set time free from tediousness. Then, gentle shepherdess, tell me, if you should be transformed, through the anger of the gods, into some shape, what creature would you wish to be in form?” SAMELA, blushing that she was the first that was boarded, yet gathered up her crumbs, and desirous to shew her pregnant wit (as the wisest women be ever tickled with self-love), made him this answer.

“Gentle shepherd, it fits not strangers to be nice, nor maidens too coy, lest the one feel the weight of a scoff, the other the fall of a frump: pithy questions are minds' whetstones, and by discoursing in jest, many doubts are decyphered in earnest; therefore you have forestalled rne in craving pardon, when you have no need to feel any grant of pardon. Therefore thus to your question: Daphne, I remember, was turned to a bay tree, Niobe to a flint, Lampetia and her sisters to flowers, and sundry virgins to sundry shapes, according to their merits; but if my wish might serve for a metamorphosis, I would be turned into a sheep.” “A sheep; and why so, mistress?” “I reason thus," quoth SAMELA; “my supposition should be simple, my life quiet, my foot the pleasant plains of Arcadia, and the wealthy riches of Flora; my drink the cool streams that flow from the concave promontory of this continent; my air should be clear, my walks spacious, my thoughts at ease: and can there be (shepherd) any better premises to conclude my reply than these?” “But have you no other allegations to confirm your resolution?” “Yes, sir,” quoth she, “and far greater.” “Then the law of our first motion,” quoth he, “commands you to repeat them.”

“Far be it,” answered SAMELA, “that I should not do of free-will any thing that this pleasant company commands; therefore thus: were I a sheep, I should be guarded from the folds with jolly swains, such as was Luna's love on the hills of Latmos, their pipes sounding like the melody of Mercury, when he lulled asleep Argus; but more, when the damsels, tracing along the plains, should, with their eyes like sun-bright beams, draw on looks to gaze on such sparkling planets: then, weary with food, should I lie and look on their beauties as on the spotted wealth of the richest firmament; I should listen to their sweet lays, more sweet than the sea-born Syrens: thus feeding on the delicacy of their features, I should, like the Tyrian heifer, fall in love with Agenor's darling.”

“Ay, but,” quoth MELICERTUS, “those fair-faced damsels oft draw forth the kindest sheep to the shambles.” “And what of that, Sir,” answered SAMELA, “would not a sheep so long fed with beauty, die for love?” “If she die,” quoth PESANA, “there is more kindness in beasts than constancy in men, for they die for love when larks die with leeks.” “If they be so wise,” quoth MENAPHON, “they shew but their mothers' wits; for what sparks they have of inconstancy they draw from their female fosterers, as the sea doth ebbs and tides from the moon.” “So be it, Sir,” answered PESANA: “then no doubt your mother was made of a weathercock, that brought forth such a wavering companion; for you, M. MENAPHON, measure your looks by minutes, and your loves are like lightning, which no sooner flash on the eye but they vanish.” “It is, then,” quoth MENAPHON, “because mine eye is a foolish judge, and choose too basely, which when my heart censures of, it casts away as refuse.” “It were best, then,” said PESANA, “to discharge such unjust judges of their seats, and to set your ears hearers of your love pleas.” “If they fault,” quoth MELICERTUS, “every market town hath a remedy, or else there is never a baker near by seven miles.” “Stay, courteous shepherds,” quoth SAMELA, “these jests are too broad before, they are cynical, like Diogenes' quips, that had large feathers and sharp heads: it little fits in this company to bandy taunts of love, seeing you are unwedded, and these all maidens addicted to chastity.” “You speak well as a patroness of our credit,” quoth PESANA, “for indeed we be virgins, and addicted to virginity.”

“Now,” quoth MENAPHON, “that you have got a virgin in your mouth, you will never leave chaunting the word till you prove yourself either a Vestal or a Sybil.” “Suppose she were a Vestal,” quoth MELICERTUS, “I had almost said a virgin (but God forbid I had made such a doubtful supposition), she might carry water with Amulia in a sieve; for, amongst all the rest of virgins, we read of none but her that wrought such a miracle.”

When they broke up, all departed full of the exquisite perfections of SAMELA. MELICERTUS returned to his cottage and his couch, to ruminate on her charms. “Her eye,” said he, “paints her out SEPHESTIA, her voice sounds her out SEPHESTIA, she seemeth none but SEPHESTIA: but seeing she is dead, and there lives not such another SEPHESTIA, sue to her and love her, for that it is either a self-same or another SEPHESTIA?”

In this hope MELICERTUS fell to his slumber, but SAMELA was not content, for she began thus to muse with herself: "May this MELICERTUS be a shepherd? or can a country cottage afford such perfection? Doth this coast bring forth such excellency? then happy are the virgins that shall have such suitors, and the wives such pleasing husbands: but his face is not inchaced with any rustic proportion, his brows contain the characters of nobility, and his looks in shepherd's weed are lordly[6], his voice pleasing, his wit full of gentry: weigh all these equally, and consider, SAMELA, is it not thy MAXIM[I]US? Fond fool! away with these suppositions: Could the dreaming of Andromache call Hector from his grave? or can the vision of my husband raise him from the seas? Tush, stoop not to such vanities; he is dead, and therefore grieve not thy memory with the imagination of his new revive, for there hath been but one Hippolitus found to be Virbius, twice a man. To salve SAMELA, then, this suppose: if they court thee with hyacinth, entertain them with roses; if he send thee a lamb, present him an ewe; if he woo, be wooed, and for no other reason but he is like MAXIMIUS[7]."

MELICERTUS now contrived to feed his flocks near those of MENAPHON; and thus one day brought about a long interview and conversation with SAMELA, to whose care the latter had been left on that occasion.

“Mistress of all eyes that glance but at the excellence of your perfection, Sovereign of all such as Venus hath allowed for lovers, (Aenone's over-match, Arcadia's comet, Beauty's second comfort, all hail! Seeing you sit like Juno when she first watched her white heifer on the Lincen downs, as bright as silver Phoebe mounted on the high top of the ruddy element, I was, by a strange attractive force, drawn, as the adamant draws the iron, or the jet the straw, to visit your sweet self in the shade, and afford you such company as a poor swain may yield without offence; which if you shall vouch to deign of, I shall be as glad of such accepted service, as Paris was first of his best beloved paramour.”

SAMELA, looking upon the shepherd's face, and seeing his utterance full of broken sighs, thought to be pleasant with her shepherd thus: “Arcadia's Apollo, whose brightness draws every eye to turn as the Heliotropion doth after her load; fairest of shepherds; the nymph's sweetest object; women's wrong, in wronging many with one's due, welcome; and so welcome, as we vouchsafe of your service, admit of your company, as of him that is the grace of all companies; and, if we durst upon any light pardon, would venture to request you to shew us a cast of your cunning.” SAMELA made this reply, because she heard him so superfine, as if Ephebus had learned him to refine his mother's tongue[8]; wherefore though he had done it of an inkhorn desire to be eloquent, and MELICERTUS thinking SAMELA had learned with Lucilla in Athens to anatomize wit, and speak none but similes, imagined she smoothed her talk to be thought like Sappho, Phaon's [9] paramour.

Thus deceived either in other's suppositions, SAMELA followed her suit thus: “I know, Priamus' wanton could not be without flocks of nymphs to follow him in the vale of Ida: Beauty hath legions to attend her excellency: if the shepherd be true; if, like Narcissus, you wrap not your face in the cloud of disdain, you cannot but have some rare paragon to your mistress, whom I would have you in some sonnet describe as Jove's last love, if Jove could get from Juno.”

“My pipe shall presume, and I adventure with my voice to set out my mistress's favour, for your excellence to censure of, and therefore thus:” yet MELICERTUS, for that he had a further reach, would not make any clownish description, chanted it thus cunningly.


Tune on, my pipe, the praises of my Love,
And midst thy oaten harmony recount,
How fair she is that makes thy music mount,
And every string of thy heart's harp to move.

Shall I compare her form unto the sphere,
Whence sun-bright Venus vaunts her silver shine?
Ah, more than that by just compare is thine,
Whose crystal looks the cloudy heavens do clear.

How oft have I descending Titan seen
His burning locks couch in the sea-queen's lap,
And beauteous Thetis his red body wrap
In watry robes, as he her lord had been!

When as my Nymph, impatient of the night,
Bade bright Atreus with his train give place;
Whiles she led forth the day with her fair face,
And lent each star a more than Delian light.

Not Jove or Nature (should they both agree
To make a woman of the firmament,
Of his mix'd purity could not invent
A sky-born form so beautiful as she!

When MELICERTUS had ended this roundelay in praise of his mistress, SAMELA perceived by his description, that either some better poet than himself had made it, or else that his former phrase was dissembled; wherefore, to try him thoroughly, and to see what snake lay hid under the grass, she followed the chase in this manner.

“MELTCERTUS, might not a stranger crave your mistress's name?” At this the shepherd blushed, and made no reply. “How now?” quoth SAMELA; “What is she so mean that you shame, or so high that you fear to bewray the sovereign of your thoughts? stand not in doubt, man; for be she base, I read that mighty Tamberlaine, after his wife Xenocrate (the world's fair eye) passed out of the theatre of this mortal life, he chose stigmatical trulls to please his humorous fancy. Be she a princess, honour hangs in high desires, and it is the token of a high mind to venture for a queen: then, gentle shepherd, tell me thy mistress's name.”

MELICERTUS, hearing his goddess speak so favourably, breathed out this sudden reply: “Too high SAMELA, and therefore I fear with the Syrian wolves to bark against the moon; or with them of Scyrum, to shoot against the stars, in the height of my thoughts soaring too high, to fall with woeful repenting Icarus. No sooner did mine eye glance upon her beauty, but as if Love and Fate had sat to forge my fatal disquiet, they trapt me within her looks, and hailing her idea through the passage of my sight, placed it so deeply in the centre of my heart, as maugre all my studious endeavour, it still and ever will keep restless possession. Noting her virtues, her beauties, her perfections, her excellence, and fear of her too highborn parentage, though painfully fettered, yet have I still feared to dare so haughty an attempt to so brave a personage: lest she offensive at my presumption, I perish in the height of my thoughts.”

This conclusion, broken with an abrupt passion, could not so satisfy SAMELA, but she would be further inquisitive. At last, after many questions, he answered thus: “Seeing, SAMELA, I consume myself and displease you, to hazard for the salve that may cure my malady, and satisfy your question, know it is the beauteous SAMELA.” “Be there more of that name in Arcadia beside myself?” quoth she. “I know not,” said MELICERTUS; “but were there a million, only you are MELICERTUS' SAMELA.” “But of a million,” quoth she, “I cannot be MELICERTUS' SAMELA; for love hath put one arrow of desire in his quiver, but one string to his bow, and in choice but one aim of affection.” “Have ye already,” said MELICERTUS, “set your rest upon some higher personage?” “No,” said SAMELA, “I mean by yourself; for I have heard that your fancy is linked already to a beautiful shepherdess in Arcadia.”

At this the poor swain tainted his cheeks with a vermilion die; yet thinking to carry out the matter with a jest, he stood to his tackling thus: “Whosoever, SAMELA, descanted of that love, told you a Canterbury tale; some prophetical full mouth, that, as he were a cooler's eldest son, would by the last tell where another's shoe wrings; but his sowterly aim was just level, in thinking every look was love, or every fair word a pawn on loyalty.”

“Then,” said SAMELA, taking him at a rebound, “neither may I think your glances to be fancies, nor your greatest protestation any assurance of deep affection: therefore, ceasing off to court any further at this time, think you have proved yourself too tall a soldier to continue so long at battery, and that I am a favourable foe that have continued so long at parley: but I charge you, by the love you owe your dearest mistress, not to say any more as touching love at this time.” “If, SAMELA,” said he, “thou hadst enjoined me, as Juno did to Hercules, most dangerous labours, I would have discovered my love by obedience, and my affection by death: yet let me crave this, that as I began with a sonnet, so I may end with a madrigal.” “Content, MELICERTUS,” quoth she, “for none more than I love music.” Upon this reply, the shepherd, proud, followed with this ditty.


What are my sheep without their wonted food?
What is my life except I gain my love?
My sheep consume and faint for want of blood,
My life is lost unless I grace approve.
    No flower that sapless thrives;
    No turtle without pheer.

The day without the sun doth lour for woe:
Then woe mine eyes, unless thy beauty see
My sun, SAMELA'S eyes, by whom I know
Wherein delight consists, where pleasures be.
     Nought more the heart revives
     Than to embrace his dear.

The stars from earthly humours gain their light;
Our humours by their light possess their power:
SAMELA'S eyes, fed by my weeping sight,
Infudes my pains or joys, by smile or lour.
     So wends the source of love;
     It feeds, it fails, it ends.

Kind looks, clear to your joy, behold her eyes,
Admire her heart, desire to taste her kisses:
In them the heaven of joy and solace lies;
Without them every hope his succour misses.
     Oh, how I love to prove,
     Whereto this solace tends.

Scarce had the shepherd ended this madrigal, but SAMELA began to frown, saying he had broken promise. MELICERTUS alledged, if he had uttered any passion, 'twas sung, not said. Thus these lovers, in a humorous descant of their prattle, espied, afar off, old LAMEDON and MENAPHON coming towards them: whereupon, kissing in conceit, and prattling with interchanged glances, MELICERTUS stole to his sheep, and SAMELA sat her down, making of nets to catch birds.

While these things were passing, SAMELA'S child, PLEUSIDIPPUS, “beautiful by nature as noble by birth,” expressed presages of his future fortunes. Five years had scarcely passed over his head, when he began to show himself among the shepherds' children as “lord of the May-game.” His mother gloried in these presages.

Thus did PLEUSIDIPPUS continue to pass his infancy, when walking on the shore to gather cockle and pebble stones, a Thessalian pirate, EURILOCHUS, who came thither to forage for a large booty of beasts, which he was driving before him, saw the boy, and, struck with his appearance, thirsted to make him his prey. But determining first to use persuasion, he entered into a conversation with him. The boy replied with such spirit, that the pirate resolved to use force; by which he succeeded.

The boy was “arrayed in choice silks and Tyrian purple,” and carried as a present by EURILOCHUS to his king, AGENOR, as a peace-offering for his breaches of law. The king was astonished at the perfections of the young captive. “Beauty,” said he, “have I beheld in its brightest orb, but never set eye on immortality before this hour!” ERIPHILA, his queen, was in equal extacy. An order was then given that he should be treated in every respect as the child of a prince.

SAMELA, on learning that her boy was lost, broke forth into the most extravagant grief. MENAPHON endeavoured to appease her; and took the opportunity to insinuate his own attachment as a source of comfort. This she resented as an insult, till the contest drew from him a coarse expression of anger, which necessitated her to disclaim his interested hospitality. MENAPHON, when he saw she could exist without him, “became sick for anger, and spent whole eclogues in anguish.” Among these complaints is that –

Fair fields, proud Flora's vaunt, why is't you smile,
     when as I languish?
You golden meads, why strive you to beguile
     my weeping anguish?
I live to sorrow; you to pleasure spring:
     why do you spring thus?
What, will not Boreas' tempests, wrathful king,
     take some pity on us?
And send forth winter in a rusty weed,
     to wail my bemoanings;
Whiles I, distressed, do tune my country reed
     unto my groanings.
But heaven and earth, time, place, and every power,
     have with her conspired
To turn my blissful sweet to baleful sour,
     since I, fond, desired
The heaven, whereto my thoughts may not aspire,
     ay me unhappy!
It was my fault t'embrace my bane, the fire
     that forceth me to die.
Mine be my pain, but hers the cruel cause
     of this strange torment:
Wherefore no time my banning prayers shall pause,
     till proud she repent.

SAMELA'S stripling, now grown to the age of sixteen, flourished in honour and arms above all the knights of the court: OLYMPIA, the king's daughter, most exulted in his fame; and to her he dedicated all his adventures.

Fame, meanwhile, having in the hearing of PLEUSIDIPPUS, while at supper with his mistress, vaunted of Arcadia as the country which bred the most beautiful dames, and the picture being exhibited of a most beautiful woman (which in truth was the portrait of SAMELA), PLEUSIDIPPUS exclaimed, “O Arcadia, Arcadia, storehouse of nymphs, and nursery of beauty!” OLYMPIA started up, and stung by jealousy, vented her scorn on her lover. The youth at first doubted whether to answer mildly, or with indignation, but at length his resentment prevailed. “Since you despise any birth,” said he, “take back your favours, and I will to Arcadia, to seek out mischance, or a new mistress.”

The king blamed his daughter's hastiness, and endeavoured to appease the youth's resentment. An outward reconciliation was effected; but still PLEUSIDIPPUS resolved to visit Arcadia, where he soon arrived on the shore joining the promontory where he, his mother, and LAMEDON, had been wrecked.

DEMOCLES, with whom our history begun, had at that time committed his daughter, with her infant, her husband MAXIMIUS, and his uncle LAMEDON, without oar or mariner, to the fury of the merciless waves, leaving the succession of his kingdom to doubtful chance his daughter's supposed death having soon after brought his queen to the grave. The king then gave himself up to the forgetfulness of a dissolute and sensual life.

After many years of these vain enjoyments, he heard of the beauty of SAMELA, and not yet abandoning his youthful desires, stole from the court secretly, in the disguise of a shepherd, to seek her out. During this time she lived more contented with her new flock than if she had been queen of Arcadia, while MELICERTUS, pleased with her separation from MENAPHON, visited her every day without dread, and courted her in shepherd's terms. She in return promised marriage to her lover, in the presence of all the shepherds, to be solemnized when the prophecy should be fulfilled. PLEUSIDIPPUS, in a shepherd's habit, was now tracing the plains of Arcadia, when he met DEMOCLES, whom he mistook for an old shepherd. Of him he enquired for SAMELA; and was growing angry at his unsatisfactory answers, when SAMELA passed by, to fill her bottle at the spring. Her beauty exceeded his hopes; and he thought that fame had been faint in her praise. She was equally struck with his looks, but rejected his amorous advances. DEMOCLES, overhearing this discouragement, could entertain no hope that age would succeed where youth failed. But he suggested to PLEUSIDIPPUS the scheme of carrying her off by force to a neighbouring castle which he owned.

This scheme being adopted, and carried into effect, the stripling again pleaded his love in vain. But DEMOCLES, trusting in the power of gold and empire, was prodigal in offers, which he hoped might prevail when personal charms were rejected. SAMELA, hearing the name of a king, was shocked at finding a lover in a father. She in vain pleaded her fidelity to MELICERTUS, and ashamed to hold a parley with her parent, flung away to her Chamber in a dissembled rage, and there bewailed her misfortunes.

DEMOCLES finding his efforts vain, resolved in revenge, either to obtain his love, or satisfy his hate; and stealing down in a shepherd's apparel, among the swains, found them all in an uproar at the loss of their mistress. A contest now ensued between MENAPHON and MELICERTUS as to their respective claims.

MELICERTUS, the fire sparkling out of his eyes, began thus: "I tell thee, shepherd, if Fates with their forepointing pencils did pen down, or Fortune with the deep variety resolve, or Love with his greatest power determine to deprive Arcadia of the beautiful SAMELA, we would with our blood sign down such spells on the plains, that either our gods should summon her to Elysium, or she rest with us quiet and fortunate; thou seest the shepherds are up in arms to revenge, only it rests who shall have the honour and principality of the field." "What needs that question," quoth MENAPHON; "am not I the king's shepherd, and chief of all the bordering swains of Arcadia?" "I grant," quoth MELICERTUS; "but am not I a gentleman, though tired in a shepherd's skin-coat, superior to thee in birth, though equal now in profession?"

Well, from words they had fallen to blows, had not the shepherds parted them; and, for the avoiding of further troubles, it was agreed that they should in two eclogues make description of their loves, and DEMOCLES, for he was a stranger, to sit censor; and who best could decypher his mistress's perfection, should be made general of the rest.

MENAPHON and MELICERTUS condescended to this motion; and DEMOCLES sitting as a judge, the rest of the shepherds standing as witnesses of this combat, MENAPHON began thus.


Too weak the wit, too slender is the brain,
That means to mark the power and worth of love
Not one that lives (except he hap to prove)
Can tell the sweet, or tell the secret pain.

Yet I that have been 'prentice to the grief,
Like to the cunning seaman, from afar,
By guess will take the beauty of that star,
Whose influence must yield me chief relief.

You censors of the glory of my dear,
With reverence, and lowly bend of knee,
Attend and mark what her perfections be;
For in my words my fancies shall appear.

Her locks are plighted like the fleece of wool,
That Jason with his Grecian mates achieved:
As pu're as gold, yet not from gold derived;
As full of sweets, as sweet of sweets is full.

Her brows are pretty tables of conceit,
Where love his records of delight doth quote:
On them her dallying locks do daily float,
As love, full oft, doth feed upon the bait.

Her eyes, fair eyes, like to the purest lights,
That animate the sun, or clear the day;
In whom the shining sunbeams brightly play,
Whiles fancy doth on them divine delights.

Her cheeks like ripened lilies steep'd in wine,
Or fair pomegranate kernels wash'd in milk;
Or snow-white threads, in nets of crimson silk;
Or gorgeous clouds upon the sun's decline.

Her lips like roses overwash'd with dew,
Or like the purple of Narcissus' flower:
No frost their fair, no wind doth waste their power,
But by her breath her beauties do renew.

Her chrystal chin like to the purest mold,
Enchac'd with daintiest daisies, soft and white,
Where fancy's fair pavilion once is pight,
Whereas embraced his beauties he doth hold.

Her neck like to an ivory shining tower,
Where-through with azure veins sweet nectar runs,
Or like the down of swans where Senesse wonnes,
Or like delight, that doth itself devour.

Her paps are like fair apples in the prime;
As round as orient pearls, as soft as down:
They never veil their fair through winter's frown,
But from their sweets Love suck'd his summer time.

Her body's Beauty's best esteemed bower,
Delicious, comely, dainty, without stain;
The thought whereof (not touch'd) hath wrought my pain,
Whose fair, all fair and beauties doth devour.

Her maiden wont, the dwelling-house of pleasure,
Not like, for why no like surpasseth wonder:
O blest is he may bring such beauties under,
Or search by suit the secrets of that treasure.

Devour'd in thought, how wanders my device?
What rests behind 1 must divine upon.
Who talks the best, can say but fairer none:
Few words, well couch'd, do most content the wise.

All you that hear, let not my silly style
Condemn my zeal; for what my tongue should say,
Serves to enforce my thoughts to seek the way,
Whereby my woes and cares I do beguile.

Seld speaketh Love, but sighs his secret pains;
Tears are his trucemen, words do make him tremble:
How sweet is love to them that can dissemble,
In thoughts and looks, till they have reap'd the gains!

A lonely I am plain, and what I say
I think, yet what I think tongue cannot tell:
Sweet censors, take my silly worst for well:
My faith is firm, though homely be my lay.

After the hapless MENAPHON had in this homely discourse shadowed his heavenly delight, the shepherd MELICERTUS, after some pause, began in this sort.


What need compare, where sweet exceeds compare?
Who draws his thoughts of love from senseless things,
Their pomp and greatest glory doth impair,
And mount love's heaven with over-leaden wings.

Stones, herbs, and flowers, the foolish spoils of earth;
Floods, metals, colours, dalliance of the eye;
These shew conceit is stain'd with too much dearth:
Such abstract fond compares make cunning die.

But he that hath the feeling taste of love,
Derives his essence from no earthly joy;
A weak conceit his power cannot approve,
For earthly thoughts are subject to annoy.

Be whist, be still, be silent, censors, now;
My fellow-swain has told a pretty tale,
Which modern poets may perhaps allow;
Yet I condemn the terms, for they are stale.

Apollo, when my mistress first was born,
Cut off his locks, and left them on her head.
And said, I plant these wires in Nature's scorn,
Whose beauty shall appear when Time is dead.

From forth the crystal heaven, when she was made,
The purity thereof did taint her brow;
On which the glistering sun, that sought the shade,
'Gan set, and there his glories doth avow.

Those eyes, fair eyes, too fair to be described,
Were those that erst the chaos did reform;
To whom the heavens their beauties have ascrib'd,
That fashion life in man, in beast, in worm.

When first her fair delicious cheeks were wrought,
Aurora brought her blush, the Moon her white;
Both so combined as passed nature's thought,
Compil'd those pretty orbs of sweet delight.

When Love and Nature once were proud with play,
From both their lips her lips the coral drew;
On them doth fancy sleep, and every day
Doth swallow joy, such sweet delights to view.

Whilome, while Venus' son did seek a bower,
To sport with Psyche, his desired dear,
He chose her chin, and from that happy stowr
He never stints in glory to appear.

Desires and joys that long had served Love,
Behold a hold whence pretty eyes might woo them;
Love made her neck, and for their best behove
Hath shut them there, whence no man can undo them.

Once Venus dreamt upon two pretty things;
Her thoughts they were affection's chiefest nests:
She suck'd and sigh'd, and bath'd her in the springs,
And when she wak'd, they were my mistress' breasts.

Once Cupid sought a hold to couch his kisses,
And found the body of my best belov'd,
Wherein he clos'd the beauty of his blisses,
And from that bower can never be remov'd.

The Graces erst, when Alcedelian springs
Were waxen dry, perhaps did find her fountain
Within the bale of bliss, where Cupid's wings
Do shield the nectar fleeting from the mountain.

No more, fond man! Things infinite, I see,
Brook no dimension: Hell! a foolish speech;
For endless things may never talked be:
Then let me live to honour and beseech.

Sweet Nature's pomp, if my deficient phrase
Hath stain'd thy glories by too little skill,
Yield pardon, though mine eye, that long did gaze,
Hath left no better pattern to my quill.

I will no more, no more will I detain
Your listening ears with dalliance of my tongue:
I speak my joys, but yet conceal my pain;
My pain too old, although my years be young.

The prize was awarded to MELICERTUS, who, gathering together 200 clowns, marched forward with old DEMOCLES to attack the castle, where PLEUSIDIPPUS had immured SAMELA. The contest continuing some time doubtful, DEMOCLES began to fear that his nymph might be carried off to Thessaly, and therefore sent secret orders to the court, to send 10,000 men to lie in ambush near the castle. The order was obeyed, and DEMOCLES seizing the opportunity when the two combatants were weary with the conflict, gave the watchword, and the men sallying forth, sacked the castle, and carried them and SAMELA to the court, where the lady was allowed her liberty; but MELICERTUS and PLEUSIDIPPUS were cast into a deep dungeon.

DORON in the mean time employed himself in making love to CARMELA.

DORON, to shew himself a natural young man, gave her a few kind kisses to comfort her, and swore that she was the woman he loved best in the world; “and for proof,” quoth he, “thou shalt hear what I will praise.” “And you,” quoth she, “what I will perform.” (..) Well, 'twas a good world, when such simplicity was used, says the old women of our time, when a ring of a rush would tie as much love together as a gimmon of gold. But, Gentlemen, since we have talked of love so long, you shall give me leave to shew my opinion of that foolish fancy, thus:


What thing is love? It is a power divine,
That reigns us; or else a wreakful law,
That dooms our minds to beauty to incline.
It is a star, whose influence doth draw
Our hearts to loud dissembling of his might,
Till he be master of our hearts and sight.

Love is a discord, and a strange divorce
Betwixt our sense and reason, by whose power
As mad with reason we admit that force,
Which wit or labour never may devour.
It is a will that brooketh no consent:
It would refuse, yet never may repent.

Love's a desire, which for to wait a time,
Doth lose an age of years, and so doth pass,
As doth the shadow, sever'd from his prime,
Seeming as though it were, yet never was:
Leaving behind nought but repentant thoughts
Of days ill spent, for that which profit noughts.

It's now a peace, and then a sudden w r ar,
A hope consum'd before it is conceiv'd;
At hand it fears, and menaceth afar,
And he that gains is most of all deceiv'd.
It is a secret, hidden and not known,
Which one may better feel than write upon.

Thus, Gentlemen, have you heard my verdict in this sonetto. Now will I return to DORON and CARMELA, who not seeing her mother come, fell again to a few homely kisses, and thus it was.

DEMOCLES, having SAMELA in his power, did not cease still to persecute her with his love, which she not only withstood in fidelity to MELICERTUS, but rejected with horror, as knowing him to be her father. The wretched monarch now turned love into hate, and laid a plot for accusing her of adultery, of which the complaint was no sooner made than he condemned her and her lover to death. PLEUSIDIPPUS was set free, for fear of revenge from the king of Thessaly.

This devoted pair were content to die together; and that they might not be separated they both concealed the discovery of themselves from each other.

They were brought to the place of execution, when PLEUSIDIPPUS, sitting on a scaffold with DEMOCLES, Nature began strongly to work in his bosom at the sight of SAMELA brought forth to death: “not love, but reverence; not fear, but fancy, began to assail him.” He appealed to DEMOCLES, who replied, that “the anger of a king must be satisfied.” The youth wrapped his face in his cloak, and wept; and all the assistants discovered their grief at the sight. But DEMOCLES ordered the deathsman to do his duty. MELICERTUS was exposed to the fatal stroke, when an old woman, attired like a prophetess, exclaimed, “Villain, hold; thou wrongest the daughter of a king!” An outcry, murmur, and muttering was heard. “Now,” said the woman, “the Delphian oracle is performed. PLEUSIDIPPUS is thy grandson, and son to fair SEPHESTIA, who stands here under the narae of SAMELA; MELICERTUS. is MAXIMIUS, twice betrothed to SEPHESTIA, and father to PLEUSIDIPPUS. The oracle is fulfilled, and Arcadia shall rest in peace!” The people gave a shout; the woman vanished; DEMOCLES stared on the face of SEPHESTIA; PLEUSIDIPPUS leaped from his seat, and first covered himself with his mother's robe, and then fell at his father's feet. MAXIMIUS looking in his wife's face, beheld the lineaments of SEPHESTIA; and both of them, hiding their faces on their son's bosom, burst into tears of joy.

DEMOCLES remaining this time in a trance, at last collected his senses, and embracing all of them with tears, craved pardon of MAXIMIUS and SEPHESTIA; and to shew his sincerity, invested PLEUSIDIPPUS with the crown of Arcadia; while to LAMEDON, for fidelity to his daughter, he gave a dukedom of that kingdom. MENAPHON was now content to marry PESANA, and DORON took his favourite CARMELA.

Greene's novel is a romance. A romance does not lack psychological depth but it cares little for psychological and empirical consistence. The narrative is not committed to realism, let alone naturalism. Don Quixote is there to remind us. In the romance, comparable to an initiation myth or saga, the hero has to win his spurs in a chain of perilous situations not unlike the rites de passage of initiation rites. The way how such a situation comes about is only of secundary importance. As in Greene's Pandosto and Shakespeare's Winter's Tale the drama is set in motion by the hero's jealousy, out of the impetus of the id, so to speak. The King's decision to banish his daughter Sephestia and her husband is left unexplained, it occurs like a blow of Fortune:

“But Sephestia thou art daughter to a King, exiled by him from the hope of a crowne, banisht from the pleasures of the Court to the painfull fortunes of the countrey, parted for love from him thou canst not but love, from Maximus, Sephestia, who for thee hath suffered so many disfavors…”

They have been set out in a boat, got parted from one another at sea, one thinks the other is dead and at first does not recognize, so allowing for one of the recurrent themes in romance, the theme of the anagnorisis or re-identification.

The dualism between court and country informs Greene's novel on a double level, on the level of the narrative and on the level of allegory. On the level of narrative, Sephestia and Maximus have been banished from court and are taking refuge in the simple world of the shepherds. On the allegorical level this reads: Maximius is a courtier and poet who has incurred disfavour and is living as a poet amidst common poets of whom Menaphon is the chief or king. Sephestia, wisdom, takes the name of the moon-goddess, the muse of both Melicertus and Menaphon. In a series of poetical contests Melicertus and Menaphon are striving for Samela's favour, that is, for the laurel of the Muse, the prevalence in the world of poetry. The real purpose of the pastoral genre is not to depict rustical life: “but under the vaile of homely persons, and in rude speeches to insinuate and glaunce at greater matters, and such as perchance had not bene safe to have been disclosed in any other sort...” (George Puttenham, Art of English Poetry, p. 38.) And elsewhere this author defines allegory as the courtly figure par excellence: “... which is when we speak one thing and thinke another, and that our words and our meanings meete not... To be short every speach wrestled from his owne naturall signification to another not altogether so naturall is a kinde of dissimulation, because the wordes beare contrary countenance to th'intent.”

                                                                                                                    R. D.

NOTES by Robert Detobel

[1] In Greek mythology Melicertus is a demi-god associated with the myth of Dionysus, hence with lyric poetry, theater and music, and arts in general. Etymologically, too, the name evokes the idea of music and sweetness, smoothness, refinement, grace. The Greek words 'meli' (honey) and 'melos' (melody) have the same base. Brinsley Nicholson gives the meaning of 'honeycomb'; another interpretation is 'honey-cutter', a demon who gathers honey from trees and rock cavities. - In the Suda, (sometimes also spelled Suida) a well-known Byzantine encyclopedy and familiar source for mythology in Shakespeare's time, the name Melicertus (Melikertes) is the surname given to the poet Simonides: “Simonides. A citizen of the city Iulis on the island Ceos; a lyric poet, he was also called Melikertes because of his sweetness. He also invented the art of artificial memory and the third string for the lyre. He was born in the 56th Olympiad, and he lasted until the 78th, after living 89 years. And the following were written by him in the Doric dialect: the kingdom of Cambyses and Darius, and the naval battle at Artemisium in elegiac meter, the naval battle at Salamis in lyric meter; threnoi (laments), encomia, epigrams, paeans, tragedies and other things.“  (Suidas Anth. Pal. IX 571.184 II.1.45)

Plato considered Simonides (= Melicertes) to be the outstanding Greek poet. And it is of Simonides that Cicero speaks as suavis poeta: “Simonides is not only a sweet poet but, besides, a learned and wise man having many acute and subtle observations.” (De natura deorum, I. 22.)  - “Sweet poet” is an epiteth frequently used for Shakespeare. See Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia (1598): “mellifluous & honey-tongued Shakespeare”.

[2] Samela is the pastoral name Sephestia takes on in the shepherd's Arcadia. 'Samela' is a transformation of 'Semele' which is identical with 'Selene', the Greek moon-goddess and mother of Dionysus. Other names for the moon-goddess Elizabethans were using are Cynthia and Luna. - 'Sephestia' is probably a derivation from 'sophia', 'wisdom'. As Sephestia she is the daughter of Democles, King of Arcadia, and the wife of Maximius, the true name of Melicertus. It need be stressed that Greene is using the name Arcadia in a double sense: in-court as the name of a state, out-of-court as the world of the shepherds, the literary world.

[3] “Camillas alarum to slumbering Euphues, in his melancholie cell at Silexedra“ : See John Lily, Euphues and his England (1580): “Gentlemen, Euphues is musing in the bottome of the Mountaine Silexsedra”. – Robert Greene, To the gentlemen readers: “I have thus far adventured to let you see Camilla’s Alarum To Euphues,who thought it necessary not to let Euphues’ Censure To Philautus pass without requital.”

[4] Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci,/ lectorem delectando pariterque monendo (Horace) : He wins every hand who mingles profit with pleasure, by delighting and instructing the reader at the same time.

[5] In the Quarto of 1589 the family name "Maximius" is spelt incorrectly for the first three times (MAXIMUS) and thereafter correctly. Then follows the correct spelling 8 times: "Maximius".

[6] “but his face is not inchaced with any rustic proportion, his brows contain the characters of nobility, and his looks in shepherd's weed are lordly”: Melicertus is, of course, her Lord Maximius, and nothing in this description is incompatible with the Melicertus (= Shakespeare) whom Chettle in 1603 mentions in one breath with ‘Philisides’ (= Sir Philip Sidney) and ‘good Meloebee’ (= Samuel Daniel or Sir Francis Walsingham).

[7] At this point, the Quarto from 1589 begins with the correct spelling of "Maximius".

[8] “because she heard him so superfine, as if Ephebus had learned him to refine his mother's tongue”: The reference to John Lyly's Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit is multi-facetted. Euphues is an Athenian youth, Ephoebus an Athenian teacher. The reference ist almost certainly to Lyly's patron, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, the patron of the euphuists. - In Have with you (1596) Thomas Nashe uses a very similar expression:

“He [Gabriel Harvey in 1578] was brought to kiss the Queen's hand, and it pleased her Highness to say that he looked something like an Italian… & he would make no bones to take the wall of Sir Philip Sidney and another honourable Knight (his companion) [= Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford] about Court yet attending; to whom I wish no better fortune than the forelocks of Fortune he had hold of in his youth, & no higher fame than he hath purchased himself by his pen: being the first (in our language) I have encountered, that repurified Poetry from Art's pedantism, & that instructed it to speak courtly. Our Patron, our Phoebus, our first Orpheus or quintessence of invention he is: wherefore either let us jointly invent some worthy subject to eternize him; or let War call back Barbarism from the Danes, Picts and Saxons to suppress our frolic spirits, and the least spark of more elevated sense amongst us finally be quenched and die, ere we can set up brazen Pillars for our Names and Sciences, to preserve them from the Deluge of Ignorance.”

[9] Lucilla is the heroine of Lyly's tale, and Sapho and Phao is one of Lyly's plays.

[10] „SONETTO“: This sonetto is out of character: it is assigned to none of the other three shepherds: the sophisticated Melicertus, the less sophisticated Menaphon, or the plain Doron (also a stock character in pastoral poetry). The author Greene seems to step in and render his own judgment of love.
In fact, it is a translation, a very free translation, of a poem by the French poet Mellin de Saint-Gelais (c. 1491-1558),  L’Hécatomphile, ed. 1534, (synonymous with Hecatompathia, the title of a collection of poems by Thomas Watson).
In 1600 the last three stanzas are reprinted in England’s Parnassus. England’s Parnassus is an anthology of English poems classified after themes. The poem appears in the category “Love”. Here it is not ascribed to Robert Greene but to E. O., the initials of the Earl of Oxford (= Edward Oxenforde). The poem was probably printed from a manuscript showing, as several others, those initials. And indeed, stylistically it is rather akin to Oxford’s known poetry than Robert Greene’s. (See 5.2.4 Oxford, Poems Nr. 108.) Further, the same style can be found in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The lines 188-193 in act I, scene 1, read like an additional stanza of “Love is a discord”:

Love is a smoke rais'd with the fume of sighs;
Being purg'd, a fire sparkling in lovers'eyes;
Being vex'd, a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears.
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.
Farewell, my coz.