A Description of a Shepherd’s and a Shepherdess’s Life


The shepherdesses which great flocks do keep
Are dabbled high with dew following their sheep,
Milking their ewes, their hands do2 dirty make,
For being3 wet, dirt from their duggs do take.
Through the sun’s heat, their skin doth yellow grow;4            5
Their eyes are red, lips dry with winds5 that blow.6
There shepherds sit on tops of mountains7 high,
And8 on their feeding sheep do cast an eye,
Which to the mount’s steep sides they hanging feed
On short moist grass,9 not suffered to bear seed.                    10
Their feet are small, but strong each sinew’s10 string,
Which makes11 them fast to rocks and mountains cling.
The while the shepherd’s legs hang dangling down,
He12 sets his breech upon the hill’s high crown.
Like to13 a tanned hide, so is14 his skin;                                    15
No melting heat or numbing cold gets in,
And with a voice that’s harsh against his throat,
He strains to sing, yet knows not any note,
And, yawning, lazy15 lies upon his side,
Or straight upon his back with16 arms spread wide,             20
Or, snorting, sleeps, and dreams of Joan his17 maid,
Or of hobgoblins,18 wakes as being afraid—
Motion in his19 dull brains doth plow and sow,
Not plant and set, as skilfull gard’ners20 do—
Or21 takes his knife half broke, but ground again,22              25
And whittles sticks, his sheep-cote up to pin,23
Or cuts some holes in straw, to pipe thereon
Some amorous tunes, which pleaseth his love Joan.24
Thus rustic clowns are pleased to spend their times,
And not as poets feign, in verse and rhymes,25                       30
Making great kings and princes pastures keep,
And beauteous ladies follow26 flocks of sheep,
And dance27 ’bout maypoles in a rustic sort,
When ladies scorn to dance without a court.
For they their loves would28 hate if they should come          35
With leather jerkins, breeches made of thrum,
And buskins made of frieze that’s coarse and strong,
With29 clouted shoes, tied with a leather thong.
Those that are nicely bred fine clothes still love;
A fair white hand doth hate a30 dirty glove.                            40

  1. a Shepherd’s and a Shepherdess’s Life] Shepherds, and Shepherdesses. 1653; a Shepherds, and Shepherdesses Life. 1664
  2. do] doth 1664, 1668
  3. being] they being 1664; they, being 1668
  4. Through the sun’s heat, their skin doth yellow grow;] The Sun doth scorch the skin, it yellow growes, 1653
  5. winds] wind 1653
  6. blow.] blowes. 1653
  7. tops of mountains] mountains top, that’s 1653
  8. And] Yet 1653
  9. moist grass,] Moss-grass, 1664, 1668
  10. are small, but strong each sinew’s] though small, strong are their sinews 1653
  11. makes] make 1653
  12. He] And 1653
  13. to] as 1664, 1668
  14. is] was 1653
  15. And, yawning, lazy] He Lazy, Yawning 1664 He, lazy, yawning 1668
  16. Or straight upon his back with] Or on his Back, and hath his 1664, 1668
  17. his] their 1653
  18. hobgoblins,] Hobgoblin 1653
  19. his] their 1653
  20. Or] Then 1664, 1668
  21. half broke, but ground again,] new ground, that half was broke, 1653
  22. his sheep-cote up to pin,] to pin up his sheep-coat: 1653
  23. Some amorous tunes, which pleaseth his love Joan.] Some tunes that pleaseth Joan his Love at home. 1653
  24. verse and rhymes,] Sonnets, Rhimes, 1653
  25. follow] driving 1653
  26. And dance] Dancing 1653
  27. For they their loves would] They would their Lovers 1664; They would their Lovers 1668
  28. With] And 1664, 1668
  29. fair white hand doth hate a] white hand sluttish seemes in 1653