Nimphidia - The Covrt Of Fayrie

A poem by Michael Drayton

Olde CHAVCER doth of Topas tell,
Mad RABLAIS of Pantagruell,
A latter third of Dowsabell,
With such poore trifles playing:
Others the like haue laboured at
Some of this thing, and some of that,
And many of they know not what,
But that they must be saying.

Another sort there bee, that will
Be talking of the Fayries still,
Nor neuer can they have their fill,
As they were wedded to them;
No Tales of them their thirst can slake,
So much delight therein they take,
And some strange thing they fame would make,
Knew they the way to doe them.

Then since no Muse hath bin so bold,
Or of the Later, or the ould,
Those Eluish secrets to vnfold,
Which lye from others reading,
My actiue Muse to light shall bring,
The court of that proud Fayry King,
And tell there, of the Reuelling,
Ioue prosper my proceeding.

And thou NIMPHIDIA gentle Fay,
Which meeting me vpon the way,
These secrets didst to me bewray,
Which now I am in telling:
My pretty light fantastick mayde,
I here inuoke thee to my ayde,
That I may speake what thou hast sayd,
In numbers smoothly swelling.

This Pallace standeth in the Ayre,
By Nigromancie placed there,
That it no Tempests needs to feare,
Which way so ere it blow it.
And somewhat Southward tow'rd the Noone,
Whence lyes a way vp to the Moone,
And thence the Fayrie can as soone
Passe to the earth below it.

The Walls of Spiders legs are made,
Well mortized and finely layd,
He was the master of his Trade
It curiously that builded:
The Windowes of the eyes of Cats,
And for the Roofe, instead of Slats,
Is couer'd with the skinns of Batts,
With Mooneshine that are guilded.

Hence Oberon him sport to make,
(Their rest when weary mortalls take)
And none but onely Fayries wake,
Desendeth for his pleasure.
And Mab his meerry Queene by night
Bestrids young Folks that lye vpright,
(In elder Times the Mare that hight)
Which plagues them out of measure.

Hence Shaddowes, seeming Idle shapes,
Of little frisking Elues and Apes,
To Earth doe make their wanton skapes,
As hope of pastime hasts them:
Which maydes think on the Hearth they see,
When Fyers well nere consumed be,
Their daunsing Hayes by two and three,
Iust as their Fancy casts them.

These make our Girles their sluttery rue,
By pinching them both blacke and blew,
And put a penny in their shue,
The house for cleanely sweeping:
And in their courses make that Round,
In Meadowes, and in Marshes found,
Of them so call'd the Fayrie ground,
Of which they haue the keeping.

Thus when a Childe haps to be gott,
Which after prooues an Ideott,
When Folke perceiue it thriueth not,
The fault therein to smother:
Some silly doting brainlesse Calfe,
That vnderstands things by the halfe,
Say that the Fayrie left this Aulfe,
And tooke away the other.

But listen and I shall you tell,
A chance in Fayrie that befell,
Which certainly may please some well;
In Loue and Armes delighting:
Of Oberon that Iealous grewe,
Of one of his owne Fayrie crue,
Too well (he fear'd) his Queene that knew,
His loue but ill requiting.

Pigwiggen was this Fayrie knight,
One wondrous gratious in the sight
Of faire Queene Mab, which day and night,
He amorously obserued;
Which made king Oberon suspect,
His Seruice tooke too good effect,
His saucinesse, and often checkt,
And could have wisht him starued.

Pigwiggen gladly would commend,
Some token to queene Mab to send,
If Sea, or Land, him ought could lend,
Were worthy of her wearing:
At length this Louer doth deuise,
A Bracelett made of Emmotts eyes,
A thing he thought that shee would prize,
No whitt her state impayring.

And to the Queene a Letter writes,
Which he most curiously endites,
Coniuring her by all the rites
Of loue, she would be pleased,
To meete him her true Seruant, where
They might without suspect or feare,
Themselues to one another cleare,
And haue their poore hearts eased.

At mid-night the appointed hower,
And for the Queene a fitting bower,
(Quoth he) is that faire Cowslip flower,
On Hipcut hill that groweth,
In all your Trayne there's not a Fay,
That euer went to gather May,
But she hath made it in her way,
The tallest there that groweth.

When by Tom Thum a Fayrie Page,
He sent it, and doth him engage,
By promise of a mighty wage,
It secretly to carrie:
Which done, the Queene her maydes doth call,
And bids them to be ready all,
She would goe see her Summer Hall,
She could no longer tarrie.

Her Chariot ready straight is made,
Each thing therein is fitting layde,
That she by nothing might be stayde,
For naught must be her letting,
Foure nimble Gnats the Horses were,
Their Harnasses of Gossamere,
Flye Cranion her Chariottere,
Vpon the Coach-box getting.

Her Chariot of a Snayles fine shell,
Which for the colours did excell:
The faire Queene Mab, becomming well,
So liuely was the limming:
The seate the soft wooll of the Bee;
The couer, (gallantly to see)
The wing of a pyde Butterflee,
I trowe t'was simple trimming.

The wheeles compos'd of Crickets bones,
And daintily made for the nonce,
For feare of ratling on the stones,
With Thistle-downe they shod it;
For all her Maydens much did feare,
If Oberon had chanc'd to heare,
That Mab his Queene should haue bin there,
He would not haue aboad it.

She mounts her Chariot with a trice,
Nor would she stay for no advice,
Vntill her Maydes that were so nice,
To wayte on her were fitted,
But ranne her selfe away alone;
Which when they heard there was not one,
But hasted after to be gone,
As she had beene diswitted.

Hop, and Mop, and Drop so cleare,
Pip, and Trip, and Skip that were,
To Mab their Soueraigne euer deare:
Her speciall Maydes of Honour;
Fib, and Tib, and Pinck, and Pin,
Tick, and Quick, and Iill, and Iin,
Tit, and Nit, and Wap, and Win,
The Trayne that wayte vpon her.

Vpon a Grashopper they got,
And what with Amble, and with Trot,
For hedge nor ditch they spared not,
But after her they hie them.
A Cobweb ouer them they throw,
To shield the winde if it should blowe,
Themselues they wisely could bestowe,
Lest any should espie them.

But let vs leaue Queene Mab a while,
Through many a gate, o'r many a stile,
That now had gotten by this wile,
Her deare Pigwiggin kissing,
And tell how Oberon doth fare,
Who grew as mad as any Hare,
When he had sought each place with care,
And found his Queene was missing.

By grisly Pluto he doth sweare,
He rent his cloths, and tore his haire,
And as he runneth, here and there,
An Acorne cup he greeteth;
Which soone he taketh by the stalke
About his head he lets it walke,
Nor doth he any creature balke,
But lays on all he meeteth.

The Thuskan Poet doth aduance,
The franticke Paladine of France,
And those more ancient doe inhaunce,
Alcides in his fury.
And others Aiax Telamon,
But to this time there hath bin non,
So Bedlam as our Oberon,
Of which I dare assure you.

And first encountring with a waspe,
He in his armes the Fly doth claspe
As though his breath he forth would graspe,
Him for Pigwiggen taking:
Where is my wife thou Rogue, quoth he,
Pigwiggen, she is come to thee,
Restore her, or thou dy'st by me,
Whereat the poore waspe quaking,

Cryes, Oberon, great Fayrie King,
Content thee I am no such thing,
I am a Waspe behold my sting,
At which the Fayrie started:
When soone away the Waspe doth goe,
Poore wretch was neuer frighted so,
He thought his wings were much to slow,
O'rioyd, they so were parted.

He next vpon a Glow-worme light,
(You must suppose it now was night),
Which for her hinder part was bright,
He tooke to be a Deuill.
And furiously doth her assaile
For carrying fier in her taile
He thrasht her rough coat with his flayle,
The mad King fear'd no euill.

O quoth the Gloworme hold thy hand,
Thou puisant King of Fayrie land,
Thy mighty stroaks who may withstand,
Hould, or of life despaire I:
Together then her selfe doth roule,
And tumbling downe into a hole,
She seem'd as black as any Cole,
Which vext away the Fayrie.

From thence he ran into a Hiue,
Amongst the Bees he letteth driue
And downe their Coombes begins to riue,
All likely to haue spoyled:
Which with their Waxe his face besmeard,
And with their Honey daub'd his Beard
It would haue made a man afeard,
To see how he was moyled.

A new Aduenture him betides,
He mett an Ant, which he bestrides,
And post thereon away he rides,
Which with his haste doth stumble;
And came full ouer on her snowte,
Her heels so threw the dirt about,
For she by no meanes could get out,
But ouer him doth tumble.

And being in this piteous case,
And all be-slurried head and face,
On runs he in this Wild-goose chase
As here, and there, he rambles
Halfe blinde, against a molehill hit,
And for a Mountaine taking it,
For all he was out of his wit,
Yet to the top he scrambles.

And being gotten to the top,
Yet there himselfe he could not stop,
But downe on th' other side doth chop,
And to the foot came rumbling:
So that the Grubs therein that bred,
Hearing such turmoyle ouer head,
Thought surely they had all bin dead,
So fearefull was the Iumbling.

And falling downe into a Lake,
Which him vp to the neck doth take,
His fury somewhat it doth slake,
He calleth for a Ferry;
Where you may some recouery note,
What was his Club he made his Boate,
And in his Oaken Cup doth float,
As safe as in a Wherry.

Men talke of the Aduentures strange,
Of Don Quishott, and of their change
Through which he Armed oft did range,
Of Sancha Panchas trauell:
But should a man tell euery thing,
Done by this franticke Fayrie king.
And them in lofty numbers sing
It well his wits might grauell.

Scarse set on shore, but therewithall,
He meeteth Pucke, which most men call
Hobgoblin, and on him doth fall,
With words from frenzy spoken;
Hoh, hoh, quoth Hob, God saue thy grace,
Who drest thee in this pitteous case,
He thus that spoild my soueraignes face,
I would his necke were broken.

This Puck seemes but a dreaming dolt,
Still walking like a ragged Colt,
And oft out of a Bush doth bolt,
Of purpose to deceiue vs.
And leading vs makes vs to stray,
Long Winters nights out of the way,
And when we stick in mire and clay,
Hob doth with laughter leaue vs.

Deare Puck (quoth he) my wife is gone
As ere thou lou'st King Oberon,
Let euery thing but this alone
With vengeance, and pursue her;
Bring her to me aliue or dead,
Or that vilde thief, Pigwiggins head,
That villaine hath defil'd my bed
He to this folly drew her.

Quoth Puck, My Liege Ile neuer lin,
But I will thorough thicke and thinne,
Vntill at length I bring her in,
My dearest Lord nere doubt it:
Thorough Brake, thorough Brier,
Thorough Muck, thorough Mier,
Thorough Water, thorough Fier,
And thus goes Puck about it.

This thing Nimphidia ouer hard
That on this mad King had a guard
Not doubting of a great reward,
For first this businesse broching;
And through the ayre away doth goe
Swift as an Arrow from the Bowe,
To let her Soueraigne Mab to know,
What perill was approaching.

The Queene bound with Loues powerfulst charme
Sate with Pigwiggen arme in arme,
Her Merry Maydes that thought no harme,
About the roome were skipping:
A Humble-Bee their Minstrell, playde
Vpon his Hoboy; eu'ry Mayde
Fit for this Reuells was arayde,
The Hornepype neatly tripping.

In comes Nimphidia, and doth crie,
My Soueraigne for your safety flie,
For there is danger but too nie,
I posted to forewarne you:
The King hath sent Hobgoblin out,
To seeke you all the Fields about,
And of your safety you may doubt,
If he but once discerne you.

When like an vprore in a Towne,
Before them euery thing went downe,
Some tore a Ruffe, and some a Gowne,
Gainst one another iustling:
They flewe about like Chaffe i' th winde,
For hast some left their Maskes behinde;
Some could not stay their Gloues to finde,
There neuer was such bustling.

Forth ranne they by a secret way,
Into a brake that neere them lay;
Yet much they doubted there to stay,
Lest Hob should hap to find them:
He had a sharpe and piercing sight,
All one to him the day and night,
And therefore were resolu'd by flight,
To leave this place behind them.

At length one chanc'd to find a Nut,
In th' end of which a hole was cut,
Which lay vpon a Hazell roote,
There scatt'red by a Squirill:
Which out the kernell gotten had;
When quoth this Fay deare Queene be glad,
Let Oberon be ne'r so mad,
Ile set you safe from perill.

Come all into this Nut (quoth she)
Come closely in be rul'd by me,
Each one may here a chuser be,
For roome yee need not wrastle:
Nor neede yee be together heapt;
So one by one therein they crept,
And lying downe they soundly slept,
And safe as in a Castle.

Nimphidia that this while doth watch,
Perceiu'd if Puck the Queene should catch
That he should be her ouer-match,
Of which she well bethought her;
Found it must be some powerfull Charme,
The Queene against him that must arme,
Or surely he would doe her harme,
For throughly he had sought her.

And listning if she ought could heare,
That her might hinder, or might feare:
But finding still the coast was cleare,
Nor creature had discride her;
Each circumstance and hauing scand,
She came thereby to vnderstand,
Puck would be with them out of hand
When to her Charmes she hide her:

And first her Ferne seede doth bestowe,
The kernell of the Missletowe:
And here and there as Puck should goe,
With terrour to affright him:
She Night-shade strawes to work him ill,
Therewith her Veruayne and her Dill,
That hindreth Witches of their will,
Of purpose to dispight him.

Then sprinkles she the iuice of Rue,
That groweth vnderneath the Yeu:
With nine drops of the midnight dewe,
From Lunarie distilling:
The Molewarps braine mixt therewithall;
And with the same the Pismyres gall,
For she in nothing short would fall;
The Fayrie was so willing.

Then thrice vnder a Bryer doth creepe,
Which at both ends was rooted deepe,
And ouer it three times shee leepe;
Her Magicke much auayling:
Then on Proserpyna doth call,
And so vpon her spell doth fall,
Which here to you repeate I shall,
Not in one tittle fayling.

By the croking of the Frogge;
By the howling of the Dogge;
By the crying of the Hogge,
Against the storme arising;
By the Euening Curphewe bell;
By the dolefull dying knell,
O let this my direfull Spell,
Hob, hinder thy surprising.

By the Mandrakes dreadfull groanes;
By the Lubricans sad moans;
By the noyse of dead mens bones,
In Charnell houses ratling:
By the hissing of the Snake,
The rustling of the fire-Drake,
I charge thee thou this place forsake,
Nor of Queene Mab be pratling.

By the Whirlwindes hollow sound,
By the Thunders dreadfull stound,
Yells of Spirits vnder ground,
I chardge thee not to feare vs:
By the Shreech-owles dismall note,
By the Blacke Night-Rauens throate,
I charge thee Hob to teare thy Coate
With thornes if thou come neere vs,

Her Spell thus spoke she stept aside,
And in a Chincke her selfe doth hide,
To see there of what would betyde,
For shee doth onely minde him:
When presently shee Puck espies,
And well she markt his gloating eyes,
How vnder euery leafe he spies,
In seeking still to finde them.

But once the Circle got within,
The Charmes to worke doe straight begin,
And he was caught as in a Gin;
For as he thus was busie,
A paine he in his Head-peece feeles,
Against a stubbed Tree he reeles,
And vp went poore Hobgoblins heeles,
Alas his braine was dizzie.

At length vpon his feete he gets,
Hobgoblin fumes, Hobgoblin frets,
And as againe he forward sets,
And through the Bushes scrambles;
A Stump doth trip him in his pace,
Down comes poore Hob vpon his face,
And lamentably tore his case,
Amongst the Bryers and Brambles.

A plague vpon Queene Mab, quoth hee,
And all her Maydes where ere they be,
I thinke the Deuill guided me,
To seeke her so prouoked.
Where stumbling at a piece of Wood,
He fell into a dich of mudd,
Where to the very Chin he stood,
In danger to be choked.

Now worse than e're he was before:
Poore Puck doth yell, poore Puck doth rore;
That wak'd Queene Mab who doubted sore
Some Treason had been wrought her:
Vntill Nimphidia told the Queene
What she had done, what she had seene,
Who then had well-neere crack'd her spleene
With very extreame laughter.

But leaue we Hob to clamber out:
Queene Mab and all her Fayrie rout,
And come againe to haue about
With Oberon yet madding:
And with Pigwiggen now distrought,
Who much was troubled in his thought,
That he so long the Queene had sought,
And through the Fields was gadding.

And as he runnes he still doth crie,
King Oberon I thee defie,
And dare thee here in Armes to trie,
For my deare Ladies honour:
For that she is a Queene right good,
In whose defence Ile shed my blood,
And that thou in this iealous mood
Hast lay'd this slander on her.

And quickly Armes him for the Field,
A little Cockle-shell his Shield,
Which he could very brauely wield:
Yet could it not be pierced:
His Speare a Bent both stiffe and strong,
And well-neere of two Inches long;
The Pyle was of a Horse-flyes tongue,
Whose sharpnesse nought reuersed.

And puts him on a coate of Male,
Which was of a Fishes scale,
That when his Foe should him assaile,
No poynt should be preuayling:
His Rapier was a Hornets sting,
It was a very dangerous thing:
For if he chanc'd to hurt the King,
It would be long in healing.

His Helmet was a Bettles head,
Most horrible and full of dread,
That able was to strike one dead,
Yet did it well become him:
And for a plume, a horses hayre,
Which being tossed with the ayre,
Had force to strike his Foe with feare,
And turne his weapon from him.

Himselfe he on an Earewig set,
Yet scarce he on his back could get,
So oft and high he did coruet,
Ere he himselfe could settle:
He made him turne, and stop, and bound,
To gallop, and to trot the Round,
He scarce could stand on any ground,
He was so full of mettle.

When soone he met with Tomalin,
One that a valiant Knight had bin,
And to King Oberon of kin;
Quoth he thou manly Fayrie:
Tell Oberon I come prepar'd,
Then bid him stand vpon his Guard;
This hand his basenesse shall reward,
Let him be ne'r so wary.

Say to him thus, that I defie,
His slanders, and his infamie,
And as a mortall enemie,
Doe publickly proclaime him:
Withall, that if I had mine owne,
He should not weare the Fayrie Crowne,
But with a vengeance should come downe:
Nor we a King should name him.

This Tomalin could not abide,
To heare his Soueraigne vilefide:
But to the Fayrie Court him hide;
Full furiously he posted,
With eu'ry thing Pigwiggen sayd:
How title to the Crowne he layd,
And in what Armes he was aray'd,
As how himselfe he boasted.

Twixt head and foot, from point to point,
He told th'arming of each ioint,
In every piece, how neate, and quaint,
For Tomalin could doe it:
How fayre he sat, how sure he rid,
As of the courser he bestrid,
How Mannag'd, and how well he did;
The King which listened to it,

Quoth he, goe Tomalin with speede,
Prouide me Armes, prouide my Steed,
And euery thing that I shall neede,
By thee I will be guided;
To strait account, call thou thy witt,
See there be wanting not a whitt,
In euery thing see thou me fitt,
Just as my foes prouided.

Soone flewe this newes through Fayrie land
Which gaue Queene Mab to vnderstand,
The combate that was then in hand,
Betwixt those men so mighty:
Which greatly she began to rew,
Perceuing that all Fayrie knew,
The first occasion from her grew,
Of these affaires so weighty.

Wherefore attended with her maides,
Through fogs, and mists, and dampes she wades,
To Proserpine the Queene of shades
To treat, that it would please her,
The cause into her hands to take,
For ancient loue and friendships sake,
And soone therof an end to make,
Which of much care would ease her.

A While, there let we Mab alone,
And come we to King Oberon,
Who arm'd to meete his foe is gone,
For Proud Pigwiggen crying:
Who sought the Fayrie King as fast,
And had so well his iourneyes cast,
That he arriued at the last,
His puisant foe espying:

Stout Tomalin came with the King,
Tom Thum doth on Pigwiggen bring,
That perfect were in euery thing,
To single fights belonging:
And therefore they themselues ingage,
To see them exercise their rage,
With faire and comely equipage,
Not one the other wronging.

So like in armes, these champions were,
As they had bin, a very paire,
So that a man would almost sweare,
That either, had bin either;
Their furious steedes began to naye
That they were heard a mighty way,
Their staues vpon their rests they lay;
Yet e'r they flew together,

Their Seconds minister an oath,
Which was indifferent to them both,
That on their Knightly faith, and troth,
No magicke them supplyed;
And sought them that they had no charmes,
Wherewith to worke each others harmes,
But came with simple open armes,
To haue their causes tryed.

Together furiously they ran,
That to the ground came horse and man,
The blood out of their Helmets span,
So sharpe were their incounters;
And though they to the earth were throwne,
Yet quickly they regain'd their owne,
Such nimblenesse was neuer showne,
They were two Gallant Mounters.

When in a second Course againe,
They forward came with might and mayne,
Yet which had better of the twaine,
The Seconds could not iudge yet;
Their shields were into pieces cleft,
Their helmets from their heads were reft,
And to defend them nothing left,
These Champions would not budge yet.

Away from them their Staues they threw,
Their cruell Swords they quickly drew,
And freshly they the fight renew;
They euery stroke redoubled:
Which made Proserpina take heed,
And make to them the greater speed,
For fear lest they too much should bleed,
Which wondrously her troubled.

When to th' infernall Stix she goes,
She takes the Fogs from thence that rose,
And in a Bagge doth them enclose;
When well she had them blended:
She hyes her then to Lethe spring,
A Bottell and thereof doth bring,
Wherewith she meant to worke the thing,
Which onely she intended.

Now Proserpine with Mab is gone
Vnto the place where Oberon
And proud Pigwiggen, one to one,
Both to be slaine were likely:
And there themselues they closely hide,
Because they would not be espide;
For Proserpine meant to decide
The matter very quickly.

And suddainly vntyes the Poke,
Which out of it sent such a smoke,
As ready was them all to choke,
So greeuous was the pother;
So that the Knights each other lost,
And stood as still as any post,
Tom Thum, nor Tomalin could boast
Themselues of any other.

But when the mist gan somewhat cease,
Proserpina commanded peace:
And that a while they should release,
Each other of their perill:
Which here (quoth she) I doe proclaime
To all in dreadfull Plutos name,
That as yee will eschewe his blame,
You let me heare the quarrell,

But here your selues you must engage,
Somewhat to coole your spleenish rage:
Your greeuous thirst and to asswage,
That first you drinke this liquor:
Which shall your vnderstanding cleare,
As plainely shall to you appeare;
Those things from me that you shall heare,
Conceiuing much the quicker.

This Lethe water you must knowe,
The memory destroyeth so,
That of our weale, or of our woe,
It all remembrance blotted;
Of it nor can you euer thinke:
For they no sooner tooke this drinke,
But nought into their braines could sinke,
Of what had them besotted.

King Oberon forgotten had,
That he for iealousie ranne mad:
But of his Queene was wondrous glad,
And ask'd how they came thither:
Pigwiggen likewise doth forget,
That he Queene Mab had euer met;
Or that they were so hard beset,
When they were found together.

Nor neither of them both had thought,
That e'r they had each other sought;
Much lesse that they a Combat fought,
But such a dreame were lothing:
Tom Thum had got a little sup,
And Tomalin scarce kist the Cup,
Yet had their braines so sure lockt vp,
That they remembred nothing.

Queene Mab and her light Maydes the while,
Amongst themselues doe closely smile,
To see the King caught with this wile,
With one another testing:
And to the Fayrie Court they went,
With mickle ioy and merriment,
Which thing was done with good intent,
And thus I left them feasting.


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