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themselves enemies to my former books; who, saving those that were incensed on others' speeches, as divers of you, according to your protestations, have observed, are either open enemies of our church, men notoriously guilty of some particular abuses therein taxt, such malicious critics who have the repute of being judicious by detracting from others, or at best, such gulls as never approve any thing good or learned, but either that which their shallow apprehensions can apply to the soothing of their own opinions, or what (indeed rather they understand not.

Trust me, how ill soever it hath been rewarded, my love to my country is inviolate, my thankfulness to you unfained, my endeavour to do every man good, all my aim content with honesty, and this my pains (if it may be so termed) more to avoid idleness than for affectation of praise ; and if notwithstanding all this, I must yet not only rest myself content that my innocency hath escaped with strict imprisonment (to the impairing of my state, and hinderance of my fortunes) but also be constrained to see my guiltless lines suffer the despight of ill tongues, yet for my further encouragement, let me entreat the continuance of your first respect, wherein I shall find that comfort as will be sufficient

to make me set light, and so much contemn all the malice of my adversaries, that ready to burst with the venom of their own hearts, they shall see

My mind, enamour'd on fair Virtue's light,
Transcends the linrits of their bleared sight,
And plac'd above their envy, doth contemn,
Nay, sit and laugh at, their disdain, and them.

But, Noble Friends! I make question neither of yours nor any honest man's respect, and therefore will no further urge it nor trouble your patience. Only this I'll say,' that you may not think me too well conceited of myself: though the time were to blame, in ill requiting my honest endeavours, which in the eyes of the world deserved better, yet somewhat I am assured there was in me worthy that punishment, which when God shall give me grace to see and amend, I doubt not but to find that regard as will be

fitting for so niuch merit, as my endeavours may justly challenge. Meanwhile, the better to hold myself in esteem with you, and amend the world's opinion of Virtue, I will study to amend myself, that I may be yet more worthy to be called

Your Friend,

GEO. WITHER.

Shepherd's Hunting.

The first Eclogue.

THE ARGUMENT.

Willy leaves his flock awhile,
To lament his friend's exile ;
Where, though prison'd, he doth find
He's still free that's free in mind ;
And that there is no defence
Half so firm as innocence.

PHILARETE. WILLY.

Philarete. WILLY! thou now full jolly tun'st thy reeds, Making the nymphs enamour'd on thy strains ; And whilst thy harmless flock unscared feeds, Hast the contentment of hills, groves, and plains. Trust me, I joy thou and thy muse so speeds In such an age, where so much mischief reigns;

And to my care it some redress will be, Fortune hath so much grace to smile on thee,

Willy.
To smile on me? I ne'er yet knew her smile,
Unless 'twere when she purpos'd to deceive me:
Many a train and many a painted wile
She casts, in hope of freedom to bereave me;
Yet now, because she sees I scorn her guile,
To fawn on fools she for my muse doth leave me;

And here of late, her wonted spite doth tend
To work me care by frowning on my friend.

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Philarete.
Why then I see her copper-coin's no sterling :

Twill not be current still, for all the gilding.
A knave, or fool, must ever be her darling;
For they have minds to all occasions yielding.
If we get any thing by all our parling,
It seems an apple, but it proves a wilding.

But let that pass. Sweet shepherd! tell me this,
For what beloved friend thy sorrow is.

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Willy.
Art thou, Philarete! in durance here,
And dost thou ask me for what friend I grieve?
Can I suppose thy love to me is dear,
Or this thy joy for my content believe,
When thou think'st thy cares touch not me as near,
Or that I pin thy sorrows at my sleeve ?

I have in thee reposed so much trust,
I never thought to find thee so unjust.

Philarete, Why, Willy?

Willy. ...Prithee do not ask me why? Doth it diminish any of thy care, That I in freedom maken melody? And think'st I cannot as well somewhat spare From my delight to moan thy misery? "Tis time our loves should these suspects forbear : Thou art that friend, which thou, unnam'd,

should'st know, And not have drawn my love in question so.

Philarete.
Forgive me, and I'll pardon thy mistake;
And so let this thy gentle anger cease.
I never of thy love will question make
Whilst that the number of our days encrease.
Yet to myself I much might seem to take,
And something near unto presumption prease,*

To think me worthy love from such a spirit,

But that I know thy kindness past my merit. Besides, methought thou spak'st now of a friend, That seem'd more grievous discontents to bear : Some things I find that do in show offend, Which to my patience little trouble are;

Prease;

?; press. Spenser used it for crowd.

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