This is perhaps one of the longest poems you will ever read.
When nature nurse of euery liuing thing,
Had clad her charge in braue and new aray:
The hils reioyst to see themselues so fine:
The fields, and woods grew proud therof also:
The medovves vvith their partie coloured coates,
Like to the Rainebow in the azur'd skie,
Gaue iust occasion to the cheerefull birdes,
With svveetest note, to sing their nurses praise.
Among the vvhich, the merrie Nightingale
With svvete and svvete, (her brest against a thorne)
Ringes out all night the neuer ceasing laudes
of God, the author of her nursse and all.
About this time, the Lady Uenus viewd,
The fruitfull fieldes of Hartfordshire:
And savv the riuer, and the meades thereof
Fit for to breede her birdes of greatest prise.
She calles in haste for vvinged Mercurie,
And sendes him to Cayster, siluer streame:
Fetch me (saith he) tvvo Cignets of the best,
And in the Laund, hard by the parke of Ware,
Where Fanshawe buildes for his succeeding race,
Thy speedie comming I will there avvait.
The messenger of all the heauenly court,
Makes haste avvay to doo his mistresse quest:
And from the brood tvvo Cignets of esteeme
He sleely takes, vnseene of any Svvannes,
Which in that riuer be so plentifull.
To Ware he comes, and to the Launde he flies,
Where Uenus, like the Goddesse of great Loue,
Sate louely by the running riuer side,
Tuning her Lute vnto the waters fall;
Wherewith she did record the loue and armes
Of mightie Mars, the God of dreadfull warre.
The present come, she layeth downe her Lute,
And takes these Cignets of so great esteeme,
Throwing them both into her riuer Lee:
And posted straight vp, to the throne of Ioue,
Where louely, like to verie loue it selfe,
Shee set her selfe, vpon her yeelding knee,
And craues of him but onely this request,
That her two Swannes might prosper in the streame,
And rule the rest, as worthie King and Queene.
The mightie Ioue, vnwilling to denie
His daughters sute, for feare of further ill,
Graunts her request: and more to pleasure her,
Saith, that these two so fruitfull shall become,
That all the Swannes, yea, the verie Thames
Shall be replenisht with their princely race.
Uenus yeeldes thankes, and hastes her selfe away,
To mount Troclya, where she tooke her rest.
Long liued these Swannes in Lee, with great increase
Of honour, royaltie, and in high estate:
Inricht with issue of the fayrest breede,
That liues in Seuerne, Humber or in Trent,
The chiefest floudes that water English ground.
Three times had Venus vs'd them for to draw
Her Iuory Chariot, through the loftie ayre.
A speciall fauour (as the Poets say)
Graunted to such, as she holdes in accompt.
Now as these Swannes began to waxen old,
As time outweares eche creature that doth liue:
It pleased them to send throughout their realme,
For all their subiectes of the highest bloud:
With full intent to make a progresse cleane,
Throughout their land to see the boundes thereof,
And euery brooke that harbours anie Swanne,
With all the Isles that vnto them belong.
No sooner vvas this message knovvne abroad,
But there resorted to their being place,
Such troupes of milke-vvhite Svvannes, as vvell beseem'd
The royall state of tvvo such princes great.
Among vvhich troupes, the King and Queene made choise
Of fortie Svvannes of high and royall bloud,
For to attend vpon their Maiesties.
Then looke hovv Cynthia vvith her siluer rayes,
Exceedes the brightnesse of the lesser starres,
When in her chiefest pompe she hasteth dovvne,
To steale a kisse from drousie Endymion:
So doe these princes farre excell in state,
The Svvannes that breede vvithin Europaes boundes.
And in this pompe, they hie them to the head,
Whence Lee doth spring, not farre from Kempton tovvne,
And svviftly comming dovvne through Brooke-hall parke,
Leaues Whethamsted, so called of the corne:
By Bishops-Hatfield then they come along,
Seated not farre from antient Verolane:
His Citie, that first did spend his blessed life,
In iust maintaining of our Christian faith.
When they had past Harting fordbury tovvne,
A quite contrarie course they doe finde out:
And though it were some labour gainst the streame,
To trace this Riuer, feeding christall Lee:
Yet vvorthily they holde their first resolue,
And vp by Tewing, vvide of Butlers house,
To Digswell haste, vvhere Horsley dvvelt of late:
And then to Welwine, passing vvell beknovvne,
And noted for a vvorthie stratagem:
I meame the Danes, vvho on S. Bryces night,
Were stoughtly murdred by their vvomen foes:
To Whitwell short, vvhereof doth burbling rise
The spring, that makes this little riuer runne.
Thence backe againe vnto the chiefest tovvne,
Of all the shire, and greatest of accompt,
Defended with a Castle of some strength,
Well walled, dyched, and amended late,
By her, the onely mirror of the world,
Our gracious Queene and Prince Elizabeth.
Not far from hence, stands many a milkewhite Swanne,
Attending for to entertaine their Prince:
Among the which, was one of chiefe accompt,
That busked vp his winges in greatest pride,
And so salutes this worthie companie:
And with a speeche that well did him beseeme,
He tels hovv that neere Walkhorne Capels seate,
The Bene doth rise, and giues his proper name
To Benington, and so to Watton runnes:
And then by Staplefoord, to Beneghoo heere,
Where vve, vvith all the Svvannes and Cignets both,
That liue in Bene, doe rest at your command.
Right graciously the Princes tooke his speeche:
And so departed towardes Edwardes Ware,
But ere they come vnto the Meade or Laund,
Where Venus first did put them in estate,
They passed vp a riuer of good depth,
The greatest branch that feedeth christall Lee:
With speedie pace (as Svvannes doe vse to svvimme)
They passe to Wadesmill, and to Thundrich Church,
And so to Standon, honoured vvith the house
Of vvorthie Sadler Knight, and Counseller
To all the children of King Henry seuenth:
Whose sonne suruiuing, holdes the verie path,
That leades to vertue and to honours throne.
By Puckhridge likevvise they doe svviftly passe:
And so to Horne-meade more and lesse, and then
To Withthall, to Buckland and to Barckway both,
Where is the head and verie vtmost bound
Of this surpassing cleere and goodly streame.
Returning backe againe, the companie
Were marshalled and set in order brave.
And this vvas done least that vndecently
They should passe by the guested towne of Ware.
Thus ordered, they come by Byrches house.
That vvhilom was the brothers Priers place
Then by the Crowne, and all the Innes of Ware:
And so approching to the late built bridge,
They see the barges lading malt apace:
And people wondering at so great a troope:
Among the which, a man whose siluer heares
Seem'd to excell the whitenesse of the rest,
Bespake them thus.
Long haue I liued, and by this bridge was borne,
Yet neuer saw I such a companie:
So well beseene, so ordered, and so faire:
Nay (as I thinke) the age that is by past,
Nor yet the same that after shall insue
Neuer beheld, nor lookt vpon the like.
The people listened to this aged man,
As one they loued, and held in reuerence.
And as they stoode, behold a sodaine chance:
From South-side of the bridge, hard by the same,
Two goodly Swannes, with Cignets full fifteene
Presents themselues, and theirs vnto the Prince:
Excusing well their slackenesse, and offence
In not appearing at their first command.
The Queene beholding such a goodly broode,
Receiu'd them all, and pardoned euerie misse:
Demanding where they vs'd, and all their state,
After a becke in signe of humble thankes,
The Cocke made answere with a modest grace.
A place there is, not farre from hence (O king)
A chalkie hill, beneath the same a hole,
Cal'd Chadwell head, whence issues out a streame,
That runnes behind broad Meade that you see heere:
A little rill, yet great inough for vs,
And these our breede, yet (gratious Prince) behold
A tale there is deliuered vnto vs
From hand to hand, how that a hunted ducke,
Diuing within this Chalk-well head or hole,
Was forced vnderneath the hollow ground
To swimme along by waies that be vnknowne:
And afterward at Amwell spring (they say)
Was taken vp all fetherlesse and bare.
The King and Lordes tooke pleasure at the tale:
And so made haste quite through the arched bridge,
To Amwell, when they easilie did espie
The spring and rill that comes out of the hill:
And is supposed to rise at Chadwell head.
Beneath the same comes downe a little streame
That fosters Svvannes, and comes from Haddam small:
And so by Haddam, vvhere the Bishops house
Hath bene of long, and so to Wydford towne:
And here at Amwell falles into the riuer Lee.
Then troupes this traine to Stanstead, called Le Thele,
And Stanstead where as Bashe did lately build,
Whose sonne yeeldes hope of vertue worth the place,
And liuinges which his father purchast him.
And here againe out of the kingly streame
They passe by Roydon through little Estwyke quite:
Then they salute Hunsdon the nurserie
And foster house of thrise renowmed Svvannes:
Whose honour, and vvhose noble progenie
Giues glorie to that honourable house:
Lord, hovv they liue all glorious as the sunne,
With tipes, and titles fit for their degree,
As kinsmen to our most redoubted Queene,
And men of high desert vnto the state.
From hence to Sapsford, and to Starford, cald
The Bishops: then to Farnam and to Maunder,
And so to Clauering, vvhere it riseth first,
And then comes dovvne againe into the Lee.
From Stansted vnto Hodsdon goe these Svvannes,
From thence to Broxborne, and to Wormley vvood
And so salute the holy house of Nunnes,
That late belongd to captaine Edward Dennie,
A knight in Ireland of the best accompt
Who late made execution on our foes,
I meane of Spanyardes, that vvith open armes
Attempted both against our Queene and vs:
There novv lord Talbot keepes a noble house:
Novv see these Svvannes the nevv and vvorthie seate
Of famous Cicill, treasoror of the land,
Whose vvisedome, counsell, skill of Princes state
The vvorld admires, then Svvannes may doe the same:
The house it selfe doth shevve the ovvners vvit,
And may for bevvtie, state, and euery thing,
Compared be vvith most vvithin the land.
Downe all along through Waltham street they passe,
And vvonder at the ruines of the Abbay,
Late supprest, the vvalles, the vvalkes, the monumentes,
And euerie thing that there is to be seene:
Among them all a rare deuise they see,
But nevvly made, a vvatervvorke: the locke
Through vvhich the boates of Ware doe passe vvith malt,
This locke containes tvvo double doores of vvood,
Within the same a Cesterne all of Plancke,
Which onely fils vvhen boates come there to passe
By opening anie of these mightie dores vvith sleight,
And strange deuise, but novv decayed sore.
And as they stayed here, thy chaunst to see
The stately crosse of Elnor, Henries vvise
Then Enfield house that longes vnto our Queene,
They all behold, and vvith due reueuerence
Salute the same.
From hence by Hackney, Leyton, and old-Foord,
They come to Stratford, cal'd also the Bovve:
And vnderneath the bridge that thvvartes the streame
And partes the shires of Middlesex, and Essex both
At last (though long and wearie was their way)
They come vnto the mouth of riuer Lee,
Where all the Svvannes of that part of the Thames
Attend t'see this royall companie:
So that from Woolwich to Blackwall vvas seene
Nor vvater, nor the medowes thereabout,
For looke hovv in a frostie night or day,
When Snovve hath fallen thicke vpon the ground,
Eche gasing eye is daseled vvith the sight,
So Lillie-white vvas land and strand beseene
With these faire Svvannes, the birdes of louely loue.
After a noyse in signe of passing ioy,
A Svvane of Thames inuites the King and Queene
Vpon a day prefixt, to see and celebrate
The marriage of tvvo Riuers of great name.
Which granted, euerie one departes his vvay,
The King and Queene againe into their Lee:
Where yet they liue in health and happie state,
Or if not so, they dyed but of late.