Home  »  The Book of Elizabethan Verse  »  Nicholas Breton (1545–1626)

William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

The Happy Countryman

Nicholas Breton (1545–1626)

WHO can live in heart so glad

As the merry country lad?

Who upon a fair green balk

May at pleasure sit and walk,

And amid the azure skies

See the morning sun arise,—

While he hears in every spring

How the birds do chirp and sing:

Or before the hounds in cry

See the hare go stealing by:

Or along the shallow brook,

Angling with a baited hook,

See the fishes leap and play

In a blessèd sunny day:

Or to hear the partridge call,

Till she have her covey all:

Or to see the subtle fox,

How the villain plies the box:

After feeding on his prey,

How he closely sneaks away,

Through the hedge and down the furrow

Till he gets into his burrow:

Then the bee to gather honey,

And the little black-haired coney,

On a bank for sunny place,

With her forefeet wash her face:

Are not these, with thousands moe

Than the courts of kings do know,

The true pleasing spirit’s sights

That may breed true love’s delights?

But with all this happiness,

To behold that Shepherdess,

To whose eyes all shepherds yield

All the fairest of the field,

—Fair Aglaia, in whose face

Lives the shepherd’s highest grace;

For whose sake I say and swear,

By the passions that I bear,

Had I got a kingly grace,

I would leave my kingly place

And in heart be truly glad

To become a country lad;

Hard to lie, and go full bare,

And to feed on hungry fare,

So I might but live to be

Where I might but sit to see

Once a day, or all day long,

The sweet subject of my song:

In Aglaia’s only eyes

All my worldly paradise.