October is still a day from over so I'm just a hair shy of breaking my promise to you loyal readers out there. To recapitulate, I vowed in September to dedicate one post each month to that month's corresponding eclogue in Spenser's The Shephearde's Calender. Therefore, before November hits, I present to you the second installment in this twelve-part monster:
The October eclogue is among my favorites from the Calender, namely because it features my favorite character, Cuddie. Cuddie is first introduced in the February eclogue as a fiery and impertinent youth who dismisses the wisdom of his elders (and not entirely without foundation) as bitter old curmudgeonliness designed to spoil his fun.
In October things come full circle, as we see Cuddie living the dream of his youthful fancies (or rather having lived it) as a burnt-out rock star of the pastoral world.
He laments to Piers, a shepherd:
"Piers, I haue pyped erst so long with payne,
That all mine Oten reedes bene rent and wore:
And my poore Muse hath spent her spared store,"
Cuddie then goes on to complain about how the young people he entertains reap all the enjoyment of his labors, while he sees little gain from it. They're still fresh and young and haven't had they're wide-eyed dreams spoiled yet. They're like the kids who still beleive in Santa Claus; Cuddie is the guy in the Santa suit making minimum wage so he can go home to a roach-infested tenement and drink himself to sleep.
Cuddie's jealousy of the younger crowd here reflects that of the older shepherd whom he mocked in the February eclogue. The carefree grasshopper who spurned the ant's austere advice has survived winter only to become even more of a downer than the ant.
Piers reminds Cuddie that love for art ought to be compensation enough for the performer, and that he can take satisfaction in knowing that he provides an invaluable service to society as a bard who "retrains" the lust of youth by sublimating it with bawdy comic verse. Cuddie, however, isn't buying it, so Piers then suggests that he try switching from pastoral to epic poetry, effectively giving up comedy to become a "serious" artist. Cuddie considers, but in the end concludes that he is too tired to.
In the end, the best Piers can do to console Cuddie is to promise him a goat. I guess that would be the pastoral version of "I'll buy you a drink."
Cheers to all you aging, disillusioned artists and performers out there.