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This paper argues for the importance of a previously under-emphasized intertext for the ‘October’ eclogue of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender (1579): the seventh Satire of Juvenal, which voices the complaints of intellectuals about the lack of available patronage. As I show in this paper, Spenser’s use of Juvenal sheds light on the literary project of both authors. The allusions to the seventh Satire in ‘October’ suggest that, like many modern commentators (Hardie 1990, Braund 1988: 24-68), Spenser interpreted Juvenal’s arguments about patronage as ironic. The satirist is not earnestly advocating for increased investment in poetic activity, but subtly mocking the venality and dependence of court poets, who are concerned (in Spenser’s words) with ‘price’, not ‘prayse’, with ‘gayne’, not with ‘glory’. Moreover, Spenser’s introduction of this strain of satire into his characterization of the shepherd Cuddie, who represents ‘the perfecte patterne of a Poete’, suggests an awareness of the possible ethical and social pitfalls of Spenser’s own ambitions for a Vergilian poetic career.

Like the poets of Juvenal’s seventh Satire, the disillusioned poet Cuddie in Spenser’s ‘October’ eclogue complains that his poetry has brought him no economic benefit. Juvenal had compared the rich of his time, who merely admire intellectuals without paying them, to children marveling at a peacock (ut pueri Iunonis avem, 7.32). The image reappears in Cuddie’s speech in October: ‘So praysen babes the Peacoks spotted traine’ (line 31). Both Juvenal and Cuddie look to Maecenas as an ideal but long-dead archetype of the patron (Sat. 7.94-5; ‘October’ 55-62), and both self-pityingly imagine an impoverished old age without any material support (Sat. 7.32-5; ‘October’ 67-70). In both poems, freedom from troubles is also posited as necessary for successful poetic production. Juvenal says that the true vates has a ‘mind free from cares’ (anxietate carens animus, 7.57) and ‘a longing for the woods’ (cupidus silvarum, 7.58), and can drink from the Muses’ springs. Spenser’s naïve Cuddie is, of course, already in the woods, but he bungles all the other tropes: he declares that the Muses love, not a mind vacant from cares, but a vacant mind (‘the vaunted verse a vacant head demaundes’, 100), and claims that, rather than drinking from the Muses’ springs, an abundance of wine will stimulate his poetic ability (‘And when with Wine the braine begins to sweate,/ the nombers flowe as fast as spring doth ryse’, 107-8). Cuddie, it seems, is a ridiculous figure. But the allusions to Juvenal suggest that Spenser saw also the ridiculousness of the poets in Juvenal’s original poem, who (among other things) long to take the position of their patrons’ expensive domesticated pets (74-8).

The satirizing of Cuddie, who is also on a Vergilian career trajectory (he is urged by his interlocutor to abandon pastoral and sing epic), significantly complicates Spenser’s own self-presentation as a new Vergil. In the seventh Satire, Juvenal notoriously likened Statius to a pimp prostituting his poetry (7.82-7; Markus 2000); the Shepherdes Calender begins with a preface likening the book to someone who is presently ‘unkiste’ but will soon be ‘kiste’, ‘beloved’, ‘embraced’, and the editor half-humorously calls himself a pander in recommending this new work (Oram et al 1989; 13). In this pastoral poetic debut, Spenser displays an ambivalence about the ethical compromises involved in the attempt to secure patronage, and a cynical awareness of the humiliating dependence of intellectuals seeking the approval of the wealthy. He does so partly through the intertext of the seventh Satire of Juvenal – a poet all-too-aware himself of the often humiliating nature of the client-patron relationship.