Amyntas, A Tale of the Woods/Act I

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ACT I[edit]

SCENE I[edit]


And wouldst thou then indeed, dear Sylvia,
Pass this young age of thine
Far from the joys of love? and wouldst thou never
Hear the sweet name of mother; nor behold
Thy little children playing round about thee
Delightfully? Ah think,
Think. I beseech thee, do,
Simpleton that thou art.

Let others follow the delights of love,
If love indeed has any. To my taste
This life is best. I have enough to care for
In my dear bow and arrows. My delight
Is following the chase; and when ‘tis saucy,
Bringing it down; and so, as long as arrows
Fail not my quiver, nor wild deer the woods,
I fear no want of sport.

Insipid sport
Truly, and most insipid way of life!
If it is pleasant to thee, it is only
From ignorance of the other. The first people,
Who lived in the world’s infancy, regarded
With like good sense their water and their acorns
As exquisite meat and drink; but nowadays
Water and acorns are but food for beasts;
And grain and the sweet grape sustain humanity.
Ah! hadst thou once, but once
Tasted a thousandth part of the delight
Which a heart tastes that loves and is beloved,
Thou wouldst repent, and sigh, and say directly,
‘Tis all but loss of time
That passes not in loving.
O seasons fled and gone,
How many widowed nights,
And solitary days
Which might have been wrapped round with this sweet life,
Have I consumed in vain!
A life, the more habituate, the more sweet!
Think, think, I pray thee do,
Simpleton as thou art.
A late repentance is at least no pleasure.

When I shall come to thee with penitent sighs,
And say the words which thou hast fancied for me,
And rounded off so sweetly, then, why then,
The running river shall turn home again,
And wolves escape from lambs, and hounds from hares,
And bears shall love the sea, dolphins the hills.

I know too well this girlish waywardness.
Such as thou art, I was; so did I bear
My fortune and my careless countenance;
And so were my fair locks; and so vermilion
Even was my mouth; and so the white and red
Was mingled in my ripe and delicate cheeks.
Twas then my highest joy (a foolish joy,
Now I think of it) to go spreading nets,
And setting snares for birds, and sharpening darts,
And tracking to their haunts wild animals;
And if I saw a lover look at me,
I dropped my little wild and rustic eyes,
Half blushes and half scorn. His kindliness
Found no kind thoughts in me; and all that made me
Pleasing to other eyes, displeased myself;
As if it was my crime, my shame, my scorn,
To be thus looked at, and thus loved, and longed for.
But what can time not do? And what not do
A faithful lover, and importunate,
Forever serving, meriting, entreating?
I yielded, I confess; and all that conquered me,
What was it? patience and humility,
And sighs, and soft laments, and asking pardon.
Darkness, and one short night, then shewed me more,
Than the long luster of a thousand days.
How did I then reproach my blind simplicity,
And breathe, and say, - Here, Cynthia, take thy horn;
Here, take thy bow; for I renounce at once
Thy way of life, and all that it pursues. –
And thus I still look forward to the day,
When thy Amyntas shall domesticate
Thy wildness for thee, and put flesh and blood
Into this steel and stony heart of thine.
Is he not handsome? does he love thee not?
Is he not loved by others? does he alter so
For love of them, and not for thy disdain?
Or is his fault an humbler origin?
Thou, it is true, art daughter to Cydippe,
Whose father was the god of this great river;
Yet he is son of old Sylvanus too,
Whose father was the shepherds’ god, great Pan.
There’s Amaryllis: if thou has at any time
Beheld thee in some fountain’s glassy mirror
She is as fair as thou: and yet he flies
All her delicious arts, to follow thee
And thy poor scorn. Suppose (and yet heaven grant
The supposition never may come true)
That wearied out with thee, he should repose
His joys in her who sees so much in him:
How would thy heart feel then? or with what eyes
See him become another’s? happy in
Another’s arms, and laughing thee to scorn?

Pray let Amyntas with himself and his loves
Do what he pleases. It concerns not me.
He is not mine; let him be whose he chooses.
Mine he cannot be, if I like him not;
And if he were mine, I would not be his.

Whence springs all this disliking?

From his love.

A blessed father of a child so cruel!
But come, come; when were tigers ever born
Of the kind lamb, or crows of lady swans?
Thou dost deceive me, or thyself.

I hate
His love, because it hates my honesty.
I loved him well enough as long as he
Wished nothing but what I wished.

Thou didst wish
Thine evil. All that he desired of thee
Was for thee too.

Daphne, be still, I pray;
Or speak of something else, if thou wouldst have
An answer.

Oh pray mark her airs! Pray mark
The scornful little lass! Give me however,
One answer more. Suppose another loved thee,
Wouldst thou receive his love in the same way?

In the same way would I receive all love
That came to undermine my honesty;
For what thou callest lover, I call enemy.

And callest thou the sheep then
The enemy of his female?
The bull of the fair heifer?
Or of his dove the turtle?
And callest thou the sweet springtime
The time of rage and enmity,
Which breathing new and smiling
Reminds the whole creation,
The animal, the human,
Of loving! Dost thou see not
How all things are enamored
Of this enamorer, rich with joy and health?
Observe that turtledove,
How toying with his dulcet murmuring
He kisses his companion. Hear that nightingale
Who goes from bough to bough,
Singing with his loud heart, I love! I love!
The adder, though thou know’st it not, forgets
Her poison, and goes eagerly to her love;
Headlong the tigers go;
The lion’s great heart loves; and thou alone,
Wilder than all the wild,
Deniest the boy a lodging in thy breast.
But why speak I of tigers, snakes, and lions,
Who have their share of mind? The very trees
Are loving. See with what affection there,
And in how many a clinging turn and twine,
The vine holds fast its husband. Fir loves fir,
The pine the pine; and ash, and willow, and beech,
Each toward the other, yearns, and sighs, and trembles.
That oak tree which appears
So rustic and so rough,
Even that has something warm in its sound heart;
And hadst thou but a spirit and sense of love,
Thou hadst found out a meaning for its whispers.
Now tell me, wouldst thou be
Less than the very plants, and have no love?
Think better, oh think better,
Simpleton that thou art.

Well, when I hear the sighings of the plants,
I’ll be content to fall in love myself.

Thou mockest my kind council, and makest game
Of all I say to thee – O deaf to love,
As thou art blind. But go: the time will come
When thou wilt grieve thou didst not mind my words.
Then wilt thou shun the fountains, where so oft
Thou makest thee a glass, perhaps a proud one;
Then wilt thou shun the fountains, for mere dread
Of seeing thyself grown wrinkled and featureless.
This will most surely be; but not this only;
For though a great, ‘tis but a common evil.
I’ll tell thee what Elpino, t’other day,
The wise Elpino, told the fair Lycoris;
Her,whose two eyes can do as much with him,
As his sweet singing ought to do with her;
If ought were good in love. He told it her
In hearing both of Battus and of Thyrsis
Great masters they of love; they were conversing
Within Aurora’s cavern, over which
‘Tis written, “Far be ye, profane ones, far.”
He told her – and twas told to him, he said,
By that great name that sung of Arms and Loves,
And who bequeathed him, dying, his own pipe,
That underneath there, in the infernal depth,
Is a black den, which breathes out noisome smoke
From the sad furnaces of Acheron;
And there, in everlasting punishment,
With moaning, and tormenting hold of darkness,
Are kept ungrateful and denying women.
There then expect a proper dwelling place
For thy fierce hardness.
It will be just and well that the harsh smoke
Shall wring the stubborn tears out of those eyes,
Since never pity yet could draw them down. –
Follow thy ways, go follow,
Obstinate that thou art.

But what pray did Lycoris? and what answer
Made she to this?

Thou carest not what thou dost,
And yet would fain be told what others do.
She answered with her eyes.

Why how could one
Answer without?

They turned with a sweet smile,
And answered thus: Our heart, and we, are thine;
More thou shouldst not desire; nor may there be
More given. And surely this is all-sufficient
For a chaste lover, if he holds those eyes
To be sincere as beautiful, and gives them
Perfect belief.

And why not so believe them?

Knowest thou not what Thyrsis went about
Writing, the time he wandered in the forests
Out of his wits, and moved the nymphs and shepherds
To mirth and pity at once? No things wrote he
Worthy of laughter, whatso’er his deeds.
He wrote it on a thousand barks to grow
Verses and barks together; and one I read:
False faithless lights, ye mirrors of her heart,
Well do I recognize the tricks ye play!
But to what profit, seeing I cannot fly?

I waste the time here, talking. I forget
That I must join the accustomed chase today,
Among the olive trees. Now pray wait for me,
Just while I bathe in our old fountain here,
And rid me of the dust I gathered yesterday
In following that swift fawn, which nevertheless
I overtook and killed.

I’ll wait for thee;
Perhaps will join thee in the bath; but first
I must go home. The hour is not so late
As it appears. So wait for me at home
Thyself, and I’ll come speedily. And pray
Bethink thee, the meantime, of what imports thee
Much more than fawns or fountains. If thou knowst it not,
Know thy own ignorance, and trust the wise.

SCENE II[edit]