Amyntas, A Tale of the Woods/Prologue

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AMYNTAS.

PROLOGUE.

LOVE, DISGUISED AS A SHEPHERD.

WHO would believe that in a human form,
And underneath these lowly shepherd’s weeds,
There walked a hidden God? And he no God
Sylvan, or of the common crowd of heaven,
But the most potent of their greatest:—one
Who many a time has made the hand of Mars
Let fall his bloody sword and looked away,
From the earth-shaker Neptune, his great trident;
And his old thunders from consummate Jove

Doubtless beneath this aspect and this dress,
Venus will not soon know me,—me, her son,
Her own son, Love. I am constrained to leave her,
And hide from her pursuit; because she wishes,
That I should place my arrows and myself
At her discretion solely; and like a woman,
Vain and ambitious, she would hunt me back
Among mere courts, and coronets, and sceptres,
There to pin down my powers; and to my ministers
And minor brethren, leave sole liberty
To lodge in the green woods, and flesh their darts
In bosoms rude. But I, who am no boy,
Whate'er I seem in visage or in act,
Would of myself dispose as it should please me;
Since not to her, but me, were given by lot
The torch omnipotent, and golden bow.

Therefore I hide about; and so escaping
Not her authority, which she has not in me,
But the strong pressure of a mother's prayers,
I cover me in the woods, and do become
An inmate with its lowly populace.
She follows me, and promises to give
To whomsoever will betray me to her,
Sweet kisses, or something else still dearer!
As if, forsooth, I knew not how to give
To whomsoever will conceal me from her,
Sweet kisses, or something else still dearer.
This, at the least, is certain; that my kisses
Will be much dearer to the lasses' lips,
If I, who am Love's self, to love apply me;
So that in many an instance, she must needs
Ask after me in vain. The lips are sealed.

But to keep closer still, and to prevent her
From finding me by any sign or symptom,
I have put off my wings, my bow and quiver.
Yet not the more for that walk I unarmed;
Since this which seems a rod is my good torch,
So have I wrought deception; and breathes all
Invisible flame; and this good dart of mine,
Though pointed not with gold, is nevertheless
Temper divine; and wheresoe'er it lights
Infixes love.

And now will I with this,
Pierce with a deep immedicable wound
Into the heart of the cruellest nymph,
That ever followed on Diana's choir.
No shallower shall it go in Sylvia's bosom,
(Such is the name of this fair heart of rock),
Than once it went, years back, out of this hand,
Into the gentle bosom of Amyntas,
When everywhere he followed her about
To chace and sport, young lover his young lass.
And that my point may go the deeper, I
Will wait awhile, till pity mollify
The blunting ice, which round about her heart,
Cold honour has kept bound, and virgin niceness;
And wheresoe'er it turn to softness most,
There will I lance the dart. And to perform
So fair a work most finely, I go now
To mingle with the holiday multitude
Of flowery-crowned shepherds, who are met
Hard by in the accustomed place of sport,
Where I will feign me one of them; and there,
Even in this place and fashion, will I strike
A blow invisible to mortal eye.

After new fashion shall these woods to day
Hear love discoursed; and it shall well be seen,
That my divinity is present here
In its own person, not its ministers.
I will inbreathe high fancies in rude hearts;
I will refine, and render dulcet sweet,
Their tongues; because, wherever I may be,
Whether with rustic or heroic men,
There am I, Love; and inequality,
As it may please me, do I equalize;
And 'tis my crowning glory and great miracle,
To make the rural pipe as eloquent
Even as the subtlest harp. If my proud mother,
Who scorns to have me roving in the woods,
Knows not thus much, 'tis she is blind, not I;
Though blind I am miscalled by blinded men.