Hero and Leander (Marlowe)/First Sestiad

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HERO AND LEANDER.


FIRST SESTYAD.

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The Argument of the First Sestyad.

Hero's description, and her loves;
The Fane of Venus, where he moves
His worthy love-suit, and attains;
Whose bliss the wrath of Fates restrains,
For Cupid's grace to Mercury:
Which tale the author doth imply.

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HERO AND LEANDER.


FIRST SESTYAD.

On Hellespont, guilty of true-love's blood,
In view and opposite two cities stood,
Sea-borderers, disjoined by Neptune's might:
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
Whom young Apollo courted for her hair;
And offered as a dower his burning throne,
Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.
The outside of her garments were of lawn,
The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn,
Her wide sleeves green, and bordered with a grove,
Where Venus in her naked glory strove
To please the careless and disdainful eyes
Of proud Adonis, that before her lies;

Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,
Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.
Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,
From whence her veil reached to the ground beneath.
Her veil was artificial flowers and leaves,
Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives.
Many would praise the sweet smell as she passed,
When 'twas the odour which her breath forth cast.
And there for honey bees have sought in vain,
And, beat from thence, have lighted there again.
About her neck hung chains of pebble stone,
Which, light'ned by her neck, like diamonds shone.
She ware no gloves; for neither sun nor wind
Would burn or parch her hands, but to her mind,
Or warm or cool them, for they took delight
To play upon those hands, they were so white.
Buskins of shells, all silver'd, used she;
And branch'd with blushing coral to the knee;
Where sparrows perch'd, of hollow pearl and gold,
Such as the world would wonder to behold:
Those with sweet water oft her handmaid fills,
Which, as she went, would cherup through the bills.
Some say for her the fairest Cupid pin'd,
And looking in her face was stricken blind.

But this is true: so like was one the other,
As he imagin'd Hero was his mother:
And oftentimes into her bosom flew;
About her naked neck his bare arms threw;
And laid his childish head upon her breast,
And, with still panting rocked, there took his rest.
So lovely fair was Hero, Venus' nun,
As Nature wept, thinking she was undone,
Because she took more from her than she left;
And of such wondrous beauty her bereft:
Therefore in sign her treasure suffer'd wrack,
Since Hero's time hath half the world been black.

Amorous Leander, beautiful and young,
(Whose tragedy divine Musæus sung)
Dwelt at Abydos, since him dwelt there none,
For whom succeeding times may greater moan.
His dangling tresses, that were never shorn,
Had they been cut, and unto Colchos borne,
Would have allured the vent'rous youth of Greece,
To hazard more than for the golden fleece.
Fair Cynthia wish'd his arms might be her sphere;
Grief makes her pale, because she moves not there.
His body was as straight as Circe's wand;
Jove might have sipped out nectar from his hand.

Even as delicious meat is to the taste,
So was his neck in touching, and surpass'd
The white of Pelops' shoulder; I could tell ye,
How smooth his breast was, and how white his belly;
And whose immortal fingers did imprint
That heavenly path with many a curious dint,
That runs along his back; but my rude pen
Can hardly blazon forth the loves of men;
Much less of powerful gods: let it suffice,
That my slack Muse sings of Leander's eyes.
Those orient cheeks and lips exceeding his,
That leap'd into the water for a kiss
Of his own shadow, and despising many,
Died ere he could enjoy the love of any.
Had wild Hippolytus Leander seen,
Enamour'd of his beauty had he been;
His presence made the rudest peasant melt,
That in the vast uplandish country dwelt;
The barbarous Thracian soldier, mov'd with nought,
Was mov'd with him, and for his favour sought.
Some swore he was a maid in man's attire,
For in his looks were all that men desire;
A pleasant smiling cheek, a speaking eye,
A brow for love to banquet royally;

And such as knew he was a man, would say,
"Leander, thou art made for amorous play:
Why art thou not in love, and lov'd of all?
Though thou be fair, yet be not thine own thrall."

The men of wealthy Sestos every year,
For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,
Rose-cheek'd Adonis, kept a solemn feast:
Thither resorted many a wander'd guest,
To meet their loves: such as had none at all,
Came lovers home from this great festival.
For every street like to a firmament,
Glister'd with breathing stars, who where they went,
Frighted the melancholy earth, which deem'd
Eternal heaven to burn, for so it seem'd,
As if another Phaeton had got
The guidance of the sun's rich chariot.
But far above the loveliest, Hero shin'd,
And stole away th' enchanted gazer's mind;
For like Sea Nymphs' enveigling harmony,
So was her beauty to the standers by.
Nor that night-wand'ring, pale, and wat'ry star,
(When yawning dragons draw her whirling car,
From Latmos' mount up to the gloomy sky,
Where, crowned with blazing light and majesty,

She proudly sits,) more overrules the flood
Than she the hearts of those that near her stood.
Even as when gaudy nymphs pursue the chase,
Wretched Ixion's shaggy-footed race,
Incens'd with savage heat, gallop amain
From steep pine-bearing mountains to the plain;
So ran the people forth to gaze upon her,
And all that view'd her were enamour'd on her.
And as in fury of a dreadful fight,
Their fellows being slain, or put to flight,
Poor soldiers stand with fear of death dead strooken,
So at her presence all surpris'd and tooken,
Await the sentence of her scornful eyes:
He whom she favours lives; the other dies.
There might you see one sigh, another rage;
And some, (their violent passions to assuage,
Compile sharp satires; but alas, too late:
For faithful love will never turn to hate.
And many seeing great princes were denied,
Pin'd as they went, and thinking on her died.
On this feast-day, O cursed day and hour!
Went Hero thorough Sestos, from her tower
To Venus' temple, where unhappily,
As after chanc'd, they did each other spy.

So fair a church as this had Venus none;
The walls were of discolour'd jasper stone
Wherein was Proteus carv'd; and over head
A lively vine of green sea-agate spread,
Where by one hand light-headed Bacchus hung,
And with the other wine from grapes outwrung.
Of crystal shining fair the pavement was;
The town of Sestos call'd it Venus' glass:
There might you see the gods in sundry shapes,
Committing heady riots, incest, rapes:
For know, that underneath this radiant flower[1]
Was Danae's statue in a brazen tower:
Jove slily stealing from his sister's bed,
To dally with Idalian Ganymede:
And for his love Europa bellowing loud,
And tumbling with the rainbow in a cloud.
Blood-quaffing Mars, heaving the iron net,
Which limping Vulcan and his Cyclops set:
Love kindling fire, to burn such towns as Troy;
Sylvanus weeping for the lovely boy,
That now is turn'd into a cypress tree,
Under whose shade the wood-gods love to be.

And in the midst a silver altar stood;
There Hero, sacrificing turtles' blood,
Kneel'd to the ground, veiling her eyelids close;
And modestly they open'd as she rose:
Thence flew Love's arrow with the golden head;
And thus Leander was enamoured.
Stone still he stood, and evermore he gaz'd,
Till with the fire, that from his countenance blaz'd,
Relenting Hero's gentle heart was strook:
Such force and virtue hath an amorous look.

It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overrul'd by fate.
When two are stripp'd long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should lose, the other win.
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots like in each respect:
The reason no man knows; let it suffice,
What we behold is censur'd by our eyes.
Where both deliberate the love is slight:
Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?

He kneel'd, but unto her devoutly pray'd:
Chaste Hero to herself thus softly said:

"Were I the saint he worships, I would hear him;"
And, as she spake those words, came somewhat near him.
He started up, she blush'd as one asham'd,
Wherewith Leander much more was inflam'd.
He touch'd her hand; in touching it she trembled;
Love deeply grounded, hardly is dissembled.
These lovers parled by the touch of hands;
True love is mute, and oft amazed stands.
Thus while dumb signs their yielding hearts entangled,
The air with sparks of living fire was spangled,
And Night, deep-drench'd in misty Acheron,
Heav'd up her head, and half the world upon,
Breath'd darkness forth; (dark night is Cupid's day)
And now begins Leander to display
Love's holy fire, with words, with sighs, and tears,
Which like sweet music enter'd Hero's ears,
And yet at every word she turn'd aside,
And always cut him off as he replied.
At last, like to a bold, sharp sophister,
With cheerful hope thus he accosted her:

"Fair creature, let me speak without offence:
I would my rude words had the influence

To lead thy thoughts as thy fair looks do mine;
Then shouldst thou be his prisoner, who is thine.
Be not unkind and fair; misshapen stuff
Are of behaviour boisterous and rough.
O shun me not; but hear me ere you go:
God knows I cannot force love as you do.
My words shall be as spotless as my youth,
Full of simplicity and naked truth.
This sacrifice, whose sweet perfume descending
From Venus' altar to your footsteps bending,
Doth testify that you exceed her far,
To whom you offer, and whose nun you are.
Why should you worship her? Her you surpass,
As much as sparkling diamonds flaring glass.
A diamond set in lead his worth retains;
A heavenly nymph, belov'd of human swains,
Receives no blemish; but ofttimes more grace;
Which makes me hope, although I am but base,
Base in respect of thee, divine and pure,
Dutiful service may thy love procure;
And I in duty will excel all other,
As thou in beauty dost exceed Love's mother.
Nor heaven, nor thou, were made to gaze upon;
As heaven preserves all things, so save thou one.

A stately builded ship, well-rigg'd and tall,
The ocean maketh more majestical.
Why vow'st thou then to live in Sestos here,
Who on Love's seas more glorious wouldst appear?
Like untun'd golden strings all women are,
Which long time lie untouch'd, will harshly jar.
Vessels of brass, oft handled, brightly shine;
What difference betwixt the richest mine
And basest mould, but use? For both, not us'd,
Are of like worth. Then treasure is abus'd,
When misers keep it; being put to loan,
In time it will return us two for one.
Rich robes themselves and others do adorn;
Neither themselves nor others, if not worn.
Who builds a palace, and rams up the gate,
Shall see it ruinous and desolate:
Ah, simple Hero, learn thyself to cherish,
Lone women like to empty houses perish.
Less sins the poor rich man, that starves himself,
In heaping up a mass of drossy pelf,
Than such as you: his golden earth remains,
Which after his decease, some other gains;
But this fair gem, sweet in the loss alone,
When you fleet hence, can be bequeath'd to none;

Or if it could, down from the enamel'd sky,
All heaven would come to claim this legacy;
And with intestine broils the world destroy,
And quite confound nature's sweet harmony.
Well therefore by the gods decreed it is,
We human creatures should enjoy that bliss.
One is no number; maids are nothing then,
Without the sweet society of men.
Wilt thou live single still? one shalt thou be,
Though never-singling Hymen couple thee.
Wild savages, that drink of running springs,
Think water far excels all earthly things:
But they, that daily taste neat wines, despise it:
Virginity, albeit some highly prize it,
Compar'd with marriage, had you tried them both,
Differs as much as wine and water doth.
Base bullion for the stamp's sake we allow;
Even so for men's impression do we you.
By which alone our reverend fathers say,
Women receive perfection every way.
This idol, which you term virginity,
Is neither essence subject to the eye,
No, nor to any one exterior sense,
Nor hath it any place of residence

Nor is't of earth or mould celestial,
Or capable of any form at all.
Of that which hath no being, do not boast;
Things that are not at all, are never lost.
Men foolishly do call it virtuous,
What virtue is it, that is born with us?
Much less can honour be ascrib'd thereto:
Honour is purchas'd by the deeds we do.
Believe me, Hero, honour is not won,
Until some honourable deed be done.
Seek you, for chastity, immortal fame;
And know that some have wrong'd Diana's name?
Whose name is it, if she be false or not,
So she be fair, but some vile tongues will blot?
But you are fair, ah me! so wondrous fair,
So young, so gentle, and so debonair,
As Greece will think, if thus you live alone,
Some one or other keeps you as his own.
Then, Hero, bate me not, nor from me fly,
To follow swiftly blasting infamy.
Perhaps thy sacred priesthood makes thee loath:
Tell me, to whom mad'st thou that heedless oath?"

"To Venus," answer'd she; and, as she spake,
Forth from those two translucent cisterns brake

A stream of liquid pearl, which down her face
Made milk-white paths, whereon the gods might trace
To Jove's high court. He thus replied: "The rites
In which love's beauteous empress most delights,
Are banquets, Doric music, midnight revel,
Plays, masks, and all that stern age counteth evil.
Thee as a holy idiot doth she scorn;
For thou in vowing chastity hast sworn
To rob her name and honour, and thereby
Committ'st a sin far worse than perjury,
Even sacrilege against her deity,
Through regular and formal purity.
To expiate which sin, kiss and shake hands:
Such sacrifice as this Venus demands."

Thereat she smiled and did deny him so,
As but[2] thereby, yet might he hope for mo;
Which makes him quickly re-enforce his speech,
And her in humble manner thus beseech:

"Though neither gods nor men may thee deserve,
Yet for her sake, whom you have vow'd to serve,
Abandon fruitless cold virginity,
The gentle queen of love's sole enemy.

Then shall you most resemble Venus' nun,
When Venus' sweet rites are perform'd and done.
Flint-breasted Pallas joys in single life,
But Pallas and your mistress are at strife.
Love, Hero, then, and be not tyrannous;
But heal the heart that thou hast wounded thus;
Nor stain thy youthful years with avarice:
Fair fools delight to be accounted nice.
The richest corn dies, if it be not reap'd;
Beauty alone is lost, too warily kept."
These arguments he us'd, and many more;
Wherewith she yielded, that was won before.
Hero's looks yielded but her words made war;
Women are won when they begin to jar.
Thus, having swallow'd Cupid's golden hook,
The more she striv'd, the deeper was she strook.
Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she still,
And would be thought to grant against her will.
So having paus'd awhile at last she said,
"Who taught thee rhetoric to deceive a maid?
Ah me! such words as these should I abhor,
And yet I like them for the orator."
With that Leander stoop'd, to have embrac'd her,
But from his spreading arms away she cast her.

And thus bespake him: "Gentle youth, forbear
To touch the sacred garments which I wear.
Upon a rock, and underneath a hill,
Far from the town, (where all is whist and still,
Save that the sea, playing on yellow sand,
Sends forth a rattling murmur to the land,
Whose sound allures the golden Morpheus,
In silence of the night to visit us,)
My turret stands, and there, God knows, I play
With Venus' swans and sparrows all the day.
A dwarfish beldam bears me company,
That hops about the chamber where I lie,
And spends the night, that might be better spent,
In vain discourse and apish merriment:
Come thither!" As she spake this, her tongue tripp'd,
For unawares, "Come thither" from her slipp'd.
And suddenly her former colour chang'd,
And here and there her eyes through anger rang'd;
And like a planet moving several ways
At one self instant, she, poor soul, essays,
Loving, not to love at all, and every part
Strove to resist the motions of her heart.
And hands so pure, so innocent, nay such
As might have made Heaven stoop to have a touch,

Did she uphold to Venus, and again
Vow'd spotless chastity, but all in vain:
Cupid beats down her prayers with his wings;
Her vows above the empty air he flings:
All deep enrag'd, his sinewy bow he bent,
And shot a shaft that burning from him went;
Wherewith she stricken, look'd so dolefully,
As made Love sigh to see his tyranny.
And as she wept, her tears to pearl he turn'd,
And wound them on his arm, and for her mourn'd;
Then towards the palace of the Destinies,
Laden with languishment and grief, he flies,
And to those stern nymphs humbly made request,
Both might enjoy each other, and be bless'd;
But with a ghastly dreadful countenance,
Threatening a thousand deaths at every glance,
They answer'd Love, nor would vouchsafe so much
As one poor word, their hate to him was such.
Hearken, awhile, and I will tell you why:

Heaven's winged herald, Jove-born Mercury,
The self-same day that he asleep had laid
Inchanted Argus, spied a country maid,
Whose careless hair, instead of pearl to' adorn it,
Glister'd with dew, as one that seem'd to scorn it:

Her breath as fragrant as the morning rose;
Her mind pure, and her tongue untaught to glose:
Yet proud she was for lofty Pride that dwells
In tower'd courts, is oft in shepherds' cells;
And too, too well the fair vermilion knew,
And silver tincture of her cheeks, that drew
The love of every swain: on her this god
Enamour'd was, and with his snaky rod
Did charm her nimble feet, and made her stay,
The while upon a hillock down he lay
And sweetly on his pipe began to play,
And with smooth speech her fancy to assay,
Till in his twining arms he lock'd her fast,
And then he woo'd with kisses, and at last,
As shepherds do, her on the ground he laid
And tumbling on the grass, he often stray'd
Beyond the bounds of shame, in being bold
To eye those parts, which no eye should behold:
And, like an insolent commanding lover,
Boasting his parentage, would needs discover
The way to new Elisium: but she,
Whose only dower was her chastity,
Having striv'n in vain was now about to cry,
And crave the help of shepherds that were nigh.

Herewith he stay'd his fury; and began
To give her leave to rise; away she ran:
After went Mercury, who used such cunning,
As she, to hear his tale, left off her running:
(Maids are not won by brutish force and might,
But speeches full of pleasure, and delight;)
And knowing Hermes courted her, was glad,
That she such loveliness and beauty had,
As could provoke his liking: yet was mute;
And neither would deny, nor grant his suit.
Still vow'd he love; she, wanting no excuse
To feed him with delays, as women use,
Or thirsting after immortality,
(All women are ambitious naturally,)
Impos'd upon her lover such a task,
As he ought not perform, nor yet she ask.
A draught of flowing nectar she requested.
Wherewith the king of gods and men is feasted.
He, ready to accomplish what she will'd,
Stole some from Hebe; (Hebe Jove's cup fill'd)
And gave it to his simple rustic love,
Which being known (as what is hid from Jove?)
He inly storm'd and wax'd more furious
Than for the fire filch'd by Prometheus;

And thrusts him down from Heaven; he, wand'ring here,
In mournful terms, with sad and heavy cheer,
Complain'd to Cupid; Cupid, for his sake,
To be reveng'd on Jove did undertake;
And those on whom Heaven, earth, and Hell relies,
I mean the adamantine Destinies,
He wounds with love, and forc'd them equally
To doat upon deceitful Mercury.
They offer'd him the deadly fatal knife,
That shears the slender threads of human life;
At his fair feather'd feet the engines laid,
Which the earth from ugly Chaos' den upweigh'd:
These he regarded not; but did intreat
That Jove, usurper of 'his father's seat,
Might presently be banish'd into Hell,
And aged Saturn in Olympus dwell,
They granted what he crav'd; and once again
Saturn and Ops began their golden reign.
Murder, rape, war, lust, and treachery,
Were with Jove clos'd in Stygian empery.
But long this blessed time continued not;
As soon as he his wished purpose got,
He, reckless of his promise, did despise
The love of the' everlasting Destinies.

They, seeing, it both love and him abhorr'd,
And Jupiter unto his place restor'd.
And, but that Learning, in despite of Fate,
Will mount aloft, and enter heaven gate,
And to the seat of Jove itself advance,
Hermes had slept in Hell with Ignorance.
Yet as a punishment they added this,
That he and Poverty should always kiss;
And to this day is every scholar poor;
Gross gold from them runs headlong to the boor.
Likewise the angry Sisters, thus deluded,
To venge themselves on Hermes, have concluded
That Midas' brood shall sit in Honour's chair,
To which the Muses' sons are only heir:
And fruitful wits, that inaspiring are,
Shall discontent run into regions far;
And few great lords in virtuous deeds shall joy,
But be surpris'd with every garish toy:
And still enrich the lofty servile clown,
Who with encroaching guile keeps learning down.
Then Muse not Cupid's suit no better sped,
Seeing in their loves the Fates were injured.

the end of the first sestyad.

  1. floor?
  2. put, edit. 1637.