Hero and Leander (Marlowe)/Second Sestiad

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The Argument of the Second Sestyad.

Hero of love takes deeper sense,
And doth her love more recompense:
Their first night's meeting, where sweet kisses
Are th' only crowns of both their blisses.
He swims to' Abydos and returns;
Cold Neptune with his beauty burns;
Whose suite he shuns, and doth aspire
Hero's faire tower, and his desire.




By this, sad Hero, with love unacquainted,
Viewing Leander's face fell down and fainted.
He kiss'd her, and breath'd life into her lips,
Wherewith, as one displeas'd, away she trips;
Yet as she went, full often look'd behind,
And many poor excuses did she find
To linger by the way, and once she stay'd,
And would have turn'd again, but was afraid,
In offering parley, to be counted light:
So on she goes, and, in her idle flight,
Her painted fan of curled plumes let fall,
Thinking to train Leander therewithal.
He, being a novice, knew not what she meant,
But stay'd, and after her a letter sent;

Which joyful Hero answer'd in such sort,
As he had hope to scale the beauteous fort
Wherein the liberal Graces lock'd their wealth,
And therefore to her tower he got by stealth.
Wide open stood the door; he need not climb;
And she herself, before th' appointed time,
Had spread the board, with roses strew'd the room,
And oft look'd out, and mus'd he did not come.—
At last he came; O who can tell the greeting
These greedy lovers had at their first meeting!
He ask'd—she gave—and nothing was denied;
Both to each other quickly were affied:
Look how their hands, so were their hearts united,
And what he did she willingly requited.
(Sweet are the kisses, the embracements sweet,
When like desires and affections meet;
For from the earth to heaven is Cupid rais'd,
Where fancy is in equal balance pais'd.[1])
Yet she this rashness suddenly repented,
And turn'd aside, and to herself lamented:
As if her name and honour had been wrong'd,
By being possess'd of him for whom she long'd;
Ay, and she wish'd, albeit not from her heart,
That he would leave her turret and depart.

The mirthful god of amorous pleasure smil'd
To see how he this captive nymph beguil'd:
For hitherto he did but fan the fire,
And kept it down that it might mount the higher.—
Now wax'd she jealous lest his love abated,
Fearing her own thoughts made her to be hated.
Therefore unto him hastily she goes,
And, like light Salmacis, her body throws
Upon his bosom where with yielding eyes
She offers up herself a sacrifice,
To slake his anger if he were displeas'd:
O what god would not therewith be appeas'd?
Like Æsop's cock, this jewel he enjoy'd,
And as a brother with his sister toy'd,
Supposing nothing else was to be done,
Now he her favour and good will had won.
But know you not that creatures wanting sense,
By nature have a mutual appetence;
And wanting organs to advance a step,
Mov'd by Love's force, unto each other leap?
Much more in subjects having intellect,
Some hidden influence breeds like effect.
Albeit Leander, rude in love and raw,
Long dallying with Hero, nothing saw

That might delight him more, yet he suspected
Some amorous rites or other were neglected.
Therefore unto his body hers he clung,
She, fearing on the rushes to be flung,
Striv'd with redoubled strength; the more she striv'd,
The more a gentle pleasing heat reviv'd,
Which taught him all that elder lovers know,
And now the samè 'gan so to scorch and glow,
As in plain terms, yet cunningly, he'd crave it,
(Love always makes those eloquent that have it.)
She with a kind of granting, put him by it,
And ever, as he thought himself most nigh it,
Like to the tree of Tantalus, she fled,
And seeming lavish, sav'd her maidenhead.
Ne'er king more sought to keep his diadem,
Than Hero this inestimable gem.
Above our life we love a steadfast friend,
Yet when a token of great worth we send,
We often kiss it, often look thereon,
And stay the messenger that would be gone;
No marvel then, though Hero would not yield
So soon to part from what she dearly held.
Jewels being lost are found again, this never,
'Tis lost but once, and once lost, lost for ever.

Now had the morn espied her lover's steeds,
Whereat she starts, puts on her purple weeds,
And red for anger that he stay'd so long,
All headlong throws herself the clouds among.
And now Leander, fearing to be miss'd,
Embrac'd her suddenly, took leave, and kiss'd;
Long was he taking leave, and loath to go,
And kiss'd again as lovers use to do;
Sad Hero wrung him by the hand and wept,
Saying, "Let your vows and promises be kept."
Then standing at the door she turn'd about
As loath to see Leander going out.—
And now the sun that through th' horizon peeps,
As pitying these lovers, downward creeps.
So that in silence of the cloudy night,
Though it was morning, did he take his flight.
But what the secret trusty night conceal'd
Leander's amorous habit soon reveal'd;
With Cupid's myrtle was his bonnet crown'd,
About his arms the purple riband wound,
Wherewith she wreath'd her largely spreading hair;
Nor could the youth abstain, but he must wear
The sacred ring wherewith she was endow'd,
When first religious chastity she vow'd:

Which made his love through Sestos to be known,
And thence unto Abydos sooner blown
Than he could sail, for incorporeal Fame,
Whose weight consists in nothing but her name,
Is swifter than the wind, whose tardy plumes
Are reeking water and dull earthly fumes.
Home when he came, he seem'd not to be there,
But like exiled air thrust from his sphere,
Set in a foreign place, and straight from thence,
Alcides-like, by mighty violence,
He would have chas'd away the swelling main,
That him from her unjustly did detain.
Like as the sun in a diameter,
Fires and inflames objects removed far,
And heateth kindly, shining lat'rally;
So Beauty sweetly quickens when 'tis nigh,
But being separated and remov'd,
Burns where it cherish'd, murders where it lov'd.
Therefore e'en as an index to a book,
So to his mind was young Leander's look.
O none but gods have power their love to hide!
Affection by the countenance is descried;
The light of hidden fire itself discovers,
And love that is conceal'd betrays poor lovers.

His secret flame apparently was seen,—
Leander's father knew where he had been,
And for the same mildly rebuk'd his son,
Thinking to quench the sparkles new begun.
But Love resisted once grows passionate,
And nothing more than counsel lovers hate;
For as a hot proud horse highly disdains
To have his head controll'd, but breaks the reins,
Spits forth the ringled bit, and with his hoofs
Checks the submissive ground; so he that loves,
The more he is restrain'd, the worse he fares;
What is it now but mad Leander dares?
"O Hero, Hero!" thus he cried full oft,
And then he got him to a rock aloft,
Where having spied her tower, long star'd he on't,
And pray'd the narrow toiling Hellespont
To part in twain, that he might come and go,
But still the rising billows answer'd, No.
With that he stripp'd him to the ivory skin,
And crying "Love, I come," leap'd lively in,
Whereat the sapphire-visag'd god grew proud,
And made his cap'ring Triton sound aloud.
Imagining that Ganymede, displeas'd,
Had left the heavens, therefore on him he seiz'd.

Leander striv'd, the waves about him wound,
And pull'd him to the bottom, where the ground
Was strew'd with pearl, and in low coral groves,
Sweet-singing mermaids sported with their loves
On heaps of heavy gold, and took great pleasure
To spurn in careless sort the shipwreck treasure.
For here the stately azure palace stood,
Where kingly Neptune and his train abode.
The lusty god embrac'd him, call'd him Love,
And swore he never should return to Jove.
But when he knew it was not Ganymed,
For under water he was almost dead,
He heav'd him up and looking on his face,
Beat down the bold waves with his triple mace,
Which mounted up, intending to have kiss'd him,
And fell in drops like tears because they miss'd him.
Leander being up, began to swim,
And looking back, saw Neptune follow him.
Whereat aghast, the poor soul 'gan to cry,
"O let me visit Hero ere I die."
The god put Helle's bracelet on his arm,
And swore the sea should never do him harm.
He clapp'd his plump cheeks, with his tresses play'd,
And smiling wantonly his love betray'd;

He watch'd his arms and, as they open'd wide
At every stroke, betwixt them would he slide,
And steal a kiss, and then run out and dance,
And as he turn'd cast many a lustful glance,
And threw him gaudy toys to please his eye,
And dive into the water, and there pry
Upon his breast, his thighs, and every limb,
And up again, and close beside him swim,
And talk of love.: Leander made reply,
"You are deceiv'd; I am no woman, I."
Thereat smil'd Neptune, and then told a tale,
How that a shepherd sitting in a vale,
Play'd with a boy so lovely, fair and kind,
As for his love both Earth and Heaven pin'd;
That of the cooling river durst not drink,
Lest water-nymphs should pull him from the brink.
And when he sported in the fragrant lawns,
Goat-footed satyrs and up-starting fawns
Would steal him thence. Ere half his tale was done,
"Aye me," Leander cried, "th' enamour'd sun
That now should shine on Thetis' glassy bower,
Descends upon my radiant Hero's tower,
O, that these tardy arms of mine were wings!"
And as he spake, upon the waves he springs.

Neptune was angry that he gave no ear,
And in his heart revenging malice bare:
He flung at him his mace but, as it went,
He call'd it in, for Love made him repent.
The mace returning back his own hand hit,
As meaning to be veng'd for darting it.
When this fresh bleeding wound Leander view'd,
His colour went and came, as if he rued
The grief which Neptune felt. In gentle breasts
Relenting thoughts, remorse, and pity rests;
And who have hard hearts and obdurate minds,
But vicious, hare-brain'd, and illiterate hinds?
The god seeing him with pity to be mov'd,
Thereon concluded that he was belov'd.
(Love is too full of faith, too credulous,
With folly and false hope deluding us;)
Wherefore Leander's fancy to surprise,
To the rich Ocean for gifts he flies.
'Tis wisdom to give much; a gift prevails
When deep persuading oratory fails.

By this Leander being near the land,
Cast down his weary feet and felt the sand.
Breathless albeit he were, he rested not,
Till to the solitary tower he got:

And knock'd and call'd, at which celestial noise,
The longing heart of Hero much more joys
Than nymphs and shepherds, when the timbrel rings,
Or crooked dolphin, when the sailor sings.
She stay'd not for her robes, but straight arose,
And drunk with gladness to the door she goes,
Where seeing a naked man, she screech'd for fear,
(Such sights as this to tender maids are rare.)
And ran into the dark herself to hide:
(Rich jewels in the dark are soonest spied.)
Unto her was he led, or rather drawn
By those white limbs which sparkled through the lawn.
The nearer that he came, the more she fled,
And, seeking refuge, slipt into her bed;
Whereon Leander sitting, thus began,
Through numbing cold all feeble, faint and wan.

"If not for love, yet Love! for pity sake,
Me in thy bed and maiden bosom take;
At least vouchsafe these arms some little room,
Who, hoping to embrace thee, cheerly swum.
This head was beat with many a churlish billow,
And therefore let it rest upon thy pillow."

Herewith affrighted, Hero shrunk away,
And in her lukewarm place Leander lay;
Whose lively heat, like fire from heaven fet,
Would animate gross clay, and higher set
The drooping thoughts of base-declining souls,
Than dreary Mars' carousing nectar bowls.
His hands he cast upon her like a snare,—
She, overcome with shame and sallow fear,
Like chaste Diana when Acteon spied her,
Being suddenly betray'd, div'd down to hide her.
And as her silver body downward went,
With both her hands she made the bed a tent,
And in her own mind thought herself secure,
O'ercast with dim and darksome coverture;
And now she lets him whisper in her ear,
Flatter, entreat, promise, protest and swear;
Yet ever as he greedily essay'd
To touch those dainties, she the harpy play'd,
And every limb did, as a soldier stout,
Defend the fort, and keep the foeman out.
For though the rising ivory mount he scal'd,
Which is with azure circling lines empal'd,
Much like a globe, (a globe may I term this,
By which love sails to regions full of bliss,)

Yet there with Sysyphus he toil'd in vain,
Till gentle parley did the truce obtain.
[2]Even as a bird, which in our hands we wring,
Forth plungeth and oft flutters with her wing,
She trembling strove; this strife of hers, like that
Which made the world, another world begat
Of unknown joy. Treason was in her thought,
And cunningly to yield herself she sought.
Seeming not won, yet won she was at length;
In such wars women use but half their strength.
Leander now, like Theban Hercules,
Enter'd the orchard of th' Hesperides;
Whose fruit none rightly can describe, but he
That pulls or shakes it from the golden tree.
Wherein Leander on her quivering breast,
Breathless spoke something, and sigh'd out the rest;
Which so prevail'd, as he, with small ado,
Enclos'd her in his arms and kiss'd her too:
And every kiss to her was as a charm,
And to Leander as a fresh alarm:
So that the truce was broke and she, alas,
Poor silly maiden, at his mercy was.

Love is not full of pity, as men say,
But deaf and cruel where he means to prey.

And now she wish'd this night were never done,
And sigh'd to think upon th' approaching sun;
For much it griev'd her that the bright day-light
Should know the pleasure of this blessed night,
And then, like Mars and Ericine, display
Both in each other's arms chain'd as they lay.
Again—she knew not how to frame her look,
Or speak to him, who in a moment took
That which so long, so charily she kept;
And fain by stealth away she would have crept,
And to some corner secretly have gone,
Leaving Leander in the bed alone.
But as her naked feet were whipping out,
He on the sudden clung her so about,
That mermaid-like unto the floor she slid;
One half appear'd, the other half was hid.
Thus near the bed she blushing stood upright,
And from her countenance behold ye might
A kind of twilight break, which through the air[3],
As from an orient cloud, glimps'd here and there;

And round about the chamber this false morn
Brought forth the day before the day was born.
So Hero's ruddy cheek Hero betray'd,
And her all naked to his sight display'd:
Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure took,
Than Dis, on heaps of gold fixing his look.—
By this Apollo's golden harp began
To sound forth music to the Ocean,
Which watchful Hesperus no sooner heard,
But he the bright day-bearing car prepar'd,
And ran before, as harbinger of light,
And with his flaring beams mock'd ugly Night,
Till she, o'ercome with anguish, shame and rage,
Dang'd down to hell her loathsome carriage.

the end of the second sestiad.

  1. From the French verb peser.
  2. The Editor has taken the liberty to alter the situation of this couplet; which as it originally stands, after 'means to prey,’ is an awkward excrescence. By the present transposition it becomes a lively and beautifully appropriate simile.
  3. The old copies read hair, which was certainty not intended here, though it it a picturesque image. All editions of this beautiful poem are very incorrect, save that of Sir E. Brydges.