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As both my states and fortunes have provided ;
Nor in so vain a quest your spirits toil,
To seek at my hands an unworthy spoil.
But see how soon poor women are deluded,
Venus herself this covenant hath concluded:
For in th' Idean vallies you espy
Three goddesses, stripp'd naked to your eye ;
And when the first had promis'd you a crown,
'The second fortitude and war's renown;
The third bespake you thus ; Crown, nor war's pride,
Will I bequeath, but Helen to thy bride.
I scarce believe, those high immortal creatures
Would to your eye expose their naked features.
Or say the first part of your tale be pure,
And meet with truth, the second's false I'm sure ;
In which poor I was thought the greatest meed,
In such a high cause by the gods decreed.
I have not of my beauty such opinion,
T'imagine it preferr'd before dominion,
Or fortitude ; nor can your words persuade me,
The greatest gift of all the goddess made me.
It is enough to me men praise my face,
But from the gods I merit no such grace:
Nor doth the praise you charge me with, offend me,
If Venus do not enviously commend me.
But lo! I grant you, and imagine true,
Your free report, claiming your praise as due.
Who would in pleasing things call fame a lyar,
But give that credit which we most desire ?
That we have mov'd these doubts, be not you griev'd,
The greatest wonders are the least believ'd :
Know then, I first am pleas'd that Venus ought me
Such undeserved grace ; next that you thought me
The greatest meed. Nor sceptre, nor war's fame,
Did you prefer before poor Helen's name.
(Hard heart ! 'tis time thou should'st at last come down)
Therefore I am your valour, 1 your crown,
Your kindness conquers me, do what I can;
I were hard-hearted not to love this man.
Obdurate I was never, and yet coy
To favour him whom I can ne'er enjoy.
What profits it the barren sands to plough,
And in the furrows our affections sow?
In the sweet theft of Venus I am rude,
And know not how my husband to delude.
Now I these love-lines write, my pen I vow,
Is a new office taught, not known till now.
Happy are they, that in this trade have skill ;
Alas! I am a fool, and shall be still ;
And having till this hour not stepp'd astray,
Fear in these sports lest I should miss my way.
The fear (no doubt) is greater than the blame;
I stand confounded, and amaz'd with shame;
And with the very thought of what you seek,
Think every eye fix'd on my guilty cheek.
Nor are these suppositions merely vain,
The murmuring people whisperingly complain ;
And my maid Æthra hath, by list’ning slily,
Brought me such news, as touch'd mine honour highly.
Wherefore (dear lord) dissemble or desist ;
Being over-ey'd, we cannot as we list
Fashion our sports, our loves' pure harvest gather ;
But why should you desist ? Dissemble rather.
Sport, but in secret; sport where none may see:
The greater, but not greatest liberty
Is limited to our lascivious play,
That Menelaus is far hence away.
My husband about great affairs is posted,
Leaving his royal guest securely hosted ;
His business was important and material,
Being employ'd about a crown imperial.
And as he is now mounted on his steed,
Ready on his long journey to proceed,
Even as he questions to depart or stay,
Sweet-heart (quoth 1) Oh! be not long away.
With that he reach'd me a sweet parting kiss,
(How loth he was to leave me guess by this :)
Farewell, fair wife (saith he) bend all thy cares
To my domestick business, home affairs ;
But as the thing that I affection best,
Sweet wife, look well unto my Trojan guest.
It was no sooner out, but with much pain
My itching spleen from laughter I restrain ;
Which striving to keep in, and bridle still,
At length I rung forth these few words, I will.
He's on his journey to the isle of Crete,
But think not we may therefore safely meet:
He is so absent, that at present I
Am still within his reach, his ear, his eye ;
And tho' abroad, his power at home commands,
For know you not kings have long reaching hands?
The fame for beauty you besides have given me,
Into a great exigent hath driven me.
The more your commendation fill'd his ear,
The more just cause my husband hath to fear;
Nor marvel you the king hath left me so,
Into remote and foreign climes to go :
Much confidence he dares repose in me,
My carriage, ’haviour, and my modesty ;
My beauty he mistrusts, my heart relies in ;
My face he fears, my chaste life he affies in.
To take time now when time is, you persuade me,
And with his apt fit absence you invade me:
I would but fear, nor is my mind well set :
My will would further what my fear doth let.
I have no husband here, and you no wife ;
I love your shape, your mien, dear as your life.
The nights seem long to such as sleep alone;
Our letters meet to interchange our moan.
You judge me beauteous, I esteem you fair,
Under one roof we lovers lodged are.
And (let me die) but every thing consider,
Each thing persuades us we shall lie together..
Nothing we see molests us, nought we hear,
And yet my forward will is slack thro' fear.
I would to God, that what you ill persuade,
You could as well compel; so I were made
Unwilling willing, pleasingly abus’d,
So my simplicity might be excus’d.
Injury's force is oft-times wondrous pleasing;
To such as suffer ease in their diseasing ;
If what I will, you 'gainst my will should do,
I with such force could be well pleased too.
But whilst our love is young and in the bud,
Suffer his infant vigour be withstood :
A flame new kindled is as easily quench'd,
And sudden sparks in little drops are drench’d.
A traveller's love is, like himself, unstay’d,
And wanders where he walks ; it is not laid
On any firmer ground; for when we alone
Think him to us, the wind blows fair, he's gone.
Witness Hypsipile, alike betray'd ;
Witness with her the bright Mynoyan maid :
Nay then yourself, as you yourself have spoken,
To fair Oenone have your promise broken.
Since I beheld your face first, my desire
Hath been, of Trojan Paris to enquire.
I know you now in every true respect,
I'll grant you thus much then, say you affect
Me (whom you term your own.) I'll go thus far
Do not the Phrygian mariners prepare
Their sails and oars, ev'n now whilst we recite
Exchange of words about the wished night?
Say that even now you were prepar'd to climb
My long-wish'd bed, just at the appointed time
The wind should alter, and blow fair for Troy,
You must break off, in midst of all your joy,
And leave me in the infancy of pleasure ;
Amid my riches, I shall lose my treasure.
You will forsake the sweets my bed affords,
T'exchange for cabins, hatches and pitch'd boards.
Then what a fickle courtship you commence,
When, with the first wind, all your love blows hence?
But shall I follow you when you are gone,
And be the grandchild to Laomedon?
And Ilium see, whose beauty you proclaim ?
I do not so despise the bruit of fame,
That she to whom I am in debt such thanks,
Should fill the earth with such adulterate pranks.
What will Achaia, what will Sparta say ?
What will your Troy report, and Asia ?
What my old Priam, or his reverend queen?
What may your sisters, having Helen seen,
Or your Dardanian brothers deem of me?
Will they not blame my loose inchastity ?
Nay, how can you yourself faithful deem me,
And not amongst the loosest dames esteem me?
No stranger shall your Asian ports come near,
But he shall fill your guilty soul with fear.
How often, angry at some small offence,
Will you thus say ; Adult'ress, get thee hence !
Forgetting you yourself have been the chief
In my transgression, tho' not in my grief.
Consider what it is, forgetful lover,
To be sin's author, and sin's sharp reprover.
But ere the least of all these ills betide me,
I wish the earth may in her bosom hide me.
But I shall all your Phrygian wealth possess,
And more than your epistle can express :
Gifts, woven gold, embroidery, rich attire,
Purple and plate, or what I can desire.
Yet give me leave, think you all this extends
To countervail the loss of my chief friends?
Whose friendship, or whose age shall I employ
To succour me, when I am wrong'd in Troy?
Or whether can I, having thus misdone,
Unto my father, or my brothers run?
As much as you to me, false Jason swore
Unto Medea, yet from Æson's door
He after did exile her. Now, poor heart,
Where is thy father that should take thy part?
Old Ætes or Calciope? Thou took'st
No aid from them, whom thou before forsook 'st.
Or say thou didst (alas ! they cannot hear
Thy sad complaint) yet I no such thing fear;
No more Medea did : good hopes engage
Themselves so far, they fail in their presage.
You see the ships that in the main are toss'd,
And many times by tempests wreck'd and lost,
Had, at their launching from the haven's mouth,
A smooth sea, and a calm gale from the south.
Besides, the brand your mother dreamt she bare,
The night before your birth, breeds me fresh care.
It prophecy'd, ere many years expire,
Inflamed Troy must burn with Greekish fire.
As Venus favours you, because she gain'd
A doubtful prize by you ; yet the disdain'd
And vanquish'd goddesses, disgrac'd so late,
May bear you hard; I therefore fear their hate.
Nor make no question, but if I consort you,
And for a ravisher our Greece report you ;
War nill be wag'd with Troy, and you shall rue
The sword (alas !) your conquest shall pursue.
When Hypodamia, at her bridal feast,
Was rudely ravish’d by her Centaur guest ;
Because the savages the bride durst seize,
War grew betwixt them and the Lapythes.
Or think you Menelaus hath no spleen?