A poem by William Shakespeare
Venus and Adonis
’Villa miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.’
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLEY,
EARL OF SOUHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines
to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing
so strong a prop to support so weak a burthen: only, if your
honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow
to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you
with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention
prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and
never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so
bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your
honour to your heart’s content; which I wish may always answer
your own wish and the world’s hopeful expectation.
Your honour’s in all duty,
EVEN as the sun with purple-colour’d face
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek’d Adonis tried him to the chase;
Hunting he lov’d, but love he laugh’d to scorn; . . 4
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold-fac’d suitor ’gins to woo him.
’Thrice fairer than myself,’ thus she began,
’The field’s chief flower, sweet above compare, . . 8
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are;
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life. . 12
’Vouchsafe, thou wonder, to alight thy steed,
And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow;
If thou wilt deign this favour, for thy meed
A thousand honey secrets shalt thou know: . . . . 16
Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses;
And being set, I’ll smother thee with kisses:
’And yet not cloy thy lips with loath’d satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty, . . . . 20
Making them red and pale with fresh variety;
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:
A summer’s day will seem an hour but short,
Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.’ . . .24
With this she seizeth on his sweating palm,
The precedent of pith and livelihood,
And, trembling in her passion, calls it balm,
Earth’s sovereign salve to do a goddess good: . . .28
Being so enrag’d, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.
Over one arm the lusty courser’s rein
Under her other was the tender boy, . . . . . . 32
Who blush’d and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire
He red for shame, but frosty in desire. . . . . 36
The studded bridle on a ragged bough
Nimbly she fastens;--O! how quick is love:--
The steed is stalled up, and even now
To tie the rider she begins to prove: . . . . . 40
Backward she push’d him, as she would be thrust,
And govern’d him in strength, though not in lust.
So soon was she along, as he was down,
Each leaning on their elbows and their hips: . . . 44
Now doth she stroke his cheek, now doth he frown,
And ’gins to chide, but soon she stops his lips;
And kissing speaks, with lustful language broken,
’If thou wilt chide, thy lips shall never open.’ . .48
He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears
Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks;
Then with her windy sighs and golden hairs
To fan and blow them dry again she seeks: . . . . 52
He saith she is immodest, blames her miss;
What follows more she murders with a kiss.
Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast,
Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh and bone, . .56
Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste,
Till either gorge be stuff’d or prey be gone;
Even so she kiss’d his brow, his cheek, his chin,
And where she ends she doth anew begin. . . . . .60
Forc’d to content, but never to obey,
Panting he lies, and breatheth in her face;
She feedeth on the steam, as on a prey,
And calls it heavenly moisture, air of grace; . . .64
Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers
So they were dewd with such distilling showers.
Look! how a bird lies tangled in a net,
So fasten’d in her arms Adonis lies; . . . . . .68
Pure shame and aw’d resistance made him fret,
Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes:
Rain added to a river that is rank
Perforce will force it overflow the bank. . . . 72
Still she entreats, and prettily entreats,
For to a pretty ear she tunes her tale;
Still is he sullen, still he lours and frets,
’Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale; . . . . 76
Being red she loves him best; and being white,
Her best is better’d with a more delight.
Look how he can, she cannot choose but love;
And by her fair immortal hand she swears, . . . . 80
From his soft bosom never to remove,
Till he take truce with her contending tears,
Which long have rain’d, making her cheeks all wet;
And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless debt.
Upon this promise did he raise his chin . . . . .85
Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave,
Who, being look’d on, ducks as quickly in;
So offers he to give what she did crave; . . . . 88
But when her lips were ready for his pay,
He winks, and turns his lips another way.
Never did passenger in summer’s heat
More thirst for drink than she for this good turn. . 92
Her help she sees, but help she cannot get;
She bathes in water, yet her fire must burn:
’O! pity,’ ’gan she cry, ’flint-hearted boy:
’Tis but a kiss I beg; why art thou coy? . . . .96
’I have been woo’d, as I entreat thee now,
Even by the stern and direful god of war,
Whose sinewy neck in battle ne’er did bow,
Who conquers where he comes m every jar; . . . . 100
Yet hath he been my captive and my slave,
And begg’d for that which thou unask’d shalt have.
’Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His batter’d shield, his uncontrolled crest, . . .104
And for my sake hath learn’d to sport and dance
To toy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jest;
Scorning his churlish drum and ensign red
Making my arms his field, his tent my bed. . . .108
’Thus he that overrul’d I oversway’d,
Leading him prisoner in a red-rose chain:
Strong-temper’d steel his stronger strength obey’d,
Yet was he servile to my coy disdain. . . . . . 112
O! be not proud, nor brag not of thy might,
For mastering her that foil’d the god of fight.
Touch but my lips with those falr lips of thine,--
Though mine be not so fair, yet are they red,-- . .116
The kiss shall be thine own as well as mine:
What seest thou in the ground? hold up thy head:
Look in mine eyeballs, there thy beauty lies;
Then why not lips on lips, since eyes in eyes? . 120
’Art thou asham’d to kiss? then wink again,
And I will wink; so shall the day seem night;
Love keeps his revels where there are but twain;
Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight: . . . 124
These blue-vein’d violets whereon we lean
Never can blab, nor know not what we mean.
’The tender spring upon thy tempting lip . . . . 127
Shows thee unripe, yet mayst thou well be tasted:
Make use of time, let not advantage slip;
Beauty within itself should not be wasted:
Fair flowers that are not gather’d in their prime
Rot and consume themselves in little time. . . .132
’Were I hard-favour’d, foul, or wrinkled-old,
Ill-nurtur’d, crooked, churlish, harsh in voice,
O’erworn, despised, rheumatic, and cold,
Thick-sighted, barren, lean, and lacking juice, . .136
Then mightst thou pause, for then I were not for thee;
But having no defects, why dost abhor me?
’Thou canst not see one winkle in my brow; . . . 139
Mine eyes are grey and bright, and quick in turning;
My beauty as the spring doth yearly grow;
My flesh is soft and plump, my marrow burning;
My smooth moist hand, were it with thy hand felt.
Would in thy palm dissolve, or seem to melt. . . 144
’Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or like a fairy, trip upon the green,
Or, like a nymph, with long dishevell’d hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen: . . .148
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,
Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.
’Witness this primrose bank whereon I lie; . . . 151
These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support me;
Two strengthless doves will draw me through the sky,
From morn till night, even where I list to sport me:
Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it be
That thou shouldst think it heavy unto thee? . . 156
’Is thine own heart to shine own face affected?
Can thy right hand seize love upon thy left?
Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected,
Steal thine own freedom, and complain on theft. . .160
Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook.
’Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use, . . .164
Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear;
Things growing to themselves are growth’s abuse:
Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth beauty;
Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty. . . . .168
’Upon the earth’s increase why shouldst thou feed,
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead; . .172
And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.’
By this the love-sick queen began to sweat,
For where they lay the shadow had forsook them, . .176
And Titan, tired in the mid-day heat
With burning eye did hotly overlook them,
Wishing Adonis had his team to guide,
So he were like him and by Venus’ side. . . . .180
And now Adonis with a lazy spright,
And with a heavy, dark, disliking eye,
His louring brows o’erwhelming his fair sight,
Like misty vapours when they blot the sky, . . . 184
Souring his cheeks, cries, ’Fie! no more of love:
The sun doth burn my face; I must remove.’
’Ay me,’ quoth Venus, ’young, and so unkind!
What bare excuses mak’st thou to be gone! . . . .188
I’ll sigh celestial breath, whose gentle wind
Shall cool the heat of this descending sun:
I’ll make a shadow for thee of my hairs; . . . 191
If they burn too, I’ll quench them with my tears.
’The sun that shines from heaven shines but warm,
And lo! I lie between that sun and thee:
The heat I have from thence doth little harm,
Thine eye darts forth the fire that burneth me; . .196
And were I not immortal, life were done
Between this heavenly and earthly sun.
’Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel?
Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth: .200
Art thou a woman’s son, and canst not feel
What ’tis to love? how want of love tormenteth?
O! had thy mother borne so hard a mind, . . . .203
She had not brought forth thee, but died unkind.
’What am I that thou shouldst contemn me this?
Or what great danger dwells upon my suit?
What were thy lips the worse for one poor kiss?
Speak, fair; but speak fair words, or else be mute:
Give me one kiss, I’ll give it thee again, . . .209
And one for interest if thou wilt have twain.
’Fie! lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone,
Well-painted idol, image dull and dead, . . . . 212
Statue contenting but the eye alone,
Thing like a man, but of no woman bred:
Thou art no man, though of a man’s complexion,
For men will kiss even by their own direction.’ . 216
This said, impatience chokes her pleading tongue,
And swelling passion doth provoke a pause;
Red cheeks and fiery eyes blaze forth her wrong;
Being judge in love, she cannot right her cause: . 220
And now she weeps, and now she fain would speak,
And now her sobs do her intendments break.
Sometimes she shakes her head, and then his hand;
Now gazeth she on him, now on the ground; . . . .224
Sometimes her arms infold him like a band:
She would, he will not in her arms be bound;
And when from thence he struggles to be gone,
She locks her lily fingers one in one. . . . . 228
’Fondling,’ she saith, ’since I have hemm’d thee here
Within the circuit of this ivory pale,
I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale: . . 232
Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.
’Within this limit is relief enough,
Sweet bottom-grass and high delightful plain, . . 236
Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough,
To shelter thee from tempest and from rain:
Then be my deer, since I am such a park; . . . 239
No dog shall rouse thee, though a thousand bark.’
At this Adonis smiles as in disdain,
That in each cheek appears a pretty dimple:
Love made those hollows, if himself were slain,
He might be buried in a tomb so simple; . . . . 244
Foreknowing well, if there he came to lie,
Why, there Love liv’d, and there he could not die.
These lovely caves, these round enchanting pits,
Open’d their mouths to swallow Venus’ liking. . . 248
Being mad before, how doth she now for wits?
Struck dead at first, what needs a second striking?
Poor queen of love, in thine own law forlorn,
To love a cheek that smiles at thee in scorn! . .252
Now which way shall she turn? what shall she say?
Her words are done, her woes the more increasing;
The time is spent, her object will away,
And from her twining arms doth urge releasing: . . 256
’Pity,’ she cries; ’some favour, some remorse!’
Away he springs, and hasteth to his horse.
But lo! from forth a copse that neighbours by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young, and proud, . . . 260
Adonis’ tramping courier doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud:
The strong-neck’d steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he. . 264
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder;
The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven’s thunder;
The iron bit he crusheth ’tween his teeth, . . .269
Controlling what he was controlled with.
His ears up-prick’d; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass’d crest now stand on end; . . . 272
His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send:
His eye, which scornfully glisters like fire,
Shows his hot courage and his high desire. . . .276
Sometime he trots, as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty and modest pride;
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,
As who should say, ’Lo! thus my strength is tried;
And this I do to captivate the eye . . . . . 281
Of the fair breeder that is standing by.’
What recketh he his rider’s angry stir,
His flattering ’Holla’, or his ’Stand, I say’? . . 284
What cares he now for curb or pricking spur?
For rich caparisons or trapping gay?
He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
Nor nothing else with his proud sight agrees. . .288
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion’d steed,
His art with nature’s workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed; . . . . 292
So did this horse excel a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone.
Round-hoof’d, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide:
Look, what a horse should have he did not lack,
Save a proud rider on so proud a back. . . . . 300
Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares;
Anon he starts at stirring of a feather;
To bid the wind a base he now prepares,
And whe’r he run or fly they know not whether; . . 304
For through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather’d wings.
He looks upon his love, and neighs unto her;
She answers him as if she knew his mind; . . . . 308
Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her,
She puts on outward strangeness, seems unkind,
Spurns at his love and scorns the heat he feels,
Beating his kind embracements with her heels. . .312
Then, like a melancholy malcontent,
He vails his tail, that, like a falling plume,
Cool shadow to his melting buttock lent:
He stamps, and bites the poor flies in his fume. . 316
His love, perceiving how he is enrag’d,
Grew kinder, and his fury was assuag’d.
His testy master goeth about to take him;
When lo! the unback’d breeder, full of fear, . . .320
Jealous of catching, swiftly doth forsake him,
With her the horse, and left Adonis there:
As they were mad, unto the wood they hie them,
Outstripping crows that strive to overfly them. . 324
All swoln with chafing, down Adonis sits,
Banning his boisterous and unruly beast:
And now the happy season once more fits,
That love-sick Love by pleading may be blest; . . 328
For lovers say, the heart hath treble wrong
When it is barr’d the aidance of the tongue.
An oven that is stopp’d, or river stay’d,
Burneth more hotly, swelleth with more rage: . . .332
So of concealed sorrow may be said;
Free vent of words love’s fire doth assuage;
But when the heart’s attorney once is mute
The client breaks, as desperate in his suit. . . 336
He sees her coming, and begins to glow,-- .&n"