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RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLY,
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, 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 burden : 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 god-father, and never after ear* so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable
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,
This poem, if we are to accept the expression in the introductory epistle_"the first heir of my invention"-literally, was Shakespeare's earliest composition. Some critics conceive it to have been written, indeed, before he quitted Stratford; but the question when and where it was produced has yet to be decided. It was entered on the Stationers' Registers by Richard Field, as “ licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Wardens,” in 1593, and the first edition was printed in the same year. * This edition was speedily exhausted, and a second by the same printer was put forth in 1594. This again was followed by an octavo impression in 1596, and so much was the poem in demand that it had reached a fifth edition by 1602. After this date it was often reprinted, and copies of 1616, 1620, 1624, and 1627 are still extant. Its popularity, as Mr. Collier observes, is established also by the frequent mention of it in early writers.
“In the early part of Shakspeare's life, his poems seem to have gained him more reputation than his plays ;—at least they are oftener mentioned or alluded to. Thus the author of an old comedy, called The Return from Parnassus, written about 1602, in his review of the poets of the time, says not a word of his dramatick compositions, but allots him his portion of fame solely on account of the poems that he had produced.”—MALONE.
The text adopted in the present reprint of “Venus and Adonis" is that of the first quarto, 1593, collated with the best of the later editions.
Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses, She feedeth on the steam as on a prey,
Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers,
So fasten'd in her arms Adonis lies; A summer's day will seem an hour but short, Pure shame and aw'd resistance made him fret, Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.”
Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes :
Rain added to a river that is rank,
Perforce will force it overflow the bank.
force Still is he sullen, still he low’rs and frets, Courageously to pluck him from his horse. 'Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale ;
Being red, she loves him best; and being white, Over one arm the lusty courser's rein,
Her best is better'd with a more delight.
Look how he can, she cannot choose but love; With leaden appetite, unapt to toy ;
And by her fair immortal hand she swears She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
From his soft bosom never to remove, He red for shame, but frosty in desire.
Till he take truce with her contending tears,
Which long bave rain'd, making her cheeks all The studded bridle on a ragged bough Nimbly she fastens ; (0, how quick is love !)
And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless The steed is stalled up, and even now
debt. To tie the rider she begins to prove :
Backward she push'd him, as she would be thrust, | Upon this promise did he raise his chin,
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; So soon was she along, as he was down,
But when her lips were ready for his pay,
He winks, and turns his lips another way.
More thirst for drink than she for this good turn: broken,
Her help she sees, but help she cannot get; “ If thou wilt'chide, thy lips shall never open.” She bathes in water, yet her fire must burn :
“O, pity,” 'gan she cry, "Aint-hearted boy! He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears 'Tis but a kiss I beg; why art thou coy? Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks : Then with her windy sighs and golden hairs,
“I have been woo'd, as I entreat thee now, To fan and blow them dry again she seeks :
Even by the stern and direful god of war, He saith she is immodest, blames her 'miss; b
Whose sinewy neck in battle ne'er did bow, What follows more she murders with a kiss. Who conquers where he comes, in every jar;
Yet hath he been my captive and my slave, Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast,
And beggd for that which thou unask'd shalt Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh, and bone,
have. Shaking her wings, devouring all in baste, Till either gorge be stuff'd, or prey be gone;
“Over my altars hath he hung his lance, Even so she kiss'd his brow, his cheek, his chin,
His batter'd shield, his uncontrolled crest, And where she ends she doth anew begin.
And for my sake hath learn’d to sport and dance,
To toy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jest; Forc'd to content, but never to obey,
Scorning his churlish drum, and ensign red, Panting he lies, and breatheth in her face ;
Making my arms his field, his tent my bed.
- precedent-) Precedent appears to be used here in the sense of sign, or indicator.
b – blames her 'miss ;) Amiss is elsewhere employed by Shakespeare as a substantive; thus in “Hamlet," Act IV. Sc. 5,
“Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss." See also Sonnet XXXV. e Tires-) To tire is to peck, to tear, to prey. d Forc'd to content,-) To acquiescence.
e - a river that is rank, -] " Rank" meant brimming, full, &c. Thus in “ Julius Cæsar," Act III. Sc. 1,
“Who else must be let blood, who else is rank;" unless in that passage "rank" expresses too luxuriant, too hightopped. So, too, in Drayton's "Barons' Wars," 1603,
"Fetching full tides, luxurious, high, and rank." f - yet her fire must burn :) So read the editions, 1593, 1994, 1596; the later copies have,-"yet in fire must burn."
8 To toy,-) The reading of the two earliest copies. The later ones have, “To coy," &c.
« Thus he that overruld I oversway'd,
“Is thine own heart to thine own face affected ? Leading him prisoner in a red-rose chain :
Can thy right hand seize love upon thy left ? Strong-temperd steel his stronger strength obey'd, Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected, Yet was he servile to my coy disdain.
Steal thine own freedom, and complain on theft. O, be not proud, nor brag not of thy might, Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
For mastering her that foild the god of fight ! And died to kiss his shadow in the brook. “Touch but my lips with those fair lips of thine,- “Torches are made to light, jewels to wear, Though mine be not so fair, yet are they red,- Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use, The kiss shall be thine own as well as mine: Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to pear ; What see'st thou in the ground I hold up thy Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse : head;
Seeds spring from seeds, and oeauty breedeth Look in mine eyeballs, there thy beauty lies ;
beauty, Then why not lips on lips, since eyes in eyes ? Thou wast begot,--to get it is thy duty. “ Art thou asham'd to kiss ? then wink again, “Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou feed, And I will wink ; so shall the day seem night ; Unless the earth with thy increase be fed ? Love keeps his revels where there are but twain ; By law of nature thou art bound to breed, Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight:
That thine may live, when thou thyself art dead; These blue-vein'd violets whereon we lean
And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive, Never can blab, nor know not what we mean. In that thy likeness still is left alive." “The tender spring upon thy tempting lip By this, the love-sick queen began to sweat, Shows thee unripe; yet mayst thou well be tasted : For, where they lay, the shadow had forsook them, Make use of time, let not advantage slip;
And Titan, 'tired in the mid-day heat, Beauty within itself should not be wasted :
With burning eye did hotly overlook them;
So he were like him, and by Venus' side.
His lowering brows o'erwhelming his fair sight, Thick-sighted, barren, lean, and lacking juice, Like misty vapours when they blot the sky, Then mightst thou pause, for then I were not Souring his cheeks, cries, “Fie, no more of for thee;
love! But having no defects, why dost abhor me? The sun doth burn my face ; I must remove." “ Thou canst not see one wrinkle in my brow; “Ah me," quoth Venus, “ young, and so unkind ? Mine eyes are grey, and bright, and quick in What bare excuses mak'st thou
to be gone ! turning ;
I'll sigh celestial breath, whose gentle wind My beauty as the spring doth yearly grow,
Shall cool the heat of this descending sun : My flesh is soft and plump, my marrow burning ; I'll make a shadow for thee of my hairs; My smooth moist hand, were it with thy hand If they burn too, I'll quench them with my tears.
felt, Would in thy palm dissolve, or seem to melt. “The sun that shines from heaven shines but warm,
And, lo, I lie between that sun and thee! Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear, The heat I have from thence doth little harm, Or, like a fairy, trip upon the green,
Thine eye darts forth the fire that burneth me; Or, like a nymph, with long dishevell’d hair,
And were I not immortal, life were done,
Between this heavenly and earthly sun.
Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth ? “ Witness this primrose bank whereon I lie; Art thou a woman's son, and canst not feel These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support What 't is to love ? how want of love tormenteth? me;
(sky, O, had thy mother borne so hard a mind, Two strengthless doves will draw me through the She had not brought forth thee, but died unkind ! From morn till night, even where I list to sport
“ What am I, that thou shouldst contemnd me Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it be
this? That thou shouldst think it heavy unto thee ? Or what great danger dwells upon my suit ?
compact-) Made up, compounded. b Souring-) Misprinted To wring, in the quarto, 1593.
c – but died unkind !) “Unkind" in this place is explained to mean unnatural, a sense we have seen the word frequently bore; but may it not signify here, without generation : without
- contemn me this?] The edition of 1627, printed at Edinburgh, reads,-"contemn me thus," &c.; this and thus, however as Mr. Collier remarks, seem sometimes to have been used almost indifferently.
3 A 2
What were thy lips the worse for one poor kiss ? “ Pity," she cries,
some favour Speak, fair ; but speak fair words, or else be mute :
morse!” Give me one kiss, I'll give it thee again,
Away he springs, and hasteth to his horse. And one for interest, if thou wilt have twain.
But, lo, from forth a copse that neighbours by, “ Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, A breeding jennet, lusty, young, and proud, Well-painted idol, image dull and dead,
Adonis' trampling courser doth espy, Statue, contenting but the eye alone,
And forth she rushes, snorts, and neighs aloud : Thing like a man, but of no woman bred !
The strong-neck'd steed, being tied unto a tree, Thou art no man, though of a man's complexion, Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he. For men will kiss even by their own direction.”
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds, This said, impatience chokes her pleading tongue, And now his woven girths he breaks asunder; And swelling passion doth provoke a pause ; The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds, Red cheeks and fiery eyes blaze forth her wrong, Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven's thunBeing judge in love, she cannot right her cause :
der : And now she weeps, and now she fain would The iron bit he crushes 'tween his teeth, speak,
Controlling what he was controlled with. And now her sobs do her intendments break,
His ears up-prick'd ; his braided hanging mane
And when from thence he struggles to be gone, Shows his hot courage and his high desire.
Sometime he trots, as if he told the steps, * Fondling," she saith,“since I have hemm'd thee With gentle majesty and modest pride ; here,
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps, Within the circuit of this ivory pale,
As who should say, Lo, thus my strength is tried, I'll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer ;
And this I do to captivate the eye
Graze on my lips ; and if those hills be dry,
What recketh he his rider's angry stir,
His flattering “ Holla,” or his "Stand, I say”? “ Within this limit is relief enough,
What cares he now for curb or pricking spur ? Sweet bottom-grass, and high-delightful plain, For rich caparisons or trapping gay ? Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough, He sees his love, and nothing else he sees, To shelter thee from tempest and from rain :
Nor nothing else with his proud sight agrees. Then be my deer, since I am such a park ; No dog shall rouse thee, though a thousand bark.” Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportioned steed, At this Adonis smiles as in disdain,
His art with nature's workmanship at strife, That in each cheek appears a pretty dimple :
As if the dead the living should exceed ; Love made those hollows, if himself were slain,
So did this horse excel a common one, He might be buried in a tomb so simple ;
In shape, in courage, colour, pace, and bone. Foreknowing well, if there he came to lie, Why, there Love liv'd, and there he could not Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long, die.
Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs, and passing These lovely caves, these round enchanting pits,
Poor queen of love, in thine own law forlorn,
Anon he starts at stirring of a feather ;
And whêr he run or fly they know not whether ; Her words are done, her woes the more increasing ; For through his mane and tail the high wind The time is spent, her object will away,
sings, And from her twining arms doth urge releasing : Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather'd wings.
a common one,
pace and bone.) One was formerly pronounced as we now sound it in alone, atone, &c.
• To bid the wind a base] See note (7), p. 42, Vol. I.