Spenser's sonnets, published as the form was beginning to wane, attracted very little criticism and few imitators before the middle of the eighteenth century, when the sonnet was revived in a very different form.
Taking notice of this, the biography of Spenser in 1763 the Biographia Britannica added an explanation of the form: "It is of Italian invention, and consists generally of fourteen lines, of the length of our heroics, the rhime being interchanged alternately, in which it differs from the Canzone, which is not confined to any number of lines or stanzas. The origin of it is derived from Petrarch, who filled a whole book with it in honour of his Laura, with whom he was in love, as himself tells us, for twenty-one years, and whose death he lamented with the same zeal for ten years afterwards. The uncommon ardour of his passion, as well as the fineness of his wit and language, established him the master of love-verses among the moderns. We find him copied by the wits of Spain, France, and England: and the sonnet grew such much into fashion, that Sir Philip Sidney himself, who had written a great number on his beloved Stella, has pleasantly rallied his contemporaries in one, which is a perfect pattern of this kind. It consists in a natural tenderness, simplicity, and correctness, beauties which are to be found in most of Spenser's sonnets. Milton is the last who has given, in our own language, any examples of the sonnet, which is not much in vogue at present" (1763) 3810n. That this situation was rapidly changing is indicated by a note to the note: "This was written in the year 1761."
William Drummond: "Drayton seemeth rather to have loved his Muse than his Mistress; by, I know not what artificial Similes, this sheweth well his Mind, but not the Passion. As to that which Spencer calleth his Amorelli, I am not of their Opinion, who think them his; for they are so childish, that it were not well to give them so honourable a Father" 1619; Works (1711) 226.
Universal Magazine: "We find [Petrarch] copied by the wits of Spain, France, and England; and the sonnet grew so much in fashion, that Sir Philip Sidney himself, who had written a great number on his beloved Stella, has pleasantly rallied his contemporaries in one which is a perfect pattern of this kind. It consists in a natural tenderness, simplicity, and correctness, beauties which are to be found in most of Spenser's sonnets. Milton is the last who has given, in our own language, any examples or the sonnet, which is not much in vogue at present" "Life of Spenser" 49 (Supplement, 1771) 341.
Horace Walpole to William Roscoe: "To our tongue the sonnet is mortal, and the parent of insipidity. The imitation in some degree of it was extremely noxious to a true poet, our Spenser; and he was the more injudicious by lengthening his stanza in a language so barren of rhymes as ours, and in which several words whose terminations are of similar sounds are so rugged, uncouth, and unmusical. The consequence was, that many lines which he forced into the service to complete the quota of his stanza are unmeaning, or silly, or tending to weaken the thought he would express" 1795; in Works (1798) 5:673.
Anna Seward to Henry John Todd: "You, who are so deeply impressed by the manly energies of Milton's sonnets, will not, I think, claim the meed of excellence for Spencer's, so full of poetic foppery, and unimpassioned love, labouring and toiling beneath amorous pretences" 11 June 1802; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 6:27.
European Magazine: "The pristine ideas engendered in the mind of a poet are generally effused in sonnets. Spencer's juvenile muse, stimulated, we presume, by his fondness for the Italian rhythm, and his admiration of the spangled verses of the age of Leo X. in his time the predominant taste of the English court, expanded into imitation: we, therefore, find the larger part of his collection of those coldly correct, and regularly insipid" 60 (September 1811) 178.
Nathan Drake: "It now remains to ascertain to which of these writers of the sonnet Shakspeare chiefly directed his attention, in choosing a model for his own compositions. Dr. Sewell and Mr. Chalmers contend that, in emulation of Spenser, he took the Amoretti of that poet for his guide; but though we admit that he was an avowed admirer of the Faery Queen, and that the publication of the Amoretti in 1595 might still further his attachment to this species of lyric poetry, yet we cannot accede to their position. The structure, indeed, of the Spenserian sonnet is, with the exception of the closing couplet, totally different from Shakspeare's; nor are their style and diction less dissimilar" Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 375.
Retrospective Review: "The poems of our author which were next printed, are his Amoretti, or Sonnets, written, it is said, on the lady whom he afterwards married, and published in 1596. A bad sonnet is one of the dullest things in creation, and a series of them absolutely intolerable. Those in question are, for the most part, cold, passionless, and conceited; indeed, we actually feel it a task to get through them" 12 (1825) 157-58.
Anna Jameson: "At a late period of Spenser's life, the remembrance of this cruel piece of excellence, — his Rosalind, was effaced by a second and a happier love. His sonnets are addressed to a beautiful Irish girl, the daughter of a rich merchant of Cork. She it was who healed the wound inflicted by disdain and levity, and taught him the truth he has expressed in one charming line — 'Sweet is that love alone, that comes with willingnesse!' Her name was Elizabeth, and her family (as Spenser tells us himself,) obscure; but, in spite of her plebeian origin, the lady seems to have been a very peremptory and Juno-like beauty" Loves of the Poets (1829) 2:225-26.
Newcastle Magazine: "Spenser has written no less than eighty-eight sonnets, all of which are addressed to some female, imaginary I hope, for there is not, to say the truth, a particle of real passion in one of them. Half-a-dozen, probably, out of the eighty-eight are pleasing, the rest might be permitted to drop into oblivion with the platonic poetry of the never-to-be forgotten Sir Philip Sydney" "Poetry of Spenser" NS 9 (June 1830) 282.
Happy ye Leaves, whenas those lilly Hands,
Which hold my Life in their dead-doing Might,
Shall handle you, and hold in Love's soft Bands,
Like Captives trembling at the Victor's Sight.
And happy Lines, on which with starry Light,
Those ramping Eyes will deign sometimes to look,
And read the Sorrows of my dying Spright,
Written with Tears in Heart's close bleeding Book,
And happy Rimes bath'd in the sacred Brook
Of Helicon, whence she derived is,
When ye behold that Angel's blessed Look,
My Soul's long-lacked Food, my Heaven's Bliss.
Leaves, Lines, and Rimes, seek her to please alone;
Whom if ye please, I care for other none.
Unquiet Thought, whom at the first I bred,
Of th' inward Bale of my Love-pined Heart;
And sithence have with Sighs and Sorrows fed,
Till greater than my Womb thou waxen art:
Break forth at length out of the inner Part,
In which thou lurkest like to Vipers Brood,
And seek some Succour both to ease my Smart,
And also to sustain thy self with Food.
But if in Presence of that fairest Proud
Thou chance to come, fall lowly at her feet;
And with meek Humbless and afflicted Mood
Pardon for thee, and Grace for me intreat.
Which if she grant, then live, and my Love cherish;
If not, die soon, and I with thee will perish.
The sovereign Beauty which I do admire,
Witness the World how worthy to be prais'd;
The Light whereof hath kindled heavenly Fire
In my frail Spirit, by her from Baseness rais'd:
That being now with her huge Brightness daz'd,
Base dung I can no more endure to view;
But looking still on her, I stand amaz'd
At wondrous Sight of so celestial Hue.
So when my Tongue would speak her Praises due,
It stopped is with Thought's Astonishment;
And when my Pen would write her Titles true,
It ravish'd is with Fancy's Wonderment;
Yet in my Heart I then both speak and write
The Wonder that my Wit cannot endite.
New Year forth looking out of Janus' Gate,
Doth seem to promise Hope of new Delight,
And bidding th' old adieu, his passed Date
Bids all old Thoughts to die in dumpish Spright.
And calling forth out of sad Winter's Night,
Fresh Love, that long hath slept in cheerless Bower,
Wills him awake, and soon about him dight
His wanton Wings and Darts of deadly Power.
For lusty Spring, now in his timely Howre,
Is ready to come forth, him to receive;
And warns the Earth, with divers-colour'd Flowre
To deck her self, and her fair Mantle weave.
Then you, fair Flowre, in whom fresh Youth doth reign,
Prepare your self, new Love to entertain.
Rudely thou wrongest my dear Heart's Desire,
In finding fault with her too portly Pride:
The thing which I do most in her admire,
Is of the World unworthy most envide.
For in those lofty Looks is close implide
Scorn of base things, and 'Sdeign of foul Dishonour;
Threatning rash Eyes which gaze on her so wide,
That loosely they ne dare to look upon her.
Such Pride is Praise, such Portliness is Honour,
That Boldness Innocence bears in her Eyes:
And her fair Countenance like a goodly Banner,
Spreads in defiance of all Enemies.
Was never in this World ought worthy tride,
Without some Spark of such self-pleasing Pride.
Be nought dismaid that her unmoved Mind
Doth still persist in her rebellious Pride:
Such Love not like to Lusts of baser kind,
The harder won, the firmer will abide.
The dureful Oak, whose Sap is not yet dride,
Is long e'er it conceive the kindling Fire:
But when it once doth burn, it doth divide
Great Heat, and makes his Flames to Heaven aspire.
So hard it is to kindle new Desire
In gentle Breast, that shall endure for ever:
Deep is the Wound, that dints the Parts entire
With chaste Affects, that nought but Death can sever.
Then think not long in taking little pain,
To knit the Knot, that ever shall remain.
Fair Eyes, the Mirrour of my mazed Heart,
What wondrous Vertue is contain'd in you,
The which both Life and Death forth from you dart
Into the Object of your mighty View?
For when ye mildly look with lovely Hue,
Then is my soul with Life and Love inspir'd:
But when ye lowre, or look on me askew,
Then do I die, as one with Lightning fir'd.
But since that Life is more than Death desir'd,
Look ever lovely, as becomes you best;
That your bright Beams of my weak Eyes admir'd,
May kindle living Fire within my Brest.
Such Life should be the Honour of your Light,
Such Death the sad Ensample of your Might.
More than most fair, full of the living Fire,
Kindled above, unto the Maker near:
No Eyes, but Joys, in which all Powers conspire,
That to the World nought else be counted dear.
Thro your bright Beams doth not the blinded Guest
Shoot out his Darts to base Affection's Wound,
But Angels come to lead frail Minds to rest
In chaste Desires, on heavenly Beauty bound.
You frame my Thoughts, and fashion me within;
You stop my Tongue, and reach my Heart to speak;
You calm the Storm that Passion did begin,
Strong thro your Cause, but by your Vertue weak.
Dark is the World, where your light shined never;
Well is he born, that may behold you ever.
Long-while I sought to what I might compare
Those powreful Eyes, which lighten my dark Spright:
Yet find I nought on Earth, to which I dare
Resemble th' Image of the goodly Light.
Not to the Sun; for they do shine by Night:
Nor to the Moon; for they are changed never:
Nor to the Stars; for they have purer Sight:
Nor to the Fire; for they consume not ever:
Nor to the Lightning; for they still persever:
Nor to the Diamond; for they are more tender:
Nor unto Chrystal; for nought may them sever:
Nor unto Glass; such Baseness mought offend her.
Then to the Maker self they likest be,
Whose Light doth lighten all that here we see.
Unrighteous Lord of Love! what Law is this,
That me thou makest thus tormented be?
The whiles she lordeth in licentious Bliss
Of her Free-will, scorning both thee and me.
See how the Tyranness doth joy to see
The huge Massacres which her Eyes do make;
And humbled Hearts brings captive unto thee,
That thou of them mayst mighty Vengeance take.
But her proud Heart do thou a little shake;
And that high Look, with which she doth control
All this World's Pride, bow to a baser Make,
And all her Faults in thy black Book enrol:
That I may laugh at her in equal sort,
As she doth laugh at me, and makes my Pain her Sport.
Daily when I do seek and sue for Peace,
And Hostages do offer for my Truth;
She, cruel Warriour, doth her self address
To Battel, and the weary War renew'th.
Ne will be mov'd with Reason or with Ruth,
To grant small Respit to my restless Toil:
But greedily her fell Intent pursu'th,
Of my poor Life to make unpitied Spoil.
Yet my poor Life, all Sorrows to assoil,
I would her yield, her Wrath to pacifie:
But then she seeks with Torment and Turmoil,
To force me live, and will not let me die.
All Pain hath end, and every War hath Peace;
But mine, no Price nor Prayer may surcease.
One day I sought with her heart-thrilling Eyes
To make a Truce, and Terms to entertain:
All fearless then of so false Enemies,
Which sought me to entrap in Treason's Train.
So, as I then disarmed did remain,
A wicked Ambush, which lay hidden long
In the close Covert of her guileful Eyen,
Thence breaking forth, did thick about me throng.
Too feeble I t' abide the Brunt so strong,
Was forc'd to yield my self into their hands;
Who me captiving straight with rigorous Wrong,
Have ever since kept me in cruel Bands.
So, Lady, now to you I do complain
Against your Eyes, that Justice I may gain.
In that proud Port, which her so goodly graceth,
Whiles her fair Face she rears up to the Sky,
And to the Ground her Eye-lids low embraceth,
Most goodly Temperature ye may descry,
Mild Humbless, mixt with aweful Majesty.
For, looking on the Earth, whence she was born,
Her Mind remembreth her Mortality,
What-so is fairest, shall to Earth return.
But that some lofty Countenance seems to scorn
Base thing, and think how she to Heaven may clime;
Treading down Earth as loathsome and forlorn,
That hinders heavenly Thoughts with drossy Slime:
Yet lowly still vouchsafe to took on me,
Such Lowliness shall make you lofty be.
Return again my Forces late dismaid,
Unto the Siege by you abandon'd quite:
Great Shame it is to leave, like one afraid,
So fair a Piece, for one Repulse so light.
'Gainst such strong Castles needeth greater Might
Than those small Forces ye were wont belay;
Such haughty Minds enur'd to hardy Fight,
Disdain to yield unto the first Assay.
Bring therefore all the Forces that ye may.
And lay incessant Battry to her Heart,
Plaints, Prayers, Vows, Ruth, Sorrow, and Dismay,
Those Engins can the proudest Love convert;
And if those fail, fall down and die before her;
So dying, live, and living do adore her.
Ye tradeful Merchants, that with wary Toil
Do seek most precious things to make your Gain:
And both the India's of their Treasure spoil,
What needeth you to seek so far in vain?
For lo! my Love doth in her self contain
All this World's Riches that may far be found;
If Saphyrs, lo! her Eyes be Saphyrs plain;
If Rubies, lo! her Lips be Rubies found:
If Pearls, her Teeth be Pearls, both pure and round
If Ivory, her Forehead Ivory ween;
If Gold, her Locks are finest Gold on ground;
If Silver, her fair Hands are Silver sheen:
But that which fairest is, but few behold,
Her Mind adorn'd with Vertues manifold.
One day as I unwarily did gaze
On those fair Eyes, my Love's immortal Light;
The whiles my stonish'd Heart stood in Amaze
Through sweet Illusion of her Look's Delight;
I mote perceive how in her glancing Sight,
Legions of Loves with little Wings did fly,
Darting their deadly Arrows fiery bright,
At every rash Beholder passing by.
One of those Archers closely I did spy,
Aiming his Arrow at my very Heart:
When suddenly with Twinkle of her Eye,
The Damsel broke his misintended Dart.
Had she not so done, sure I had been slain;
Yet as it was, I hardly scap'd with Pain.
The glorious Pourtract of that Angel's Face,
Made to amaze weak Mens confused Skill,
And this World's worthless Glory to embrace,
What Pen, what Pensil can express her fill?
For though he Colours could devise at will,
And eke his learned Hand at pleasure guide,
Lest trembling, it his Workmanship should spill,
Yet many wondrous things there are beside.
The sweet Eye-glances, that like Arrows glide.
The charming Smiles, that rob Sense from the Heart;
The lovely Pleasance, and the lofty Pride,
Cannot expressed be by any Art.
A greater Craftsman's Hand thereto doth need,
That can express the Life of things indeed.
The rolling Wheel, that runneth often round,
The hardest Steel in Tract of Time doth tear;
And drizling Drops that often do redound,
The firmest Flint doth in Continuance wear:
Yet cannot I, with many a dropping Tear,
And long Intreaty, soften her hard Heart;
That she will once vouchsafe my Plaint to hear,
Or look with Pity on my painful Smart.
But when I plead, she bids me play my part;
And when I weep, she says, Tears are but Water;
And when I sigh she says, I know the Art;
And when I wail, she turns her self to Laughter.
So do I weep and wail, and plead in vain,
Whiles she as Steel and Flint doth still remain.
The merry Cuckow, Messenger of Spring,
His Trumpet shrill hath thrice already sounded;
That warns all Lovers wait upon their King,
Who now is coming forth with Girland crowned.
With Noise whereof the Quire of Birds resounded
Their Anthems sweet, devized of Love's Praise;
That all the Woods their Ecchoes back rebounded,
As if they knew the meaning of their Lays.
But 'mongst them all, which did Love's Honour raise,
No word was heard of her that most it ought;
But she his Precept proudly disobeys,
And doth his idle Message set at nought.
Therefore, O Love! unless she turn to thee
E'er Cuckow end, let her a Rebel be.
In vain I seek and sue to her for Grace,
And do mine humble Heart before her pour;
The whiles her Foot she in my Neck doth place
And tread my Life down in the lowly Flour.
And yet the Lion, that is Lord of Power,
And reigneth over every Beast in Field,
In his most Pride disdeigneth to devour
The silly Lamb that to his Might doth yield.
But she, more cruel and more salvage wild
Than either Lion, or the Lioness,
Shames not to be with guiltless Blood defil'd,
But taketh Glory in her Cruelness.
Fairer than Fairest, let none ever say,
That ye were blooded in a yielded Prey.
Was it the Work of Nature or of Art,
Which tempred so the Features of her Face,
That Pride and Meekness, mixt by equal part,
Do both appear t' adorn her Beauty's Grace?
For with mild Pleasance, which doth Pride displace,
She to her Love doth Lookers Eyes allure;
And with stern Count'nance back again doth chace
Their looser Looks that stir up Lusts impure:
With such strange Trains her Eyes she doth inure,
That with one Look she doth my Life dismay;
And with another doth it straight recure;
Her Smile me draws, her Frown me drives away.
Thus doth she train and teach me with her Looks,
Such Art of Eyes I never read in Books.
This holy Season, fit to fast and pray,
Men to Devotion ought to be inclin'd:
Therefore, I likewise on so holy Day,
For my sweet Saint some Service fit will find.
Her Temple fair is built within my Mind,
In which her glorious Image placed is,
On which my Thoughts do day and night attend,
Like sacred Priests that never think amiss:
There I to her, as th' Author of my Bliss,
Will build an Altar to appease her Ire,
And on the same my Heart will sacrifice,
Burning in Flames of pure and chaste Desire;
The which vouchsafe, O Goddess! to accept,
Amongst thy dearest Relicks to be kept.
Penelope, for her Ulysses' sake,
Deviz'd a Web her Woers to deceive;
In which the Work, that she all day did make,
The same at night she did again unreave:
Such subtil Craft my Damsel doth conceive,
Th' importunate Sute of my Desire to shun;
For all that I in many days do weave,
In one short Hour I find by her undun.
So when I think to end that I begun,
I must begin and never bring to end;
Forth with one Look, she spills that long I spun,
And with one word my whole Year's Work doth rend.
Such Labour like the Spider's Web I find,
Whose fruitless Work is broken with least Wind.
When I behold that Beauty's Wonderment,
And rare Perfection of each goodly Part,
Of Nature's Skill the only Complement,
I honour and admire the Maker's Art.
But when I feel the bitter baleful Smart,
Which her fair Eyes unwares do work in me,
That Death out of their shiny Beams do dart,
I think that I a new Pandora see;
Whom all the Gods in Counsel did agree,
Into this sinful World from Heaven to send,
That she to wicked Men a Scourge should be,
For all their Faults with which they did offend.
But since ye are my Scourge, I will intreat,
That for my Faults ye will me gently beat.
How long shall this like dying Life endure,
And know no end of its own Misery?
But waste and wear away in Terms unsure,
'Twixt Fear and Hope depending doubtfully.
Yet better were attonce to let me die,
And shew the last Ensample of your Pride,
Than to torment me thus with Cruelty,
To prove your Pow'r, which I too well have tride.
But yet if in your harden'd Breast ye hide
A close Intent at last to mew me Grace:
Then all the Woes and Wrecks which I abide,
As Means of Bliss I gladly will embrace;
And wish that more and greater they might be,
That greater Meed at last may turn to me.
Sweet is the Rose, but grows upon a Brere;
Sweet is the Juniper, but sharp his Bough;
Sweet is the Eglantine, but pricketh near;
Sweet is the Firbloom, but his Branches rough;
Sweet is the Cypress, but his Rind is tough;
Sweet is the Nut, but bitter is his Pill;
Sweet is the Broom-flowre, but yet sour enough;
And sweet is Moly, but his Root is ill.
So every Sweet with Sour is tempred still
That maketh it be coveted the more:
For easy things, that may be got at will;
Most sorts of Men to set but little store.
Why then should I account of little pain,
That endless Pleasure shall unto me gain?
Fair Proud, now tell me, why should Fair be proud,
Sith all World's Glory is but Dross unclean?
And in the shade of Death it self should shroud,
How-ever now thereof ye little ween.
That goodly Idol now so gay beseen,
Shall doff her Fleshes borrow'd fair Attire;
And be forgot as it had never been,
That many now much worship and admire.
Ne any then shall after it inquire,
Ne any mention shall thereof remain,
But what this Verse, that never shall expire,
Shall to you purchase with her thankless Pain.
Fair, be no longer proud of that shall perish,
But that which shall you make Immortal, cherish.
The Laurel Leaf, which you this day do wear;
Gives me great Hope of your relenting Mind;
For since it is the Badge which I do bear,
Ye bearing it, do seem to me inclin'd:
The power thereof, which oft in me I find,
Let it likewise your gentle Breast inspire
With sweet Infusion, and put you in mind
Of that proud Maid, whom now those Leaves attire.
Proud Daphne scorning Phoebus' lovely Fire,
On the Thessalian Shore from him did flie;
For which the Gods, in their revengeful Ire,
Did her transform into a Laurel-Tree.
Then fly no more, fair Love, from chace,
But in your Breast his Leaf and Love embrace.
See how the stubborn Damsel doth deprave
My simple meaning with disdainful scorn;
And by the Bay which I unto her gave,
Accounts my self her Captive quite forlorn.
The Bay, quoth she, is of the Victor born,
Yielded them by the Vanquisht as their Meeds;
And they therewith do Poets Heads adorn,
To sing the Glory of their famous Deeds.
But sith she will the Conquest challenge needs,
Let her accept me as her faithful Thrall,
That her great Triumph, which my Skill exceeds,
I may in trump of Fame blaze over all.
Then would I deck her Head with glorious Bays,
And fill the World with her victorious Praise.
My Love is like to Ice, and I to Fire;
How comes it then that this her Cold so great
Is not dissolv'd through my so hot Desire,
But harder grows the more I her intreat?
Or how comes it that my exceeding Heat
Is not delaid by her Heart-frozen-Cold;
But that I burn much more in boiling Sweat,
And feel my Flames augmented manifold?
What more miraculous thing may be told,
That Fire which all things melts, should harden Ice;
And Ice which is congeal'd with sensless Cold.
Should kindle Fire by wonderful device?
Such is the Power of Love in gentle Mind,
That it can alter all the Course of Kind.
Ah, why hath Nature to so hard a Heart
Given so goodly Gifts of Beauty's Grace?
Whose Pride depraves each other better part,
And all those precious Ornaments deface.
Sith to all other Beasts of bloody Race,
A dreadful Countenance she given hath;
That with their Terrour all the rest may chace,
And warn to shun the danger of their Wrath.
But my Proud one doth work the greater Scath,
Through sweet Allurement of her lovely Hue;
That she the better may in bloody Bath
Of such poor Thrall, her cruel Hands embrew.
But did she know how ill these two accord,
Such Cruelty she would have soon abhor'd.
The painful Smith, with force of fervent Heat,
The hardest Iron soon doth mollifie,
That with his heavy Sledge he can it beat,
And fashion to what he it list apply.
Yet cannot all these Flames in which I fry,
Her Heart more hard than Iron soft awhit;
Ne all the Plaints and Prayers with which I
Do beat on th' Anvile of her stubborn Wit:
But still the more she fervent sees my Fit,
The more she friezeth in her wilful Pride;
And harder grows the harder she is smit,
With all the Plaints which to her be applide.
What then remains but I to Ashes burn,
And she to Stones at length all frozen turn?
Great wrong I do, I can it not deny,
To that most sacred Empress my dear Dread,
Nor finishing her Queen of Faery,
That mote enlarge her living Praises dead:
But Lodwick, this of Grace to me aread;
Do ye not think th' accomplishment of it,
Sufficient work for one Man's simple Head,
All were it as the rest, but rudely writ?
How then should I without another Wit,
Think ever to endure so tedious Toil?
Sith that this one is toast with troublous fit
Of a proud Love, that doth my Spirit spoil.
Cease then, till she vouchsafe to grant me Rest,
Or lend you me another living Breast.
Like as a Ship, that through the Ocean wide,
By Conduct of some Star doth make her way,
When as a Storm hath dim'd her trusty Guide,
Out of her Course doth wander far astray;
So I, whose Star, that wont with her bright Ray
Me to direct, with Clouds is over-cast,
Do wander now in Darkness and Dismay,
Through hidden Perils round about me plac'd;
Yet hope I will, that when this Storm is past,
My Helice, the Loadstar of my Life,
Will shine again, and look on me at last
With lovely Light, to clear my cloudy Grief.
Till then I wander, careful, comfortless,
In secret Sorrow, and sad Pensiveness.
My hungry Eyes through greedy Covetise,
Still to behold the Object of their Pain,
With no Contentment can themselves suffice;
But having, pine; and having not, complain.
For lacking it, they cannot Life sustain,
And having it, they gaze on it the more;
In their Amazement like Narcissus vain,
Whose Eyes him starv'd: so plenty makes me poor.
Yet are mine Eyes so filled with the store
Of that fair Sight, that nothing else they brook,
But loath the things which they did like before,
And can no more endure on them to look.
All this World's Glory seemeth vain to me,
And all their Shows but Shadows, saving she.
Tell me, when shall these weary Woes have end,
Or shall their ruthless Torment never cease?
But all my days in pining Languor spend,
Without Hope of asswagement or release.
Is there no means for me to purchase Peace,
Or make agreement with her thrilling Eyes?
But that their Cruelty doth still increase,
And daily more augment my Miseries.
But when ye have shew'd all Extremities,
Then think how little Glory ye have gain'd,
By slaying him, whose Life though you despize,
Mote have your Life in honour long maintain'd.
But by his Death, which some perhaps will mone,
Ye shall condemned be of many a one.
What Guile is this, that those her golden Tresses
She doth attire under a Net of Gold;
And with sly Skill so cunningly them dresses,
That which is Gold or Hair, may scarce be told?
Is it that Men's frail Eyes, which gaze too bold,
She may entangle in that golden Snare;
And being caught, may craftily enfold
Their weaker Hearts, which are not well aware?
Take heed therefore, mine Eyes, how ye do stare
Henceforth too rashly on that guileful Net,
In which, if ever ye entrapped are,
Out of her Bands ye by no means shall get.
Fondness it were for any, being free,
To covet Fetters, though they golden be.
Arion, when through Tempest's cruel Wrack
He forth was thrown into the greedy Seas;
Through the sweet Musick which his Harp did make,
Allur'd a Dolphin him from Death to ease.
But my rude Musick, which was wont to please
Some dainty Ears, cannot with any Skill
The dreadful Tempest of her Wrath appease,
Nor move the Dolphin from her stubborn Will:
But in her Pride she doth persevere still,
All careless how my Life for her decays;
Yet with one Word she can it save or spill:
To spill were pity, but to save were praise.
Chuse rather to be prais'd for doing Good,
Than to be blam'd for spilling guiltless Blood.
Sweet Smile, the Daughter of the Queen of Love,
Expressing all thy Mother's powerful Art,
With which she wonts to temper angry Jove,
When all the Gods he threats with thundring Dart:
Sweet is thy Vertue, as thy self sweet art;
For when on me thou shinedst late in sadness,
A melting Pleasance ran through every part,
And me revived with heart-robbing Gladness.
Whilst rapt with Joy resembling heavenly Madness,
My Soul was ravisht quite as in a Trance:
And feeling thence no more her Sorrow's sadness,
Fed on the Fulness of that chearful Glance.
More sweet than Nectar or Ambrosial Meat,
Seem'd every bit which thenceforth I did eat.
Mark when she smiles with amiable Chear;
And tell me whereto can ye liken it:
When on each Eye-lid sweetly do appear
An hundred Graces as in shade to sit.
Likest it seemeth, in my simple Wit,
Unto the fair Sunshine in Summers-day;
That when a dreadful Storm away is flit,
Through the broad World doth spread his goodly Ray:
At sight whereof, each Bird that sits on Spray,
And every Beast that to his Den was fled,
Come forth afresh out of their late Dismay
And to the Light lift up their drooping Head.
So my Storm-beaten Heart likewise is chear'd
With that Sun-shine, when cloudy Looks are clear'd.
Is it her Nature, or is it her Will,
To be so cruel to an humbled Foe?
If Nature, then she may it mend with Skill;
If Will, then she at Will may Will forgoe.
But if her Nature and her Will be so,
That she will plague the Man that loves her most,
And take delight t' encrease a Wretch's Woe;
Then all her Nature's goodly Gifts are lost:
And that same glorious Beauty's idle Boast,
Is but a Bait such Wretches to beguile,
As being long in her Love's Tempest tost,
She means at last to make her piteous Spoil.
O fairest Fair, let never it be nam'd,
That so fair Beauty was so foully sham'd!
The Love which me so cruelly tormenteth,
So pleasing is in my extreamest Pain,
That all the more my Sorrow it augmenteth,
The more I love and do embrace my Bane.
Ne do I wish (for wishing were but vain)
To be acquit to my continual Smart;
But joy, her Thrall for ever to remain,
And yield for Pledge my poor captived Heart:
The which that it from her may never start,
Let her, if please her, bind with Adamant Chain;
And from all wandring Loves which mote pervart,
In safe Assurance strongly it restrain.
Only let her abstain from Cruelty,
And do me not before my time to die.
Shall I then silent be, or shall I speak?
And if I speak, her Wrath renew I shall:
And if I silent be, my Heart will break,
Or choaked be with overflowing Gall.
What Tyranny is this, my Heart to thrall,
And eke my Tongue with proud restraint to tie;
That neither I may speak nor think at all,
But like a stupid Stock in silence die?
Yet I my Heart with silence secretly
Will teach to speak, and my just Cause to plead;
And eke mine Eyes with meek Humility,
Love-learned Letters to her Eyes to read:
Which her deep Wit, that true Heart's Thought can spell,
Will soon conceive, and learn to construe well.
When those renowned noble Peers of Greece,
Through stubborn Pride among themselves did jar,
Forgetful of the famous golden Fleece,
Then Orpheus with his Harp their Strife did bar.
But this continual, cruel, civil War,
The which my self against my self do make,
Whilst my weak Powers of Passions warreid are,
No Skill can stint, nor Reason can aslake.
But when in hand my tuneless Harp I take,
Then do I more augment my Foes despight;
And Grief renew, and Passions do awake
To Battail, fresh against my self to fight.
'Mongst whom the more I seek to settle Peace,
The more I find their Malice to increace.
Leave, Lady, in your Glass of Crystal clean
Your goodly self for evermore to view:
And in my self, my inward self I mean,
Most lively like behold your Semblant true.
Within my Heart, though hardly it can shew
Thing so Divine to view of earthly Eye;
The fair Idea of your celestial Hue,
And every part remains immortally:
And were it not that through your Cruelty,
With Sorrow dimmed, and deform'd it were,
The goodly Image of your Visnomy,
Clearer than Crystal would therein appear.
But if your self in me ye plain will see,
Remove the Cause by which your fair Beams darkned be.
When my abodes prefixed time is spent,
My cruel Fair straight bids me wend away:
But then from Heaven most hideous Storms are sent,
As willing me against her Will to stay.
Whom then shall I, or Heaven or her obey?
The Heavens know best what is the best for me:
But as she will, whose Will my Life doth sway,
My lower Heaven, so it perforce must be.
But ye high Heavens, that all this Sorrow see,
Sith all your Tempests cannot hold me back,
Asswage your Storms, or else both you and she
Will both together me too sorely wrack.
Enough it is for one Man to sustain
The Storms, which she alone on me doth rain.
Trust not the Treason of those smiling Looks,
Until ye have their guileful Trains well bide;
For they are like but unto golden Hooks,
That from the foolish Fish their Baits do hide:
So she with flattering Smiles weak Hearts doth guide
Unto her Love, and tempt to their decay;
Whom being caught, she kills with cruel Pride,
And feeds at pleasure on the wretched Prey:
Yet even whilst her bloody Hands them slay,
Her Eyes look lovely, and upon them smile;
That they take pleasure in their cruel Play,
And dying, do themselves of Pain beguile.
O mighty Charm which makes Men love their Bane,
And think they die with Pleasure, live with Pain!
Innocent Paper, whom too cruel Hand
Did make the matter to avenge her Ire;
And ere she could thy cause well understand,
Did sacrifice unto the greedy Fire:
Well worthy thou to have found better Hire,
Than so bad End, for Hereticks ordain'd;
Yet Heresie nor Treason didst conspire,
But plead thy Master's Cause, unjustly pain'd.
Whom she, all careless of his Grief, constrain'd
To utter forth the Anguish of his Heart;
And would not hear, when he to her complain'd
The piteous Passion of his dying Smart.
Yet live for ever, though against her Will,
And speak her good, though she requite it ill.
Fair Cruel, why are ye so fierce and cruel?
Is it because your Eyes have power to kill?
Then know that Mercy is the Mighty's Jewel,
And greater Glory think to save, than spill.
But if it be your Pleasure and proud Will,
To shew the power of your imperious Eyes;
Then not on him that never thought you ill,
But bend your Force against your Enemies.
Let them feel th' utmost of your Cruelties,
And kill with Looks, as Cockatrices do:
But him that at your Footstool humbled lies,
With merciful regard, give mercy to.
Such Mercy shall you make admir'd to be;
So shall you live, by giving Life to me.
Long languishing in double Malady,
Of my Heart's Wound, and of my Body's Grief,
There came to me a Leach, that would apply
Fit Med'cines for my Body's best Relief;
Vain Man, quoth I, that hast but little Prief
In deep discovery of the Mind's Disease;
Is not the Heart of all the Body chief?
And rules the Members as it self doth please?
Then with some Cordials seek for to appease
The inward Languour of my wounded Heart,
And then my Body shall have shortly ease:
But such sweet Cordials pass Physicians Art.
Then my Life's Leach, do you your Skill reveal,
And with one Salve, both Heart and Body heal.
Do I not see the fairest Images,
Of hardest Marble are of purpose made,
For that they should endure through many Ages,
Ne let their famous Moniments to fade?
Why then do I, untrain'd in Lover's bale,
Her Hardness blame, which I should more commend?
Sith never ought was excellent assaid,
Which was not hard t' atchive and bring to end;
Ne ought so hard, but he that would attend,
Mote soften it and to his Will allure:
So do I hope her stubborn Heart to bend,
And that it then more stedfast will endure.
Only my pains will be the more to get her,
But having her, my Joy will be the greater.
So oft as homeward I from her depart,
I go like one that having lost the Field,
Is Prisoner led away with heavy Heart,
Dispoil'd of warlike Arms and knowen Shield.
So do I now my self a Prisoner yield,
To Sorrow and to solitary Pain;
From presence of my dearest Dear exil'd,
Long-while alone in Languour to remain.
Then let no Thought of Joy, or Pleasure vain,
Dare to approach, that may my Solace breed:
But suddain Dumps, and drery sad Disdain
Of all World's Gladness more my Torment feed.
So I her Absence will my Penance make,
That of her Presence I my Meed may take.
The Panther knowing that his spotted Hide
Doth please all Beasts, but that his Looks them fray;
Within a Bush his dreadful Head doth hide,
To let them gaze, whilst he on them may prey.
Right so my cruel Fair with me doth play;
For with the goodly Semblance of her Hue,
She doth allure me to mine own Decay,
And then no Mercy will unto me shew;
Great shame it is, thing so Divine in view,
Made for to be the World's most Ornament,
To make the Bait her Gazers to embrew;
Good shames to be to Ill an Instrument:
But Mercy doth with Beauty best agree,
As in their Maker ye them best may see.
Of this World's Theater in which we stay,
My Love, like the Spectator, idle sits,
Beholding me that all the Pageants play,
Disguising diversly my troubled Wits.
Sometimes I joy, when glad occasion fits,
And mask in Mirth like to a Comedy;
Soon after, when my Joy to Sorrow flits,
I wail, and make my Woes a Tragedy.
Yet she beholding me with constant Eye,
Delights not in my Mirth, nor rues my Smart;
But when I laugh, she mocks; and when I cry,
She laughs, and hardens evermore her Heart.
What then can move her? if nor Mirth nor Mone,
She is no Woman, but a sensless Stone.
So oft as I her Beauty do behold,
And there-with do her Cruelty compare,
I marvail of what substance was the Mould,
The which her made attonce so cruel Fair.
Not Earth; for her high Thoughts more Heav'nly are:
Not Water; for her Love doth burn like Fire:
Not Air; for she is not so light or rare;
Not Fire; for she doth freeze with faint Desire;
Then needs another Element inquire
Whereof she mote be made; that is, the Sky.
For, to the Heaven her haughty Looks aspire:
And eke her Love is pure immortal hy.
Then sith to Heaven ye likened are the best,
Be like in Mercy as in all the rest.
Fair ye be sure, but cruel and unkind,
As is a Tyger, that with greediness
Hunts after Blood, when he by chance doth find
A feeble Beast, doth felly him oppress.
Fair be ye sure, but proud and pitiless,
As is a Storm, that all things doth prostrate;
Finding a Tree alone all comfortless,
Bears on it strongly, it to ruinate.
Fair be ye sure, but hard and obstinate,
As is a Rock amidst the raging Floods;
'Gainst which, a Ship, of Succour desolate,
Doth suffer Wreck both of her self and Goods.
That ship, that Tree, and that same Beast am I,
Whom ye do wreck, do ruin, and destroy.
Sweet Warriour, when shall I have Peace with you?
High time it is this War now ended were;
Which I no longer can endure to sue,
Ne your incessant Battry more to bear.
So weak my Powers, so sore my Wounds appear,
That Wonder is how I should live a Jot,
Seeing my Heart through-launced every where
With thousand Arrows, which your Eyes have shot:
Yet shoot ye sharply still, and spare me not,
But Glory think to make these cruel Stoures.
Ye cruel one, what Glory can be got
In slaying him that would live gladly yours?
Make Peace therefore, and grant me timely Grace,
That all my Wounds will heal in little space.
TO HER THAT IS MOST ASSURED TO HER SELF.
Weak is th' Assurance that weak Flesh reposeth
In her own Powre, and scorneth others Aid;
That soonest falls, when as she most supposeth
Her self assur'd, and is of nought affraid.
All Flesh is frail, and all her Strength unstaid,
Like a vain Bubble blowen up with Air:
Devouring Time and changeful Chance have prey'd
Her glorious Pride, that none may it repair.
Ne none so rich or wise, so strong or fair,
But faileth, trusting on his own Assurance;
And he that standeth on the highest Stair
Falls lowest: for on Earth nought hath endurance.
Why then do ye, proud Fair, misdeem so farr,
That to your self ye most assured are?
Thrice happy she, that is so well assur'd
Unto her self, and settled so in Heart
That neither will for better be allur'd,
Ne fears to worse with any Chance to start:
But like a steddy Ship, doth strongly part
The raging Waves, and keeps her Course aright;
Ne ought for Tempest doth from it depart,
Ne ought for fairer Weather's false Delight.
Such Self-assurance need not fear the Spight
Of grudging Foes, ne Favour seek of Friends:
But in the stay of her own stedfast Might,
Neither to one her self nor other bends.
Most happy she that most assur'd doth rest,
But he most happy who such one loves best.
They that in Course of heavenly Sphears are skill'd,
To every Planet point his sundry Year;
In which her Circle's Voyage is fulfill'd,
As Mars in threescore Years doth run his Sphear.
So since the winged God his Planet clear
Began in me to move, one Year is spent;
The which doth longer unto me appear,
Than all those forty which my Life out-went.
Then by that count, which Lovers Books invent,
The Sphear of Cupid forty Years contains;
Which I have wasted in long Languishment,
That seem'd the longer for my greater Pains.
But let my Love's fair Planet short her Ways
This Year ensuing, or else short my Days.
The glorious Image of the Maker's Beauty,
My soveraign Saint, the Idol of my Thought,
Dare nor henceforth, above the Bounds of Duty,
T' accuse of Pride, or rashly blame for ought.
For, being as she is, divinely wrought,
And of the Brood of Angels heav'nly born;
And with the Crew of blessed Saints upbrought,
Each of which did her with her Gifts adorn:
The Bud of Joy, the Blossom of the Morn,
The Beam of Light, whom mortal Eyes admire:
What reason is it then but she should scorn
Base things, that to her Love too bold aspire?
Such heav'nly Forms ought rather worshipt be,
Than dare be lov'd by Men of mean Degree.
The weary Year his Race now having run,
The new begins his compast Course anew:
With shew of Morning mild he hath begun,
Betokening Peace and Plenty to ensew.
So let us, which this chance of Weather view,
Change eke our Minds, and former Lives amend
The old Year's Sins forepast let us eschew,
And fly the Faults with which we did offend.
Then shall the New-Year's Joy forth freshly send,
Into the glooming World his gladsom Ray;
And all these Storms which now his Beauty blend,
Shall turn to Calms, and timely clear away.
So likewise, Love, chear you your heavy Spright,
And change old Year's Annoy, to new Delight.
After long Storms and Tempests sad Assay,
Which hardly I endured heretofore,
In dread of Death and dangerous Dismay,
With which my silly Bark was tossed sore;
I do at length descry the happy Shore,
In which I hope e're long for to arrive:
Fair Soil it seems from far, and fraught with Store
Of all that dear and dainty is alive.
Most happy he, that can at last atchive
The joyous Safety of so sweet a Rest;
Whose least Delight sufficeth to deprive
Remembrance of all Pains which him opprest.
All Pains are nothing in respect of this,
All Sorrows short that gain eternal Bliss.
Coming to kiss her Lips (such Grace I found)
Me seem'd I smelt a Garden of sweet Flowres,
That dainty Odours from them threw around,
For Damzels fit to deck their Lover's Bowres.
Her Lips did smell like unto Gilliflowers,
Her ruddy Cheeks like unto Roses red;
Her snowy Brows like budded Bellamoures;
Her lovely Eyes, like Pinks but newly spred;
Her goodly Bosom, like a Strawberry Bed;
Her Neck, like to a Bunch of Cullambines;
Her Brest like Lillies, ere their Leaves be shed;
Her Nipples like young blossom'd Jessemines:
Such fragrant Flowres do give most odorous Smell,
But her sweet Odour did them all excel.
The Doubt which ye misdeem, fair Love, is vain,
That fondly fear to lose your Liberty;
When losing one, two Liberties ye gain,
And make him bound, that Bondage earst did fly.
Sweet be the Bands, the which true Love doth tye,
Without Constraint, or dread of any Ill:
The gentle Bird feels no Captivity
Within her Cage, but sings, and feeds her fill.
There Pride dare not approach, nor Discord spill
The League 'twixt them, that loyal Love hath bound;
But simple Truth and mutual Good-will,
Seeks with sweet Peace to salve each other's Wound;
There Faith doth fearless dwell in brasen Towre,
And spotless Pleasure builds her sacred Bowre.
To all those happy Blessings which ye have,
With plenteous Hand by Heaven upon you thrown,
This one Disparagement they to you gave,
That ye your Love lent to so mean a one.
Ye whose high Words surpassing Paragon,
Could not on Earth have found one fit for Mate,
He but in Heaven matchable to none,
Why did ye stoop unto so lowly State?
But ye thereby much greater Glory gate,
Than had ye sorted with a Prince's Peer:
For, now your Light doth more it self dilate,
And in my Darkness, greater doth appear.
Yet since your Light hath once enlumin'd me
With my Reflex, yours shall encreased be.
Like as a Huntsman after weary Chace,
Seeing the Game from him escape away,
Sits down to rest him in some shady Place,
With panting Hounds beguiled of their Prey:
So after long Pursute and vain Assay,
When I all weary had the Chace forsook,
The gentle Deer return'd the self-same way,
Thinking to quench her Thirst at the next Brook;
There she beholding me with milder Look,
Sought not to fly, but fearless still did bide;
Till I in Hand her yet half trembling took,
And with her own Good-will, her firmly tide.
Strange thing me seem'd to see a Beast so wild,
So goodly wone, with her own Will beguil'd.
Most glorious Lord of Life, that on this Day
Didst make thy Triumph over Death and Sin;
And having harrow'd Hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence Captive, us to win:
This joyous Day, dear Lord, with Joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest dy,
Being with thy dear Blood clean wash'd from Sin,
May live for ever in Felicity;
And that thy Love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all-like dear didst buy,
With Love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear Love, like as we ought,
Love is the Lesson which the Lord us taught.
The famous Warriours of the antique World
Us'd Trophees to erect in stately wise,
In which they would the Records have enroll'd,
Of their great Deeds and valorous Emprise.
What Trophee then shall I most fit devise,
In which I may record the Memory
Of my Love's Conquest, peerless Beauty's Prise,
Adorn'd with Honour, Love, and Chastity?
Even this Verse, vow'd to Eternity,
Shall be thereof immortal Moniment;
And tells her Praise to all Posterity,
That may admire such World's rare Wonderment:
The happy Purchase of my glorious Spoil,
Gotten at last with Labour and long Toil.
Fresh Spring, the Herald of Love's mighty King,
In whose Coat-armour richly are displaid
All sorts of Flowres the which on Earth do spring,
In goodly Colours gloriously array'd:
Go to my Love, where she is careless laid,
Yet in her Winter's Bowre not well awake;
Tell her the joyous Time will not be staid,
Unless she do him by the Fore-lock take.
Bid her therefore her self soon ready make
To wait on Love amongst his lovely Crew;
Where every one that misseth then her Make,
Shall be by him amearst with Penance dew.
Make haste therefore, sweet Love, whilst it is prime,
For none can call again the passed time.
I Joy to see how in your drawen work,
Your self unto the Bee ye do compare;
And me unto the Spider, that doth lurk
In close await, to catch her unaware:
Right so your self were caught in cunning Snare
Of a dear Foe, and thralled to his Love;
In whose straight Bands ye now captived are
So firmly, that ye never may remove.
But as your Work is woven all about,
With Woodbind Flowers and fragrant Eglantine;
So sweet your Prison you in time shall prove,
With many dear Delights bedecked fine.
And all thenceforth eternal Peace shall see,
Between the Spider and the gentle Bee.
Oft when my Spirit doth spred her bolder Wings,
In mind to mount up to the purest Sky,
It down is weigh'd with Thought of earthly things,
And clogg'd with Burden of Mortality;
Where, when that soveraign Beauty it doth spy,
Resembling Heaven's Glory in her Light;
Drawn with sweet Pleasure's Bait, it back doth fly,
And unto Heavens forgets her former Flight.
There my frail Fancy fed with full Delight,
Doth bathe in Bliss, and mantleth most at ease;
Ne thinks of other Heaven, but how it might
Her Heart's Desire with most Contentment please.
Heart need not with none other Happiness,
But here on Earth to have such Heaven's Bliss.
Being my self captived here in Care,
My Heart, whom none with servile Bands can tye,
But the fair Tresses of your golden Hair,
Breaking his Prison, forth to you doth fly:
Like as a Bird, that in one's Hand doth spy
Desired Food, to it doth make his flight;
Even so my Heart, that wont on your fair Eye
To feed his fill, flies back unto your sight.
Do you him take, and in your Bosom bright
Gently engage, that he may be your Thrall:
Perhaps he there may learn, with rare Delight
To sing your Name and Praises over all.
That it hereafter may you not repent,
Him lodging in your Bosom to have lent.
Most happy Letters fram'd by skilful Trade,
With which that happy Name was first design'd,
The which three times thrice happy hath me made,
With Gifts of Body, Fortune, and of Mind.
The first, my Being to me gave by kind,
From Mother's Womb deriv'd by due Descent;
The second is my soveraign Queen most kind,
That Honour and large Riches to me lent;
The third, my Love, my Life's last Ornament,
By whom my Spirit out of Dust was rais'd;
To speak her Praise and Glory excellent,
Of all alive most worthy to be prais'd.
Ye three Elizabeths for ever live,
That three such Graces did unto me give.
One day I wrote her Name upon the Strand,
But came the Waves and washed it away:
Again, I wrote it with a second Hand,
But came the Tide, and made my Pains his Prey.
Vain Man, said she, that doost in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalize;
For I my self shall like to this decay,
And eke my Name be wiped out likewise.
Not so, quoth I, let baser things devise
To die in Dust, but you shall live by Fame;
Verse your Vertues rare shall eternize,
And in the Heavens write your glorious Name.
Where, whenas Death shall all the World subdew,
Our Love shall live, and later Life renew.
Fair Bosom fraught with Vertue's richest Treasure,
The Nest of Love, the Lodging of Delight,
The Bowre of Bliss, the Paradise of Pleasure,
The sacred Harbour of that heavenly Spright;
How was I ravish'd with your lovely Sight,
And my frail Thoughts too rashly led astray?
Whiles diving deep through amorous Insight,
On the sweet Spoil of Beauty they did prey.
And 'twixt her Paps, like early Fruit in May,
Whose Harvest seem'd to hasten now apace,
They loosely did their wanton Wings display,
And there to rest themselves did boldly place.
Sweet Thoughts, I envy your so happy Rest,
Which oft I wish'd, yet never was so blest.
Was it a Dream, or did I see it plain?
A goodly Table of pure Ivory
All spred with Juncats, fit to entertain
The greatest Prince with pompous Royalty:
'Mongst which, there in a silver Dish did lie
Two golden Apples of unvalu'd Price;
Far passing those which Hercules came by,
Or those which Atalanta did entice;
Exceeding sweet, yet void of sinful Vice,
That many sought, yet none could ever taste,
Sweet Fruit of Pleasure, brought from Paradise
By Love himself, and in his Garden plac'd.
Her Brest that Table was so richly spred,
My thoughts the Guests, which could thereon have fed.
Lacking my Love, I go from Place to Place,
Like a young Fawn, that late hath lost the Hind;
And seek each where, where last I saw her Face,
Whose Image yet I carry fresh in Mind.
I seek the Fields with her late Footing sign'd,
I seek her Bowre with her late Presence deck't;
Yet nor in Field nor Bowre I can her find,
Yet Field and Bowre are full of her Aspect:
But when mine Eyes I thereunto direct,
They idly back return to me again;
And when I hope to see their true Object,
I find my self but fed with Fancies vain.
Cease then, mine Eyes, to seek her self to see,
And let my Thoughts behold her self in me.
Men call you Fair, and you do credit it,
For that your self ye daily such do see
But the true Fair, that is, the gentle Wit,
And vertuous Mind, is much more prais'd of me:
For all the rest, how ever Fair it be,
Shall turn to naught and lose that glorious Hue;
But only that is permanent and free
From frail Corruption, that doth Flesh ensew:
That is true Beauty; that doth argue you
To be Divine, and born of heavenly Seed;
Deriv'd from that fair Spirit, from whom all true
And perfect Beauty did at first proceed:
He only Fair, and what he Fair hath made;
All other Fair, like Flowres, untimely fade.
After so long a Race as I have run
Through Fairy-Land, which those six Books compile,
Give leave to rest me, being half foredun,
And gather to my self new Breath awhile.
Then, as a Steed refreshed after Toil,
Out of my Prison I will break anew,
And stoutly will that second Work assoil,
With strong Endeavour and Attention due.
Till then give leave to me, in pleasant Mew
To sport my Muse, and sing my Love's sweet Praise;
The Contemplation of whose heavenly Hue,
My Spirit to an higher pitch will raise.
But let her Praises yet be low and mean,
Fit for the Hand-maid of the Fairy Queen.
Fair is my Love, when her fair golden Hairs,
With the loose Wind ye waving chance to mark:
Fair when the Rose in her red Cheek appears,
Or in her Eyes the Fire of Love doth spark.
Fair when her Brest, like a rich laden Bark
With precious Merchandize, she forth doth lay:
Fair when that Cloud of Pride, which oft doth dark
Her goodly Light, with Smiles she drives away.
But fairest she, when so she doth display
The Gate with Pearls and Rubies richly dight;
Through which her Words so wise do make their way,
To bear the Message of her gentle Spright:
The rest be Works of Nature's Wonderment,
But this the Work of Heart's Astonishment.
Joy of my Life, full oft for loving you
I bless my Lot, that was so lucky plac'd:
But then the more your own mishap I rue
That are so much by so mean Love embas'd.
For had the equal Heavens so much you grac'd
In this as in the rest, ye mote invent
Some heavenly Wit, whose Verse could have enchac'd
Your glorious Name in golden Moniment.
But since ye deign'd so goodly to relent
To me your Thrall, in whom is little worth,
That little that I am, shall all be spent
In setting your immortal Praises forth:
Whose lofty Argument up-lifting me,
Shall lift you up unto an high Degree.
Let not one Spark of filthy lustful Fire
Break out, that may her sacred Peace molest;
Ne one light Glance of sensual Desire
Attempt to work her gentle Mind's Unrest.
But pure Affections bred in spotless Brest,
And modest Thoughts breath'd from well-temper'd Sprights
Go visit her, in her chaste Bowre of Rest,
Accompany'd with Angel-like Delights.
There fill your self with those most joyous Sights,
The which myself could never yet attain;
But speak no word to her of these sad Plights,
Which her too constant Stiffness doth constrain.
Only behold her rare Perfection,
And bless your Fortune's fair Election.
The World that cannot deem of worldly Things,
When I do praise her, say I do but flatter:
So doth the Cuckow, when the Mavis sings,
Begin his witless Note apace to chatter.
But they that skill not of so heavenly matter,
All that they know not, envy or admire,
Rather than envy let them wonder at her,
But not to deem of her Desert aspire.
Deep in the Closet of my Parts entire,
Her Worth is written with a golden Quill;
That me with heavenly Fury doth inspire,
And my glad Mouth with her sweet Praises fill.
Which when as Fame in her shrill Trump shall thunder,
Let the World chuse to envy or to wonder.
Venemous Tongue, tipt with vile Adder's Sting,
Of that self kind with which the Furies fell
Their snaky Heads do comb, from which a Spring
Of poisoned Words and spightful Speeches well;
Let all the Plagues and horrid Pains of Hell
Upon thee fall for thine accursed hire;
That with false forged Lyes, which thou didst tell,
In my true Love did stir up Coals of Ire,
The Sparks whereof let kindle thine own Fire,
And catching hold on thine own wicked Head,
Consume thee quite, that didst with Guile conspire
In my sweet Peace such Breaches to have bred.
Shame be thy Meed, and Mischief thy Reward,
Due to thy self, that it for me prepar'd.
Since I did leave the Presence of my Love,
Many long weary days I have out-worn;
And many Nights, that slowly seem'd to move
Their sad Protract from Evening until Morn.
For, when as Day the Heaven doth adorn,
I wish that Night the noyous Day would end:
And whenas Night hath us of Light forlorn,
I wish that Day would shortly re-ascend.
Thus I the time with Expectation spend,
And fain my Grief with Changes to beguile;
That further seems his Term still to extend,
And maketh every Minute seem a Mile.
So Sorrow still doth seem too long to last,
But joyous Hours do fly away too fast.
Since I have lackt the Comfort of that Light,
The which was wont to lead my Thoughts astray,
I wander as in Darkness of the Night,
Affraid of every Danger's least Dismay.
Ne ought I see, though in the clearest Day,
When others gaze upon their Shadows vain;
But th' only Image of that heavenly Ray,
Whereof some Glance doth in mine Eye remain.
Of which beholding the Idea plain,
Through Contemplation of my purest Part,
With Light thereof I do my self sustain,
And thereon feed my love-affamisht Heart.
But with such Brightness whilst I fill my Mind,
I starve my Body, and mine Eyes do blind.
Like as the Culver on the bared Bough,
Sits mourning for the Absence of her Mate;
And in her Songs sends many a wishful Vow,
For his return that seems to linger late:
So I alone, now left disconsolate,
Mourn to my self the Absence of my Love;
And wandering here and there all desolate,
Seek with my Plaints to match that mournful Dove.
Ne joy of ought that under Heaven doth hove,
Can comfort me, but her own joyous Sight;
Whose sweet Aspect both God and Man can move,
In her unspotted Pleasance to delight.
Dark is my Day, whiles her fair Light I miss,
And dead my Life that wants such lively Bliss.
In Youth before I wexed old,
The blinded Boy, Venus' Baby,
For want of Cunning made me bold,
In bitter Hive to grope for Honey:
But when he saw me stung and cry,
He took Wing and away did fly.
As Diane hunted on a day,
She chanc'd to come where Cupid lay,
His Quiver by his Head:
One of his Shafts she stole away,
And one of hers did close convey
Into the other's stead:
With that Love wounded my Love's Heart,
But Diane Beasts with Cupid's Dart.
I saw, in secret to my Dame
How little Cupid humbly came,
And said to her, All hail my Mother.
But when he saw me laugh, for shame
His Face with bashful Blood did flame,
Not knowing Venus from the other.
Then, never blush, Cupid, quoth I,
For many have err'd in this Beauty.
Upon a day, as Love lay sweetly slumbring
All in his Mother's Lap,
A gentle Bee with his loud Trumpet murm'ring,
About him flew by hap.
Whereof when he was wakened with the Noise,
And saw the Beast so small;
What's this (quoth he) that gives so weak a Voice,
That wakens Men withall?
In angry wise he flies about,
And threatens all with Courage stout,
To whom his Mother closely smiling said,
'Twixt earnest and 'twixt game;
See, thou thy self likewise art little made,
If thou regard the same:
And yet thou sufferest neither Gods in Sky,
Nor Men in earth to rest;
But when thou art disposed cruelty,
Their Sleep thou dost molest.
Then either change thy Cruelty,
Or give like leave unto the Fly.
Nath'less, the cruel Boy, not so content,
Would needs the Fly pursue;
And in his Hand with heedless Hardiment,
Him caught for to subdue.
But when on it he hasty Hand did lay,
The Bee him stung therefore:
Now out alas, he cride! and wele-away!
I wounded am full sore;
The Fly that I so much did scorn,
Hath hurt me with his little Horn.
Unto his Mother straight he weeping came,
And of his Grief complain'd:
Who could not chuse but laugh at his fond Game,
Though sad to see him pain'd.
Think now (quoth she) my Son, how great the Smart
Of those whom thou doost wound;
Full many thou hast pricked to the Heart,
That Pity never found:
Therefore henceforth some Pity take,
When thou dost Spoil of Lovers make.
She took him straight full piteously lamenting,
And wrapt him in her Smock;
She wrapt him softly, all the while repenting,
That he the Fly did mock.
She drest his Wound, and it embalmed well
With Salve of soveraign Might;
And then she bath'd him in a dainty Well,
The Well of dear Delight.
Who would not oft be stung as this,
To be so bath'd in Venus' Bliss?
The wanton Boy was shortly well recur'd
Of that his Malady
But he, soon after, fresh again enur'd
His former Cruelty.
And since that time he wounded hath my self
With his sharp Dart of Love:
And now forgets the cruel careless Elf
His Mother's Heast to prove.
So now I languish, till he please
My pining Anguish to appease.
[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 5:1211-49]