Tillotson and Newdigate: "The substance of this Nymphal is a fable of Venus and Cupid, apparently original, but comparable to such briefer anecdotes as Anacreontea 33 (copied by Herrick as The Cheat of Cupid; Drayton's sonnet in Idea 23 shows his knowledge of it), Bion, Idyll 4 (cf. SC March), Moschus, Idyll 1; Jonson, Hue and Cry after Cupid, 1608, H. Reynolds, Venusses Search after Cupid, 1628, The Barginet of Antimachus (T. Lodge, Englands Helicon, 1600) and many of Herrick's lyrics. The meeting of Venus with a ferryman might derive from Lyly, Sapho and Phao 1, 1, or directly from Lyly's source in Aelian, translated by Abraham Fleming. The use of the ferrying and the cosmetics in the latter suggests that Drayton knew the work. But in Douglas Bush's phrase (223), Drayton 'domesticates mythology' in a new way. He is most skilful in his oblique presentation of his fable, especially when he uses the garrulous ordinariness of Codrus — a Thames waterman, and quite unlike either Phao or Charon. The narrative has an ulterior motive. As in the 4th and 10th Nymphals, Drayton is satirizing the 'fond Felicians,' this time for their credulity and their delight in cosmetics; and the banishment of Love from his 'Elizium' may have a deeper significance" Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1931-61) 5:222.
W. W. Greg: "We have here the very essence of whatever most delicately and quaintly exquisite the half sincere and half playful ideal of pastoral had generated since the days of Moschus" Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906) 109.
The Nimphes, the Queene of love pursue,
Which oft doth hide her from their view:
But lastly from th' Elizian Nation,
She banisht is by Proclamation.
FLORIMEL. LELIPA. NAIIS.
CODRUS a Feriman.
Deare Lelipa, where hast thou bin so long,
Was't not enough for thee to doe me wrong;
To rob me of thy selfe, but with more spight
To take my Naiis from me, my delight?
Yee lazie Girles, your heads where have ye layd,
Whil'st Venus here her anticke prankes hath playd?
Nay Florimel, we should of you enquire,
The onely Mayden, whom we all admire
For Beauty, Wit, and Chastity, that you
Amongst the rest of all our Virgin crue,
In quest of her, that you so slacke should be,
And leave the charge to Naiis and to me.
Y'are much mistaken Lelipa, 'twas I,
Of all the Nimphes, that first did her descry,
At our great Hunting, when as in the Chase
Amongst the rest, me thought I saw one face
So exceeding faire, and curious, yet unknowne
That I that face not possibly could owne.
And in the course, so Goddesse like a gate,
Each step so full of majesty and state;
That with my selfe, I thus resolv'd that she
Lesse then a Goddesse (surely) could not be:
Thus as Idalia, stedfastly I ey'd,
A little Nimphe that kept close by her side
I noted, as unknowne as was the other,
Which Cupid was disguis'd so by his mother.
The little purblinde Rogue, if you had seene,
You would have thought he verily had beene
One of Diana's Votaries, so clad,
He every thing so like a Huntresse had:
And she had put false eyes into his head,
That very well he might us all have sped.
And still they kept together in the Reare,
But as the Boy should have shot at the Deare,
He shot amongst the Nimphes, which when I saw,
Closer up to them I began to draw;
And fell to hearken, when they naught suspecting,
Because I seem'd them utterly neglecting,
I heard her say, my little Cupid too't,
Now Boy or never, at the Bevie shoot.
Have at them Venus, quoth the Boy anon,
I'le pierce the proud'st, had she a heart of stone:
With that I cryde out, Treason, Treason, when
The Nimphes that were before, turning agen
To understand the meaning of this cry,
They out of sight were vanish't presently.
Thus but for me, the Mother and the Sonne,
Here in Elizium, had us all undone.
Beleeve me gentle Maide, 'twas very well,
But now heare me my beauteous Florimel.
Great Mars his Lemman being cryde out here,
She to Felicia goes, still to be neare
Th' Elizian Nimphes, for at us is her ayme,
The fond Felicians are her common game.
I upon pleasure idly wandring thither,
Something worth laughter from those fooles to gather,
Found her, who thus had lately beene surpriz'd;
Fearing the like, had her faire selfe disguis'd
Like an old Witch, and gave out to have skill
In telling Fortunes either good or ill;
And that more neatly she with them might close,
She cut the Cornes, of dainty Ladies Toes:
She gave them Phisicke, either to coole or moove them,
And powders too to make their sweet Hearts love them.
And her sonne Cupid, as her Zany went,
Carrying her boxes, whom she often sent
To know of her faire Patients how they slept.
By which meanes she, and the blinde Archer crept
Into their favours, who would often Toy,
And tooke delight in sporting with the Boy;
Which many times amongst his waggish tricks,
These wanton Wenches in the bosome pricks;
That they before which had some franticke fits,
Were by his Witchcraft quite out of their wits.
Watching this Wisard, my minde gave me still
She some Impostor was, and that this skill
Was counterfeit, and had some other end.
For which discovery, as I did attend,
Her wrinckled vizard being very thin,
My piercing eye perceiv'd her cleerer skin
Through the thicke Rivels perfectly to shine;
When I perceiv'd a beauty so divine,
As that so clouded, I began to pry
A little nearer, when I chanc't to spye
That pretty Mole upon her Cheeke, which when
I saw; survaying every part agen,
Upon her left hand, I perceiv'd the skarre
Which she received in the Trojan warre;
Which when I found, I could not chuse but smile,
She, who againe had noted me the while,
And by my carriage, found I had descry'd her,
Slipt out of sight, and presently doth hide her.
Nay then my dainty Girles, I make no doubt
But I my selfe as strangely found her out
As either of you both; in Field and Towne,
When like a Pedlar she went up and downe:
For she had got a pretty handsome Packe,
Which she had fardled neatly at her backe:
And opening it, she had the perfect cry,
Come my faire Girles, let's see, what will you buy?
Here be fine night Maskes, plastred well within,
To supple wrinckles, and to smooth the skin:
Heer's Christall, Corall, Bugle, Jet, in Beads,
Cornelian Bracelets, for my dainty Maids:
Then Periwigs and Searcloth-Gloves doth show,
To make their hands as white as Swan or Snow:
Then takes she forth a curious gilded boxe,
Which was not opened but by double locks;
Takes them aside, and doth a Paper spred,
In which was painting both for white and red:
And next a piece of Silke, wherein there lyes
For the decay'd, false Breasts, false Teeth, false Eyes:
And all the while shee's opening of her Packe,
Cupid with's wings bound close downe to his backe:
Playing the Tumbler on a Table gets,
And shewes the Ladies many pretty feats.
I seeing behinde him that he had such things,
For well I knew no boy but he had wings,
I view'd his Mothers beauty, which to me
Lesse then a Goddesse said, she could not be:
With that quoth I to her, this other day,
As you doe now, so one that came this way,
Shew'd me a neate piece, with the needle wrought,
How Mars and Venus were together caught
By polt-foot Vulcan in an Iron net;
It griev'd me after that I chanc't to let,
It to goe from me: whereat waxing red,
Into her Hamper she hung downe her head,
As she had stoup't some noveltie to seeke,
But 'twas indeed to hide her blushing Cheeke:
When she her Trinkets trusseth up anon,
E'r we were 'ware, and instantly was gone.
But hearke you Nimphes, amongst our idle prate,
Tis current newes through the Elizian State,
That Venus and her Sonne were lately seene
Here in Elizium, whence they oft have beene
Banisht by our Edict, and yet still merry,
Were here in publique row'd o'r at the Ferry,
Where as 'tis said, the Ferryman and she
Had much discourse, she was so full of glee,
Codrus much wondring at the blind Boyes Bow.
And what it was, that easly you may know,
Codrus himselfe comes rowing here at hand.
Codrus Come hither, let your Whirry stand,
I hope upon you, ye will take no state
Because two Gods have grac't your Boat of late;
Good Ferry-man I pray thee let us heare
What talke ye had, aboard thee whilst they were.
Why thus faire Nimphes.
As I a Fare had lately past,
And thought that side to ply,
I heard one as it were in haste;
A Boate, a Boate, to cry,
Which as I was about to bring,
And came to view my Fraught,
Thought I, what more then heavenly thing,
Hath fortune hither brought.
She seeing mine eyes still on her were,
Soone, smilingly, quoth she;
Sirra, looke to your Roother there,
Why lookst thou thus at me?
And nimbly stept into my Boat,
With her a little Lad
Naked and blind, yet did I note,
That Bow and Shafts he had,
And two Wings to his Shoulders fixt,
Which stood like little Sayles,
With farre more various colours mixt,
Then be your Peacocks Tayles;
I seeing this little dapper Elfe,
Such Armes as these to beare,
Quoth I thus softly to my selfe,
What strange thing have we here,
I never saw the like thought I:
Tis more then strange to me,
To have a child have wings to fly,
And yet want eyes to see;
Sure this is some devised toy,
Or it transform'd hath bin,
For such a thing, halfe Bird, halfe Boy,
I thinke was never seene;
And in my Boat I turnd about,
And wistly viewd the Lad,
And cleerely saw his eyes were out,
Though Bow and Shafts he had.
As wistly she did me behold,
How likst thou him quoth she,
Why well, quoth I; and better should,
Had he but eyes to see.
How sayst thou honest friend, quoth she,
Wilt thou a Prentice take,
I thinke in time, though blind he be,
A Ferry-man hee'll make;
To guide my passage Boat quoth I,
His fine hands were not made,
He hath beene bred too wantonly
To undertake my trade;
Why helpe him to a Master then,
Quoth she, such Youths be scant,
It cannot be but there be men
That such a Boy do want.
Quoth I, when you your best have done,
No better way you'll finde,
Then to a Harper binde your Sonne,
Since most of them are blind.
The lovely Mother and the Boy,
Laught heartily thereat,
As at some nimble jest or toy,
To heare my homely Chat.
Quoth I, I pray you let me know,
Came he thus first to light,
Or by some sicknesse, hurt, or blow,
Depryved of his sight;
Nay sure, quoth she, he thus was borne,
Tis strange borne blind, quoth I,
I feare you put this as a scorne
On my simplicity;
Quoth she, thus blind I did him beare,
Quoth I, if't be no lye,
Then he's the first blind man Ile sweare,
Ere practisd Archery;
A man, quoth she, nay there you misse,
He's still a Boy as now,
Nor to be elder then he is,
The Gods will him alow;
To be no elder then he is,
Then sure he is some sprite
I straight replide, againe at this,
The Goddesse laught out right;
It is a mystery to me,
An Archer and yet blinde;
Quoth I againe, how can it be,
That he his marke should finde;
The Gods, quoth she, whose will it was
That he should want his sight,
That he in something should surpasse,
To recompence their spight,
Gave him this gift, though at his Game
He still shot in the darke,
That he should have so certaine ayme,
As not to misse his marke.
By this time we were come a shore,
When me my Fare she payd,
But not a word she uttered more,
Nor had I her bewrayd,
Of Venus nor of Cupid I
Before did never heare,
But that a Fisher comming by
Then, told me who they were.
Well: against them then proceed
As before we have decreed,
That the Goddesse and her Child,
Be for ever hence exild,
Which Lelipa you shall proclaime
In our wise Apollo's name.
To all th' Elizian Nimphish Nation,
Thus we make our Proclamation,
Against Venus and her Sonne
For the mischeefe they have done,
After the next last of May,
The fixt and peremtory day,
If she or Cupid shall be found
Upon our Elizian ground,
Our Edict, meere Rogues shall make them,
And as such, who ere shall take them,
Them shall into prison put,
Cupids wings shall then be cut,
His Bow broken, and his Arrowes
Given to Boyes to shoot at Sparrowes,
And this Vagabund be sent,
Having had due punishment
To mount Cytheron, which first fed him:
Where his wanton Mother bred him,
And there out of her protection
Dayly to receive correction;
Then her Pasport shall be made,
And to Cyprus Isle convayd,
And at Paphos in her Shryne,
Where she hath beene held divine,
For her offences found contrite,
There to live an Anchorite.