Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
The Shepherd’s Song of Venus and Adonis
By Henry Constable (1562–1613)
VENUS fair did ride,
Silver doves they drew her,
By the pleasant launds,
Ere the sun did rise:
Vesta’s beauty rich        5
Opened wide to view her,
Philomel records
  Pleasing harmonies.
Every bird of spring
Cheerfully did sing,        10
  Paphos’ goddess they salute;
Now Love’s Queen so fair
Had of mirth no care:
  For her son had made her mute.
In her breast so tender,        15
He a shaft did enter,
  When her eyes beheld a boy:
Adonis was he named,
By his mother shamed: 1
  Yet he now is Venus’ joy.        20
Him alone she met
  Ready bound for hunting;
Him she kindly greets,
  And his journey stays;
Him she seeks to kiss,        25
  No devises wanting;
Him her eyes still woo;
  Him her tongue still prays.
He with blushing red
Hangeth down the head,        30
  Not a kiss can he afford;
His face is turned away,
Silence said her nay,
  Still she woo’d him for a word.
‘Speak,’ she said, ‘thou fairest;        35
  Beauty thou impairest,
See me, I am pale and wan:
  Lovers all adore me,
  I for love implore thee;’
—Crystal tears with that down ran.        40
Him herewith she forced
  To come sit down by her,
She his neck embraced,
  Gazing in his face:
He, like one transformed,        45
  Stirred no look to eye her;
Every herb did woo him,
  Growing in that place,
Each bird with a ditty
  Prayed him for pity        50
In behalf of Beauty’s Queen:
  Water’s gentle murmur
  Craved him to love her:
Yet no liking could be seen;
‘Boy,’ she said, ‘look on me,        55
Still I gaze upon thee,
Speak, I pray thee, my delight.’
  Coldly he replied,
  And in brief denied
To bestow on her a sight.        60
‘I am now too young
To be won by beauty,
Tender are my years
I am yet a bud.’
‘Fair thou art,’ she said,        65
‘Then it is thy duty,
Wert thou but a blossom,
To effect my good.
Every beauteous flower
Boasteth in my power,        70
Birds and beasts my laws effect:
Myrrha thy fair mother,
Most of any other,
Did my lovely hests respect.
Be with me delighted,        75
Thou shalt be requited,
Every Nymph on thee shall tend:
All the Gods shall love thee,
Man shall not reprove thee:
Love himself shall be thy friend.’        80
‘Wend thee from me, Venus,
  I am not disposed;
Thou wring’st me too hard,
  Prithee let me go;
Fie! what a pain it is        85
Thus to be enclosed,
If love begin in labour,
It will end in woe.’
‘Kiss me, I will leave.’
‘Here a kiss receive.’        90
‘A short kiss I do it find:
Wilt thou leave me so?
Yet thou shalt not go;
Breathe once more thy balmy wind.
It smelleth of the myrrh-tree,        95
That to the world did bring thee,
Never was perfume so sweet.’
When she had thus spoken,
She gave him a token,
And their naked bosoms meet.        100
‘Now,’ he said, ‘let ’s go,
Hark, the hounds are crying,
Grisly Boar is up,
Huntsmen follow fast.’
At the name of Boar,        105
Venus seemed dying,
Deadly coloured pale,
Roses overcast.
‘Speak,’ said she, ‘no more,
Of following the Boar,        110
Thou unfit for such a chase:
Course the fearful Hare,
Venison do not spare,
If thou wilt yield Venus grace.
Shun the Boar, I pray thee,        115
Else I still will stay thee.’
Herein he vowed to please her mind;
Then her arms enlarged,
Loth she him discharged;
Forth he went as swift as wind.        120
Thetis Phœbus’ steeds
  In the West retained,
Hunting sport was past;
  Love her love did seek:
Sight of him too soon,        125
Gentle Queen she gained,
On the ground he lay,
Blood hath left his cheek.
For an orped 2 swine
Smit him in the groin,        130
Deadly wound his death did bring:
Which when Venus found,
She fell in a swound,
And awaked, her hands did wring.
Nymphs and Satyrs skipping,        135
Came together tripping,
  Echo every cry expressed:
Venus by her power
Turn’d him to a flower,
Which she weareth in her crest.        140
Note 1. See the story of Myrrha in Ovid. [back]
Note 2. bristly. [back]

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