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
Extracts from Venus and Adonis
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
(See full text.)

O, WHAT a sight it was, wistly to view
How she came stealing to the wayward boy!
To note the fighting conflict of her hue,
How white and red each other did destroy!
  But now her cheek was pale, and by and by        5
  It flash’d forth fire, as lightning from the sky.
Now was she just before him as he sat,
And like a lowly lover down she kneels;
With one fair hand she heaveth up his hat,
Her other tender hand his fair cheek feels:        10
  His tenderer cheek receives her soft hand’s print,
  As apt as new-fall’n snow takes any dint.
O, what a war of looks was then between them!
Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing;
His eyes saw her eyes as they had not seen them;        15
Her eyes woo’d still, his eyes disdain’d the wooing:
  And all this dumb play had his acts made plain
  With tears, which, chorus-like, her eyes did rain.
Full gently now she takes him by the hand,
A lily prison’d in a gaol of snow,        20
Or ivory in an alabaster band;
So white a friend engirts so white a foe:
  This beauteous combat, wilful and unwilling,
  Show’d like two silver doves that sit a-billing.
*        *        *        *        *
‘Thou hadst been gone,’ quoth she, ‘sweet boy, ere this,        25
But that thou told’st me thou wouldst hunt the boar.
O, be advised! thou know’st not what it is
With javelin’s point a churlish swine to gore,
  Whose tushes never sheathed he whetteth still,
  Like to a mortal butcher bent to kill.        30
‘On his bow-back he hath a battle set
Of bristly pikes, that ever threat his foes;
His eyes, like glow-worms, shine when he doth fret;
His snout digs sepulchres where’er he goes;
  Being moved, he strikes whate’er is in his way,        35
  And whom he strikes his crooked tushes slay.
‘His brawny sides, with hairy bristles arm’d,
Are better proof than thy spear’s point can enter;
His short thick neck cannot be easily harm’d;
Being ireful, on the lion he will venture:        40
  The thorny brambles and embracing bushes,
  As fearful of him, part, through whom he rushes.
‘Alas, he nought esteems that face of thine,
To which Love’s eyes pay tributary gazes;
Nor thy soft hands, sweet lips and crystal eyne,        45
Whose full perfection all the world amazes;
  But having thee at vantage,—wondrous dread!
  Would root these beauties as he roots the mead.
‘O, let him keep his loathsome cabin still;
Beauty hath nought to do with such foul fiends:        50
Come not within his danger by thy will;
They that thrive well take counsel of their friends.
  When thou didst name the boar, not to dissemble,
  I fear’d thy fortune, and my joints did tremble.’
*        *        *        *        *
‘But if thou needs wilt hunt, be ruled by me;        55
Uncouple at the timorous flying hare,
Or at the fox which lives by subtlety,
Or at the roe which no encounter dare:
  Pursue these fearful creatures o’er the downs,
  And on thy well-breathed horse keep with thy hounds.        60
‘And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare,
Mark the poor wretch, to overshoot his troubles
How he outruns the wind and with what care
He cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles:
  The many musets 1 through the which he goes        65
  Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes.
‘Sometime he runs among a flock of sheep,
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell,
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep,
To stop the loud pursuers in their yell,        70
  And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer:
  Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on fear:
‘For there his smell with others being mingled,
The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt,
Ceasing their clamorous cry till they have singled        75
With much ado the cold fault cleanly out;
  Then do they spend their mouths: Echo replies,
  As if another chase were in the skies.
‘By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill,
Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear,        80
To hearken if his foes pursue him still:
Anon their loud alarums he doth hear;
  And now his grief may be compared well
  To one sore sick that hears the passing-bell.
‘Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch        85
Turn, and return, indenting with the way;
Each envious brier his weary legs doth scratch,
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay:
  For misery is trodden on by many,
  And being low never relieved by any.’
*        *        *        *        *
With this, he breaketh from the sweet embrace,
Of those fair arms which bound him to her breast,
And homeward through the dark laund runs apace;
Leaves Love upon her back deeply distress’d.
  Look, how a bright star shooteth from the sky,        95
  So glides he in the night from Venus’ eye;
Which after him she darts, as one on shore
Gazing upon a late-embarked friend,
Till the wild waves will have him seen no more,
Whose ridges with the meeting clouds contend:        100
  So did the merciless and pitchy night
  Fold in the object that did feed her sight.
Whereat amazed, as one that unaware
Hath dropp’d a precious jewel in the flood,
Or stonish’d as night-wanderers often are,        105
Their light blown out in some mistrustful wood,
  Even so confounded in the dark she lay,
  Having lost the fair discovery of her way.
And now she beats her heart, whereat it groans,
That all the neighbour caves, as seeming troubled,        110
Make verbal repetition of her moans;
Passion on passion deeply is redoubled:
  ‘Ay me!’ she cries, and twenty times ‘Woe, woe!’
  And twenty echoes twenty times cry so.
*        *        *        *        *
She looks upon his lips, and they are pale;        115
She takes him by the hand, and that is cold;
She whispers in his ears a heavy tale,
As if they heard the woeful words she told;
  She lifts the coffer-lids that close his eyes,
  Where, lo, two lamps, burnt out, in darkness lies;        120
Two glasses, where herself herself beheld,
A thousand times, and now no more reflect;
Their virtue lost, wherein they late excell’d,
And every beauty robb’d of his effect:
  ‘Wonder of time,’ quoth she, ‘this is my spite,        125
  That, thou being dead, the day should yet be light.
‘Since thou art dead, lo, here I prophesy:
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend:
It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end,        130
  Ne’er settled equally, but high or low,
  That all love’s pleasure shall not match his woe.
‘It shall be fickle, false and full of fraud,
Bud and be blasted in a breathing-while;
The bottom poison, and the top o’erstraw’d        135
With sweets that shall the truest sight beguile:
  The strongest body shall it make most weak,
  Strike the wise dumb and teach the fool to speak.
‘It shall be sparing and too full of riot,
Teaching decrepit age to tread the measures;        140
The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet,
Pluck down the rich, enrich the poor with treasures;
  It shall be raging-mad and silly-mild,
  Make the young old, the old become a child.
‘It shall suspect where is no cause of fear;        145
It shall not fear where it should most mistrust,
It shall be merciful and too severe,
And most deceiving when it seems most just;
  Perverse it shall be where it shows most toward,
  Put fear to valour, courage to the coward.        150
‘It shall be cause of war and dire events,
And set dissension ’twixt the son and sire;
Subject and servile to all discontents,
As dry combustious matter is to fire:
  Sith in his prime Death doth my love destroy,        155
  They that love best their loves shall not enjoy.’
By this, the boy that by her side lay kill’d
Was melted like a vapour from her sight,
And in his blood that on the ground lay spill’d,
A purple flower sprung up, chequer’d with white,        160
  Resembling well his pale cheeks and the blood
  Which in round drops upon their whiteness stood.
Note 1. hedge-openings. [back]

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