Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Cleopatra
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
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THE BARGE she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumèd, that
The winds were love-sick with them: the oars were silver;
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made        5
The water, which they beat, to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggared all description: she did lie
In her pavilion, (cloth-of-gold, of tissue,)
O’er-picturing that Venus, where we see,        10
The fancy out-work nature: on each side her,
Stood pretty boys, like smiling Cupids,
With diverse-colored fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool
And what they undid, did.        15
Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
So many mermaids, tended her i’ the eyes,
And made their bends adornings: at the helm
A seeming mermaid steers; the silken tackles
Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands,        20
That yarely frame the office. From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast
Her people out upon her; and Antony,
Enthronèd in the market-place, did sit alone,        25
Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,
And made a gap in nature.
 
 
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