Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Arethusa’s Declaration
By Francis Beaumont (1584–1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625)
From ‘Philaster, or Love Lies A-bleeding’

LADY—Here is my Lord Philaster.
  Arethusa—                    Oh, ’tis well.
Withdraw yourself.  [Exit Lady.]
  Philaster—            Madam, your messenger
Made me believe you wished to speak with me.
  Arethusa—’Tis true, Philaster, but the words are such
I have to say, and do so ill beseem        5
The mouth of woman, that I wish them said,
And yet am loath to speak them. Have you known
That I have aught detracted from your worth?
Have I in person wronged you? or have set
My baser instruments to throw disgrace        10
Upon your virtues?
  Philaster—        Never, madam, you.
  Arethusa—Why then should you, in such a public place,
Injure a princess, and a scandal lay
Upon my fortunes, famed to be so great,
Calling a great part of my dowry in question?        15
  Philaster—Madam, this truth which I shall speak will be
Foolish: but, for your fair and virtuous self,
I could afford myself to have no right
To any thing you wished.
  Arethusa—            Philaster, know,
I must enjoy these kingdoms.
  Philaster—                Madam, both?
  Arethusa—Both, or I die; by fate, I die, Philaster,
If I not calmly may enjoy them both.
  Philaster—I would do much to save that noble life,
Yet would be loath to have posterity
Find in our stories, that Philaster gave        25
His right unto a sceptre and a crown
To save a lady’s longing.
  Arethusa—            Nay, then, hear:
I must and will have them, and more—
  Philaster—                    What more?
  Arethusa—Or lose that little life the gods prepared
To trouble this poor piece of earth withal.        30
  Philaster—Madam, what more?
  Arethusa—            Turn, then, away thy face.
  Philaster—I can endure it. Turn away my face!
I never yet saw enemy that looked        35
So dreadfully, but that I thought myself
As great a basilisk as he; or spake
So horribly, but that I thought my tongue
Bore thunder underneath, as much as his;
Nor beast that I could turn from: shall I then        40
Begin to fear sweet sounds? a lady’s voice,
Whom I do love? Say, you would have my life:
Why, I will give it you; for ’tis to me
A thing so loathed, and unto you that ask
Of so poor use, that I shall make no price:        45
If you entreat, I will unmovedly hear.
  Arethusa—Yet, for my sake, a little bend thy looks.
  Philaster—I do.
  Arethusa—        Then know, I must have them and thee.
  Philaster—And me?
  Arethusa—        Thy love; without which, all the land
Discovered yet will serve me for no use        50
But to be buried in.
  Philaster—            Is’t possible?
  Arethusa—With it, it were too little to bestow
On thee. Now, though thy breath do strike me dead,
(Which, know, it may,) I have unript my breast.
  Philaster—Madam, you are too full of noble thoughts        55
To lay a train for this contemnèd life,
Which you may have for asking: to suspect
Were base, where I deserve no ill. Love you!
By all my hopes I do, above my life!
But how this passion should proceed from you        60
So violently, would amaze a man
That would be jealous.
  Arethusa—Another soul into my body shot
Could not have filled me with more strength and spirit
Than this thy breath. But spend not hasty time        65
In seeking how I came thus: ’tis the gods,
The gods, that make me so; and sure, our love
Will be the nobler and the better blest,
In that the secret justice of the gods
Is mingled with it. Let us leave, and kiss:        70
Lest some unwelcome guest should fall betwixt us,
And we should part without it.
  Philaster—                    ’Twill be ill
I should abide here long.
  Arethusa—                ’Tis true: and worse
You should come often. How shall we devise
To hold intelligence, that our true loves,        75
On any new occasion, may agree
What path is best to tread?
  Philaster—                I have a boy,
Sent by the gods, I hope, to this intent,
Yet not seen in the court. Hunting the buck,
I found him sitting by a fountain’s side,        80
Of which he borrowed some to quench his thirst,
And paid the nymph again as much in tears.
A garland lay him by, made by himself
Of many several flowers bred in the vale,
Stuck in that mystic order that the rareness        85
Delighted me; but ever when he turned
His tender eyes upon ’em, he would weep,
As if he meant to make ’em grow again.
Seeing such pretty helpless innocence
Dwell in his face, I asked him all his story.        90
He told me that his parents gentle died,
Leaving him to the mercy of the fields,
Which gave him roots; and of the crystal springs,
Which did not stop their courses; and the sun,
Which still, he thanked him, yielded him his light.        95
Then took he up his garland, and did show
What every flower, as country-people hold,
Did signify, and how all, ordered thus,
Expressed his grief; and, to my thoughts, did read
The prettiest lecture of his country-art        100
That could be wished: so that methought I could
Have studied it. I gladly entertained
Him, who was glad to follow: and have got
The trustiest, loving’st, and the gentlest boy
That ever master kept. Him will I send        105
To wait on you, and bear our hidden love.

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