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.
From ‘The Lover’s Melancholy’
By John Ford (1586–c. 1640)

MENAPHON—Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales
Which poets of an elder time have feigned
To glorify their Temple, bred in me
Desire of visiting that paradise.
To Thessaly I came; and living private        5
Without acquaintance of more sweet companions
Than the old inmates to my love, my thoughts,
I day by day frequented silent groves
And solitary walks. One morning early
This accident encountered me: I heard        10
The sweetest and most ravishing contention
That art and nature ever were at strife in.
  Amethus—I cannot yet conceive what you infer
By art and nature.
  Menaphon—                    I shall soon resolve ye.
A sound of music touched my ears, or rather        15
Indeed entranced my soul. As I stole nearer,
Invited by the melody, I saw
This youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute,
With strains of strange variety and harmony,
Proclaiming, as it seemed, so bold a challenge        20
To the clear quiristers of the woods, the birds,
That, as they flocked about him, all stood silent,
Wondering at what they heard: I wondered too.
  Amethus—And so do I: good, on!
  Menaphon—                        A nightingale,
Nature’s best skilled musician, undertakes        25
The challenge, and for every several strain
The well-shaped youth could touch, she sung her own;
He could not run division with more art
Upon his quaking instrument than she,
The nightingale, did with her various notes        30
Reply to: for a voice and for a sound,
Amethus, ’tis much easier to believe
That such they were than hope to hear again.
  Amethus—How did the rivals part?
  Menaphon—                    You term them rightly;
For they were rivals, and their mistress harmony.        35
Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last
Into a pretty anger, that a bird,
Whom art had never taught cliffs, moods, or notes,
Should vie with him for mastery, whose study
Had busied many hours to perfect practice.        40
To end the controversy, in a rapture
Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly
So many voluntaries and so quick,
That there was curiosity and cunning,
Concord in discord, lines of differing method        45
Meeting in one full centre of delight.
  Amethus—Now for the bird.
  Menaphon—                The bird, ordained to be
Music’s first martyr, strove to imitate
These several sounds; which when her warbling throat
Failed in, for grief down dropped she on his lute,        50
And brake her heart. It was the quaintest sadness,
To see the conqueror upon her hearse
To weep a funeral elegy of tears;
That trust me, my Amethus, I could chide
Mine own unmanly weakness that made me        55
A fellow mourner with him.
  Amethus—                            I believe thee.
  Menaphon—He looked upon the trophies of his art,
Then sighed, then wiped his eyes, then sighed and cried:—
“Alas, poor creature! I will soon revenge
This cruelty upon the author of it;        60
Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood,
Shall never more betray a harmless peace
To an untimely end:” and in that sorrow,
As he was pushing it against a tree,
I suddenly stept in.        65

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