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This idol, which you term virginity,
Is neither essence subject to the eye,
No, nor to any one exterior sense,
Nor hath it any place of residence,
Nor is't of earth or mould celestial,
Or capable of any form at all.
Of that which hath no being, do not boast :
Things that are not at all, are never lost.
Men foolishly do call it virtuous :
What virtue is it, that is born with us ?
Much less can honour be ascrib'd thereto:
Honour is purchas'd by the deeds we do ;
Believe me, Hero, honour is not won,
Until some honourable deed be done.
Seek you, for chastity, immortal fame,
And know that some have wrong’d Diana's name?
Whose name is it, if she be false or not,
So she be fair, but some vile tongues will blot ?
But you are fair, ay me ! so wondrous fair,
So young, so gentle, and so debonair,
As Greece will think, if thus you live alone,
Some one or other keeps you as his own.
Then, Hero, hate me not, nor from me fly,
To follow swiftly-blasting infamy.
Perhaps thy secred priesthood makes thee loath :
Tell me to whom mad'st thou that heedless oath ?"
“To Venus," answer'd she; and, as she spake,
Forth from those two tralucent cisterns brake
A stream of liquid pearl, which down her face
Made milk-white paths, whereon the gods might
trace To Jove's high court. He thus replied : " The rites In which love's beauteous empress most delights, Are banquets, Doric music, midnight revel, Plays, masks, and all that stern age counteth evil. Thee as a holy idiot doth she scorn ; For thou, in vowing chastity, hast sworn To rob her name and honour, and thereby Committ'st a sin far worse than perjury, Even sacrilege against her deity, Through regular and formal purity. To expiate which sin, kiss and shake hands : Such sacrifice as this Venus demands." Thereat she smild, and did deny him so, As put thereby, yet might he hope for mo ; Which makes him quickly reinforce his speech, And her in humble manner thus beseech : " Though neither gods nor men may thee deserve, Yet for her sake, whom you have vow'd to serve, Abandon fruitless cold virginity, The gentle queen of love's sole enemy. Then shall you most resemble Venus' nun, When Venus' sweet rites are perform’d and done. Flint-breasted Pallas joys in single life ; But Pallas and your mistress are at strife. Love, Hero, then, and be not tyrannous ; But heal the heart that thou hast wounded thus ; Nor stain thy youthful years with avarice :
Fair fools delight to be accounted nice.
The richest corn dies, if it be not reapt;
Beauty alone is lost, too warily kept.”
These arguments he us'd, and many more ;
Wherewith she yielded, that was won before.
Hero's looks yielded, but her words made war :
Women are won when they begin to jar.
Thus, having swallow'd Cupid's golden hook,
The more she striv'd, the deeper was she strook :
Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she still,
And would be thought to grant against her will.
So having paus'd a while, at last she said,
“Who taught thee rhetoric to deceive a maid ?
Ah me ! such words as these should I abhor,
And yet I like them for the orator."
With that, Leander stoop'd to have cmbrac'd her,
But from his spreading arms away she cast her,
And thus bespake him : “Gentle youth, forbear
To touch the sacred garments which I wear.
Upon a rock, and underneath a hill,
Far from the town (where all is whist and still,
Save that the sea, playing on yellow sand,
Sends forth a rattling murmur to the land,
Whose sound allures the golden Morpheus
In silence of the night to visit us),
My turret stands ; and there, God knows, I play
With Veni swans and sparrows all the day.
A dwarfish beldam bears me company,
That hops about the chamber where I lie,
And spends the night, that might be better spent,
In vain discourse and apish merriment-
Come thither.” As she spake this, her tongue tripp'd,
“Come thither,” from her slipp'd ;
And suddenly her former colour chang'd,
And here and there her eyes through anger rang’d ;
And, like a planet moving several ways,
At one self instant, she, poor soul, assays,
Loving, not to love at all, and every part
Strove to resist the motions of her heart:
And hands so pure, so innocent, nay, such
As might have made Heaven stoop to have a touch,
Did she uphold to Venus, and again
Vow'd spotless chastity ; but all in vain ;
Cupid beats down her prayers with his wings ;
Her vows about the empty air he flings :
All deep enrag'd, his sinewy bow he bent,
And shot a shaft that burning from him went;
Wherewith she strooken, look'd so dolefully,
As made Love sigh to see his tyranny ;
And, as she wept, her tears to pearl he turn'd,
And wound them on his arm, and for her mourn'd.
Then towards the palace of the Destinies,
Laden with languishment and grief, he flies,
And to those stern nymphs humbly made request,
Both might enjoy each other, and be blest.
But with a ghastly dreadful countenance,
Threatening a thousand deaths at every glance,
They answer'd Love, nor would vouchsafe so much
As one poor word, their hate to him was such :
Hearken a while, and I will tell you why.
Heaven's winged herald, Jove-born Mercury,
The self-same day that he asleep had laid
Enchanted Argus, spied a country maid,
Whose careless hair, instead of pearl t'adorn it,
Glister'd with dew, as one that seemed to scorn it ;
Hei breath as fragrant as the morning rose ;
Hur mind pure, and her tongue untaught to glose ;
Yet proud she was (for lofty Pride that dwells
In towered courts, is oft in shepherds' cells),
And too-too well the fair vermilion knew
And silver tincture of her cheeks, that drew
The love of every swain. On her this god
Enamour'd was, and with his snaky rod
Did charm her nimble feet, and
The while upon a hillock down he lay,
And sweetly on his pipe began to play,
And with smooth speech her fancy to assay,
Till in his twining arms he lock'd her fast,
And then he woo'd with kisses ; and at last,
As shepherds do, her on the ground he laid,
And, tumbling in the grass, he often stray'd
Beyond the bounds of shame, in being bold
To eye those parts which no eye should behold;
And, like an insolent commanding lover,
Boasting his parentage, would needs discover
The way to new Elysium. But she,
Whose only dower was her chastity,