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Dare ever come, but still in couples fly,
The hardness of their first life in their last:
Even like the forehead-cloth that, in the night,
Christopher Marlowe's unfinished HERO AND LEANDER has been called "the greatest English narrative poem of love." And not unjustly. Shakespere's VENUS AND ADONIS is labored in comparison, and Keat's ENDYMION but a wistful, uncertain shadow; nor is there any fourth poem of the kind in our language worthy to stand with these three. For in his twenty-ninth year Marlowe had come into his own. The best of his dramas are uneven, incomplete; in the commonest Elizabethan medium, much as his genius might mold it, he was never quite at home; the indirections of the stage were alien to his nature. But in the verses of the Byzantine grammarian, Musaeus, Marlowe found material which demanded a narrative poem, and the "rich, clear, fervent" couplets of HERO AND LEANDER announced a major poet. The poem was first licensed for printing in September, 1593. Already, in May of that year, Marlowe had fallen, stabbed to death in a tavern brawl. To his peculiar kingdom he left no heirs. Nevertheless his friend, George Chapman, scholar, poet, translator of Homer, to whom perhaps, Marlowe had confided the fate of his poem, attempted to complete it, and in 1598, only a little after Edward Blount had published the Marlowe fragment, Paul Linley issued HERO AND LEANDER Complete in six "sesty ads," the first two by Marlowe, the last four by Chapman. Chapman's continuation, in the forced comparison with Marlowe's superb beginning, has suffered unjustly. Chapman's verse is easy and vigorous, his narrative has moments of charming grace, and some of his single lines are not unworthy even of Marlowe.
The present edition seeks to present a text of Hero and LEANDER which, within the limits imposed by modernized spelling and partially modernized punctuation, departs as little as possible from the actual readings of the first two quartos. In the pursuance of this aim the editor has been assisted most by the Hazelwood reprint of the Linley quarto, and by the scholarly Clarendon Press edition of the complete works of Christopher Marlowe. GARRETT MATTINGLY.