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Even as delicious meat is to the tast,
So was his neck in touching, and surpast
The white of Pelops' shoulder: I could tell
How smooth his breast was, and how white his belly;
And whose immortal fingers did imprint
That heavenly path, with many a curious dint,
That runs along his back; but my rude pen
Can hardly blazen forth the loves of men,
Much less of powerful gods: let it suffice
That my slack Muse sings of Leander's eyes;
Those orient cheeks and lips, exceeding his
That leapt into the water for a kiss
Of his own shadow, and despising many,
Died ere he could enjoy the love of any.
Had wild Hippolytus Leander seen,
Enamoured of his beauty had he been;
His presence made the rudest peasant melt,
That in the vast uplandish country dwelt;
The barbarous Thracian soldier, mov'd with nought,
Was mov'd with him, and for his favour sought.
Some swore he was a maid in man's attire,
For in his looks were all that men desire,
A pleasant smiling cheek, a speaking eye,
A brow for love to banquet royally;
And such as knew he was a man, would say,
"Leander, thou art made for amorous play:
Why art thou not in love, and lov'd of all?
Though thou be fair, yet be not thine own thrall.”
The men of wealthy Sestos, every year,
(For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,
Rose-cheek'd Adonis) kept a solemn feast.
Thither resorted many a wandering guest,
To meet their loves; such as had none at all,
Came lovers home from this great festival.
For every street like to a Firmament
Glistered with breathing stars, who where they went,
Frighted the melancholy earth, which deem'd
Eternal heaven to burn, for so it seem'd,
As if another Phaeton had got
The guidance of the sun's rich chariot.
But far above the loveliest Hero shin'd,
And stole away th' enchanted gazer's mind;
For like Sea-nymphs' inveigling harmony,
So was her beauty to the standers by;
Nor that night-wandering, pale, and watery star
(When yawning dragons draw her thirling car
From Latmus' mount up to the gloomy sky,
Where crown'd with blazing light and majesty,
She proudly sits) more over-rules the flood,
Than she the hearts of those that near her stood.
Even as, when guady Nymphs pursue the chase,
Wretched Ixion's shaggy-footed race,
Incens'd with savage heat, gallop amain
From steep Pine-bearing mountains to the plain:
So ran the people forth to gaze upon her,
And all that view'd her, were enamour'd on her.
And as in fury of a dreadful fight,
Their fellows being slain or put to flight,
Poor soldiers stand with fear of death dead-strooken,
So at her presence all surprised and tooken,
Await the sentence of her scornful eyes:
He whom she favours lives, the other dies.
There might you see one sigh, another rage,
And some (their violent passions to assuage).
Compile sharp satires, but, alas, too late,
For faithful love will never turn to hate.
And many, seeing great princes were denied,
Pin'd as they went, and thinking on her died.
On this feast-day,-O cursed day and hour!-
Went Hero thorough Sestos, from her tower
To Venus' temple, where unhappily,
As after chanc'd, they did each other spy.
So fair a church as this had Venus none:
The walls were of discolour'd Jasper stone,
Wherein was Proteus carv'd, and overhead
A lively vine of green sea-agate spread,
Where by one hand, light-headed Bacchus hung,
And with the other, wine from grapes out-wrung.
Of crystal shining fair, the pavement was,
The town of Sestos call'd it Venus' glass:
There might you see the gods in sundry shapes,
Committing heady riots, incests, rapes;
For know, that underneath this radiant floor
Was Danae's statue in a brazen tower;
Jove slily stealing from his sister's bed,
To dally with Idalian Ganymed,
And for his love, Europa, bellowing loud,
And tumbling with the Rainbow in a cloud;
Blood-quaffing Mars, heaving the iron net
Which limping Vulcan and his Cyclops set;
Love kindling fire, to burn such towns as Troy;
Silvanus weeping for the lovely boy
That now is turn'd into a cypress tree,
Under whose shade the Wood-gods love to be.
And in the midst a silver altar stood,
There Hero sacrificing turtle's blood,
Vail'd to the ground, veiling her eyelids close,
And modestly they open'd as she rose:
Thence flew Love's arrow with the golden head,
And thus Leander was enamoured.
Stone still he stood, and evermore he gazed,
Till with the fire that from his countenance blaz'd,
Relenting Hero's gentle heart was strook,
Such force and virtue hath an amorous look.
It lies not in our power to love, or hate,
For will in us is over-ruled by fate.
When two are stript long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should lose, the other win.
And one especially do we affect,
Of two gold ingots like in each respect;
The reason no man knows, let it suffice,
What we behold is censur'd by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight,
Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?
He kneel'd, but unto her devoutly pray'd;
Chaste Hero to herself thus softly said:
"Were I the saint he worships, I would hear him;" And as she spake those words, came somewhat near him.
He started up, she blush'd as one asham'd;
Wherewith Leander much more was inflam'd.
He touch'd her hand, in touching it she trembled,
Love deeply grounded, hardly is dissembled;
These lovers parleyed by the touch of hands,
True love is mute, and oft amazed stands.
Thus while dumb signs their yielding hearts entangled,
The air with sparks of living fire was spangled,
And Night deep drench'd in misty Acheron,
Heav'd up her head, and half the world upon
Breath'd darkness forth (dark night is Cupid's day)
And now begins Leander to display
Love's holy fire, with words, with sighs and tears,
Which like sweet music enter'd Hero's ears;
And yet at every word she turn'd aside,
And always cut him off, as he replied;
At last, like to a bold sharp sophister,
With cheerful hope thus he accosted her.
"Fair creature, let me speak without offence:
I would my rude words had the influence
To lead thy thoughts as thy fair looks do mine!
Then shouldst thou be his prisoner, who is thine.
Be not unkind and fair; mis-shapen stuff
Are of behaviour boisterous and rough.
O, shun me not, but hear me ere you go,
God knows, I cannot force love as you do:
My words shall be as spotless as my youth,
Full of simplicity and naked truth.
This sacrifice (whose sweet perfume descending,
From Venus' altar to your footsteps bending)
Doth testify that you exceed her far,
To whom you offer, and whose Nun you are.
Why should you worship her? her you surpass
As much as sparkling Diamonds flaring glass.
A Diamond set in lead his worth retains;
A heavenly Nymph, belov'd of human swains,
Receives no blemish, but oftimes more grace,
Which makes me hope, although I am but base,
Base in respect of thee divine and pure,
Dutiful service may thy love procure;
And I in duty will excel all other,
As thou in beauty dost exceed Love's mother.
Nor heaven, nor thou, were made to gaze upon:
As heaven preserves all things, so save thou one.
A stately builded ship, well rigg'd and tall,
The ocean maketh more majestical:
Why vow'st thou then to live in Sestos here,
Who on Love's seas more glorious wouldst appear?
Like untun'd golden strings all women are,
Which long time lie untouch'd, will harshly jar.
Vessels of brass oft handled, brightly shine,
What difference betwixt the richest mine
And basest mould, but use? for both, not us'd,
Are of like worth. Then treasure is abus'd,
When misers keep it; being put to loan,
In time it will return us two for one.