Christopher Marlowe, 1564-1593 Hero and Leander (1598)

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Regnier, Hero and Leander

Image: Hero lamenting over the drowned Leander, by Nicholas Regnier (1591-1667), c1626. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.

Date of composition unknown. Marlowe died 1st June 1593, the poem was entered for publication on the 28th September that year. No trace remains of any such edition. Published 1598, and again that year with Chapman’s continuation (in four further ‘Sestiads’, as Chapman calls them). All subsequent early editions have the poem in this composite form.

This text presents the poem in a semi-modernised for: v is used instead of u, j instead of I in words like ‘loue’, ‘enioy’. Many spelling have been altered to facilitate reading, but not where this might change the rhythm or rhyme sound of a line.

(First Sestiad(1))

On Hellespont(2) guiltie of true loves blood,

In view and opposite two cities stood,

Sea-borderers, disjoin'd by Neptunes might:

The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight(3).

At Sestos, Hero dwelt; Hero the faire,

Whom young Apollo courted for her haire,

And offered as a dower his burning throne,

Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.

The outside of her garments were of lawne(4),

10 The lining purple silke, with guilte starres drawne,

Her wide sleeves greene, and bordered with a grove,

Where Venus in her naked glory strove,

To please the carelesse and disdainful eyes,

Of proude Adonis that before her lies.

Her kirtle(5) blew, whereon was many a staine,

Made with the blood of wretched Lovers slaine.

Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,

From whence her vaile reached to the ground beneath.

Her vaile was artificial flowers and leaves,

20 Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives.

Many would praise the sweete smell as she past,

When t'was the odour which her breath forth cast.

And there for honie, Bees have sought in vaine,

And beat from thence, have lighted there againe.

About her necke hung chaines of pebble stone,

Which lightned by her necke, like Diamonds shone.

She ware no gloves, for neither sunne nor winde

Would burne or parch her hands, but to her minde,

Or warme or coole them, for they tooke delite

30 To play upon those hands, they were so white.

Buskins(6) of shells all silvered, used she,

And branched with blushing coral to the knee;

Where sparrowes perched, of hollow pearle and gold,

Such as the world would wonder to behold:

Those with sweete water oft her handmaid fills,

Which as she went would chirrup through the bills.

Some say, for her the fairest Cupid pyn'd,

And looking in her face, was strooken blind.

But this is true, so like was one the other,

40 As he imagin'd Hero was his mother(7).

And oftentimes into her bosome flew,

About her naked necke his bare armes threw.

And laid his childish head upon her brest,

And with still panting rocked, there tooke his rest.

So lovely faire was Hero, Venus Nun(8),

As nature wept, thinking she was undone;

Because she tooke more from her than she left,

And of such wondrous beautie her bereft:

Therefore in signe her treasure suffered wracke(9),

50 Since Heroes time, hath halfe the world been blacke.

Amorous Leander, beautiful and young,

(Whose tragedie divine Musæus(10) sung)

Dwelt at Abydos, since him, dwelt there none,

For whom succeeding times make greater mone.

His dangling tresses that were never shorne,

Had they beene cut, and vnto Colchos borne,

Would have allu'rd the vent'rous youth of Greece,

To hazard more, than for the golden Fleece(11).

Faire Cynthia(12) wisht, his armes might be her spheare,

60 Griefe makes her pale, because she moves not there.

His bodie was as straight as Circes(13) wand,

Jove might have sipped out Nectar(14) from his hand.

Even as delicious meate is to the tast,

So was his necke in touching, and surpast

The white of Pelops shoulder(15), I could tell ye,

How smooth his breast was, and how white his bellie,

And whose immortal fingers did imprint,

That heavenly path, with many a curious dint,

That runs along his backe, but my rude pen,

70 Can hardly blazon forth the loves of men.

Much lesse of powerful gods, let it suffise,

That my slacke muse, sings of Leanders eyes.

Those orient(16) cheekes and lippes, exceeding his

That leapt into the water for a kiss

Of his owne shadow, and despising many,

Died ere he could enjoy the love of any(17).

Had wilde Hippolitus(18) Leander seene,

Enamoured of his beautie had he beene,

His presence made the rudest peasant melt,

80 That in the vast uplandish countrie dwelt,

The barbarous Thracian soldier mov'd with nought,

Was mov'd with him, and for his favour sought.

Some swore he was a maide in mans attire,

For in his lookes were all that men desire,

A pleasant smiling cheeke, a speaking eye,

A brow for love to banquet royallie,

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?

90 Though thou be faire, yet be not thine owne thrall.

The men of wealthie Sestos, every yeare,

(For his sake whom their goddesse held so deare,

Rose-cheekt Adonis) kept a solemne feast,

Thither resorted many a wandring guest,

To meet their loves; such as had none at all,

Came lovers home, from this great festivall.

For everie street like to a Firmament

Glistered with breathing stars, who where they went,

Frighted the mealancholie earth, which deem'd,

100 Eternal heaven to burne, for so it seem'd,

As if another Phaeton(19) had got

The guidance of the sunnes rich chariot.

But far aboue the loveliest Hero shin'd,

And stole away th'inchaunted gazers mind,

For like Sea-nymphs inveigling harmony,

So was her beautie to the standers by.

Nor that night wandring pale and watrie starre,

(When yawning dragons draw her thirling carre(20),

From Latmus mount up to the gloomie skie,

110 Where crown'd with blazing light and majestie,

She proudly sits) more over-rules the flood,

Than she the hearts of those that neare her stood.

Even as, when gawdie Nymphs pursue the chase,

Wretched Ixions shaggie footed race(21),

Incenst with savage heat, gallop amaine,

From steepe Pine-bearing mountains to the plaine:

So ran the people forth to gaze upon her,

And all that view'd her, were enamour'd on her.

And as in furie of a dreadful fight,

120 Their fellowes being slaine or put to flight,

Poore soldiers stand with feare of death dead strooken,

So at her presence all surprisde and tooken,

Await the sentence of her scorneful 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 sharpe satyrs, but alas too late,

For faithful love will never turne to hate.

And many seeing great princes were denied,

130 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 unhappilie,

As after chanc'd, they did each other spie,

So faire a Church as this, had Venus none,

The walls were of discoloured(22) Jasper stone,

Wherein was Proteus(23) carv'd, and over head

A lively vine of greene sea agate spread;

Where by one hand light headed Bacchus(24) hung,

140 And with the other, wine from grapes out wrung.

Of Christal shining faire, the pavement was,

The towne of Sestos, calde it Venus glasse,

There might you see the gods in sundrie shapes,

Committing headie ryots, incest, rapes:

For know, that underneath this radiant flowre,

Was Danaes(25) statue in a brazen towre,

Jove, slylie stealing from his sisters bed,

To dallie with Idalian Ganymed(26):

And for his love Europa, bellowing loud,(27)

150 And tumbling with the Rainbow in a cloud(28),

Blood-quaffing Mars, heaving the iron net,

Which limping Vulcan and his Cyclops set(29):

Love kindling fire, to burne such townes as Troy,

Sylvanus(30) weeping for the lovely boy,

That now is turned into a Cypress tree,

Under whose shade the Wood-gods love to bee,

And in the midst a silver altar stood,

There Hero sacrificing turtles blood(31),

Veiled to the ground, veiling her eye-lids close(32),

160 And modestly they opened as she rose:

Thence flew Loves 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 blazed,

Relenting Hero's gentle heart was strooke,

Such force and vertue hath an amorous looke.

It lies not in our power to love, or hate,

For will in us is over-ruled by fate.

When two are stripped long ere the course begin,

170 We wish that one should lose, the other win.

And one especiallie do we affect,

Of two gold Ingots like in each respect,

The reason no man knowes, let it suffise,

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?(33)

He kneel'd, but unto her devoutly prayed;

Chaste Hero to her selfe thus softly said:

Were I the saint he worships, I would heare him,

180 And as she spake those words, came somewhat neare him.

He started up, she blusht as one asham'd;

Wherewith Leander much more was inflam'd.

He toucht her hand, in touching it she trembled,

Love deepely grounded, hardly is dissembled,

These lovers parled by the touch of hands,

True love is mute, and oft amazed stands,

Thus while dumb signs their yielding harts entangled,

The aire with sparkes of living fire was spangled,

And night deepe drencht in mystie Acheron(34),

190 Heav'd up her head, and halfe the world upon,

Breath'd darkenesse forth (darke night is Cupids day)

And now begins Leander to display

Loves holy fire, with words, with sighs and teares,

Which like sweet musicke entred Heroes eares,

And yet at everie word she turn'd aside,

And alwayes cut him off as he replide,

At last, like to a bold sharpe Sophister(35),

With cheerful hope thus he accosted her.

‘Faire creature, let me speake without offence,

200 I would my rude words had the influence,

To leade thy thoughts, as thy faire lookes do mine,

Then shouldst thou bee his prisoner who is thine.

Be not unkind and faire, mishapen stuffe

Are of behaviour boisterous and ruffe.

O shun me not, but heare me ere you goe,

God knowes I cannot force love, as you doe.

My words shall be as spotlesse as my youth,

Full of simplicitie and naked truth.

This sacrifice (whose sweet perfume descending,

210 From Venus altar to your footsteps bending)

Doth testifie that you exceed her farre,

To whom you offer, and whose Nunne you are,

Why should you worship her, her you surpasse,

As much as sparkling Diamonds flaring glasse.

A Diamond set in lead his worth retaines,

A heavenly Nymph, belov'd of humane swaines,

Receives no blemish, but oft-times more grace,

Which makes me hope, although I am but base,

Base in respect of thee, divine and pure,

220 Dutiful service may thy love procure,

And I in dutie will excel all other,

As thou in beautie dost exceed loves 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 majesticall:

Why vowest thou then to live in Sestos heere,

Who on Loves seas more glorious wouldst appeere?

Like untun'd golden strings all women are,

230 Which long time lie untoucht, will harshly jarre.

Vessels of brasse oft handled, brightly shine,

What difference betwixt the richest mine

And basest mold, but use? for both not usde,

Are of like worth. Then treasure is abusde,

When misers keep it; being put to lone,

In time it will returne us two for one.

Rich robes, themselves and others doe adorne,

Neither themselves nor others, if not worne.

Who builds a palace and rams up the gate,

240 Shall see it ruinous and desolate.

Ah simple Hero, learne thy selfe to cherish,

Lone women like to emptie houses perish.

Lesse since the poore rich man that starves himselfe,

In heaping up a masse of drossie pelfe,

Than such as you: his golden earth remains,

Which after his decease some other gains.

But this faire gem, sweet, in the losse alone,

When you fleet hence, can be bequeath'd to none.

Or if it could, downe from th' enamelled skie,

250 All heaven would come to claime this legacie,

And with intestine broyles the world destroy,

And quite confound natures sweet harmony.

Well therefore by the gods decreed it is,

We humane creatures should enjoy that bliss.

One is no number(36), mayds are nothing then,

Without the sweet societie of men.

Wilt thou live single still? one shalt thou bee,

Though never-singling Hymen(37) couple thee.

Wilde savages, that drinke of running springs,

260 Thinke water farre excels all earthly things:

But they that daily taste neat wine, despise it.

Virginitie, albeit some highly prise it,

Compar'd with marriage, had you tried them both,

Differs as much, as wine and water doth.

Base bullion for the stamps sake we allow,

Even so for mens impression doe we you.

By which alone, our reverend fathers say;

Women receive perfection every way(38).

This idoll which you terme Virginitie,

270 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 forme at all.

Of that which hath no being, doe not boast,

Things that are not at all, are never lost.

Men foolishly doe call it vertuous,

What vertue is it, that is borne with us?

Much lesse can honour be ascrib'd thereto,

280 Honour is purchas'd by the deedes wee do.

Believe me Hero, honour is not won,

Until some honourable deed be done.

Seeke you for chastitie, immortal fame,

And know that some have wrong'd Dianas name?

Whose name is it, if she be false or not,

So she be faire, but some vile tongues will blot?

But you are faire (aye me) so wondrous faire,

So young, so gentle, and so debonaire,

As Greece will thinke, if thus you live alone,

290 Some one or other keepes you as his owne.

Then Hero hate me not, nor from me flie,

To follow swiftly blasting infamie.

Perhaps, thy sacred Priesthood makes thee loath,

Tell me, to whom mad'st thou that heedlesse oath?’

‘To Venus’, answered shee, and as shee spake,

Forth from those two tralucent cisternes brake,

A streame of liquid pearle, which downe her face

Made milk-white paths, whereon the gods might trace

To Joves high court. Hee thus replied: ‘The rites

300 In which Loves beauteous Empresse most delites,

Are banquets, Dorick musicke, midnight-revel,

Playes, masks, and all that sterne age counteth evil.

Thee as a holy Idiot doth she scorne,

For thou in vowing chastitie, hast sworne

To rob her name and honour, and thereby

Commit'st a sinne far worse than perjurie.

Even sacrilege against her Deitie,

Through regular and formal puritie.

To expiate which sinne, kisse and shake hands,

310 Such sacrifice as this, Venus demands.’

There at she smilde, and did denie him so,

As put thereby, yet might he hope for mo.

Which makes him quickly re-enforce 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 fruitlesse cold Virginitie,

The gentle queene of Loves sole enemie.

Then shall you most resemble Venus Nun,

320 When Venus sweet rites are perform'd and dun,

Flint-breasted Pallas(39) joyes in single life,

But Pallas and your mistresse are at strife.

Love Hero then, and be not tyrannous,

But heale the heart that thou hast wounded thus,

Nor staine thy youthfull yeares with avarice,

Faire fooles delight to be accounted nice.

The richest corne dies, if it be not reapt,

Beautie alone is lost, too warily kept.’

These arguments he vs'd, and many more,

330 Wherewith she yielded, that was won before,

Heroes lookes yielded, but her words made warre,

Women are won when they begin to jarre.

Thus having swallow'd Cupids golden hooke,

The more she striv'd the deeper was she strooke.

Yet evilly faining anger, strove she still,

And would be thought to grant against her will.

So having paus'd a while, at last shee said:

‘Who taught thee Rhetoricke to deceive a maid?

Aye me, such words as these should I abhor,

340 And yet I like them for the Orator.’

With that Leander stoopt, to have imbrac'd her,

But from his spreading armes away she cast her,

And thus bespake him: ‘Gentle youth forbeare

To touch the sacred garments which I weare.

Upon a rocke, and underneath a hill,

Far from the towne (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(40),

350 In silence of the night to visite vs.)

My turret stands, and there God knowes I play

With Venus swannes and sparrowes all the day.

A dwarfish beldame(41) beares me companie,

That hops about the chamber where I lie,

And spends the night (that might be better spent)

In vaine discourse, and apish merriment.

Come thither’; As she spake this, her tongue tript,

For unawares (Come thither) from her slipt,

And sodainly her former colour chang'd,

360 And here and there her eyes through anger rang'd.

And like a planet, moving several wayes(42),

At one selfe instant, she poore soule assaies,

Loving, not to love at all, and everie part,

Strove to resist the motions of her hart.

And hands so pure, so innocent, nay such,

As might have made heaven stoope to have a touch,

Did she uphold to Venus, and againe,

Vow'd spotlesse chastitie, but all in vaine,

Cupid beats downe her prayers with his wings,

370 Her vowes above the emptie aire he flings:

All deepe enrag'd, his sinowie bow he bent,

And shot a shaft that burning from him went,

Wherewith she strooken, look't so dolefully,

As made Love sigh, to see his tyrannie.

And as she wept, her teares to pearle he turn'd,

And wound them on his arme, and for her mourn'd.

Then towards the palace of the destinies,

Laden with languishment and griefe he flies.

And to those sterne nymphs humblie made request,

380 Both might enjoy each other, and be blest.

But with a ghastly dreadful countenance,

Threatning a thousand deaths at every glance,

They answered Love, nor would vouchsafe so much

As one poore word, their hate to him was such.

Harken a while, and I will tell you why(43):

Heavens winged herald, Joue-borne Mercury,

The selfe-same day that he asleep had layd

Inchanted Argus(44), spied a countrie mayd,

Whose carelesse haire, in stead of pearle t'adorne it,

390 Glistred with dew, as one that seem'd to skorne it:

Her breath as fragrant as the morning rose,

Her mind pure, and her tongue untaught to glose.

Yet proud she was, (for loftie pride that dwells

In tow'red courts, is oft in shepherds cells.)

And too too well the faire vermilion knew,

And silver tincture of her cheekes, that drew

The love of every swaine: On her this god

Enamoured was, and with his snakie rod,

Did charme her nimble feet, and made her stay,

400 The while upon a hillock downe he lay,

And sweetly on his pipe began to play,

And with smooth speech her fancie to assay,

Till in his twining armes he lockt her fast,

And then he woo'd with kisses, and at last,

As shepherds do, her on the ground he layd,

And tumbling in the grasse, he often strayd

Beyond the bounds of shame, in being bold

To eye those parts, which no eye should behold.

And like an insolent commanding lover,

410 Boasting his parentage, would needs discover

The way to new Elisium(45): but she,

Whose only dower was her chastitie,

Having striv'n in vaine, was now about to crie,

And crave the helpe of shepherds that were nie.

Herewith he staid his furie, and began

To give her leave to rise, away she ran,

After went Mercurie, who used such cunning,

As she to heare his tale, left off her running.

Maids are not won by brutish force and might,

420 But speeches full of pleasures and delight.

And knowing Hermes courted her, was glad

That she such lovelinesse and beautie had,

As could provoke his liking, yet was mute,

And neither would denie, nor grant his sute.

Still vowd he love, she wanting no excuse

To feed him with delayes, as women use:

Or thirsting after immortalitie,

All women are ambitious naturallie,

Imposed upon her lover such a taske,

430 As he ought not performe, nor yet she aske.

A draught of flowing Nectar(46) she requested,

Where with the king of Gods and men is feasted.

He readie to accomplish what she wild,

Stole some from Hebe (Hebe, Joves cup fild,)

And gave it to his simple rustike love,

Which being knowne (as what is hid from Jove)

He inly storm'd, and waxt more furious,

Than for the fire filcht by Prometheus;

And thrusts him down from heauen, he wandring heere,

440 In mournful tearmes, with sad and heavie cheere

Complaind to Cupid, Cupid for his sake,

To be reveng'd on Joue, did undertake,

And those on whom heaven, earth, and hell relies,

I meane the Adamantine Destinies(47),

He wounds with love, and forst them equallie,

To dote upon deceitful Mercurie.

They offered him the deadly fatal knife,

That sheares the slender threads of humane life,

At his faire feathered feet, the engins layd,

450 Which th'earth from ugly Chaos den up-wayd:

These he regarded not, but did entreat,

That Jove, usurper of his fathers seat,

Might presently be banisht into hell,

And aged Saturne in Olympus dwell.

They granted what he crav'd, and once againe,

Saturne and Ops, began their golden raigne.(48)

Murder, rape, warre, lust and treacherie,

Were with Jove clos'd in Stigian Emperie.

But long this blessed time continued not,

460 As soone as he his wished purpose got;

He recklesse of his promise, did despise

The love of th'everlasting Destinies.

They seeing it, both Love and him abhor'd,

And Jupiter unto his place restor'd.

And but that Learning, in despight of Fate,

Will mount aloft, and enter heaven gate,

And to the seat of Jove it selfe advance,

Hermes had slept in hell with ignorance.

Yet as a punishment they added this,

470 That he and Povertie should alwayes kis.

And to this day is everie scholler poore,

Grosse gold from them runs headlong to the boore.

Likewise the angrie sisters thus deluded,

To venge themselues on Hermes, have concluded

That Midas brood (49)shall sit in Honors chaire,

To which the Muses sonnes are only heire:

And fruitful wits that in aspiring are,

Shall discontent run into regions farre;

And few great Lords in vertuous deeds shall joy,

480 But be surpris'd with every garish toy.

And still enrich the loftie servile clowne,

Who with encroaching guile, keepes learning downe.

Then muse not Cupids suit no better sped,

Seeing in their loves the Fates were injured.

The end of the first Sestiad.

majolica plate depicting hero and leander

Image: a majolica plate depicting Hero and Leander: Getty Museum. Note that we see Leander three times - about to dive in, swimming, and drowned.

Second Sestiad

By this, sad Hero, with love unacquainted,

Viewing Leanders face, fell downe and fainted.

He kist her, and breath'd life into her lips,

Wherewith as one displeasde, away she trips.

Yet as she went, full often lookt behinde,

And many poore excuses did she finde,

To linger by the way, and once she staid,

And would have turnde againe, but was afraid,

In offring parlie, to be counted light.

10 So on she goes, and in her idle flight.

Her painted fanne of curled plumes let fall,

Thinking to traine Leander there withal.

He being a novice, knew not what she meant,

But stayd, and after her a letter sent.

Which joyful Hero answered in such sort,

As he had hope to scale the beauteous fort,

Wherein the liberal graces lock'd their wealth,

And therefore to her tower he got by stealth.

Wide open stood the doore, he need not clime;

20 And she her selfe before the pointed time,

Had spread the board, with roses strowed the roome,

And oft look'd out, and mus'd he did not come.

At last he came, O who can tell the greeting,

These greedie lovers had, at their first meeting.

He askt, she gave, and nothing was denied,

Both to each other quickly were affied.(50)

Looke how their hands, so were their hearts united,

And what he did, she willingly requited.

(Sweet are the kisses, the embracements sweet,

30 When like desires and affections meet,

For from the earth to heaven, is Cupid rais'd,

Where fancie is in equal balance pais'd)(51)

Yet she this rashnesse sodainly repented,

And turn'd aside, and to her selfe lamented.

As if her name and honour had been wrong'd,

By being possest of him for whom she long'd:

I, and she wisht, albeit not from her hart,

That he would leave her turret and depart.

The mirthful God of amorous pleasure smil'd,

40 To see how he this captive Nymph beguil'd.

For hitherto he did but fan the fire,

And kept it downe that it might mount the higher.

Now waxt she jealous, least his love abated,

Fearing, her owne thoughts made her to be hated.

Therefore unto him hastily she goes,

And like light Salmacis(52), her body throes

Upon his bosome, where with yielding eyes,

She offers up her selfe a sacrifice.

To slake his anger, if he were displeas'd,

50 O what god would not therewith be appeas'd?

Like Æsops cocke, this jewel he enjoyed(53),

And as a brother with his sister toyed,

Supposing nothing else was to be done,

Now he her favour and good will had won.

But know you not that creatures wanting sense,

By nature have a mutual appetence,

And wanting organs to advance a step,

Mov'd by Loves force, unto each other lep?

Much more in subjects having intellect,

60 Some hidden influence breeds like effect.

Albeit Leander rude in love, and raw,

Long dallying with Hero, nothing saw

That might delight him more, yet he suspected

Some amorous rites or other were neglected:

Therefore unto his bodie, hers he clung,

She, fearing on the rushes to be flung,

Striv'd with redoubled strength, the more she strived,

The more a gentle pleasing heat revived,

Which taught him all that elder lovers know,

70 And now the same gan so to scorch and glow,

As in plaine termes (yet cunningly) he crav'd it.

Love alwayes makes those eloquent that have it.

Shee, with a kind of granting, put him by it,

And ever as he thought himselfe most nigh it,

Like to the tree of Tantalus(54) she fled,

And seeming lavish, sav'de her maidenhead.

Ne're king more sought to keepe his diademe,

Than Hero this inestimable gem.

Above our life we love a steadfast friend,

80 Yet when a token of great worth we send,

We often kisse it, often looke thereon,

And stay the messenger that would be gon:

No marvel then, though Hero would not yield

So soone to part from that she dearly held.

Jewels being lost are found againe, this never,

Tis lost but once, and once lost, lost for ever.

Now had the morne espy'de her lovers steeds,

Whereat she starts, puts on her purple weeds,

And red for anger that he stayd so long,

90 All headlong throwes her selfe the clouds among,

And now Leander fearing to be mist,

Imbrast her sodainly, tooke leave, and kist,

Long was he taking leave and loath to go,

And kist againe, as lovers use to do,

Sad Hero wrung him by the hand, and wept,

Saying, let your vowes and promises be kept.

Then standing at the doore, she turned about

As loath to see Leander going out.

And now the sunne that through th'horizon peepes,

100 As pitying these lovers, downeward creepes.

So that in silence of the cloudie night,

Though it was morning, did he take his flight.

But what the secret trustie night conceal'd,

Leanders amorous habit soone reveal'd,

With Cupids myrtle was his bonnet crownd,

About his armes the purple riband wound,

Wherewith she wreath'd her largely spreading haire,

Nor could the youth abstaine, but he must weare

The sacred ring wherewith she was endow'd,

110 When first religious chastitie she vow'd:

Which made his love through Sestos to be knowne,

And thence unto Abydos sooner blowne,

Than he could saile, for incorporeal Fame,

Whose weight consists in nothing but her name,

Is swifter than the wind, whose tardie plumes,

Are reeking water, and dull earthlie fumes.

Home when he came, he seem'd not to be there,

But like exiled aire thrust from his sphere,

Set in a foreign place, and straight from thence,

120 Alcides(55) like, by mightie violence,

He would have chac'd away the swelling maine,

That him from her unjustly did detaine.

Like as the sunne in a Diameter(56),

Fires and inflames objects removed farre,

And heateth kindly, shining lat'rally;

So beautie, sweetly quickens when t'is nie,

But being separated and removed,

Burnes where it cherisht, murders where it loved.

Therefore even as an Index to a booke,

130 So to his mind was young Leanders looke,

O none but gods have power their love to hide,

Affection by the count'nance is descride.

The light of hidden fire it selfe discovers,

And love that is conceal'd, betrayes poore lovers.

His secret flame apparently was seene,

Leanders Father knew where he had beene,

And for the same mildly rebuk't his sonne,

Thinking to quench the sparckles new begonne.

But love resisted once, growes passionate,

140 And nothing more than counsaile, lovers hate.

For as a hot proud horse highly disdaines,

To have his head control'd, but breakes the raines,

Spits forth the ringled bit, and with his hooves,

Checkes the submissive ground: so he that loves,

The more he is restrain'd, the worse he fares,

What is it now, but mad Leander dares?

O Hero, Hero, thus he cry'de full oft,

And then he got him to a rocke aloft.

Where having spy'de her tower, long star'd he on't,

150 And pray'd the narrow toyling Hellespont,

To part in twaine, that he might come and go,

But still the rising billowes answered no.

With that he stript him to the ivorie skin,

And crying, Love I come, leapt liuely in.

Whereat the sapphire-visag'd god(57) grew proud,

And made his capering Triton sound aloud,

Imagining, that Ganymed displeas'd,

Had left the heavens, therefore on him he seiz'd.

Leander striv'd, the waves about him wound,

160 And pulled him to the bottome, where the ground

Was strewd with pearle, and in low corral groves

Sweet singing Mermaids, sported with their loves

On heapes of heavie gold, and tooke great pleasure,

To spurne in carelesse sort, the shipwracke treasure.

For here the stately azure palace stood,

Where kingly Neptune and his traine abode,

The lustie god embra'st him, called him love,

And swore he never should returne to Jove.

But when he knew it was not Ganymed,

170 For under water he was almost dead,

He heav'd him up, and looking on his face,

Beat downe the bold waves with his triple mace,

Which mounted up, intending to have kist him,

And fell in drops like teares, because they mist him.

Leander being up began to swim,

And looking backe, saw Neptune follow him.

Where at agast, the poore soule gan to crie,

‘O let mee visit Hero ere I die.’

The god put Helles bracelet on his arme(58),

180 And swore the sea should never doe him harme.

He clapt his plumpe cheekes, with his tresses playd,

And smiling wantonly, his love bewrayd.

He watcht his armes, and as they opened wide,

At every stroke, betwixt them would he slide,

And steale a kisse, and then run out and dance,

And as he turned, cast many a lustful glance,

And threw him gawdie toyes to please his eye,

And dive into the water, and there prie

Upon his brest, his thighes, and everie limb,

190 And up againe, and close beside him swim.

And talke of love: Leander made replie,

You are deceiv'd, I am no woman I,

Thereat smilde Neptune, and then told a tale,

How that a shepherd sitting in a vale,

Played with a boy so faire and kind,

As for his love, both earth and heaven pyn'd;

That of the cooling river durst not drinke,

Least water-nymphs should pull him from the brinke.

And when he sported in the fragrant lawnes,

200 Goat-footed Satyrs, and up-staring Fawnes,

Would steale him thence. Ere halfe this tale was done,

Aye me, Leander cryde, th'enamoured sunne,

That now should shine on Thetis glassie bower,

Descends upon my radiant Heroes tower.

O that these tardie armes of mine were wings,

And as he spake, upon the waves he springs.

Neptune was angrie that he gave no eare,

And in his heart revenging malice bare:

He flung at him his mace, but as it went,

210 He called it in, for love made him repent.

The mace returning backe, his owne hand hit,

As meaning to be veng'd for darting it.

When this fresh bleeding wound Leander viewd,

His colour went and came, as if he rewd(59).

The griefe which Neptune felt. In gentle breasts,

Relenting thoughts, remorse and pittie rests.

And who have hard hearts, and obdurat minds,

But vicious, harebrained, and illit'rat hinds?

The god seeing him with pittie to be moved,

220 Thereon concluded that he was beloved.

(Love is too full of faith, too credulous,

With follie and false hope deluding vs.)

Wherefore Leanders fancie to surprise,

To the rich Ocean for gifts he flies.

Tis wisedome to give much, a gift prevailes,

When deepe persuading Oratorie failes,

By this Leander being neare the land,

Cast downe his wearie feet, and felt the sand

Breathlesse albeit he were, he rested not,

230 Till to the solitarie tower he got.

And knocked and called, at which celestial noise,

The longing heart of Hero much more joyes

Then nymphs & shepherds, when the timbrel(60) rings,

Or crooked Dolphin when the sailor sings;

She stayed not for her robes, but straight arose,

And drunke with gladnesse, to the door she goes.

Where seeing a naked man, she screeched for feare,

Such sights as this, to tender maids are rare(61).

And ran in to the darke her selfe to hide,

240 Rich jewels in the darke are soonest spied.

Unto her was he led, or rather drawne,

By those white limbs, which sparkled through the lawne.

The nearer that he came, the more she fled,

And seeking refuge, slipped into her bed.

Whereon Leander sitting, thus began,

Though numbing cold, all feeble, faint and wan:

‘If not for love, yet love for pittie sake,

Me in thy bed and maiden bosome take,

At least vouchsafe these armes some little roome,

250 Who hoping to embrace thee, cherely swoome.

This head was beat with many a churlish billow,

And therefore let it rest upon thy pillow.’

Herewith affrighted Hero shrunke away,

And in her luke-warme place Leander lay.

Whose lively heat like fire from heaven fet,

Would animate grosse clay, and higher set

The drooping thoughts of base declining soules,

Then drearie Mars, carowsing Nectar boules.

His hands he cast upon her like a snare,

260 She overcome with shame and sallow feare,

Like chaste Diana, when Acteon spyde her,

Being sodainly betraide, div'd downe to hide her.

And as her silver body downeward went,

With both her hands she made the bed a tent,

And in her owne mind thought her selfe secure,

O'recast with dim and darksome coverture.

And now she lets him whisper in her eare,

Flatter, entreat, promise, protest and sweare,

Yet ever as he greedily assayd,

270 To touch those dainties, she the Harpy played,

And every limb did as a soldier stout,

Defend the fort, and keep the foe-man out.

For though the rising ivorie mount he scal'd,

Which is with azure circling lines empal'd,

Much like a globe, (a globe may I terme this,

By which love sailes to regions full of bliss,)

Yet there with Sysiphus he toyld in vaine,

Till gentle parlie did the truce obtaine.

Wherein Leander on her quivering breast,

280 Breathlesse spoke some things, and sigh'd out the rest;

Which so prevail'd, as he with small ado,

Inclos'd her in his armes and kist her to.

And everie kisse to her was as a charme,

And to Leander as a fresh alarme.

So that the truce was broke, and she alas,

(Poore silly maiden) at his mercie was.

Love is not full of pittie (as men say)

But deafe and cruel, where he meanes to pray.

Even as a bird, which in our hands we wring,

290 Forth plungeth, and oft flutters with her wing.

She trembling strove, this strife of hers (like that

Which made the world)(62) another world begat,

Of unknowne joy. Treason was in her thought,

And cunningly to yield her selfe she sought.

Seeming not won, yet won she was at length,

In such warres women use but halfe their strength.

Leander now like Theban Hercules,

Entred the orchard of th'Hesperides.(63)

Whose fruit none rightly can describe, but he

300 That pulls or shakes it from the golden tree:

And now she wisht this night were never done.

And sigh'd to thinke upon th'approching sunne,

For much it griev'd her that the bright day-light,

Should know the pleasure of this blessed night.

And then like Mars and Ericine displayd(64),

Both in each others armes chained as they layd.

Againe she knew not how to frame her looke,

Or speake to him who in a moment tooke,

That which so long so charily she kept,

310 And faine by stealth away she would have crept,

And to some corner secretly have gone,

Leaving Leander in the bed alone.

But as her naked feet were whipping out,

He on the sudden clingd her so about,

That Mermaid-like unto the floore she slid,

And halfe appear'd the other halfe was hid.

Thus neare the bed she blushing stood upright,

And from her countenance behold ye might,

A kind of twilight breake, which through the haire,

320 As from an orient cloud, glimpse here and there.

And round about the chamber this false morne,

Brought forth the day before the day was borne.

So Heroes ruddie cheeke Hero betrayd.

And her all naked to his sight displayd

Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure tooke,

Than Dis(65), on heapes of gold fixing his looke.

By this Apollos golden harpe began,

330 To sound forth musicke to the Ocean,

Which watchful Hesperus(66) no sooner heard,

But he the day bright-bearing Car prepar'd.

And ran before, as Harbinger of light,

And with his flaring beames mockt ugly night,

Till she o'recome with anguish, shame, and rage,

Hurld downe to hell her loathsome carriage.

Dominico feti, hero and leander, 1623

(1) This division of the poem was done by George Chapman. As Homer’s ‘Iliad’, set in Ilium, is divided into ‘Iliads’, so this poem, set in Sestos, is divided into ‘sestiads’.

(2) The straits that separate Europe from Asia Minor.

(3) ‘hight’ – was called

(4) ‘lawne - linen

(5) ‘kirtle’ – skirt

(6) ‘Buskins’ - boots

(7) ‘Mother’, i.e., Venus

(8) ‘Venus’ Nun’ – the phrase condenses the absurdity of her situation as virgin priestess of the Goddess of Love. Compare Thomas Nashe’s pornographic poem, ‘The Choice of Valentines’, where the working girls in a brothel are ‘Venus’ bouncing vestals’.

(9) ‘wracke’ – shipwreck, destruction.

(10) ‘divine Musaeus’ – Marlowe’s poem is an expansive re-working of a poem by Musaeus, a 5th century Alexandrian Greek. However, scholarship of the period mistakenly identified the poem’s author with the legendary Musaeus, a pupil of Orheus, and pre-Homeric. Hence Chapman ends his version with the thought that the lovers had the honour of being ‘the first that ever poet sung’.

(11) The lines allude to the quest for the Golden Fleece undertake by Jason and the Argonauts.

(12) Cynthia, the moon goddess.

(13) Circe is the enchantress in book 10 of Homer’s Odyssey.

(14) Instead of Ganymede, the boy favourite of Jove, giving him nectar in a cup or goblet, Leander has hands beautiful enough for the God to drink from.

(15) Pelops was killed by his father Tantalus, and impiously served up at a dinner for the Gods. Before the deception was revealed, Demeter ate his shoulder. When the youth was re-animated, a substitute ivory shoulder was supplied.

(16) ‘orient’ - shining

(17) The lines allude to the myth of the self-enamoured Narcissus.

(18) Hippolitus is one of the type-figures for the chaste male. He turned down the advances of his step-mother, Phaedra.

(19) Son of Apollo, the God of the sun. He took, and lost control of his father’s sun-chariot, Jove killed him to save the world.

(20) The lines refer to the moon, in her ‘Car’ (=chariot). ‘Thirling’ means something like whirling (across the heavens)

(21) Ixion tried to seduce Juno; Jove made him embrace a cloud in her shape, so begetting the centaurs; Jove then bound him to a wheel in hell.

(22) A none-opprobrious usage, simply meaning ‘multi-coloured’.

(23) Proteus was a shape-changing sea-god.

(24) Bacchus was the God of Wine, and hence ‘light-headed’.

(25) Her father tried to prevent her being seduced by locking her in a tower: Jove seduced her in the form of a shower of gold.

(26) Ganymede, Jove’s boy lover, associated with Mount Ida.

(27) Jupiter transformed her into a cow.

(28) Jupiter with Iris, the rainbow.

(29) Vulcan, cuckolded by Mars, caught his wife Venus and the God of war in a net, to the amusement of the other Gods.

(30) Sylvanus, God of the woods, and his beloved mortal boy, Cyparissus.

(31) ‘turtles’, i.e., turtle doves.

(32) The wit of the line depends upon the veil she wears as part of her vestments, and ‘veiling’ (lowering) her eyelids.

(33) The line, cited by Shakespeare’s Phoebe in As You Like It, assert that we don’t deliberate about our choices in love, our eyes do the censuring (judging) for us, not our reason.

(34) Acheron, a river of hell.

(35) Sophister – one who disputes.

(36) This adage, derived from Artistotle’s discussion of the matter, recurs in such arguments against virginity.

(37) Hymen, the (male) God of marriage.

(38) The idea that woman is an imperfect creation, made perfect by marriage to a man, derives from Aristotle. Donne uses it in one of his Epithalamic (marriage) poems, where the bride ‘tonight’ puts on ‘perfection and a woman’s name’.

(39) Pallas Athene, the chaste Goddess of Wisdom.

(40) Morpheus, God of sleep and dreams. He sent dreams in human shape, his brothers Icastes and Phantastes sent dreams in the form of animals and objects, respectively.

(41) A beldam is an old woman.

(42) Refers to the apparent retrograde (backwards) motion of a planet through the heavens: on its orbit, because the earth is also orbiting, the outer planets sometimes appear to move backwards, and thus to be going two ways at once, moving forwards overall, but backwards too.

(43) The following episode of myth invention by the poet is an etiological myth, a story of causation, of how a particular state of things originally came to be. Mercury (also called Hermes), a God associated with all forms of physical and intellectual dexterity, wins (with Cupid’s help) the hearts of the Destinies (he is seeking to satisfy the ambitious country maid’s desire for immortality). When he neglects the Destinies, they doom learning to be evermore inseparable from poverty.

(44) Argus was the hundred-eyed monster charmed, and killed, by Mercury to facilitate Jove’s seduction of Io.

(45) Elisium: heaven, the reward of the blessed spirits, here with a sexual sense.

(46) Nectar, the drink of the Gods, conferred immortality. Hebe (l.434) served Jove’s cup before Ganymede.

(47) The Fates or destinies, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, spun, measured and cut off human life-spans.

(48) Mercury charms the Destinies into having Jove dethroned, and sent to hell (‘Stygian emperie’), and be replaced by his predecessor, Saturn (‘Ops’ was Saturn’s wife), so bringing back the Golden Age to earth.

(49) The foolish descendants of the foolish, ass-eared King Midas.

(50) ‘Affied’ – more than an engagement: in 16th century law, a man and woman could privately exchange binding marriage-vows.

(51) ‘Fancy’ is a synonym for love in 16th century usage, ‘pais’d’ means weighed.

(52) The nymph who forcibly seduced Hermaphroditus, dragging him into her fountain, where they fused into one, double-sexed being.

(53) Alludes to Aesop’s fable of the cock that, finding a jewel, prefers a barleycorn.

(54) The punishment of Tantalus was to be ‘tantalised’ in hell, by food and drink that eternally flee from his famished lips.

(55) Alcides was another name for Hercules.

(56) A complex, almost metaphysical figure, comparing the searing heat of a vertical sun, with the sun when it shines from near the horizon, where it appears larger (or as it were, closer).

(57) Neptune is imagined as having a blue-green face. He is accompanied by Tritons, often depicted as man-like beings, but with the front legs of a horse, and the tail of a sea-creature.

(58) Helle, who fell into the Hellespont and drowned there, had the straight named after her.

(59) Rewd – pitied.

(60) The ‘timbrel’ or tambourine, associated with the music of shepherds.

(61) ‘rare’: uncommon, but also delectable.

(62) The strife that made the world would have been between the chaotic, warring elements, earth, air, fire and water, thought to have been combined in all materials at the creation of the world.

(63) One of Hercules’ labours was to get the golden apples of immortality from the Gardens of the Hesperides.

(64) Ericine was another name for Venus.

(65) Dis, or Pluto, God of the underworld and his wealth.

(66) Hesperus, usually an evening ‘star’, is in astronomical terms the planet Venus, prominent in the evening or early morning sky.