GODDESS, relate the witness-bearing light
Of Loves, that would not bear a human sight;
The Sea-man that transported marriages,
Shipt in the night, his bosom plowing th' seas;
The love- joys that in gloomy clouds did fly
The clear beams of th' immortal Morning's eye;
Abydus and fair Sestus, where I hear
The night-hid Nuptials of young Hero were;
Leander's swimming to her ; and a Light,
A Light that was administress of sight
To cloudy Venus, and did serve t' address
Night-wedding Hero's nuptial offices;
A Light that took the very form of Love;
Which had been justice in ethereal Jove,
When the nocturnal duty had been done,
T' advance amongst the consort of the Sun,
And call the Star that Nuptial Loves did guide, .
And to the Bridegroom gave and grac'd the Bride,
Because it was companion to the death
Of Loves, whose kind cares cost their dearest breath;
And that fame-freighted ship from shipwrack kept
That such sweet nuptials brought they never slept,
Till air was with a bitter flood inflate,
That bore their firm loves as infixt a hate.
But, Goddess, forth, and both one issue sing,
The Light extinct, Leander perishing.
Two towns there were, that with one sea were wall'd.
Built near, and opposite; this Sestus call'd,
Abydus that ; the Love his bow bent high,
And at both Cities let one arrow fly,
That two (a Virgin and a Youth) inflam'd:
The youth was sweetly-grac'd Leander nam'd,
The virgin Hero ; Sestus she renowns,
Abydus he, in birth; of both which towns
Both were the beauty-circled stars ; and both
Grac'd with like looks, as with one love and troth.
If that way lie thy course, seek for my sake
A Tower, that Sestian Hero once did make
Her watch-tower, and a torch stood holding there,
By which Leander his sea-course did steer.
Seek, likewise, of Abydus ancient tow'rs,
The roaring sea lamenting to these hours
Leander's Love and Death. But say, how came
He (at Abydus born) to feel the flame
Of Hero's love at Sestus, and to bind
In chains of equal fire bright Hero's mind?
The graceful Hero, born of gentle blood,
Was Venus' priest ; and since she understood
No nuptial language, from her parents she
Dwelt in a tow'r that over-look'd the sea.
For shamefastness and chastity, she reign'd
Another Goddess ; nor was ever train'd
In women's companies; nor learn'd to tread
A graceful dance, to which such years are bred.
The envious spites of women she did fly,
(Women for beauty their own sex envy)'
All her devotion was to Venus done,
And to his heavenly Mother her great Son
Would reconcile with sacrifices ever,
And ever trembled at his flaming quiver.
Yet scap'd not so his fiery shafts her breast ;
For now the popular Venerean Feast,
Which to Adonis, and great Cypria's State,
The Sestians yearly us'd to celebrate,
Was come; and to that holy day came all
That in the bordering isles *.he sea did wall.
To it in flocks they flew ; from Cyprus these,
Environ'd with the rough Carpathian seas;
These from Haemonia; nor remain'd a man
Of all the towns in th' isles Cytherean;
Not one was left, that us'd to dance upon
The tops of odoriferous Libanon;
Not one of Phrygia, not one of all
The neighbours seated near the Festival ;
Nor one of opposite Abydus' shore ;
None of all these, that virgins' favours wore,
Were absent; all such fill the flowing way,
When Fame proclaims a solemn holy day,
Not bent so much to offer holy flames,
As to the beauties of assembled dames.
The virgin Hero enter'd th' holy place,
And graceful beams cast round about her face,
Like to the bright orb of the rising Moon.
The top-spheres of her snowy cheeks puts on
A glowing redness, like the two-hued rose
Her odorous bud beginning to disclose.
You would have said, in all her lineaments
A meadow full of roses she presents.
All over her she blush'd; which (putting on
Her white robe, reaching to her ankles) shone
(While she in passing did her feet dispose)
As she had wholly been a moving rose.
Graces in numbers from her parts did flow.
The Ancients therefore (since they did not know
Hero's unbounded beauties) falsely feign'd
Only three Graces ; for, when Hero strain'd
Into a smile her priestly modesty,
A hundred Graces grew from either eye.
A fit one, sure, the Cyprian Goddess found
To be her ministress; and so highly crown'd
With worth her grace was, past all other dames,
That, of a priest made to the Queen of Flames,
A new Queen of them she in all eyes shin'd;
And did so undermine each tender mind
Of all the young men; and there was not one
But wish'd fair Hero was his wife, or none.
Nor could she stir about the well-built Fane,
This way or that, but every way she wan
A following mind in all men; which their eyes,
Lighted with all their inmost faculties,
Clearly confirmed; and one (admiring) said,
"All Sparta I have travell'd, and survey'd
The City Lacedaemon, where we hear
All Beauties' labors and contentions were,
A woman, yet, so wise and delicate
I never saw. It may be Venus gat
One of the younger Graces to supply
The place of priest-hood to her Deity.
Ev'n tir'd I am with sight, yet doth not find
A satisfaction by my sight my mind.
could I once ascend sweet Hero's bed,
Let me be straight found in her bosom dead !
I would not wish to be in heaven a God,
Were Hero here my wife. But, if forbod
To lay profane hands on thy holy priest,
O Venus, with another such assist
My nuptial longings." Thus pray'd all that spake;
The rest their wounds hid, and in frenzies brake ;
Her beauty's fire, being so suppress'd, so rag'd.
But thou, Leander, more than all engag'd,
Wouldst not, when thou hadst view'd th' amazing Maid,
Waste with close stings, and seek no open aid,
But, with the flaming arrows of her eyes
Wounded unwares, thou wouldst in sacrifice
Vent th' inflammation thy burnt blood did prove,
Or live with sacred med'cine of her love.
But now the love-brand in his eye-beams burn'd,
And with unconquered fire his heart was turn'd
Into a coal; together wrought the flame.
The virtuous beauty of a spotless dame
Sharper to men is than the swiftest shaft;
His eye the way by which his heart is caught,
And, from the stroke his eye sustains, the wound
Opens within, and doth his entrails sound.
Amaze then took him, Impudence and Shame
Made earthquakes in him with their frost and flame.
His heart betwixt them toss'd, till Reverence
Took all these prisoners in him; and from thence
Her matchless beauty, with astonishment,
Increas'd his bands ; till aguish Love, that lent
Shame and Observance, licens'd their remove;
And, wisely liking impudence in love,
Silent he went, and stood against the Maid,
And in side glances faintly he convey'd
His crafty eyes about her ; with dumb shows
Tempting her mind to error. And now grows
She to conceive his subtle flame, and joy'd
Since he was graceful. Then herself employ'd
Her womanish cunning, turning from him quite
Her lovely count'nance; giving yet some light,
Even by her dark signs, of her kindling fire,
With up and down-looks whetting his desire.
He joy'd at heart to see Love's sense in her,
And no contempt of what he did prefer.
And while he wish'd unseen to urge the rest,
The day shrunk down her beams to lowest West,
And East ; the Even-Star took vantage of her shade.
Then boldly he his kind approaches made,
And as he saw the russet clouds increase,
He strain'd her rosy hand, and held his peace,
But sigh'd as silence had his bosom broke.
When she, as silent, put on anger's cloke,
And drew her hand back. He, discerning well
Her would and would not, to her boldlier fell ;
And her elaborate robe, with much cost wrought,
About her waist embracing, on he brought
His love to th' in-parts of the reverend Fane;
She (as her love-sparks more and more did wane)
Went slowly on, and, with a woman's words
Threat'ning Leander, thus his boldness bords :
"Why Stranger, are you mad? Ill-fated man,
Why hale you thus a virgin Sestian?
Keep on your way. Let go, fear to offend
The noblesse of my birth-right's either friend. 1
It ill becomes you to solicit thus
The priest of Venus. Hopeless, dangerous,
The barr'd up way is to a virgin's bed."
Thus, for the maiden form, she menaced.
But he well-knew, that when these female mines
Break out in fury, they are certain signs
Of their persuasions. Women's threats once shown,
Shows in it only all you wish your own.
And therefore of the rubi-colour'd maid
The odorous neck he with a kiss assay'd,
And, stricken with the sting of love, he pray'd:
"Dear Venus, next to Venus you must go;
And next Minerva, trace Minerva too ;
Your like with earthy dames no light can show;
To Jove's Great Daughters I must liken you.
Blest was thy great begetter; blest was she
Whose womb did bear thee ; but most blessedly
The womb itself fare that thy throes did prove.
O ! hear my prayer ! Pity the need of Love.
As priest of Venus, practise Venus' rites.
Come, and instruct me in her bed's-delights.
It fits not you, a virgin, to vow aids
To Venus' service ; Venus loves no maids.
If Venus' institutions you prefer,
And faithful ceremonies vow to her,
uptials and beds they be. If her love binds,
Love Love's sweet laws, that soften human minds.
Make me your servant; husband, if you pleas'd;
Whom Cupid with his burning shafts has seiz'd,
And hunted to you, as swift Hermes drave
With his gold-rod Jove's bold son to be slave
To Lydia's sov'reign Virgin; but for me,
Venus insulting forc'd my feet to thee,
I was not guided by wise Mercury.
Virgin, you know, when Atalanta fled,
Out of Arcadia, kind Melanion's bed,
Affecting virgin-life, your angry Queen,
Whom first she us'd with a malignant spleen,
At last possest him of her complete heart.
And you, dear love, because I would avert
Your Goddess' anger, I would fain persuade."
With these love-luring words conform'd he made
The maid recusant to his blood's desire,
And set her soft mind on an erring fire.
Dumb she was strook ; and down to earth she threw
Her rosy eyes, hid in vermilion hue,
Made red with shame. Oft with her foot she rac'd
Earth's upper part; and oft (as quite ungrac'd)
About her shoulders gather'd up her weed.
All these fore-tokens are that men should speed.
Of a persuaded virgin, to her bed
Promise is most given when the least is said.
And now she took in Love's sweet-bitter sting,
Burn'd in a fire that cool'd her surfeiting.
Her beauties likewise strook her friend amaz'd;
For, while her eyes fixt on the pavement gaz'd,
Love on Leander's looks shew'd fury seiz'd.
Never enough his greedy eyes were pleas'd
To view the fair gloss of her tender neck.
At last this voice past, and out did break
A ruddy moisture from her bashful eyes:
"Stranger, perhaps thy words might exercise
otion in flints, as well as my soft breast.
Who taught thee words, that err from East to West
In their wild liberty? O woe is me!
To this my native soil who guided thee?
All thou hast said is vain ; for how canst thou
( Not to be trusted ; one I do not know )
Hope to excite in me a mixed love?
Tis clear, that Law by no means will approve
Nuptials with us ; for thou canst never gain
My parents' graces. If thou wouldst remain
Close on my shore, as outcast from thine own,
Venus will be in darkest corners known.
Man's tongue is loose to scandal ; loose acts done
In surest secret, in the open sun
And every market place will burn thine ears.
But say, What name sustainst thou? What soil bears
Name of thy country? Mine I cannot hide.
My far-spread name is Hero; I abide
Hous'd in an all-seen tow'r, whose tops touch heaven,
Built on a steep shore, that to sea is driven
Before the City Sestus; one sole maid
Attending. And this irksome life is laid
By my austere friends' wills on one so young ;
No like-year'd virgins near, no youthful throng,
To meet in some delights, dances, or so ;
But day and night the windy sea doth throw
Wild murmuring cuffs about our deaf'ned ears."
This said, her white robe hid her cheeks like spheres.
And then (with shame affected, since she us'd
Words that desir'd youths, and her friends accus'd)
She blam'd herself for them, and them for her.
Mean space Leander felt Love's arrow err
Thro' all his thoughts ; devising how he might
Encounter Love, that dar'd him so to fight.
Mind-changing Love wounds men and cures again.
Those mortals over whom he lists to reign,
Th' All-tamer stoops to, in advising how
They may with some ease bear the yoke, his bow.
So our Leander, whom he hurt, he heal'd.
Who having long his hidden fire conceal'd,
And vex'd with thoughts he thirsted to impart,
His stay he quitted with this quickest art:
" Virgin, for thy love I will swim a wave
That ships denies ; and though with fire it rave,
In way to thy bed, all the seas in one
I would despise; the Hellespont were none.
All nights to swim to one sweet bed with thee
Were nothing, if when Love had landed me,
All hid in weeds and in Venerean foam,
I brought withal bright Hero's husband home.
Not far from hence, and just against thy town,
Abydus stands, that my birth calls mine own.
Hold but a torch then in thy heaven-high tow'r,
(Which I beholding, to that starry pow'r
May plow the dark seas, as the Ship of Love)
I will not care to see Bootes move
Down to the sea, nor sharp Orion trail
His never-wet car, but arrive my sail,
Against my country, at thy pleasing shore.
But (dear) take heed that no ungentle blore
The torch extinguish, bearing all the light
By which my life sails, lest I lose thee quite.
Wouldst thou my name know (as thou dost my house)'
It is Leander, lovely Hero's spouse."
Thus this kind couple their close marriage made,
And friendship ever to be held in shade
(Only by witness of one nuptial light)
Both vow'd ; agreed that Hero every night
Should hold her torch out ; every night her love
The tedious passage of the sea should prove.
The whole even of the watchful nuptials spent,
Against their wills the stern power of constraint
Enforc'd their parting. Hero to her tow'r;
Leander (minding his returning hour)
Took of the turret marks, for fear he fail'd,
And to well-founded broad Abydus sail'd.
All night both thirsted for the secret strife
Of each young married lovely man and wife;
And all day after no desire shot home,
But that the chamber-decking night were come.
And now Night's sooty clouds clapp'd all sail on,
Fraught all with sleep ; yet took Leander none,
But on th' oppos'd shore of the noisefull seas
The messenger of glitt'ring marriages
Look'd wishly for ; or rather long'd to see
The witness of their Light to misery,
Far off discover'd in their covert bed.
When Hero saw the blackest curtain spred
That veil'd the dark night, her bright torch she shew'd.
Whose light no sooner th'eager Lover view'd,
But Love his blood set on as bright a fire ;
Together burn'd the torch and his desire.
But hearing of the sea the horrid roar,
With which the tender air the mad waves tore,
At first he trembled ; but at last he rear'd
High as the storm his spirit, and thus cheer'd
(Using these words to it) his resolute mind:
"Love dreadful is; the Sea with nought inclin'd;
But Sea is water, outward all his ire ;
When Love lights his fear with an inward fire.
Take fire, my heart, fear nought that flits and raves,
Be Love himself to me, despise these waves.
Art thou to know that Venus' birth was here ?
Commands the sea, and all that grieves us there?"
This said, his fair limbs of his weed he stript ;
Which, at his head with both hands bound, he shipt,
Leapt from the shore, and cast into the sea
His lovely body ; thrusting all his way
Up to the torch, that still he thought did call ;
He oars, he steerer, he the ship and all.
Hero advanc'd upon a tow'r so high,
As soon would lose on it the fixedst eye ;
And, like her Goddess Star, with her light shining,
The winds, that always (as at her repining)
Would blast her pleasures, with her veil she checkt,
And from their envies did her torch protect.
And this she never left, till she had brought
Leander to the havenful shore he sought.
When down she ran, and up she lighted then,
To her tow'r's top, the weariest of men.
First at the gates (without a syllable us'd)
She hugg'd her panting husband, all diffus'd
With foamy drops still stilling from his hair.
Then brought she him into the inmost fair
Of all, her virgin-chamber, that (at best)
Was with her beauties ten times better drest.
His body then she cleans'd ; his body oil'd
With rosy odours, and his bosom (soil'd
With the unsavoury sea) she render'd sweet
Then, in the high-made bed (ev'n panting yet)
Herself she pour'd about her husband's breast,
And these words utter'd : "With too much unrest,
O husband, you have bought this little peace !
Husband! No other man hath paid th' increase
Of that huge sum of pains you took for me.
And yet I know, it is enough for thee
To suffer for my love the fishy savours
The working sea breathes. Come lay all thy labors
On my all-thankful bosom." All this said,
He straight ungirdled her ; and both parts paid
To Venus what her gentle statutes bound.
Here weddings were, but not a musical sound ;
Here bed-rites offer'd, but no hymns of praise,
Nor poet sacred wedlock's worth did raise.
No torches gilt the honor'd nuptial bed,
Nor any youths much-moving dances led.
No father, nor no reverend mother, sung
Hymen, O Hymen, blessing loves so young.
But when the consummating hours had crown'd
The down-right nuptials, a calm bed was found;
Silence the room fixt ; Darkness deckt the bride ;
But hymns and such rites far were laid aside.
Night was sole gracer of this nuptial house ;
Cheerful Aurora never saw the spouse
In any beds that were too broadly known,
Away he fled still to his region,
And breath'd insatiate of the absent Sun.
Hero kept all this from her parents still,
Her priestly weed was large, and would not fill,
A maid by day she was, a wife by night ;
Which both so lov'd they wish'd it never light.
And thus both, hiding the strong need of love,
In Venus' secret sphere rejoic'd to move.
But soon their joy died ; and that still-toss'd state
Of their stol'n nuptials drew but little date.
For when the frosty Winter kept his justs,
Rousing together all the horrid gusts
That from the ever-whirling pits arise,
And those weak deeps that drive up to the skies,
Against the drench'd foundations making knock
Their curled foreheads ; then with many a shock
The winds and seas met, made the storms aloud
Beat all the rough sea with a pitchy cloud.
And then the black bark, buffeted with gales,
Earth checks so rudely that in two it falls ;
The seaman flying winter's faithless sea.
Yet, brave Leander, all this bent at thee
Could not compel in thee one fit of fear;
But when the cruel faithless messenger
(The tow'r) appeared and shew'd th' accustom'd light,
It stung thee on, secure of all the spite
The raging sea spit. But since Winter came,
Unhappy Hero should have cool'd her flame,
And lie without Leander, no more lighting
Her short-liv'd bed-star; but strange Fate exciting
As well as Love, and both their pow'rs combin'd
Enticing her, in her hand never shin'd
The fatal Love-torch, but this one hour, more.
Night came. And now the Sea against the shore
Muster'd her winds up; from whose wint'ry jaws
They belch'd their rude breaths out in bitt'rest flaws.
In midst of which Leander, with the pride
Of his dear hope to bord his matchless bride,
Up on the rough back of the high sea leaps ;
And then waves thrust up waves ; the watry heaps
Tumbled together; sea and sky were mixt;
The fighting Winds the frame of Earth unfixt ;
Zephyr and Eurus flew in cither's face,
Notus and Boreas wrastler-like embrace,
And toss each other with their bristled backs.
Inevitable were the horrid cracks
The shaken Sea gave ; ruthful were the wracks
Leander suffer'd in the savage gale
Th' inexorable whirlpits did exhale.
Often he pray'd to Venus born of seas,
Neptune their King; and Boreas, that 'twould please
His Godhead, for the Nymph Atthea's sake,
Not to forget the like stealth he did make
For her dear love, touch't then with his sad state.
But none would help him; Love compels not Fate.
Every way toss'd with waves and Air's rude breath
Justling together, he was crush'd to death.
No more his youthful force his feet commands,
Unmov'd lay now his late all-moving hands.
His throat was turn'd free channel to the flood,
And drink went down that did him far from good.
No more the false light for the curst wind burn'd,
That of Leander ever-to-be-mourn'd
Blew out the love and soul. When Hero still
Had watchful eyes, and a most constant will
To guide the voyage; and the morning shin'd,
Yet not by her light she her love could find.
She stood distract with miserable woes,
And round about the sea's broad shoulders throws
Her eye, to second the extinguish'd light ;
And tried if any way her husband's sight
Erring in any part she could descry.
When at her turret's foot she saw him lie
Mangl'd with rocks, and all embrued, she tore
About her breast the curious weed she wore ;
And with a shriek from off her turret's height
Cast her fair body headlong, that fell right
On her dead husband, spent with him her breath ;
And each won other in the worst of death.
1 i.e., both my parents.