O love, how thou art tired out with rhyme!
Thou art a tree whereon all poets climb,
And from thy tender branches everyone2
Doth take some3 fruit, which fancy feeds upon.
But now thy tree is left so bare and poor, 5
That they can hardly gather one plum more.
The brain is the2 Elysian fields, for there3
All ghosts and spirits in strong dreams appear.
In gloomy shades do sleepy lovers4 walk,
And5 souls do entertain themselves with talk,
And heroes their great actions do relate, 5
Telling both their good fortune and6 sad fate,
What chanced to them when they awake7 did live,
Their world the light did great Apollo give;
And what in life they could a pleasure call,
Here in these fields they pass their time withal, 10
Where Memory, the ferryman, with him8
Brings9 company, which through the senses swim.
The boat, imagination, ’s10 always full,
Which Charon roweth in the region skull,
In which the famous river Styx doth flow,11 15
Wherein who’s dipped, straight doth forgetful grow.12
And13 this Elysium poets happy call,
Where poets, as great gods, do record14 all
The souls of those that15 they will choose for bliss,
And their sweet numbered verse their passport is. 20
And16 those that strive this happy place to have17
Must go to bed and sleep as in a grave.18
Yet what a stir do poets make, when they
By their wit, Mercury, those souls convey!
But what, cannot the godhead wit create, 25
Whose fancies are both destiny and fate?19
Fame is20 the thread which long or21 short they spin;
The world, as flax unto their distaff bring.22
This distaff spins fine canvas of conceit,
Wherein the sense is woven ev’n23 and straight; 30
But if’t24 in knots and snarls entangled be,
The thread of fame doth run unevenly.
Those that care not to live in poets’ verse,
Let them lie dead upon oblivion’s hearse.
The shepherdesses which great flocks do keep
Are dabbled high with dew following their sheep,
Milking their ewes, their hands do2 dirty make,
For being3 wet, dirt from their duggs do take.
Through the sun’s heat, their skin doth yellow grow;4 5
Their eyes are red, lips dry with winds5 that blow.6
There shepherds sit on tops of mountains7 high,
And8 on their feeding sheep do cast an eye,
Which to the mount’s steep sides they hanging feed
On short moist grass,9 not suffered to bear seed. 10
Their feet are small, but strong each sinew’s10 string,
Which makes11 them fast to rocks and mountains cling.
The while the shepherd’s legs hang dangling down,
He12 sets his breech upon the hill’s high crown.
Like to13 a tanned hide, so is14 his skin; 15
No melting heat or numbing cold gets in,
And with a voice that’s harsh against his throat,
He strains to sing, yet knows not any note,
And, yawning, lazy15 lies upon his side,
Or straight upon his back with16 arms spread wide, 20
Or, snorting, sleeps, and dreams of Joan his17 maid,
Or of hobgoblins,18 wakes as being afraid—
Motion in his19 dull brains doth plow and sow,
Not plant and set, as skilfull gard’ners20 do—
Or21 takes his knife half broke, but ground again,22 25
And whittles sticks, his sheep-cote up to pin,23
Or cuts some holes in straw, to pipe thereon
Some amorous tunes, which pleaseth his love Joan.24
Thus rustic clowns are pleased to spend their times,
And not as poets feign, in verse and rhymes,25 30
Making great kings and princes pastures keep,
And beauteous ladies follow26 flocks of sheep,
And dance27 ’bout maypoles in a rustic sort,
When ladies scorn to dance without a court.
For they their loves would28 hate if they should come 35
With leather jerkins, breeches made of thrum,
And buskins made of frieze that’s coarse and strong,
With29 clouted shoes, tied with a leather thong.
Those that are nicely bred fine clothes still love;
A fair white hand doth hate a30 dirty glove. 40
To cover noble lovers with the2 weeds
Of ragged shepherds, too low3 thoughts it breeds,
Like as when men make gods to come4 down low,5
Take6 off all rev’rence7 and respect we owe.
Then rather make ladies8 fair nymphs to be, 5
Who’re cloathed with beauty, bred with modesty;
Their9 tresses long hang on their shoulders10 white,
Which when they move, do give the gods delight.
Their11 quivers,12 hearts of men, which fast are tied,
And arrows of quick flying eyes beside, 10
Buskins, which,13 buckled close with plates of gold,
With strength their legs from base ways back14 do hold.
And make men15 champions, knights—which honor prize16
Above the tempting of alluring eyes—
Which17 seek to kill, or at the least to bind 15
All evil passions in a wand’ring mind;
And18 take those castles kept by scandals strong,
That have by errors been enchanted long,
Rout monstrous vices, which do19 virtues eat:
These lovers worthy are of praises great. 20
So will high Fame aloud those praises sing;
Cupid those lovers shall to Hymen bring,
At Honor’s altar join both hearts and hands;
The gods will seal those20 matrimonial bands.
Dishonor in the house of shame doth dwell;
The way is broad, and open is as2 Hell.
The porter’s he whom Baseness we3 do call,
And Idleness is4 usher of the hall.
The house with dark forgetfulness is hung, 5
And round about ingratitude is flung,
Boldness for windows,5 which outface the light;
The curtains are dissembling,6 drawn with spite.
With covetousness all gilded are the rooves;7
The weathercock inconstancy still moves.8 10
Instead of pillars, obstinacy9 stands,
Carved with perjury by cunning hands,
And Lust on beds of luxury doth10 lie,
Where chamberlains of jealousies out-spy.11
Gardens of riot, where the wanton walks, 15
Lascivious arbors where Obsceneness talks,
Storehouses of12 theft ill-gotten goods lie13 in,
A secret door14 bolted with a false pin.
The bakehouse doth ill consciences15 make;
False hearts, as ovens16 hot, those hard do17 bake. 20
The brewhouse yields designs of wicked brains,18
With corrupt measures and deceitful grains;19
Drunkness the cellar, stomachs for barrels go;20
Mouths are the taps, whence spew for drink doth flow.21
Kitchens of slander, where good names are burned,22 25
Spits of revenge, on which ill deeds are turned;23
The slaughter-house24 of horrid murder’s25 built,
A knife of cruelty, by which blood is spilt.26
In matrimonial bonds Dishonor’s linked27
With Infamy, which is as black as ink. 30
Honor’s brave temple’s1 built both high and wide,
Whose walls are of clear glass on every side,
Where actions of all sorts are perfect seen,
Where Truth, the2 priest, approves which worthiest3 been,
And4 on the altar of the world them lays, 5
And offers them with sacrificing praise,
Which offerings are so clean and without stain,56
As Honor’s godhead cannot them disdain:7
As pious tears, with thoughts most chaste and pure;
And patient minds, afflictions to endure; 10
Wise8 brains, which bring things9 to a good10 effect;
And helping hands, where bribes are not11 suspect;
A tongue, which truth in eloquence doth dress;
And lips, which worth praises do express;
Eyes that pry out, and spy examples good; 15
Feet that in ways of mischief never stood;
Hair from those heads12 that shaved for holy vow,
Which as a witness, blessing gods allow;
Breasts, from whence13 proceed all good desires,
Which lock up secrets, if that need14 requires; 20
And hearts, from whence clear springs of love do rise,
Where loyal courage in the bottom lies;
Beside here’s spleens,15 which never16 malice bore;
And shoulders, which17 distressèd burdens wore;
And humble knees, that bow18 to ruling powers; 25
And hands of bounty, which on mis’ry19 showers;
King’s crowns, which rule20 with justice, love, and peace,
Whose power serves21 from slavery to release;
Here speculations from much22 musing grow,
Which reason’s23 proof and time’s experience show; 30
Witty inventions, which men profit bring;
Inspired24 verse, which poets to25 gods sing;
White innocence, as girdles, virgins26 wear,
That only Hymen27 from their waist doth tear;
And Hymen’s torches, which burn bright and clear, 35
Show jealousy and falsehood ne’er come28 near;
Garlands of laurel, which keep ever green,
And29 for the best of poets crowns have been;
The olive branch, which emblem is30 of peace,
Is offered there31 for the world’s good increase; 40
Mirtle is laid for lovers that32 are true;
And for misfortunes is33 the bitter rue;
Sighs, which from deep compassion do flow out;
And faith,34 which never knew to make a doubt.
These,35 offered all with grateful hearts in ranks, 45
Were sprinkled with the pure36 essence of thanks,
Of pen’tent tears was th’holy water made;37
Love’s flaming fire was on the altar laid.38
The priests, which all the ceremonies there39
Did execute, the four chief virtues were;40 50
These in41 procession Honor high did raise,
And with their anthems sweetly sang42 her praise.
This temple is divided in two parts:
Some open lie, others obscure1 as hearts;
Some light as day, others are2 dark as night,
By time’s obscurity worn out of sight.
The outward rooms are3 glorious to the eye, 5
In which Fame’s image placed are4 on high,
Where5 all the windows are triangulars cut,
Where one face into millions is6 put,
And builded is in squares, just like a cube,7
Which way to double, hard is in dispute.8 10
Echoes therein do like as9 balls rebound
From every corner, making a great sound.
The walls are hung with chapters10 all of gold,
In letters great all actions there are told.
The temple door is of prospective glass, 15
Through which a small beam of our eye can pass.
That11 makes truth there so12 difficult to know,
As a new world in the bright moon13 to show.
The steepl’and pillars are14 of goose-quills built,
And plastered over with white paper gilt; 20
The painting is with ink as15 black as jet,
In several works and figures like a net.
The steeple’s high, and yet16 not very light,
But as an17 evening is, ’twixt day and night.
Five tongues, the five bells through18 the world do ring, 25
And to each several ear much news do bring.
The philosopher’s tongue doth give a deep sound,19
But the historian’s is no better found;20
Th’orator’s tongue doth make great noise; the sound21
Of critics harsh, as full of flaws is found;22 30
The small bell, a poet’s tongue, changes23 oft,
Whose motion is24 quick, smooth, even,25 and soft.
The ropes they hang26 by, one cannot27 well see,
For they are28 long small threads of vainglory.
And when they ring, they make a fine29 sweet chime, 35
Especially when poets’ tongues do30 rhyme.
The belfry-man’s31 a printer by his skill,
Who,32 if he pleases, may ring when he will.
When priest to matins, or to vespers go,
To the high altar they bow very33 low. 40
This altar, where34 they offer unto Fame,
Is made of brains, arms, and hearts, without35 blame,
On which lies wisdom, wit, strength, courage, love,
As36 sacrifices to great Fame37 above.
Vertues, arts, sciences as priests here stand,38 45
But Fortune, prioress, doth all command.39
Incense of noble deeds to Fame she sends;
Nothing is offered, but what she commends,40
For Fortune brings more into Fame’s high court
Than all the41 virtues with their great resort. 50
In Fame’s great library are records2 placed;
What act’s not there, into oblivion’s3 cast.
There stand the shelves4 of time, where books do lie,
Which books are tied by chains of destiny.
The master of this place they Favor call, 5
Where Care, the door-keeper, doth lock up all,
Yet not so fast, but Brib’ry in doth steal,5
Cozenage, Partiality—and truth not reveal.6
But bribery through all the world takes7 place,
And off’rings,8 as a bribe, in heaven find9 grace. 10
Then let not men disdain a bribe to take,
Since gods do blessings10 give for a bribe’s sake.
The Fairy Queen’s large kingdom, got by birth,
Is in the midst and2 center of the Earth,
Where there are many springs and running streams,
Whose waves do glister by the Queen’s bright beams,
Which makes them murmur as they pass away, 5
Because by running round they cannot stay.
For3 they do ever move, and,4 like the sun,
Do constantly in circulation5 run,6
And as the sun gives heat to make things spring,
So water moisture gives to7 everything. 10
Thus8 these two elements give life to all,
Creating everything on th’Earth’s9 round ball.
And all along this liquid source doth flow,10
Stand myrtle trees, and banks where flowers grow.11
’Tis true, there are no birds to sing sweet notes, 15
But there are winds that whistle like birds’12 throats,
Whose sounds and notes, by variation, oft
Make better music then the spheres aloft.
Nor is there any beast13 of cruel nature,
But a slow, crawling14 worm, a gentle creature, 20
Who fears no hungry birds15 to pick him16 out,
But safely grasps17 the tender twigs about.
There mountains are of pure refinèd gold,
And rocks of diamonds, perfect to behold,
Whose brightness is a sun to all about, 25
Which glory makes Apollo’s beams keep out.
Quarries18 of rubies, sapphires there are store,
Crystals, and amethysts, and19 many more;
There polished pillars nat’rally20 appear,
Where twining vines are clustered all the year. 30
The axle-tree whereon the Earth turns round
Is one great diamond, by opinion found.
And the two ends, which we do call21 the poles,
Are pointed diamonds, turning in two holes,22
Which holes are rings of pure refinèd gold,23 35
And all the weight of that vast world uphold,24
Which makes the sun so seldom there appear,
For fear those rings should melt, if he came near.
And like25 a wheel the elements are found,
In even lays, and many26 turnings round. 40
First, fire is in the27 circle, as the spoke,
And then comes water; air is but28 the smoke
Begot of both, for fire doth water boil,
And causes clouds and29 smoke, which is the oil.
This smoky child sometimes is good, then bad, 45
According to the nourishment it had.
The outward circle as the earth suppose,
Which is the surface where all plenty grows.30
Yet31 Earth is not the cause of its self-turning,32
But fire within; nor is there33 fear of burning 50
The axle-tree, for that grows hard with heat,
And by its quickness turns the wheel, though great,
Unless its outward weight do press it34 down,
Raising the bottom,35 bowing down the crown.
But36 why this while am I so long of proving, 55
Only37 to show how this Earth still is moving?
And the heavens, as wheels, do turn38 likewise,
As we do daily see before39 our eyes.
Thus is made good the proverb, which doth say40
That all the world on wheels doth run its way.41 60
And by this42 turn such blasts of wind do blow,
As we may think they do like windmills43 go.
But winds are made by Vulcan’s bellows sure,
Which makes the Earth such colics to endure,
For he, a smith, sits44 at the forge below, 65
And is ordained45 the center-fire to blow.
But Venus laughs to think what horns he wears,
Though on his shoulders half the Earth he bears.
Nature her metal makes him hammer46 out,
Which she doth send47 through mines the world about, 70
For he’s th’old man that doth i’th’center dwell,
She Proserpine, that’s thought the queen of hell.
Thus48 Venus is a tinker’s wife, we see,
Not a goddess, as she was thought to be
When all the world to her did off’rings49 bring, 75
And her high praise in prose and verse did50 sing,
And priests in orders on her altars tend,
And to her image all wise heads did51 bend.
But O vain ways, that mortal52 men did go
To worship gods, which themselves did53 not know! 80
’Tis true, her son’s a pretty lad, and he54
Doth wait as footboy on Queen Mab, whom she55
Makes to enkindle fires, and set56 up lights,
And keeps57 the door for all the carpet-knights,58
For when the queen is gone to bed asleep,59 85
Then a great60 revel-rout the court doth keep.
Yet heretofore men did so strive61 to prove
That Cupid was the only god62 of love.
But if men could but63 to the center go,
They soon would see that it were nothing so. 90
Here Nature nurses, and doth send in64 season
All things abroad, as she herself thinks65 reason;
When she commands, all things do her obey,
Unless66 her countermand some things do stay.
For she stays life, when drugs are well applied,67 95
And68 healing balms to deadly wounds beside.69
There Mab is queen of all by Nature’s will,
And by her favor she doth govern still.
O happy70 Mab, that is in Nature’s grace,
For she is always young,71 being in this place. 100
But leaving her,72 let’s go and see73 the sport
That’s acted in the Queen of Fairy’s74 court,75