Another run to the Jetty and back

Raleigh’s elegy praise of his Queen’s “Bewty that cannot vade”  in “The Ocean, to Cynthia” is challenged in Marlowe’s take on Hero and Leander.  Raleigh’s present made to Cynthia per his commonplace book:

Now we have present made
To Cynthia, phaebe, flora,
Diana and Aurora:
Bewty that cannot vade. (1-4)

“Now we have present made To Cynthia”etc, i.e., “Bewty that cannot vade”.  At some point interest is in Cynthia as a name for Elizabeth I herself. In “The Ocean, to Cynthia” Raleigh’s Leander does what he can no longer do in life. That is to suggest that since he can no longer make Hero of Sestos happy, his only recourse to do so now is simply to allow himself to drown in the Hellespont:

On Sestos’ shore, Leander’s late resort,
Hero hath left no lamp to guide her love.
Thou lookest for light in vain, and storms arise;
She sleeps thy death that erst thy danger sighed;
Strive then no more, bow down thy weary eyes,
Eyes which to all these woes thy heart have guided.
She is gone, she is lost, she is found, she is ever fair;
Sorrow draws weakly where love draws not too;
Woe’s cries sound nothing, but only in love’s ear.
Do then by dying what life cannot do.

Thus Marlowe’s take on Raleigh’s present begins as follows:

On Hellespont guiltie of True-loves blood,
In view and opposit two citties stood,
Seaborderers, disjoin’d by Neptune might:
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
At Sestos, Hero dwelt; Hero the faire,
Whom young Apollo courted for her haire,
And offred as a dower his burning throne,
Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.

The outside of her garments were of lawne,
The lining, purple silke, with guilt starres drawne,
Her wide sleeves greene, and bordered with a grove,
Where Venus in her naked glory strove,
To please the carelesse and disdainfull eies,
Of proud Adonis that before her lies.
Her kirtle 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 reacht to the ground beneath.
Her vaile was artificiall flowers and leaves,
Whose workmanship both man and beast deceaves.
Many would praise the sweet smell as she past,
When t’was the odour which her breath foorth cast.
And there for honie, bees have sought in vaine,
And beat from thence, have lighted there againe.
About her necke hung chaines of peble stone,
Which lightned by her necke, like Diamonds shone.
She ware no gloves, for neither sunne nor wind
Would burne or parch her hands, but to her mind,
Or warme or coole them: for they tooke delite
To play upon those hands, they were so white.
Buskins of shels all silvered, used she,
And brancht with blushing corall to the knee;
Where sparrowes pearcht, of hollow pearle and gold,
Such as the world would woonder to behold:
Those with sweet water oft her handmaid fils,
Which as shee went would cherupe through the bils.
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,
As he imagyn’d Hero was his mother.
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 rockt, there tooke his rest.
So lovely faire was Hero, Venus Nun,
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 suffred wracke,
Since Heroes time, hath halfe the world beene blacke.





About Rich Willis

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