Venus & Adonis
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
Right Honourable, I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to
your Lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so
strong a prop to support so weak a burden; only if your Honour seem
but pleased, I account myself highly praised and vow to take advantage
of all idle hours till I have honoured you with some graver labour.
But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it
had so noble a godfather and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it
yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and
your Honour to your heart’s content, which I wish may always answer
your own wish and the world’s hopeful expectation.
Your Honor’s in all duty,
Venus & Adonis
Lines 1 - 42
Even as the sun, with purple-colour'd face,
Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek'd Adonis hied him to the chase,
Hunting he loved, but love he laugh'd to scorn:
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo him.
'Thrice-fairer than myself,' thus she began,
'The field's chief flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are:
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.
'Vouchsafe, thou wonder, to alight thy steed,
And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow;
If thou wilt deign this favour, for thy meed
A thousand honey secrets shalt thou know:
Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses,
And being set, I'll smother thee with kisses.
'And yet not cloy thy lips with loath'd satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty,
Making them red and pale with fresh variety,
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:
A summer's day will seem an hour but short,
Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.'
With this she seizeth on his sweating palm,
The precedent of pith and livelihood,
And trembling in her passion, calls it balm,
Earth's sovereign salve to do a goddess good:
Being so enraged, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.
Over one arm the lusty courser's rein,
Under her other was the tender boy,
Who blush'd and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire.
The studded bridle, on a ragged bough
Nimbly she fastens (Oh, how quick is love!)
The steed is stalled up, and even now
To tie the rider she begins to prove:
Backward she push'd him, as she would be thrust,
And govern'd him in strength, though not in lust.