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THE JOYS OF AMYNTAS
TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS NOBLE LADY, ADORNED WITH ALL GIFTS BOTH OF MIND AND BODY, MARY COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE
elia born of a laurel-crowned race, true sister of Sidney the bard of Apollo, fostering parent of letters, to whose immaculate embrace virtue, outraged by the assault of barbarism and ignorance, flieth for refuge, as once Philomela from the Thracian tyrant; Muse of the Poets of our time, and of all most happily burgeoning wits; descendant of the gods, who impartest now to my rude pen breathings of a lofty rage, whereby my poor self hath, methinks, power to surpass what my unripe talent is wont to bring forth: Deign to be patron to this posthumous Amyntas, as to thine adoptive son: the rather that his dying father had most humbly bequeathed to thee his keeping. And though thy glorious name is spread abroad not only among us but even among foreign nations, too far ever to be destroyed by the rusty antiquity of Time, or added to by the praise of mortals (for how can anything be greater than what is infinite?), yet, crowned as thou art by the songs of many as by a starry diadem Ariadne, scorn not this pure priest of Phoebus bestowing another star upon thy crown: but with that sincerity of mind which Jove the father of men and of gods hath linked as hereditary to thy noble family, receive and watch over him. So shall I, whose slender wealth is but the seashore myrtle of Venus, and Daphne's evergreen laurel, on the foremost page of every poem invoke thee as Mistress of the Muses to my aid: to sum up all, thy virtue, which shall overcome virtue herself, shall likewise overcome even eternity.
Most desirous to do thee honour,
THE FIRST EPISTLE
Darling of the countryside, fairest of all things, Phyllis, deign to cast your eyes on these choice verses, implant them in your breast; they are sent you by humble Amyntas, the firstfruits of his pure heart, his timid Muse.
When, at my mothers bidding, I first began to lead my flocks, not being beyond my fifteenth year, dressed in skins, armed with a crook of maple, attended by a dog and girt with a rustic wallet, but thoroughly ignorant of sheep and also of love, the pastoral crew embraced me in friendly wise, lad though I was. They taught me the secret lore of the countryside: to care for my diseased flocks; to pen them in the fold; to shear them in their proper season; to drive my flock beneath the plane tree when the storm approaches; to ward off the foxes and the wolves; to know the paths of the stars; on holidays to blow the marshy reed in smooth-running measures; on the colorful meadow to tread the dances with my feet. What did I not learn, save how to heal the marrow scorched by rating Venus’ consuming fire? At length, when heaven brought about that day when presents are given the ladies, after the custom, every lad offered choice gifts to his lass as they chanced to be sitting on a river bank, all agog. Aegon first fit linen garters to Chlora’s knees, having lightly drawn up her gown, though she firmly but calmly pushed it down, blushing rosy red. Tityrus offered Dryas, whom he desperately adored, a bridal veil, as a hopeful token of their future lot when, full grown, she would enter their marriage-chamber. Meliboeus’ hand placed a garland on Clytia, a garland interwoven with marigolds so as to pick out her name, and as a sign that he followed Clytia just as the marigold does the splendor of the sun. Mopsus gave a present to Glycera, Menalcus to Venula, and each to another. But for mortals what great pleasure has not been interrupted by cares? Faustulus and Corydon, both born of prosperous stock, both doughty, both marked by various virtues, but both afire with the same love, dared to stir up strife and squabbles as they praised Phyllis, as they praised you, pretty little Phyllis. In his hand the one proffered you a jewel, the other a little chain worked with wondrous art. When you uneasily declined the both, lest their contending virtue swell into a grudge, the rivals contended with words and with blows, calling to their friends: love furnished the arms. Pale, you arose, I recall, and your pallor became you: with tears and entreaties you urged peace but, unmoved by your tears and entreaties, they hastened to fight, that barbarous lot. Then my heart was moved by an ardor conscious of their wrath, of their love. I jumped into the fray and, overpowering their might by my own, I soon broke up this budding skirmish by my warnings and threats. And then, Phyllis, you gave me sweet thanks for is work of peace: would that you had not been so grateful, or that I had not begotten a war for myself by that truce! For after I had seen your eyes, those twin suns, more closely, and had perceived you speaking kindly, the one pleased my eyes so greatly, and the other my ears, that both ushered love into my midmost breast. Poor me, if you do not console Amyntas, the boy smitten by the Boy’s lethal bow! His first bolt passed through my stricken eyes into my unwary heart, but the next flew through my avid ears, aimed at the core of my heart. Alas, how I am changed by this double strike of his shaft, and how unlike myself I run towards contrary ends! My mind is unsure, fear is hostile to hope, bashfulness to love. I am rent asunder, constant only for Phyllis. Forgive me, a new lover does not know how to dissemble. While I am awake it is Phyllis, while I sleep it is Phyllis who hovers before me. It is you who hovers before me. It is you who dictates laws for me, fair Phyllis, you alone do this by your glance. If you sweetly greet me among the other shepherds, I imagine to myself the happy times of a coming harvest, and hope itself makes me cheerful. If a clouded wrinkle marks your brow, I shudder in dread; overwhelmed with grief I melt into water with weeping, into air with a sigh. Yet lest I be said to yield cravenly to gentle Love, and not resist his first arrows one whit, often I have prudently cast chains on my fury, and doused my flames. For I have cautioned myself with many a warning, fetching remedies from my mindful breast, that I have already read in our annals, deep in the night by late-burning lamps: how bitter is Venus’ thirst; how assured a precursor of love is wantonness; how transitory is the beauty of the ladies; how helpless are the eyes as they scan the fair; how the Sirens’ songs beguile open ears. Hence by hard labor I began to subdue Venus and wantonness, so that (forgive me this confession) I might flee your beams by dwelling alone in the silent greenwood, casting a dark veil over my tender eyes; and, lest they hear your words, to cram my troubled ears with wax, as once did careful Ulysses as he coasted by their lands with a hasty oar. All in vain: you by yourself proved stronger than all these things. Humbly I pray this one thing, that the wound which love inflicted be healed by love, that it do so for me as Peleus’ spear did to the Mysian steersman. For, just as you alone did me harm, so you alone can work this cure.
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF AMYNTAS TO PHYLLIS
With cruel mind and hand, Phyllis, could you us commit my verses to the fleet winds, unread and ripped to shreds? Your hand could have been kinder, as it is whiter than snow, softer than any wool. Could you thus heap abuse on ancient Mopsus, when he brought you that pledge of my honest love and the songs — if you allow them this name — of poor shepherd-Amyntas, so sweet, attesting to your praises? Could you thus forbid me to send more someday, I whom savage Love urges, who am governed by no law, I whom your visage bids be a bold poet, the kind who will himself wrench from Ionian rocks measures worthy of Phoebus, worthy of Phoebus’ sister? What filled you, who are so sweet, with bitter bile? Did Mopsus displease you, being suspect of having a loose tongue, the sort of fellow who might betray loves best kept secret? As a go-between. my silent hand will henceforth bear folded pages, lest Corydon and Faustulus know of our fires before this crop of mine grows ripe and finds its sickle, and you fill my happy arms as my bride. If those baleful stars which glittered at that time with unhappy fires have changed your mind, now I fashion other Muses at a happier hour and give them to you. Read them all, Phyllis, I pray. For why will it harm you to have read them? Here you will find nothing, save that your eyes are wounding this boy Amyntas as he marvels at you, or the plaints which his suffering impatience begets. Even if you do not wish to accept them, at least see what agonies your face has inflicted on an innocent person, unless chaste love is a crime. It is the least gesture of piety to give ear to a complaining man whom duty bids you aid, since you yourself have harmed him. There is no cause for fear: now I can write only that which simple and honest love furnishes a lover. For this pen, the index of my heart, is a pinion that lately fell of from winged Love (I know not by what chance, unless the god himself so wished), and it came into my fingers lest Amyntas lack a golden quill, always charged with Castalian ink so that he might be able to represent Phyllis’ everlasting praises. So now you must read my verses with an eager eye, I am not one to do as deceitful Acontius did to Cydippe, that by the force of its craft my letter might instruct a naive girl to swear by Diana’s name and godhead, to instruct a deceived girl to yield unwillingly to my evil desires: ah, may he perish who gains a girl by tricksy guile! Nor am I Demophon, though you are a pretty little Phyllis. And to the extent that you, an English Phyllis, surpass Phyllis of Thrace with your rosy cheeks and chaste modesty, just so does that perjurer yield to my pure love, my unblemished loyalty. My life and tender years display honesty, as does my open simplicity, the enemy of misleading words. Oh, would that I could lay bare the fervor of my piteous breast and the wound in my side, which grows from moment to moment! Unless you were to see, by what means can you dispel my disease? And who is to succor this wounded Amyntas but Phyllis, as Phyllis alone has wounded Amyntas with her eyes? You are my enemy and my healer, but you will be my enemy no more, since out of piety you will not refuse to confer health upon a wretched person. Rather you will be called the other half of my life, my soul’s good half, or anything that may be dearer than life itself. Oh Phyllis, would that I now had a transparent breast, so that you might see your face reflected in its midmost part as in a stream, your eyes that far surpass the shining stars! There resides your sweet image: aloft on a high throne it rules my affections, just as Jove governs the stars with is nod and directs them by his glance alone, issuing laws; and when it learns these things, the whole world will stand awestruck. If you smite me in the brain, imperious Love, who always clings to your side as a slave, takes up his arms: with his gentle weapons putting wrath to rout, he steals into the realm of right reason, conquers my will, and binds it in harsh chains. If in the seat of my heart, then imperious Love settles upon this seat, inciting various impulses to mutual wounding, so that joys conquer grief, but grief soon overcomes joys, that fostering hope overwhelms fear, and fear hope, and this changeable war may have its turnings. If in the liver, alas, imperious Love spreads through all the liver’s parts, and with steel the rascal carves out all that are his proper realms, and burns them with flames: he bears flames in his torches, steel on his shaft. If in the fibers of the lungs, there hastens imperious Love at a rapid clip and strives with the busy storms of a sigh to shatter the troubled mass. If in the spleen, imperious Love steals in gentle guise and raises a laugh worthy of the satyrs or the sprightly wood-nymphs. If in the tongue or the eyes, there imperious Love straightway betakes himself, affecting the tongue with honeyed words or plaints dipped in bitter bile, the eyes with tears, but not tears that always attest the same mood: they reveal sadness and joys.
Since Amyntas suffers such great things at your nod, what would piety be, if not to succor a wounded man? Alas, Phyllis, let your wrath yield to my love. Let your sweet voice restore the health which your face has stolen. I am happy, if you are compliant; if you are harsh, I am a wretch.
THE THIRD EPISTLE
Lest I store up more punishments in my doubting heart, Phyllis, give answer to my growing fears. Let your first word be one that brings health to my disease. Or if I am unworthy of a sweet murmur, or of bashfulness impedes you (for who does not know how modest you are, Phyllis?), weave your answer in mute letters: no writings allow shameful blushes. Since I have already humbly offered you my songs, in hushed tones and with the mien and carriage that befits a lover, and offered tears that would have welled forth to be expended in the hope and fear of you, if my more disciplined age did not forbid, why did alternating colors play across your changed face, waging mutual wars? Indeed during an eclipse the moon often undergoes such toils, and anxiously experiences a disturbed countenance when banished by earth’s shadow from Phoebus’ rays. Do you imagine Corydon to be the sun, or Faustulus? Do you think me the shadow that separates you from them? Are you enraged by my flames, as Cynthia is at those of the earth? I am most unlucky, if I am not your dear Amyntas. Or rather does my presence move you with such emotion that your beauty must suddenly take on different colors and your mind betray itself in its very appearance? I am most lucky, if I am an Amyntas so dear to you. But if I was so dear, then why did you scarce accept my gifts, compelled by prayers and entreaties which could tame even raging tigers? True love, inflamed by its own emotions, blazes forth and needs no plaints: proud rustic ardor yields to merits. Why did your hand tremble like an ash tree’s branch in the winds, when at length you received my rude song of love? Why have you given no answer to my pages? When you received them, why did you so often turn your back on me as I begged that you read them? Or what removed you from my sight at such a run, in fear? Surely you did not fear my Muse’s sweet murmurs? A pure hand wrote them, and a pen yet purer. And a mind purer than the both, innocent of guile, guided hand and pen, a mind that knows no deception, and abhors it. For it is not that Cupid born of Venus, whose weapons drive one to unspeakable frenzies, who impels my feelings, but rather a new Love, innocent of vicious sin, so that the refined gold may shine forth with the help of no base fires. When first he pierced my breast with his shaft, I confess I fancied these were wanton Cupid’s wounds. But assuredly I am touched by a better divinity, as experience of this sacred disease at length has proven. Learn, Phyllis, how unlike frantic Love is to my Love, perhaps you will marvel at these novel fires. That one was son of Venus, this is Virtue’s child, the one all too familiar to many, the other unknown to most. That one directs dark passions, this one bright minds. That one is carried on swift pinions, delighting in plunder, while this one is borne on a white horse, a lover of candor. Naked, that one shows the signs of his guilt, but this one is clad in raiments lest he seem dishonorable. that rascal covers his savage eyes with a pitch black veil to imitate the feckless ways of fortune, who punishes the innocent with her little wheel; this one carefully takes the measure of things with wide-awake eyes, in imitation of the ways of Astraea, weighing each thing on just scales according to fair laws. In his right hand this one bears two arrows, and so does the other; in his left the one brandishes torches, and so does the other. But the torches are unalike, as are the arrows. Smoke is in those torches, a holy flame in these. When he strikes with his arrows, the one inflicts dire pains, the other downcast minds. The other employs arrows, of which one strikes with zeal, the other with timidity. That one’s mouth is filled with words, but his eyes with darts: with his words he strives for peace, with his shafts grave wounds; in peace he employs trickery, in war rough strength. This one carries a word in his mouth and nourishes an olive branch with his eye; with the word he signals duty, peace with the olive. By duty he begets affection, he grants tranquility by his peace. These are the ways and beauty of my Love, by whom I am stricken, and he bids me publish your virtue’s praise and entreat the wondrous glories of your placid countenance, but to do both things in lawful wise, to do both with decency. And so, Phyllis, you should prefer my fires to the fires of others, let Amyntas be handled according to his mind’s deserts. Faustulus has sung the name of another beloved, and has stabled his flock in Flora’s core. I always worship Phyllis, I sing of Phyllis alone, and my sheep serve in your pens. Corydon is a rustic, on his crude pipes he warbles an untaught and halting tune, an unlovely song unworthy to assault your ears with its din. I have a seven-hole reed, which attracts the satyrs, the Graces, the sprightly wood-nymphs, that they may wonder at you, whose eyes surpass the sun. With tweezers Faustulus plucks the grey hairs from his hoary pate lest he attain the threshold of old age and be called unworthy of your embrace. Truly my young age befits your years, my jaw is scarce ruled by its first down. To you Corydon dictates laws, Amyntas is your servant. Why recount more ways in which Faustulus and Corydon are not my equals? Give the prize to a worthy man, Phyllis.
THE FOURTH EPISTLE
Because, my life, you confess that you have at length read my Muses and are not angry at my pious entreaties, oh I rejoice, and am wholeheartedly filled with joy. The first golden word off your tongue gave me life, but the next gives me death, when you said that you are ignorant of Cupid’s smooth darts and mad fires. Oh that Cupid might suddenly assault you with both his weapons, scorching you with flames and piercing you with his shaft! But let him so strike you that it is Amyntas alone whom you love. To Venus I shall pour forth words scarce chill, asking that you love me in return, adding sacred offerings to my abject prayers: milk-white doves on whose wings she might be borne, a veil picked out with gold and jewels to bedeck her head, wicker baskets filled with violets and roses which she can fix on Mars’ helmet as no mean token of their ancient love. And also I shall offer pious gifts even to Venus’ son, so that he may take pity and condescend to hear my pleas. On his altars will be placed two turtledoves and two sparrows together with one portion of my liver. If (as often happens) Latona, that patroness of the greenwood, should again catch the lad in a snare hidden beneath a tall leaf, as he pursues the nymphs and plays his wanton pranks, and packs him off to Venus stark naked, bereft of wings and black veil, as well as bereft of torches, bow, arrows, and painted quiver, still, lest Cupid, deprived of weapons and wings, should be absent and fail to strike your side with his shaft, I shall restore his wings, darts, torches, quiver, veil and bow; by my art I shall aid him. From your eyes he shall fetch new arrows, my Phyllis, for unless his darts lurked beneath such brilliance, how did the sight of you inflict such gaping wounds? Let him take his winged sandals from your feet, Phyllis: for unless a double wing were affixed to your flying feet, in what way could you flee my shepherd’s entreaties, swifter than the wind? And let him take his quiver from your breast, my Phyllis: for what is brighter and more transparent than it, whose swell is smoother than glass? You will grant these things, Phyllis, and Amyntas will add what is lacking. Lest he have no bow, he will bend my pliable arms, most eager for you, into a curve; with this he will strike you rather than all the other girls. He will receive the black veil which covers my eyes with dense clouds of tears, so that he may see no girls but you, my Phyllis. Lest he lack torches, he will gather torches from my breast, upon which Phyllis’ eternal fire feeds, whose image is dearer for me than that of all the other girls. Equipped with these wings, weapon, quiver, veil, and fires, he will celebrate a triumph because of my elated heart. For the missiles furnished the god by your little eye, shot by my arms, but with Love pulling the bow-string, will fly at you; you will regret having had eyes. And then those torches that wounded me will wound your breast, my Phyllis: have pity on me. No unwelcome cause will delay my fires, and by my duties and sweet ways, as long as such are devoted to you, I shall strive to sway you, Phyllis. Because you have a heart of steel, I shall strive to inflict honeyed wounds in your harsh mind with my harmonious measures. But why do I ungratefully requite a nature so soft, so sweet, so kind, with harsh things? I myself was made of steel when I credited you with a steely breast in such a griping verse, threatening you with punishment in your innocence, What was in my mind? What was the cause of my complaint? Did not my songs fill your heart, a heart worthy even of Apollo himself, the songs of my unschooled Muse? Did you not deign to address me with your sweet murmur, and bid me hope? I shall hope, bright Phyllis, I shall learn to conform my wishes to your will. If you bid me hope slowly, the fire will run slower in my veins; if to strengthen my desires, straightway living flame will consume my marrow, Phyllis, and I shall be wholly transformed into a consuming spark. But you must commit to the waters of Lethe those things which the imprudence of my silly Muse has already hurled at you. For, with a better will, someday I shall sing your praises alone, touching the sky with my head, as I desire to give you more pleasure than unskilled bards. If the weight of this task exceeds my strength, under this weight I shall industriously increase my power, made stronger than myself by virtue of your glance. Thus if the delightsome nightingale, perched on a high thorn in the nights of springtime, taking his silvery light from the gleaming moon, enters into a contest of sweet song with another Philomela, briefly gives an attentive ear, preens his peaceful plumage, and opens wide his challenging throat, as he increases the pious contention of his harmonious tunes, with his voice trying many figures never ratified by Music’s fixed law. Now he draws out his tune in lengthy spate. Now he strives for a high note, now he spirals downward to the bottom with his unbent throat. Now the music is thin, now full; what was just now shrill suddenly deepens, swift and busy. And the airs he lately drew into his timid mouth he now makes shake in his bold breast. Nor does he cease the contest, until his rival has paused or burst her lungs with unrestrained song.
Alas poor nightingale! And alas poor Amyntas, if I am bested!
THE FIFTH EPISTLE
You accept my screeds, Phyllis, why not these little gifts too? I am not making an attempt on your mind, having the bowels of a compelling hyena, nor am trying to sway an unwilling girl with illicit potions. Whatever Amyntas gives is barren of deceit. With pure mind and heart I bear pure love’s trifling token: accept it with like mind and heart, nor by your denial refuse an access to my merits. How could this little ornament, golden and crescent-shaped, do you harm? Or this milk pail? If these be exceeding small, not worthy of such a maiden, when my lambs bear me a flock I’ll give you greater, and of greater price. But these small things are not cheap. The man who is now my father gave my mother this to be worn on her finger when he first came to love her, feeling the flames in his tender breast. This carving speaks, and it says what my heart does to Phyllis, I AM ATTRACTED BY LYNCUS. Alas, the strange fate, that at length a son should inherit his father’s wounds! And see the pail, distinguished by its handsome chased work, how its surface, painted with many a shade, is meant to surpass the appearance of the rainbow and deceive the eye, like a shell lying in the western sea which vies with the sun, using the sun’s own rays. The work surpasses the material, but the artist’s cunning excels them both, for he desired to limn such diverse mysteries on the thin wood. I shall tell what they represent: Silvula my mother taught me when she gave me these things to be placed in your hands.
Do you see this lofty hall with its conjoined turrets, lapped by the fair Thames’ water, rising with the alternating current, then flowing back in accordance with the ocean tide? Beneath this roof resides our august, bright-faced Diana, wealthy in riches, wealthy in her people, a pious friend of peace, yet mighty in battle, fearsome to the enemy. All these monsters you see hastening over the vasty deep, vainly raising their gaping maws, these were once a fleet, crammed with Spanish soldiery. And while it sailed its course beyond all lawful limit, trying to work ruin on heaven’s choice daughter, it was sunk in the main. At the bidding of Jove’s wrath, Aeolus loosens the discordant winds from their swollen cave. And while they constantly join battle with rapid gales, a cry goes up from the sailors. On every hand their fear sends up prayers to heaven; battered masts go a-floating on the waves. Nor is there a place for oars, nor any station for the captains. Everything takes in the rain, the galleons perish.
But behold, Juno, her eyes scarce dry, anxiously sees this race that had been led out from ancient Carthage (for your Spaniard is said to be descended from Africans). She feels pain and gives these dying men what succor the Fates allow. She bids the ships become monstrous whales, and the men’s bodies to change into savage fish, and ply the deep floods of the Sea of Tartessus, but to shun the sacred shore touching the chill North, inhabited by the Briton, cut off from the world, but not lesser than the Italian in wit, nor unequal in strength.
She spoke and, their prows submerged, they seek the ocean deep, and the men are likewise sunk in them. Hence the sailors become fish, and the galleons, transformed into fearsome monsters, rise up and are borne over the sea, but no longer beset our white shores, which Elisa holds, and long will hold, she who is called Delia by some, a Sibyl by others.
Are you surprised, my Phyllis, that once rustics spoke of coming things in Phoebus-like wise, and expressed future events in pictures? Prophetic ardor comes over simple, snow-white souls. But listen attentively, while I relate the other wonders this pail affords your eyes.
This vessel, yielding up its life in westerly climes, overwhelmed by the hostile main, was the poor ship of Cabot, whose meritorious honor was begrudged by treacherous Nemesis, or by inevitable Fate. But this ship, whose sails are simultaneously bearing it over the deep, plowing the salt waves with a happy keel, is being led back to home port by Chancellor under a clement sky, having undergone no small perils, having navigated long tracks over the changing sea. If you shift your eye to the cloudy south, where the inhabitants stand upside down from us, see new peoples, unknown to our forefathers. Wyndham explored far from our ken and spotted the swart Ethiopians from the battlement of his quarterdeck. raising his hands to the sky, he prays that he might bring them into league with the English, and that they would acknowledge only the laws of our eternal God. Beneath the opposite pole which upholds the chill North, while Willoughby plows the brine and intrepidly steers into the teeth of the northerlies, to discover hidden lands and races and create new commerce for the land that was his beloved cradle, behold, the man’s great virtue sticks fast in Arctic waters (alas his fate!), as the water seized up with hoary frost and his heavy ship grows exhausted under the weight of the ice. And this ship is Frobisher’s, at which Meta Incognita stands amazed, but is afraid and shuns his entreaties. And this is Drake, who with his battered hulk weighs down the Thames with wealth. This merchantman, spreading its sails to the winds, which belongs to Cavendish, enriches both hemispheres.
And so this pail should please you, Phyllis, and also this ornament.
THE SIXTH EPISTLE
Then will none of my gifts sway your mind? Nor my added entreaties? Will you always be a harsh little thing to your humble servant? Will your disdain never be overcome by love? Study me with careful eyes, Phyllis, that your mind may be impressed by the miracles of my face. For, in order to become yours, I have ceased to be my own, like Proteus of old, who was now a snake, then a great bull, and fire, and stone, and whatnot. I, Amyntas, have become like him.
If you inspect the fires of this poor breast, which have gathered and lick at my limbs but do not reduce them to insubstantial ash, I can seem like a salamander in the midst of a fireplace. we both are starred by two-toned marks, the salamander by Nature’s work, but I having been pierced by the missiles of Love. Yet this befalls it, although not me: in a short while it puts out the flames and, its strength unharmed, scurries into the cool air. But I, earthbound, always suffer fires never to be quenched. Oh unhappy boy, encircled by so great a fire!
If my constancy of heart were to be seen, I should be called a crag fixed in the Herculean sea, which, though the Aeolian brothers strike from around and above with their rival moaning, and heaven scourge it with hail, the foamy rain-swollen water smashes it, and the inexorable lightning, mingled with raucous thunder, nevertheless remains unwearied by fearful thunder, lightning, winds, and rain. Being such, I suffer as I heave sighs to myself, shed tears to myself, stricken, alas, by the little eye of Phyllis. Oh unhappy boy, wounded by a fair enemy!
If you reflect how words alone have been the repayment of my entreaties, and words wrenched at that from unwilling lips, yet words whose bitterness has been my nourishment, I shall strike you as some little beast who feeds on air alone, who never fully closes its eyes with its lids, but always offers its blinking eye to the light. My form, however, does not take on all colors, so that it renders itself similar to spilt sand. My face is always either red or white: pallor betokens sincerity, blushing denotes shame. Oh but I am unlucky, to take my nourishment from an empty word!
If you were to see the doubtful feelings in my breast, you would call it a barque, held both by an opposing current and driven by strong winds but tethered by ropes to either bank, so that it may not travel in this direction or in that, but it is caught in midstream, doubtfully bobbing. Thus I am tossed, cheated by hope and by fear. Hope gives me the happiest of dreams, fear nightmares. Golden hope makes me a Croesus, jealous fear an Irus. Hope flies me skyward on many a wing, fear drags me earthward and compels me to stand. Hope gives me sweetness to drink, in my thirst fear gives me gall. Hope promises eager Amyntas Phyllis entire, but then fear cuts the bond and breaks the promise. Hope has given me life, then fear gave me black death. Unhappy boy, tormented by such turnings!
If you care to recall how changed I am from what I was, up to then smitten by no love, you would think my fate resembles that of the lofty ash: when Jupiter struck is greeny branches with a slanting thunderbolt, it shriveled and lost its bark, its naked trunk was covered with a pitchy canker; nodded the head which it was lately wont to raise to the lofty skies, nor any longer upheld its branches, or challenged the breeze to gentle wars with its playful leafage; withered by the sacred fires, it groaned and, as if older by many a year, slowly fell, to be lamented by the saddened farmer. Thus I, who was once reckoned the glory of our country lads, after being stricken by the fiery beams of your eye, brightest Phyllis, surrender to my cares, and the shattered strength flees wholly from my body, as the vital spark deserts my humor, as motion departs my heart, the animal spirits my sinews, and all sense my brain, as oblivion begins to supplant the seat of my life. Oh unhappy boy, destroyed by this sweet heat!
If you desire to know how many protracted griefs torment me, count all the stars in high heaven’s galaxy. If you chance to be curious what they are, climb down beneath the horrible King’s sad shades to see whatever cruel things those bloodless forms endure: may the miserable horror render you pious! By myself I feel the torments of many. Along with Tityus, I feed the bird, my breast torn asunder. The bird rends with talons and beak, you with your eye. When, long parched, I thirst for quenching loves, you imitate the fleeing wave and I am very Tantalus. When my screeds, my gifts are offered in lieu of the rock, you are the mountain, and I strike you as Sisyphus himself. When you briefly hear my prayers and reject them, I play the part of a Danaid, you that of the unkind vase. And also, when I besiege you with my lengthy prayers, of my own free will I imitate Ixion’s gyrations. Oh unhappy boy, tortured by such agonies!
But pity me at last, fairest Phyllis, so that after such great sufferings I may win joys yet greater.
THE SEVENTH EPISTLE
Why do you cleverly manufacture these frequent delays — I could have said these frequent deaths — why thus cheat a lover? Lest she be scorned with impunity, Venus often consumes with avenging fires nymphs slow to plight their troth. And Cupid, that boy of Mt. Ida, attacks recalcitrant girls with heavier darts than those he sees to be kind and compliant in submitting their necks to this sweet yoke. Unless you cease this truculence, I see his fiercest missiles being readied against your bosom: would that this arrogance of yours would pay an immediate forfeit! This one calamity I pray for you, let all else go well. For I fear that, if no arrow strikes you, my will, long bridled, will not gain the cure it craves, the cure which my mind’s loyalty merits and demands. But, my Phyllis, may you come, compelled by no wound: my life, may I be bound by your arms, just as elms are bound by supple vines. Oh may you be present, fair girl, before that harsh master of the gods makes his appearance, he who does not know how to spare a soul! His brow encircled with a triumphal wreath, he led out that captive king Pluto from his Stygian cave, compelling him to pour forth words of mildness and entreaties to Ceres’ daughter, though he was made of adamant. Sitting at his dear mother’s bosom, Cupid has shot his little darts into the breast of the father of the gods, who governs heaven’s citadels, of that god of the upper world who tames the well-schooled waves, and of the lord of battle who presides over baleful arms, his bowstring not pulled in vain. When he is present, my Phyllis, well aware of your harshness, how do you expect him to handle you, who pays no honor to Love’s name and sacred godhead? Trust me, he will be present as an avenger, he will make you confess how once you were unjust to just complaints. He will bind your feet and fetter your hands, and when you are bound he will compel you to subscribe to my wishes. Spare yourself, let voluntary ardor render you safe: he inflicts a fatal blow on recalcitrant girls. A true story will illuminate my statements.
Once upon a time where Lee, a daughter of the Thames, glides with her sweet water, casting her arms into marshland (I do not know if you have already chanced to hear this), Heron, a girl more admirable than all the others, used to haunt the greeny banks, and to gaze at her rosy cheeks reflected in the clear channel. The water reflected images with such a likeness that she fancied she was seeing ivory in place of a neck, stars for two eyes, and gold instead of tresses. Alas, she was seduced by her own allure! Hence she was astonished by herself and conceived such pride in her breast that she thought no country lass her superior, or any countenance born of mortal stock, as her own was surpassing; rather, she scorned rustic love and shunned all the farm boys’ words and gifts, hoping to be wed to a god. And, unwise as this hope was, it did not deceive her. She would have been wed to a god, were she not uncouth. For behold, Glaucus came to her land, having come by the streams of the Thames and Lee’s waters. And when he broke the surface, he espied her and heard her singing her songs on the shore. He was stirred by her music, and caught such swift fire from the sight of her that straightway the flames made their way to his inmost marrow. He could not bear the heat, but hurled himself at the bank, shaking off a shower of water, to seize this love and assuage himself. Now terrified, the girl rose up, gave a shriek, and fled, all in vain; she had the wings of fear, but he had those of a thunderbolt. Heron was overtaken before she had run ten steps in the sand. When he had gently caught her, Glaucus let her down on the soft seaweed, and lay down beside her, announcing he was not the least of the gods of the sea, and asked for her hand in marriage. Gradually she abandoned her fear and, inspecting the old divinity’s muddy limbs, she began to scorn his prayers and entreaties, saying she was worthy of a greater god. Groaning, Glaucus humbly beseeched Love’s assistance. Love heard his prayers, he sees and hears everything. And, taking pity, the god prepared to wage war on behalf of a god. From his quiver he drew two arrows, the one creating love, the other putting it to rout: the one that kindled love was tipped with gold, that which routed it was pointed with lead. So divine Love pierced the girl’s breast with the precious arrow, Glaucus with the heavy one. Changing his mind, he immediately went back beneath the water, caring no more for marriage. But when the nymph felt the utmost of fire in her bones, alas, she begged the retreating god with sweet words — in vain. “I shall follow,” she said, and leapt into the deep. Forbidding her to drown, Love bade her become a bird of the marsh, but to keep her former mind and name. Then her arms became wings, russet plumage covered her breast, her neck stretched far out from her body, the joints of her legs grew knobby, her feet ended in grim talons, her mouth assumed the shape of an oblong beak, and wattles hung down from her throat. She left the waters, yet longed for the waters; her name is Starry Heron, for she holds her face upraised to the stars, rebuking the gods, and often she fills the air with a sound like a cow’s bellow. And our farmers call her the bitter, for she was bitter towards her suitors.
THE EIGHTH EPISTLE
If you are removing yourself from me that I may burn more fiercely, by now I’m more than sufficiently hot. Cease baffling my desires with ambiguous words and an unkind disposition: true love does not know how to spin empty excuses. I am yours, and shall die if I am not said to belong to Phyllis. My breath does not lack for sighs, my eyes for tears, my face for clouds, my mouth for lamentations. What more do you want? Accuse me, if you can, of some way in which Amyntas has departed from his proper duties — as he never did. When you scream that the wolf is savaging the tender lambs, who is first to come running and stab that hateful thief with the sharp steel but Amyntas, whom you despise? When the doors of two-faced Janus are swung open on their hinges, who gives you more and greater New Year’s gifts than Amyntas, whom you deceive? Who humbly strews twigs, loppings, and white lilies before your feet, if not Amyntas, whom you disdain? When the flute-girl plays, who has made Phyllis to feel the sweet rhythms in her breast, or indulged in lusty songs at the top of his lungs, than Amyntas, whom you scorn? Who has taken you to the cool shade to see plays enacted, or shaken his bells among the Morris men more often than Amyntas, whom you spurn?
Alas, how often your tyranny compels me to laud you against my will, since you give no reward for my great merit: you avert your face from my sight, your ears from my plaints. If something in me displeases you, Phyllis, at length you must tell me, so that if there is a blemish in my mind or body, I can do away with it. rather, I shall do away with myself, rather than displease Phyllis. If Amyntas sins in word or deed, come, tell me. But why am I resorting to these silly devices? My mind is sincere, so that it always decrees honest laws for my tongue, and restraints for my other parts. How could I sin against you, whose love I have placed before my life, whose virtue is well known to me? But tell me, if I stand accused of any fault.
Do I seem a weakling? Applying strong arms and vigor, I have often overthrown doughty men, wont to exercise themselves on the wrestling green.
Am I unschooled in music? I confess that in your presence my reed goes hoarse, unsustained by my full breath and plied with a hesitant hand. For your beauty distracts me from my tunes, I am completely caught up in it, as when in the dark of night an imprudent bird catches sight of a waving lamp across the fields, fed by a birder with strands of pitch, and imagining that dawn (so sweet to mention) has broken, flaps towards it and, scorching his light wings in the fire, unhappily falls, mingling his murmurs with the flames, and gives up his ghost in the tricksy light.
Do you imagine I shall be untrustworthy if you grant me your love? Sooner will the lamb rend the wolf, and the hind the lion; flocks will go a-swimming on the sea, the dolphin on the fields. Phoebus will sink, the earth wheel in the sky; fire will be liquid, the river will dry things, everything will change nature’s fixed laws, before pretty Phyllis will slip from my heart. Corydon is more insubstantial than chaff, and Faustulus than air; I, Amyntas, am always firm. I shall always be what I am, Amyntas will never cease his firmness. He who is wise and piously knows heaven’s mandates, he who knows the virtues of herbs and how to treat diseases, he who knows Solon’s tables and Lycurgus’ decrees, that man nevertheless deserves to go a-riding with the children on a reed if he maintains an unreliable mind in an untrustworthy breast. For he imitates a pillar made of assorted stone, untouched by the mason’s trowel, unbonded by mortar, which any touch will topple. Nothing is more hateful to me than a fickle heart. When Aeneas had abandoned Tyrian Elisa to plow the swollen wave with his ungrateful fleet, to my mind he ought to have drunk down his punishment among the reefs; and wily Jason, who have his word to Medea, that girl of Colchis, by whose gift he possessed his life and adorned his hollow ship with the Golden Fleece; and likewise Paris, who, escaping Oenone on his Idaean barque across the wide sea, came to Helen, the perjurer. Ah may he perish, whoever conceals treachery beneath his love, or breaks the marriage pact! Let Amyntas never commit such a misdeed!
And so what remains that your suspicion could imagine against me? Do you fancy I am praying for wanton thefts? May I die, if anything base lurks in my breast. First I seek to pledge a marriage by established customs, which, as is the way, our parents will bless, and then for a priest to join our hands at the altar and perform rites over us in the usual fashion. And then my wish is to enter a lawful wedding chamber, and experience honest joys, plucking love’s pleasant fruit.
Oh, break off your slow delays and render blessed a lad who is parched by his sighing, though well watered with tears. But at length let their extremity exhaust my sufferings: for if by your sin my life flies off beneath Orcus before its time, wherever you turn your steps I shall be present in all places as a shade, following with darkling fires. And she who has snakes for tresses, Tisiphone, will be there with me, brandishing her torches, her corded flail.
THE NINTH EPISTLE
Behold, my love is becoming embittered. A trembling steals over my limbs, madness over my mind, and I am wholly pining with languor as impatience makes me unable to brook delay, being held in disdain. So either now or never you must alter the fires in your breast, and work a swift cure. Is there need now for herbals? Rather, for me alone there is now need for Phyllis’ face. With its ruddy light it will melt the Cimmerian cloud of my darkness into tears, evidence of the truth, pledges of my love. And now there is need of Phyllis’ familiar mouth, which issues forth murmurs to duel with the soft zephyrs. For its words are those of a comb a-drip with honey, which can assuage the great pains of my wounding, pains such as no Apollo can cure, if she does not. And learn what assured rewards are prepared for you, if you deign to aid me, the fruits I shall provide in exchange for this service. I shall bestow on you all that is mine, and me myself. I have a small farmstead ringed by many an acre, which I hold in my father’s name. It descended to him by many ancestors. For though a little blue cloak now covers his shoulders and he works the countryman’s trade, we both are scarce descended from humble origins. Bordering this farmstead lies a little garden, most ornate with all manner of flowers, and an orchard adjoins our peaceful rosebeds. A stream fed by three fountains waters our farm, filling our ponds with its sweet current, often led to them by narrow channels. Here, for your pleasure, fish will be caught by the knobby reed: either the carp which feeds on its own juices when Sirius’ heat forces it onto the bank; or the perch, which protects its back with bristling spines but is most welcome at a feast; or the eel, which wraps itself about your line, born of slime (a wonderful thing), not seed. Why list them all? Assuredly they all belong to Phyllis, the pond is yours and all that surrounds it. I shall omit to say how great are my chattels: how many barns bursting with heaps of corn; how many stacks of beans, flax, and new-mown hay; how many outbuildings; how many kine fit to be yoked to the sturdy ploughs; how many implements we use for tilling the soil: plane, mattock, spade, curry-comb, plough-beam, roller, harrow, little bucket, fascines, hoe, plough, and other gear not to be disdained by your prudent farmer. All that heaven has granted Amyntas belongs to Phyllis. I have twice seven horses in my high corral, tossing their heads, loving their rider’s praise. Among them is a little pony, swifter than the east wind, which you alone my ride. Lightly pawing the sand, he runs at a trot. Darkly dappled, as if dipped in pollen, he raises his nose and widely flares his nostrils, like the steed that pulls dark night’s black car, or that which bore Pluto to Sicilian shores. He raises his little ears and bull-like neck, and the whitest star picks out his pitch black croup. And where his shoulder runs into his foreleg a white crescent bends itself in a gentle circle. I shall give him to you, Phyllis, tethered by a double harness of patent leather, decorated by a painted boss on his forehead, carrying adornments on his fat rump and with two-colored ornaments at the end of his tail. In lieu of a saddle you will have a little cushion, and he will wear a silken horse cloth, stuffed with feathers. A triple cinch will gird his belly, and on either side of him I shall lay a fine flaxen carpet, with stirrups dangling down to hold your feet with shining brass. Perched atop this little steed, your hair bound back with gold, you will catch sight of the nymphs lounging on the greensward, goddess-like in your countenance and shoulders. All our country lads will admire you. Though looking out the corner of their eyes, Faustulus and Corydon will praise the joys of your happy lot, albeit adding sighs to their praises. Lo, these things will be your reward, if only you deem Amyntas worthy, and yield your embraces to my love as a lawful gift: then nothing will be lacking for a blessed life. If you signal with a nod, servants and ready handmaidens will come a-running, vying to do your bidding. If you want to go abroad, I shall dance attendance upon you as you go, whiling away the long hours in conversation. If you prefer to remain at home, I shall stay with you, Phyllis, and we shall cheat dragging boredom with joyous sport: there are a thousand kinds of play, and everything is a game for a lover. When winter nights becloud the sky, our parents will often sit with us by the fireside and fill our cramped dining-room with their talk. When the meal has grown quiet, the tables cleared, sweet Silvula will play with you at the cards, and perhaps we shall watch the boys in the happy hall while their king, chosen by lot, appoints silly tasks for his subjects: let us call this japery “King of the Castle.”Or, of you choose, let us huddle about the fire, and after many a cup I shall bring timely sleep for our elders with a sweet nightcap. Then I shall silently steal kisses from your little lips, as the company is buried in slumber.
Come now, Phyllis, cease your harshness, forestall my prayers no more. Let your tardy favor make me blessed — and yourself as well. If you cruelly deny me, Amyntas will perish.
THE TENTH EPISTLE
Do my songs never overwhelm your senses? Are you blinder than moles, when I display my wounds, wounds which, if I am not mistaken, no Apollo ever healed? Beneath Mt. Ida darling pretty Xanthe once wretchedly trained her little eyes on Paris’ bosom, and stilled his sweet fires with sweet loving. Oh would that Phyllis were Xanthe, and Amyntas Paris! Are you more deaf than a crag, while my lamentations go a-flying on black wings, warring with the wind? At Cephalus’ prayers, pretty little Aurora came running to plant kisses on the boy’s tender lips. Oh if I were Cephalus, and you the Pallantid’s darling! You are harder than steel when I humbly bring you gifts which, small as they be, attest my great love. All-fostering Venus is said to have yielded herself to the embrace of a shaggy-locked satyr, when he offered her pure gold. Oh would I were a satyr, if only Phyllis were Venus? Are you swifter than heaven’s fires, when on eager feet I follow your track through the wooded fields? Swift Atalanta took pauses, ceasing her running lest she harm her lover. Would that I were faster, or you slower! Have you been taken with such confidence in your beauty that you refuse that craved by Xanthe, filled with godhead? What the goddess craves, the patroness of daylight, the mother of the Loves? The daughter of a king? Do you surpass them all? Alas, trust not overmuch in your fair complexion. Oh how I fear lest, while lying alone on the grassy turf by the waters of some clear stream, you have already been seduced by your beauty of countenance, now being aware of your own charm, so that you esteem nothing save your eyes, those twin suns, your pink and snow-white cheeks, ivory neck, tawny hair, breasts like milk-white marble turned into twin globes. Woe for me if you are swollen with pride over your appearance, Phyllis! But if your candid virtue keeps you from such a sin, as I hope, have pity on me at last, since you see how much pain there is in true love. See what sad eyes I have in my unhappiness: how they shed salt tears, tears that are large rivers, such as could bear galleons on their strong current. Hear the racket of my lungs: they pour forth sighs, such as could drive broad sails with their stormy wind. touch my breast: within my breast lurks a complete Sicilian Aetna, and it scorches many a breath with its flames. If fountains are in my eyes, storms in my lungs, fire in my breast, and if I suffer such things by your fault, Phyllis, why are you putting off my wishes from year to year? Does my suffering, my punishment, give you pleasure? Then see, touch, and hear yet more pains, Phyllis, and regard the cast of my countenance: a cloud covers it, harbinger of rains soon to fall, rains which will flood all Ocean’s high shore. Hear my bile-dripping tongue: already it pours forth sad words in the style of a dying swan, mourning its fate amidst the graceful greenweed. Touch the cage of my heart: a chill humor is hardening it to solid ice, compressed by your impiety, and driven to coldness. I freeze, I burn, I ache, I complain, I moan, and then I melt: do all these things meet with your approval? Then let my life undergo its supreme sufferings. Compel me to die, I whom you compel to live a sad poor life in your absence: the doleful are blessed by death. My Phyllis, if you contrive further vain delays, I shall assuredly crave to die. This right hand of mine will grant what you deny. I have found the weapon and the way, in death I shall seek the peace I have lost in love.
The capacious oak which lifts its head in the neighboring field, and has your name as a gift of the shepherds, whose branches I have so often bound with the clinging vine, and pruned with my shears, and affixed lines to its spreading new branches lest they be bowed to the ground under the weight of their acorns, and their leaves to be sullied by the dust — in this tree’s shade I shall hang lifeless, bound by a noose like Phyllis of Thrace. Alas the piteous fires — would that you were Thracian Phyllis, so that you would love me in return, not that you would perish! When the country lads, to whom Amyntas is so dear, come here, they will tearfully shudder and quake at their friend’s bloodless face, pallid in death. But still his mouth will issue forth whispers, as the zephyr blows. As they tearfully loosen the noose and ask the reason why I should miserably cut short the green years of my youth, some one of them will catch sight of what I have carved in the hard bark while yet alive, and read it aloud: I DIE UNHAPPY, SINCE PHYLLIS BIDS ME PERISH, RUINING ME WITH VOICE AND EYE, MORE SAVAGE THAN THE HYRCANIAN TIGRESS, YET FAIRER THAN THE STARS. And when the pious crew of herdsmen read this, oh what reproachful things they will speak of you! Faustulus himself will pity me, and Corydon; they will give me the praises they denied me in life, and the nymphs will cry out that Phyllis was too ungrateful. Then too, the tree is most well known by your name, no less sacred to you than to the great Thunderer, and it will groan unhappily under the harsh ax: cut down because of your fault, with a creak it will complain of Amyntas, as it is condemned to burn in funeral flames so as to consume. me. Nor will the Titan thrice rise from the eastern sea before, as I vow, I shall enact this spectacle of a piteous death: I hope for better things among the eternal shades.
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