Salmacis and Hermaphroditus:
or, The Hermaphrodite.

From Ovid.

My wanton lines do treat of amorous love,
Such as would bow the hearts of gods above.
Thou Venus, our great Cytherean queen,
That hourly trip'st on the Idalian green;
Thou laughing Erycina, deign to see
These verses wholly consecrate to thee:
Temper them so within thy Paphian shrine,
That every lover's eye may melt a line;
Command the god of love, that little king,
To give each verse a slight touch with his wing;
That, as I write, one line may draw the other,
And every word skip nimbly o'er another.
  There was a lovely boy the nymphs had kept,
That on th' Idalian mountains oft had slept,
Begot and born by pow'rs that dwelt above,
By learned Mercury on the queen of love.
A face he had that show'd his parents' fame,
And from them both conjoined he drew his name.
So wondrous fair he was, that (as they say)
Diana being hunting on a day,
She saw the boy upon a green bank lay him,
And there the virgin huntress meant to slay him;
Because no nymphs would now pursue the chase,
For all were struck blind with the wanton's face.
But when that beauteous face Diana saw,
Her arms were nummed, and she could not draw,
Yet did she strive to shoot, but all in vain,
She bent her bow, but loosed it straight again:
Then she began to chide her wanton eye,
And fain would shoot, but durst not see him die.
She turn'd and shot, but did of purpose miss him,
She turn'd again, but could not choose but kiss him.
Then the boy ran: for some say had he staid,
Diana had no longer been a maid.
Phœbus so doated on this roseate face,
That he bath oft stol'n closely from his place,
When he did lie by fair Leucothoë's side,
To dally with him in the vales of Ide;
And ever since this lovely boy did die,
Phœbus each day about the world doth fly,
And on the earth he seeks him all the day,
And every night he seeks him in the sea.
His cheeks were sanguine, and his lips were red,
As are the blushing leaves of the rose spread;
And I have heard that till this boy was born,
Roses grew white upon the virgin thorn;
Till one day walking to a pleasant spring,
To hear how cunningly the birds could sing,
Laying him down upon a flow'ry bed,
The roses blushed and turn'd themselves to red:
The rose that blushed not for his great offence,
The gods did punish, and for 's impudence
They gave this doom, and 'twas agreed by all,
The smell of the white rose should be but small.
His hair was bushy, but it was not long;
The nymphs had done his tresses mighty wrong,
For as it grew they pull'd away his hair,
And made habiliments of gold to wear.
His eyes were Cupid's, for until his birth
Cupid had eyes, and lived upon the earth;
Till on a day, when the great queen of love
Was by her white doves drawn from heav'n above,
Unto the top of the Idalian hill,
To see how well the nymphs her charge fulfil,
And whether they had done the goddess right
In nursing of her sweet Hermaphrodite;
Whom when she saw, although compleat and full,
Yet she complained his eyes were somewhat dull;
And therefore, more the wanton boy to grace,
She pull'd the sparkling eyes from Cupid's face,
Feigning a cause to take away his sight,
Because the ape would sometimes shoot for spite:
But Venus set those eyes in such a place,
As graced those clear eyes with a clearer face.
For his white hand each goddess did him woo,
For it was whiter than the driven snow;
His leg was straighter than the thigh of Jove,
And he far fairer than the god of love.
  When first this well-shaped boy, beauty's chief king,
Had seen the labour of the fifteenth spring,
How curiously it painted all the earth,
He 'gan to travel from his place of birth,
Leaving the stately hills where he was nurst,
And where the nymphs had brought him up at first,
He loved to travel unto coasts unknown,
To see the regions far beyond his own,
Seeking clear ivory springs to bathe him in,
For he did love to wash his ivory skin.
The lovely nymphs have oft times seen him swim,
And closely stol'n his clothes from off the brim,
Because the wanton wenches would so fain
See him come nak'd to ask his clothes again.
He loved besides to see the Lycian grounds,
And know the wealthy Carians' utmost bounds.
  Using to travel thus, one day he found
A crystal brook that trill'd along the ground;
A brook that in reflection did surpass
The clear reflection of the clearest glass.
About the side there grew no foggy reeds,
Nor was the front compass'd with barren weeds,
But living turf grew all along the side,
And grass that ever flourish'd in his pride.
Within this brook a beauteous nymph did dwell.
Who for her comely feature did excel:
So fair she was, of such a pleasing grace,
So straight a body, and so sweet a face,
So soft a belly, such a lusty thigh,
So large a forehead, such a crystal eye,
So soft and moist a hand, so smooth a breast,
So fair a cheek, so well in all the rest,
That Jupiter would revel in her bower
Were he to spend again his golden shower.
Her teeth were whiter than the morning milk,
Her lips were softer than the softest silk;
Her hair as far surpass'd the burnished gold,
As silver doth excel the basest mold.
Jove courted her for her translucent eye,
And told her he would place her in the sky;
Promising her, if she would be his love,
He would engrave her in the heavens above:
Telling this lovely nymph, that if she would,
He could deceive her in a shower of gold;
Or, like a swan, come naked to her bed,
And so deceive her of her maidenhead.
But yet, because he thought that pleasure best
Where each consenting joins each loving breast,
He would put off that all-commanding crown,
Whose terror struck the aspiring giants down;
That glittering crown, whose radiant sight did toss
Great Pelion from the top of mighty Osse,
He would depose from his world-swaying head,
To taste the amorous pleasure of her bed;
This added; he besides, the more to grace her,
Like a bright star he would in heaven's vault place her.
By this the proud lascivious nymph was moved,
Perceiving that by great Joye she was loved:
And hoping as a star she should ere long
Be stern or gracious to the seaman's song,
(For mortals still are subject to the eye,
And what it sees they strive to get as high)
She was contented that almighty Jove
Should have the first and best fruits of her love;
For women may be likened to the year,
Whose first fruits still do make the daintiest chear;
But yet Astræa first should plight her troth,
For the performance of Jove's sacred oath;
Just times decline, and all good days are dead,
When heavenly oaths had need be warranted.
This heard great Jupiter, and liked it well,
And hastily he seeks Astræa's cell,
About the massy earth searching her tower;
But she had long since left this earthly bower,
And flew to Heaven above, loathing to see
The sinful actions of humanity:
Which when Jove did perceive he left the earth,
And flew up to the place of his own birth,
The burning heavenly throne, where he did spy
Astræa's palace in the glittering sky.
This stately tower was builded up on high,
Far from the reach of any mortal eye;
And from the palace' side there did distil
A little water through a little quill,
The dew of justice, which did seldom fall,
And when it dropt the drops were very small.
Glad was great Jove, when he beheld her tower,
Meaning a while to rest him in her bower,
And therefore sought to enter at her door:
But there was such a busy rout before,
(Some serving-men, and some promooters be)
That he could pass no foot without a fee.
But as he goes he reaches out his hands,
And pays each one in order as he stands,
And still as he was paying those before,
Some slipp'd again betwixt him and the door.
  At length, with much ado, he passed them all,
And entering straight into a spacious hall,
Full of dark angles and of hidden ways,
Crooked meanders, infinite delays,
All which delays and entries he must pass
Ere he could come where just Astræa was;
All these being past by his immortal wit,
Without her door he saw a porter sit,
An aged man that long time there had been,
Who used to search all those that entered in;
And still to every one he gave this curse,
"None must see Justice but with empty purse."
This man search'd Jove for his own private gain,
To seek the money which did yet remain,
Which was but small, for much was spent before
On the tumultuous rout that kept the door;
When he had done, he brought him to the place,
Where he might see divine Astræa's face.
There the great king of gods and men in went,
And saw his daughter Venus there lament,
And crying loud for justice, whom Jove found
Kneeling before Astræa on the ground;
And still she cried and begg'd for a just doom
Against black Vulcan, that unseemly groom,
Whom she had chosen for her only love,
Though she was daughter to great thundering Jove;
And though the fairest goddess, yet content
To marry him, though weak and impotent.
But for all this they always were at strife:
For ever more he rail'd at her his wife,
Telling her still, "Thou art no wife of mine,
Another's strumpet, Mars his concubine."
By this Astræa spied almighty Jove,
And bowed her finger to the queen of love
To cease her suit, which she would hear anon,
When the great king of all the world was gone.
Then she descended from her stately throne,
Which seat was builded all of jasper stone,
And o'er the seat was painted all above
The wanton, unseen stealths of amorous Jove.
There might a man behold the naked pride
Of lovely Venus in the vale of Ide,
When Pallas, and Jove's beauteous wife, and she,
Strove for the prize of beauty's rarity:
And there lame Vulcan and his Cyclops strove
To make the thunderbolt for mighty Jove.
From this same stately throne she down descended,
And said the griefs of Joye should be amended,
Asking the king of gods what luckless cause,
What great contempt of state, what breach of laws,
(For sure she thought some uncouth cause befell,
That made him visit poor Astræa's cell,)
Troubled his thoughts; and, if she might decide it,
Who vext great Jove full dearly should abide it:
Jove only thank'd her, and began to shew
His cause of coming, (for each one doth know
The longing words of lovers are not many,
If they desire to be enjoyed of any,)
Telling Astræa, it would now befall
That she might make him blest that blesseth all:
For as he walk'd upon the flow'ry earth,
To which his own bands whilome gave a birth,
To see how straight he held it, and how just
He ruled this massy ponderous heap of dust;
He laid him down by a cool river's side,
Whose pleasant water did so gently slide,
With such soft whispering, for the brook was deep,
That it had lull'd him in a heavenly sleep.
When first he laid him down there was none near him,
(For he did call before, but none could hear him)
But a fair nymph was bathing when he waked,—
(Here sigh'd great Jove, and after brought forth)—naked.
He seeing, loved the nymph, yet here did rest
Where just Astræa might make Jove be blest,
If she would pass her faithful word so far
As that great Jove should make the nymph a star.
Astræa yielded, at which Jove was pleased,
And all his longing hopes and fears were eased;
Jove took his leave, and parted from her sight,
Whose thoughts were full of lovers' sweet delight;
And she ascended to the throne above,
To hear the griefs of the great queen of love:
But she was satisfied, and would no more
Rail at her husband as she did before;
But forth she tripp'd apace, because she strove
With her swift feet to overtake great Jove.
She skipt so nimbly as she went to look him,
That at the palace-door she overtook him.
The way was plain and broad as they went out,
And now they could see no tumultuous rout,
Here Venus, fearing lest the love of Jove
Should make this maid be placed in heaven above,
Because she thought this nymph so wond'rous bright
That she would dazzle her accustomed light,
And fearing now she should not first be seen.
Of all the glittering stars as she had been,
But that the wanton nymph would every night
Be first that should salute each mortal sight,
Began to tell great Jove she grieved to see
The heaven so full of his iniquity:
Complaining that each strumpet now was graced,
And with immortal goddesses was placed,
Intreating him to place in heaven no more
Each wanton strumpet and lascivious whore.
  Jove, mad with love, minded not what she said,
His thoughts were so entangled with the maid;
But furiously he to his palace leapt;
Being minded there till morning to have slept;
For the next morn, so soon as Phœbus' rays
Should yet shine cool by reason of the seas,
And ere the parting tears of Thetis' bed
Should be quite shaked from off his glittering head,
Astræa promised to attend great Jove
At his own palace in the heavens above.
And at that palace she would set her hand
To what the love-sick god should her command:
But to descend to earth she did deny;
She loath'd the sight of any mortal eye
And for the compass of the earthly round
She would not set one foot upon the ground:
Therefore Jove meant to rise but with the sun
Yet thought it long until the night was done.
  In the mean space Venus was drawn along,
By her white doves, unto the sweating throng
Of hammering blacksmiths, at the lofty hill
Of stately Etna, whose top burneth still;
For at that [lofty] mountain's glittering top
Her cripple husband Vulcan kept his shop.
To him she went, and so collogues that night
With the best strains of pleasure's sweet delight,
That ere they parted she made Vulcan swear
By dreadful Styx, (an oath that gods do fear)
If Jove would make the mortal maid a star,
Himself should frame his thunderbolts of war:
He then took oath by black Cocytus' lake
He never more a thunderbolt would make;
For Venus so this night his senses pleased,
That now he thought his former griefs were eased;
She with her hands the blacksmith's body bound,
And with her ivory arms she twin'd him round;
And still the fair queen with a pretty grace
Dispersed her sweet breath o'er his swarthy face;
Her snowy arms so well she did display,
That Vulcan thought they melted as they lay.
Until the morn in this delight they lay,
Then up they got, and hasted fast away,
In the white chariot of the queen of love,
Towards the palace of great thund'ring Jove;
Where they did see divine Astræa stand
To pass her word for what Jove should command.
In limp'd the blacksmith; after stept his queen,
Whose light arrayment was of lovely green.
When they were in, Vulcan began to swear
By oaths that Jupiter himself doth fear,
If any whore in heaven's bright vault were seen
To dim the shining of his beauteous queen,
Each mortal man should the great god disgrace,
And mock almighty Jove unto his face;
And giants should enforce bright heaven to fall
Ere he would frame one thunderbolt at all.
Jove did entreat him that he would forbear;
The more he spake the more did Vulcan swear.
Jove heard the words, and 'gan to make his moan,
That mortal men would pluck him from his throne,
Or else he must incur the plague, he said,
Quite to forego the pleasure of the maid;
And once he thought, rather than lose these blisses,
Her heavenly sweets, her most delicious kisses,
Her soft embraces and the amorous nights,
That he should often spend in her delights,
He would be quite thrown down by mortal hands,
From the best place where his bright palace stands;
But afterwards he saw with better sight,
He should be scorn'd by every mortal wight,
If he should want his thunderbolts to beat
Aspiring mortals from his glittering seat;
Therefore the god no more did woo or move her,
But left to seek her love, though not to love her:
Yet he forgot not that he wooed the lass,
But made her twice as beauteous as she was,
Because his wonted love he needs would shew.
This have I heard, but yet not thought it true;
And whether her clear beauty was so bright,
That it could dazzle the immortal sight
Of gods, and make them for her love despair,
I do not know, but sure the maid was fair.
Yet the fair nymph was never seen resort
Unto the savage and the bloody sport
Of chaste Diana, nor was ever wont
To bend a bow, nor never used to hunt;
Nor did she ever strive with pretty cunning
To overgo her fellow nymphs in running:
For she was the fair water-nymph alone
That unto chaste Diana was unknown.
It is reported that her fellows used
To bid her (though the beauteous nymph refused)
To take a painted quiver or a dart,
And put her lazy idleness apart.
But she would none; but in the fountains swims,
Where oft she washeth o'er her snowy limbs:
Sometimes she comb'd her soft dishevelled hair,
Which with a fillet tied she oft did wear;
But sometimes loose she let it hang behind,
When she was pleased to grace the eastern wind,
For up and down it would her tresses hurl,
And as she went it made her loose hair curl:
Oft in the water did she see her face,
And oft she used to practise what quaint grace
Might well become her, and what comely feature
Might be best fitting so divine a creature.
Her skin was with a thin veil overthrown,
Through which her naked beauty clearly shone
She used in this light raiment as she was
To spread her body on the dewy grass:
Sometimes by her own fountain as she walks
She nipt the flowers from off the fertile stalks,
And with a garland of the sweating vine
Sometimes she doth her beauteous front entwine.
But she was gathering flowers with her white hand,
When she beheld Hermaphroditus stand
By her clear fountain, wond'ring at the sight,
That there was any brook could be so bright;
For this was the bright river where the boy
Did die himself, that he could not enjoy
Himself in pleasure, nor could taste the blisses
Of his own melting and delicious kisses.
Here did she see him, and by Venus' law
She did desire to have him as she saw:
But the fair nymph had never seen the place
Where the boy was, nor his enchanting face,
But by an uncouth accident of love
Betwixt great Phœbus and the son of Jove,
Light-headed Bacchus: for upon a day
As the boy-god was keeping on his way,
Bearing his vine-leaves and his ivy-bands
To Naxos, where his house and temple stands,
He saw the nymph, and seeing he did stay,
And threw his leaves and ivy-bands away,
Thinking at first she was of heavenly birth,
Some goddess that did live upon the earth;
Virgin Diana that so lovely shone
When she did court her sweet Endymion;
But he, a god, at last did plainly see
She had no mark of immortality:
Unto the nymph went the young god of wine,
Whose head was chafed so with the bleeding vine
That now or fear or terror he had none,
But 'gan to court her as she sat alone.
"Fairer than fairest!" (thus began his speech)
"Would but your radiant eye please to enrich
My eye with looking, or one glance to give
Whereby my other parts may feed and live,
Or with one sight my senses to inspire
Far livelier than the stol'n Promethean fire;
Then might I live; then by the sunny light
That should proceed from thy chief radiant sight,
I might survive to ages; but that missing,"—
(At that same word he would have fain been kissing)—
"I pine, fair nymph; oh, never let me die
For one poor glance from thy translucent eye,
Far more transparent than the clearest brook."
The nymph was taken with his golden hook;
Yet she turn'd back and would have tripp'd away,
But Bacchus forced the lovely maid to stay,
Asking her why she struggled to be gone,
Why such a nymph should wish to live alone?
Heaven never made her fair that she should vaunt
She kept all beauty, yet would never grant
She should be born so beauteous from her mother,
But to reflect her beauty on another:
"Then with a sweet kiss east thy beams on me,
And I'll reflect them back again on thee.
At Naxos stands my temple and my shrine,
Where I do press the lusty swelling vine;
There with green ivy shall thy head be bound,
And with the red grape be encircled round;
There shall Silenus sing unto thy praise
His drunken reeling songs and tippling lays.
Come hither, gentle nymph."—Here blushed the maid,
And fain she would have gone, but yet she stayed.
Bacchus perceived he had o'ercome the lass,
And down he throws her in the dewy grass,
And kissed the helpless nymph upon the ground,
And would have strayed beyond that lawful bound.
  This saw bright Phoebus, for his glittering eye
Sees all that lies below the starry sky;
And for an old affection that he bore
Unto this lovely nymph long time before,
(For he would oft times in his circle stand,
And sport himself upon her snowy hand;)
He kept her from the sweets of Bacchus' bed,
And 'gainst her will he saved her maidenhead.
Bacchus perceiving this, apace did hie
Unto the palace of swift Mercury;
But he did find him far below his birth,
Drinking with thieves and catchpoles on the earth,
And they were parting what they stole to-day,
In consultation for to-morrow's prey.
To him went youthful Bacchus, and began
To shew his cause of grief against the Sun;
How he bereft him of the heavenly blisses,
His sweet delight, his nectar-flowing kisses,
And other sweeter sweets that he had won
But for the malice of the bright-faced Sun;
Intreating Mercury by all the love
That had him borne amongst the sons of Jove,
(Of which they two were part) to stand his friend
Against the God that did him so offend.
The quaint-tongued issue of great Atlas' race,
Swift Mercury, that with delightful grace,
And pleasing accents of his feigned tongue,
Had oft reform'd a rude uncivil throng
Of mortals, that great messenger of Jove,
And all the meaner gods that dwell above,
He whose acute wit was so quick and sharp
In the invention of the crooked harp;
He that's so cunning with his jesting sleights
To steal from heavenly Gods, or earthly wights,
Bearing a great hate in his grieved breast
Against that great commander of the West,
Bright-faced Apollo; for upon a day
Young Mercury did steal his beasts away;
Which the great God perceiving, straight did show
The piercing arrows and the fearful bow
That kill'd great Pithon, and with that did threat him,
To bring his beasts again, or he would beat him;
Which Mercury perceiving, unespied,
Did closely steal his arrows from his side:
For this old grudge he was the easier won
To help young Bacchus 'gainst the fiery Sun.
  And now the Sun was in the middle way,
And had o'ercome the one half of the day;
Scorching so hot upon the reeking sand
That lies upon the mere Egyptian land,
That the hot people, burnt even from their birth,
Do creep again into their mother Earth:
When Mercury did take his powerful wand,
His charming caduceus in his hand,
And the thick beaver which he used to wear,
When aught from Jove he to the Sun did bear,
That did protect him from the piercing light
Which did proceed from Phœbus' glittering sight;
Clad in these powerful ornaments he flies
With out-stretcht wings up to the azure skies,
Where, seeing Phœbus in his orient shrine,
He did so well revenge the god of wine,
That, whilst the Sun wonders his chariot reels,
The crafty god bad stol'n away his wheels.
Which when he did perceive he down did slide,
(Laying his golden coronet aside)
From the bright spangled firmament above,
To seek the nymph that Bacchus so did love,
And found her looking in the wat'ry glass,
To see how clear her radiant beauty was:
And (for he had but little time to stay,
Because he meant to finish out his day)
At the first sight he 'gan to make his moan,
Telling her how his fiery wheels were gone;
Promising her if she would but obtain
The wheels that Mercury had stol'n again,
That he might end his day, she should enjoy
The heavenly sight of the most beauteous boy
That ever was. The nymph was pleased with this,
Hoping to reap some unaccustom'd bliss,
By the sweet pleasure that she should enjoy
In the blest sight of such a melting boy.
Therefore at his request she did obtain
The burning wheels that he had lost again;
Which when he had received, he left the land,
And brought them thither where his coach did stand,
And there he set them on, for all this space
The horses had not stirr'd from out their place;
Which when he saw he wept, and 'gan to say,
"'Would Mercury had stol'n my wheels away
When Phaëton, my hair-brain'd issue, tried
What a laborious thing it was to guide
My burning chariot! then he might have pleased me,
And of a father's grief he might have eased me:
For then the steeds would have obey'd his will,
Or else at least they would have rested still."
When he had done he took his whip of steel,
Whose bitter smart he made his horses feel;
For he did lash so hard to end the day,
That he was quickly at the western sea.
And there with Thetis did he rest a space,
For he did never rest in any place
Before that time; but ever since his wheels
Were stol'n away, his burning chariot reels
Tow'rds the declining of the parting day;
Therefore he lights and mends them in the sea.
And though the poets feign that Jove did make
A treble night for fair Alcmena's sake,
That he might sleep securely with his love,
Yet sure the long night was unknown to Jove:
But the Sun's wheels one day disorder'd more.
Were thrice as long a-mending as before.
Now was the Sun environ'd with the sea,
Cooling his wat'ry tresses as he lay,
And in dread Neptune's kingdom while he sleeps,
Fair Thetis clips him in the wat'ry deeps;
There mermaids and the Tritons of the west,
Straining their voices to make Titan rest;
The while the black Night, with her pithy hand,
Took just possession of the swarthy land,
He spent the darksome hours in this delight
Giving his power up to the gladsome Night;
For ne'er before he was so truly blest
To take an hour or one poor minute's rest.
But now the burning God this pleasure feels
By reason of his newly crazed wheels;
There must he stay until lame Vulcan send
The fiery wheels which he had took to mend.
  Now all the night the smith so hard had wrought,
That ere the Sun could wake his wheels were brought;
Titan being pleased with rest and not to rise,
And loth to open yet his slumbering eyes,
And yet perceiving how the longing sight
Of mortals waited for his glittering flight,
He sent Aurora from him to the sky
To give a glimpsing to each mortal eye.
Aurora, much ashamed of that same place
That great Apollo's light was wont to grace,
Finding no place to hide her shameful head,
Painted her chaste cheeks with a blushing red,
Which ever since remain'd upon her face
In token of her new-received disgrace:
Therefore she not so white as she had been,
Loathing of every mortal to be seen,
No sooner 'gan the rosy-finger'd Morn
Kiss every flower that by her dew is born,
But from the golden window she doth peep
When the most part of earthly creatures sleep.
By this bright Titan opened had his eyes,
And 'gan to jerk his horses through the skies,
And taking in his hand his fiery whip.
He made Æous and swift Æthon skip
So fast, that straight he dazzled had the sight
Of fair Aurora, glad to see his light.
  And now the Sun in all his fiery haste
Did call to mind his promise lately past,
And all the vows and oaths that he did pass
Unto fair Salmacis, the beauteous lass:
For he had promised her she should enjoy
So lovely, fair, and such a well-shaped boy,
As ne'er before his own all-seeing eye
Saw from his bright scat in the starry sky.
Remembering this he sent the boy that way
Where the clear fountain of the fair nymph lay;
There was he come to seek some pleasing brook.
No sooner came he but the nymph was struck,
And though she longed to embrace the boy,
Yet did the nymph. a while defer her joy,
Till she had bound up her loose flagging hair,
And well ordered the garments she did wear,
Feigning her count'nance with a lover's care,
And did deserve to be accounted fair;
When thus much spake she while the boy abode,
"O boy, more worthy to be thought a god!
Thou may'st inhabit in the glorious place
Of gods, or may'st proceed from human race;
Thou may'st be Cupid, or the god of wine
That lately wooed me with the swelling vine:
But whosoe'er thou art, O happy he
That was so blest to be a sire to thee!
Thy happy mother is most blest of many,
Blessed thy sisters, if her womb bare any;
Both fortunate, Oh! and thrice happy she
Whose too much blessed breast gave suck to thee!
If any's wish with thy sweet bed be blest,
Oh, she is far more happy than the rest!
If thou hast any, let her name be known,
Or else let me be she, if thou hast none."
Here did she pause awhile, and then she said,
"Be not obdurate to a silly maid;
A flinty heart within a snowy breast
Is like base mold lock'd in a golden chest:
They say the eye's the index of the heart,
And shews th' affection of each inward part:
Then love plays lively there, the little god
Hath a clear crystal palace of abode;
Oh! bar him not from playing in thy heart,
That sports himself upon each outward part."
Thus much she spake, and then her tongue was hush'd.
At her loose speech Hermaphroditus blush'd;
He knew not what love was, yet love did shame him,
Making him blush, and yet his blush became him.
Then might a man his lively colour see
Like the ripe apple on a sunny tree,
Or ivory dyed o'er with a pleasing red,
Or like the pale morn being shadowed.
By this the nymph recovered had her tongue,
That to her thinking lay in silence long,
And said, "Thy cheek is mild: Oh, be thou so!
Thy cheek saith, aye, then do not answer, no;
Thy cheek doth shame, then do thou shame," she said,
"It is a man's shame to deny a maid;
Thou look'st to sport with Venus in her bower,
And be beloved of every heavenly power;
Men are but mortals, so are women too,
Why should your thoughts aspire more than ours do?
For sure they do aspire: else could a youth,
Whose countenance is full of spotless truth,
Be so relentless to a virgin's tongue?
Let me be wooed by thee but half so long;
With half those terms do but my love require,
And I will easily grant thee thy desire:
Ages are bad when men become so slow,
That poor unskilful maids are forced to woo."
  Her radiant beauty and her subtle art
So deeply struck Hermaphroditus' heart,
That she had-won his love, but that the light
Of her translucent eye did shine too bright;
For long he looked upon the lovely maid,
And at the last Hermaphroditus said:
"How should I love thee, when I do espy
A far more beauteous nymph hid in thy eye?
When thou dost love let not that nymph be nigh thee,
Nor, when thou woo'st, let that same nymph be by thee;
Or quite obscure her from thy lover's face,
Or hide her beauty in a darker place."
By this the nymph perceived he did espy
None but himself reflected in her eye;
And, for himself no more she meant to shew him,
She shut her eyes, and blindfold thus did woo him:
"Fair boy, think not thy beauty can dispense
With any pain due to a bad offence;
Remember how the gods punish'd that boy,
That scorn'd to let a beauteous nymph enjoy
Her long-wished pleasure; for the peevish elf,
Loved of all others, needs would love himself:
So may'st, thou love perhaps: thou may'st be blest
By granting to a luckless nymph's request;
Then rest awhile with me amidst these weeds,
The Sun, that sees all, winks at lovers' deeds.
Phœbus is blind when love-sports are begun,
And never sees until their sports be done.
Believe me, boy, thy blood is very staid,
Thou art so loth to kiss a youthful maid:
Wert thou a maid and I a man, I'll shew thee
With what a manly boldness I would woo thee:
'Fairer than Love's queen' (thus I would begin)
'Might not my over-boldness be a sin,
I would entreat this favour, if I could,
Thy roseate cheeks a little to behold!'
Then would I beg a touch, and then a kiss,
And then a lower yet a higher bliss;
Then would I ask what Jove and Leda did,
When like a swan the crafty god was hid.
What came he for? Why did he there abide?
Surely I think he did not come to chide;
He came to see her face, to talk and chat,
To touch, to kiss: came he for nought but that?
Yes, something else: what was it he would have?
That which all men of maidens ought to crave."
  This said, her eyelids wide she did display,
But in this space the boy was run away;
The wanton speeches of the lovely lass
Forced him for shame to hide him in the grass.
When she perceived she could not see him near her,
When she had called, and yet he would not hear her;
Look, how, when autumn comes, a little space
Paleth the red blush of the Summer's face,
Tearing the leaves, the Summer's covering,
Three months in weaving by the curious Spring,
Making the grass, his green locks, go to wrack,
Tearing each ornament from off his back:
So did she spoil the garments she did wear,
Tearing whole ounces of her golden hair.
She, thus deluded of her longed bliss,
With much ado at last she uttered this:
"Why wert so bashful, boy? Thou hast no part
Shews thee to be of such a female heart!
His eye is grey, so is the Morning's eye,
That blusheth always when the day is nigh.
Then is grey eyes the cause? that cannot be,
The grey-eyed Morn is far more bold than he;
For with a gentle dew from Heaven's bright tower,
It gets the maidenhead of every flower:
I would to God he were the roseate Morn,
And I a flower from out the earth new-born.
His face was smooth; Narcissus face was so,
And he was careless of a sad nymph's woe:
Then that's the cause; and yet that cannot be,
Youthful Narcissus was more bold than he,
Because he died for love, though of his shade,
This boy nor loves himself, nor yet a maid.
Besides, his glorious eye is wondrous bright;
So is the fiery and all-seeing light
Of Phoebus, who at every morning's birth
Blusheth for shame upon the sullen earth:
Then that's the cause: and yet that cannot be,
The fiery Sun is far more bold than he;
He nightly kisseth Thetis in the sea
All know the story of Leucothoë.
His cheek is red, so is the flagrant rose
Whose ruddy cheek with over-blushing glows;
Then that's the cause: and yet that cannot be,
Each blushing rose is far more bold than he;
Whose boldness may be plainly seen in this,
The ruddy rose is not ashamed to kiss;
For always, when the day is new begun,
The spreading rose will kiss the morning sun."
  This said, hid in the grass she did espy him,
And stumbling with her will, she fell down by him,
And with her wanton talk, because he woo'd not,
Begg'd that which he, poor novice, understood not.
And (for she could not get a greater bliss)
She did entreat at least a sister's kiss;
But still the more she did the boy beseech,
The more he pouted at her wanton speech.
At last the nymph began to touch his skin,
Whiter than mountain-snow hath ever been;
And did in pureness that clear spring surpass
Wherein Acteon saw the Arcadian lass.
Thus did she dally long, till at the last
In her white palm she lock'd his white hand fast;
Then in her hands his wrist she 'gan to close,
When through his pulses straight his warm blood glows,
Whose youthful music, fanning Cupid's fire,
In her warm breast kindled a fresh desire;
Then did she lift her hand unto his breast,
A part as white and youthful as the rest,
Where, as his flow'ry breath still comes and goes,
She felt his gentle heart pant through his clothes.
At last she took her hand from off that part,
And said it panted like another heart:
"Why should it be more feeble and less bold?
Why should the blood about it be more cold?
Nay, sure that yields, only thy tongue denies,
And the true fancy of thy heart belies."
Then did she lift her hand unto his chin,
And praised the pretty dimpling of his skin.
But straight his skin she 'gan to overslip,
When she beheld the redness of his lip,
And said: "Thy lips are soft, press them to mine,
And thou shalt see they are as soft as thine."
Then would she fain have gone unto his eye,
But still his ruddy lip standing so nigh,
Drew her hand back, therefore his eye she miss'd,
'Ginning to clasp his neck, and would have kiss'd:
But then the boy did struggle to be gone,
Vowing to leave her in that place alone:
But the bright Salmacis began to fear,
And said: "Fair stranger, I will leave thee here,
Amid these pleasant places all alone."
So turning back, she feigned to be gone:
But from his sight she had no power to pass,
Therefore she turned and hid her in the grass
When to the ground bending her snow-white knee,
The glad earth gave new coats to every tree.
  He then supposing he was all alone,
Like a young boy that is espied of none,
Runs here and there, then on the banks doth look,
Then on the crystal current of the brook;
Then with his feet he touch'd the silver streams,
Whose drowsy waves made music in their dreams,
And, for he was not wholly in, did weep,
Talking aloud and babbling in their sleep:
Whose pleasant coolness when the boy did feel,
He thrust his foot down lower to the heel.
O'ercome with whose sweet noise he did begin
To strip his soft clothes from his tender skin.
When straight the scorching Sun wept tears of brine,
Because he durst not touch him with his shine,
For fear of spoiling that same ivory skin
Whose whiteness he so much delighted in;
And then the Moon, mother of mortal ease,
Would fain have come from the Antipodes
To have beheld him naked as he stood,
Ready to leap into the silver flood;
But might not, for the laws of Heaven deny
To shew men's secrets to a woman's eye:
And therefore was her sad and gloomy light
Confined unto the secret-keeping night.
  When beauteous Salmacis a while had gazed
Upon his naked corpse, she stood amazed,
And both her sparkling eyes burnt in her face,
Like the bright sun reflected in a glass:
Scarce can she stay from running to the boy,
Scarce can she now defer her hoped joy:
So fast her youthful blood plays in her veins,
That, almost mad, she scarce herself contains;
When young Hermaphroditus, as he stands
Clapping his white sides with his hollow hands,
Leapt lively from the land whereon he stood
Into the main part of the crystal flood;
Like ivory then his snowy body was,
Or a white lily in a crystal glass.
Then rose the water-nymph from where she lay,
As having won the glory of the day,
And her light garments cast from off her skin,
"He's mine," she cried, and so leapt sprightly in.
The flattering ivy who did ever see
Inclasp the huge trunk of an aged tree,
Let him behold the young boy as he stands
Inclaspt in wanton Salmacis' pure hands;
Betwixt those ivory arms she lockt him fast,
Striving to get away; till at the last,
Fondling she said, "Why striv'st thou to be gone?
Why should'st thou so desire to be alone?
Thy cheek is never fair when none is by,
For what is red and white but to the eye?
And for that cause the heavens are dark at night,
Because all creatures close their weary sight;
For there's no mortal can so early rise
But still the morning waits upon his eyes.
The early-rising and soon-singing lark
Can never chant her sweet notes in the dark;
For sleep she ne'er so little or so long,
Yet still the morning will attend her song.
All creatures that beneath bright Cynthia be
Have appetite unto society;
The overflowing waves would have a bound
Within the confines of the spacious ground,
And all their shady currents would be placed
In hollow of the solitary waste,
But that they loath to let her soft streams sing
Where none can hear their gentle murmuring."
Yet still the boy, regardless what she said,
Struggled apace to overswim the maid;
Which when the nymph perceived she 'gan to say,
"Struggle thou may'st, but never get away;
So grant, just gods, that never day may see
The separation 'twixt this boy and me!"
  The gods did hear her prayer, and feel her woe,
And in one body they began to grow.
She felt his youthful blood in every vein,
And he felt her's warm his cold breast again;
And ever since was woman's love so blest,
That it will draw blood from the strongest breast,
Nor man nor maid now could they be esteem'd,
Neither and either might they well be deem'd
When the young boy, Hermaphroditus, said,
With the set voice of neither man nor maid:
"Swift Mercury, thou author of my life,
And thou my mother, Vulcan's lovely wife;
Let your poor offspring's latest breath be blest
In but obtaining this his last request:
Grant that whoe'er, heated by Phœbus' beams,
Shall come to cool him in these silver streams,
May never more a manly shape retain,
But half a virgin may return again."
His parents hearken'd to his last request,
And with that great pow'r they the fountain blest;
And since that time who in that fountain swims,
A maiden's smoothness seizeth half his limbs.