Venus and Adonis
- EVEN as the sun with purple-coloured face
Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheeked Adonis hied him to the chase;
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn;
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo him.
Even as the sun - At the time that the sun. Presumably the time referred to is the early morning. The sun abandons the dewy dawn and climbs into the sky.
weeping - drenched with dew.
Rose-cheeked Adonis - With cheeks like roses, ruddy. Adonis is introduced as a handsome youth with rosy cheeks.
hied him - made haste; sped along.
the chase - the hunt.
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn; The theme of the poem. Adonis has no interest other than the the delight of the hunt.
Sick-thoughted - Venus is already sick with love of Adonis. The idea of love as a sickness was common from ancient times.
makes amain - approaches directly.
like a bold-faced suitor - Venus clearly takes on the male role in courtship. Bold-faced is not a description that would normally be given to Venus. suitor - lover, wooer.
'gins - begins.
- 'Thrice-fairer than myself,' thus she began,
'The field's chief flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man, 10
More white and red than doves or roses are;
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.
- Many times more beautiful. One need not insist on the mathematical
exactness of the statement. Cf. Sonnets 56. 13-14
As call it winter, which being full of care,
Makes summer's welcome, thrice more wished, more rare.
A torment thrice three-fold thus to be crossed.
field's - meadow's; open spaces.
Stain - his beauty, contrasted to that of the nymphs, made them look ugly and besmirched.
nymphs - woodland goddesses; female companions of Venus; maidens in general.
white and red - white applies to the doves, red to the roses.
with herself at strife - perhaps Nature was doubting the wisdom of creating something so beautiful as Adonis. Or it could be implied that she had fallen in love with him. Cf. Sonn.20.10
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life - Similar ideas are used in the 'procreation' Sonnets (1 - 20). E.g.
Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee, Sonn. 4.13.
And threescore year would make the world away. Sonn. 11.7.
- 'Vouchsafe, thou wonder, to alight thy steed,
And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow;
If thou wilt deign this favour, for thy meed
A thousand honey secrets shalt thou know:
Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses,
And being set, I'll smother thee with kisses;
- Grant, permit.
to alight thy steed - to dismount from your horse.
And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow; - This is a technicality of horsemanship. Presumably the rider, after dismounting, ties the reins to the saddle bow so that the horse's head is pulled downwards thus making it difficult for it to run away.
deign this favour - grant me this request (to dismount).
A thousand honey secrets - all the secret delights of love
where never serpent hisses - i.e. the place is entirely safe. Venus presumably would have powers to keep undesirable creatures away.
set - seated.
- 'And yet not cloy thy lips with loathed satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty, 20
Making them red and pale with fresh variety,
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:
A summer's day will seem an hour but short,
Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.'
cloy. - cause weariness or dislike by over-abundance.
furnish them - provide yet more (delight for your lips). Venus claims that her varied ways of kissing will give him endless delight.
amid their plenty - in the midst of the superabundance of kisses. Perhaps Shakespeare is thinking of Catullus' poem, Vivamus, mea Lesbia (Catullus 5):
Da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum,
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
Then another thousand, then a second hundred,
Then yet another thousand followed by a hundred,
Then when we have made many more thousand kisses,
We'll jumble them all up, so that we cannot know,
And no malign evil-wisher can envy us
When he knows how many kisses we have enjoyed.
an hour but short - as short as an hour.
wasted - spent; consumed. Venus, being the goddess of love, would not consider time thus spent as 'wasted time' in the modern sense.
time-beguiling - using up time; being so enchanting that the passage of time is unnoticed, hence time is beguiled, or cheated.
sport - sexual activity. Cf. Ben Johnson's Ode to Celia:
Come, my Celia, let us prove,
While we can, the sports of love.
Time will not be ours for ever,
He, at length, our good will sever.
- With this she seizeth on his sweating palm,
The precedent of pith and livelihood,
And trembling in her passion, calls it balm,
Earth's sovereign salve to do a goddess good:
Being so enraged, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse. 30
- sweating palm -
evidently recognised as a sign of manliness, as implied by the
precedent - that which foretells; an indicator of.
pith - essential quality; innate goodness and strength.
livelihood - spiritedness.
balm - i.e. his sweating palm is as a soothing lotion.
ssovereign salve - an all powerful cure or balm.
enraged - fired up with passion.
lend her - bestow upon her.
- Over one arm the lusty courser's rein,
Under her other was the tender boy,
Who blushed and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire.
- Over one arm etc. -
This is descriptive
of the goddess. She holds the rein in one hand, wrapping it round her
arm, and pulls Adonis from the horse with the other.
lusty courser - spirited stallion.
tender boy - his youth makes him appear soft and tender, although his hunting pursuits obviously make him quite tough.
pouted. - Merriam-Webster gives for pout: a). to show displeasure by thrusting out the lips or wearing a sullen expression b). sulk.
dull disdain - sullen contempt.
leaden appetite - with no desire to respond to her caresses.
unapt to toy - unwilling and unsuited to engage in the sport of love-making.
red for shame - blushing.
- The studded bridle on a ragged bough
Nimbly she fastens:--O, how quick is love!--
The steed is stalled up, and even now
To tie the rider she begins to prove: 40
Backward she pushed him, as she would be thrust,
And governed him in strength, though not in lust.
- studded bridle -
reins and bridle
seem to stand for the same thing. Presumably the studs are some sort of
brass or other metal decoration which also holds the bridle together.
quick - this also has the meaning of 'alive' as well as 'speed'. Cf. from the Book of Common Prayer:
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
stalled up - tied up, as if in a stall.
prove - attempt.
as she would be thrust - she would like him to assail her in the way that she is overpowering him. Thrust clearly has sexual overtones.
governed him - overcame him.
though not in lust - the phrase is slightly ambiguous, because her lust is clearly greater than his. The implication is that she has not succeed in arousing his sexual desire, even though she has physically overmastered him.
- So soon was she along as he was down,
Each leaning on their elbows and their hips:
Now doth she stroke his cheek, now doth he frown,
And 'gins to chide, but soon she stops his lips;
And kissing speaks, with lustful language broken,
'If thou wilt chide, thy lips shall never open.'
- So soon was she along etc.
- As soon as he was down on the ground she was lying alongside him.
Now ... now - At one moment .... at the next
'gins to chide - begins to reproach her.
Stops his lips - covers his lips with her own.
with lustful language broken -her kisses she interrupts with the language of hot desire.
thy lips shall never open - i.e. my kisses will prevent you from opening your lips.
- He burns with bashful shame: she with her tears
Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks; 50
Then with her windy sighs and golden hairs
To fan and blow them dry again she seeks:
He saith she is immodest, blames her 'miss;
What follows more she murders with a kiss.
bashful shame - his modesty makes him feel ashamed by her forwardness.
maiden burning - he is blushing like a maiden.
To fan and blow - presumably her golden hairs act like a fan, her sighs are like a wind which blow upon his cheeks.
saith - says
'miss - amiss; fault, sinfulness.
murders with a kiss - by kissing him she prevents him from uttering any further reproaches.
- Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast,
Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh and bone,
Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste,
Till either gorge be stuffed or prey be gone;
Even so she kissed his brow, his cheek, his chin,
And where she ends she doth anew begin. 60
- Even as
- Just like
empty - starving.
sharp by fast - made eager for food by having gone without
tires - tears at. This and the above phrase are technical terms from falconry.
gorge - throat; crop. Elizabethans were much more familiar with birds of prey and their behaviour in captivity than we are today. The imagery of the stanza is striking for Venus is not usually depicted as a rapacious, ravening creature. Shakespeare is emphasising how unstoppable her desire is.
- Forced to content, but never to obey,
Panting he lies and breatheth in her face;
She feedeth on the steam as on a prey,
And calls it heavenly moisture, air of grace;
Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers,
So they were dewed with such distilling showers.
- content - be
content; contain himself and raise no objections.
steam - his hot breath.
tell - indicate, show.
as on a prey - the imagery of the bird of prey continues.
air of grace - breath, such such as might emanate from a heavenly being. The imagery is quasi-religious. Cf. Sonnets passim where the grace of the youth becomes almost divine, like that of the living Christ.
dewed - besprinkled with dew.
distilling showers - purifying moisture. distilling means falling as droplets, so the hot breath of Adonis cools into droplets on Venus' face.
- 'Look how a bird lies tangled in a
So fastened in her arms Adonis lies;
Pure shame and awed resistance made him fret,
Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes: 70
Rain added to a river that is rank
Perforce will force it overflow the bank.
Look how- Just as.
fastened - made fast; trapped.
pure shame - absolute shame; the shame arising because of his essential purity.
awed resistance - resistance which was constrained by his sense of awe in the presence of the goddess.
bred more beauty - made his eyes even more beautiful than before.
rank - over full.
Perforce will force it - Inevitably will force it to.
- 'Still she entreats, and prettily
For to a pretty ear she tunes her tale;
Still is he sullen, still he lours and frets,
'Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale:
Being red, she loves him best; and being white,
Her best is bettered with a more delight.
Still - Ever; continuously.
entreats - pleads
prettily ... pretty - the suggestion seems to be that the prettiness of his ear calls forth a corresponding prettiness in her entreaties. Malone suggested air for ear as an emendation, but it would not make the thought any more comprehensible.
lours - looks glumly or angrily.
'Twixt - Betwixt; between. I.e. alternatimg between
being red - because of his redness
Her best is bettered etc. - When he changes from red to white her sense of delight is heightened, even though it already seemed at its peak.
a more delight - an even greater delight. delight used here as a noun.
- Look how he can, she cannot choose but
And by her fair immortal hand she swears, 80
From his soft bosom never to remove,
Till he take truce with her contending tears,
Which long have rained, making her cheeks all wet;
And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless debt.
Look how he can - Whatever facial expression he adopts
immortal hand - The goddess herself is immortal, so her hand is also immortal. An oath sworn by a god or goddess would have a particularly binding force. 'The gods themselves cannot revoke their gifts'.
remove - move away from
take truce - come to terms with; make peace.
contending tears - tears which are fighting to overcome his indifference.
countless debt - Being a goddess, her tears have immeasurable (countless) value.
- Upon this promise did he raise his chin,
Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave,
Who, being looked on, ducks as quickly in;
So offers he to give what she did crave;
But when her lips were ready for his pay,
He winks, and turns his lips another way. 90
promise- the offer to redeem her tears with a kiss.
dive-dapper - a dab-chick. A small water bird also known as the little grebe. It dives under water for its food. Didapper and dive-dapper are local names for the bird.
ducks as quickly in - dives into the water quickly. The wording suggests that the movement of the bird is as quick as the sighting of it by the observer.
his pay - the debt of a kiss which he owed her for her tears.
winks - closes his eyes.
- Never did passenger in summer's heat
More thirst for drink than she for this good turn.
Her help she sees, but help she cannot get;
She bathes in water, yet her fire must burn:
'O, pity,' 'gan she cry, 'flint-hearted boy!
'Tis but a kiss I beg; why art thou coy?
- passenger -
this good turn - this favour (the kiss).
Her help she sees - she can see Adonis lying beside her whom she hoped would rescue her. 'gan she - she began to
coy - bashful, shy.
- 'I have been woo'd, as I entreat thee now,
Even by the stern and direful god of war,
Whose sinewy neck in battle ne'er did bow,
Who conquers where he comes in every jar; 100
Yet hath he been my captive and my slave,
And begged for that which thou unasked shalt have.
stern and direful god of war - Ares in the Greek pantheon, Mars in Roman mythology. The story of Ares being trapped in a net with Aphrodite by Hepaestus , her husband, is told in Homer. (Odyssey 8. 266-366).
bow - yield; submit to his opponent.
jar - battle, conflict.
begged for that which thou unasked shalt have - begged for the favour (sex) which you shall have without even asking for it.
- 'Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His battered shield, his uncontrolled crest,
And for my sake hath learned to sport and dance,
To toy, to wanton, dally, smile and jest,
Scorning his churlish drum and ensign red,
Making my arms his field, his tent my bed.
Over my altars etc.- I.e. as part of his supplication to her he makes offerings on the altars dedicated to her. But the language is also symbolic, as love is often described in terms of warfare, conquest, offerings, oblations, prayers etc. Probably also there are sexual innuendoes in the words lance and uncontrolled rest.
uncontrolled crest- unconquered plumes on his helmet (symbolising the god himself). Pronounced uncontrollèd.
to toy - to play childish games. to wanton - to be playfully sexual.
churlish drum - the adjective churlish implies bad temper and hostility. The drum was the instrument used by marching armies.
ensign- flag, banner.
Making my arms etc. - His field of warfare was to be embraced in my arms, his tent was my bed.
- 'Thus he that overruled I overswayed,
Leading him prisoner in a red-rose chain: 110
Strong-tempered steel his stronger strength obeyed,
Yet was he servile to my coy disdain.
O, be not proud, nor brag not of thy might,
For mastering her that foiled the god of fight!
he that overruled - Mars is the ruler of mankind in the sense that he leads men to war, often against their will.
overswayed - triumphed over; exercised power over.
leading him prisoner etc. - Mars was so besotted with her that even a fragile chain made of roses was sufficiently strong to lead him wherever she wanted.
Strong-tempered steel etc. - In the ordinary couse of events, Mars controls others with the use of steel (weapons). Figuratively he commands the steel itself.
servile - enslaved, made subject to.
my coy disdain - my rejection of him with feigned modesty, (which Mars evidently found sexually very attractive).
brag not of thy might - do not boast of your power.
for mastering - to be taken with brag not. 'Do not brag of your power to overpower me.'
foiled - defeated, outwitted. The term probably comes from fencing, meaning to make a thrust at one's opponet with a fencing foil.
- 'Touch but my lips with those fair lips of thine,--
Though mine be not so fair, yet are they red--
The kiss shall be thine own as well as mine.
What seest thou in the ground? hold up thy head:
Look in mine eye-balls, there thy beauty lies;
Then why not lips on lips, since eyes in eyes? 120
not so fair - Venus insists that his lips are more beautiful than her own.
The kiss shall be thine own etc. - Since a kiss is a shared experience, it may be considered as belonging to both parties.
What see'st thou in the ground? - Adonis continues to look at the ground, avoiding her gaze.
there thy beauty lies - His own image would appear as a reflection in her eyes. Elizabethan poets enjoyed playing with the idea of lover's being reflected in each other's eyes. Compare this for example with the elaborate conceit of Sonn 24.
Then why not etc. - Venus's logic is amusing, but not very convincing, since Adonis does not wish to have any physical contact with her, whether with eyes or lips or any other part.
- 'Art thou ashamed to kiss? then wink again,
And I will wink; so shall the day seem night;
Love keeps his revels where they are but twain;
Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight:
These blue-veined violets whereon we lean
Never can blab, nor know not what we mean.
- Art thou ashamed -
Do you feel embarassed; does it offend your modesty?
wink again - close your eyes once more. This sense of wink is common at the time. E.g. Sonn 43. When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see.
Love keeps his revels - Love enjoys himself and celebrates his rites and rituals.
where they are but twain - where only two people are present.
our sport is not in sight - Our sexual activity is not withessed by anyone else.
Never can blab - will never be capable of telling what they have seen.
nor know not what we mean - Nor do they know what the significance is of our actions.
They are innocent observers of our love-play.
- 'The tender spring upon thy tempting lip
Shows thee unripe; yet mayst thou well be tasted:
Make use of time, let not advantage slip;
Beauty within itself should not be wasted: 130
Fair flowers that are not gather'd in their prime
Rot and consume themselves in little time.
- The tender spring
- Your soft beard, which is like the fresh, tender growth of spring.
Shows thee unripe - indicates that you are not yet sexually mature.
yet mayst thou well be tasted - even so a lover might enjoy congress with you.
Make use of time etc. - Cf Herrick's famous poem 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may'.
Beauty within itself etc. This is similar to the sentiment expressed in the 'procreation sonnets 1 - 20. E.g Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend/ Upon thy self thy beauty's legacy? Sonn. 4. 1-2.
in their prime - when they are at their best.
consume themselves - eat themselves up as they decay
in little time - in a short time; quickly.
- 'Were I hard-favoured, foul, or wrinkled-old,
Ill-nurtured, crooked, churlish, harsh in voice,
O'erworn, despised, rheumatic and cold,
Thick-sighted, barren, lean and lacking juice,
Then mightst thou pause, for then I were not for thee
But having no defects, why dost abhor me?
hard favoured - having an ugly face
wrinkled-old - with wrinkle feastures such as an old person has
Ill-nurtured - badly brought up (and therefore having an evil dispostion)
churlish - quarrelsome and spiteful
harsh in voice - An undesirable characteristic in a woman, according to the mores of the time. Cf.
Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman. Lear V.3.314-5
O'erworn worn out. Past my best.
Thick sighted - with age-clouded eyes. barren - presumably as the goddess of love Venus is always fecund. lean - skinny and unattractive.
lacking juice - not having the vital sap of existence. One suspects that there is also a sexual meaning, suggesting that she is ready for intercourse. She is not lacking juice, she is well lubricated. However the Elizabethans did not discuss such matters in the detail that is available in modern literature. This rather horrific list of the evils that beset old age simply underlines the fact that Venus possesses none of these qualities, for she is immortally young, forever an object of desire.
Then mightst thou pause - Then you might have reason for holding back.
why dost abhor me? - why do you regard me as hateful?
- 'Thou canst not see one wrinkle in my brow;
Mine eyes are grey and bright and quick in turning: 140
My beauty as the spring doth yearly grow,
My flesh is soft and plump, my marrow burning;
My smooth moist hand, were it with thy hand felt,
Would in thy palm dissolve, or seem to melt.
one wrinkle in my brow - there is not a single line in my forehaed
Mine eyes are grey - grey eyes were a sign of beauty. Malone suggests that the colour grey was in fact blue for the Elizabethans.
quick in turning - lively, always alert.
My beauty as the spring doth yearly grow - Venus's beauty and youth were eternally renewed.
my flesh is soft and plump - softness and plumpness were considered to be sexually attractive features, more so than perhaps they are in modern times.
my marrow burning - marrow was considered to be a sort of inward essence. It is used by Sh in four of the plays. In AWW it means semen. The implication here is of sexual desire.
He wears his honour in a box unseen,
That hugs his kicky-wicky here at home,
Spending his manly marrow in her arms,
Which should sustain the bound and high curvet
Of Mars's fiery steed. AWW.II.3. 1181 - 5
My smooth moist hand - this also seems to imply sexual craving.
were it with thy hand felt - this is obviously what Venus desires, but Adonis is reticent.
- 'Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or, like a fairy, trip upon the green,
Or, like a nymph, with long dishevelled hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen:
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,
Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire. 150
- Bid me discourse -
Command me to speak
like a fairy etc. - these three lines bring to mind both A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. In the former the fairies spend the days and nights in entertainment on the green ( the meadow), and in the latter Prospero invokes the nymphs who dance on the sands and leave no trace:
Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; Tempest V.1.34-7.
a spirit all compact of fire - a spiritual being made of fire. All things were supposedly made up of proportions of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. Cf. also
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact: MND.V.1.7-8.
Not gross to sink - not heavy, making it fall to downwards to earth.
will aspire - capable of heavenly aspirations and yearnings.
- 'Witness this primrose bank whereon I lie;
These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support me;
Two strengthless doves will draw me through the sky,
From morn till night, even where I list to sport me:
Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it be
That thou shouldst think it heavy unto thee?
- Witness - Bear
testify. She cites as evidence the flowers on the bank on which she is
lying, which are not crushed by her weight, for she is a spirit made
only of fire.
forceless - having no strength.
doves - Venus's chariot was traditionally pulled by doves, emblems of love and peace. As such, they were distinguished from the more usual animals harnessed to chariots, and required no strength since her chariot was as light as air.
where I list - wherever I desire.
to sport me - to entertain myself.
- 'Is thine own heart to thine own face affected?
Can thy right hand seize love upon thy left?
Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected,
Steal thine own freedom and complain on theft. 160
Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook.
affected - in love with
Can thy right hand etc. - Does your right side love your left? i.e. are you in love with yourself?
be of thyself rejected - experience what it is like to be rejected
Steal thine own freedom etc. - It is not entirely obvious what this means. Venus seems to be urging him to experience the pains of loving. By falling in love he would lose his freedom, but if he were in love with himself, as he seems to be, the theft of his freedom would be his own choice, and the suggestion is perhaps that he is making himself ridiculous by complaining, since he is the author of his own woes.
Narcissus - Narcissus was a youth in ancient Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. According to Ovid's account of the tale, he was transformed into a flower, but popular tradition thought that he wasted away with gazing at his own beautiful image. Venus here implies that he drowned as he tried to kiss his own reflection (shadow) in the brook.
himself himself - one of the pronouns is superfluous, but the use of two helps to emphasise Narcissus' absorption in himself.
forsook - neglected, abandoned.
- 'Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear:
Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse:
Seeds spring from seeds and beauty breedeth beauty;
Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty.
- Torches; jewels; dainties
- The main thrust of the stanza is that objects exist in the world to
fulfil their proper function. Venus urges Adonis that since he is so
beautiful, he should make a copy of himself by breeding. The thought is
similar to that expressed in the sonnets, 1 - 20, where the youth is
urged to marry and procreate. Venus's arguments are biassed in favour
of her own desires, but they have no independent validity.
made to light - made to provide light.
Dainties - sweetmeats, confections.
fresh beauty for the use - the implication is that beauty is not only for show. Use has a sexual meaning - intercourse.
sappy plants - plants with lots of sap, and hence vigorous.
Thou wast begot - You were begotten.
To get it is thy duty - It is your duty to beget a child.
- 'Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou feed,
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed? 170
By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead;
And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.'
increase - harvest; produce. The idea springs from the increase in produce gained by breeding or sowing. One sheep might produce three lambs or one seed a hundred flowers.
law of nature - the law which dictates that animals and plants should reproduce.
thou are bound - you have an obligation to.
Thine - Your children
thou dost - you would.
thy likeness - a copy of you
still - always.
The stanza contains many of the ideas used in the sonnets in relation to the beautiful youth, who is urged to breed so that a copy of him is left for succeeding generations, in which he himself may continue to live.
- By this the love-sick queen began to
For where they lay the shadow had forsook them,
And Titan, tired in the mid-day heat,
With burning eye did hotly overlook them;
Wishing Adonis had his team to guide,
So he were like him and by Venus' side. 180
By this - By this time, at this point.
began to sweat - apart from the heat of the sun, she is probably overheated by desire.
Titan - the god of the sun. He drives the chariot of the sun which is pulled through the sky by radiant horses.
tired. - pronounced as two syllables. The sun god is exhausted by his own heat, just as the goddess of love is sick with love, her own attribute. tired can also mean 'attired, dressed in'.
burning eye - Cf. Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines. Sonn. 18.5.
overlook - look down upon.
his team - the team of horses that pull Titan's chariot. Titan is the subject of wishing. He wishes that Adonis were in his place driving the chariot, so that he could be beside Venus.
So he were like him - So that he, Titan, could be like him, Adonis, etc.
- And now Adonis, with a lazy spright,
And with a heavy, dark, disliking eye,
His louring brows o'erwhelming his fair sight,
Like misty vapours when they blot the sky,
Souring his cheeks cries 'Fie, no more of love!
The sun doth burn my face: I must remove.'
lazy sprite - spirit, which does not wish to be stirred (by sexual passion).
disliking eye - an eye which does not like what it sees.
louring - ominous, threatening.
o'erwhelming - shadowing oppressively.
his fair sight - his handsome face; his eyes.
Souring his cheeks - putting a sour expression on his face.
remove - depart.
- 'Ay me,' quoth Venus, 'young, and so unkind?
What bare excuses makest thou to be gone!
I'll sigh celestial breath, whose gentle wind
Shall cool the heat of this descending sun: 190
I'll make a shadow for thee of my hairs;
If they burn too, I'll quench them with my tears.
Ay me - Alas. quoth - says.
bare - inadequate. makest thou - you make
celestial - heavenly. Venus offers to cool the heat of the sun on his face by breathing sweet breath over him.
If they burn too - I.e. if the hairs burn him. they could also refer to the shadows, as also them which follows. Whatever it is which might burn him, she offers to quench with her tears. The attention and proposed intimacy is the least of his desires
And, lo, I lie between that sun and thee:
The heat I have from thence doth little harm,
Thine eye darts forth the fire that burneth me;
And were I not immortal, life were done
Between this heavenly and earthly sun.
The sun etc. - The gist of the stanza is that Venus lies between the sun and Adonis, thereby protecting him, but she suffers more from the fiery heat of his eyes than she does from the heat of the sun on her back.
lo - behold, observe.
from thence - from the sun.
darts forth - sends out.
life were done - my life would be at an end.
Between - I.e. scorched between
'Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel,
Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth? 200
Art thou a woman's son, and canst not feel
What 'tis to love? how want of love tormenteth?
O, had thy mother borne so hard a mind,
She had not brought forth thee, but died unkind.
obdurate - stubborn.
relenteth - gives way, relents, is worn away by.
Art thou a woman's son etc. - This is reminiscent of Sonn 41 ll 7-8:
And when a woman woos, what woman's son
Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed?
borne so hard a mind - had possessed a mind as hard and obdurate as yours.
brought forth thee - given birth to you.
unkind - having renounced her natural instincts (to have children).
- 'What am I, that thou shouldst contemn me this?
Or what great danger dwells upon my suit?
What were thy lips the worse for one poor kiss?
Speak, fair; but speak fair words, or else be mute:
Give me one kiss, I'll give it thee again,
And one for interest, if thou wilt have twain. 210
What am I - What sort of creature or person am I?
contemn - despise, treat with contempt.
my suit - request. The terminology is legal, although the idea of a lover's suit, his request for favours from his mistress, is common in love poetry of the period.
What were thy lips the worse for - In what way would your lips be any the worse for.
fair - fair one. But also with the suggestion of speaking kindly, as is indicated by what follows.
And one for interest - Venus now resorts to financial terms. She would in fact secure three kisses, one from him, one which she repays him with, and one which she adds as interest accrueing.
If theou wilt have twain - If you would like to have two of them.
- 'Fie, lifeless picture, cold and
Well-painted idol, image dun and dead,
Statue contenting but the eye alone,
Thing like a man, but of no woman bred!
Thou art no man, though of a man's complexion,
For men will kiss even by their own direction.'
This stanza hints at the story of Pygmalion who carves a statue of a girl which is so lifelike he falls in love with it. The story is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses 10. 243 - 97, a book with which Shakespeare was familiar.
cold and senseless stone - Cf. Mistress Quickly's description of the dead Falstaff:
So a' bade me lay more clothes on his feet: I put my
hand into the bed and felt them, and they were as
cold as any stone; Henry V 2.3.21-4.
idol - Although Venus is here criticising Adonis the passage has religious overtones, suggestive of idolatry, and worshipping of statues, something of which Protestants accused the Catholics, with their worship of saints and the Virgin Mary, and statues of her.
dun - dull coloured, drab.
Thing like a man - He has only the appearance of a man, but is not real. thing in the Elizabethan world can also refer to the penis.
of no woman bred - not born of a woman, therefore not a human at all.
complexion - outward appearance. It can also refer to the inward character in the sense of the constitution of the various elements or humours which make up the body and mind.
For men will kiss etc. - men are naturally disposed to kiss, even without be asked or directed to do so.
- This said, impatience chokes her pleading tongue,
And swelling passion doth provoke a pause;
Red cheeks and fiery eyes blaze forth her wrong;
Being judge in love, she cannot right her cause: 220
And now she weeps, and now she fain would speak,
And now her sobs do her intendments break.
chokes - puts a stop to. Prevents her from speaking. .
pleading - There are legal overtones to the word. The plaintiff pleads his/her case in a law suit.
swelling passion - ever increasing anger and deep feeling. Strong emotion was often described as swelling and overflowing the bosom like a flood. There is also a suggestion of Venus' heaving breast as she pants for breath.
provoke a pause - makes her speechless for a while
blaze forth her wrong - give a vivid indication of, the wrong she thinks has been done to her.
Being judge in love - Although she is the divinely appointed judge in matters of love, (being Venus), yet in this case she cannot put matters right.
now ... now... now - At first... then... then. fain would speak - is eager to speak.
intendments break - prevent her from enacting her intentions.
- Sometimes she shakes her head and then his hand,
Now gazeth she on him, now on the ground;
Sometimes her arms infold him like a band:
She would, he will not in her arms be bound;
And when from thence he struggles to be gone,
She locks her lily fingers one in one.
shakes - the word refers both to her head and his hand, a poetic conceit taken from the science of rhetoric. The technical term for it was syllepsis in which one verb is appled separately to two distinct ans.
band - something which binds
infold - clasp
She would, he will not - The construction tempts us to read it as 'She desires to have sex, but he will not be seduced'. But then Sh. diverts the meaning to the more restrained one of being bound in her arms.
thence - from her arms.
lily - white like a lily.
one in one - together. Each finger on one hand is intertwined with its opposite number on the other hand.
- 'Fondling,' she saith, 'since I have hemmed thee here
Within the circuit of this ivory pale, 230
I'll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale:
Graze on my lips; and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.
- Fondling -
child. Also perhaps something to be fondled and caressed. It can also
refer to 'foundling', this being a common spelling. Venus has just
accidentally stumbled upon him, so in that sense he is to her a
foundling, a child who has been abandoned.
ivory pale - white fence. The ivory refers to the colour of her arms. Pale is an old word for a fence or boundary, hence the phrase 'beyond the pale' meaning outside the limits of normal behaviour.
thou shalt be my deer - Venus suggests that he might have the freedom to wander where he wishes over her body, as a deer roams in a park.
those hills - i.e. her lips, or perhaps the contours of her face.
the pleasant fountains - i.e her breasts. Ostensibly however the description is of parkland, but no doubt Shakespeare and his readers were aware of the innuendoes. The mention of straying lower could also suggest that his hands could stray to her genital region.
- Within this limit is relief enough,
Sweet bottom-grass and high delightful plain,
Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough,
To shelter thee from tempest and from rain
Then be my deer, since I am such a park;
No dog shall rouse thee, though a thousand bark.' 240
limit - region, expanse. Possibly also a confined and limited area.
relief - chance to relax, or to receive succour and sustenance.
Sweet bottom grass - the grass at the bottom of a valley, which was thought to be sweeter than elsewhere. The suggestion is also of pubic hair, although OED does not cite bottom as referring to the human anatomy until much later. Nevertheless the language of lines 236-7 unmistakeably seems to refer to Venus' breasts and genitals.
brakes - thickets.
obscure and rough - overgrown and difficult to see through.
No dog shall rouse thee etc.- Even though a thousand dogs might bark, they will not disturb you in such a sheltered place. Adonis would normally be roused by the barking of his hounds.
- At this Adonis smiles as in disdain,
That in each cheek appears a pretty dimple:
Love made those hollows, if himself were slain,
He might be buried in a tomb so simple;
Foreknowing well, if there he came to lie,
Why, there Love lived and there he could not die.
- as in disdain - he
is contemptuous of her sexual suggestions.
dimple - dimples in one's mistress's cheeks were considered to be very alluring, then as now. 'Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl'.-- Stephen Leacock.
Love - Cupid. hollows - the dimples. if himself were slain - so that, if he himself should be killed.
He might - he could be.
Why, there Love lived etc. - The conceit is that Cupid could never be slain if he resorted for shelter in the dimples of Adonis' cheeks.
- These lovely caves, these round enchanting pits,
Opened their mouths to swallow Venus' liking.
Being mad before, how doth she now for wits?
Struck dead at first, what needs a second striking? 250
Poor queen of love, in thine own law forlorn,
To love a cheek that smiles at thee in scorn!
These lovely caves - the dimples.
liking - desire, lust. .
mad - crazed with desire. before - i.e. before she saw the dimples.
how doth she now for wits? - how can she now contrive to keep sane.
at first - when she first saw him.
in thine own law forlorn - unable to make the rules in the sphere in which she most should hold sway. She was the goddess of love but could not make Adonis love her.
a cheek that smiles - the effect of the dimples was to make the cheek appear to be smiling.
- Now which way shall she turn? what shall she say?
Her words are done, her woes are more increasing;
The time is spent, her object will away,
And from her twining arms doth urge releasing.
'Pity,' she cries, 'some favour, some remorse!'
Away he springs and hasteth to his horse.
more increasing - continue to increas.
her object will away - the object of her love, Adonis, desires (will) to depart.
twining - twisting around him like the tendrils of a plant
doth urge releasing - he insists on being released.
some favour - show some kindness.
hasteth to his horse - hastes away to his horse
- But, lo, from forth a copse that neighbors by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud, 260
Adonis' trampling courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud:
The strong-neck'd steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he.
This interlude contrasts Adonis' coolness with the lustiness of his own stallion who is aroused by the brood mare who comes to tempt him.
copse - small area of woodland.
breeding jennet a small Spanish breed of horse, a mare in season (ready for breeding).
lusty - vigorous; on heat; lustful. proud also suggests swollen with sexual excitement.
trampling - stamping with his hooves. courser - racing or hunting horse.
espy - sees, takes note of.
strong necked steed - a strong neck in a horse was one of the features looked for in selecting the best.
breaketh his rein - breaks the rein by which he is tied to the tree.
straight - immediately; directly.
- Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder;
The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven's thunder;
The iron bit he crusheth 'tween his teeth,
Controlling what he was controlled with. 270
Imperiously - Proudly, majestically.
bounds - leaps, prances.
woven girths - straps woven from wool or soem other material which hold the saddle in place.
bearing - supporting his weight.
whose - i.e the earth's. hollow womb - interior caverns. resounds - echoes.
iron bit - part of the horse's harness which restrains and controls him. tween - between.
controlled - pronounced controllèd. The horse now controls the bit rather than being controlled by it.
- His ears up-pricked; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compassed crest now stand on end;
His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send:
His eye, which scornfully glisters like fire,
Shows his hot courage and his high desire.
- up-pricked -
braided - plaited.
compassed crest - the arched top of his head.
vapours - the hot breath from his nostrils.
glisters - glistens.
high desire - eagerness, passion, lust.
- Sometime he trots, as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty and modest pride;
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,
As who should say 'Lo, thus my strength is tried, 280
And this I do to captivate the eye
Of the fair breeder that is standing by.'
Sometime - at times. told - counted.
Anon - next, immediately afterwards.
curvets - prances. A technical term from horsemanship. The horse rears up, its forelegs stretched out, and then does a leap upwards on its hind legs.
As who should say - As if he were saying. Lo - Look! Behold! tried - put to the test.
fair breeder - the breeding jennet of l. 260.
What recketh he his
rider's angry stir,
His flattering 'Holla,' or his 'Stand, I say'?
What cares he now for curb or pricking spur?
For rich caparisons or trappings gay?
He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
For nothing else with his proud sight agrees.
What recketh he
- What notice does he take of. stir - vexation of
flattering - coaxing, ingratiating. Holla - Ho there! Come here! Terms used in addressing horses were no doubt very varied, then as now.
Stand, I say - A command which expresses some of Adonis' irritation at being thus treated by his horse.
curb or pricking spur - The bit (curb) and spur would normally be used to control the horse. Apart from the fact that they cannot now be used since the rider is not mounted, the implication is also that the horse, in its present mood, would not take the slightest notice of them anyway.
caparisons - Rich cloths laid on the horse for decoration. trappings were the same thing. See here for an illustration of Henry VIII on a richly caparisoned horse.
with his proud sight agrees - is agreeable to his sight in his current lofty frame of mind. proud also suggests sexually excited.
Look when a painter would
surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportioned steed, 290
His art with nature's workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone.
- As when; it is as if. would
intends to; desires to.
surpass the life - make a representation that is better than the real thing.
limning out - depicting; marking out the shape of; painting.
His art etc. - In doing so, he strives to make his creation better than Nature's.
the dead - i.e. the painting. By definition, being made of lifeless things, paint, canvas etc., it was a lifeless object.
excel a common one - was superior to the ordinary type of horse.
bone - bone structure, frame.
short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad breast, full eye, small head and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide:
Look what a horse should have he did not lack,
Save a proud rider on so proud a back. 300
The description in this stanza of the fine points of a horse would be familiar to anyone in an age when horses provided the only means of transport by land. Such lists were a common place of literature, dating back to the Georgics of Vergil. Bk.3. 75-94. Shakespeare seems to have followed closely Federico Grisone's Gli Ordini di Cavalcare (The Art of Riding) published in The Four Chiefest Offices Belonging to Horsemanship by Thomas Blundeville, 1580 (repr.).
'Round hooves, short pasterns with long fewter lockes, broade breast, great eies, short and slender head, wide nostrils, the creast rising, short ears, strong legs, crispe mane, long and bushy tail, great round buttocks.'
fetlock - a projection on the lower part of the leg of the horse, above the hoof. Also the tuft of hair growing from it, which seems to be the case here.
shag - shaggy.
crest - the curved top of the neck behind the ears.
Look what - Whatever. Similar to Look when in the previous stanza.
Sometime he scuds far off
and there he stares;
Anon he starts at stirring of a feather;
To bid the wind a base he now prepares,
And whe'er he run or fly they know not whether;
For through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
Fanning the hairs, who wave like feathered wings. 306
Sometime - At
times. scuds far off
- Gallops off some distance.
there he stares - he stands staring (at the mare).
Anon - Next, thereafter. starts - jumps aside in fear.
To bid the wind a base - To challenge the wind to a race. The phrase was common, referring to a game in which participants could be chased when they left their specified base.
whe'er - the Q reading is where. Probably the meaning is 'whether' and the word is repeated at the end of the line. They (the observers) do not know which of the two he is doing, running, or flying.
Fanning - Wafting and cooling; or, spreading out like a fan.
high wind - making a high sound; strong.
who - which.
He looks upon his love and
neighs unto her;
She answers him as if she knew his mind:
Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her,
She puts on outward strangeness, seems unkind, 310
Spurns at his love and scorns the heat he feels,
Beating his kind embracements with her heels.
as if she knew his mind - perhaps she pretends at first to encourage him, then, in the following lines, appears to reject him. A tactic to make him even more keen than he already is.
Anon - Next, thereafter. starts - jumps aside in fear.
Being proud etc. - She does not wish to appear to give in too readily. to see him woo her - this is governed by both being proud and she puts on outward stangeness. I.e. She is proud that he is wooing her, and she puts on strange airs in order to spur him on to woo her.
unkind - going against natural feelings.
Spurns at - Rejects. Originally it meant to kick.
kind embracements - his attempts at mating.
Then, like a melancholy
He vails his tail that, like a falling plume,
Cool shadow to his melting buttock lent:
He stamps and bites the poor flies in his fume.
His love, perceiving how he is enraged,
Grew kinder, and his fury was assuaged.
melancholy malcontent - one suffering from the pangs of melancholy, the black humour. A standard literary type, best known from themelancholy Jacques in As You Like It.
vails - Lets fall.
a falling plume - a drooping crest of feathers.
melting - sweating; overheated.
fume - Anger; passion.
Grew kinder - after her previous unkindness, or unnaturalness. Echoes also the kind embracements of l. 312.
assuaged - softened.
His testy master goeth
about to take him;
When, lo, the unbacked breeder, full of fear, 320
Jealous of catching, swiftly doth forsake him,
With her the horse, and left Adonis there:
As they were mad, unto the wood they hie them,
Out-stripping crows that strive to over-fly them.
testy - bad tempered.
goeth about - sets off to. There may also be a suggestion of approaching the horse cautiously from the side so as not to alarm.
unbacked breeder - a mare not yet broken in; not yet having experienced a rider on its back. There is also a hint at the failure of Adonis' horse to cover the mare.
Jealous of catching - fearing she would be caught.
Forsake - Abandons, runs away from. him - referring to Adonis, whom she fears.
As they were mad - As if they were mad. wood also had the meaning mad so there is probably a pun intended, 'they fly off to the woods to further madness'.
hie them - hasten
Out-stripping - running faster than. crows - possibly introduced as a harbinger of the forthcoming disaster. Compare from the Sonnets:
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air Sonn 70.4
All swoln with chafing,
down Adonis sits,
Banning his boisterous and unruly beast:
And now the happy season once more fits,
That love-sick Love by pleading may be blest;
For lovers say, the heart hath treble wrong
When it is barred the aidance of the tongue. 330
chafing - being angry.
Banning - Cursing. unruly beast - his horse which has disobeyed him and run off.
happy season once more fits - the time once more becomes suitable.
Love-sick Love - Venus, goddess of Love, who is herself sick with love for Adonis.
may be blest- might succeed.
treble wrong - It is not clear why it is a three-fold wrong, or misery. Perhaps because firstly the lover has no opportunity to speak, secondly the beloved has no words of love to hear, and thirdly, the lover cannot hear the beloved's reply. But probably the three only implies that it is a great unhappiness, as in the Sonnets, where three seems to be a conventional term for many:
A torment thrice three-fold thus to be crossed. Sonn 133. 8.
barred - forbidden; prevented from using.
aidance - assistance.
An oven that is stopped,
or river stayed,
Burneth more hotly, swelleth with more rage:
So of concealed sorrow may be said;
Free vent of words love's fire doth assuage;
But when the heart's attorney once is mute,
The client breaks, as desperate in his suit.
stopped - closed up.
stayed - dammed; prevented from flowing.
Burneth more hotly etc. - the time once more becomes suitable.
So of concealed sorrow may be said - The same may be said of a hidden sorrow.
Free vent of words- The ability to speak one's mind freely.
assuage - soften, mitigate.
the heart's attorney - language; the tongue, which acts as the attorney, or pleader, for the heart.
The client - the attorney's client, i.e. the heart.
desperate in his suit - despairing of success in his legal action. The legal metaphor which began with the heart's attorney is brought to a close with the plaintiff failing in his action (suit).
He sees her coming, and
begins to glow,
Even as a dying coal revives with wind,
And with his bonnet hides his angry brow;
Looks on the dull earth with disturbed mind, 340
Taking no notice that she is so nigh,
For all askance he holds her in his eye.
glow - heat up with annoyance.
bonnet - soft, brimless hat, rather like a cap, and probably made of wool. The costume is distinctly Elizabethan, rather than that of ancient Greece.
Burneth more hotly etc. - the time once more becomes suitable.
dull - unresponsive. disturbed mind - troubled thoughts. He fears that she will again try to seduce him. Pronounced disturbèd.
so nigh- so close by, so near to him.
all askance- He does'nt look at her directly, but out of the corner of his eye. There is also an implication that he is looking at her with scorn.
O, what a sight it was,
wistly to view
How she came stealing to the wayward boy!
To note the fighting conflict of her hue,
How white and red each other did destroy!
But now her cheek was pale, and by and by
It flashed forth fire, as lightning from the sky.
wistly to view - to observe attentively.
stealing to - creeping up upon; approaching tentatively.
wayward - perverse, self willed, erratic.
To note - This continues the thought of O, what a sight it was.
fighting conflict of her hue- The war of colours in her complection (hue).
each other did destroy - as each colour replaced the other it appeared to destroy it.
the heart's attorney - language; the tongue, which acts as the attorney, or pleader, for the heart.
But now ... by and by - Just now ... then shortly afterwards.
desperate in his suit - despairing of success in his legal action. The legal metaphor which began flashed forth fire - hence it became red.
Now was she just before
him as he sat,
And like a lowly lover down she kneels; 350
With one fair hand she heaveth up his hat,
Her other tender hand his fair cheek feels:
His tenderer cheek receives her soft hand's print,
As apt as new-fall'n snow takes any dint.
just before him - close in front of him.
lowly lover - humble lover, as befits one who is before the adored object. But also lowly because she has lowered herself to the earth.
heaveth up - lifts up.
tenderer cheek - i.e. tenderer and softer than her hand.
As apt as- As readily as.
takes any dint - receives any impression.
O, what a war of looks was
then between them!
Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing;
His eyes saw her eyes as they had not seen them;
Her eyes woo'd still, his eyes disdained the wooing:
And all this dumb play had his acts made plain
With tears, which, chorus-like, her eyes did rain. 360
war of looks - the war of looks matches the fighting conflict of her hue in 345 above.
petitioners to his eyes suing - this also echoes the legal jargon of 335 - 6 above. Her eyes petition his eyes to grant her suit (request) as if his eyes were some powerful judge or legal figure who could take decisions in court.
as they had not seen them - as if he had not seen them at all. He ignores her.
woo'd still - continued to woo him.
disdained- scorned, treated with contempt.
And all this dumb play etc. - This and the following line are not easy to interpret. Probably his (i.e. its) refers to the dumb play, not to Adonis, and acts means action, as in a play. Hence 'All this dumb show had its significance made plain, as in a real play, by the tears which the goddess shed, which acted like a chorus in an ancient play.' acts here may be related to acture in A Lover's Complaint,
All my offences that abroad you see
Are errors of the blood, none of the mind;
Love made them not; with acture they may be,
Where neither party is nor true nor kind. LC. 183-6.
Full gently now she takes
him by the hand,
A lily prisoned in a gaol of snow,
Or ivory in an alabaster band;
So white a friend engirts so white a foe:
This beauteous combat, wilful and unwilling,
Showed like two silver doves that sit a-billing.
Full gently - very gently.
prisoned - imprisoned. gaol - jail. The imagery of skin and hands being white as snow, or lilies, or alabaster, is a commonplace of love poetry of the time. Compare the Sonnets
The lily I condemned for thy hand, Sonn 99. 6
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; Sonn 130.3
band - ring, enclosure.
engirts - encloses, encircles. The hands are envisaged as reflecting the attitudes of their owners.
beauteous combat- The struggle between their two hands; the war of desire and coldness.
wilful and unwilling - determined and determined not to.
Showed like - Appeared like.
silver - presumably silvery white.
a-billing - rubbing their bills together. Doves are often described as billing and cooing. In fact, since Adonis refuses to kiss her, the description is not entirely apposite, unless one takes it as referring to the contact of their two hands.
Once more the engine of
her thoughts began:
'O fairest mover on this mortal round,
Would thou wert as I am, and I a man,
My heart all whole as thine, thy heart my wound; 370
For one sweet look thy help I would assure thee,
Though nothing but my body's bane would cure thee!
the engine of her thoughts - her tongue, which expresses her thoughts.
mover - motive force. or simple, living creature, one who moves.
mortal round - the earth, which is subject to change, and therefore mortal. Compare:
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. Tempest 4.1.153-6.
Would thou wert - If only you could be.
My heart all whole - Having a heart free of the pangs of love. whole - healthy.
thy heart my wound - your heart wounded like mine is. Implying that her own heart is a raw wound makes the image more vivid.
For one sweet look- She now envisages how she would behave if she were the man, Adonis. In exchange for one sweet look she, as Adonis,would rush to give comfort to her lover (Venus), even though the act led to her own destruction. bane - harm, destruction.
'Give me my hand,' saith
he, 'why dost thou feel it?'
'Give me my heart,' saith she, 'and thou shalt have it:
O, give it me, lest thy hard heart do steel it,
And being steeled, soft sighs can never grave it:
Then love's deep groans I never shall regard,
Because Adonis' heart hath made mine hard.'
Give me my hand - Return my hand to me. Venus replies in the same vein 'Return to me my heart (which you hold captive).
and thou shalt have it - the words are ambiguopus. Primarily they refer to Adonis' hand, which he can have back if he returns her heart to her. But it also refers to her heart which she implies will stay with him even if he returns it to her.
steel it - make it as hard as steel. But with a suggestion also of stealing.
grave it - Engrave it; etch marks into it.
love's deep groans - Lover's groans were proverbial. Compare:
A thousand groans, but thinking on thy face,
One on another's neck, do witness bear Sonn. 131. 10-11.
'For shame,' he cries,
'let go, and let me go;
My day's delight is past, my horse is gone, 380
And 'tis your fault I am bereft him so:
I pray you hence, and leave me here alone;
For all my mind, my thought, my busy care,
Is how to get my palfrey from the mare.'
let go - let go of my hand.
My day's delight - the hunting I intended to do and the delight to be gained from it.
bereft him so - deprived of him in this way.
I pray you hence - I ask you to depart. hence - away from. the verb 'go' is understood
my busy care - the care and worry which preoccupies me.
palfrey - a horse used for general riding.
Thus she replies: 'Thy
palfrey, as he should,
Welcomes the warm approach of sweet desire:
Affection is a coal that must be cooled;
Else, suffered, it will set the heart on fire:
The sea hath bounds, but deep desire hath none;
Therefore no marvel though thy horse be gone. 390
Affection is a coal - Desire, sexual passion, is like a burning coal.
Else, suffered - otherwise, being allowed to burn.
The sea hath bounds etc. - bounds limits, boundaries. Compare:
O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! But it cannot be sounded; my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal.
As You Like It 4.1.208.
no marvel - it is no marvel.
though thy horse be gone - that your horse has gone (after the mare).
'How like a jade he stood,
tied to the tree,
Servilely mastered with a leathern rein!
But when he saw his love, his youth's fair fee,
He held such petty bondage in disdain;
Throwing the base thong from his bending crest,
Enfranchising his mouth, his back, his breast.
Jade - A worthless horse. Venus continues her moralising, showing how right it was for the horse to follow the mare, just as Adonis ought to be fired up with passion for her.
Servilely mastered - Held in subjection, like a slave. leathern - made of leather.
his youth's fair fee. - the prize due to him because of his youth. fair is descriptive of the mare, as well as of the reward he anticipates.
petty bondage - trivial restraint (the leathern rein).
base thong - the rein, which was basely restraining him. crest - the arch of his neck.
Enfranchising - Setting free.
'Who sees his true-love in
her naked bed,
Teaching the sheets a whiter hue than white,
But, when his glutton eye so full hath fed,
His other agents aim at like delight? 400
Who is so faint, that dare not be so bold
To touch the fire, the weather being cold?
Who ... But... - Whoever ... invariably it follows that. The sentence spans four lines. naked - she is naked in bed, although the adjective is here applied to the bed.
Teaching the sheets - by her whiteness showing the sheets what true whiteness is.
his glutton eye - his eye devours the sight as if it were a glutton.
His other agents - His other bodily parts and functions. His body now wants to enjoy her, after his eyes have been sated.
faint - feeble, timid.
to touch the fire - to stand close to the fire.
'Let me excuse thy
courser, gentle boy;
And learn of him, I heartily beseech thee,
To take advantage on presented joy;
Though I were dumb, yet his proceedings teach thee;
O, learn to love; the lesson is but plain,
And once made perfect, never lost again.'
courser - Racing or hunting horse.
To take advantage on - to make use of; to seize the opportunity.
presented joy - delight which presents itself adventitiously
Though I were dumb - Even if I could not interpret (this lesson for you).
his proceedings - the actions (of your courser).
but plain - very simple
made perfect - learnt by heart.
I know not love,' quoth
he, 'nor will not know it,
Unless it be a boar, and then I chase it; 410
'Tis much to borrow, and I will not owe it;
My love to love is love but to disgrace it;
For I have heard it is a life in death,
That laughs and weeps, and all but with a breath.
quoth he - he says.
Unless it be a boar - I.e. the only love I have is that of chasing a boar in the hunt.
presented joy - delight which presents itself adventitiously
'Tis much to borrow - Love is a serious thing to acquire, especially if it is on trust and one is not sure of its value.
and I will not owe it - I will not possess it; I will not be indebted to anyone for entrusting it to me.
My love to love etc. - The only love I have for love is an eagerness to renounce and defame it, to show it for what it is.
and all but with a breath - all in the time in which one might take one breath.
'Who wears a garment
shapeless and unfinished?
Who plucks the bud before one leaf put forth?
If springing things be any jot diminish'd,
They wither in their prime, prove nothing worth:
The colt that's backed and burdened being young
Loseth his pride and never waxeth strong. 420
Who ...Who - These are rhetorical questions intended to highlight how unsuitable her demands are. shapeless and unfinished - An unfinished garment in the hands of the tailor or seamstress is shapeless.
Who plucks the bud - Adonis implies that it is foolish to pluck a flower while still in bud and without any leaves showing on the plant.
springing things - things in the springtime of their youth. Things just starting to grow.
be any jot diminished - are weakened in any way at all.
prime - when their condition is at its best. prove nothing worth - turn out to be worthless.
colt - young horse. backed - broken in; had a rider on its back.
burdened - made to bear the weight of a rider.
never waxeth strong - never grows to the full strength of a mature horse.
'You hurt my hand with
wringing; let us part,
And leave this idle theme, this bootless chat:
Remove your siege from my unyielding heart;
To love's alarms it will not ope the gate:
Dismiss your vows, your feigned tears, your flattery;
For where a heart is hard they make no battery.'
wringing - squeezing it.
leave this idle theme - stop the discussion about this trivial and useless subject.
bootless - profitless.
Remove your siege - Adonis starts to use military metaphors. In traditional love poetry the lover besieges the beloved until the citadel (her heart) falls.
love's alarms - a continuation of the military metaphor. ope - open.
Dismiss - as one would dismiss soldiers. The vows, tears, flattery are like infantry.
make no battery - make no impression with their assault.
never waxeth strong - never grows to the full strength of a mature horse.
'What! canst thou talk?'
quoth she, 'hast thou a tongue?
O, would thou hadst not, or I had no hearing!
Thy mermaid's voice hath done me double wrong;
I had my load before, now pressed with bearing: 430
Melodious discord, heavenly tune harsh sounding,
Ear's deep-sweet music, and heart's deep sore wounding.
O, would thou hadst not - She would rather he had no tongue than say the things he has just said.
Thy mermaid's voice - mermaids were thought to sing sailors to their ruin.
double wrong - It is unclear what the double wrong is. Before he spoke, she could entertain hope. Now that he speaks, not only are the things he says unwelcome, but it is doubly unpleasant because such wondrous music as his voice is should only utter harmonious and welcome sounds.
now pressed with bearing - Now I am burdened with the weight of your dislike. pressed - weighted down by; oppressed.
Melodious discord etc. - These are tecnically known as oxymorons where one element of the phrase contradicts the other.
Dismiss - as one would dismiss soldiers. The vows, tears, flattery are like infantry.
Ear's deep sweet music - His voice is sweet to listen to.
heart's deep sore wounding - the meaning is various. deep may be taken with heart, with sore, or with wounding. Thus (your voice) sorely wounds the depths of my heart, or it wounds the deep sore in my heart, or it deeply wounds the sore that is already in my heart.
'Had I no eyes but ears,
my ears would love
That inward beauty and invisible;
Or were I deaf, thy outward parts would move
Each part in me that were but sensible:
Though neither eyes nor ears, to hear nor see,
Yet should I be in love by touching thee.
Had I no eyes - Venus goes through the senses in descending order as it were, the most precious and refined one being sight. She deprives herself of each in turn. 'Had I only ears, and not eyes'.
invisible - invisible both because it is inward and spiritual, and because she has no eyes to see it.
outward parts - qualities; physical attributes.
Each part in me etc. - Whatever parts in me which might be capable of receiving any sense impression of you.
Yet should I be in love etc. - Even if I only had the sense of touch it would be enough to make me fall in love with you.
'Say, that the sense of
feeling were bereft me,
And that I could not see, nor hear, nor touch, 440
And nothing but the very smell were left me,
Yet would my love to thee be still as much;
For from the stillitory of thy face excelling
Comes breath perfumed that breedeth love by smelling.
were bereft me - were taken from me.
stillitary - distillation flask. Distillery. Probably a term used in alchemy.
face excelling - exceedingly beautiful face. Perhaps with a pun on exhaling.
That breedeth love by smelling - the breath that you breath out, when it is smelt, causes love to be created in the one who smells it.
'But, O, what banquet wert
thou to the taste,
Being nurse and feeder of the other four!
Would they not wish the feast might ever last,
And bid Suspicion double-lock the door,
Lest Jealousy, that sour unwelcome guest,
Should, by his stealing in, disturb the feast?' 450
nurse and feeder- Taste nurtures and feeds the other four senses, in that they cannot survive unless the possessor of them has food. Or it may be that in the absence of the other four senses taste becomes the nurse and feeder of existence.
Would they not wish - Would the senses not wish.
Suspicion - Suspicion is personified as a guardian or door keeper.
Jealousy - Also personified.
Once more the
ruby-coloured portal opened,
Which to his speech did honey passage yield;
Like a red morn, that ever yet betokened
Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field,
Sorrow to shepherds, woe unto the birds,
Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.
portal- entrance; his mouth; his lips.
honey passage - honey like, because of the sweetness of his voice. The opening of his lips allowed a passageway for his voice.
Like a red morn - His mouth is like a red sunrise, which is a harbinger of bad weather.
betokened - signified; foretold.
woe unto the birds - disaster for bird life.
flaws - blasts of wind.
This ill presage advisedly
Even as the wind is hushed before it raineth,
Or as the wolf doth grin before he barketh,
Or as the berry breaks before it staineth, 460
Or like the deadly bullet of a gun,
His meaning struck her ere his words begun.
ill presage - evil omen.
advisedly - carefully and cautiously. marketh - takes note of; observes.
Even as the wind etc.- This list of similes does not seem entirely apposite as illustrative of l. 462, but they are enjoyable anyway in their own right. In a general sense they show how one thing occurs before another, just as the meaning of his words strikes her before he even utters them.
grin - shows his teeth. Whether the wolf actually does this before he barks I do not know. Wolves were extinct in Shakespeare's England, so this observation must have been an item of folklore.
ere his words begun - before he began speaking. begun is used rather than began for the sake of the rhyme.
And at his look she flatly
For looks kill love and love by looks reviveth;
A smile recures the wounding of a frown;
But blessed bankrupt, that by love so thriveth!
The silly boy, believing she is dead,
Claps her pale cheek, till clapping makes it red;
flatly - uncertain meaning. It could mean suddenly; entirely; on her back; on her front.
love by looks reviveth - Love is brought back to life by a kind look. Love here could be abstract, or it could refer to the one who loves, or is beloved. Traditionally the lover dies if he does not receive a kind look from his beloved. Rosalind mocks the idea in As You Like It.
The poor world is almost six thousand years old, and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, videlicet, in a love-cause. ... Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love. AYL.4.1.81-92.
recures. - cures, heals.
blessed bankrupt - she is bankrupt in that she has lost all hope of mutual response to her love. There was probably a common belief, then as now, that becoming bankrupt could work to the banrupt person's advantage.
love - Some editors emend this to loss.
silly - naive, unsophisticated. Claps - Strikes. In this and the next stanza but one he is rather comically administering first aid. Part of the effect of this, as well as being descriptive of Venus's plight, is to show what foolish passes love can bring one to.
And all amazed brake off
his late intent,
For sharply he did think to reprehend her, 470
Which cunning love did wittily prevent:
Fair fall the wit that can so well defend her!
For on the grass she lies as she were slain,
Till his breath breatheth life in her again.
all amazed - completely overcome with astonishment. brake off - broke off; abandoned.
his late intent - his intention, but recently held, to scold her, as described in the following line.
sharply - harshly, sternly; immediately.
cunning love. - this refers either to Venus herself, or Cupid working behind the scenes.
Fair fall the wit - Good fortune attend such inventiveness. can so well defend her - that is so good at protecting her i.e. Venus, or perhaps herself (wit).
as she were - as if she were.
his breath - In his anxiety his face is probably close to hers, and she feels his breath.
He wrings her nose, he
strikes her on the cheeks,
He bends her fingers, holds her pulses hard,
He chafes her lips; a thousand ways he seeks
To mend the hurt that his unkindness marred:
He kisses her; and she, by her good will,
Will never rise, so he will kiss her still. 480
wrings - squeezes. See l. 421 above: You hurt my hand with wringing
chafes - rubs.
a thousand ways. - by a thousand different means.
mend the hurt - cure the injury. unkindness - unnaturalness. marred - caused. Strictly speaking marred is superfluous, because the hurt has been done, and to mar a hurt is meaningless. However the construction is suggestive of extra damage done to Venus by Adonis' harsh treatment of her.
by her good will - in accordance with what she already desires.
so he will - in order that. still - continuously; for ever.
The night of sorrow now is
turned to day:
Her two blue windows faintly she up-heaveth,
Like the fair sun, when in his fresh array
He cheers the morn and all the earth relieveth;
And as the bright sun glorifies the sky,
So is her face illumined with her eye;
The night of sorrow - Compare:
O! that our night of woe might have remembered
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits, Sonn. 120.10-11.
Sorrow is compared to night, joy to day.
Her two blue windows - Her eyes, or eyelids. The former are the windows of the soul.
faintly - feebly. She is still feeling faint. upheaveth - throws upwards. The word suggests great effort.
in his fresh array - newly clothed at dawn.
illumined with her eye - Lit up with the radiance of her eyes. The singular noun is presumably for the sake of rhyme.
Whose beams upon his
hairless face are fixed,
As if from thence they borrowed all their shine.
Were never four such lamps together mixed,
Had not his clouded with his brow's repine; 490
But hers, which through the crystal tears gave light,
Shone like the moon in water seen by night.
Whose beams - I.e. the beams from her eyes. Eyes were thought to emanate a beam which allowed them to see things. Modern science now knows that this idea is false.
his hairless face - his youth and immaturity is continually emphasised. There may also be a pun on heirless.
from thence - from his face; from his eyes.
Were never. - Never were there. lamps - their four eyes, which here are envisaged as intermingling.
his brow's repine - the sorrow expressed on his brow.
gave light - see the note on whose beams above.
'O, where am I?' quoth
she, 'in earth or heaven,
Or in the ocean drenched, or in the fire?
What hour is this? or morn or weary even?
Do I delight to die, or life desire?
But now I lived, and life was death's annoy;
But now I died, and death was lively joy.
drenched - submerged.
weary even - the evening, weary because it is the time when one is tired.
But now I lived - Just a moment ago I was alive.
was death's annoy. - Life (because it was so pleasant) mocked and taunted death. She refers to the experience of being kissed by Adonis 479-80.
But now I died - I have just died (seeing the angry look on his brow).
lively joy - intense delight (because she no longer had to look upon his anger).
'O, thou didst kill me:
kill me once again:
Thy eyes' shrewd tutor, that hard heart of thine, 500
Hath taught them scornful tricks and such disdain
That they have murdered this poor heart of mine;
And these mine eyes, true leaders to their queen,
But for thy piteous lips no more had seen.
Thou didst kill me - See above:
And at his look she flatly falleth down,
For looks kill love and love by looks reviveth; 463-4
shrewd tutor - cunning teacher.
true leaders to their queen - a true guide to what she should be feeling. The implication is perhaps that her eyes, in revealing Adonis' beauty to her, are true servants in directing that she should love him.
piteous - compassionate, because they kissed her.
no more had seen - would have lost the power of sight.
'Long may they kiss each
other, for this cure!
O, never let their crimson liveries wear!
And as they last, their verdure still endure,
To drive infection from the dangerous year!
That the star-gazers, having writ on death,
May say, the plague is banished by thy breath. 510 .
Long may they kiss etc. - Uncertain meaning. Perhaps if his lips continue to kiss each other, he will not be able to utter harsh words, and by his silence she will thereby be offered a cure for his former harshness.
their crimson liveries wear -may their red colouring, which is like a uniform (livery), never fade. Venus now begins to attach a universal significance to his red lips.
verdure - freshness. still - for ever.
dangerous - infection is a danger to all, and therefore the year itself becomes dangerous. It is probably his breath which Venus sees as driving away the infection, rather than the verdure of his lips.
star-gazers- astrologers, who forecast plagues and various disasters. Sonnet 14 gives an idea of what asrologers (or astronomers as they were also called) might predict.
Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find Sonn. 14.1-8.
having writ on death - having made pronouncements about who was going to die.
'Pure lips, sweet seals in
my soft lips imprinted,
What bargains may I make, still to be sealing?
To sell myself I can be well contented,
So thou wilt buy and pay and use good dealing;
Which purchase if thou make, for fear of slips
Set thy seal-manual on my wax-red lips.
sweet seals - His lips, when kissing hers, left an impression on hers as a seal does when pressed into molten sealing wax. This brings her to th imagery of a legal document being stamped with a seal which follows in the rest of the stanza.
still to be sealing - which I may then continually ratify (by kissing you).
to sell myself - This is about as close as she gets to declaring herself a prostitute.
well contented -very pleased.
use good dealing - be fair and honest.
slips - errors. The word also meant counterfeit coins.
Set thy seal-manual - Manually impress the seal. seal -manual is legal jargon.
'A thousand kisses buys my
heart from me;
And pay them at thy leisure, one by one.
What is ten hundred touches unto thee?
Are they not quickly told and quickly gone? 520
Say, for non-payment that the debt should double,
Is twenty hundred kisses such a trouble?
A thousand kisses - She pretends to bargain with him. She will sell her heart (which he already has, for a thousand kisses). The stanza is reminiscent of Catullus' poem Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus, Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love, in which he requests her to give him a thousand kisses. See the notes above to lime 20.
quickly told - rapidly counted.
non-payment - So far he has refused to kiss her, so this amounts to non-payment.
debt-the debt of kisses. The language has links with the Merchant of Venice, and the offer to pay the debt to Shylock twenty times over. MV. 3.2.298-314.
'Fair queen,' quoth he,
'if any love you owe me,
Measure my strangeness with my unripe years:
Before I know myself, seek not to know me;
No fisher but the ungrown fry forbears:
The mellow plum doth fall, the green sticks fast,
Or being early plucked is sour to taste.
Fair queen - He addresses her formally. As a goddess she has regal qualities.
owe me - have towards me. The language picks up the finacial metaphor of the previous stanza.
strangeness - awkwardness, shyness.
with my unripe years -by my immaturity. I.e. Let my shyness be accounted for by my youth.
know ... know-Evidently there is a sexual meaning intended here. In the bible 'to know' sometimes has the meaning of 'to have sexual intercourse'.
No fisher but -There is no fisherman who does not.
the ungrown fry forbears -avoids the immature fish.
being early plucked -being picked when unripe. pluck suggests a rhyming allusion to 'fuck', as in 416, all the more so as Adonis here is saying that he does not want to.
'Look, the world's
comforter, with weary gait,
His day's hot task hath ended in the west; 530
The owl, night's herald, shrieks, "'Tis very late;"
The sheep are gone to fold, birds to their nest,
And coal-black clouds that shadow heaven's light
Do summon us to part and bid good night.
the world's comforter - the sun.
weary gait - exhausted steps.
night's herald - which announces the coming of night.
gone to fold -gone into the sheepfold.
shadow -obscure, block out.
to part -to depart.
'Now let me say "Good
night," and so say you;
If you will say so, you shall have a kiss.'
'Good night,' quoth she, and, ere he says 'Adieu,'
The honey fee of parting tendered is:
Her arms do lend his neck a sweet embrace;
Incorporate then they seem; face grows to face. 540
The honey fee of parting - The sweet kiss, which is the payment due on parting. parting - departing; separating. The lines are reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet parting:
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. RJ.2.2.184-5.
tendered is - is given.
lend his neck - give to his neck.
incorporate -as one body. From the Latin root corpus, body.
face grows to face -their faces seem joined to each other.
Till, breathless, he
disjoined, and backward drew
The heavenly moisture, that sweet coral mouth,
Whose precious taste her thirsty lips well knew,
Whereon they surfeit, yet complain on drouth:
He with her plenty pressed, she faint with dearth
Their lips together glued, fall to the earth.
disjoined - separated himself from her.
backward drew - drew back, removed. It refers to the heavenly moisture and coral mouth of the next line.
whereon - upon which. surfeit - have their fill, have more than enough.
drouth - drought; famine.
pressed -overwhelmed; oppressed. dearth - lack of supplies; famine.
lips together glued -evidently his drawing back and disjoining his lips has not been successful.
Now quick desire hath
caught the yielding prey,
And glutton-like she feeds, yet never filleth;
Her lips are conquerors, his lips obey,
Paying what ransom the insulter willeth; 550
Whose vulture thought doth pitch the price so high,
That she will draw his lips' rich treasure dry:
quick desire - lively, active desire. Venus now is personified as desire itself.
the yielding prey - Adonis. He yields because he cannot fight her anyway, as she is a goddess.
yet never filleth - she is never satiated.
insulter - trampler, desecrator. The word still had meanings associated with the Latin word, insultare - to exult, triumph over.
Whose -i.e. the insulter's, Venus'.
vulture thought -desire, feeding on flesh.
pitch -set. The word is assosciated with falconry, where it means the height to which a bird will soar.
draw-suck out. Probably not necessary to interpret this too literally. The riches is not necessarily his saliva, but the mere fact that she can have contact with his lips. treasure has a sexual meaning also.
And having felt the
sweetness of the spoil,
With blindfold fury she begins to forage;
Her face doth reek and smoke, her blood doth boil,
And careless lust stirs up a desperate courage,
Planting oblivion, beating reason back,
Forgetting shame's pure blush and honour's wrack.
the spoil - a term from warfare, being the riches gathered in battle, or when a town is ransacked.
blindfold fury - reckless passion. Cupid is depicted as blind, so it is fitting that Venus herself, under the influence of love, behaves as if she were blindfolded.
reek and smoke - exudes vapour and heat. The two words mean much the same. Sonnet 130 refers to the breath that from my mistress reeks. 130.8.
her blood doth boil - her passion is such that it seems as if her blood is boiling.
careless lust -lust, which has no thought of the consequences of its action.
Planting oblivion -Setting in place (in her mind) total heedlessness and disregard of morality.
shame's pure blush -the blushes which shame should induce.
wrack - wrek, destruction.
Hot, faint, and weary,
with her hard embracing,
Like a wild bird being tamed with too much handling, 560
Or as the fleet-foot roe that's tired with chasing,
Or like the froward infant stilled with dandling,
He now obeys, and now no more resisteth,
While she takes all she can, not all she listeth.
hot, faint and weary - This stanza now turns to a description of how Adonis reacts to the attempted seduction.
too much handling - presumably a wild bird being over-handled would become subdued and exhausted.
fleet-foot roe - swiftly running female deer. chasing - being chased.
froward - cross, bad tempered. stilled - calmed down. dandling - caressing, fondling, being amused by an adult.
not all she listeth -not everything that she desires. She wants more than mere kissing, but Adonis is not responsive.
What wax so frozen but
dissolves with tempering,
And yields at last to every light impression?
Things out of hope are compassed oft with venturing,
Chiefly in love, whose leave exceeds commission:
Affection faints not like a pale-faced coward,
But then woos best when most his choice is froward. 570
What wax so frozen but dissolves - What wax is so cold and frozen solid but that it will melt.
tempering - warming, heating. The image probably from metal working. A sword was tempered by having its blade heated to red heat and then plunging it in water. Perhaps sealing wax is more what is here described, as it yields to the impression of a seal.
compassed oft with venturing - achieved by being boldly attempted.
whose leave exceeds commission - where what is allowed is in excess of what normally might be done in normal relations.
Affection -desire, passion. Desire must not be faint hearted, but must press forward.
woos best etc. -courts the object of his passion best when the one it has chosen is petulant and obstructive. his refers to 'affection'.
When he did frown, O, had
she then gave over,
Such nectar from his lips she had not sucked.
Foul words and frowns must not repel a lover;
What though the rose have prickles, yet 'tis plucked:
Were beauty under twenty locks kept fast,
Yet love breaks through and picks them all at last.
When he did frown etc. - If, when he frowned, she had given up her pursuit of him, then she would never have etc. gave over - given up.
plucked - See note above to line 528.
What though - What does it matter if?
Were beauty - Even if beauty were. Compare the anonymous poem 'Love will find out the way':
A child for his might;
Or you may deem him
A coward for his flight;
But if she whom Love doth honour
Be concealed from the day --
Set a thousand guards upon her
Love will find out the way.
The full text may be found here
For pity now she can no
more detain him;
The poor fool prays her that he may depart:
She is resolved no longer to restrain him;
Bids him farewell, and look well to her heart, 580
The which, by Cupid's bow she doth protest,
He carries thence incaged in his breast.
For pity now - Yielding to pity (because he wants to depart).
poor fool - naive, tender child. Used as a term of affection.
look well to her heart - be aware of how much he has conquered her heart.
the which - i.e. her heart. protest - declare, assure him.
He carries thence -he takes away with him. The intermingling of hearts was a commonplace of love poetry of the time. Cf. My true love hath my heart and I have his by Sidney.
'Sweet boy,' she says,
'this night I'll waste in sorrow,
For my sick heart commands mine eyes to watch.
Tell me, Love's master, shall we meet to-morrow?
Say, shall we? shall we? wilt thou make the match?'
He tells her, no; to-morrow he intends
To hunt the boar with certain of his friends.
waste - spend, but with a suggestion of squandering it uselessly, because she would rather be in his arms.
watch - stay awake.
Love's master - Literally he is Love's master, in that he has conquered her heart, and in a general sense as being one who commands love from all who look on him.
Say, shall we? Shall we? - The repeated words emphasise the urgency and earnestness of her request.
make the match - keep the appointment. But with a sense also of making a marriage.
to hunt the boar - Boar hunting was a sport in Elizabethan England, as well as in the Ancient Grecian world in which the tale is set by Ovid.
certain of his friends - some of his friends. Perhaps he names them.
'The boar!' quoth she;
whereat a sudden pale,
Like lawn being spread upon the blushing rose, 590
Usurps her cheek; she trembles at his tale,
And on his neck her yoking arms she throws:
She sinketh down, still hanging by his neck,
He on her belly falls, she on her back.
a sudden pale - a rapid paleness.
lawn - fine white linen or muslin.
usurps - takes control of. It usurps the habitual rosiness which would normally adorn Venus' cheeks.
Say, shall we? Shall we? - The repeated words emphasise the urgency and earnestness of her request.
yoking arms - arms which link together (around the back of his neck). A yoke was used to join two horses side by side in the shafts of a carriage or cart. It was also a pole laid on the shoulders with a bucket attached at either end, a common sight in the pre-industrial world.
He on her belly falls etc. - It seems more likely that she falls on her back before he falls on her belly, but the wording emphasises the sexual suggestiveness of the position they end up in, a suggestiveness which is further developed in the following stanza.
Now is she in the very
lists of love,
Her champion mounted for the hot encounter:
All is imaginary she doth prove,
He will not manage her, although he mount her;
That worse than Tantalus' is her annoy,
To clip Elysium and to lack her joy. 600
very - actual, veritable. lists - at a tournament (a contest in which mounted knights in armour fought each other), the lists was the space in which the contests took place. Here the figurative contest is between one who defends love and one who fights against it.
Her champion mounted - the wording refers both to a chivalric tournament and a sexual encounter, but in the latter sense it would be used of a stallion mounting a mare. The hot encounter is indicative of Venus' passion.
she doth prove - she discovers by experience.
manage her - govern her; have sex with her. The latter sense is not common usage of the time, but the context here seems to demand it .
Tantalus - A mythical figure condemned to languish in a lake in Hades, suffering perpetual hunger and thirst. Whenever he bent to drink the water it vanished beneath him, and when he reached up to grasp a bunch of grapes dangling above his head, a gust of wind would whisk it away.
her annoy - that which offends or annoys her. Compare from the Sonnets:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy? Sonn.8.3-4.
To clip Elysium - To hold heaven (Elysium) in one's embrace. to lack her joy - not to have the joy of being there. Elysium was the place created by the gods for heroes to live in after their deaths.
TO BE CONTINUED