Thomas Lodge

Sonnets to Phillis (1593)

Queen Elizabeth I. A miniature by Nicholas Hilliard.

The title page of Lodge's Sonnets to Phillis.


Oh pleasing thoughts, apprentices of love,
Fore-runners of desire, sweet mithridates
The poison of my sorrows to remove,
With whom my hopes and fears full oft debates!
Enrich yourselves and me by your self riches,
Which are the thoughts you spend on heaven-bred beauty,
Rouse you my muse beyond our poets' pitches,
And, working wonders, yet say all is duty!
Use you no eaglets' eyes, nor phoenix feathers,
To tower the heaven from whence heaven's wonder sallies.
For why? Your sun sings sweetly to her weathers,
Making a spring of winter in the valleys.
Show to the world, though poor and scant my skill is,
How sweet thoughts be, that are but thoughts on Phillis.


You sacred sea-nymphs pleasantly disporting
Amidst this wat'ry world, where now I sail;
If ever love, or lovers sad reporting,
Had power sweet tears from your fair eyes to hail;
And you, more gentle hearted than the rest,
Under the northern noon-stead sweetly streaming
Lend those moist riches of your crystal crest,
To quench the flames from my heart's Ætna streaming
And thou, kind Triton, in thy trumpet relish
The ruthful accents of my discontent,
That midst this travel desolate and hellish,
Some gentle wind that listens my lament
May prattle in the north in Phillis' ears:
"Where Phillis wants, Damon consumes in tears."


In Fancy's world an Atlas have I been,
Where yet the chaos of my ceaseless care
Is by her eyes unpitied and unseen,
In whom all gifts but pity planted are,
For mercy though still cries my moan-clad muse,
And every aper that she sends to beauty,
In tract of sable tears brings woeful news,
Of my true heart, kind thoughts, and loyal duty.
But ah the strings of her hard heart are strained
Beyond the harmony of my desires;
And though the happy heavens themselves have pained,
To tame her heart whose will so far aspires,
Yet she who claims the title of world's wonder,
Thinks all deserts too base to bring her under.


Long hath my sufferance laboured to enforce
One pearl of pity from her pretty eyes,
Whilst I with restless rivers of remorse,
Have bathed the banks where my fair Phyllis lies.
The moaning lines which weeping I have written,
And writing read unto my ruthful sheep,
And reading sent with tears that never fitten,
To my love's queen, that hath my heart in keep,
Have made my lambkins lay them down and sigh;
But Phillis sits, and reads, and calls them trifles.
Oh heavens, why climb not happy lines so high,
To rent that ruthless heart that all hearts rifles!
None writes with truer faith or greater love;
Yet out, alas! I have no power to move.


Ah pale and dying infant of the spring,
How rightly now do I resemble thee!
That self same hand that thee from stalk did wring,
Hath rent my breast and robbed my heart from me.
Yet shalt thou live. For why? Thy native vigour
Shall thrive by woeful dew-drops of my dolour;
And from the wounds I bear through fancy's rigour,
My streaming blood shall yield the crimson colour.
The ravished sighs that ceaseless take their issue
From out the furnace of my heart inflamed,
To yield you lasting springs shall never miss you;
So by my plaints and pains, you shall be famed.
Let my heart's heat and cold, thy crimson nourish,
And by my sorrows let thy beauty flourish.


It is not death which wretched men call dying,
But that is very death which I endure,
When my coy-looking nymph, her grace envying,
By fatal frowns my domage doth procure.
It is not life which we for life approve,
But that is life when on her wool-soft paps
I seal sweet kisses which do batten love,
And doubling them do treble my good haps.
'Tis neither love the son, nor love the mother,
Which lovers praise and pray to; but that love is
Which she in eye and I in heart do smother.
Then muse not though I glory in my miss,
Since she who hilds my heart and me in durance,
Hath life, death, love and all in her procurance.


How languish the primrose of love's garden!
How trill her tears, th'elixir of my senses!
Ambitious sickness, what doth thee so harden?
Oh spare, and plague thou me for her offences!
Ah roses, love's fair roses, do not languish;
Blush through the milk white veil that holds you covered.
If heat or cold may mitigate your anguish,
I'll burn, I'll freeze, but you shall be recovered.
Good God, would beauty mark how she is crazed,
How but one shower of sickness makes her tender,
Her judgements then to mark my woes amazed,
To mercy should opinion's fort surrender!
And I, -- oh would I might, or would she meant it!
Should hery love who now in heart lament it.


No stars her eyes to clear the wandering night,
But shining suns of true divinity,
That make the soul conceive her perfect light!
No wanton beauties of humanity
Her pretty brows, but beams that clear the sight
Of him that seeks the true philosophy!
No coral is her lip, no rose her fair
But even that crimson that adorns the sun.
No nymph is she, but mistress of the air,
By whom my glories are but new begun.
But when I touch and taste as others do,
I then shall write, and you shall wonder too.


The dewy roseate Morn had with her hairs
In sundry sorts the Indian clime adorned;
And now her eyes, apparellèd in tears,
The loss of lovely Memnon long had mourned;
When as she spied the nymph whom I admire,
Combing her locks, of which the yellow gold
Made blush the beauty of her curlèd wire,
Which heaven itself with wonder might behold,
Then, red with shame, her reverend locks she rent,
And weeping hid the beauty of her face;
The flower of fancy wrought such discontent.
The sighs, which midst the air she breathed a space,
A three-days' stormy tempest did maintain,
Her shame a fire, her eyes a swelling rain.


The rumour runs that here in Isis swim
Such stately swans so confident in dying,
That when they feel themselves near Lethe's brim,
They sing their fatal dirge when death is nighing.
And I, like these, that feel my wounds are mortal,
Contented die for her whom I adore;
And in my joyful hymns do still exhort all
To die for such a saint or love no more.
Not that my torments or her tyranny
Enforce me to enjoin so hard a task,
But for I know, and yield no reason why,
But will them try that have desire to ask.
As love hath wreaths his pretty eyes to seel,
So lovers must keep secret what they feel.


My frail and earthly bark, by reason's guide,
Which holds the helm, whilst will doth wield the sail,
By my desires, the winds of bad betide,
Hath sailed these wordly seas with small avail,
Vain objects serve for dreadful rocks to quial
My brittle boat from haven of life that flies
To haunt the sea of mundane miseries.
My soul that draws impressions from above
And views my course, and sees the winds aspire,
Bids reason watch to 'scape the shoals of love;
But lawless will enflamed with endless ire
Doth steer empoop, whilst reason doth retire.
The streams increase; love's waves my bark do fill;
Thus are they wracked that guide their course by will.


Ah, trees, why fall your leaves so fast?
Ah, rocks, where are your robes of moss?
Ah, flocks, why stand you all aghast?
Trees, rocks and flocks, what, are you pensive for my loss?
The birds, methinks, tune naught but moan,
The winds breathe naught but bitter plaint,
The beasts forsake their dens to groan;
Birds, winds, and beasts, what doth my loss your powers attaint?
Floods weep their springs above their bounds,
And echo wails to see my woe,
The robe of ruth doth clothe the grounds;
Floods, echo, grounds, why do you all these tears bestow?
The trees, the rocks, and flocks reply,
The birds, the winds, the beasts report,
Floods, echo, grounds, for sorrow cry,
We grieve since Phillis nill kind Damon's love consort.


Love guides the roses of thy lips,
And flies about them like a bee;
If I approach he forward skips,
And if I kiss he stingeth me.
Love in thine eyes doth build his bower,
And sleeps within their pretty shine;
And if I look the boy will lower,
And from their orbs shoot shafts divine.
Love works thy heart within his fire,
And in my tears doth firm the same;
And if I tempt it will retire,
And of my plaints doth make a game.
Love, let me cull her choicest flowers,
And pity me, and calm her eye,
Make soft her heart, dissolve her lowers,
Then will I praise thy deity.
But if thou do not love, I'll truly serve her.
In spite of thee, and by firm faith deserve her.


I wrote in Mirrha's bark, and as I wrote,
Poor Mirrha wept because I wrote forsaken;
'Twas of my pride I sung in weeping note,
When as her leaves great moan for pity maken.
The falling fountains from the mountains falling,
Cried out, alas, so fair and be so cruel!
And babbling echo never ceasèd calling'
Phillis, disdain is fit for none but truthless.
The rising pines wherein I had engraved
Thy memory consulting with the wind,
Are trucemen to thy heart and thoughts depraved,
And say, thy kind should not be so unkind.
But, out alas! So fell is Phillis fearless,
That she hath made her Damon well nigh tearless.
(XV and XVI are omitted as they are not in sonnet form).


Ah, fleeting weal! Ah, sly deluding sleep,
That in one moment giv'st me joy and pain!
How do my hopes dissolve to tears in vain,
As wont the snows, 'fore angry sun to weep!
Ah, noisome life that hath no weal in keep!
My forward grief hath form and working might;
My pleasures, like the shadows, take their flight;
My path to bliss is tedious, long and steep.
Twice happy thou Endymion that embracest
The live-long night thy love within thy arms,
Where thou fond dream my longèd weal defacest,
Whilst fleeting and uncertain shades thou placest
Before my eyes with false deluding charms!
Ah, instant sweets which do my heart revive,
How should I joy if you were true alive!


As where two raging venoms are united,
Which of themselves dissevered life would sever,
The sickly wretch of sickness is acquited,
Which else should die, or pine in torments ever;
So fire and frost, that hold my heart in seizure
Restore those ruins which themselves have wrought,
Where if apart they both had had their pleasure'
The earth long since her fatal claim had caught.
Thus two united deaths keep me from dying;
I burn in ice, and quake amidst the fire,
No hope midst these extremes or favour spying;
Thus love makes me a martyr in his ire.
So that both cold and heat do rather feed
My ceaseless pains, than any comfort breed.


Thou tyrannising monarch that doth tire
My love-sick heart through those assaulting eyes,
That are the lamps which lighten my desire!
If naught but death thy fury may suffice,
Not for my peace, but for thy pleasure be it,
That Phillis, wrathful Phillis, that repines me
All grace but death, may deign to come and see me.
This only boon for all my mortal bane
I crave and cry for at thy mercy seat:
That when her wrath a faithful heart hath slain,
And soul is fled, and body reft of heat,
She might perceive how much she might command
That had my life and death within her hand.


Some praise the looks, and others praise the locks
Of their fair queens, in love with curious words:
Some laud the breast where love his treasure locks
All like the eye that life and love affords.
But noe of these frail beauties and unstable
Shall make my pen riot in pompous style;
More greater gifts shall my grave muse enable,
Whereat severer brows shall never smile.
I praise her honey-sweeter eloquence,
Which from the fountain of true wisdom floweth,
Her modest mien that matcheth excellence,
Her matchless faith which from her virtue groweth;
And could my style her happy virtues equal,
Time had no power her glories to enthral.


Ye heralds of my heart, mine ardent groans,
Oh, tears which gladly would burst out to brooks,
Oh, spent on fruitless sand my surging moans,
Oh, thoughts enthralled unto care-boding looks!
Ah, just laments of my unjust distress,
Ah, fond desires whom reason could not guide!
Oh, hopes of love that intimate redress,
Yet prove the load-stars unto bad betide!
When will you cease? Or shall pain never-ceasing,
Seize on my heart? Oh, mollify your rage,
Lest your assaults with over-swift increasing,
Procure my death, or call on timeless age.
What if they do? They shall but feed the fire,
Which I have kindled by my fond desire.


Fair art thou, Phillis, ay, so fair sweet maid
As nor the sun, nor I have seen more fair,
For in thy cheeks sweet roses are embayed,
And gold more pure than gold doth gild thy hair.
Sweet bees have hived their honey on thy tongue,
And Hebe spiced her nectar with thy breath;
About thy neck do all the graces throng,
And lay such baits as might entangle death.
In such a breast what heart would not be thrall
From such sweet arms who would not wish embraces?
At thy fair hands who wonders not at all
Wonder itself through ignorance embases?
Yet natheless though wondrous gifts you call these,
My faith is far more wonderful than all these.


Burst, burst, poor heart! Thou hast no longer hope;
Captive thine eyes unto eternal sleep;
Let all my senses have no further scope;
Let death be lord of me and all my sheep!
For Phillis hath betrothed fierce disdain,
That makes his mortal mansion in her heart;
And though my tongue have long time taken pain
To sue divorce and wed her to desert.
She will not yield, my words can have no power;
She scorns my faith, she laughs at my sad lays,
She fills my soul with never ceasing sour,
Who filled the world with volumes of her praise.
In such extremes what wretch can cease to crave
His peace from death, who can no mercy have!


No glory makes me glorious or glad,
Nor pleasure may to pleasure me dispose,
No comfort can revive my senses sad,
Nor hope enfranchise me with one repose.
Nor in her absence taste I one delight,
Nor in her presence am I well content;
Was never time gave term to my despite,
Nor joy that dried the tears of my lament.
Nor hold I hope of weal in memory,
Nor have I thought to change my restless grief,
Nor doth my conquest yield me sovereignty,
Nor hope repose, nor confidence relief.
For why? She sorts her frowns and favours so,
As when I gain or lose I cannot know.


I wage the combat with two mighty foes,
Which are more strong than I ten thousand fold;
The one is when thy pleasure I do lose,
The other, when thy person I behold.
In seeing thee a swarm of loves confound me
And cause my death in spite of my resist,
And if I see thee not my want doth wound me,
For in thy sight my comfort doth consist.
The one in me continual care createth,
The other doth occasion my desire;
The one the edge of all my joy rebateth,
The other makes me a phoenix in love's fire.
So that I grieve when I enjoy your presence,
And die for grief by reason of your absence.


I'll teach thee, lovely Phillis, what love is.
It is a vision seeming such as thou,
That flies as fast as it assaults mine eyes;
It is affection that doth reason miss;
It is a shape of pleasure like to you,
Which meets the eye, and seen on sudden dies;
It is a double grief, a spark of pleasure
Begot by vain desire. And this is love
Whom in our youth we count our chiefest treasure,
In age for want of power we do reprove.
Yea, such a power is love, whose loss is pain,
And having got him we repent our gain.


Fair eyes, whilst fearful I your fair admire,
By unexpressèd sweetness that I gain,
My memory of sorrow doth expire,
And falcon-like I tower joy's heavens amain,
But when your suns in oceans of their glory
Shut up their day-bright shine, I die for thought;
So pass my joys as doth a new-played story,
And one poor sigh breaths all delight to naught.
So to myself I live not, but for you;
For you I live, and you I love, but none else.
Oh then, fair eyes, whose light I live to view,
Or poor forlorn despised to live alone else,
Look sweet, since from the pith of contemplation
Love gathereth life, and living, breedeth passion.


Not causeless were you christened, gentle flowers,
The one of faith, the other fancy's pride;
For she who guides both faith and fancy's power,
In your fair colour wraps her ivory side.
As one of you hath whiteness without stain,
So spotless is my love and never tainted;
And as the other shadoweth faith again,
Such is my lass, with no fond change acquainted.
And as nor tyrant sun, nor winter weather
May ever change sweet amaranthus' hue,
So she though love and fortune join together,
Will never leave to be both fair and true.
And should I leave thee there, thou pretty elf?
Nay, first let Damon quite forget himself.


I feel myself endangered beyond reason
My death already 'twixt the cup and lip,
Because my proud desire through cursèd treason
Would make my hopes mount heaven, which cannot skip;
My fancy still requireth at my hands
Such things as are not, cannot, may not be,
And my desire, although my power withstands
Will give me wings, who never yet could flee.
What then remains except my maimèd soul
Extort compassion from love-flying age,
Or if naught else their fury may control,
To call on death that quells affection's rage;
Which death shall dwell with me and never fly,
Since vain desire seeks that hope doth deny.


I do compare unto thy youthly clear,
Which always bides within thy flow'ring prime,
The month of April, that bedews our clime
With pleasant flowers, when as his showers appear.
Before thy face shall fly false cruelty,
Before his face the doly season fleets;
Mild been his looks, thine eyes are full of sweets;
Firm is his course, firm is thy loyalty.
He paints the fields through liquid crystal showers,
Thou paint'st my verse with Pallas' learnèd flowers;
With Zephirus' sweet breath he fills the plains,
And thou my heart with weeping sighs dost wring;
His brows are dewed with morning's crystal spring,
Thou mak'st my eyes with tears bemoan my pain.


Devoid of reason, thrall to foolish ire,
I walk and chase a savage fairy still,
Now near the flood, straight on the mounting hill,
Now midst the woods of youth, and vain desire.
For leash I bear a cord of careful grief;
For brach I lead an over-forward mind;
My hounds are thoughts, and rage despairing blind,
Pain, cruelty, and care without relief.
But they perceiving that my swift pursuit
My flying fairy cannot overtake,
With open mouths their prey on me do make,
Like hungry hounds that lately lost their suit.
And full of fury on their master feed,
To hasten on my hapless death with speed.


A thousand times to think and think the same
To two fair eyes to show a naked heart,
Great thirst with bitter liquor to restrain,
To take repast of care and crooked smart;
To sigh full oft without relent of ire,
To die for grief and yet conceal the tale,
To others' will to fashion my desire,
To pine in looks disguised through pensive-pale;
A short despite, a faith unfeigned true,
To love my foe, and set my life at naught,
With heedless eyes mine endless harms to view
A will to speak, a fear to tell the thought;
To hope for all, yet for despair to die,
Is of my life the certain destiny.


When first sweet Phillis, whom I must adore,
'Gan with her beauties bless our wond'ring sky,
The son of Rhea, from their fatal store
Make all the gods to grace her majesty.
Apollo first his golden rays among,
Did form the beauty of her bounteous eyes;
He graced her with his sweet melodious song,
And made her subject of his poesies.
The warrior Mars bequeathed her fierce disdain,
Venus her smile, and Phoebe all her fair,
Python his voice, and Ceres all her grain,
The moon her locks and fingers did repair.
Young Love, his bow, and Thetis gave her feet;
Clio her praise, Pallas her science sweet.


I would in rich and golden-coloured rain,
With tempting showers in pleasant sort descend
Into fair Phillis' lap, my lovely friend,
When sleep her sense with slumber doth restrain.
I would be changèd to a milk-white bull,
When midst the gladsome field she should appear,
By pleasant fineness to surprise my dear,
Whilst from their stalks, she pleasant flowers did pull.
I were content to weary out my pain,
To be Narcissus so she were a spring,
To drown in her those woes my heart do wring,
And more; I wish transformèd to remain,
That whilst I thus in pleasure's lap did lie,
I might refresh desire, which else would die.


I hope and fear, I pray and hold my peace,
Now freeze my thoughts and straight they fry again,
I now admire and straight my wonders cease,
I loose my bonds and yet myself restrain;
This likes me most that leaves me discontent,
My courage serves and yet my heart doth fail,
My will doth climb whereas my hopes are spent,
I laugh at love, yet when he comes I quail;
The more I strive, the duller bide I still,
I would be thanked, and yet I freedom love,
I would redress, yet hourly feed my ill,
I would repine, and dare not once reprove;
And for my love I am bereft of power,
And strengthless strive my weakness to devour.


If so I seek the shades, I presently do see
The god of love forsakes his bow and sit by me;
If that I think to write, his Muses pliant be,
Of so I plain my grief, the wanton boy will cry,
If I lament his pride, he doth increase my pain;
If tears my cheeks attaint, his cheeks are moist with moan;
If I disclose the wounds the which my heart hath slain,
He takes his fascia off, and wipes them dry anon.
If so I walk the woods, the woods are his delight,
If I myself torment, he bathes him in my blood;
He will my soldier be if once I wend to fight,
If seas delight, he steers my bark amid the flood.
In brief, the cruel god doth never from me go,
But makes my lasting love eternal with my woe.


These fierce incessant waves that stream along my face,
Which show the certain proof of my ne'er ceasing pains,
Fair Phillis, are no tears that trickle from my brains;
For why? Such streams of ruth within me find no place.
These floods that wet my cheeks are gathered from from thy grace
And thy perfections, and from hundred thousand flowers
Which from thy beauties spring; whereto I medley showers
Of rose and lilies too, the colours of thy face.
My love doth serve for fire, my heart the furnace is,
The aperries of my sighs augment the burning flame,
The limbec is mine eye that doth distil the same;
And by how much my fire is violent and sly,
By so much doth it cause the waters mount on high,
That shower from out mine eyes, for to assuage my miss.


Who lives enthralled to Cupid and his flame,
From day to day is changed in sundry sort;
The proof whereof myself may well report,
Who oft transformed by him may teach the same.
I first was turned into a wounded hart,
That bare the bloody arrow in my side;
Then to a swan that midst the waters glide,
With piteous voice presaged my deadly smart;
Eftsoons I waxed a faint and fading flower;
Then was I made a fountain sudden dry,
Distilling all my tears from troubled eye;
Now am I salamander by his power,
Living in flames, but hope erelong to be
A voice, to talk my mistress' majesty.


My matchless mistress, whose delicious eyes
Have power to perfect nature's privy wants,
Even when the sun in greatest pomp did rise,
With pretty tread did press the tender plants.
Each stalk, whilst forth she stalks, to kiss her feet
Is proud with pomp, and prodigal of sweet.
Her fingers fair in favouring every flower
That wooed their ivory for a wishèd touch,
By chance--sweet chance--upon a blessed hour
Did pluck the flower where Love himself did couch,
Where Love did couch by summer toil suppressed,
And sought his sleep within so sweet a nest.
The virgin's hand that held the wanton thrall,
Imprisoned him within the roseate leaves;
And twixt her teats, with favour did install
The lovely rose, where Love his rest receives.
The lad that felt the soft and sweet so nigh,
Drowned in delights, disdains his liberty,
And said, Let Venus seek another son,
For here my only matchless mother is;
From whose fair orient orbs the drink doth run,
That deifies my state with greater bliss.
This said, he sucked, my mistress blushing smiled,
Since Love was both her prisoner and her child.


Resembling none, and none so poor as I,
Poor to the world, and poor in each esteem,
Whose first-born loves at first obscured did die,
And bred no fame but flame of base misdeem,
Under the ensign of whose tirèd pen,
Love's legions forth have masked, by others masked;
Think how I live, wrongèd by ill-tongued men,
Not master of myself, to all wrongs tasked!
Oh thou that canst, and she that may do all things,
Support these languishing conceits that perish!
Look on their growth; perhaps these silly small things
May win this worthy palm, so you do cherish.
Homer hath vowed, and I with him do vow this,
He will and shall revive, if you allow this.