The Venus and
Adonis Study Guide
With a Complete
Annotated Text of the Shakespeare Poem
By Michael J. Cummings
Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved
Composition and Publication
Format of the Poem
Stanza and Rhyme
Main Goal of the Poem
Figures of Speech
References to Mythology
Complete Annotated Text of the
About the Author
Type of Work
William Shakespeare's Venus
and Adonis is narrative poem (a poem that tells a story). It
centers on the infatuation of Venus, the goddess of love, with a
young mortal named Adonis. The story originated in Greek
mythology. Over the centuries, poets and other writers retold the
story, interpreting it in new ways and adding new details.
Because the poem contains several characteristics of ancient epic
poems, such as Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid,
it has sometimes been referred to as an epyllion, or “little
epic,” by scholars of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first
centuries. Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824) was said to have
invented the word epyllion.
Among characteristics that Venus and Adonis shares with
ancient epics are (1) it tells a story, (2) it portrays or alludes
to mythological beings, and (3) its lines are in verse. The chief
difference between Shakespeare's poem and ancient epics is length:
Venus and Adonis has 1,194 lines. By comparison, the Iliad
has approximately 12,000 lines and the Aeneid 9,900.
Composition and Publication
his manuscript of Venus and Adonis
in 1593. Later that same year, Richard Field, a printer with an
outstanding reputation for workmanship, published the poem in
Field had been a boyhood acquaintance of Shakespeare when they
neighbors in Stratford, where Shakespeare was born. The poem
highly popular, and Field reprinted the book in 1594, 1595, and
By 1640, twenty-four years after Shakespeare's death, the poem had
through sixteen printings.
The main source
for Shakespeare's poem was the story of Venus and Adonis as retold
in the tenth book of Metamorphoses (Transformations),
by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-17 AD). Metamorphoses, one
of the great works of Western literature, was studied in schools
of Shakespeare's time. Although Shakespeare was no doubt familiar
with Ovid's original Latin rendering of the text, he probably
relied more heavily on the English translation of it by Arthur
Golding (1536-1606), published in 1567. Revised editions of
Golding's translation appeared in 1575, 1587, and later years.
Shakespeare may also have consulted Book III of The Faerie
Queen (1591), by Edmund Spenser (1553?-1599); Scillaes
Metamorphosis (1589), by Thomas Lodge (1558-1625); and the
unfinished manuscript of Hero and Leander, by Christopher
An epigraph is a
quotation that precedes the main body of a literary work. Venus
and Adonis begins with the following Latin epigraph from
lines 35 and 36 of Elegy 25 in Amores (The Art of Love),
miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
This study guide
translates the quotation as follows: Let the common people
admire vile things. May golden Apollo serve me a cupful of water
from the fountain of Castalia.
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.
The fountain of Castalia was at the foot of Mount Parnassus in
south-central Greece, near Delphi, site of a temple honoring the
sun god Apollo. Apollo dedicated the fountain to his disciples,
the nine muses. As goddesses of the arts and sciences, the muses
inspired the work of writers, painters, musicians, mathematicians,
astronomers, and so on. Apollo and the muses were believed to
congregate at the fountain and elsewhere in the vicinity of Mount
Parnassus. Their association with the fountain gave rise to the
belief that drinking its water would stimulate creativity.
Thus, Shakespeare's use of the Ovid quotation referring to the
fountain of Castalia is a proclamation that Venus and Adonis
is an inspired work, one worthy of the attention of sophisticated
readers. Conveying this message was important to Shakespeare, for
was a young man struggling to make a name for himself. He had
several plays by this time (1593), but refined Londoners tended to
regard works for the theater as entertainment for the boisterous
masses. Many of them probably had never seen a Shakespeare play.
surely they had never read one, for Venus and Adonis
was his first published work. But educated Londoners generally
good poetry. If Shakespeare could engage the cultured elite with
poetry, he might well win them over to his stage plays.
Shakespeare dedicated Venus
and Adonis to Henry Wriothesley (RIZE le), the Third Earl of
Southampton. While still a teenager, Wriothesley (1573-1624)
inherited his father's property and money. When Shakespeare
published Venus and Adonis, Wriothesley was twenty,
wealthy, well-educated, and an influential patron of the arts.
Wriothesley's name at the beginning of the poem would signal to
well-to-do aristocrats that the poem was worthy of their
attention. It would also help put a jingle in Shakespeare's
pocket. Several other writers dedicated works to him in the 1590s,
including Barnabe Barnes (1571-1609), Thomas Nashe (1567-1601),
William Burton (1575-1645), Henry Lok (1553?-1608?), and Gervase
Format of the Poem
Venus and Adonis
consists of 199 stanzas, each with six lines. In every stanza,
line 1 rhymes with line 3, line 2 with line 4, and line 5 with
line 6. The last two lines are indented. The first stanza of Venus
and Adonis (below) demonstrates the format for the entire
A Even as the sun with
B Had ta'en his last
leave of the weeping morn,
Adonis hied him to the chase;
B Hunting he loved, but
love he laugh'd to scorn;
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo him.
In a poem, meter is a
rhythmic pattern in which a line has a set number of syllables,
some of which are stressed and some of which are unstressed. In
Venus and Adonis the meter of the lines is iambic
To understand iambic
pentameter, you first need to understand the term iamb.
An iamb is a unit of rhythm consisting of an unstressed syllable
followed by a stressed syllable. Consider the words annoy,
fulfill, pretend, regard, and serene. They are all
iambs because the first syllable of each word is unstressed (or
unaccented) and the second syllable is stressed (or accented):
an NOY, ful FILL, pre TEND, re GARD, and ser ENE. Iambs can also
consist of one word with a single unstressed (unaccented)
syllable followed by another word with a single stressed
(accented) syllable (example: the KING). In addition, they may
consist of a final unstressed syllable of one word followed by
an initial stressed syllable of the next word (example: SEVen
When a line has five
iambs, it is in iambic pentameter. The prefix pent- (in
pentameter) means five. The suffix -meter refers
to the recurrence of iambs. Because the lines in Venus and
Adonis generally each have five iambs, the lines are in
iambic pentameter, as in the following stanza (lines 379-384).
| he CRIES, | "let GO, | and LET | me
| de LIGHT | is PAST, | my HORSE | is
| your FAULT | I AM | be REFT | him SO:
| you HENCE, | and LEAVE | me HERE | a
For ALL | my MIND, | my THOUGHT,
| my BUS | y CARE,
Is HOW | to GET | my PAL
| frey FROM | the MARE."
successive lines in the same meter rhyme, they are called a
couplet. Thus, the last two lines in the above stanza—and in
every other stanza in the poem—are couplets.
Shakespeare sets the
story in a forested rural locale in the age of myth, when the gods
and goddesses of Mount Olympus frequently interacted with human
beings. The action begins on the morning of one day and ends on
the morning of the next day. The locale abounds in wildlife such
as deer, foxes, lions, bears, hares, and boars.
Shakespeare uses an
omniscient narrator in Venus
An omniscient narrator is all-seeing and all-knowing. Not only
witness all the action, but he also sees inside the minds of the
characters and reveals their thoughts and feelings. He is like a
camera that plays back all the action in a film, including a scene
which a character is trapped on an elevator, is parachuting to
or is having a nightmare that the audience sees on the screen. In
the following stanza from Venus
and Adonis, the narrator tells the reader that Venus
her attention on flowers that seem to be in sympathy with Adonis,
has just been killed by a boar. He then describes her outward
appearance, her feelings, and her thoughts.
This solemn sympathy poor Venus
Over one shoulder doth
she hang her head,
Dumbly she passions,
franticly she doteth;
She thinks he could
not die, he is not dead:
Her voice is
stopp’d, her joints forget to bow,
Her eyes are
mad that they have wept till now. (1057-1062)
The narrator also frequently quotes Venus word for word when she
to Adonis or to herself. Less often, he quotes Adonis, who is shy
does not have much to say in the first place. Following is an
example of a stanza in which the narrator quotes Venus:
"Had I no eyes but ears, my ears would love
That inward beauty and
Or were I deaf, thy outward
parts would move
Each part in me that were
Though neither eyes nor
ears, to hear nor see,
Yet should I be in love by
touching thee. (453-458)
No quotation marks appear at the end of the stanza because the
quotation has not ended; it continues in the next stanza.
Several times in the poem, the narrator refers to persons or
that did not exist in the age of myth. Placement of such persons
things in the wrong historical era is called an anachronism. Here
Now is she in the very lists of love,
Her champion mounted
for the hot encounter:
All is imaginary she
He will not manage
her, although he mount her. (595-598)
Lists were barriers enclosing the area where jousting tournaments
held in the Middle Ages. The word may also refer to the enclosed
itself. Champion mounted
refers to a knight on a horse. Both lists and champion
are part of a metaphor comparing Venus's passion to lists and
a mounted knight. (He is "mounted" because he has fallen on top of
her.) But there were no
lists, knights, or jousting tournaments in ancient times.
The narrator also uses the word nuns
(752) and the phrase deadly
bullet of a gun
(461). Nuns (members of Roman Catholic religious orders), bullets,
guns did not exist until many centuries after the age of myth.
Venus: The Roman
name of the goddess of love and beauty in ancient mythology. The
Greek name for her was Aphrodite (AF roh DYE te). Venus was
married to the blacksmith god Vulcan (Greek name, Hephaestus), who
was ugly and deformed. She had many lovers among gods and men.
Adonis (uh DAHN ihs): Young
mortal with extraordinary good looks. He was the offspring of an
incestuous union between a daughter and her father. He is shy and
naive. Adonis steadfastly refuses to engage in sex with the
voluptuous goddess even though she offers herself to him
unconditionally. He regards her as lustful, not loving.
Huntsman: Hunter who shouts “holla” from afar when Venus
thinks a boar has killed Adonis. The shout enkindles hope in Venus
that Adonis is still alive, for he could be the shouting hunter.
In form and feature,
Adonis has no earthly equal. Although he is but a boy, such is his
masculine allure that even Venus, the goddess of love, covets him.
One morning, she confronts him while he hunts for wild boar on
horseback. She tells him that he is “Thrice fairer than myself”
(7). He is, she says, “The field’s chief flower, sweet above
compare” (8). When she invites him to sit with her to receive her
kisses, he refuses, for he is “frosty in desire” (36).
Venus unhorses him, so that they lie side by side, and she strokes
his cheek. Whatever words of protest he musters, “she murders with
a kiss” (54). When he breathes, “she feedeth on the steam as on a
prey” (63). She woos him further—on and on, relentlessly—with
honey-coated words. But Adonis does not respond. Eventually, he
says, “Fie, no more of love! / The sun doth burn my face: I must
remove” (185-186). After his horse—a handsome palfrey—runs off to
woo a jennet (female donkey), Adonis scolds the love goddess:
he cries, 'let go, and let me go;
Venus tells him he
should take a lesson from his horse, which "welcomes the warm
approach of sweet desire." But Adonis's only desire is to hunt, to
chase a boar, and he begs release. He promises a kiss if she
allows him to go his way. When they embrace, “face grows to face”
(540). When he draws backward, she presses in.
My day's delight is
past, my horse is gone,
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.' (379-384)
Now quick desire hath
caught the yielding prey,
But by and by, as day
succumbs to evening, he resists again and she no longer restrains
And glutton-like she feeds, yet never
Her lips are conquerors, his lips
Paying what ransom the insulter
Whose vulture thought doth pitch
the price so high,
That she will draw his lips’ rich
treasure dry. (548-552)
And having felt the sweetness of the
With blindfold fury she begins to
Her face doth reek and smoke, her blood doth
And careless lust stirs up a desperate
Planting oblivion, beating reason
Forgetting shame’s pure blush and
honour’s wrack. (553-558)
she says, "this night I'll waste in sorrow,
He leaves, disappearing
into the darkness.
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." (583-588)
In the morning, the hunt is on. Hounds bark and bay. Attracted by
the din, Venus spies the boar, “whose frothy mouth [is] bepainted
all with red, / Like milk and blood being mingled both together”
(901-902). The dogs run about in a frenzy, bleeding. And Adonis?
Where is Adonis? She fears the worst. When she hears a “merry
horn” (1025), her heart quickens with hope, and she hurries toward
And in her
haste unfortunately spies
Adonis has been gored. He
is dead. Venus is devastated. She says:
The foul boar's
conquest on her fair delight;
Which seen, her eyes,
as murder'd with the view,
Like stars ashamed of
day, themselves withdrew. (1029-1032)
world, what treasure hast thou lost!
From his blood, a purple
flower with white dapples springs up. She plucks it so that she
can keep it close to her heart. Then, tired and careworn, she
leaves in her chariot, drawn by silver doves, “to immure herself
and not be seen” (1194).
What face remains
alive that's worth the viewing?
Whose tongue is music
now? what canst thou boast
Of things long since,
or any thing ensuing?
The flowers are
sweet, their colours fresh and trim;
beauty lived and died with him." (1075-1080)
Climax and Conclusion
The climax of the poem is
Venus's discovery of the lifeless body of Adonis. The conclusion,
or denouement, is Venus's commentary on the death of Adonis.
The Main Goal of the Poem
Why did Shakespeare
write Venus and Adonis? To define frustration? To condemn
lust? To profile a sexual predator? To argue for (or
against) Venus's philosophy of living for the moment? To entertain
voyeuristic readers? To compare virtue with transgression, or
naivete with experience? To compare pagan ideals (represented by
Venus) with Christian ideals (represented by Adonis)? To
demonstrate the complex tangle of emotions generated by
Scholarly essays have centered on all these questions. No clear
consensus has emerged except on two points: Shakespeare wrote Venus
and Adonis (1) to showcase his ability to write with verve
and sophistication for educated and cultured audiences and (2) to
make money. Shakespeare apparently
succeeded on both accounts, for the poem abounds
in dazzling imagery and wordplay that made it a commercial
triumph with his target audience—going through four
printings by the end of 1596—while
bolstering his reputation as a writer. In fact, it is the
wizardry of the wording—rather than the character development
or plot—that is the most praiseworthy ingredient in the poem.
It deftly describes the shifting moods of the characters, the
sounds and sights of nature, and the tension between the
goddess and the mortal. Through comparisons, passion turns
into fire, angry words into prickly flowers, a heartbeat into
an earthquake, anxiety into a cankerworm, a fleeing hare's
zigzag path into a labyrinth. English poet and critic Samuel
Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) says of the writing:
In the Venus and Adonis,
the first and most obvious excellence is the perfect
sweetness of the
versification; its adaptation to the subject; and the power
in varying the march of the words without passing into a
more majestic rhythm than was demanded by the thoughts, or
the propriety of preserving a sense of melody predominant.
in richness and sweetness of sound, even to a faulty excess,
if it be
evidently original, and not the result of an easily imitable
I regard as a highly favourable promise in the compositions
of a young
man. The man that hath not music in his soul can indeed
never be a
genuine poet. (Biographia
Literaria. London: Fenner, 1817, Chapter 14.
Katharine Eisaman Maus observes:
The language of Venus
is especially good at capturing the confusing, contradictory
sensations produced by another person's unfamiliar body close to
own, a sensation simultaneously grand, comic, oppressive,
repellant. (Qtd. in The
Norton Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor.
New York: W. W. Norton, 1997, page 605)
generally praise the writing in the poem, they tend to criticize
the plot and the characterization. The plot is simple and maybe even
simplistic. Venus tempts Adonis to engage in sex with her. He does
yield. Later the boar kills him. That's it; that's the whole story. As for
characterization, Adonis is static, lacking personality and
vigor—which Shakespeare, through Venus, acknowledges:
lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone,
And Venus? She's a
motor-mouth. In her campaign to conquer Adonis—to bring the statue
to life, as it were—she bombards him with flattery and other
verbal inducements. For example, she tells him he is “thrice
fairer than myself” (7) and “the field's chief flower (8).” When
flattery fails, she tries another approach—that he has an
obligation to beget children.
idol, image dull and dead,
contenting but the eye alone. (211-213)
made to light, jewels to wear,
When this ploy also
fails, she tells him how much she loves him.
taste, fresh beauty for the use,
their smell, and sappy plants to bear:
to themselves are growth's abuse:
from seeds and beauty breedeth beauty;
begot; to get it is thy duty. (183-188)
'Had I no
eyes but ears, my ears would love
By and by, Adonis
finally agrees to kiss her. The narrator then takes over to
describe the encounter.
beauty and invisible;
Or were I
deaf, thy outward parts would move
Each part in
me that were but sensible:
eyes nor ears, to hear nor see,
Yet should I
be in love by touching thee. (453-458)
desire hath caught the yielding prey,
However, Adonis breaks
off the kiss. Nevertheless, Venus's lips keeping moving, warning
him of the dangers of the vile boar. Even after Adonis goes home,
she continues to chatter—to the gods, to herself, to death.
glutton-like she feeds, yet never filleth;
Her lips are
conquerors, his lips obey,
ransom the insulter willeth;
thought doth pitch the price so high,
That she will
draw his lips' rich treasure dry. (568-573)
Meanwhile, all of Venus's talk—and all the narrator's
passages—enable Shakespeare to demonstrate his command of the
he is a verbal sorcerer. His words alone, without extended
and characterization, can enthrall the reader or listener.
Figures of Speech
Following are examples of
figures of speech in the poem.
Alliteration: Repetition of consonant sounds at the
beginning of words or syllables
Earth’s sovereign salve to do a goddess good.
Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of word
groups occurring one after the other.
he take truce with her contending tears
conquers where he comes
in every jar. (100)
Notice that who
alliterates with he, not where, because who
begins with an h sound.
It shall be fickle, false,
and full of fraud. (1141)
spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth
cry till they have singled
Notice that ceasing alliterates with singled because both have
an s sound.
Now doth she stroke his cheek, now doth he frown. (45)
Addressing an abstraction or a thing, present or absent;
addressing an absent entity or a person; addressing a deceased
like a fairy trip upon the
like a nymph, with long dishevell’d hair, 146-147
Enfranchising his mouth, his back, his
now I liv’d,
and life was death’s annoy;
But now I
died, and death was lively joy. (497-498)
O thou clear
god, and patron of all light,
Repetition of the same vowel sound preceded and followed by
different consonant sounds
From whom each lamp
and shining star doth borrow
influence that makes him bright. (860-862)
Venus addresses the
ugly, meagre, lean,
Hateful divorce of
love,’—thus chides she Death,—
earth’s worm, what dost thou mean
To stifle beauty and
to steal his breath.' (931-934)
the flood-gates breaks the silver rain. (959)
Reversing the order of words in the second of two parallel clauses
No flower was nigh, no
grass, herb, leaf, or weed. (1055)
lov’d, but love he laugh’d to scorn. (4)
Exaggeration or overstatement.
But now I liv’d, and
life was death’s annoy;
But now I died, and
death was lively joy. (497-498)
heart pants, beats, and takes no rest,
Comparison of unlike things without using like, as, or than
But, like an
earthquake, shakes thee on my breast. (647-648)
A summer’s day will
seem an hour but short,
Being wasted in such
time-beguiling sport. (23-24)
flint-hearted boy (95)
Adonis's heart to flint
Fie! lifeless picture,
cold and senseless stone,
image dull and dead,
Statue contenting but
the eye alone. (211-213)
Comparison of Adonis
to a statue
I’ll be a
park, and thou shalt be my deer. (231)
Comparison of Venus
to a park and Adonis to a deer
These lovely caves,
these round enchanting pits. (247)
Adonis's dimples to caves and pits
Full gently now she
takes him by the hand,
A lily prison’d in a
gaol of snow. (361-362)
Adonis's hand to a lily; comparison of Venus's hand to a jail
a coal that must be cool’d. (387)
Figure of speech in which (1) a word mimics a sound or (2) an
arrangement of words in a rhythmic pattern that suggests a sound
or an image
affection to a coal
and sit, where never serpent hisses. (17)
type of metaphor that refers to a thing or an abstraction as a
And forth she rushes,
snorts and neighs aloud. (262)
Bid Suspicion double-lock the door,
of unlike things using like, as, or than
Lest Jealousy, that
sour unwelcome guest,
Should, by his stealing
in, disturb the feast. (448-450)
Suspicion and Jealousy
are turned into persons.
For by this black-fac’d
night, desire’s foul nurse,
Your treatise makes me like you worse and worse. (773-774)
Night becomes a nurse.
ugly, meagre, lean,
Hateful divorce of love,’—thus chides she
‘Grim-grinning ghost, earth’s worm, what dost thou
To stifle beauty and to steal his breath? (931-934)
Death becomes an ugly tyrant.
She [is] red and hot as coals of glowing fire. (35)
Comparison of the
intensity of Venus's desire to the heat of a glowing coal
Upon this promise did he raise his
Like a dive-dapper
peering through a wave. (85-86)
Adonis to a bird
His louring brows
o’erwhelming his fair sight,
Like misty vapours
when they blot the sky. (183-184)
Adonis's brows to vapors
Synecdoche: Figure of speech
in which a part stands for the whole.
What face remains alive that’s worth the viewing? (1076)
Face represents the entire body.
References to Mythology
Shakespeare frequently refers directly or indirectly to figures
from ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Such references help him
focus attention on the place and time of the story—the ancient
Mediterranean world in the age of myth—and to fashion descriptions
enable readers to picture or interpret what he is writing about.
Lines 1 and 2 of the first stanza of the poem, for example, allude
the sun god and the goddess of the dawn, although Shakespeare does
mention the names of these deities. The lines suggest that the
of dawn weeps because the sun god has left her. These
foreshadow the rest of the poem—in particular, Venus's distress at
Adonis's continual rejection of her.
Other references to mythology are explained in the notes that
follow the stanzas.
Lust in the Guise of
Why does Venus fail to seduce Adonis? Apparently because he knows
that her real motive in pursuing him is to satisfy her intense
sexual craving for him. She is the goddess of lust, not love,
attracted to Adonis's delicious exterior. He is a ripe apple newly
fallen from the tree, and she wants a bite. She does not care
about abstract qualities that he may or may not possess, such as
courage, loyalty, generosity, or integrity. And she does not care
about where he comes from, whom he befriends, what he eats or
drinks, or what he wants to do with his life. It is his body that
She uses her every charm and wile, and an ever-flowing cascade of
honeyed words, to win him over. But he steadfastly refuses to do
anything but kiss her—once to pacify her and once to assuage the
guilt he feels after she faints (or pretends to faint). To engage
in sexual intimacy merely to gratify passion, he says, is wrong.
Adonis lectures her on what real love is:
comforteth like sunshine after rain,
In the end, it is a dumb
animal that conquers Adonis, and the goddess curses love in a
bitter tirade extending from line 1135 to line 1164. True, she
laments the death of Adonis with beautiful words. But it is really
the death of her opportunity to couple with this beautiful
creature that brings tears to her cheeks.
But Lust’s effect is
tempest after sun;
Love’s gentle spring
doth always fresh remain,
Lust’s winter comes
ere summer half be done.
not, Lust like a glutton dies;
Love is all
truth, Lust full of forged lies. (799-804)
In her effort to seduce Adonis, Venus brags to him early in the
poem that she once enslaved the mighty god of war, Mars, making
him beg to sleep with her. But, she says, Adonis can have her
without even asking.
I have been
woo’d, as I entreat thee now,
This appeal to Adonis is
just another of her ploys to manipulate him into becoming a sex
pawn. Ironically, though, it is he, a puny mortal, who holds the
real power here. He has the wherewithal to control his emotions;
she does not. Consequently, she becomes Adonis's slave, just as
Mars was her slave. However, whereas Venus yielded to the war
god's desire for her, Adonis never yields to her desire for him.
And she is powerless against his obstinacy.
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;
Yet hath he
been my captive and my slave,
And begg’d for
that which thou unask’d shalt have. (97-102)
Venus seems never at a loss for stratagems to get Adonis to
surrender to her. Here are three examples.
Live for the moment.
Venus uses a carpe diem (seize the day) argument to try
persuade Adonis to accept pleasure when it presents itself, as
his horse does when he sees the jennet. She says,
Make use of time,
let not advantage slip;
Beauty within itself
should not be wasted:
that are not gather’d in their prime
consume themselves in little time. (129-132)
‘Let me excuse thy
courser, gentle boy;
And learn of him, I
heartily beseech thee,
To take advantage on
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.’ (403-408)
The goddess tells Adonis he has an obligation to father
children to perpetuate the human race.
Despite of fruitless chastity,
and self-loving nuns,
That on the earth
would breed a scarcity
And barren dearth of
daughters and of sons,
the lamp that burns by night
Dries up his
oil to lend the world his light. (751-756)
suggests that Adonis explore her body as if she were a public
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,
where the pleasant fountains lie. (231-234)
Shakespeare's poem is
noteworthy for its depiction of Venus in the traditional male
role as sexual aggressor and Adonis in the traditional female
role as shrinking violet. Venus asserts herself early in the
poem when she pulls Adonis off his horse, pushes him to the
ground, and positions herself next to him. Throughout the poem
she and the narrator refer to Adonis as delicate and fragile and
call him beautiful rather than handsome. Line 50 uses the term
"maiden burning of his cheeks" to describe their redness when he
blushes. A maiden is a virginal young girl. Lines 307-312
metaphorically compare Adonis's male horse to Venus and the
female donkey to Adonis.
He looks upon his love,
and neighs unto her;
She answers him as if she knew his
Being proud, as females are, to see him
She puts on outward strangeness, seems
Spurns at his love and scorns the
heat he feels,
Beating his kind embracements
with her heels. (307-312)
Text of Venus and Adonis
The following version of
Venus and Adonis is based on the text in the authoritative
1914 Oxford Edition of Shakespeare's works, edited by W. J. Craig.
The text numbers every fifth line. Annotations (notes and
definitions) appear after each stanza.
Annotations by Michael J. Cummings
‘Vilia miretur vulgus;
mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.’
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLY,
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
I KNOW not how I shall
offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how
the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support
so weak a burden: only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account
myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle
hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if
the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it
had so noble a godfather, and never after ear so barren a land,
for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your
honourable survey, and your honour to your heart’s content; which
I wish may always answer your own wish and the world’s hopeful
Your honour’s in all
Even as the sun with purple-colour’d
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek’d Adonis hied him to the chase;
Hunting he lov’d, but love he laugh’d to scorn;
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto
And like a bold-fac’d suitor ’gins to woo
In ancient Greece and Rome, poets often personified the sun as a
driving a golden chariot across the sky. This god was frequently
identified as Apollo, an Olympian, and less frequently as
Titan. The Titans were a race of gods that came into being
Olympians, who resided on Mount Olympus in Greece. Here,
apparently is personifying the sun, using the word "face" (and,
second line, "his") to refer to the god.
Dew-covered. Shakespeare apparently is suggesting
that the goddess of the dawn (called Eos in Greek mythology and
in Roman mythology) is weeping because the sun god has left her
begin driving his chariot across the sky.
chase: Hunt; hunting expedition.
but love . . . scorn: But he laughingly
scorned love. (Adonis is more interested in hunting than
Sick-thoughted . . . woo him: Sick with
love for Adonis, Venus hastens to him and, like a man courting a
woman, begins to woo him.
'Thrice fairer than myself,’ thus she began,
‘The field’s chief flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are;
Nature that made thee, with herself at
Saith that the world hath ending with thy
Thrice fairer: Three times more beautiful.
The field's chief flower: Adonis is the
most beautiful flower in the field.
Stain: So beautiful is Adonis that nature
goddesses (nymphs) are, by comparison, an ugly stain.
More white . . . are: More white than doves
and more red than roses.
Nature . . . thy life: When Nature
made you, she said the world would end, for she could never
again make anyone so beautiful as you.
‘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
And being set, I’ll smother thee with
Vouchsafe . . . saddle-bow: Please, you
wondrous young man, get off your horse and tie the reins to the
If thou . . . know: If you will grant this
favor, I will reward you with a thousand secrets about making
‘And yet not cloy thy lips with loath’d satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty,
Making them red and pale with fresh
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:
A summer’s day will seem an hour but
Being wasted in such time-beguiling
And yet . . . twenty: And yet don't gorge
on love to the point that your lips no longer enjoy it. Instead,
be starved for more love, making your lips red and pale with
fresh desire. I can give you ten kisses as short as one or one
kiss as long as twenty.
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 enrag’d, desire doth lend her
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.
this . . . palm: And
then she seized his sweating palm.
pith: Inner strength; substance.
livelihood: Vigor; energy; spirit.
balm: Salve or oil that comforts and
sovereign: Best; most effective.
Over one arm the lusty courser’s rein,
Under her other was the tender boy,
Who blush’d and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in
courser's rein: The
rein of the powerful horse.
pouted: Exhibited displeasure or
leaden . . . toy:
With an unresponsive appetite, not inclined to toy around.
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 push’d him, as she would be
And govern’d him in strength, though not in
bridle: A bridle is
a piece of equipment with leather bands that fit over the head
of a horse. The bridle is attached to the bit in the horse's
mouth. The bridle has studs, small ornaments of metal that rise
above the surface of the leather bands.
how . . . love:
Venus, overcome with desire, ties up the horse as fast as she
stalled up: Tied to the tree branch.
tie . . . prove: Now
she tries to detain Adonis.
. . . lust: Backward
she pushed him in a way that she would like him to thrust her. Thrust (line 41) appears to
have a sexual connotation.
govern'd . . . lust:
And overpowered him, but not sexually.
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
And ’gins to chide, but soon she stops his lips;
And kissing speaks, with lustful language
‘If thou wilt chide, thy lips shall never
soon . . . hips:
Quickly she was alongside him. Both were lying down, leaning on
their elbows and hips as they faced each other.
to chide: Begins to
complain; begins to rebuke her.
his lips: Stops his
lips by kissing them.
kissing . . . open':
And while kissing him, stops a moment and says with lustful
language, "If you are going to complain, I will kiss you so much
that your lips never have a chance to open,"
He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears
Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks;
Then with her windy sighs and golden hairs
To fan and blow them dry again she seeks:
He saith she is immodest, blames her
What follows more she murders with a
blushes like a shy young girl.
her miss: Accuses
her of going amiss—that is, accuses her of improper behavior.
. . . kiss: As he
tries to say more, she stops him by kissing him.
Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast, 55
Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh and bone,
Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste,
Till either gorge be stuff’d or prey be gone;
Even so she kiss’d his brow, his cheek, his
And where she ends she doth anew begin.
. . . fast: Like an
empty eagle, starved with fasting.
tires: Pulls apart tough meat; tears.
Forc’d 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
So they were dew’d with such distilling
Forc'd to content: Forced to lie still.
steam: Exhaled breath.
such distilling showers: His breath
distilled into moisture.
Look! how a bird lies tangled in a net,
So fasten’d in her arms Adonis lies;
Pure shame and aw’d resistance made him fret,
Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes:
Rain added to a river that is rank
Perforce will force it overflow the bank.
. . . lies: Look!
Adonis is fastened in her arms like a bird tangled in a net.
. . . fret: His pure
shame and his resistance to her advances made him fret,
especially since he was in awe of her.
. . . bank: Rain
added to a river that is full will force it to overflow its
banks. (The anger of Adonis—and the desire of Venus—are both
rising, like a rain-swollen river.)
Still she entreats, and prettily entreats,
For to a pretty ear she tunes her tale;
Still is he sullen, still he lowers and frets,
’Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale;
Being red, she loves him best; and being
Her best is better’d with a more delight.
she . . . ashy-pale:
Still she begs him to yield, and does so prettily, for she is
speaking to his pretty ear. Still he is sullen, still he frowns
and frets, between crimson shame and anger pale as ashes.
red . . . delight:
She loves him best when his face is red with shame. But
she loves him even more, bettering her best, when he is white
Look how he can, she cannot choose but love;
And by her fair immortal hand she swears,
From his soft bosom never to remove,
Till he take truce with her contending tears,
Which long have rain’d, making her cheeks all
And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless debt.
Look . . . can: No matter how he
And by . . . debt: And she swears with her fair immortal
hand never to remove herself from him until he stops the tears
from raining on her cheeks by kissing her.
Upon this promise did he raise his chin
Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave,
Who, being look’d 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.
promise: Promise of a kiss
Like a . . . wave: Like a dive-dapper (small bird capable
of diving into water and swimming) raising his head through a
wave and peering around.
Who . . . in: Who, being seen, dives back into the water.
Never did passenger in summer’s heat
More thirst for drink than she for this good
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
’Tis but a kiss I beg; why art thou coy?
good turn: A kiss.
Her help: Adonis.
'O! . . . boy: Have pity on me, hard-hearted boy, she
began to cry.
coy: Shy; playing hard to get.
‘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,
conquers where he comes in every jar;
Yet hath he been my captive and my slave,
And begg’d for that which thou unask’d shalt
'I have . . . war: I have been wooed,
just as I am wooing you now, by the stern and fearsome god of
war. “God of war” is an allusion to the god of war in ancient
Greek and Roman mythology. His Greek name was Ares (AIR eez).
His Roman name was Mars.
Who . . . jar: Who conquers whoever gets in his way in a
Yet . . . have: Yet, as a captive and slave to my
beauty, he had to beg for the love that I will give you even
though you don't ask for it.
‘Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His batter’d shield, his uncontrolled crest,
And for my sake hath learn’d to sport and dance,
To toy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jest;
Scorning his churlish drum and ensign
Making my arms his field, his tent my
'Over . . . crest: Over the altars
honoring me he has hung his lance, his battered shield, and his
helmet crest, an emblem of prowess that no one could control.
And for . . . jest: And just for me, he learned to skip
about and dance, flirt, play sexual games, smile, and jest.
Scorning . . . bed: Scorning his drums of war and red
military flags to make my arms his field of activity and his
tent my bed.
‘Thus he that overrul’d I oversway’d,
Leading him prisoner in a red-rose chain:
Strong-temper’d steel his stronger strength
Yet was he servile to my coy disdain.
O! be not proud, nor brag not of thy
For mastering her that foil’d the god of
'Thus . . . oversway'd: Thus I ruled
over a god who ruled over men at war.
red-rose chain: Chain made of red roses, a metaphor for Venus's
Strong-tempered . . . disdain: Weapons made of the
strongest steel could not stand up to him. Yet this powerful god
served my wiles and whims and yielded to my rebukes.
O! be . . . fight: Oh, do not be proud of—or brag
about—your ability to enchant the goddess who conquered the god
‘Touch but my lips with those fair lips of
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 eyeballs, there thy beauty
Then why not lips on lips, since eyes in
What seest . . . eyes: Why are you
looking down? Hold up your head and look into my eyes. There you
will see the reflection of your own beauty. Since your eyes are
meeting my eyes, why don't our lips meet too?
‘Art thou asham’d to kiss? then wink again,
And I will wink; so shall the day seem night;
Love keeps his revels where there are but twain;
Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight:
These blue-vein’d violets whereon we lean
Never can blab, nor know not what we mean.
'Art . . . night: Are you
embarrassed to kiss me in broad daylight? If so, then close your
eyes, and I will do the same. In this way, we will turn day into
night so that you can kiss me.
Love . . . sight: Love happens when two persons are
alone. So be bold to play the game of love, for no one can see
These . . . mean: These blue-veined violets that we lean
on can never tell on us. They don't even know what's going on.
‘The tender spring upon thy tempting lip
Shows thee unripe, yet mayst thou well be
Make use of time, let not advantage slip;
Beauty within itself should not be wasted:
Fair flowers that are not gather’d in their
Rot and consume themselves in little
'The tender . . . tasted: The soft
hairs around your lips show that you are not mature enough for a
man's beard, but you are ripe enough for love.
Make . . . wasted: So seize the moment rather than let it
slip away. Don't allow beauty to be wasted.
‘Were I hard-favour’d, foul, or wrinkled-old,
Ill-nurtur’d, 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
But having no defects, why dost abhor me?
Were . . . juice: If I were ugly,
foul, wrinkled, discourteous, bent with age, and vulgar; if I
had a grating voice and were worn out, despised, diseased with
rheumatism, and cold; if I had bad eyesight and were infertile,
skinny, and lacking sexual powers.
‘Thou canst not see one wrinkle in my brow;
Mine eyes are grey and bright, and quick in
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
Would in thy palm dissolve, or seem to
My beauty . . . grow: My beauty is
eternal, constantly renewing itself.
my marrow burning: My spirit burns with vigor and desire.
My smooth . . . melt: My smooth moist hand is so soft it
would seem to melt if you held it.
‘Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or like a fairy trip upon the green,
Or, like a nymph, with long dishevell’d 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
'Bid me discourse: If you ask me to
nymph: Any of the beautiful nature goddesses living in
forests or near waterways.
Dance . . . aspire: Dance on the sands without leaving
footprints. For love is a spirit made of fire, which is light
and does not sink, and rises toward the heavens.
‘Witness this primrose bank whereon I lie;
These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support
Two strengthless doves will draw me through the
From morn till night, even where I list to sport
Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it
That thou shouldst think it heavy unto
primrose: wildflower with petals of
pink, yellow, white, blue, or red.
These . . . me: I am so light with love that these
delicate primroses support me. Two gentle doves can draw me
through the sky from morning till night, to wherever I wish to
go to entertain myself.
Is love . . . thee: Love is so light, sweet boy, but may
it be that you think it is dull and uninteresting to you?
‘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.
Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook.
'Is thine . . . left: Are you in love
with yourself? Can your right hand make love to your left? Then
woo yourself and be rejected by yourself the way you are
rejecting me. Rob yourself of the freedom to love, then complain
about the robbery.
Narcissus: In Greek mythology, a handsome youth who
rejected the love of others. Nemesis, the goddess of divine
retribution, punished him by leading him to a pool of water.
When he saw his image reflected in the water, he fell in love
with it. So enthalled with it was he that he never left the
pool. Eventually, he pined away and died.
‘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
Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty.
fresh . . . use: Fresh beauty to be used, not just to be
sappy . . . bear: Vigorous plants to reproduce.
Things . . . abuse: Things that refuse to share
themselves abuse their purpose.
Seeds . . . duty: Seeds bear other seeds, and beautiful
creatures produce others like them. Others begot you; now it is
your turn to beget children.
‘Upon the earth’s increase why shouldst thou
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
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
In that thy likeness still is left alive.’
'Upon . . . alive: You desire what
the earth has produced for you but are unwilling to be
productive yourself. But nature says you are bound to produce
children as bequests to the world when you die. (Venus is
scolding Adonis for taking advantage of the fruits of the
earth—people, plants, animals, etc.— without producing offspring
himself. But Venus isn't really concerned about whether he has
children. She just wants to persuade him to make love to her.
By this the love-sick queen began to sweat,
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.
By this: By this time.
Titan: Helios, a Greek god who, with the golden chariot
he drove across the sky each day, represented the sun.
With . . . side: Observing Venus and Adonis with his
burning eye, Titan (Helios) wished he could trade places with
Adonis. While Adonis drove the team of horses pulling the golden
chariot, Titan would come to earth and lie next to Venus.
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
The sun doth burn my face; I must
And now . . . sky: And now
Adonis—with a lazy spirit and a frowning eye, and with dark and
sullen brows casting a shadow over his fair face like a mist
hiding the sun.
Souring . . . remove:
Scowling, he cries, “A curse on you! Speak no more of love. The
sun is burning my face, and I must leave.”
‘Ay me,’ quoth Venus, ‘young, and so unkind?
What bare excuses mak’st thou to be gone;
I’ll sigh celestial breath, whose gentle wind
Shall cool the heat of this descending sun:
I’ll make a shadow for thee of my hairs;
If they burn too, I’ll quench them with my
"The sun that shines from heaven shines but
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
The heat . . . me: The heat I feel
from the sun doesn't bother me. But the fire (anger) you project
from your eyes burns me.
were . . . sun: And if I were not immortal, my life would
end here between the sun in the heavens and the sun on earth,
‘Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel?
Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain
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
Art . . . relenteth: Are you
stubborn, unyielding, and hard as steel? In fact, you are more
unyielding than flint. Over time, flint becomes furrowed and
rutted by rain. (In this observation, Venus implies that her
tears have no effect on hard-hearted Adonis.)
Art . . . tormenteth: As a
woman's son, you should be able to feel what it is to love. And
you should be able to understand how tormenting it is to be
O! . . . unkind: Oh, if your
mother's mind had been as hard and unkind as yours, she would
have chosen to die rather than bring forth a child.
"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
Give me one kiss, I’ll give it thee
And one for interest, if thou wilt have
"What am . . . suit: What am I that
you should scorn me this way? What great danger can result from
my wooing of you?
What were . . . mute: How
would your lips be worse if you gave me one poor kiss? Speak,
fair one, but speak fair words or else be silent.
Give me . . . twain: Give me
one kiss, and I'll give it back to you with interest—if you will
accept two kisses.
"Fie! lifeless picture, cold and senseless
Well-painted idol, image dull 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
For men will kiss even by their own
"Fie! . . . bred: Curses! You are
nothing but a lifeless picture, cold and unfeeling as stone. You
are a well-painted idol, a mere image that is dull and dead—a
statue to please the eye alone, a thing that looks like a man
but was not born of a woman.
art . . . direction: You are no man, though you have the
appearance of one. A man would kiss me without being told to do
This said, impatience chokes her pleading
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:
And now she weeps, and now she fain would
And now her sobs do her intendments
This said . . . pause: This said,
impatience and rising passion (perhaps both lust and anger)
cause her to pause, without talking.
Red . . . cause: Her red
cheeks and fiery eyes tell Adonis that she thinks he has wronged
her. Although she presides as a judge in settling cases
involving love, she doesn't know what to do in this case.
And now . . . break: And now
she weeps and would gladly speak, but her sobs prevent her from
doing what she intends.
Sometimes she shakes her head, and then his
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
She locks her lily fingers one in
She would . . . one: She wants to
keep him imprisoned in her arms, but he struggles to free
himself and leave. Then she locks her fingers to keep him bound.
‘Fondling,’ she saith, ‘since I have hemm’d thee
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
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains
Fondling: This word is a verb (part
of to fondle), but Venus uses it as a noun to refer to
Adonis. It appears to be a term of endearment, such as "Dear
child" or "silly boy."
Within . . . pale: Within
the ivory arms that encircle you. Venus is comparing herself to
a pale, a barrier or fence enclosing something.
I'll be . . . fountains lie:
Venus uses another of her metaphors to suggest that he make love
to her. In this metaphor, her body becomes a park in which
Adonis, a deer, may freely roam.
‘Within this limit is relief enough, 235
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
Relief: Relaxation, entertainment,
bottom-grass: Grass covering
bottomland, near a waterway. This term apparently alludes to
Round rising hillocks: Small, round hills, apparently
alluding to breasts.
Brakes: Thickets or bushes
that are dark and rough, apparently alluding again to body hair.
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
Why, there Love liv’d and there he could not
At this . . . simple: Adonis merely
smiles at her words in disdain. As he does so, a dimple appears
in each cheek. Cupid, the god of love, made them. If Cupid were
slain, he could be buried in one of them—a tomb so simple.
Foreknowing . . . die: But
Cupid knows well that if he came to lie in a dimple, it would
protect him; he would never die.
These lovely caves, these round enchanting
Open’d their mouths to swallow Venus’ liking.
Being mad before, how doth she now for wits?
Struck dead at first, what needs a second
Poor queen of love, in thine own law
To love a cheek that smiles at thee in
caves, pits: Dimples.
Being . . . wits: Being mad with desire before, how is
her state of mind now?
Struck . . . striking: Struck dead when she first saw
him, what is the need for such an experience now?
Poor . . . scorn: Poor queen of love, abandoned by your
power to govern the emotions of love, you love a cheek that
smiles at you in scorn.
Now which way shall she turn? what shall she
Her words are done, her woes the more
The time is spent, her object will away,
And from her twining arms doth urge releasing:
‘Pity,’ she cries; ‘some favour, some
Away he springs, and hasteth to his
The time . . . releasing: Time is
running out, and soon Adonis will go away. Even now, he tells
her to release him.
"Pity . . . horse: Have pity on me. Show me some favor.
Or show me some regret for your rejection of me.
But, lo! from forth a copse that neighbours by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young, and proud,
Adonis’ tramping courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud:
The strong-neck’d steed, being tied unto a
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes
jennet: Female donkey.
espy: Spies; sees; perceives.
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
The iron bit he crushes ’tween his teeth,
Controlling what he was controlled with.
girths: Straps that keep a saddle in
asunder: Into pieces.
hollow womb: Interior space, such as a cavern.
iron bit: Metal mouthpiece that is part
of a horse's bridle. The bridle is attached to reins that a
rider pulls to turn or stop a horse.
His ears up-prick’d; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass’d 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
Shows his hot courage and his high
up-prick'd: Pricked up.
mane: Long hair growing from the top
of a horse's neck and hanging down the sides.
compass'd crest: Arching strip of hair growth between a
horse's back and head.
Stand: Stand is a plural verb attempting to agree
with the singular noun mane.
His nostrils . . . send: His nostrils drink the air, then
exhale hot vapors as if from a furnace.
glisters: Glisters means glistens, but
here it seems to mean burns.
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
And this I do to captivate the eye
Of the fair breeder that is standing
Curvet: Small jump in which the forelegs leave the ground
first, then return just as the hind legs leave the ground.
As who . . . tried: As if to say, "See how I show off my
strength to attract the eye of the beautiful jennet
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 trapping gay?
He sees his love, and nothing else he
Nor nothing else with his proud sight agrees.
What . . . say: What heed does he
give to his rider's angry words—his flattering holla
(cry for attention) or his "Stand, I say"?
curb: The bit in the horse's mouth.
caparison: Richly ornamented covering for a horse or its
trapping gay: Colorful adornment.
He sees . . . agrees: He sees only his love and nothing
else, for nothing else is worthy to focus on.
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion’d steed,
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
Look . . . exceed: Look, when an
artist tries to paint an image of a horse more lifelike than the
horse itself—using artificial techniques to outdo the work of
nature—he creates a dead, lifeless picture that cannot compete
with the image of a moving, breathing horse.
So did . . . bone: So it was that this horse excelled
other horses—as if they were mere paintings—in shape, courage,
color, pace, and bone.
Round-hoof’d, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and
Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender
Look, what a horse should have he did not
Save a proud rider on so proud a back.
fetlock: Tuft of hair above the back
of a hoof.
Arching strip of hair growth between a horse's back and head.
passing strong: Extremely powerful.
Sometimes 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’r he run or fly they know not whether;
For through his mane and tail the high wind
Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather’d
scuds: Runs swiftly and smoothly.
Anon . . . feather: In a moment, he comes to attention at
the sound of a bird flapping its wings.
base: Allusion to "prisoner's base," a children's game in
which a player is chased if he leaves a designated area, or
base. The horse is inviting the wind to play the game.
And whe'r . . . wings: And whether he is running or
flying the spectators don't know, for the wind blowing through
his mane and tail makes them wave like
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,
Spurns at his love and scorns the heat he
Beating his kind embracements with her
She puts . . . unkind: She
plays hard to get.
Spurns . . . heels: Rejects his love and scorns the
passion he feels, kicking back when he attempts to mate with
Then, like a melancholy malcontent,
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 enrag’d,
Grew kinder, and his fury was
melancholy malcontent: Dejected
Cool . . . lent: Provided a cooling shadow for his
He . . . fume: In his anger, he stamps and bites at
the poor flies.
His love . . . assuaged: The jennet,
perceiving his anger, grew kinder; and his fury eased.
His testy master goeth about to take him;
When lo! the unback’d breeder, full of fear,
Jealous of catching, swiftly doth forsake him,
With her the horse, and left Adonis there.
As they were mad, unto the wood they hie
Out-stripping crows that strive to over-fly them.
His . . . Adonis there: His irritated
master, Adonis, goes to one side of the horse to take him.
unbacked: This word can mean (1) unmated or (2) never
tamed to carry a rider.
Jealous . . . there: Afraid of being caught, swiftly runs
off—followed by the horse—leaving Adonis there.
As they . . . over-fly them: As if mad, they gallop off
to woods with greater speed than crows striving to fly over
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
When it is barr’d the aidance of the
All . . . sits: Full of anger and
irritation, Adonis sits down.
Banning: Archaic word for cursing.
And now . . . blest: And once more the time is right for
lovesick Venus to plead with Adonis, and perhaps get him to
yield to her.
For lovers . . . tongue: For lovers say that the heart
has triple the difficulty in pleading its case without the aid
An oven that is stopp’d, or river stay’d,
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
The client breaks, as desperate in his
So of . . . said: The same can be said of sorrow held in,
Free . . . assuage: Freely talking about one's feelings
brings some relief.
But . . . suit: But when the heart's attorney (speech)
remains silent the client (lover) becomes desperate.
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,
Taking no notice that she is so nigh,
For all askance he holds her in his
glow: Redden with anger.
For all . . . eye: For he looks at her from the corner of
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 flash’d forth fire, as lightning from the
wistly: Intently; carefully.
wayward: Obstinate; uncontrollable; rebellious.
To note . . . destroy: To note how the red and white hues
of her complexion fought with each other.
Now was she just before him as he sat,
And like a lowly lover down she kneels;
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
As apt as new-fall’n snow takes any dint.
heaveth up: Throws off.
tenderer cheek: Tenderer than her hand.
As apt: As easily; as readily.
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 disdain’d the
And all this dumb play had his acts made
With tears, which, chorus-like, her eyes did
Her . . . suing: Her eyes were
petitioners in a courtroom, suing for the right to love him.
His eyes . . . them: His saw her eyes unfeelingly, as if
he had not seen them at all.
Her eyes woo'd . . . wooing: Her eyes wooed him still,
but his eyes scorned the wooing.
All all . . . rain: And this silent playacting made clear
his disdain for her, as evidenced by the tears she cried like
the words cried by a chorus in a tragic drama.
Full gently now she takes him by the hand,
A lily prison’d 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
Show’d like two silver doves that sit
A lily . . . snow: A lily (Adonis's
hand) imprisoned in a jail (Venus's hand) of snow.
alabaster: White, stonelike substance; white gypsum.
band: shackle; circular enclosure.
a-billing: Touching beaks (bills).
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;
For one sweet look thy help I would assure
Though nothing but my body’s bane would cure
'O fairest . . . wound: O fairest
inspiration on this mortal earth, I wish that you could be me
and I could be you. If I were you, my heart would be robust and
healthy. If you were me, your heart would be wounded.
For one . . . thee: If you, portraying me, gave me one
sweet look that conveyed your suffering, I would hurry to your
side to ease your pains. I would relieve your suffering even if
I had to die to do it.
‘Give me my hand,’ saith he, ‘why dost thou feel
‘Give me my heart,’ saith she, ‘and thou shalt have
O! give it me, lest thy hard heart do steel it,
And being steel’d, soft sighs can never grave
Then love’s deep groans I never shall
Because Adonis’ heart hath made mine
'Give me . . . grave it: "Let go of
my hand," Adonis says. "Why do you want to feel it?" Venus
replies, "Give me my heart." She is saying that Adonis's
extraordinary good looks caused her to invest all her love in
him. But now that he refuses to return her love, she wants him
to give back her loving heart. If he does so, she will release
his hand. But if he keeps her heart, his cold and scornful
demeanor toward her will turn her heart to steel.
‘For shame,’ he cries, ‘let go, and let me go;
My day’s delight is past, my horse is gone,
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
Is how to get my palfrey from the
bereft him: Deprived of him.
hence: Go away.
For all . . . mare: For I want to focus all of my
attention on how to get back my palfrey (saddle horse for
everyday use) from the mare.
Thus she replies: ‘Thy palfrey, as he should,
Welcomes the warm approach of sweet desire:
Affection is a coal that must be cool’d;
Else, suffer’d, it will set the heart on fire:
The sea hath bounds, but deep desire hath
Therefore no marvel though thy horse be
'Thy palfrey . . . fire: Your horse
welcomes the warmth of sweet desire, as he should. But such
desire must be satisfied. Otherwise, it will set the heart on
The sea . . . be gone: The sea has boundaries, but deep
desire does not. Therefore it's no wonder that your horse is
‘How like a jade he stood, tied to the tree,
Servilely master’d 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
Enfranchising his mouth, his back, his
'How like . . . rein: When he was
tied to the tree, he looked like a tired old horse that served
his master by responding to tugs on the leather rein.
youth's fair fee: The beautiful reward he was to receive
for being young and vigorous.
He held . . . disdain: He regarded with contempt his role as a
petty servant, throwing off the lowly rein from his neck and
freeing his mouth, back, and breast from the rest of the
‘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
'Who sees . . . delight: After a man
sees his true love naked in bed—the whiteness of her complexion
even whiter than the sheets—he wants to let the rest of his body
feast on what his eyes did.
Who . . . cold: Who is so faint of heart that he will not
dare to warm himself with the fire of love?
‘Let me excuse thy courser, gentle boy;
And learn of him, I heartily beseech thee,
To take advantage on presented joy; 405
Though I were dumb, yet his proceedings teach
O learn to love; the lesson is but plain,
And once made perfect, never lost
'Let me . . . thee: The behavior of
your horse is excusable, gentle boy. In fact, I urge you to
learn from him that one should take advantage of joy when it
Though . . . thee: Though I did not satisfactorily
explain the lessons of love to you, the actions of the horse
explain them clearly.
And once . . . . again: And once you master those
lessons, you will never forget them.
‘I know not love,’ quoth he, ‘nor will not know
Unless it be a boar, and then I chase it;
’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
'Tis . . . disgrace it: Learning
about love from someone is borrowed knowledge. But I don't want
this borrowed knowledge, because I will then have to pay it
back. My only love for love is that I love to disgrace it.
For I . . . breath: For I have heard that
love is nothing but life in death. It laughs and weeps and then
is finished, all in the time it takes to draw a breath.
‘Who wears a garment shapeless and unfinish’d?
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 back’d and burden’d being
Loseth his pride and never waxeth strong.
'Who plucks . . . worth: Who plucks a
bud before it blooms? If things in the spring of life be
tampered with, they will wither in their youth and be worthless.
The colt . . . strong: The colt that is broken in and
burdened with a rider loses his pride and never grows strong.
‘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
For where a heart is hard, they make no
And leave . . . chat: And quit this
idle, useless conversation.
Remove . . . gate: Call off your warlike siege against my
unyielding heart. It will not open its gate to your bugle calls.
Dismiss . . . battery: End your vows, pretended tears,
and flattery. For my heart is heart, and your battering rams
cannot break through it.
‘What! canst thou talk?’ quoth she, ‘hast thou a
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 press’d with bearing:
Melodious discord, heavenly tune,
Ear’s deep-sweet music, and heart’s deep-sore
'What! . . . hearing: What! So you
can talk after all. You have a tongue. Oh, I wish you did not,
or that I could not hear.
mermaid's voice: Apparently an allusion to the sirens in
Homer's Odyssey. Depicted as mermaids, these creatures
sat along shorelines and sang a beautiful song that lured
sailors ashore from passing ships. Once on shore, the sailors
forgot everything else—even to eat—as they listened to the song.
Eventually, they died. Adonis has lured (unintentionally) Venus
with his good looks, but she receives nothing but insults and
rejection in return.
I had . . . wounding: You were a great burden before, but
now I am hard-pressed to bear it. Your voice is melodious
discord—a heavenly tune that sounds harsh. It is deep-sweet
music to my ears, but it wounds me deeply.
‘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
Yet should I be in love by touching
If she were blind, Venus says, her ears
would love Adonis's inward, invisible beauty—and presumably the
sounds he makes with his voice, his heart, his movements. If she
were deaf, she would love his outward parts with each sense she
has left. She sums up by saying that, deprived of sight and
hearing, she would love him by touching him.
‘Say, that the sense of feeling were bereft me,
And that I could not see, nor hear, nor touch,
And nothing but the very smell were left me,
Yet would my love to thee be still as much;
For from the still’tory of thy face
Comes breath perfum’d that breedeth love by
bereft me: Taken from me.
still'tory: Stillatory, a distillery.
face excelling: Beautiful face.
Comes . . . smelling: Comes perfumed breath whose smell
makes me love you.
‘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
'But . . . four: But, oh, what a
banquet you are to taste, which is the nurse and feeder of the
other four senses. Would not these senses wish that the feast
would last forever? Would they not ask our doorkeeper,
Suspicion—who keeps away intruders—to double-lock the door?
Lest . . . feast: After all, Jealousy, an unwelcome
guest, might try to sneak in and disturb the feast.
Once more the ruby-colour’d portal
Which to his speech did honey passage yield;
Like a red morn, that ever yet betoken’d
Wrack to the seaman, tempest to the field,
Sorrow to shepherds, woe unto the birds,
Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.
Once . . . yield: Once more his ruby
lips opened, revealing the honey-coated passage through which
his speech passed.
Like . . . herds: But his red lips and mouth were like a
red morning sun, a sign that there would be shipwrecks, storms,
ruin for shepherds and birds, and high winds to harry herdsmen
and their livestock.
This ill presage advisedly she marketh:
Even as the wind is hush’d before it raineth,
Or as the wolf doth grin before he barketh,
Or as the berry breaks before it staineth,
Or like the deadly bullet of a gun,
His meaning struck her ere his words
presage: Omen; sign.
And at his look she flatly falleth down,
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
falleth down: Faints.
recures: Cures; heals.
bankrupt: Failure; loser.
And all-amaz’d brake off his late intent,
For sharply he did think to reprehend her,
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
Till his breath breatheth life in her
And . . . prevent: And full of
amazement he decides not to carry out his intention, which was
to scold her sharply.
which . . . prevent: which the sly goddess cleverly
Fair . . . her: May good luck befall her for being so
as: As if.
He wrings her nose, he strikes her on the
He bends her fingers, holds her pulses hard,
He chafes her lips; a thousand ways he seeks
To mend the hurt that his unkindness marr’d:
He kisses her; and she, by her good will,
Will never rise, so he will kiss her
marr'd: Marred, meaning caused.
by her good will: because of her intention to take
The night of sorrow now is turn’d 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 world relieveth:
And as the bright sun glorifies the sky,
So is her face illumin’d with her
The night . . . relieveth: Her sorrow
turns to joy as she opens her eyes. Her gaze is like the
brightly arrayed sun that cheers the morning and relieves the
world of darkness.
illumin'd: Illumined; brightened.
Whose beams upon his hairless face are fix’d,
As if from thence they borrow’d all their shine.
Were never four such lamps together mix’d,
Had not his clouded with his brows’ repine;
But hers, which through the crystal tears gave
Shone like the moon in water seen by
Whose . . . shine: Her eyes beam upon
his hairless face, as if they borrowed all their shine from his
Were never . . . repine: Never before was the light of
four such eyes mixed—his eyes clouding up as his brows repine,
hers shining like the moon reflected from water when she gazes
through her crystal tears.
‘O! where am I?’ quoth she, ‘in earth or heaven,
Or in the ocean drench’d, or in the fire?
What hour is this? or morn or weary even?
Do I delight to die, or life desire?
But now I liv’d, and life was death’s
But now I died, and death was lively
earth, heaven, ocean, fire:
Apparently an allusion to the four elements—earth, air (referred
to as heaven), water (referred to as the ocean), and fire—which,
in Shakespeare's time and before, were believed to be the
elements that made up all things.
or in the fire: Perhaps an allusion to the underworld,
weary even: Drowsy evening.
But now . . . joy: When I lived, life was death's
annoyance. Now that I'm dead, death is lively joy.
‘O! thou didst kill me; kill me once again:
Thy eyes’ shrewd tutor, that hard heart of
Hath taught them scornful tricks and such
That they have murder’d this poor heart of mine;
And these mine eyes, true leaders to their
But for thy piteous lips no more had
Thy eyes' . . . seen: Your eyes'
shrewd teacher, your hard heart, taught them to perform scornful
tricks and show contempt. What they did was murder this poor
heart of mine. Then my own eyes, true leaders of their queen,
could see nothing but your piteous lips.
‘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
May say, the plague is banish’d by thy
they: Our lips.
crimson liveries: Crimson colors (literally, crimson
verdure: Freshness; youthful appearance.
to drive . . . year: Bubonic plague struck in London in
1593, the year that Shakespeare was completing Venus and
‘Pure lips, sweet seals in my soft lips
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
Set thy seal-manual on my wax-red
'Pure . . . sealing: Your pure lips
imprinted their impression on my lips with your sweet seals
(like the seal that makes an impression on wax on a document or
What bargains . . . dealing: What bargains may I make for
To sell . . . dealing: I am content to sell myself. You
can buy and pay for me in a fair transaction. If you purchase
me, close the deal with another seal on my wax-red lips to
assure that the provisions of the contract contain no errors
‘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?
Say, for non-payment that the debt should
Is twenty hundred kisses such a
told: Counted; totaled.
‘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
Or being early pluck’d is sour to taste.
'Fair . . . years: Fair queen, if you
own me any love, judge my reticence by my youth.
No . . . forebears: No fisherman tries to catch a tiny
The mellow . . . taste: When the plum falls or is picked
too early, it is still green and sour to the taste.
‘Look! the world’s comforter, with weary gait,
His day’s hot task hath ended in the west;
The owl, night’s herald, shrieks, ’tis very
The sheep are gone to fold, birds to their nest,
And coal-black clouds that shadow heaven’s
Do summon us to part and bid good night.
'Look . . . west: Look! the world's
comforter, the sun, with weary movements ends his day's hot task
in the west.
fold: Enclosure for sheep.
that shadow heaven's light: That block the light from the
moon and stars.
‘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 tender’d is:
Her arms do lend his neck a sweet
Incorporate then they seem, face grows to
ere he says adieu: Before he says
The honey . . . is: The sweet payment of parting is
Incorporate: Adjective (pronounced in KOR per rit)
meaning united, merged.
face grows to face: Face presses against face—that is,
Till, breathless, he disjoin’d, and backward
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 press’d, she faint with
Their lips together glu’d, fall to the
Till . . . drouth: Then, breathless,
he broke off the kiss and drew backward while still giving off
heavenly moisture from his pinkish-red mouth. Venus well knew
the taste of this misty exhalation. They gorge on each other's
lips, but complain of drought (that they haven't had enough).
He . . . earth: While he kissed her again, taking
advantage of her plentiful assets, she was weak with wanting
more. Their lips together glued, they fall to earth.
Now quick desire hath caught the yielding prey,
And glutton-like she feeds, yet never filleth;
Her lips are conquerors, his lips obey, 7
Paying what ransom the insulter willeth;
Whose vulture thought doth pitch the price so
That she will draw his lips’ rich treasure
Now . . . filleth: Desire, quick to
rise, has consumed the yielding Adonis. She feeds on him like a
glutton, but never satisfies her longing.
Her lips . . . willeth: Her lips are conquerors, and his
lips yield to them. He gives her as many kisses as she wants.
Whose . . . dry: Like a vulture, she will feed on his
lips until they run dry.
And having felt the sweetness of the spoil,
With blindfold fury she begins to forage;
Her face doth reek and smoke, her blood doth
And careless lust stirs up a desperate courage;
Planting oblivion, beating reason back,
Forgetting shame’s pure blush and honour’s
spoil: Seized object; treasure taken
smoke: Release vapor.
oblivion: Disregard; heedlessness.
honour's wrack: Ruination or destruction of honor.
Hot, faint, and weary, with her hard embracing,
Like a wild bird being tam’d with too much
Or as the fleet-foot roe that ’s tir’d with
Or like the froward infant still’d with
He now obeys, and now no more resisteth,
While she takes all she can, not all she
fleet-foot roe: Swift deer.
with chasing: With being chased.
froward: Contrary; hard to handle
Dandling: Gently moving a baby up and down on a knee.
What wax so frozen but dissolves with tempering,
And yields at last to every light impression?
Things out of hope are compass’d oft with
Chiefly in love, whose leave exceeds commission:
Affection faints not like a pale-fac’d
But then woos best when most his choice is froward.
What . . . impression: Frozen wax
melts when heated and will receive every light impression.
Things . . . commission: One can accomplish a seemingly
hopeless task with bold action, especially in matters of love,
which responds to daring and drastic measures.
Affection . . . froward: Affection does not faint like a
pale-faced coward. It succeeds best in the face of resistance.
When he did frown, O! had she then gave over,
Such nectar from his lips she had not suck’d.
Foul words and frowns must not repel a lover;
What though the rose have prickles, yet ’tis
Were beauty under twenty locks kept fast,
Yet love breaks through and picks them all at
When . . . suck'd: When he frowned—O!
if she had given up at that moment, she would not have tasted
any more of the nectar from his lips. In Greek mythology, nectar
was the drink of the gods.
What though: Even though.
For pity now she can no more detain him;
The poor fool prays her that he may depart:
She is resolv’d no longer to restrain him,
Bids him farewell, and look well to her heart,
The which, by Cupid’s bow she doth
He carries thence incaged in his
For pity . . . detain him: Out of
pity, she decides not to detain him any longer.
Bids . . . breast: Says good-bye and then turns her
attention to her heart, which Cupid wounded with love for
Adonis. Now he carries her heart caged in his breast.
‘Sweet boy,’ she says, ‘this night I’ll waste in
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
He tells her, no; to-morrow he intends
To hunt the boar with certain of his
waste: Languish; wither.
watch: Stay awake.
wilt . . . match: Will you meet with me?
‘The boar!’ quoth she; whereat a sudden pale,
Like lawn being spread upon the blushing rose,
Usurps her cheeks, she trembles at his tale,
And on his neck her yoking arms she throws:
She sinketh down, still hanging by his
He on her belly falls, she on her
lawn: Light linen or cotton fabric.
Usurps: Spreads over; colors.
Now is she in the very lists of love, 595
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.
lists: A word with a double meaning:
(1) enclosed area where jousting tournaments take place; (2)
her champion . . . encounter: Phrase with a double
meaning: (1) her knight, who mounts a horse to joust; (2) her
lover, who is in position for a sexual encounter.
All . . . prove: But she realizes that she is only
imagining what will happen; he will refuse to unite with her
again even though he is "mounted" on her.
Tantalus: In Greek mythology, King of Sipylus, Lydia. He
was a favorite of the gods until he attempted to deceive them.
For his offense, they condemned him to eternal punishment in
Hades. There, Tantalus thirsted for water that always receded
when he tried to drink it, and he desired fruit on a tree branch
that was always out of reach.
Elysium: In classical mythology, the afterlife abode of
the righteous and heroic.
That worse . . . joy: Her frustration is worse than that
of Tantalus, because her hoped-for heavenly encounter—and the
joy resulting from it—will not take place.
Even as poor birds, deceiv’d with painted
Do surfeit by the eye and pine the maw,
Even so she languisheth in her mishaps,
As those poor birds that helpless berries saw.
The warm effects which she in him finds
She seeks to kindle with continual
Do . . . maw: Do eat their fill with
the eye but starve in the stomach.
languisheth: Weakens; becomes downcast.
mishaps: Bad luck.
As . . . saw: As those poor, helpless birds that saw
But all in vain; good queen, it will not be:
She hath assay’d as much as may be prov’d;
Her pleading hath deserv’d a greater fee;
She’s Love, she loves, and yet she is not lov’d.
‘Fie, fie!’ he says, ‘you crush me; let me
You have no reason to withhold me
But . . . prov'd: But her kissing is
all in vain. He will not respond to the queen. She has done as
much as she can.
Her pleading . . . lov'd: Her pleading deserved a greater
reward. She is the goddess of love. She loves but she is not
withhold: Detain; keep.
‘Thou hadst been gone,’ quoth she, ‘sweet boy, ere
But that thou told’st me thou wouldst hunt the
O! be advis’d; thou know’st not what it is
With javelin’s point a churlish swine to gore,
Whose tushes never sheath’d he whetteth
Like to a mortal butcher, bent to
'Thou . . . boar: You were to be gone
by this time, sweet boy. But you told me you were going to hunt
O! . . . . kill: Oh, beware. You don't know how hard it
is to use a javelin against a violent boar. Like a deadly
butcher bent on killing, he continually sharpens his tusks,
which are always exposed.
‘On his bow-back he hath a battle set
Of bristly pikes, that ever threat his foes;
His eyes like glow-worms shine when he doth
His snout digs sepulchres where’er he goes;
Being mov’d, he strikes whate’er is in his
And whom he strikes his crooked tushes
'On his . . . fret: On his curving
back he has sharp bristles that ever threaten his foes. His eyes
shine like fireflies when he's vexed.
His snout . . . goes: His snout digs graves (holes)
wherever he goes.
Being . . . slay: When agitated, he strikes whatever is
in his way. Whomever he strikes, his crooked tusks kill.
‘His brawny sides, with hairy bristles arm’d,
Are better proof than thy spear’s point can
His short thick neck cannot be easily harm’d;
Being ireful, on the lion he will venture:
The thorny brambles and embracing bushes,
As fearful of him part, through whom he
better proof: Stronger armor.
Being . . . venture: When angry, he will take on a lion.
The thorny . . . rushes: When he runs through thorny
brambles and thick bushes, they part in fear of him.
‘Alas! he nought esteems that face of thine,
To which Love’s eyes pay tributary gazes;
Nor thy soft hands, sweet lips, and crystal
Whose full perfection all the world amazes;
But having thee at vantage, wondrous
Would root these beauties as he roots the mead.
'Alas! . . . gazes: Unfortunately, he
thinks nothing of your face, to which my eyes pay tribute in
But . . . mead: But greatly dread him if he has you at an
advantage. He would root out your eyes in the same way that he
roots up the field.
‘O! let him keep his loathsome cabin still;
Beauty hath nought to do with such foul fiends:
Come not within his danger by thy will;
They that thrive well take counsel of their
When thou didst name the boar, not to
I fear’d thy fortune, and my joints did
keep . . . cabin: Stay in his
loathsome shelter (or lair).
Come . . . will: Do not willingly go near him.
When . . . tremble: When you spoke of hunting the boar,
I'm not pretending when I say that I feared for your life. My
‘Didst thou not mark my face? was it not white?
Saw’st thou not signs of fear lurk in mine eye?
Grew I not faint? And fell I not downright?
Within my bosom, whereon thou dost lie,
My boding heart pants, beats, and takes no
But, like an earthquake, shakes thee on my
Eye: The singular is used to rhyme with lie in
downright: Downright is used (in place of down)
to rhyme with white in line 643.
boding: Foreseeing; foresighted; farsighted.
‘For where Love reigns, disturbing Jealousy
Doth call himself Affection’s sentinel;
Gives false alarms, suggesteth mutiny,
And in a peaceful hour doth cry “Kill, kill!”
Distempering gentle Love in his desire,
As air and water do abate the fire.
Anxiety; dread; apprehension.
sentinel: Watchman; sentry.
Gives . . . fire: He gives false alarms, warns of
rebellion, and even cries, "Kill, kill" in a peaceful hour. In
doing so, he extinguishes the desire of gentle love as air and
water put out a fire.
‘This sour informer, this bate-breeding spy,
This canker that eats up Love’s tender spring,
This carry-tale, dissentious Jealousy,
That sometime true news, sometime false doth
Knocks at my heart, and whispers in mine
That if I love thee, I thy death should
bate: Discord; strife
canker: Cankerworm, which feeds on buds. Here, it feeds
on budding love.
dissentious: Causing turmoil.
‘And more than so, presenteth to mine eye
The picture of an angry-chafing boar,
Under whose sharp fangs on his back doth lie
An image like thyself, all stain’d with gore;
Whose blood upon the fresh flowers being
Doth make them droop with grief and hang the
'And more than so: And what's more.
angry-chafing boar: Boar bristling with anger.
Fangs: Sharp teeth.
‘What should I do, seeing thee so indeed,
That tremble at the imagination?
The thought of it doth make my faint heart
And fear doth teach it divination: 670
I prophesy thy death, my living sorrow,
If thou encounter with the boar
'What . . . imagination: I wonder
what I should do as I tremble at the picture of you lying there.
And fear . . . divination: Fear of what could happen to
you makes me speculate about what's in store for you.
‘But if thou needs wilt hunt, be rul’d by me;
Uncouple at the timorous flying hare,
Or at the fox which lives by subtilty, 675
Or at the roe which no encounter dare:
Pursue these fearful creatures o’er the
And on thy well-breath’d horse keep with thy
'But . . . me: But if you are
determined to hunt, take my advice.
Uncouple: Unleash your dogs.
timorous: Fearful; nervous.
Flying: Running with great speed.
Subtilty: Subtlety. A fox is sly and deceitful.
Or at . . . dare: Or at the deer, which avoids encounters
downs: Open land with small hills and few trees where
livestock often graze.
‘And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare,
Mark the poor wretch, to overshoot his troubles
How he outruns the winds, and with what care
He cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles:
The many musits through the which he goes
Are like a labyrinth to amaze his
'And when . . . doubles: And when you
come upon the weak-sighted hare, notice that the poor wretch
tries to escape by outrunning the winds. Notice, too, how he
runs this way and that, turns sharply, and doubles back.
The many . . . foes: The many openings (musits) in bushes
and fences he goes through are like labyrinth to amaze his
‘Sometime he runs among a flock of sheep,
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell,
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep,
To stop the loud pursuers in their yell,
And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer;
Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on
mistake their smell: Mistake their smell for his.
earth-delving conies keep: Rabbits, which live in a hole
in the ground.
Danger . . . fear: When in danger, the boar devises
evasive maneuvers; fear makes him smart.
‘For there his smell with others being mingled,
The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to
Ceasing their clamorous cry till they have
With much ado the cold fault cleanly out;
Then do they spend their mouths: Echo
As if another chase were in the
till they . . . out: Till they have singled out with much
trouble the false scent (or cold trail).
Spend their mouths: Resume their barking and crying.
Echo replies: The noise of the dogs echoes. Echo
may be an allusion to the nymph Echo in Greek mythology. Hera,
the queen of the gods, punished Echo for consorting with Zeus,
the king of the gods and husband of Hera. Hera limited Echo's
speaking ability so that the nymph could only repeat the last
few sounds or spoken words that she heard.
‘By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill,
Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear,
To hearken if his foes pursue him still:
Anon their loud alarums he doth hear; 700
And now his grief may be compared well
To one sore sick that hears the
Wat: A name for a hare (E. Cobham
Brewer. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. New York: Henry
Altemus Company, 1898).
Alarums: Cries and barks.
To one . . . -bell: Dying person who hears his own death
‘Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
Turn, and return, indenting with the way;
Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch,
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay:
For misery is trodden on by many,
And being low never reliev’d by any.
indenting: Veering left, then right,
then left, etc.
envious: Spiteful; hateful.
trodden: Walked; trampled.
‘Lie quietly, and hear a little more;
Nay, do not struggle, for thou shalt not rise:
To make thee hate the hunting of the boar,
Unlike myself thou hear’st me moralize,
Applying this to that, and so to so;
For love can comment upon every woe.
Unlike . . . woe: It is unlike me to
preach to you about what is the right or wrong thing to do. But
that is what I am going to do. So listen to what I say as I
apply this principle to that, and so to so. Love can comment on
‘Where did I leave?’ ‘No matter where,’ quoth
‘Leave me, and then the story aptly ends:
The night is spent,’ ‘Why, what of that?’ quoth
‘I am,’ quoth he, ‘expected of my friends;
And now ’tis dark, and going I shall
‘In night,’ quoth she, ‘desire sees best of
leave: Leave off.
The night is spent: It's getting very late.
expected of: Expected by.
‘But if thou fall, O! then imagine this,
The earth, in love with thee, thy footing trips,
And all is but to rob thee of a kiss.
Rich preys make true men thieves; so do thy lips
Make modest Dian cloudy and forlorn,
Lest she should steal a kiss and die
Rich . . . forsworn: Rich treasures make honest men
thieves. Your lips make Dian cloudy and sad at the thought of
stealing a kiss from you and dying for not keeping her promise
to remain chaste.
Dian: In classical mythology, the goddess of the moon, of
chastity, and of hunting. Her Roman name was Diana, sometimes
shortened to Dian; her Greek name was Artemis.
‘Now of this dark night I perceive the reason:
Cynthia for shame obscures her silver shine,
Till forging Nature be condemn’d of treason,
For stealing moulds from heaven that were
Wherein she fram’d thee in high heaven’s
To shame the sun by day and her by
'Now . . . divine: I know why this
night is so dark. Cynthia (another name for Dian or Diana) hides
her silver shine until Nature be condemned for treason for
stealing divine molds from heaven.
Wherein . . . night: Nature used these molds to make you
so that the brilliance of your beauty would shame the sun by day
and the moon (Diana, or Cynthia) by night.
‘And therefore hath she brib’d the Destinies,
To cross the curious workmanship of nature,
To mingle beauty with infirmities, 735
And pure perfection with impure defeature;
Making it subject to the tyranny
Of mad mischances and much misery;
Destinies: In classical mythology,
three goddesses who oversaw the birth and life of human beings
and determined their destinies.
To . . . defeature: To sabotage the intricate workmanship
of nature by mingling beauty with infirmities and pure
perfection with ugly disfigurement.
mischances: Accidents; bad luck; mishaps.
‘As burning fevers, agues pale and faint,
Life-poisoning pestilence and frenzies wood,
The marrow-eating sickness, whose attaint
Disorder breeds by heating of the blood;
Surfeits, imposthumes, grief, and damn’d
Swear nature’s death for framing thee so
agues: Bouts of fever with chills and
pestilence: Plague; life-threatening epidemic disease.
frenzies wood: Mad frenzies; episodes of insanity. Wood
is an archaic word for mad or insane.
marrow-eating sickness: Syphilis, which can harm bones,
bone marrow, and joints.
attaint: Effect; corruption.
Surfeits: Illnesses resulting from overeating.
imposthumes: Pus-filled swellings.
Swear . . . fair: All of these maladies of "imperfect"
human beings want to kill nature for making Adonis perfectly
beautiful and, presumably, free of afflictions.
‘And not the least of all these maladies
But in one minute’s fight brings beauty under:
Both favour, savour, hue, and qualities,
Whereat the impartial gazer late did wonder,
Are on the sudden wasted, thaw’d and
As mountain-snow melts with the mid-day
'And . . . under: Not the least of
these maladies can in a short time destroy you—your looks, your
smell, your color, and all of your other qualities.
Whereat . . . sun: At the sight of you, an observer would
wonder why, all of a sudden, you are wasted away—melted down, so
to speak, the way mountain snow melts in the midday sun.
‘Therefore, despite of fruitless chastity,
Love-lacking vestals and self-loving nuns,
That on the earth would breed a scarcity
And barren dearth of daughters and of sons,
Be prodigal: the lamp that burns by night
Dries up his oil to lend the world his
In this stanza, Venus urges Adonis to be
prodigal with his sexuality. Those who take a vow of chastity do
not produce sons and daughters and, therefore, do nothing to
perpetuate the human race, Venus says. They are like lamps
without oil to give light.
vestal: In ancient Rome, any of the six priestesses who
tended the sacred fire of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. These
priestesses are commonly referred to today as vestal virgins,
because each was required to be chaste during her service, a
minimum of thirty years. The vestal virgins' task was to keep
the fire burning at all times to promote the well-being of the
state and victory on the battlefield. A vestal who allowed the
fire to go out was scourged; a vestal who violated her vow of
chastity was buried alive.
‘What is thy body but a swallowing grave,
Seeming to bury that posterity
Which by the rights of time thou needs must
If thou destroy them not in dark obscurity?
If so, the world will hold thee in
Sith in thy pride so fair a hope is
'What . . . obscurity: What is your
body but a grave—a dark obscurity—that swallows the children
that you should produce?
If so . . . slain: If that is what your body is, the
world will hold you in contempt for allowing your pride to kill
your future children.
‘So in thyself thyself art made away;
A mischief worse than civil home-bred strife,
Or theirs whose desperate hands themselves do
Or butcher-sire that reaves his son of life.
Foul-cankering rust the hidden treasure
But gold that’s put to use more gold
'So . . . of life: So, by choosing
not to father children who would be an image of you in future
generations, you are choosing to destroy yourself, an evil worse
than the turmoil in a troubled marriage. You would be no better
than those who commit suicide (line 765) or a father who kills
his own son.
Foul- . . . begets: Corrupting rust eats away at hidden
treasure. But invested gold begets more gold.
‘Nay then,’ quoth Adon, ‘you will fall again
Into your idle over-handled theme; 770
The kiss I gave you is bestow’d in vain,
And all in vain you strive against the stream;
For by this black-fac’d night, desire’s foul
Your treatise makes me like you worse and
'Nay . . . theme: "Well, then,"
Adonis says, "you are harping on the same old theme, sex.
The kiss . . . stream: The kiss I gave you wasn't enough
to satisfy you, but you are striving in vain if you think you'll
get more from me.
For . . . worse: For I swear by this dark night, which is
desire's helper, your pleading makes me like you less and less.
‘If love have lent you twenty thousand tongues,
And every tongue more moving than your own,
Bewitching like the wanton mermaid’s songs,
Yet from mine ear the tempting tune is blown;
For know, my heart stands armed in mine
And will not let a false sound enter
Yet . . . blown: The tune is blown away from my ear.
‘Lest the deceiving harmony should run
Into the quiet closure of my breast;
And then my little heart were quite undone,
In his bedchamber to be barr’d of rest.
No, lady, no; my heart longs not to
But soundly sleeps, while now it sleeps
'Lest . . . rest: I don't want your
deceitful song to enter my breast and prevent my heart from
getting needed rest.
No . . . alone: No, lady, my heart does not desire to
groan in a sexual encounter. Right now, it sleeps soundly—alone.
‘What have you urg’d that I cannot reprove?
The path is smooth that leadeth on to danger;
I hate not love, but your device in love,
That lends embracements unto every stranger.
You do it for increase: O strange excuse!
When reason is the bawd to lust’s
reprove: Condemn; rebuke; disapprove
I hate . . . stranger: I don't hate love, but I hate the
way you use love as an excuse to embrace every stranger.
You do . . . abuse: You say your intention is to bear
children. That's a weak excuse! You're turning reason into a
pimp that procures opportunities for lust.
‘Call it not love, for Love to heaven is fled,
Since sweating Lust on earth usurp’d his name;
Under whose simple semblance he hath fed
Upon fresh beauty, blotting it with blame;
Which the hot tyrant stains and soon
As caterpillars do the tender
'Call . . . name: It is not love that
you feel, for love fled to heaven after sweating lust seized his
place on earth.
Under . . . leaves: Pretending to be love, lust has fed
upon fresh beauty, staining it with sin and robbing it of its
vitality as caterpillars do the tender leaves.
‘Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,
But Lust’s effect is tempest after sun;
Love’s gentle spring doth always fresh remain,
Lust’s winter comes ere summer half be done.
Love surfeits not, Lust like a glutton
Love is all truth, Lust full of forged
tempest: Storm (stormy passion).
Loves surfeits not: Love doesn't overeat.
‘More I could tell, but more I dare not say;
The text is old, the orator too green.
Therefore, in sadness, now I will away;
My face is full of shame, my heart of teen:
Mine ears, that to your wanton talk
Do burn themselves for having so
in sadness: In all seriousness; in
teen: Archaic term for grief or misery.
having so offended: For having listened to your talk.
With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace
Of those fair arms which bound him to her
And homeward through the dark laund runs apace;
Leaves Love upon her back deeply distress’d.
Look, how a bright star shooteth from the
So glides he in the night from Venus’ eye;
laund: grass-covered space; glade;
Which after him she darts, as one on shore
Gazing upon a late-embarked friend,
Till the wild waves will have him seen no more,
Whose ridges with the meeting clouds contend:
So did the merciless and pitchy night
Fold in the object that did feed her
darts: Darts her eyes.
ridges: Ridges of high-rising waves.
Fold in: Obscure.
Whereat amaz’d, as one that unaware
Hath dropp’d a precious jewel in the flood,
Or ’stonish’d as night-wanderers often are,
Their light blown out in some mistrustful wood;
Even so confounded in the dark she lay,
Having lost the fair discovery of her way.
amaz'd: Distressed; shocked
Having . . . way: Having lost her bearings; having lost
And now she beats her heart, whereat it groans,
That all the neighbour caves, as seeming
Make verbal repetition of her moans;
Passion on passion deeply is redoubled:
‘Ay me!’ she cries, and twenty times, ‘Woe,
And twenty echoes twenty times cry so.
And . . . moans: And now, as her
heart beats faster and stronger, it groans. All the neighboring
caves, as if troubled, echo the sound.
Passion . . . so: Lamentation builds upon lamentation,
sorrow upon sorrow. Twenty times she says, "Woe, woe!" And
twenty times the echoes return her words.
She marking them, begins a wailing note,
And sings extemporally a woeful ditty;
How love makes young men thrall and old men
How love is wise in folly, foolish-witty:
Her heavy anthem still concludes in woe,
And still the choir of echoes answer so.
She . . . witty: Hearing the echoes,
she cries out in sorrow and sings an improvised song of woe—how
love enthralls young men and makes old men dote, how love is
wise in its folly and foolish in its wisdom.
Her . . . so: Her sorrowful anthem ends in woe, and again
the echoes sing her words.
Her song was tedious, and outwore the night,
For lovers’ hours are long, though seeming
If pleas’d themselves, others, they think,
In such like circumstance, with such like sport:
Their copious stories, oftentimes begun,
End without audience, and are never
Her . . . short: Her song was
tiresome, outlasting the night.
For lovers' . . . sport: To lovers, the long hours seem
short. When they are enjoying themselves, they think others are
sharing their enjoyment.
Their . . . done: Their endless stories, told over and
over, end without an audience—and are never done.
For who hath she to spend the night withal,
But idle sounds resembling parasites;
Like shrill-tongu’d tapsters answering every
Soothing the humour of fantastic wits? 850
She says, ‘’Tis so:’ they answer all, ‘’Tis
And would say after her, if she said
For . . . wits: For whom does she
have to spend the night with except idle sounds resembling those
of flatterers who latch onto others for person gain? These
flatterers are like shrill-speaking bartenders who fill every
glass and adjust to the varying moods of eccentric wits.
She says . . . 'No.': If she says, ‘’Tis so,' the echoes
say, ‘’Tis so.' And if she says ‘No,’ they say ‘No.’
Lo! here the gentle lark, weary of rest,
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast
The sun ariseth in his majesty;
Who doth the world so gloriously behold,
That cedar-tops and hills seem burnish’d
breast: Horizon; sky.
Who . . . behold: Who casts his gaze so gloriously on the
Venus salutes him with this fair good morrow:
‘O thou clear god, and patron of all light,
From whom each lamp and shining star doth borrow
The beauteous influence that makes him bright,
There lives a son that suck’d an earthly
May lend thee light, as thou dost lend to other.’
fair good morning: Beautiful
suck'd . . . mother: Sucked his mother's milk; fed at his
May . . . other': Who can give you light, as you give
light to others.
This said, she hasteth to a myrtle grove,
Musing the morning is so much o’erworn,
And yet she hears no tidings of her love;
She hearkens for his hounds and for his horn:
Anon she hears them chant it lustily,
And all in haste she coasteth to the cry.
Musing . . . o'erworn: Thinking that
the morning is almost gone.
Anon . . . cry: Soon she hears the racket they make and
hurries toward the sound.
And as she runs, the bushes in the way
Some catch her by the neck, some kiss her face,
Some twine about her thigh to make her stay:
She wildly breaketh from their strict embrace,
Like a milch doe, whose swelling dugs do
Hasting to feed her fawn hid in some
kiss: Strike; slap.
strict: Confining; restraining; strangling.
dugs: Breasts; teats.
By this she hears the hounds are at a bay;
Whereat she starts, like one that spies an adder
Wreath’d up in fatal folds just in his way,
The fear whereof doth make him shake and
Even so the timorous yelping of the
Appals her senses, and her spirit confounds.
By this . . . shudder: By this time,
she hears sounds indicating that the hounds have stopped and are
holding back. This development startles her as much as it would
startle someone who encounters a coiled adder (poisonous snake)
in his path, the fear of which makes him shake and shudder.
Even so . . . confounds: The timid yelping of the hounds
horrifies and confuses her.
For now she knows it is no gentle chase,
But the blunt boar, rough bear, or lion proud,
Because the cry remaineth in one place,
Where fearfully the dogs exclaim aloud:
Finding their enemy to be so curst,
They all strain courtesy who shall cope him
For . . . aloud: And now she knows
it is no gentle quarry. Instead, it is the savage boar, the
rough bear, or the proud lion.
exclaim: Bark; cry.
curst: Formidable; fearsome; vicious.
They all . . . first: They all hold back, as if each
hound is courteously waiting for another hound to confront the
This dismal cry rings sadly in her ear,
Through which it enters to surprise her heart;
Who, overcome by doubt and bloodless fear,
With cold-pale weakness numbs each feeling part;
Like soldiers, when their captain once doth
They basely fly and dare not stay the
Who . . . part: The heart, overcome with doubt and fear,
numbs each feeling part of Venus's body. She becomes cold, pale,
and weak—as if no blood is coursing through her veins.
Like soldiers . . . field: Like soldiers whose commander
has surrendered, her senses flee. They refuse to remain and
Thus stands she in a trembling ecstasy,
Till, cheering up her senses sore dismay’d,
She tells them ’tis a causeless fantasy,
And childish error, that they are afraid;
Bids them leave quaking, bids them fear no
And with that word she spied the hunted
Till . . . afraid: Till, cheering up her fearful senses,
she tells them their dismay is baseless and childish; there is
no reason to be afraid.
Bids . . . boar: Tells them to stop trembling and fear no
more. And then she spots the boar.
Whose frothy mouth bepainted all with red,
Like milk and blood being mingled both together,
A second fear through all her sinews spread,
Which madly hurries her she knows not whither:
This way she runs, and now she will no
But back retires to rate the boar for
Like milk . . . together: The froth, resembling milk,
mingles with blood.
sinews: Tendons; muscles.
This way . . . murther: This way she runs, then stops and
goes back to berate the boar for murder.
A thousand spleens bear her a thousand ways,
She treads the path that she untreads again;
Her more than haste is mated with delays,
Like the proceedings of a drunken brain,
Full of respects, yet nought at all
In hand with all things, nought at all
respects: Details; ideas.
effecting: Carrying out; putting into action.
Here kennel’d in a brake she finds a hound,
And asks the weary caitiff for his master,
And there another licking of his wound,
’Gainst venom’d sores the only sovereign
And here she meets another sadly
To whom she speaks, and he replies with howling.
kennel'd: Sheltered; hidden.
licking . . . plaster: Licking his wound as the only good
remedy to treat his dreadful sores.
When he hath ceas’d his ill-resounding noise,
Another flap-mouth’d mourner, black and grim,
Against the welkin volleys out his voice;
Another and another answer him,
Clapping their proud tails to the ground
Shaking their scratch’d ears, bleeding as they
flap-mouth'd: Loose flesh (flaps)
hanging from the jaws. The dogs are probably bloodhounds.
Look, how the world’s poor people are amaz’d
At apparitions, signs, and prodigies,
Whereon with fearful eyes they long have gaz’d,
Infusing them with dreadful prophecies;
So she at these sad signs draws up her
And, sighing it again, exclaims on Death.
Look . . . gaz'd: Observe how the
people of the world are frightened by apparitions, omens, and
other extraordinary events on which with anxious eyes they have
exclaims: Speaks out.
‘Hard-favour’d tyrant, ugly, meagre, lean,
Hateful divorce of love,’—thus chides she
‘Grim-grinning ghost, earth’s worm, what dost thou
To stifle beauty and to steal his breath,
Who when he liv’d, his breath and beauty
Gloss on the rose, smell to the
'Hard-favoured: Hard-featured; unsightly.
divorce of love: Separator of persons who love each
stifle: Kill; smother.
‘If he be dead, O no! it cannot be,
Seeing his beauty, thou shouldst strike at it;
O yes! it may; thou hast no eyes to see,
But hatefully at random dost thou hit. 940
Thy mark is feeble age, but thy false
Mistakes that aim and cleaves an infant’s heart.
it cannot . . . at it: It cannot be
that you, seeing his beauty, would strike at it.
O yes! it may: On the other hand, yes, it can be that you
would do so.
Thy mark . . . heart: You normally strike down the
elderly, but your false dart mistakes its target and splits an
‘Hadst thou but bid beware, then he had spoke,
And, hearing him, thy power had lost his power.
The Destinies will curse thee for this stroke;
They bid thee crop a weed, thou pluck’st a
Love’s golden arrow at him should have
And not Death’s ebon dart, to strike him
'Hadst . . . power: If you had told
Adonis to beware, he would have spoken. Upon hearing him, you
would have lost your power over him.
The Destinies: The Fates.
Love's . . . dead: The golden arrow of Cupid should
have struck him, infusing him with gentle love, not Death's
black dart to strike him dead.
‘Dost thou drink tears, that thou provok’st such
What may a heavy groan advantage thee? 950
Why hast thou cast into eternal sleeping
Those eyes that taught all other eyes to see?
Now Nature cares not for thy mortal
Since her best work is ruin’d with thy
'Dost . . . thee: Death, you cause so
much weeping in the world. Do you kill people just because you
like to drink the tears of their loved ones? And the groans that
you cause—what advantage do you get from them?
Why . . . see: Why did you cast Adonis into eternal
sleep? His eyes taught all other eyes to see.
Now Nature . . . rigour: Now be aware that Nature does
not approve of your deadly powers, since you ruin her best work
with your fatal rigor.
Here overcome, as one full of despair, 955
She vail’d her eyelids, who, like sluices,
The crystal tide that from her two cheeks fair
In the sweet channel of her bosom dropp’d;
But through the flood-gates breaks the silver
And with his strong course opens them
Here . . . dropp'd: Here, overcome
with despair, she closed her eyelids. Like gates in water
channels, they stopped the flow of tears from her eyes to her
But . . . again: But the silver tears break through the
gates, and the strong flow opens her eyelids again.
O! how her eyes and tears did lend and borrow;
Her eyes seen in the tears, tears in her eye;
Both crystals, where they view’d each other’s
Sorrow that friendly sighs sought still to dry;
But like a stormy day, now wind, now
Sighs dry her cheeks, tears make them wet
O! how . . . eye: Tears appeared in
the eyes; images of the eyes appeared in the tears.
Both . . . sorrow: Both were crystals, in which the tears
and the eyes viewed one another's sorrows.
Variable passions throng her constant woe,
As striving who should best become her grief;
All entertain’d, each passion labours so,
That every present sorrow seemeth chief,
But none is best; then join they all
Like many clouds consulting for foul
Variable . . . chief: Various
symptoms accompany her constant woe, as if vying to see which
one best represents her grief. All of them are considered, and
each one presents itself in such a way that it seems to best
describe her suffering.
then join . . . weather: Then they gather together like
clouds preparing to cause stormy weather.
By this, far off she hears some huntsman holla;
A nurse’s song ne’er pleas’d her babe so well:
The dire imagination she did follow 975
This sound of hope doth labour to expel;
For now reviving joy bids her rejoice,
And flatters her it is Adonis’
By this: By this time.
holla: Shouting hello; crying out.
The dire . . . expel: This sound of hope struggled to
drive out the dreadful thoughts that troubled her.
And flatters her: And makes her think.
Whereat her tears began to turn their tide,
Being prison’d in her eye, like pearls in glass;
Yet sometimes falls an orient drop beside,
Which her cheek melts, as scorning it should
To wash the foul face of the sluttish
Who is but drunken when she seemeth
Whereat . . . glass: When she hears
the shout, her tears begin to turn back, like an ebbing tide,
and become imprisoned in her eye, like pearls in a glass.
Yet . . . drown'd: But sometimes a gleaming teardrop
escapes, which her cheek dissolves to prevent it from dropping
down to wash the foul face of the filthy ground. The ground is
only drunk with Venus's tears, but she is drowning in them.
O hard-believing love! how strange it seems
Not to believe, and yet too credulous;
Thy weal and woe are both of them extremes;
Despair and hope make thee ridiculous:
The one doth flatter thee in thoughts
In likely thoughts the other kills thee
Summary of the stanza: O, it is hard
for a lover like me to believe that her beloved has suffered a
tragic blow. Yet how strange it is that we are quick to believe
that the beloved has come to no harm. Being hopeful and
desperate at the same time is ridiculous. Hope makes you believe
in unlikely outcomes. Despair makes you believe in likely
outcomes—and kills hope quickly.
Now she unweaves the web that she hath wrought,
Adonis lives, and Death is not to blame;
It was not she that call’d him all to naught,
Now she adds honours to his hateful name;
She clepes him king of graves, and grave for
Imperious supreme of all mortal things.
It was . . . naught: It was not like her to curse Death.
She did so because she was so upset.
clepes: Calls; names.
Supreme: Overlord; ruler; authority.
‘No, no,’ quoth she, ‘sweet Death, I did but
Yet pardon me, I felt a kind of fear
Whenas I met the boar, that bloody beast,
Which knows no pity, but is still severe; 1000
Then, gentle shadow,—truth I must
I rail’d on thee, fearing my love’s
I rail'd on thee: I scorned you.
‘’Tis not my fault: the boar provok’d my tongue;
Be wreak’d on him, invisible commander;
’Tis he, foul creature, that hath done thee
I did but act, he’s author of my slander:
Grief hath two tongues: and never woman
Could rule them both without ten women’s
Be wreak'd: Take revenge.
I did but act: I acted without thinking and became the
he's author: He's the cause.
Grief . . . wit': Grief speaks with two tongues that
mingle truth and falsehood. Never yet was there a woman who
could control both without the wisdom of ten women.
Thus hoping that Adonis is alive,
Her rash suspect she doth extenuate; 1010
And that his beauty may the better thrive,
With Death she humbly doth insinuate;
Tells him of trophies, statues, tombs; and
His victories, his triumphs, and his
Her rash . . . extenuate: She makes
excuses for her rash suspicion (for jumping to conclusions).
And that . . . insinuate: And, so that she does not
jeopardize the life of Adonis, she humbly flatters Death.
stories: Speaks of.
‘O Jove!’ quoth she, ‘how much a fool was I,
To be of such a weak and silly mind
To wail his death who lives and must not die
Till mutual overthrow of mortal kind;
For he being dead, with him is beauty
And, beauty dead, black chaos comes
Jove: In classical mythology, Jove or
Jupiter was the Roman name for the king of the gods. His Greek
name was Zeus.
Till . . . mortal kind: Till the end of mortal men.
chaos: In classical mythology, a state of confusion and
disorder that existed before the gods, earth, and man came into
‘Fie, fie, fond love! thou art so full of fear
As one with treasure laden, hemm’d with thieves;
Trifles, unwitnessed with eye or ear,
Thy coward heart with false bethinking grieves.’
Even at this word she hears a merry horn
Whereat she leaps that was but late
'Fie . . . thieves: Shame on you,
foolish love. You make me so fearful that I feel like a person
guarding a treasure while thieves close in on all sides.
Trifles . . . grieves: My cowardly heart imagines the
worst, making me grieve for nothing. After all, no one
witnessed, with eye or ear, what happened.
Even . . . forlorn: Now she hears a merry horn and leaps
in joy even though a short while before she was miserable and
As falcon to the lure, away she flies;
The grass stoops not, she treads on it so light;
And in her haste unfortunately spies
The foul boar’s conquest on her fair delight;
Which seen, her eyes, as murder’d with the
Like stars asham’d of day, themselves withdrew:
The foul . . . delight: The foul
boar's conquest of her fair Adonis.
Which seen . . . withdrew: As if murdered by this sight,
her eyes close. They are like stars that disappear in the
morning because daylight shames them into hiding.
Or, as the snail, whose tender horns being hit,
Shrinks backwards in his shelly cave with pain,
And there, all smother’d up, in shade doth sit,
Long after fearing to creep forth again;
So, at his bloody view, her eyes are fled
Into the deep dark cabins of her
Or . . . pain: Or, like a snail whose
tender horns are struck, shrinks backward with pain into his
Long . . . again: Later, he's afraid to creep forth
So . . . head: So, at the sight of Adonis's bloody body,
her eyes take refuge in the deep dark shelter of her head.
Where they resign their office and their light
To the disposing of her troubled brain; 1040
Who bids them still consort with ugly night,
And never wound the heart with looks again;
Who, like a king perplexed in his throne,
By their suggestion gives a deadly
Who . . . again: Her brain advises her to continue
to keep her eyes in darkness so that she will never again wound
her heart with horrible sights, like the one she beheld moments
Who: The heart.
By their suggestion: By the eyes' suggestion.
Whereat each tributary subject quakes; 1045
As when the wind, imprison’d in the ground,
Struggling for passage, earth’s foundation
Which with cold terror doth men’s minds
This mutiny each part doth so surprise
That from their dark beds once more leap her
Whereat . . . shakes: At the sound of
the groan, each tributary subject of the king (other body parts
that serve the heart) quakes in the same way that the earth
shakes when wind below the ground struggles to escape. This
shaking of the earth frightens men.
This mutiny . . . eyes: It is this kind of turbulence
that causes Venus's eyes once more to open.
And, being open’d, threw unwilling light
Upon the wide wound that the boar had trench’d
In his soft flank; whose wonted lily white
With purple tears, that his wound wept, was
No flower was nigh, no grass, herb, leaf, or
But stole his blood and seem’d with him to
trench'd: Inflicted by cutting a wide
flank: Side of the body between the chest and leg.
whose . . . drench'd: Whose flesh, usually lily white,
was drenched with blood (purple tears) from the wound.
No flower . . . bleed: The nearby flowers, grass, herbs,
leaves, and weeds—all stained with blood—seemed to bleed with
This solemn sympathy poor Venus noteth,
Over one shoulder doth she hang her head,
Dumbly she passions, franticly she doteth;
She thinks he could not die, he is not dead:
Her voice is stopp’d, her joints forget to
Her eyes are mad that they have wept till now.
This . . . doteth: Noting the solemn
sympathy of the flowers, poor Venus hangs her head over one
Dumbly she passions: In silence she suffers.
Franticly: This spelling is acceptable, but the word
usually appears as frantically.
she doteth: She dotes on Adonis.
forget to bow: Forget how to bend.
Her eyes . . . now: Her eyes are angry that they have
wept before now—that is, they are angry that they didn't save
more tears for this moment.
Upon his hurt she looks so steadfastly,
That her sight dazzling makes the wound seem
And then she reprehends her mangling eye, 1065
That makes more gashes where no breach should
His face seems twain, each several limb is
For oft the eye mistakes, the brain being
That her . . . three: That her sight,
distorting what it sees, makes the wound seem like three.
reprehends: Chides; scolds; reproves.
seems twain: Seems like two.
For . . . troubled: For often the eye makes mistakes when
the brain is troubled.
‘My tongue cannot express my grief for one,
And yet,’ quoth she, ‘behold two Adons dead!
My sighs are blown away, my salt tears gone,
Mine eyes are turn’d to fire, my heart to lead:
Heavy heart’s lead, melt at mine eyes’ red
So shall I die by drops of hot
Two Adons: Two Adonises.
‘Alas! poor world, what treasure hast thou lost?
What face remains alive that’s worth the
Whose tongue is music now? what canst thou boast
Of things long since, or anything ensuing?
The flowers are sweet, their colours fresh and
But true-sweet beauty liv’d and died with
face: An example of synecdoche (sih
NEK duh ke), a figure of speech in which a part stands for the
whole. Here, face represents the entire body.
Whose . . . now: Whose tongue makes beautiful music, now
that Adonis is dead? World, what past events can you boast
about? What future events are worthy of attention?
‘Bonnet nor veil henceforth no creature wear!
Nor sun nor wind will ever strive to kiss you:
Having no fair to lose, you need not fear;
The sun doth scorn you, and the wind doth hiss
But when Adonis liv’d, sun and sharp air
Lurk’d like two thieves, to rob him of his
'Bonnet . . . you: There's no need
for any of you to wear a bonnet or veil anymore to protect
yourself against the elements. Neither the sun nor the wind will
have anything to do with you, because you are no Adonis. You
lack his beauty.
rob him of his fair: Rob him of his beauty.
‘And therefore would he put his bonnet on,
Under whose brim the gaudy sun would peep;
The wind would blow it off, and, being gone,
Play with his locks: then would Adonis weep;
And straight, in pity of his tender
They both would strive who first should dry his
'And therefore . . . weep: Adonis,
however, would wear his hat, under whose brim the golden sun
would peep. The wind would blow it off to play with his locks.
Then Adonis would weep.
And straight . . . tears: Immediately, in pity of the
boy, they both would vie to be the first to dry his tears.
‘To see his face the lion walk’d along
Behind some hedge, because he would not fear
To recreate himself when he hath sung, 1095
The tiger would be tame and gently hear him;
If he had spoke, the wolf would leave his
And never fright the silly lamb that
would not fear him: Did not wish to
recreate: This word means to entertain or amuse oneself.
Its pronunciation is REK re ate, not RE cre ate.
‘When he beheld his shadow in the brook,
The fishes spread on it their golden gills; 1100
When he was by, the birds such pleasure took,
That some would sing, some other in their bills
Would bring him mulberries and ripe-red
He fed them with his sight, they him with
‘But this foul, grim, and urchin-snouted boar,
Whose downward eye still looketh for a grave,
Ne’er saw the beauteous livery that he wore;
Witness the entertainment that he gave:
If he did see his face, why then I know
He thought to kiss him, and hath kill’d him
urchin-snouted: Urchin is an
archaic word for hedgehog. A hedgehog is a small mammal
that resembles a porcupine. Thus, to Venus, the boar's snout
(nose and jaws) looks like the snout of a hedgehog.
Whose . . . grave: Whose downward gaze is always looking
for ground to dig up. (Boars dig for food, such as roots and
Ne'er . . . wore: Never saw the beauty that clothed his
prey, judging from the deadly greeting that he gave Adonis.
If he . . . so: If the boar did see his face, why then I
know he meant to kiss him and, in so doing, killed him.
‘’Tis true, ’tis true; thus was Adonis slain:
He ran upon the boar with his sharp spear,
Who did not whet his teeth at him again,
But by a kiss thought to persuade him there;
And nuzzling in his flank, the loving
Sheath’d unaware the tusk in his soft
Who . . . there: Who did not react by
sharpening his teeth but by giving Adonis a kiss to persuade the
youth to like him.
flank: Side of the body between the
chest and leg.
Sheath'd . . . groin: Unintentionally drove his
tusk into the soft groin of Adonis.
‘Had I been tooth’d like him, I must confess,
With kissing him I should have kill’d him first;
But he is dead, and never did he bless
My youth with his; the more am I accurst.’ 1120
With this she falleth in the place she
And stains her face with his congealed
'Had I . . . first: I must confess
that if I had had teeth like the boar's, I would have killed
Adonis before the boar did so.
She looks upon his lips, and they are pale;
She takes him by the hand, and that is cold;
She whispers in his ears a heavy tale, 1125
As if they heard the woeful words she told;
She lifts the coffer-lids that close his
Where, lo! two lamps, burnt out, in darkness
coffer: Chest or other container for
Two glasses where herself herself beheld
A thousand times, and now no more reflect; 1130
Their virtue lost, wherein they late excell’d,
And every beauty robb’d of his effect:
‘Wonder of time,’ quoth she, ‘this is my
That, you being dead, the day should yet be
Two . . . reflect: His eyes were
mirrors in which she saw her reflected image a thousand times in
the past. Now they no longer reflect anything.
Their virtue . . . effect: Their power to captivate, in
which they excelled, was gone. And every other beauty has been
robbed of its effect.
'Wonder . . . light: Wondrous Adonis, she says, I now
must endure the ironic pain that you are dead but the day is
‘Since thou art dead, lo! here I prophesy, 1135
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend:
It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end;
Ne’er settled equally, but high or low;
That all love’s pleasure shall not match his
Sorrow . . . end: Sorrow shall
accompany love hereafter. And where there is love, there shall
be anxiety and worry. Love may find a sweet beginning, but it
will end badly.
Ne'er . . . woe: Never will the joy love gives—the
pleasure it confers—be equal to the woe it causes.
‘It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud,
Bud and be blasted in a breathing-while;
The bottom poison, and the top o’erstraw’d
With sweets that shall the truest sight beguile:
The strongest body shall it make most
Strike the wise dumb and teach the fool to
'It . . . beguile: Love shall be
fickle, false, and fraudulent. Blight will kill budding love in
the time it takes to draw a breath. The poison in the elixir of
love shall be strewn over with sweets that will trick even the
The strongest . . . speak: Love shall make the strongest
body weak, make the wise dumb, and teach the fool to speak.
‘It shall be sparing and too full of riot,
Teaching decrepit age to tread the measures;
The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet,
Pluck down the rich, enrich the poor with
It shall be raging mad, and silly mild,
Make the young old, the old become a
'It . . . treasures: Love shall be
stingy but also full of excess, teaching even old people the
steps of dances. It shall quiet the staring ruffian, bring down
the rich, and enrich the poor with treasures.
‘It shall suspect where is no cause of fear;
It shall not fear where it should most mistrust;
It shall be merciful, and too severe, 1155
And most deceiving when it seems most just;
Perverse it shall be, where it shows most
Put fear to valour, courage to the
'It . . . mistrust: It shall
harbor suspicion when there is no cause for it; it shall trust
when it should most mistrust.
And . . . just: And most deceitful when it seems most
Perverse . . . toward: It shall be stubborn when it seems
‘It shall be cause of war and dire events,
And set dissension ’twixt the son and sire; 1160
Subject and servile to all discontents,
As dry combustious matter is to fire:
Sith in his prime Death doth my love
They that love best their love shall not
'It . . . fire: Love shall cause war
and other dire events, and create conflict between son and
Subject . . . fire: The cause and servant of all
discontents, like the dry wood that starts and maintains a fire.
Sith . . . enjoy: Since death destroyed my love, Adonis,
in his prime, they that love best—as I did—shall not enjoy their
By this, the boy that by her side lay kill’d
Was melted like a vapour from her sight,
And in his blood that on the ground lay spill’d,
A purple flower sprung up, chequer’d with white;
Resembling well his pale cheeks, and the
Which in round drops upon their whiteness
By . . . white: By this time, the
dead boy next to her disappeared like a vapor from her sight,
and in his blood spilled on the ground a purple flower,
checkered with white, sprang up.
Resembling . . . stood: The patches of white resembled
his pale cheeks, and the purple looked like the blood staining
She bows her head, the new-sprung flower to
Comparing it to her Adonis’ breath;
And says within her bosom it shall dwell,
Since he himself is reft from her by death:
She crops the stalk, and in the breach
Green dropping sap, which she compares to
it: Its fragrance.
And says . . . dwell: And says it shall dwell within her
bosom, since Adonis—taken from her by death—can no longer live
She crops . . . tears: She harvests the flower, breaking
its stalk. The break releases green sap, which she compares to
‘Poor flower,’ quoth she, ‘this was thy father’s
Sweet issue of a more sweet-smelling sire
For every little grief to wet his eyes:
To grow unto himself was his desire, 1180
And so ’tis thine; but know, it is as
To wither in my breast as in his
'Poor . . . guise: "Poor flower," she
says, "this is how your father (Adonis) looked."
Sweet . . . sire: You are the sweet-smelling child of a
more sweet-smelling father, a child whose every little grief
would have made him cry.
To grow . . . blood: To grow up properly was his desire,
and so is it your desire. But know that it is as good to grow
old in my breast as it is in his blood.
‘Here was thy father’s bed, here in my breast;
Thou art the next of blood, and ’tis thy right:
Lo! in this hollow cradle take thy rest, 1185
My throbbing heart shall rock thee day and
There shall not be one minute in an hour
Wherein I will not kiss my sweet love’s
next of blood: Next of kin; heir.
Thus weary of the world, away she hies,
And yokes her silver doves; by whose swift aid
Their mistress, mounted, through the empty skies
In her light chariot quickly is convey’d;
Holding their course to Paphos, where their
Means to immure herself and not be
Paphos: City on the southwestern seacoast of the island
nation of Cyprus. In classical mythology, the birthplace of
Venus was near the city.
Michael J. Cummings, a native of Williamsport,
Pa., was a public-school teacher, journalist, freelance
writer, author, and college instructor before retiring and
devoting his time to writing. He graduated from King's College
in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and undertook additional studies at
Elmira (N.Y) College and Lycoming College in Williamsport. He
also underwent training at the American Press Institute. Mr.
Cummings is the author of five print books, twelve e-books,
and more than 2,500 newspaper and magazine articles. Among
those he interviewed over the years were actors Peter Ustinov
and Dennis Weaver, Merrill-Lynch chairman William Schreyer,
Indy race-car champion Rick Mears, and George W. Bush (while
he was running for vice president on Ronald Reagan's ticket).
Mr. Cummings continues to reside in his hometown.