Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CASSANDRA, by RICHARD BARNFIELD

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

CASSANDRA, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Upon a gorgious gold embossed bed
Last Line: (the place for wrongful death and martirdum.)
Alternate Author Name(s): Barnefield, Richard
Subject(s): Cassandra (mythology)

Upon a gorgious gold embossed bed,
With Tissue curtaines drawne against the sunne,
(Which gazers eies into amazement led,
So curiously the workmanship was done,)
Lay faire Cassandra, in her snowie smocke,
Whose lips the Rubies and the pearles did locke.

And from her Ivory front hung dangling downe,
A bush of long and lovely curled haire;
Whose head impalled with a precious Crown
Of orient Pearle, made her to seeme more faire:
And yet more faire she hardly could be thought,
Then Love and Nature in her face had wrought.

By this young Phoebus rising from the East,
Had tane a view of this rare Paragon:
Wherewith he soone his radiant beames addresst,
And with great ioy her (sleeping) gazed upon:
Til at the last, through her light cazements cleare,
He stole a kisse: and softly call'd her Deare.

Yet not so softly but (therwith awak't,)
Shee gins to open her faire christall covers,
Wherewith the wounded God, for terror quakt,
(Viewing those darts that kill disdained lovers:)
And blushing red to see himselfe so shamed
He scorns his Coach, and his owne beauty blamed.

Now with a trice he leaves the azure skies,
(As whilome Iove did at Europaes rape,)
And ravisht with her love-aluring eies,
He turns himselfe into a humane shape:
And that his wish the sooner might ensue,
He sutes himselfe like one of Venus crew.

Upon his head he wore a Hunters hat
Of crimson velvet, spangd with stars of gold,
Which grac'd his lovely face: and over that
A silver hatband ritchly to behold:
On his left shoulder hung a loose Tyara,
As whilome us'd faire Penthesilea.

Faire Penthesilea th'Amazonian Queene,
When she to Troy came with her warlike band,
Of brave Viragoes glorious to be seene;
Whose manlike force no power might withstand:
So look't Apollo in his lovely weedes,
As he unto the Troian Damzell speedes.

Not faire Adonis in his chiefest pride,
Did seeme more faire, then young Apollo seemed,
When he through th'aire invisibly did glide,
T'obtaine his Love, which he Angelike deemed:
Whom finding in her chamber all alone,
He thus begins t'expresse his piteous mone.

O fairest, faire, above all faires (quoth hee,)
If ever Love obtained Ladies favour,
Then shew thy selfe compassionate to me,
Whose heart surpriz'd with thy divine behaviour,
Yeelds my selfe captive to thy conqu'ring eies:
O then shew mercy, do not tyrannize.

Scarce had Apollo utter'd these last words,
(Rayning downe pearle from his immortall eies,)
When she for answere, naught but feare affords,
Filling the place with lamentable cries:
But Phoebus fearing much these raging fits,
With sugred kisses sweetely charm'd her lips.

(And tells her softly in her softer eare)
That he a God is, and no mortall creature:
Wherewith abandoning all needlesse feare,
(A common frailtie of weake womans nature)
She boldly askes him of his deitie,
Gracing her question with her wanton eie.

Which charge to him no sooner was assignde,
But taking faire Cassandra by the hand
(The true bewraier of his secrete minde)
He first begins to let her understand,
That he from Demogorgon was descended:
Father of th'Earth, of Gods and men commended.

The tenor of which tale he now recites,
Closing each period with a ravisht kisse:
Which kindnes, she unwillingly requites,
Conioyning oft her Corrall lips to his:
Not that she lov'd the love of any one;
But that she meant to cozen him anone.

Hee briefly t'her relates his pedegree:
The sonne of Iove, sole guider of the sunne,
He that slue Python so victoriouslie,
He that the name of wisdomes God hath wonne,
The God of Musique, and of Poetry:
Of Phisicke, Learning, and Chirurgery.

All which he eloquently reckons up,
That she might know how great a God he was:
And being charm'd with Cupid's golden cup
He partiallie unto her praise doth passe,
Calling her tipe of honour, Queen of beauty:
To whom all eies owe tributary duety.

I loved once, (quoth hee) aie me I lov'd,
As faire a shape as ever nature framed:
Had she not been so hard t'have been remov'd,
By birth a sea-Nymph; cruell Daphne named:
Whom, for shee would not to my will agree,
The Gods transform'd into a Laurell tree.

Ah therfore be not, (with that word he kist her)
Be not (quot he) so proud as Daphne was:
Ne care thou for the anger of my sister,
She cannot, nay she shall not hurt my Cass:
For if she doe, I vow (by dreadfull night)
Never againe to lend her of my light.

This said: he sweetly doth imbrace his love,
Yoaking his armes about her Ivory necke:
And calls her wanton Venus milk-white Dove,
Whose ruddie lips the damaske roses decke.
And ever as his tongue compiles her praise,
Love daintie Dimples in her cheekes doth raise.

And meaning now to worke her stratagem
Upon the silly God, that thinks none ill,
She hugs him in her armes, and kisses him;
(Th'easlyer to intice him to her will.)
And being not able to maintaine the feeld,
Thus she begins (or rather seemes) to yeeld.

Woon with thy words, and ravisht with thy beauty,
Loe here Cassandra yeelds her selfe to thee,
Requiring nothing for thy vowed duety,
But only firmnesse, Love, and secrecy:
Which for that now (even now) I meane to try thee,
A boone I crave; which thou canst not deny me.

Scarce were these honywords breath'd from her lips,
But he, supposing that she ment good-faith,
Her filed tongues temptations interceps;
And (like a Novice,) thus to her he saith:
Aske what thou wilt, and I will give it thee;
Health, wealth, long life, wit, art, or dignitie.

Here-with she blushing red, (for shame did adde
A crimson tincture to her palish hew,)
Seeming in outward semblance passing glad,
(As one that th'end of her petition knew)
She makes him sweare by ugly Acheron,
That he his promise should performe anon.

Which done: relying on his sacred oath,
She askes of him the gift of prophecie:
He (silent) gives consent: though seeming loath
To grant so much to fraile mortalitie:
But since that he his vowes maie not recall,
He gives to her the sp'rite propheticall.

But she no sooner had obtain'd her wish,
When straite unpris'ning her lascivious armes
From his softe bosom (th'alvary of blisse)
She chastely counterchecks loves hote alarmes:
And fearing lest his presence might offend her,
She slips aside; and (absent) doth defend her.
(Muliere ne credas, ne mortuae quidem.)

Looke how a brightsome Planet in the skie,
(Spangling the Welkin with a golden spot)
Shootes suddenly from the beholders eie,
And leaves him looking there where she is not:
Even so amazed Phoebus (to descrie her)
Lookes all about, but no where can espie her.

Not th'hungry Lyon, having lost his pray,
With greater furie runneth through the wood,
(Making no signe of momentarie staie
Till he have satisfi'd himselfe with blood,)
Then angry Phoebus mounts into the skie:
Threatning the world with his hot-burning eie.

Now nimbly to his glist'ring Coach he skips,
And churlishlie ascends his loftie chaire,
Yerking his head strong Iades with yron whips,
Whose fearefull neighing ecchoes through the aire,
Snorting out fierie Sulphure from their nosethrils:
Whose deadly damp the worlds poore people kils.

Him leave me (for a while) amids the heavens,
Wreaking his anger on his sturdie steedes:
Whose speedful course the day and night now eevens,
(The earth dis-robed of her summer weedes)
And nowe black-mantled night with her browne vaile,
Covers each thing that all the world might quaile.

When loe, Cassandra lying at her rest,
(Her rest were restlesse thoughts:) it so befell,
Her minde with multitude of cares opprest,
Requir'd some sleepe her passions to expell:
Which when sad Morpheus well did understand,
He clos'd her eie-lids with his leaden hand.

Now sleepeth shee: and as shee sleepes, beholde;
Shee seems to see the God whom late shee wronged
Standing before her; whose fierce looks unfold,
His hidden wrath (to whom iust ire belonged)
Seeing, shee sighs, and sighing quak't for feare,
To see the shaddow of her shame appeare.

Betwixt amaze and dread as shee thus stands,
The fearefull vision drew more neere unto her:
And pynioning her armes in captive bands
So sure, that mortall wight may not undoe her,
He with a bloudy knife (oh cruell part,)
With raging fury stabd her to the heart.

Heerewith awaking from her slumbring sleepe,
(For feare, and care, are enemies to rest:)
At such time as Aurora gins to peepe
And shew her selfe; far orient in the East:
Shee heard a voice which said: O wicked woman,
Why dost thou stil the gods to vengeance summon?

Thou shalt (indeede) fore-tell of things to come;
And truely, too; (for why my vowes are past)
But heare the end of Ioves eternall doome:
Because thy promise did so little last,
Although thou tell the truth, (this gift I give thee)
Yet for thy falsehood, no man shall beleeve thee.

And (for thy sake) this pennance I impose
Upon the remnant of all woman kinde,
For that they be such truth professed foes;
A constant woman shall be hard to finde:
And that all flesh at my dread name may tremble,
When they weep most, then shall they most dissemble.

This said Apollo then: And since that time
His words have proved true as Oracles:
Whose turning thoughtes ambitiously doe clime
To heavens height; and world with lightnes fils:
Whose sex are subject to inconstancie,
As other creatures are to destinie.

Yet famous Sabrine on thy banks doth rest
The fairest Maide that ever world admired:
Whose constant minde, with heavenly gifts possest,
Makes her rare selfe of all the world desired.
In whose chaste thoughts no vanitie doth enter;
So pure a minde Endymions Love hath lent her.

Queene of my thoughts, but subiect of my verse,
(Divine Eliza) pardon my defect:
Whose artlesse pen so rudely doth reherse
Thy beauties worth; (for want of due respect)
Oh pardon thou the follies of my youth;
Pardon my faith, my love, my zeale, my truth.

But to Cassandra now: who having heard
The cruell sentence of the threatening voice;
At length (too late) begins to waxe affeard,
Lamenting much her unrepentant choice:
And seeing her hard hap without reliefe,
She sheeds salt teares in token of her griefe.

Which when Aurora saw, and saw t'was shee,
Even shee her selfe whose far-renowned fame
Made all the world to wonder at her beauty,
It mov'd compassion in this ruthfull Dame:
And thinking on her Sonnes sad destinie,
With mournfull teares she beares her companie.

Great was the mone, which faire Cassandra made:
Greater the kindnesse, which Aurora shew'd:
Whose sorrow with the sunne began to fade,
And her moist teares on th'earths green grasse bestow'd:
Kissing the flowers with her silver dew,
Whose fading beautie, seem'd her case to rew.

Scarce was the lovely Easterne Queene departed,
From stately Ilion; (whose proud-reared wals
Seem'd to controule the cloudes, till Vulcan darted
Against their Towers his burning fier-bals)
When sweet Cassandra (leaving her soft bed)
In seemely sort her selfe apparelled.

And hearing that her honourable Sire,
(Old princely Pryamus Troy's aged King)
Was gone into Ioves Temple, to conspire
Against the Greekes, (whom he to war did bring)
Shee, (like a Furie) in a bedlam rage,
Runs gadding thither, his fell wrath t'assuage.

But not prevailing: truely she fore-tolde
The fall of Troy, (with bold erected face:)
They count her hare-brain'd, mad, and over-bold,
To presse in presence in so grave a place:
But in meane season Paris he is gone,
To bring destruction on faire Ilion.

What, ten-yeeres siedge by force could not subvert,
That, two false traitors in one night destroi'd:
Who richly guerdon'd for their bad desert,
Was of Aeneas but small time inioi'd:
Who, for concealement of Achilles love,
Was banished; from Ilion to remove.

King Pryam dead and all the Troians slaine;
(His sonnes, his friends and deere confederates)
And lots now cast for captives that remaine,
(Whom Death hath spared for more cruell fates)
Cassandra then to Agamemnon fell,
With whom a Lemman she disdain'd to dwell.

She, weepes; he, wooes; he would, but she would not:
He, tells his birth; shee, pleades virginitie:
He saith, selfe-pride doth rarest beauty blot:
(And with that word he kist her lovingly:)
Shee, yeeldingly resists; he faines to die:
Shee, falls for feare; he, on her feareleslie.

But this brave generall of all the Greekes,
Was quickly foyled at a womans hands,
For who so rashly such incounters seekes,
Of hard mis-hap in danger ever stands:
Onely chaste thoughts, and vertuous abstinence,
Gainst such sweet poyson is the sur'st defence.

But who can shun the force of beauties blow?
Who is not ravisht with a lovely looke?
Grac'd with a wanton eie, (the hearts dumb show)
Such fish are taken with a silver hooke:
And when true love cannot these pearles obtaine,
Unguentum Album is the only meane.

Farre be it from my thought (divinest Maid)
To have relation to thy heavenly hew,
(In whose sweete voice the Muses are imbaid)
No pen can paint thy commendations due:
Save only that pen, which no pen can be,
An Angels quill, to make a pen for thee.

But to returne to these unhappie Lovers,
(Sleeping securely in each others armes,)
Whose sugred ioies nights sable mantle covers,
Little regarding their ensuing harmes:
Which afterward they iointlie both repented:
"Fate is fore-seene, but never is prevented."

Which saying to be true, this lucklesse Dame
Approved in the sequele of her story:
Now waxing pale, now blushing red (for shame),
She seales her lips with silence, (womens glory)
Till Agamemnon urging her replies,
Thus of his death she truely prophecies.

The day shall come, (quoth she) O dismall daie!
When thou by false Aegistus shalt be slaine:
Heere could she tell no more; but made a stay.
(From further speech as willing to refraine:)
Not knowing then, nor little did she thinke,
That she with him of that same cup must drinke.

But what? (fond man) he laughes her skil to scorne,
And iesteth at her divination:
Ah to what unbeliefe are Princes borne?
(The onely over-throw of many a Nation:)
And so it did befall this lucklesse Prince,
Whom all the world hath much lamented since.

Insteede of teares, he smileth at her tale:
Insteede of griefe, he makes great shew of gladnes:
But after blisse, there ever followes bale;
And after mirth, there alwaies commeth sadnes:
But gladnesse, blisse, and mirth had so possest him,
That sadnes, bale, and griefe could not molest him.

Oh cruell Parcae (quoth Cassandra then)
Why are you Parcae, yet not mov'd with praier?
Oh small security of mortall men,
That live on earth, and breathe this vitall aire:
When we laugh most, then are we next to sorrow;
The Birds feede us to-day, we them to-morrow.

But if the first did little move his minde,
Her later speeches lesse with him prevailed;
Who beinge wholy to selfe-will inclinde,
Deemes her weake braine with lunacy assailed:
And still the more shee councels him to stay,
The more he striveth to make haste away.

How on the Seas he scap'd stormes, rocks and sholes,
(Seas that envide the conquest he had wone,
Gaping like hell to swallow Greekish soules,)
I heere omit; onely suppose it done:
His storm-tyrde Barke safely brings him to shore,
His whole Fleete els, or suncke or lost before.

Lift up thy head, thou ashie-cyndred Troy,
See the commaunder of thy traitor foes,
That made thy last nights woe, his first daies ioie,
Now gins his night of ioy and daie of woes:
His fall be thy delight, thine was his pride:
As he thee then, so now thou him deride.

He and Cassandra now are set on shore,
Which he salutes with ioy, she greetes with teares,
Currors are sent that poast to Court before,
Whose tidings fill th'adultrous Queene with feares,
Who with Aegistus in a lust-stained bed,
Her selfe, her King, her State dishonored.

She wakes the lecher with a loud-strain'd shrike,
Love-toies they leave, now doth lament begin:
Ile flie (quoth he) but she doth that mislike,
Guilt unto guilt, and sinne she ads to sinne:
Shee meanes to kill (immodest love to cover)
A kingly husband, for a caytive lover.

The peoples ioies, conceived at his returne,
Their thronging multitudes: their gladsome cries,
Their gleeful hymnes, whiles piles of incense burne:
Their publique shewes, kept at solemnities:
We passe: and tell how King and Queene did meet,
Where he with zeale, she him with guile did greet.

He (noble Lord) fearelesse of hidden treason,
Sweetely salutes this weeping Crocodile:
Excusing every cause with instant reason
That kept him from her sight so long a while:
She, faintly pardons him; smiling by Art:
(For life was in her lookes, death in her hart.)

For pledge that I am pleas'd receive (quoth shee,)
This rich wrought robe, thy Clytemnestraes toile:
Her ten yeeres worke this day shall honour thee,
For ten yeeres war, and one daies glorious spoile:
Whil'st thou contendedst there, I heere did this:
Weare it my love, my life, my ioy, my blisse.

Scarce had the Syren said, what I have write,
But he (kind Prince) by her milde words misled,
Receiv'd the robe, to trie if it were fit;
(The robe) that had no issue for his head;
Which, whilst he vainly hoped to have found,
Aegistus pierst him with a mortal wound.

Oh how the Troyan Damzell was amazed.
To see so fell and bloudy a Tragedie,
Performed in one Act; she naught but gazed,
Upon the picture; whom shee dead did see,
Before her face: whose body she emballms,
With brennish teares, and sudden deadly qualms.

Faine would she have fled backe on her swift horse,
But Clytemnestra bad her be content,
Her time was com'n: now bootelesse us'd she force,
Against so many; whom this Tygresse sent
To apprehend her: who (within one hower
Brought backe againe) was lockt within a Tower.

Now is she ioylesse, friendlesse, and (in fine)
Without all hope of further libertie:
Insteed of cates, cold water was her wine,
And Agamemnons corps her meate must be,
Or els she must for hunger starve (poore sole)
What could she do but make great mone and dole.

So darke the dungeon was, wherein she was,
That neither Sunne (by day) nor Mone (by night)
Did shew themselves: and thus it came to passe.
The Sunne denide to lend his glorious light
To such a periur'd wight, or to be seene;
(What neede she light, that over-light had bin?)

Now silent night drew on; when all things sleepe,
Save theeves, and cares; and now stil mid-night came:
When sad Cassandra did naught els but weepe;
Oft calling on her Agamemnons name.
But seeing that the dead did not replie,
Thus she begins to mourne, lament, and crie.

Oh cruell Fortune, (mother of despaire,)
Well art thou christen'd with a cruell name:
Since thou regardest not the wise, or faire,
But do'st bestow thy riches (to thy shame)
On fooles and lowly swaines, that care not for thee:
And yet I weepe, and yet thou do'st abhorre me.

Fie on ambition, fie on filthy pride,
The roote of ill, the cause of all my woe:
On whose fraile yce my youth first slipt aside:
And falling downe, receiv'd a fatall blow.
Ah who hath liv'd to see such miserie
As I have done, and yet I cannot die?

I liv'd (quoth she) to see Troy set on fire:
I liv'd to see, renowned Hector slaine:
I liv'd to see, the shame of my desire:
And yet I live, to feele more grievous paine:
Let all young maides example take by me,
To keepe their oathes, and spotlesse chastity.

Happy are they, that never liv'd to know
What t'is to live in this world happily:
Happy are they which never yet felt woe:
Happy are they, that die in infancie:
Whose sins are cancell'd in their mothers wombe:
Whose cradle is their grave, whose lap their tomb.

Here ended shee; and then her teares began,
That (Chorus-like) at every word downe rained.
Which like a paire of christall fountaines ran,
Along her lovely cheekes: with roses stained:
Which as they wither still (for want of raine)
Those silver showers water them againe.

Now had the pore-mans clock (shrill chauntcleare)
Twice given notice of the Mornes approach,
(That then began in glorie to appeare,
Drawne in her stately colour'd saffron-Coach)
When shee (poore Lady) almost turn'd to teares,
Began to teare and rend her golden haires.

Lie there (quoth shee) the workers of my woes;
You trifling toies, which my lives staine have bin:
You, by whose meanes our coines chiefly growes,
Clothing the backe with pride, the soule with sin:
Lie there (quoth shee) the causers of my care;
This said, her robes she all in pieces tare.

Here-with, as weary of her wretched life,
(Which she inioy'd with small felicitie)
She ends her fortune with a fatall knife;
(First day of ioy, last day of miserie:)
Then why is death accounted Nature's foe,
Since death (indeed) is but the end of woe?

For as by death, her bodie was released
From that strong prison made of lime and stone;
Even so by death her purest soule was eased,
From bodies prison, and from endlesse mone:
Where now shee walkes in sweete Elysium,
(The place for wrongful Death and Martirdum.)

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