Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BRITANNIA'S PASTORALS: BOOK 3. THE SECOND SONG, by WILLIAM BROWNE (1591-1643)



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BRITANNIA'S PASTORALS: BOOK 3. THE SECOND SONG, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Good day to all, ye merry western swains
Last Line: For by your sweetness I describe all others.
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, William Of Tavistock
Subject(s): Great Britain


THE ARGUMENT.

Good day to all, ye merry western swains,
And ev'ry gentle shepherdess that deigns
A kind attentive ear to what I sing.
Come, sit you round about me in a ring;
My reed is fitted, and I mean to play
The fairies' song I promis'd yesterday;
And though for length I have it over-run,
This was the matter, thus the elf begun:

OF royal parents in a country rich
Were born three daughters, with all beauties crown'd
That could the eyes of men or gods bewitch,
Or poets' sacred verse did ever sound;
But Nature's favour flew a higher pitch,
When with the youngest she enrich'd this round,
Though her first work for praise much right might hold,
Her last outwent it, and she broke the mould.

From countries far remote, wing'd with desire,
Strangers pass'd gladly o'er a tedious way
To see if fame would now be found a liar,
Who said another sun brought in the day;
Poor men! ye come too near to such a fire,
And for a look your lives at hazard lay.
Stay, stay at home, read of her beauty there,
And make not those sweet eyes your murderer.

The curious statuaries, painters quaint,
From their great monarchs come, from ev'ry land,
That what the chisel could or pencil paint,
Might in her portrait have the skilfull'st hand;
But, seely men, they meet a sad restraint,
And they themselves as turn'd to statues stand:
So many graces in her feature lurk,
They turn all eye and have no hands to work.

The altars of the gods stood now forlorn;
Their myrrh and frankincense was kept away,
And fairest Cytherea (that was born
Out of the white froth of the working sea)
Wanted her votaries; nay, some in scorn
Durst vaunt, while they the sacrifice delay,
This was a deity, indeed, for whom
The gods themselves might be a hecatomb.

Divers believ'd, who, ravish'd with the sight,
Stood gazing, as amaz'd, at her fair eyes,
That Nature had produc'd another light,
New kind of star, and in a newer guise;
And from the earth, not from the sea, should rise
A Venus worthier to unlength the night;
And though the first be for a goddess plac'd,
This was more heavenly fair, more truly chaste.

Hence came it Paphos and Cythera now,
Gnidus and Amathus, could see no more
The ships the parent of their goddess plough,
Nor pilgrims land on their forsaken shore.
No man a gift could to her shrine allow,
Nor rose nor myrtle crown her image wore;
The beds contemn'd, hearth fireless and unfit,
And men's devotions were as cold as it.

Anger and rage possess'd the queen of love
To see a fairer queen of love than she;
And that a mortal with the powers above
Came in divine rites to a like degree;
Nay, that the ravish'd people always strove
That this none other could than Venus be;
Impatient ought on earth deserv'd her name,
Thus murmur'd she, and scorn still fed the flame.

Have I, quoth she, the most confus'd abyss,
The chaos rude unwound, the vault of heaven
Compos'd, and settled all that order is?
The name of nursing mother to me given,
And all regardless? must I, after this,
Be from my temples and mine altars driven?
And she that is the source of human things
Pay, as a vassal, tribute to her springs?

No; 'tis a competition too-too low,
To stand with one compos'd of elements
Which their original to me do owe;
Shall fading creatures prosecute intents
With us that all eternity do know?
And the like victims have and sacred scents?
Or share with me in any rites of mine,
And mingle mortal honours with divine?

What boots it then that men me rightly call
The daughter of the mighty thunderer?
And that I can ascend up to my stall
Along the milky way by many a star?
And where I come, the powers celestial
Rise more to me than any goddess far?
And all those countries by bright Phœbus seen
Do homage and acknowledge me their queen.

Shall I then leave the prize I whilom won
On stately Ida (for my beauty's charms),
Given me by Paris, Priam's fatal son,
From stately Juno and the Maid of Arms,
By which old Simois long with blood did run?
If such ambition her proud bosom warms,
I must descend: she fly to heaven, and there
Sit in my glorious orb, and guide my sphere.

No! this usurping maid shall feel the pow'r
Of an incensed deity, and see
Those cheeks of red and white, that living flow'r,
And those her limbs of truest symmetry,
Want winning eloquence to 'scape the show'r
Of due revenge must fall on her from me.
She shall repent those beauties, and confess
She had been happier in deformedness.

She said no more: but full of ire ascends
Her chariot drawn by white enamour'd doves;
Her passion to their speed more swiftness lends.
And now to search her son (that various loves
Worketh each where) she studiously intends:
She sought him long among th' Elysian groves,
But missing him, to earthward bent her reins,
And with a shepherd found him on the plains.

It was a shepherd that was born by-west,
And well of Tityrus had learn'd to sing;
Little knew he, poor lad, of love's unrest,
But by his fellow-shepherds' sonneting;
A speculative knowledge with the best
He had, but never felt the golden sting;
And to comply with those his fellow-swains,
He sung of love and never felt the pains.

The little Cupid lov'd him for his verse,
Though low and tuned to an oaten reed;
And that he might the fitter have commerce
With those that sung of love and lovers' deed,
Struck (O but had Death struck her to a herse)
Those wounds had not been ope which freshly bleed—
Struck a fair maid and made her love this lad,
From whence his sorrows their beginnings had.

Long time she lov'd: and Cupid did so dear
Affect the shepherd, that he would not try
A golden dart to wound him (out of fear
That they might not be stricken equally),
But turned orator, and coming there
Where this young pastor did his flocks apply,
He wooes him for the lass sick of his hand,
And begs, who might imperiously command:

Shall that sweet paradise neglected lie
('Twas so, and had a serpent in it too),
Shall those sweet lips, that pity-begging eye
Beget no flame, when common beauties do?
Those breasts of snow, beds of felicity,
Made of enforce a man of ice to woo,
Make nought for her, in whose soul-melting flashes
A salamander might consume to ashes?

Pity her sighs, fond swain! believe her tears;
What heart of marble would not rend to see her
Languish for love? poor soul, her tender years
Have flame to feed her fire, not words to free her.
Bad orators are younger loves and fears.
Thus Cupid wooes, and could a mortal flee her?
But Venus coming, Cupid threw a dart
To make all sure, and left it in his heart.

Thus to the winged archer Venus came,
Who, though by Nature quick enough inclin'd
To all requests made by the Cyprian dame,
She left no grace of look or word behind
That might raise up that fire which none can tame:
Revenge, that sweet betrayer of the mind,
That cunning, turbulent, impatient guest,
Which sleeps in blood, and but in death hath rest.

Into her chariot she him quickly takes,
And swift as time, cutting the yielding air,
Her discontent she tells him, as she makes
Towards Psyche's sweet abode a sad repair.
Psyche the lady hight, that now awakes
Fair Venus' fury; look, quoth she, and there
Behold my grief; O Cupid, shut thine eyne,
Or that which now is hers will soon be thine.

See yonder girl, quoth she, for whom my shrine
Is left neglected and of all forlorn;
Hark how the poets court the sacred Nine
To give them raptures full and highly born
That may befit a beauty so divine,
And from the threshold of the rosy morn
To Phœbus' western inn, fill by their lays
All hearts with love of her, all tongues with praise.

By that maternal rightful pow'r, my son,
Which I have with thee, and may justly claim:
By those gold darts which I for thee have won,
By those sweet wounds they make without a maim:
By thy kind fire which hath such wonders done,
And all fair eyes from whence thou takest aim:
By these and by this kiss, this and this other,
Right a wrong'd goddess and revenge thy mother

And this way do it: make that glorious maid
Slave in affection to a wretch as rude
As ever yet deformity array'd
Or all the vices of the multitude.
Let him love money! and a friend betray'd
Proclaim with how much wit he is endued;
Let not sweet sleep but sickness make his bed!
And to the grave bring home her maidenhead.

When the bless'd day calls others from their sleep,
And birds' sweet lays rejoice all creatures waking,
Let her lame husband's groans and sighing deep
Affright her from that rest which she is taking!
And (spite of all her care) when she doth weep,
Let him mistrust her tears and faith's forsaking!
In brief, let her affect (thus I importune)
One wrong'd as much as Nature could or Fortune.

Thus spoke she, and a winning kiss she gave,
A long one with a free and yielding lip,
Unto the god; and on the brackish wave
(Leaving her son ashore) doth nimbly trip.
Two dolphins with a chariot richly brave
Waited, and with her unto Cyprus strip;
The little Cupid she had left behind,
And gave him sight then when he should be blind.

Cupid, to work his wiles that can apply
Himself, like Proteus, to what form he list,
Fierce as a lion, nimble as an eye,
As glorious as the sun, dark as a mist,
Hiding himself within a lady's eye,
Or in a silken hair's ensnaring twist;
And those within whose breasts he oft doth fall,
And feel him most, do know him least of all.

The god now us'd his pow'r, and him address'd
Unto a fitting stand, where he might see
All that kind Nature ever yet express'd
Of colour, feature, or due symmetry;
It seem'd heaven was come down to make earth bless'd.
No wonder then if there this god should be;
No; wonder more which way he can be driven,
To leave this sight for those he knew in heaven.

Her cheeks the wonder of what eye beheld,
Begot betwixt a lily and a rose,
In gentle rising plains divinely swell'd,
Where all the graces and the loves repose.
Nature in this piece all her works excell'd,
Yet show'd herself imperfect in the close,
For she forgot (when she so fair did raise her)
To give the world a wit might duly praise her.

Her sweet and ruddy lips, full of the fire
Which once Prometheus stole away from heaven,
Could by their kisses raise a like desire
To that by which Alcides once was driven
To fifty beds, and in one night entire
To fifty maids the name of mother given;
But had he met this dame first, all the other
Had rested maids: she fifty times a mother!

When that she spoke, as at a voice from heaven
On her sweet words all ears and hearts attended;
When that she sung, they thought the planets seven
By her sweet voice might well their tunes have mended;
When she did sigh, all were of joy bereaven;
And when she smil'd, heaven had them all befriended.
If that her voice, sighs, smiles, so many thrill'd,
O, had she kiss'd, how many had she kill'd!

Her hair was flaxen, small, and full and long,
Wherewith the soft enamour'd air did play,
And here and there with pearls was quaintly strung;
When they were spread (like to Apollo's ray)
They made the breasts of the Olympic throng
To feel their flames, as we the flame of day;
And to eternize what they saw so fair,
They made a constellation of her hair.

Her slender fingers (neat and worthy made
To be the servants to so much perfection)
Join'd to a palm, whose touch would straight invade
And bring a sturdy heart to low subjection.
Her slender wrists two diamond bracelets lade,
Made richer by so sweet a soul's election.
O happy bracelets! but more happy he
To whom those arms shall as a bracelet be!

Nature, when she made women's breasts, was then
In doubt of what to make them, or how stain'd;
If that she made them soft, she knew that men
Would seek for rest there, where none could be gain'd:
If that she made them snow-like, they again
Would seek for cold where love's hot flamings reign'd;
She made them both, and men deceived so,
Find wakefulness in down, and fire in snow.

Such were fair Psyche's lillied beds of love,
Or rather two new worlds where men would fain
Discover wonders by her stars above,
If any guide could bring them back again.
But who shall on those azure riverets move,
Is lost, and wanders in an endless main;
So many graces, pleasures, there apply them,
That man should need the world's age to descry them.

As when a woodman on the greeny lawns,
Where daily chants the sad-sweet nightingale,
Would count his herd, more bucks, more prickets, fawns
Rush from the copse and put him from his tale;
Or some wayfaring man, when morning dawns,
Would tell the sweet notes in a joysome vale,
At ev'ry foot a new bird lights and sings,
And makes him leave to count their sonnetings:

So when my willing Muse would gladly dress
Her several graces in immortal lines,
Plenty impoors her; ev'ry golden tress,
Each little dimple, every glance that shines
As radiant as Apollo, I confess
My skill too weak for so admir'd designs;
For whilst one beauty I am close about,
Millions do newly rise and put me out.

Never was maid to various nature bound
In greater bonds of thankfulness than she,
As all eyes judg'd; nor on the massy round
For all perfections could another be
Upon whose any limn was to be found
Ought, that on hers could vant of mastery;
Yet though all eyes had been a wishful feast,
Who saw nought but her body saw her least.

Blest was the womb that bore so fair a birth;
Blest was the birth for blessing of the womb;
Blest was the hand that took her to the earth;
Blest ev'ry shady arbour, every room;
Blest were the deserts rough where zephyr stirr'th;
Blest ev'ry craggy rock and rushy coombe:
All things that held, touch'd, saw her, still confess'd
To time's last period they were ever bless'd.

My fairest Cælia, when thine eyes shall view
These, and all other lines ere writ by me,
Wherein all beauties are describ'd, and true,
Think your devoted shepherd's fantasy,
Rapt by those heavenly graces are in you,
Had thence all matter fit for elogy.
Your blest endowments are my verses' mothers,
For by your sweetness I describe all others.





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