Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DE MAGNETE, by CLAUDIAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

DE MAGNETE, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Who in the world with busy reason prys
Last Line: And rigid marble must admit thy flame.
Alternate Author Name(s): Claudius Claudianus

WHO in the world with busy reason prys,
Searching the seed of things, and there descries
With what defect labours th' eclipsed moon;
What cause commands a paleness in the sun,
Whence ruddy comets with their fatal hair,
Whence winds do flow, and what the motions are
That shake the bowels of the trembling earth,
What strikes the lightning forth, whence clouds give birth
To horrid thunders, and doth also know
What light lends lustre to the painted bow.
If ought of truth his soul doth understand,
Let him resolve a question I'll demand.
There is a stone which we the loadstone style,
Of colour ugly, dark, obscure, and vile:
It never deck'd the sleeked locks of kings,
No ornament, no gorgeous tire it brings
To virgins' beauteous necks; it never shone
A splendent buckle in their maiden zone.
But only hear the wonders I will tell,
Of this black pebble, and 'twill then excel
All bracelets, and whate'er the diving Moor
'Mongst the red weeds seeks for i' th' Eastern shore.
From iron first it lives; iron it eats.
But that sweet feast, it knows no other meats;
Thence she renews her strength; vigour is sent
Through all her nerves by that hard nourishment.
Without that food she dies: a famine numbs
Her meagre joints, a thirst her veins consumes.
Mars, that frights cities with his bloody spears,
And Venus, that releases human fears,
Do both together in one temple shine,
Both jointly honour'd in a common shrine;
But different statues, Mars a steel put on,
And Venus' figure a magnetic stone.
To them (as is the custom every year)
The priest doth celebrate a nuptial there.
The torch the quire doth lead, the threshold's green
With hallow'd myrtles, and the beds are seen
To smell with rosy flowers, the genial sheet
Spread over with a purple coverlet.
But here (O strange!) the statues seem'd to move,
And Cytherea runs to catch her love:
And like their former joys in heaven possest,
With wanton heat clings to her Mars's breast.
There hangs a grateful burden: then she throws
Her arms about his helmet, to enclose
Her love in amorous gyves: lest he get out,
Her live embraces chain him round about.
He, stirr'd with love, breath'd gently through his veins.
Is drawn by unseen links and secret chains
To meet his spoused gem; the air doth wed
The steel unto the stone: thus strangely led,
The deities their stol'n delights replay'd,
And only nature was the bridal maid.
What heat in these two metals did inspire
Such mutual league? what concord's powerful fire
Contracted their hard minds? the stone doth move
With amorous heat, the steel doth learn to love.
So Venus oft the god of war withstood,
And gives him milder looks, when hot with blood
He rages to the fight, fierce with desire,
And with drawn points whets up his active ire.
She dares go forth alone, and boldly meet
His foaming steeds, and with a winning greet
The tumour of his high-swollen breast assuage,
Temp'ring with gentle flames his violent rage.
Peace courts his soul, the fight he disavows,
And his red plumes he now to kisses bows.
Ah, cruel boy! large thy dominions be;
The gods and all their thunders yield to thee;
Great Jove to leave his heaven thou canst constrain,
And midst the brinish waves to love again.
Now the cold rocks thou strik'st, the senseless stone
Thy weapon feels; a lustful heat doth run
Through veins of flint; the steel thy power can tame,
And rigid marble must admit thy flame.

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