Christopher Marlowe

Here you will find the Long Poem Hero and Leander: The First Sestiad of poet Christopher Marlowe

Hero and Leander: The First Sestiad

1 On Hellespont, guilty of true love's blood,
2 In view and opposite two cities stood,
3 Sea-borderers, disjoin'd by Neptune's might;
4 The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
5 At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
6 Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,
7 And offer'd as a dower his burning throne,
8 Where she could sit for men to gaze upon.
9 The outside of her garments were of lawn,
10 The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;
11 Her wide sleeves green, and border'd with a grove,
12 Where Venus in her naked glory strove
13 To please the careless and disdainful eyes
14 Of proud Adonis, that before her lies;
15 Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,
16 Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.
17 Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,
18 From whence her veil reach'd to the ground beneath;
19 Her veil was artificial flowers and leaves,
20 Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives;
21 Many would praise the sweet smell as she past,
22 When 'twas the odour which her breath forth cast;
23 And there for honey bees have sought in vain,
24 And beat from thence, have lighted there again.
25 About her neck hung chains of pebble-stone,
26 Which lighten'd by her neck, like diamonds shone.
27 She ware no gloves; for neither sun nor wind
28 Would burn or parch her hands, but, to her mind,
29 Or warm or cool them, for they took delight
30 To play upon those hands, they were so white.
31 Buskins of shells, all silver'd, used she,
32 And branch'd with blushing coral to the knee;
33 Where sparrows perch'd, of hollow pearl and gold,
34 Such as the world would wonder to behold:
35 Those with sweet water oft her handmaid fills,
36 Which as she went, would chirrup through the bills.
37 Some say, for her the fairest Cupid pin'd,
38 And looking in her face, was strooken blind.
39 But this is true; so like was one the other,
40 As he imagin'd Hero was his mother;
41 And oftentimes into her bosom flew,
42 About her naked neck his bare arms threw,
43 And laid his childish head upon her breast,
44 And with still panting rock'd there took his rest.
45 So lovely-fair was Hero, Venus' nun,
46 As Nature wept, thinking she was undone,
47 Because she took more from her than she left,
48 And of such wondrous beauty her bereft:
49 Therefore, in sign her treasure suffer'd wrack,
50 Since Hero's time hath half the world been black.

51 Amorous Leander, beautiful and young
52 (Whose tragedy divine Musæus sung),
53 Dwelt at Abydos; since him dwelt there none
54 For whom succeeding times make greater moan.
55 His dangling tresses, that were never shorn,
56 Had they been cut, and unto Colchos borne,
57 Would have allur'd the vent'rous youth of Greece
58 To hazard more than for the golden fleece.
59 Fair Cynthia wish'd his arms might be her sphere;
60 Grief makes her pale, because she moves not there.
61 His body was as straight as Circe's wand;
62 Jove might have sipt out nectar from his hand.
63 Even as delicious meat is to the taste,
64 So was his neck in touching, and surpast
65 The white of Pelops' shoulder: I could tell ye,
66 How smooth his breast was, and how white his belly;
67 And whose immortal fingers did imprint
68 That heavenly path with many a curious dint
69 That runs along his back; but my rude pen
70 Can hardly blazon forth the loves of men,
71 Much less of powerful gods: let it suffice
72 That my slack Muse sings of Leander's eyes;
73 Those orient cheeks and lips, exceeding his
74 That leapt into the water for a kiss
75 Of his own shadow, and, despising many,
76 Died ere he could enjoy the love of any.
77 Had wild Hippolytus Leander seen,
78 Enamour'd of his beauty had he been.
79 His presence made the rudest peasant melt,
80 That in the vast uplandish country dwelt;
81 The barbarous Thracian soldier, mov'd with nought,
82 Was mov'd with him, and for his favour sought.
83 Some swore he was a maid in man's attire,
84 For in his looks were all that men desire,--
85 A pleasant smiling cheek, a speaking eye,
86 A brow for love to banquet royally;
87 And such as knew he was a man, would say,
88 "Leander, thou art made for amorous play;
89 Why art thou not in love, and lov'd of all?
90 Though thou be fair, yet be not thine own thrall."

91 The men of wealthy Sestos every year,
92 For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,
93 Rose-cheek'd Adonis, kept a solemn feast.
94 Thither resorted many a wandering guest
95 To meet their loves; such as had none at all
96 Came lovers home from this great festival;
97 For every street, like to a firmament,
98 Glister'd with breathing stars, who, where they went,
99 Frighted the melancholy earth, which deem'd
100 Eternal heaven to burn, for so it seem'd
101 As if another Pha{"e}