Venus and Adonis


William Shakespeare

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Venus and Adonis Page 01

by William Shakespeare
'Villa miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.'
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 burthen: 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 expectation.
Your honour's in all duty,

EVEN as the sun with purple-colour'd face
Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek'd Adonis tried him to the chase;
Hunting he lov'd, but love he laugh'd to scorn;        4
  Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
  And like a bold-fac'd suitor 'gins to woo him.
'Thrice fairer than myself,' thus she began,
'The field's chief flower, sweet above compare,        8
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 strife,
  Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.     12
'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:             16
Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses;
And being set, I'll smother thee with kisses:
'And yet not cloy thy lips with loath'd satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty,             20
Making them red and pale with fresh variety;
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:
  A summer's day will seem an hour but short,
  Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.'         24
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:         28
  Being so enrag'd, desire doth lend her force
  Courageously to pluck him from his horse.
Over one arm the lusty courser's rein
Under her other was the tender boy,                   32
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 desire.             36
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 thrust,
  And govern'd him in strength, though not in lust.
So soon was she along, as he was down,
Each leaning on their elbows and their hips:          44
Now doth she stroke his cheek, now doth he frown,
And 'gins to chide, but soon she stops his lips;
And kissing speaks, with lustful language broken,
'If thou wilt chide, thy lips shall never open.'      48
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:             52
  He saith she is immodest, blames her miss;
  What follows more she murders with a kiss.
Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast,
Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh and bone,      56
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 chin,
And where she ends she doth anew begin.               60
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;         64
  Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers
  So they were dewd with such distilling showers.
William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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