Early Modern Mythological Texts: Troia Britanica IV (1-50)

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO IV (1-50)

Stanzas 1-10 — 11-20 — 21-30 — 31-40 — 41-50 — 51-119



Jove Esculapius kills, Apollo drives

To keep Admetus’ sheep in Thessaly,

And next his beauteous sister Juno wives,

At her return from Crete to Parthemy,

The father with the son in battle strives,

But by his puissance is enforced to fly;

Acrisius keeps his daughter in a tower,

Which amorous Jove scales in a golden shower.


Argumentum 2

To divine Physic. Gods made first of men.

And Perseus’ birth, swift Delta guides my pen.



Thou divine art of Physic, let me sing

Thy honoured praise, and let my pen aspire

To give thee life that unto life canst bring

Men half departed. Whether thy first sire

Was that Prometheus, who from the Heavens’ King

Stole by his skill part of the vital fire

That kindles life in man, thereby to save

Sick men that stand with one foot in the grave,



Or whether Esculapius was thy father,

Son to the Sun-god, by whose lively heat

Simples and plants their saps and virtues gather,

Let it suffice I know thy power is great;

And my unable muse admires thee rather

Than comprehends thy worth. Let them entreat

Of thy perfection, that with fame profess thee,

And in their arts unto the life express thee.



As famous Butler, Paddy, Turner, Poe,

Atkinson, Lister, Lodge, who still survive,

Besides these English Galens thousands moe,

Who, where they come, death and diseases drive

From pale sick creatures; and all cordials know,

Spirits spent and wasted to preserve alive,

In this with gods and kings they are at strife,

Physicians, kings and gods alone give life.



Some hold young Mercury devised the skill

Of physic first and taught that art abroad,

Some unto Arabus impute it still,

Some yield that honour to th’ Egyptian God

Called Apis or Serapis; others will

Apollo chief, what time he made abode

With king Admetus, but most voices run,

The first renowned was Esculap’ his son.



Arabus, son

to Apollo



Hippocrates reduced it to an art,

Galen and Avicenna him succeed,

Cassius and Calpitanus too, impart

His sovereign skill, Rubrius taught first to bleed,

Antonius Musa cheered the wasted heart,

Arruntius too helped every grief at need:  

Archagatus professed this first in Rome,

But all submit to noble Galen’s doom.



The first that did this sacred art renown,

And gave him fame on earth was, as I read,

Great Esculape, who tracing up and down    

To gather simples in the flowery mead,

Hard by a rock that wears a bushy crown,

And ’bove the neighbour champion lifts his head,

He spies a swain in habit neat and brisk,

Hold battle with a dreadful basilisk.



The tale of




A monster that kills only with his eye

Which from th’unarmèd shepherd shrunk and ran,

Apollo’s son with wonder stands him nigh,

And thinks, or that no beast or this no man,

Admiring by what hidden deity 

The piercing cockatrice out-gaze he gan,

Unless by chance there lodged a virtue rare,

In some one simple in the wreath he ware.



All the strong armour ’gainst this horrid beast

Was but a chaplet which begirt his brain,

Which Esculape suspecting, much increased

His ardency to know what hidden strain

Slept in strange working herbs thus being possessed.

He begs the garland from the ignorant swain,

Who, now unwreathed, again the beast defies,

Who straight returns and kills him with her eyes.



Apollo’s son by certain proof now finds

Th’invirtued herbs have ’gainst such poison power,

To combat with the eye-killing beast he minds,

Thirsting for fame; the wreath with many a flower,

And herb, and plant, about his brain he binds,

And so with speed hastes to her rocky tower,

Scales her foul den, and threatens present war,

T’out-gaze her near, who seeing kills from far.



The big-swollen serpent with broad eyelids stares,

And through the air her subtle poison flings,

The sun’s-herb charmed, soon her venom dares,

And shrinks not at her perceant eyeballs’ stings.

The basilisk in her own strength despairs,

And to fly thence, she shakes her flaggy wings,

But his dart takes her as she meant to rise,

And pierced her heart that pierced hearts with her eyes.



Proud of this trophy, he returning sees

The harmless swain upon the ground lie dead,

Whom pitying, he descends unto his knees,

Taking the virtued chaplet from his head,

And herb by herb into his mouth doth squeeze,

And down his throat their powerful liquor shed,

But when the juice of one pure herb was drained,

The new departed life it back constrained.



Nor wonder if such force in herbs remain,

What cannot juice of divine simples bruised?

The dragon finding his young serpent slain,

Having th’ herb balin in his wounds infused,

Restores his life and makes him whole again.

Who taught the hart how dittany is used,

Who being pierced through the bones and marrow,

Can with that herb expel th’ offensive arrow?









Who taught the poor beast having poison tasted

To seek th’ herb cancer, and by that to cure him?

Who taught the boar finding his spirits wasted

To seek a branch of ivy to assure him?

The tortoise spied a dragon, and straight hasted

For savory, armed with which he can endure him,

Chiron found centaury, whose use is holy,

Achilles, yarrow, and great Hermes, moly.





savory or marjoram



The stork having a branch of organy,

Can with much ease the adder’s sting eschew

And when the little weasel chased doth fly

The dragon, he defends himself with rue,

Much might be done by their rare purity,

By such as all their operations knew.

No marvel then if such as know their skill,

Find by their practice, art to save or kill.



The basilisk and the revivèd swain,

With all the powerful herbs that life restore,

He bears to Paphos: they beholding slain

So horrible a monster known before,

Perceiving likewise how he called again

Men dead to life: his person they adore.

Now Esculapius’ name is sounded high,

Through the vast compass of the spacious sky.



And whether envious of this Prince’s name,

Fitting the humorous world with such applauses,

Or whether for receiving such as came

From the last field: or at what carping clauses

Jove was aggrieved at Esculapius’ fame,

I find no certain ground but for some causes

Unknown to me, he Paphos doth invade,

And great Apollo to his son gives aid.



But Saturn’s seed prevails: much blood he spills

To quench the heat of his incensèd ire,

Paphos he sacks, and Esculapius kills.

Oh, where’s the art that made thy name aspire,

Whose fame, sea, earth, and heaven with clangour fills?

To others thou gav’st life, now life desirest,

In vain alas, when heaven hath doomed thy date

Prepare thy soul, all physic comes too late.



Besides this sentence, I pronounce on high

There is no strife with heaven: when their hours call,

Physicians must as well as patients die,

And meet at the great judgment general.

Paphos is spoiled, Apollo forced to fly,

The Cretans him pursue, he scapes them all

Disguised, and is in exile forced to keep

In Thessaly the king Admetus’ sheep.



I told you erst how Saturn reinvested

Into Parthemia, for bright Juno sent

There, with her unknown brothers to be feasted,

And how Athenian Neptune had intent

To meet with Pluto there. Things thus digested,

Triumphant Jove, now full of grief ostent,

For his late conquest in his breathed defiance,

Is in all pomp received by his alliance.



Chiefly by twin-born Juno, not alone

His sister, now his trothplight queen and bride,

Their long divided bodies they atone

And enter amorous parley, which espied

By Saturn, speedy pursuivants are gone

To all the bordering kings to them allied,

Unto their solemn spousals to invite

King, Prince, Duke, Marquess, Baron, Lord and Knight.


Jupiter married

to Juno



Metis, the daughter of Oceanus,

They say, was Jove’s first wife, whom being great

He swallowed, lest of her being childed thus,

One should be born to lift him from his seat.

By this the god grows more than tympanus,

And swelling with the same, with throes did sweat,

Till after anguish, and much travelling pain,

The armèd Pallas leapt out of his brain.


Bibliotheca, I 



Johannes Diaconus



Metis devoured, he Themis takes to bed.

Espousing her within the Gnossean isle,

There where the flood Therenus lifts his head,

His third wife Juno, whom he won by guile, 

Jove knowing it unlawful was to wed

His sister—by his godhood in small while

Transforms himself, and like a cuckoo flies

Where Juno tastes the pleasure of the skies.







Apollonius Rhodius



But at his beck the king of gods and men,

Commands a storm the welkin to o’ercast,

At which the cuckoo trembling shrinketh then

Her legs beneath her wings. Juno at last

Pities the fearful bird, who quakes again,

And wraps it softly, till the storm was past,

In her warm skirt, when Jove within few hours

Takes heart, turns god and the fair queen deflowers.



After which rape he takes her to his bride,

And though some think her barren without heirs, 

Some, more judicious, have such tales denied—

Gods that know all things, know their own affairs

And what they will, their powerful wisdoms guide.

Their children Preces were, whom we call prayers,

These dwell on earth, but when they mount the spheres

Have free access to Jove their father’s ears.

Pausanias, “Corinth”





Orpheus in Argonautica

Hermesianax, elegorum scriptor



Imagine all the pomp the sea can yield,

Or air afford, or earth bestow on man,

Sea’s fish, air’s fowl, beast both of park and field, 

Rarieties flowed in abundance then.

Nature and Art strive which is deeplier skilled,

Or in these pompous nuptials better can:

Twixt these being more than mortal seem small odds

And the high sumptuous shows made by the gods.



Night comes, a daughter is begot, and named

Hebe, the long-lived feast at length expires,

Great Jupiter and Juno are proclaimed

Parthemian king and queen; Neptune desires

To visit Athens, being likewise named

Th’ Athenian King, his blood ambition fires.

Pluto departs, in Tartary to dwell,

There founds a devilish town and calls it Hell.






No day so clear but dark night must ensue,

Death is the end of life, and care of pleasure.

Pain follows ease, and sorrows joy pursue,

Save not to want, I know not what is treasure.

The gods that scourge the false, and crown the true,

Darkness and light in equal balance measure.

Tides fall to ebbs, the world is a mere grange,

Where all things brook decay, and covet change.



Not long these triumphs last, when Saturn seeing

Parthemian Jove such general fame achieve,

Outshining him, he envies at his being—

Still fear is apt things threatened to believe.

But when the oracle with this agreeing

He calls to mind, his soul doth inly grieve,

For this is he whom Delphos did foretell,

Should Saturn from his crown and realm expel.



Now turns he love to hate, his joy to sadness,

His father’s pity, to a foeman’s spite,

His pleasure to despair, his mirth to madness.

In tears he spends the day, in sighs the night,

To spleen his fears convert, to grief his gladness,

And all to melancholy is sad affright.

Nor can his troubled senses be appeased,

Till as a traitor he prince Jove has ceased.



He therefore musters up a secret power

Of his unwilling subjects, to surprise

Jove in Parthemia. Jove ascends a tower

At the same time, and from afar espies

Their armèd troops the fields and champions scour.

From every quarter clouds of thick smoke rise,

No way he can his eyes or body turn,

But he sees cities blaze and hamlets burn.


War twixt 

Saturn and




More mad with anger than with rage dismayed,

From that high tower he in haste descends,

To know what bold foe dares his realms invade,

And ’gainst his peaceful kingdom envy bends.

Tidings is brought, great Saturn hath displayed

His hostile fury, and his wrack intends.

But Jove, that in his father’s grace affied

Swears he shall die, that hath his name belied.



It bears no face of truth, no shape of reason,

A father should a guiltless son pursue,

A son that hath his father saved from treason,

And but so late his dangerous enemies slew,

From whose embracing arms he for a season,

With much unwillingness himself withdrew.

All things well poised, he cannot yet debate,

How such hot love so soon should change to hate.



But whilst he argues thus, behold his foes

With armèd ranks begirt Parthemia round,

’Mongst whom the prince his father Saturn knows

And hears his warlike tunes to battle sound.

He now forgets the filial zeal he owes,

And cries “To arms!” their fury to confound,

But then again into himself retiring,

He to his father sends, his peace desiring.



Twice his submission to king Saturn came,

Twice his submission he returns in scorn,

Then Jove his protestation doth proclaim,

That with unwillingness his arms were born,

Loath with his sire to fight, more loath with shame,

By his bold foes, to have his kingdom torn,

Which to make good as Saturn erst had vowed,

They charge and cry “Assault!” with clamours loud.



Since no entreaty can prevail, he rather

Than trust to certain death, must battle wage.

Archas with him their stern Parthemians gather,

And issue boldly, to withstand the rage

Of their known malice. Twice Jove meets his father,

Twice gives him place, yet nothing can assuage

His settled hate; he threats the prince to kill,

Who whilst he strikes, bears off and guardeth still.



And seeks out other conquest ’mongst the troops,

Of men unnumbered, where his valour shines,

The strongest champion to his fury stoops,

And where he proffers war his stand resigns,

That now the pride of Saturn flags and droops,

Archas his forces with prince Jove combines,

And make one host of able strength and fear,

Before them as they fight the field to clear.



So have I seen a storm of hail and rain,

With thick tempestuous clouds of night and smoke,

Before it lay the fields of standing grain,

And top the stiff bows from the tallest oak.

So where they come these princes smooth the plain,

Making the green leaves wear a crimson cloak:

The scarlet drops that from the wounded slide,

Into deep red, the spring-tide’s livery dyed.



They still pursue the slaughter, Saturn flies,

Him Archas hotly to the seaside chases,

But in a creek a new-rigged ship he spies,

And scapes by sea; his swift steps Archas traces,

But all in vain, the gentle gusts arise

And bear him from the sight of his disgraces.

Leave we the conquered father basely fled,

The conquering son, triumphant ’mongst the dead.



Who from Parthemia posts in haste to Crete,

To seize unto his use his father’s crown,

The Cretans him with olive branches meet,

For who at prosperous fortunes dare to frown?

The sceptre and themselves too, at his feet

With one consent and voice they prostrate down,

His person with applause they circle round,

Thus Jove and Juno, king and queen are crowned.



So without threatened arms or rude hostility,

In greater pomp, and more degrees of state,

By England’s commons and our high nobility,

Was royal James ’mongst us received of late,

With his queen Anne, to the realm’s large utility,

O, may their days on earth have endless date:

Instead of olive branches, entertained

With zeal, with loyal thoughts, and hearts unfeigned.




King James and

Queen Anne



Some say Jove gelded Saturn, and surrendered

His procreative parts into the Ocean,

Of which the goddess Venus was engendered,

Betwixt them and the sea’s continual motion.

I think such superstitious people tendered

Unto these idle dreams too much devotion:

Else by this moral, signify they would,

He ’mongst his soldiers dealt his father’s gold.



And from this plenty surfeits ’mongst them grew,

Lascivious gestures, lust that had no measure,

And in this kind, appears the moral true:

For oft excess begets unlawful pleasure.

And so the froth-born Venus might accrue,

And be begot by Saturn’s gelded treasure.

So sacred spells are writ in parchment tables,

So golden truths are meant, in leaden fables.



Opinion strongly ’mongst the heathen reigns,

And hath continued from the longest season.

I searched the judgments of some idle brains,

That no religion like but built on reason,

To know what strength it hath, when it restrains

Some men in loyal bonds, fills some with treason,

But found their censures vary from the right,

For thus th’irregular profanely wright.



Opinion judgeth all by apparition,

And from Opinion, shame or honour springs,

Opinion, thou that art all superstition,

Thou makest beggars, or pronouncest kings;

For why should man to man make low submission,

Since each of us his line from Adam brings?

Having at first, one father, and one mother,

What duty owes a brother to a brother?




The opinion

of some idle



What’s wealth to him that nothing doth esteem it?

What’s to the dunghill cock the pearl he found?

Give him a grain of barley and he’ll deem it

A richer prize. What differs gold from ground

To him that hath no judgment to esteem it?

Or diamonds from glass? Search the world round,

Nothing is precious held, but what’s thought best,

Nothing acquired, but what’s in most request.



Opinion’s all. Say, I this man adore:

He is to me a king though but a slave,

Or if a king, of him that bows no more

Or holds him none, the style he cannot have.

Religion is Opinion too. Before

Religion was, man worshipped every grave,

And in these days, through all the world’s dominions,

We see as many churches as opinions.



Opinion first made kings, first founded laws,

First did divide the gentle from the base,

First bounded man in compass for, because

Men thought it good, they gave Opinion place.

From this comes all contempt and all applause,

Reverence to some, and unto some disgrace.

This, peace compounds, or concord turns to odds,

This, first damned devils, first created gods.



This breeds the Atheist’s scorn, the Christian’s fear,

The Arrian’s error, Pagans’ misbelief,

This makes the Turk his Alcoran to hear,

Breeds in the bold presumption: penitent, grief.

This made the Jews their saviour Christ forswear,

Despising him, choose Barrabas the thief.

Hence came the Persian Haly, long agone,

Differing from his the sect of Prester John.



Hence comes the Protestant to be divided

From triple-crownèd Rome: a long-lived war

Not yet by arms or arguments decided.

Hence came the Catholics ’mongst themselves to jar,

Hence, diverse orders, diverse ways are guided.

Some Jacobins, and some Franciscans are;

Templers, Capuccians, friars both black and grey,

Monks and the Jesuits, bearing the most sway.



In our reformèd Church too, a new man

Is in few years crept up, in strange disguise

And called the self-opinioned Puritan,

A fellow that can bear himself precise,

No church supremacy endure he can,

No orders in the bishop’s diocese.

He keeps a starchèd gait, wears a small ruff,

A nosegay, set face and a poted cuff.


Back to Canto III (1-50 & 51-100)

Notes to Canto IV

On to Canto IV (51-119)

How to cite

Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, ed., 2014.  Troia Britanica Canto IV, 1-50 (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).



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