Early Modern Mythological Texts: Troia Britanica IX

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)


Stanzas 1-3 — The Epistle of Paris to Helen [lines 1-49, 50-99, 100-49, 150-99, 200-49, 250-99, 300-49, 350-99, 400-49, 450-99500-49, 550-99, 600-49, 650-59] — [Heywood’s commentary on the epistles] — [Heywood’s excerpts from Ovid’s Art of Love]

Ed. Yves PEYRÉ



Paris departs from Troy, and Greece doth enter,

 Whom Menelaus welcomes, having seen.

The king is called thence by a strange adventure,

And to his Trojan guest he trusts his queen.

Paris fair Helen loves and doth present her

With a long suit to heal his wound yet green.

   First Paris writes, she answers; then with joy

   Greece they forsake and both are shipped for Troy.


Argumentum 2

Bright Helen courted, Paris’ birth and fate,

With his love tricks, Iota shall relate.



Who can describe the purity of those

Whose beauties are by sacred virtues guided,

Or who their ugly pictures that oppose

Their beauties against chastity divided?

Proud Lucifer an angel was, but chose

Vice, virtue to eschew, and from Heaven slided;

   Women like him in shape angelical

   Are angels while they stand, devils when they fall.



Their gifts, well used, have power t’enchant the wise,

To daunt the bold and ruinate the strong;

Which, well applied, can make the ruined rise,

The coward valiant, [the] weak to taste no wrong.

They are all poison when they wantonize,

All sovereign where there’s virtue mixed among;

   Chaste, nothing better; wanton, nothing worse,

   The grateful’st blessing or the greatest curse.



Had Spartan Helen been as chaste as fair,

Her virtue sooner might have raised a Troy

Than her loose gestures, great without compare,

Had power so rich a city to destroy.

By this time, all the Trojans landed are,

And Paris of the queen received with joy,

   To whom th’enamored prince in private sends

   These lines, in which his duty he commends.


The Epistle of Paris to Helen



Health unto Leda’s daughter; Priam’s son

Sends in these lines, whose health cannot be won

But by your gift, in whose power it may lie

To make me whole or sick, to live or die.

Shall I then speak? Or doth my flame appear

Plain without index? O, ’tis that I fear:

My love without discovering smile takes place

And more than I could wish shines in my face,

When I could rather in my thought desire



To hide the smoke till time display the fire;

Time, that can make the fire of love shine clear,

Untroubled with the misty smoke of fear.

But I dissemble it, for who, I pray,

Can fire conceal, that will itself betray?

Yet, if you look, I should affirm that plain

In words, which in my countenance I maintain:

I burn, I burn, my fault I have confessed,

My words bear witness how my looks transgressed.

O pardon me, that have confessed my error,



Cast not upon my lines a look of terror,

But as your beauty is beyond compare,

Suit unto that your looks, O you, most fair!

That you my letter have received by this,

The supposition glads me and I wish,

By hope encouraged, hope that makes me strong,

You will receive me in some sort ere long.

I ask no more than what the Queen of Beauty

Hath promised me, for you are mine by duty,

By her I claim you, you for me were made,



And she it was my journey did persuade.

Nor, Lady, think your beauty vainly sought:

I by divine instinct was hither brought

And to this enterprise the heavenly powers

Have given consent: the gods proclaim me yours.

I aim at wonders, for I covet you,

Yet pardon me, I ask but what’s my due.

Venus herself my journey hither led

And gives you freely to my promised bed.

Under her safe conduct the seas I passed,



Till I arrived upon these coasts at last,

Shipping myself from the Sigean shore,

Whence unto these confines my course I bore.

She made the surges gentle, the winds fair;

Nor marvel whence these calms proceeded are:

Needs must she power upon the salt seas have,

That was sea-borne, created from a wave.

Still may she potent stand in her ability,

And as she made the seas with much facility

To be through-sailed, so may she calm my heat,



And bear my thoughts to their desirèd seat.

My flames I found not here, no, I protest,

I brought them with me closèd in my breast.

Myself transported then without attorney,

Love was the motive to my tedious journey;

Not blustering winter when he triumphed most,

Nor any error drove me to this coast,

Nor led by Fortune where the rough winds please,

Nor merchant-like for gain crossed I the seas;

Fullness of wealth in all my fleet I see,



I am rich in all things, save in wanting thee.

No spoil of petty nations my ship seeks,

Nor land I as a spy among the Greeks:

What need we? See, of all things we have store,

Compared with Troy, alas, your Greece is poor.

For thee I come, thy fame hath thus far driven me,

Whom golden Venus hath by promise given me.

I wished thee ere I knew thee, long ago;

Before these eyes dwelt on this glorious show,

I saw thee in my thoughts; know, beauteous Dame,



I first beheld you with the eyes of Fame;

Nor marvel, Lady, I was struck so far:

Thus darts or arrows sent from bows of war

Wound a great distance off; so was I hit

With a deep smarting wound that rankles yet,

For so it pleased the Fates, whom, lest you blame,

I’ll tell a true tale to confirm the same


   When in my mother’s womb full ripe I lay,

Ready the first hour to behold the day

And she at point to be delivered straight



And to unlade her of her royal freight,

My birth-hour was delayed and that sad night,

A fearful vision did the queen affright:

In a son’s stead to please the aged sire,

She dreamt she had brought forth a brand of fire.

Frighted, she rises and to Priam goes,

To the old king this ominous dream she shows;

He to the priest; the priest doth this return,

That the child born shall stately Ilium burn.

Better than he was ’ware the prophet guessed,



Hecuba’s dream 


For lo, a kindled brand flames in my breast.

To prevent Fate, a peasant I was held,

Till my fair shape all other swains excelled

And gave the doubtful world assurance good

Your Paris was derived from royal blood.


   Amid the Idean fields, there is a place,

Remote, full of high trees which hide the face

Of the green-mantled earth, where, in thick rows,

The oak, the elm, the pine, the pitch-tree grows;

Here never yet did browse the wanton ewe,


To prevent the oracle, Paris was cast out among the shepherds of Ida



Nor from this plot the slow ox lick the dew;

The savage goat that feeds among the rocks

Hath not grazed here, nor any of their flocks.

Hence the Dardanian walls I might espy,

The lofty towers of Ilium rearèd by,

Hence I the seas might from the firm land see,

Which to behold, I leant me to a tree.

Believe me, for I speak but what is true,

Down from the skies with feathered pinions flew

The nephew to great Atlas, and doth stand








The vision of Paris


With golden caduceus in his hand—

This, as the gods to me thought good to show,

I hold it good that you the same should know—

Three goddesses behind young Hermes move,

Great Juno, Pallas, and the queen of love,

Who, as in pomp and pride of gait they pass,

Scarce with their weight, they bend the tops of grass.

Amazed, I start and endlong stands my hair,

When Maia’s son thus says: “Abandon fear,

Thou, courteous swain that to these groves repairest,




Juno, Pallas, and Venus


And freely judge which of these three is fairest”;

And lest I should this curious sentence shun,

He tells me by Jove’s sentence all is done,

And to be judge I no way can eschew.

This having said, up through the air he flew.

I straight take heart agrace and grow more bold,

And there their beauties one by one behold.

Why am I made the judge to give this doom?

Methinks all three are worthy to o’ercome;

To injure two such beauties, what tongue dare,



Or prefer one where they be all so fair?

Now this seems fairest, now again that other;

Now would I speak, and now my thoughts I smother,

And yet, at length, the praise of one most sounded,

And from that one my present love is grounded.

The goddesses, out of their earnest care

And pride of beauty to be held most fair,

Seek with large arms and gifts of wondrous price

To their own thoughts my censure to entice.

Juno, the wife of Jove, doth first enchant me:



To judge her fairest, she a crown will grant me.

Pallas, his daughter, next doth undertake me:

Give her the price, and valiant she will make me.

I straight devise which can most pleasure bring,

To be a valiant soldier or a king?

Last, Venus, smiling, came with such a grace

As if she swayed an empire in her face.

“Let not”, said she, “these gifts the conquest bear;

Combats and kingdoms are both fraught with fear.

I’ll give thee what thou lovest best, lovely swain,



The surest saint that doth on earth remain

Shall be thine own, make thou the conquest mine,

Fair Leda’s fairest daughter shall be thine”.

This said, when with myself I had devised,

And her rich gift and beauty jointly prized,

Venus victor o’er the rest is placed,

Juno and Pallas leave the mount disgraced.

Meantime my Fates a prosperous course had run,

And by known signs, king Priam called me son;

The day of my restoring is kept holy



Among the saints’ days, consecrated solely

To my remembrance, being a day of joy

For ever, in the calendars of Troy.


   As I wish you, I have been wished by others;

The fairest maids by me would have been mothers.

Of all my favours I bestowed not any,

You only may enjoy the loves of many.

Nor by the daughters of great dukes and kings

Have I alone been sought, whose marriage rings

I have turned back, but by a strain more high,



By Nymphs and Fairies, such as never die.

No sooner were you promised as my due,

But I, all heated to remember you,

Waking, I saw your image; if I dreamt,

Your beauteous figure still appeared to tempt

And urge this voyage. Till your face excelling,

These eyes beheld, my dreams were all of Helen.

Imagine how your face should now incite me,

Being seen, that unseen did so much delight me.

If I was scorched so far off from the fire,



How am I burnt to cinders thus much nigher.

Nor could I longer owe my self this treasure,

But through the ocean I must search my pleasure.

The Phrygian hatchets to the roots are put

Of the Idean pines, asunder cut;

The woodland mountain yielded me large fees,

Being despoiled of all her tallest trees,

From whence we have squared out unnumbered beams

That must be washed within the marine streams.

The grounded oaks are bowed, though stiff as steel,



And to the tough ribs is the bending keel

Woven by shipwright’s craft, then the main mast,

Across whose middle is the sail yard placed;

Tackles and sails; and next you may discern

Our painted gods upon the hookèd stern.

The god that bears me on my happy way

And is my guide, is Cupid. Now the day

In which the last stroke of the hammer’s heard

Within our navy, in the East appeared,

And I must now launch forth—so the Fates please—



To seek adventures in the Egean seas.

My father and my mother move delay

And by entreaties would enforce my stay;

They hang about my neck, and with their tears

Woo me defer my journey. But their fears

Can have no power to keep me from thy sight.

And now Cassandra, full of sad affright,

With loose, dishevelled trammels, madly skips

Just in the way between me and my ships:

“O whither wilt thou headlong run?” she cries.



“Thou bearest fire with thee, whose smoke up flies

Unto the heavens. O Jove! Thou little fearest

What quenchless flames thou through the water bearest.”

Cassandra was too true a prophetess;

The quenchless flames she spake of—I confess—

My hot desires, burn in my breast so fast

That no red furnace hotter flames can cast.


   I pass the city gates, my bark I board;

The favourable winds calm gales afford

And fill my sails; unto your land I steer,



For whither else his course should Paris bear?

Your husband entertains me as his guest,

And all this happ’neth by the gods’ behest.

He shows me all his pastures, parts, and fields,

And every rare thing Lacedaemon yields.

He holds himself much pleased with my being,

And nothing hides that he esteems worth seeing.

I am on fire till I behold your face,

Of all Achaia’s kingdom the sole grace;

All other curious objects I defy,

The entertainment of Paris


Nothing but Helen can content mine eye,

Whom, when I saw, I stood transformed with wonder,

Senseless, as one struck dead by Jove’s sharp thunder.   

As I revive, my eyes I roll and turn,

Whilst my flamed thoughts with hotter fancies burn;

Even so, as I remember, looked Love’s Queen,

When she was last in Phrygian Ida seen,

Unto which place by Fortune I was trained,

Where by my censure she the conquest gained.

But had you made a fourth in that contention,



Of Venus’ beauty there had been no mention;

Helen assuredly had born from all

The prize of beauty, the bright golden ball.


   Only of you may this your kingdom boast,

By you it is renowned in every coast.

Rumour hath everywhere your beauty blazed;

In what remote clime is not Helen praised?

From the bright Eastern sun’s uprise, inquire,

Even to his downfall where he slakes his fire,

There lives not any of your sex that dare



Contend with you that are proclaimed so fair.

Trust me, for truth I speak. Nay, what’s most true,

Too sparingly the world hath spoke of you;

Fame, that hath undertook your name to blaze,

Played but the envious huswife in your praise.

More than report could promise or fame blazon

Are these divine perfections that I gaze on.

These were the same that made Duke Theseus lavish,

Who in thy prime and nonage did thee ravish,

A worthy rape for such a worthy man,








Helen at nine years of age ravished by Theseus


Thrice happy ravisher, to seize thee then,

When thou wert stripped stark naked to the skin—

A sight of force to make the gods to sin—

Such is your country’s guise at seasons when

With naked ladies they mix naked men.

That he did steal thee from thy friends, I praise him

And for that deed, I to the Heavens will raise him.

That he returned thee back, by Jove, I wonder!

Had I been Theseus, he that should asunder

Have parted us, or snatched thee from my bed,

A custom in Peloponnesus, the province in which Lacedaemon stands


First from my shoulders should have pared my head.

So rich a purchase, such a glorious prey,

Should constantly have been detained for aye.

Could these my strong arms possibly unclasp

Whilst in their amorous folds they Helen grasp,

Neither by free constraint nor by free giving

Could you depart that compass, and I living.

But if by rough enforce I must restore you,

Some fruits of love—which I so long have bore you—

I first would reap, and some sweet favour gain,



That all my suit were not bestowed in vain.

Either with me you should abide and stay,

Or for your pass your maidenhead should pay.

Or, say I spared you that, yet would I try

What other favour I could else come by:

All that belongs to love I would not miss,

You should not let me both to clip and kiss.


   Give me your heart, fair Queen, my heart you owe,

And what my resolution is, you know:

Till the last fire my breathless body take,



The fire within my breast can never slake;

Before large kingdoms I preferred your face,

And Juno’s love, and potent gifts disgrace;

To fold you in my amorous arms I choosed

And Pallas’ virtues scornfully refused,

When they, with Venus, in the hill of Ide,

Made me the judge their beauties to decide.

Nor do I yet repent me, having took

Beauty and strength and sceptered rule forsook:

Methinks I choosed the best, nor think it strange;



I still persist, and never mean to change.

Only that my employment be not vain,

O you, more worth than any Empire’s gain,

Let me entreat, lest you my birth should scorn,

Or parentage: know I am royal born.

By marrying me, you shall not wrong your state,

Nor be a wife to one degenerate.

Search the records where we did first begin

And you shall find the Pleiades of our kin.

Nay, Jove himself, all others to forbear,



That in our stock renownèd princes were.

My father of all Asia reigns sole king,

Whose boundless coast scarce any feathered wing

Can give a girdle to; a happier land

A neighbour to the ocean cannot stand.

There, in a narrow compass, you may see

Cities and towers more than may numbered be;

The houses gilt, rich temples that excel,

And you will say I near the great gods dwell.

You shall behold high Ilium’s lofty towers



And Troy’s brave walls built by immortal powers

But made by Phoebus, the great god of fire

And by the touch of his melodious lyre.

If we have people to inhabit when

The sad earth groans to bear such troops of men,

Judge, Helen, likewise when you come to land,

The Asian women shall admiring stand,

Saluting thee with welcome, more and less

In pressing throngs and numbers numberless,

More than our courts can hold. Of you, most fair,



You to yourself will say, “Alas, how bare

And poor Achaia is”, when, with great pleasure,

You see each house contain a city’s treasure.


   Mistake me not, I Sparta do not scorn,

I hold the land blessed where my love was born;

Though barren else, rich Sparta Helen bore,

And therefore I that province must adore.

Yet is your land, methinks, but lean and empty,

You, worthy of a clime that flows with plenty

Full. Troy, I prostrate it, is yours by duty.



This petty seat becomes not your rich beauty.

Attendance, preparation, courtesy, state

Fit such a heavenly form, on which should wait

Cost, fresh variety, delicious diet,

Pleasure, contentment and luxurious riot.

What ornaments we use, what fashions feign,

You may perceive by me and my proud train;

Thus we attire our men, but with more cost

Of gold and pearl, the rich gowns are embossed

Of our chief ladies; guess by what you see;



You may be soon induced to credit me.


   Be tractable, fair Spartan, nor contemn

A Trojan born, derived from royal stem.

He was a Trojan, and allied to Hector,

That waits upon Jove’s cup and fills him nectar.

A Trojan did the fair Aurora wed

And nightly slept within her roseate bed;

The goddess that ends night and enters day

From our fair Trojan coast stole him away.

Anchises was a Trojan, whom Love’s Queen,











Making the trees of Ida a thick screen

’Twixt Heaven and her, oft lay with. View me well,

I am a Trojan too, in Troy I dwell.

Thy husband Menelaus hither bring,

Compare our shapes, our years, and everything,

I make you judgess, wrong me if you can,

You needs must say I am the properer man.

None of my line hath turned the sun to blood

And robbed his steeds of their ambrosial food.

My father grew not from the Caucase rock,



Nor shall I graft you in a bloody stock.

Priam ne’er wronged the guiltless soul, or, further,

Made the Myrtoan sea look red with murder.

Nor thirsteth my great-grand-sire in the lake

Of Lethe, chin-deep, yet no thirst can slake;

Nor after ripened apples vainly skips,

Who fly him still and yet still touch his lips.

But what of this? If he be so derived,

You, notwithstanding, are no right deprived,

You grace your stock and being so divine,

Myrtoan is a part of the sea betwixt the Ionium and Egeum


Jove is of force compelled into his line.


   O mischief! Whilst I vainly speak of this,

Your husband, all unworthy of such bliss,

Enjoys you this long night, enfolds your waist

And where he list may boldly touch and taste.

So when you sat at table, many a toy

Passeth between you my vexed soul t’annoy.

At such high feasts I wish my enemy sit,

Where discontent attends on every bit;

I never yet was placed at any feast



But oft it irked me that I was your guest.

That which offends me most, thy rude lord knows,

For still his arm about thy neck he throws,

Which I no sooner spy but I grow mad

And hate the man, whose courting makes me sad.

Shall I be plain? I am ready to sink down

When I behold him wrap you in his gown,

While you sit smiling on his amorous knee,

His fingers press where my hands itch to be;

But when he hugs you, I am forced to frown,



The meat I am eating will by no means down

But sticks half way. Amidst these discontents,

I have observed you laugh at my laments

And with a scornful, yet a wanton smile,

Deride my sighs and groans. Oft to beguile

My passions and to quench my fiery rage,

By quaffing healths I’ve thought my flame t’assuage,

But Bacchus’ full cups make my flame burn higher:

Add wine to love and you add fire to fire.

To shun the sight of many a wanton feat



Betwixt your lord and you, I shift my seat

And turn my head, but thinking of your grace,

Love screws my head to gaze back on your face.

What were I best to do? To see you play

Mads me, and I perforce must turn away;

And to forbear the place where you abide

Would kill me dead, should I but start aside.

As much as lies in me I strive to bury

The shape of love; in mirth’s spite I seem merry.

But O, the more I seek it to suppress,



The more my blabbing looks my love profess.


   You know my love, which I in vain should hide;

Would God it did appear to none beside!

O, Jove, how often have I turned my cheek

To hide th’apparent tears that passage seek

From forth my eyes, and to a corner stepped

Lest any man should ask wherefore I wept.

How often have I told you piteous tales

Of constant lovers and how love prevails,

When such great heed to my discourse I took



That every accent suited to your look.

In forgèd names myself I represented;

The lover so perplexed and so tormented,

If you will know, behold, I am the same:

Paris was meant in that true lover’s name.

As often, that I might the more securely

Speak loose, immodest words that sound impurely,

That they offenceless might your sweet ears touch,

I have lisped them out like one had drunk too much.

Once, I remember, your loose veil betrayed



Your naked skin and a fair passage made

To my enamoured eye; O, skin much brighter

Than snow or purest milk, in colour whiter

Than your fair mother Leda when Jove graced her;

Whilst at this ravishing sight I stand amazed

And without interruption freely gazed,

The wreathed handle of the bowl I grasped

Fell from my hold, my strengthless hand unclasped;

A goblet at that time I held by chance

And down it fell, for I was in a trance.



Kiss your fair daughter, and to her I skip

And snatch your kisses from your sweet child’s lip.

Sometimes I throw myself along and lie

Singing love songs, and if you cast your eye

On my effeminate gesture, I still find

Some pretty, covered signs to speak my mind;

And then my earnest suit bluntly invades

Aethra and Clymenea, your two chief maids,

But they return me answers full of fear

And to my motions lend no further ear.





   O, that you were the prize of some great strife

And he that wins might claim you for his wife!

Hippomenes with swift At’lanta ran

And at one course the goal and lady wan;

Even she, by whom so many suitors perished,

Was in the bosom of her new love cherished;

So Hercules for Deianira strove,

Brake Achelous’ horn and gained his love.

Had I such liberty, such freedom granted,

My resolution never could be daunted.



Yourself should find, and all the world should see

Helen, a prize alone, reserved for me.

There is not left me any means, most fair,

To court you now, but by entreats and prayer,

Unless—as it becomes me—you think meet

That I should prostrate fall and kiss your feet.

O, all the honour that our last age wins,

Then glory of the two Tyndarian twins,

Worthy to be Jove’s wife in Heaven to reign,

Were you not Jove’s own daughter, of his strain!



To the Sigean confines I will carry thee

And in the temple of great Pallas marry thee

Or in this island where I vent my moans,

I’ll beg a tomb for my exilèd bones.

My wound is not a slight raze with an arrow,

But it hath pierced my heart and burnt my marrow.

This prophecy my sister oft hath sounded

That by an heavenly dart I should be wounded.

O, then, forbear, fair Helen, to oppose you

Against the gods: they say I shall not lose you.



Yield you to their behest and you shall find

The gods to your petitions likewise kind.

A thousand things at once are in my brain,

Which that I may essentially complain

And not in papers empty all my head,

Anon at night receive me to your bed.

Blush you at this, or, Lady, do you fear

To violate the nuptial laws austere?

O, simple Helen, foolish, I might say,

What profit reap you to be chaste, I pray?



Is’t possible that you, a world to win,

Should keep that face, that beauty, without sin?

Rather you must your glorious face exchange

For one less fair or else not seem so strange.

Beauty and chastity at variance are;

’Tis hard to find one woman chaste and fair.

Venus will not have beauty over awed,

High Jove himself stolen pleasures will applaud

And by such thievish pastimes we may gather

How Jove ’gainst wedlock laws became your father.



He and your mother Leda both transgressed

When you were got, she bare a tender breast.

What glory can you gain love’s sweets to smother

Or to be counted chaster than your mother?

Profess strict chastity when, with great joy,

I lead you as my bride espoused through Troy.

Then I entreat you rein your pleasure in,

I wish thy Paris may be all thy sin.

If Cytherea her firm covenant keep,

Though I within your bosom nightly sleep,



We shall not much misdo, but so offend

That we by marriage may our guilt amend.


   Your husband hath himself this business aided;

And though, not with his tongue, he hath persuaded

By all his deeds, as much, lest he should stay

Our private meetings, he is far away,

Of purpose rid unto the farthest west,

That he might leave his wife unto his guest.

No fitter time he could have found to visit

The Chrisean royal sceptre and to seize it.



O, simple, simple husband! But he’s gone

And going, left you this to think upon:

“Fair wife”, quoth he, “I prethee, in my place,

Regard the Trojan prince and do him grace”.

Behold, a witness I against you stand,

You have been careless of his kind command.

Count from his first day’s journey, never since

Did you regard or grace the Trojan prince.

What think you of your husband? That he knows

The worth and value of the face he owes?



Who but a fool such beauty would endanger

Or trust it to the mercy of a stranger?

Then, royal queen, if neither may entreat,

My quenchless passion nor love’s raging heat

Can win you, we are wooed both to this crime

Even by the fit advantage of the time:

Either to love’s sweet sport we must agree

Or show ourselves to be worse fools than he.

He took you by the hand the hour he rode

And knowing I with you must make abode,



Brings you to me! What should I further say?

It was his mind to give you quite away.


   What meant he else? Then let’s be blithe and jolly

And make the best use of your husband’s folly.

What should we do? Your husband is far gone

And this cool night, poor soul, you lie alone.

I want a bedfellow, so do we either.

What lets us then but that we lie together?

You, slumbering, think on me; on you I dream,

Both our desires are fervent and extreme;



Sweet, then, appoint the night. Why do you stay?

O night, more clearer than the brightest day,

Then I dare freely speak, protest and swear

And of my vows the gods shall record bear;

Then will I seal the contract and the strife:

From that day forward, we are man and wife;

Then, questionless, I shall so far persuade

That you with me shall Troy’s rich coast invade

And with your Phrygian guest at last agree

Our potent kingdom and rich crown to see.



But if you, blushing, fear the vulgar bruit

That says you follow me, to me make suit:

Fear it not, Helen, I’ll so work with fame,

I will, alone, be guilty of all blame.


   Duke Theseus was my instance and so were

Your brothers, Lady. Can I come more near

To ensample my attempts by?  Theseus haled

Helen perforce; your brothers they prevailed

With the Leucippian sisters. Now, from these

I’ll count myself the fourth, if Helen please.



Our Trojan navy rides upon the coast,

Rigged, armed and manned, and I can proudly boast

The banks are high. Why do you longer stay?

The winds and oars are ready to make way.

You shall be like a high, majestic queen,

Led through the Dardan city and be seen

By millions, who, your state having commended,

Will, wondering, swear some goddess is descended.

Where’er you walk the priests shall incense burn;

No way you shall your eye or body turn



But sacrificed beasts the ground shall beat

And bright, religious fires the welkin heat.

My father, mother, brother, sisters, all

Ilium and Troy in pomp majestical,

Shall with rich gifts present you. But alas,

Not the least part, so far they do surpass,

Can my epistle speak; you may behold

More than my words or writings can unfold.


   Nor fear the bruit of war or threat’ning steel,

When we are fled, to dog us at the heel;



Or that all Grecia will their powers unite:

Of many ravished, can you one recite

Whom war repurchased? These be idle fears.

Rough, blustering Boreas fair Orithya bears

Unto the land of Thrace, yet Thrace still free,

And Athens raised no rude hostility;

In winged Pegasus did Jason sail

And from great Colchos he Medea stale,

Yet Thessaly you see can show no fear

Of former wounds in the Thessalian war;



He that first ravished you, in such a fleet

As ours is, Ariadne brought from Crete,

Yet Minos and Duke Theseus were agreed

About that quarrel: not a breast did bleed.

Less is the danger, trust me, than the fear

That in these vain and idle doubts appear.

But say rude war should be proclaimed at length,

Know I am valiant and have sinewy strength;

The weapons that I use are apt to kill.

Asia, besides, more spacious fields can fill



With armèd men than Greece; amongst us are

More perfect soldiers, more beasts apt for war;

Nor can thy husband Menelaus be

Of any high spirit and magnanimity

Or so well proved in arms; for, Helen, I,

Being but a lad, have made my enemies fly,

Regained the prey from out the hands of thieves

Who had despoiled our herds and stolen our beeves;

By such adventures I my name obtained.

Being but a lad, the conquest I have gained



Of young men in their prime, who much could do,

Deiphobus, Ilioneus too.

I have overcome in many sharp contentions,

Nor think these are my vain and forged inventions,

Or that I only hand to hand can fight;

My arrows when I please shall touch the white.

I am expert in the quarry and the bow,

You cannot boast your heartless husband so.

Had you the power in all things to supply me,

And should you nothing in the world deny me,



To give me such a Hector to my brother

You could not. The earth bears not such another;

By him alone all Asia is well manned;

He, like an enemy, against Greece shall stand

Opposed to your best fortunes. Wherefore strive you?

You do not know his valour that must wive you

Or what hid worth is in me, but at length

You will confess when you have proved my strength.

Thus, either war shall still our steps pursue

Or Greece shall fall in Troy’s all-conquering view;



Nor would I fear for such a royal wife

To set the universal world at strife.

To gain rich prizes, men will venture far;

The hope of purchase makes us bold in war.

If all the world about you should contend,

Your name would be eternized without end.

Only be bold, and fearless may we sail

Into my country with a prosperous gale;

If the gods grant me my expected day,

I to the full shall all these covenants pay. 



[Heywood’s commentary on the epistles]

   These two epistles, being so pertinent to our history, I thought necessary to translate, as well for their elegance as for their alliance, opening the whole project of the love betwixt Paris and Helen, the preparation to his journey, his entertainment in Sparta, as also Hecuba’s dream, Paris his casting out among shepherds, his vision, and the whole prosecution of his intended rape.

   Leda was wife to Tyndarus, king of Laconia. The poets write that Jupiter, accompanying her in the form of a swan, she brought forth two eggs; of the one came Pollux and Helena, of the other came Castor and Clytemnestra, after wife to Agamemnon.

   The Pleiades, from whom Paris derives his progeny, are the seven stars, once daughters to Lycurgus, the famous law-giver of Athens.

   Hermione was daughter to Menelaus and Helena, betrothed to Orestes but married to Pyrrhus, for which cause Orestes slew Pyrrhus at the altar, and after, enjoyed his love Hermione.

   To prosecute the tale of Ariadne’s transformation after she had saved the life of ungrateful Theseus, who by her advice and providence, slew the Minotaur, Theseus in his return home forsook her and left her upon a desolate island.


[Heywood’s excerpts from Ovid’s Art of Love]


It so fell out,

Mad Ariadne strayed that isle about,

Left desolate upon that barren plain

Where the brook Dia pours into the main,

Who, waking from her rest, her veil unbound,

Her bare foot treading on the unknown ground,

Her golden hair dishevelled, loud she raves,

Calling on Theseus to the deafened waves,

On Theseus, cruel Theseus, whom she seeks,



Whilst showers of tears make furrows in her cheeks.

She calls and weeps, and weeps and calls at once,

Which might have moved to ruth the senseless stones;

Yet both alike became her, they both graced her

The whilst she strives to call him, or cry faster;

Then beats she her soft breast and makes it groan

And then she cries, “What, is false Theseus gone?

What shall I do?”, she cries, “What shall I do?”

And with that note, she runs the forests through,

When suddenly her ear might understand



Cymbals and timbrels touched with a loud hand,

To which the forests, woods, and caves resound;

And now, amazed, she senseless falls to ground.

Behold the nymphs come with their scattered hair

Falling behind, which they like garments wear,

And the light Satyrs, an unruly crew,

Nearer and nearer to the virgin grew.

Next old Silenus on his lazy ass

Nods with his drunken pate, about to pass

Where the poor lady all in tears lies drowned;







Silenus, the Priest of Bacchus


Scarce sits the drunkard but he falls to ground,

Scarce holds the bridle fast, but staggering stoops,

Following those giddy bacchanalian troops

Who dance the wild lavolto on the grass,

Whilst with a staff he lays upon the ass.

At length, when the young satyrs least suspect,

He, tumbling, falls quite from his ass’s neck.


   But up they heave him, whilst each Satyr cries

“Rise, good old father, good old father rise!”

Now comes the god himself; next after him,



His vine-like chariot drawn with tigers grim.

Colour and voice and Theseus she doth lack;

Thrice would she fly and thrice fear plucked her back.

She trembles like a stalk the wind doth shake

Or a weak reed that grows beside the lake,

To whom the god spake: “Lady, take good cheer,

See one more faithful than false Theseus here;

Thou shalt be wife to Bacchus; for a gift,

Take the high heavens and to the spheres be lift,

Where thou shalt shine a star to guide by night



The wandering sea-man in his course aright”.

This said, lest his grim tigers should affray

The trembling maid, the god his coach doth stay

And leaping from his chariot, with his heels

Imprints the sand, and then the nymph he feels,

And hugging her, in vain she may resist,

He bears her thence: gods can do what they list.

Some Hymen sing, some Io, Io cry,

So Bacchus with the maid all night doth lie.

Therefore, when wine in plenteous cup doth flow



And thou the night unto thy love dost owe,

Pray to the god of grapes that in thy bed

The quaffing healths do not offend thy head.



Agreeable to this, is that in the first book De arte amandi, for from Paris he derives these love-tricks in wine:



Lo, I can teach thee, though thy tongue be mute,

How, with thy speaking eye to move thy suit;

Good language may be made in looks and winks.

Be first that takes the cup wherein she drinks

And note the very place her lip did touch;

Drink just at that, let thy regard be such;

Or when she carves, what part of all the meat



She with her fingers touch, that carve and eat.

Carouse not, but with soft and moderate sups,

Have a regard and measure in thy cups.

Let both thy feet and thoughts their office know,

Chiefly, beware of brawling, which may grow

By too much wine. From fighting most abstain,

In such a quarrel was Eurytion slain.

Where swaggering leads the way, mischief comes after.

Junkets and wine were made for mirth and laughter.

Though to be drunk indeed may hurt the brain,



Yet now and then, I hold it good to feign;

Instruct thy lisping tongue sometimes to trip,

That if, misplaced, a word transgress thy lip,

It may be judged that quaffing was the cause.




The end of the ninth Canto.



Back to Canto VIII (1-50 & 50-96)

Notes to Canto IX

On to Canto X

How to cite

Yves Peyré, ed., 2015.  Troia Britanica Canto IX (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).


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