Hero and Leander

The First Sestiad

Original Text: 
Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander (1598). Menston: Scolar Press, 1968. PR 2670 H6 1598A ROBA.
1On Hellespont, guilty of true love's blood,
2In view and opposite two cities stood,
3Sea-borderers, disjoin'd by Neptune's might;
4The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
5At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
6Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,
7And offer'd as a dower his burning throne,
8Where she could sit for men to gaze upon.
9The outside of her garments were of lawn,
10The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;
11Her wide sleeves green, and border'd with a grove,
12Where Venus in her naked glory strove
13To please the careless and disdainful eyes
14Of proud Adonis, that before her lies;
15Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,
16Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.
17Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,
18From whence her veil reach'd to the ground beneath;
19Her veil was artificial flowers and leaves,
20Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives;
21Many would praise the sweet smell as she past,
22When 'twas the odour which her breath forth cast;
23And there for honey bees have sought in vain,
24And beat from thence, have lighted there again.
25About her neck hung chains of pebble-stone,
26Which lighten'd by her neck, like diamonds shone.
27She ware no gloves; for neither sun nor wind
28Would burn or parch her hands, but, to her mind,
29Or warm or cool them, for they took delight
30To play upon those hands, they were so white.
31Buskins of shells, all silver'd, used she,
32And branch'd with blushing coral to the knee;
33Where sparrows perch'd, of hollow pearl and gold,
34Such as the world would wonder to behold:
35Those with sweet water oft her handmaid fills,
36Which as she went, would chirrup through the bills.
37Some say, for her the fairest Cupid pin'd,
38And looking in her face, was strooken blind.
39But this is true; so like was one the other,
40As he imagin'd Hero was his mother;
41And oftentimes into her bosom flew,
42About her naked neck his bare arms threw,
43And laid his childish head upon her breast,
44And with still panting rock'd there took his rest.
45So lovely-fair was Hero, Venus' nun,
46As Nature wept, thinking she was undone,
47Because she took more from her than she left,
48And of such wondrous beauty her bereft:
49Therefore, in sign her treasure suffer'd wrack,
50Since Hero's time hath half the world been black.
51      Amorous Leander, beautiful and young
52(Whose tragedy divine Musæus sung),
53Dwelt at Abydos; since him dwelt there none
54For whom succeeding times make greater moan.
55His dangling tresses, that were never shorn,
56Had they been cut, and unto Colchos borne,
57Would have allur'd the vent'rous youth of Greece
58To hazard more than for the golden fleece.
59Fair Cynthia wish'd his arms might be her sphere;
60Grief makes her pale, because she moves not there.
61His body was as straight as Circe's wand;
62Jove might have sipt out nectar from his hand.
63Even as delicious meat is to the taste,
64So was his neck in touching, and surpast
65The white of Pelops' shoulder: I could tell ye,
66How smooth his breast was, and how white his belly;
67And whose immortal fingers did imprint
68That heavenly path with many a curious dint
69That runs along his back; but my rude pen
70Can hardly blazon forth the loves of men,
71Much less of powerful gods: let it suffice
72That my slack Muse sings of Leander's eyes;
73Those orient cheeks and lips, exceeding his
74That leapt into the water for a kiss
75Of his own shadow, and, despising many,
76Died ere he could enjoy the love of any.
77Had wild Hippolytus Leander seen,
78Enamour'd of his beauty had he been.
79His presence made the rudest peasant melt,
80That in the vast uplandish country dwelt;
81The barbarous Thracian soldier, mov'd with nought,
82Was mov'd with him, and for his favour sought.
83Some swore he was a maid in man's attire,
84For in his looks were all that men desire,--
85A pleasant smiling cheek, a speaking eye,
86A brow for love to banquet royally;
87And such as knew he was a man, would say,
88"Leander, thou art made for amorous play;
89Why art thou not in love, and lov'd of all?
90Though thou be fair, yet be not thine own thrall."
91      The men of wealthy Sestos every year,
92For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,
93Rose-cheek'd Adonis, kept a solemn feast.
94Thither resorted many a wandering guest
95To meet their loves; such as had none at all
96Came lovers home from this great festival;
97For every street, like to a firmament,
98Glister'd with breathing stars, who, where they went,
99Frighted the melancholy earth, which deem'd
100Eternal heaven to burn, for so it seem'd
101As if another Pha{"e}ton had got
102The guidance of the sun's rich chariot.
103But far above the loveliest, Hero shin'd,
104And stole away th' enchanted gazer's mind;
105For like sea-nymphs' inveigling harmony,
106So was her beauty to the standers-by;
107Nor that night-wandering, pale, and watery star
108(When yawning dragons draw her thirling car
109From Latmus' mount up to the gloomy sky,
110Where, crown'd with blazing light and majesty,
111She proudly sits) more over-rules the flood
112Than she the hearts of those that near her stood.
113Even as when gaudy nymphs pursue the chase,
114Wretched Ixion's shaggy-footed race,
115Incens'd with savage heat, gallop amain
116From steep pine-bearing mountains to the plain,
117So ran the people forth to gaze upon her,
118And all that view'd her were enamour'd on her.
119And as in fury of a dreadful fight,
120Their fellows being slain or put to flight,
121Poor soldiers stand with fear of death dead-strooken,
122So at her presence all surpris'd and tooken,
123Await the sentence of her scornful eyes;
124He whom she favours lives; the other dies.
125There might you see one sigh, another rage,
126And some, their violent passions to assuage,
127Compile sharp satires; but, alas, too late,
128For faithful love will never turn to hate.
129And many, seeing great princes were denied,
130Pin'd as they went, and thinking on her, died.
131On this feast-day--O cursed day and hour!--
132Went Hero thorough Sestos, from her tower
133To Venus' temple, where unhappily,
134As after chanc'd, they did each other spy.
135So fair a church as this had Venus none:
136The walls were of discolour'd jasper-stone,
137Wherein was Proteus carved; and over-head
138A lively vine of green sea-agate spread,
139Where by one hand light-headed Bacchus hung,
140And with the other wine from grapes out-wrung.
141Of crystal shining fair the pavement was;
142The town of Sestos call'd it Venus' glass:
143There might you see the gods in sundry shapes,
144Committing heady riots, incest, rapes:
145For know, that underneath this radiant flower
146Was Danae's statue in a brazen tower,
147Jove slyly stealing from his sister's bed,
148To dally with Idalian Ganimed,
149And for his love Europa bellowing loud,
150And tumbling with the rainbow in a cloud;
151Blood-quaffing Mars heaving the iron net,
152Which limping Vulcan and his Cyclops set;
153Love kindling fire, to burn such towns as Troy,
154Sylvanus weeping for the lovely boy
155That now is turn'd into a cypress tree,
156Under whose shade the wood-gods love to be.
157And in the midst a silver altar stood:
158There Hero, sacrificing turtles' blood,
159Vail'd to the ground, veiling her eyelids close;
160And modestly they opened as she rose.
161Thence flew Love's arrow with the golden head;
162And thus Leander was enamoured.
163Stone-still he stood, and evermore he gazed,
164Till with the fire that from his count'nance blazed
165Relenting Hero's gentle heart was strook:
166Such force and virtue hath an amorous look.
167      It lies not in our power to love or hate,
168For will in us is over-rul'd by fate.
169When two are stript, long ere the course begin,
170We wish that one should lose, the other win;
171And one especially do we affect
172Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
173The reason no man knows, let it suffice,
174What we behold is censur'd by our eyes.
175Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
176Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP 1.188.