Venus and Adonis [But, lo! from forth a copse]
But, lo! from forth a copse that neighbours by, A breeding jennet, lusty, young, and proud, Adonis' trampling courser doth espy, And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud; The strong-neck'd steed, being tied unto a tree, Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he. Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds, And now his woven girths he breaks asunder; The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds, Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven's thunder; The iron bit he crushes 'tween his teeth Controlling what he was controlled with. His ears up-prick'd; his braided hanging mane Upon his compass'd crest now stand on end; His nostrils drink the air, and forth again, As from a furnace, vapours doth he send: His eye, which scornfully glisters like fire, Shows his hot courage and his high desire. Sometime her trots, as if he told the steps, With gentle majesty and modest pride; Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps, As who should say, 'Lo! thus my strength is tried; And this I do to captivate the eye Of the fair breeder that is standing by.' What recketh he his rider's angry stir, His flattering 'Holla,' or his 'Stand, I say?' What cares he now for curb of pricking spur? For rich caparisons or trapping gay? He sees his love, and nothing else he sees, Nor nothing else with his proud sight agrees. Look, when a painter would surpass the life, In limning out a well-proportion'd steed, His art with nature's workmanship at strife, As if the dead the living should exceed; So did this horse excel a common one, In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long, Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril wide, High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong, Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide: Look, what a horse should have he did not lack, Save a proud rider on so proud a back. Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares; Anon he starts at stirring of a feather; To bid the wind a race he now prepares, And whe'r he run or fly they know not whether; For through his mane and tail the high wind sings, Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather'd wings. He looks upon his love, and neighs unto her; She answers him as if she knew his mind; Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her, She puts on outward strangeness, seems unkind, Spurns at his love and scorns the heat he feels, Beating his kind embracements with her heels. Then, like a melancholy malcontent, He vails his tail that, like a falling plume Cool shadow to his melting buttock lent: He stamps, and bites the poor flies in his fume. His love, perceiving how he is enrag'd, Grew kinder, and his fury was assuag'd. His testy master goeth about to take him; When lo! the unback'd breeder, full of fear, Jealous of catching, swiftly doth forsake him, With her the horse, and left Adonis there. As they were mad, unto the wood they hie them, Out-stripping crows that strive to over-fly them. I prophesy they death, my living sorrow, If thou encounter with the boar to-morrow. "But if thou needs wilt hunt, be rul'd by me; Uncouple at the timorous flying hare, Or at the fox which lives by subtlety, Or at the roe which no encounter dare: Pursue these fearful creatures o'er the downs, And on they well-breath'd horse keep with they hounds. "And when thou hast on food the purblind hare, Mark the poor wretch, to overshoot his troubles How he outruns with winds, and with what care He cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles: The many musits through the which he goes Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes. "Sometime he runs among a flock of sheep, To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell, And sometime where earth-delving conies keep, To stop the loud pursuers in their yell, And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer; Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on fear: "For there his smell with other being mingled, The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt, Ceasing their clamorous cry till they have singled With much ado the cold fault cleanly out; Then do they spend their mouths: Echo replies, As if another chase were in the skies. "By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill, Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear, To hearken if his foes pursue him still: Anon their loud alarums he doth hear; And now his grief may be compared well To one sore sick that hears the passing-bell. "Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch Turn, and return, indenting with the way; Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch, Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay: For misery is trodden on by many, And being low never reliev'd by any. "Lie quietly, and hear a little more; Nay, do not struggle, for thou shalt not rise: To make thee hate the hunting of the boar, Unlike myself thou hear'st me moralize, Applying this to that, and so to so; For love can comment upon every woe."
This poem is in the public domain.