Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene II [The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne]
Enobarbus describes Queen Cleopatra
Enobarbus: I will tell you. The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold; Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver, Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made The water which they beat to follow faster, As amorous of their strokes. For her own person, It beggar'd all description: she did lie In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue, O'erpicturing that Venus where we see The fancy outwork nature: on each side her Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids, With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool, And what they undid did. Agrippa: O, rare for Antony. Enobarbus: Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides, So many mermaids, tended her i' th' eyes, And made their bends adornings. At the helm A seeming mermaid steers: the silken tackle Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands That yarely frame the office. From the barge A strange invisible perfume hits the sense Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast Her people out upon her; and Antony, Enthroned i' th' marketplace, did sit alone, Whistling to th' air; which, but for vacancy, Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too, And made a gap in nature. Agrippa: Rare Egyptian! Enobarbus: Upon her landing, Antony sent to her, Invited her to supper. She replied It should be better he became her guest; Which she entreated. Our courteous Antony, Whom ne'er the word of "No" woman heard speak, Being barbered ten times o'er, goes to the feast, And for his ordinary, pays his heart For what his eyes eat only. Agrippa: Royal wench! She made great Caesar lay his sword to bed; He plowed her, and she cropped. Enobarbus: I saw her once Hop forty paces through the public street; And having lost her breath, she spoke, and panted, That she did make defect perfection, And, breathless, pow'r breathe forth. Maecenas: Now Antony must leave her utterly. Enobarbus: Never; He will not: Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety. Other women cloy The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry Where most she satisfies; for vilest things Become themselves in her, that the holy priests Bless her when she is riggish.
This poem is in the public domain.
William Shakespeare, regarded as the foremost dramatist of his time, wrote more than thirty plays and more than one hundred sonnets, all written in the form of three quatrains and a couplet that is now recognized as Shakespearean.
Date Published: 1623-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/antony-and-cleopatra-act-ii-scene-ii-barge-she-sat-burnishd-throne