«By R.G. Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit dulci. London Printed by George Purslowe Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights ...»
Since now that the fire hath made thee frolic, and the warmth of my poor cottage hath been as good as household physic to cure thy weather-beaten loins, let me say as thou shalt find, that thou art welcome, for I hold it a religion to honour strangers, especially distressed, sith comfort in misery is a double gift. I know not thy degree, nor I reck not;
suffice I use thee as thou seemest, and entertain thee as my ability can. Thy estate may be great, for the hood makes not the monk, nor the apparel the man. Mercury walked in the shape of a country swain, Apollo kept Midas’ sheep, and poor Philemon & Baucis, his wife, entertained Jupiter himself, supped him & lodged him. They honoured an unknown guest; he not ungrateful to so kind an host, for he turned their cottage to a temple, and made them sacrificers at his altars. Thus I may be deceived in thy degree, but howsoever or whosoever, this cottage & what is in it is mine and thine; less thou shalt not find, and more in conscience thou canst not crave.
Son, I speak thus frankly for that I am old, for age hath that privilege to be private & familiar with strangers, for were I as I have been, as beautiful as now I am withered, as young as I am old, I would be less prodigal and more churlish, lest with Phyllis I might entertain Demophoon, which did make account of the trothless Troian, or with Ariadne tie myself to the proportion of Theseus. But age hath put water in the flame, & many years turned the glowing sparks to cold winds. Time, son, is like the worm tenedes, which smoothly lying on the bark of the tree, yet eateth out the sap. It stealeth on by minutes, and fareth like the sun, whose shadow hasteth on, yet cannot be perceived.
But letting this parle pass, seeing thou art weary and hungry, two fruits that grow from shipwreck, rest thee till I provide supper, which how homely soever it be, yet must thou account it dainty for that it is my delicates, and accept it as a prodigal banquet, for that every dish shall be sauced with welcome.
With this she rose from her stool and went to provide supper, leaving me amazed at her gracious reply, making me to conjecture by her words that as she was wise, so she had been well brought up, and was descended of no small parentage. I sat in a muse till she Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 10 ________________________________________________________________________
had made ready our cates, which being set on the table, we fell to make trial of our teeth, as before we had done of our tongues, that we began and ended supper without any great chat. Well, our repast taken, the old woman, seeing me fitter for sleep than for prattle, gave me leave to go to bed, where I passed away the night in golden slumbers, lying so long in the morning till Phoebus glimmering on my face bade me good day. Awaked by the summons of the sun, I arose, and found mine old hostess sitting at her door in her melancholy mood, sighing and sorrowful. An interchange of Salves passed between her and me, I, with thanks for my great and courteous entertainment, and she with oft repetitions of welcomes, taking a stool and sitting down by [t]his old dame, seeing she
fell again to her dumps, I began to be thus inquisitive:
Mother, if I may without offence presume to use a question, I would inquire what I muse at, and be absolved in a dark enigma that I have found in your cottage, but rather had I still hold my thoughts in suspense than be offensive either to your age, or to so courteous an hostess.
The old woman, smiling at my fear or at my folly, bade me say on, and I boldly
prosecuted my purpose thus:
Since my arrival in your cottage I have noted your thoughts to be passionate, and your passions to be violent. I have seen care lurking midst the wrinkles of your age, and sorrow breathed out with broken sighs. I do not deny but age is given to melancholy, and many years acquainted with many dumps, but such far-fetched groans, the heralds of griefs, such deep sighs, the ambassadors of sorrow, make me think either you grieve at your sins with repentance, or else recount some great forepassed misfortunes. This is the doubt, and here lies the question.
I had no sooner uttered these words but the old woman, leaning her head against her staff, fell into such bitter tears as did discover a multitude of sorrows and perplexed passions, insomuch as, taking pity of her griefs, I lent her a few lukewarm drops to show how in mind I did participate of her unknown dolours.
After she had filled the furrows of her face with the streams of her tears, ending the catastrophe of her passions with a volee [=volley] of sighs, she blubbered out this reply:
Ah, son, ill have those painters deciphered time with a pumice-stone, as rasing out both joys and sorrows with oblivy, seeing experience tells me that deep conceived sorrows are like the sea-ivy, which the older it is, the larger roots it hath, resembling the eagle, which in her oldest age reneweth her bill. Passions, my son, are like the arrows of Cupid, which if they touch lightly prove but toys, but piercing the skin, prove deep wounds, as hardly to be rased out as the spots of the leopard.
I was, son (and with that she entered her narration with a deep sigh) once young and buxom as thou art, beauty discovering her pride where now a tawny hue pulleth down my plumes. The lineaments of my face were levelled with such equal proportion as I was counted full of favour, and of so fair a dye had nature stained my cheeks that I was thought beautiful. Yea, son, give me leave a little to savour of self-love; I tell thee I was Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 11 ________________________________________________________________________
called the Venus of Taprobane. My parentage did no whit disgrace what nature had imparted upon me, for I was the daughter of an earl. To be brief, my son, as well the qualities of my mind as my exterior favours were so honoured in Taprobane that the prince of the island, called Cleomachus, took me to wife and had by me four children, one son and three daughters.
And with this she fell afresh to her tears, pouring forth many passionate plaints, till at last
the sorrow of her tears stopping, she went forward in her tale:
My husband in the prime of years died, my son succeeded in the government, and I and my daughters courted it as their youth and my direction would permit. Living thus contentedly, and as I thought armed against fortune in that we foreguarded all our actions with virtue, the fates, if there be any, or the destinies, some star or planet in some infortunate and cursed aspect, calculated such ill hap to all my daughters’ nativities as they proved as miserable as I would have wished them happy.
And here multiplying sigh upon sigh with double and treble revies, she ceased, but I, desirous to know the sequel of their misfortunes, asked her the cause and manner of their mishaps. She replied not, but taking me by the hand she led me from her cottage to a valley hard by, where she brought me to a marble pillar, fashioned and portrayed like a woman, which made me remember Pygmalion’s picture that he carved with his hand and doted on with his heart. No sooner were we come to the stone but Alcida (for so was the old lady’s name), taking it in her arms, kissed it, and washed it with her tears. I, amazed at this strange greeting of Alcida and the stone, drew more nigh, and there I might perceive the image to hold in either hand a table. In the right hand was depainted the portraiture of Venus holding the ball that brought Troy to ruin, and under were written
When nature forged the fair unhappy mould Wherein proud beauty took her matchless shape, She overslipped her cunning and her skill, And aimed too far, but drew beyond the mark, For thinking to have made a heavenly bliss For wanton gods to dally with in heaven, And to have framed a precious gem for men To solace all their dumpish thoughts with glee, She wrought a plague, a poison, and a hell For gods, for men; thus no way wrought she well.
Venus was fair, fair was the queen of love, Fairer than Pallas or the wife of Jove, Yet did the giglet’s beauty grieve the smith, For that she braved the cripple with a horn;
Mars said her beauty was the star of heaven, Yet did her beauty stain him with disgrace;
Paris for fair gave her the golden ball, And brought his and his father’s ruin so;
Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 12 ________________________________________________________________________
Thus nature, making what should far excel, Lent gods and men a poison and a hell.
In her left hand was curiously portrayed a peacock clad gloriously in the beauty of his
feathers; under was written as followeth:
The bird of Juno glories in his plumes, Pride makes the fowl to prune his feathers so;
His spotted train fetched from old Argus’ head, With golden rays like to the brightest sun, Inserteth self-love in a silly bird, Till midst his hot an[d] glorious fumes He spies his feet, and then lets fall his plumes.
Beauty breeds pride, pride hatcheth forth disdain, Disdain gets hate, and hate calls for revenge, Revenge with bitter prayers urgeth still;
Thus self-love, nursing up the pomp of pride, Makes beauty wrack against an ebbing tide.
After I had viewed the pictures and read the poesies, I grew to be more desirous to know what this image meant. Entreating Alcida to discourse unto me what this portraiture did
mean, she, sitting down at the foot of the stone, began to tell her tale in this manner:
While I lived in court, honoured of all as mother to the prince, and loved of everyone, as one that laid the method of my son’s happy and virtuous government, being princely wedded to the higher, and affable to the lower, a mother to them that were in want, and a nurse to the distressed, I counted my glory the more and my fortune the greater in that I was guarded with my three daughters, virgins adorned so with excellent qualities both of mind and body, I mean as well exterior favours as interior virtues, that fame made report of their honours, not only through all Taprobane, but through all the islands adjacent, especially of my eldest daughter called (for her beauty in her cradle) Fiordespine. Nature had so enriched her with supernatural beauty that she seemed an immortal creature shrouded in a mortal carcass, insomuch that if her times had been equal with Troy, Paris had left Greece, and come to Taprobane for her love.
Living thus loved and admired of all, self-love, the moth that creepeth into young minds, so tickled her with the conceit of her own beauty that she counted no time well spent which she bestowed not in setting out that more glorious by art which nature had made so absolute and excellent. No drugs from Arabia that might clear the skin were unsought for, no herbs nor secrets that any philosopher in physic had found out which might increase beauty but she made experience of, following Venus every way in such vanities and playing the right woman, for to confess the truth, their sex careth more for the tricking of their faces than the teaching of their souls, spending an hour rather in righting the tresses of their hair than a moment in bending their thoughts to devotion. The foulest Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 13 ________________________________________________________________________
must be fair, if not in deed yet in conceit, and she that is fair must venture her soul to keep her beauty inviolate.
But leaving off this digression, my daughter Fiordespine, being thus self-conceited, was more curious than wise, and could sooner afford a pound of pride than an ounce of humility. For divers noblemen resorted from all the bordering islands to be suitors unto her, but her beauty made her so coy that happy was he that might have a glance of her perfection, so that many came joyful in hope to have favour, but departed sorrowful, answered with disdain. For as none pulleth up the barran root but he is stifled with the savour, as none looketh into the pool of Babylon but he hazardeth his health, as none gazeth against the cockatrice but either he loseth his sight or his life, so none took view of the beauty of Fiordespine but they returned either frantic in affection, fond with fancy, or pained with a thousand perplexed passions. Yet she taking delight in their griefs, resembled the chrysolite, which the more it is beaten with hammers, the harder it is, and as the palm-tree can by no means be depressed, nor the margarites of Europe wrought into no other form than nature hath framed them, so no prayers, promise, passions, sighs, sorrows, plaints, tears nor treaties could prevail to make her show some favour to any of her suitors, insomuch that the poor noblemen finding themselves fettered without hope of freedom, seeing their liberties restrained within an endless labyrinth and no courteous Ariadne to give them a clew of thread to draw them out of their miseries, cried out against love, against Venus, against women as merciless monsters hatched to torture the minds of men, and at last spying their own follies, shaking off the shackles of love with disdain, went home, and at their departure pronounced with Demosthenes that they would not poenitentiam tanti emere [=buy repentance at so dear a rate].