«By R.G. Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit dulci. London Printed by George Purslowe Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights ...»
Your Honour, seeing how deeply I am devoted to your beauty and virtue, hath sent me pills of hard digestion to assuage the force of my love and qualify the flame set on fire by fancy, but as the biting of the viper rankleth till it hath brought the body bitten to bane, so your exquisite perfection hath so pierced every vein with the sting of love that neither your bitter reply nor satirical invective can in any wise prevail; only the mild medicine of your mercy may salve the sore and cut away the cause of my careful disease.
The extremity of my love and the violence of my passions hath forced me to hazard myself on your clemency, for I was never of that mind to count him martial that at the first shoot would yield up the keys of the city, for the more hard the rebut is, the more haughty is the conquest; the more doubtful the fight, the more worthy the victory; the more pain I take about the battery, the more pleasure to win the bulwark of your breast, which if I should obtain, I would count it a more rich prize than ever Scipio or any of the Nine Worthies won by conquest. And that these words be verity and not vanity, troth and not trifling, I appeal to your good grace and favour, minding to be tried by your courtesy, abiding either the sentence of consent unto life, or denial unto death.
Yours, even after death, Telegonus of Taprobane.
This letter finished and sent unto Fiordespine so troubled her patience for that Telegonus was importunate that she fared like the frowns [sic for ‘frows’] of Bacchus, half mad at this secret motion, swearing revenge if either herself or her friends could perform it, and
in this humour she sent him by her page these few lines:
Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 22 ________________________________________________________________________
Fiordespine to Telegonus.
I had scarce read thy letters before I rent them, esteeming thy papers and thy love alike, for as I mislike the one, so I disdain the other. Hath want of manners made thee impudent? Wilt thou brag with Irus the beggar amongst Penelope’s suitors, or seek with the smoky Cyclops to kiss Venus’ hand? Look on thy feet, and so let fall thy plumes;
stretch not so high, unless thy sleeve were longer, for Fiordespine scorneth so much as to look at Telegonus in respect of love, as Juno did to jest with the father of the centaurs.
If I knew thy passions were as great as thou deciphereth thy grief, and thy thoughts as fiery as the hills in Sicily, I would laugh at the one, as joying at thy sorrows, and put oil in the flame, as delighting to aggravate thy miseries. Sith then thou seest my resolution to be so rigorous (over-rash youth), betake thee to thy dumps, and fare how thou list, for know I mislike thy suit, and hate thy person, and will live and die thine enemy, if for no other cause, yet for that thou hast dared to court Fiordespine.
Thy mortal enemy, Fiordespine of Taprobane.
After that Telegonus had read this letter sauced with such peremptory disdain, he fell in a trance, lying in his bed as a dead carcass, but when he was come to himself, he fell into such extreme passions that his father and his friends coming into the chamber thought him possessed with some spirit. The physician felt his pulses and found he had a sound body, whereupon they did conjecture it was love, and to verify the same, after he had raised himself up in his bed, with a ghastly look he cried nothing but Fiordespine, fetching such grievous groans & deep sighs that all the chamber fell into tears, whereupon the old earl, having his hair as white as snow, came himself trudging to the court, telling the extreme passion of his son, entreating Fiordespine that she would so much as vouchsafe to come to this house, only with her presence somewhat to mitigate his son’s passions, but such was the pride and disdain of my daughter that neither the tears of the old earl, the entreaty of my son, nor my command could prevail with her, insomuch that the old man returned comfortless and sorrowing.
Well, Telegonus lying thus distressed by the space of a week, at last feigning himself to amend, would needs walk abroad that he might be solitary, and stumbled, weak as he
was, into this vale and to this place, where sitting down he fell into these passions:
Infortunate Telegonus, whose stars at thy nativity were in some cursed aspect, why didst thou not perish at thy birth, or how did fortune frown that thou wert not stifled in thy swaddling-clothes? Now grown to ripe years, thou feelest more miseries than thou hast lived moments. Ah love, that labyrinth that leadeth men to worse dangers than the Minotaur in Greece; love that kindlest desire, but allowest no reward. Inconstant Venus, whose sacrifices savour of death, whose laws are tyrannous, whose favours are misfortunes, strumpet as thou art (for I disdain to call thee goddess), thou and the bastard brat thy son, show your power, your deity. Revenge my blasphemies how you can, for how great soever your choler be, my calamity cannot be more. Merciless Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 23 ________________________________________________________________________
women, whose faces are lures, whose beauties are baits, whose looks are nets, whose words are charms, and all to bring men to ruin. But of all, cruel Fiordespine, born of a tiger and nursed of the she-wolves in Syria, whose heart is full of hate, whose thoughts are disdain, whose beauty is overlaid with pride, let Venus, if she have any justice, or Cupid, if he have the equity of a god, make thee love where thou shalt be misliked. Alas, Telegonus, cease not with these prayers, the revenge is too easy, but cry to the bitterness of thy passions that they quit thy revenge against Fiordespine.
And with this his speech ceasing, he beat himself against the ground in such pitiful sort that the gods took compassion, and resolved revenge. But while he lay thus perplexed, his father missed him, and taking some of his gentlemen with him, sought him and found him in this valley, passionate and speechless. The rumour of Telegonus’ distress came to the court, whereupon I and my son, with my other two daughters, so entreated Fiordespine that she granted to go see the gentleman. Walking therefore to this place, here we found him accompanied with his friends, all signifying with tears how they grieved at his mishap. Telegonus no sooner saw Fiordespine but, turning himself upon the grass with a bitter look, he first gazed her on the face [sic for ‘gazed on her face’?], then lifting up his eyes to heaven gave a great sigh as though his heart-strings had broke[n], which Fiordespine perceiving, triumphing in the passions of her lover, she turned her back and smiled. Scarce had she framed this scornful countenance but Mercury, sent from the gods in a shepherd’s attire, shook [sic for ‘strook’?] her on the head with his caduceus and turned her into this marble picture, which we amazed at, and Telegonus noting, turning himself on his left side, groaned forth these words: The gods have revenged, and I am satisfied, and with that he gave up the ghost. The old earl, grieved at the death of his son, taking up his body, departed; I, sorrowing at the metamorphosis of my daughter, wept, but to small effect, for ever since she hath remained as thou seest, a wonder to the world, and a perpetual grief to me.
Thus, son, hast thou heard the discourse of my daughter’s misfortune, which hath not been so delightful for thee to hear as grievous for me to reveal, but seeing I am entered into the discoveries of their ills, no sooner shall we have taken our repast but I will show thee what fortuned to her second sister, Eriphila, for I know the nature of men is desirous of novelties. And with that, taking me by the hand, she went home to her cottage.
The second discourse
We had no sooner dined with our homely delicates, tempering our times with prattle of Fiordespine, but Alcida rose up and walked to a grove hard by, a place interseamed with shrubs, but placed between two hills like the supposed entrance of hell as there seemed that melancholy Saturn had erected an Academy. Entering into this grove, so thick as Phoebus was denied passage, wandering awhile by many uncouth paths, at last we came into a fair place where was a goodly spring, the situation round environed with trees.
Hard by this fount stood two cedars, tall and straight, on whose bark was curiously engraven certain hieroglyphical emblems. On the one was carved Mercury throwing
feathers into the wind, and under was written these verses:
Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 24 ________________________________________________________________________
The richest gift the wealthy heaven affords, The pearl of price sent from immortal Jove, The shape wherein we most resemble gods, The fire Prometheus stole from lofty skies, This gift, this pearl, this shape, this fire is it Which makes us men bold by the name of wit.
By wit we search divine aspect above, By wit we learn what secrets science yields, By wit we speak, by wit the mind is ruled, By wit we govern all our actions;
Wit is the loadstar of each human thought, Wit is the tool by which all things are wrought;
The brightest jacinth, hot, becometh dark, Of little steem is crystal, being cracked, Fine heads, that can conceit no good but ill, Forge oft that breedeth ruin to themselves;
Ripe wits abused, that build on bad desire, Do burn themselves like flies within the fire.
On the other cedar was cut very cunningly Cupid blowing bladders in the air. The poesy
underwritten was this:
Love is a lock that linketh noble minds, Faith is the key that shuts the spring of love, Lightness a wrest that wringeth all awry, Lightness a plague that fancy cannot brook;
Lightness in love so bad and base a thing As foul disgrace to greatest states do bring.
As I was reading these verses, from the thicket there came a bird flittering, of colour grey, which hovered over the head of Alcida as though she had saluted her with her wings. I marvelled at the familiarity of the fowl, and with that she changed colours, from grey to white, and then to red, so to green, and as many sundry shapes as ever Iris blazed in the firmament, so that by the changing of hues I perceived it to be chameleon. As thus I stood musing at the bird, Alcida took me by the hand and sat down at one of the roots of the cedars, bidding me be attentive, and she would discourse the evil fortune of her second daughter, Eriphila, the which I willingly consented unto. She began her tale in this manner.
The second history, of Eriphila of Taprobane
After that my daughter Fiordespine was metamorphosed by the gods in revenge of her cruelty to Telegonus, time having rooted out some part of my sorrows, I began to solace myself with the other two daughters, Eriphila and Marpesia. This Eriphila was as witty as her sister was beautiful, so that she was admired in Taprobane and all the bordering regions about, accounted (though not in years, yet in wit) a Sibyl, being able to answer as Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 25 ________________________________________________________________________
dark an enigma as the subtillest Sphinx was able to propound, and I tell thee, son, as she was favoured by Pallas, so Venus was not behind in her favours, for she was beautiful, insomuch that these gifts co-united made sundry suitors come from sundry coasts to be wooers to such a wily minion.
Amongst the rest, by fortune there arrived in this coast, embarked in a small pinnace, the duke’s son of Massilia called Meribates, who coming on shore for fresh water, came to see the court of Taprobane, where being greatly welcomed by my son, falling into talk with my daughter, he found Eriphila so adorned with a supernatural kind of wit as he was snared in the sweetness of her answers, swallowing down the conceit of her wisdom with such greediness that he lay drunk in the remembrance of her qualities, finding several delays to make stay in the country, covertly causing his mariners to crack their tackling, to unrig their ship in the night, that they might have just cause to lie there the most part of that summer. Love, beginning to make this youngster politic, caught him so fast by the heart that Mars was never more featly entangled in Vulcan’s net, nor the forerunners of Jason more subtilly wrapped in the labyrinth than Meribates was in the snares of fancy, for what he talked, even amongst the meanest of his mariners, was of Eriphila; his thoughts, his musing, his determinations, his resolutions, his days’ watchings, his night slumbers were of the excellent wit of Eriphila, insomuch that love lodged the novice
under her canopy, where he breathed out these passions:
Infortunate Meribates, whom the envious fates have scorned to make infortunate! Hast thou manned thyself in a bark to scour the seas and in this quest art thou like to lose thy senses? Soughtest thou to abide the pleasure of Neptune, and art fain to stand to the courtesy of love? Hast thou found flames amidst the waves, fire in the water, and fancy where no affection was meant? Well, now I see that as the bee that flieth from flower to flower, having free choice to choose at liberty, is at last taken by the wings and so fettered, in like manner my fancy, taking the view of many a face, hath a restraint of his freedom and is brought into bondage with the wit of a stranger. But Meribates, wilt thou love so lightly? Shall fancy give thee the foil at the first dash? Shall thine ears be the cause of thy misery? Wilt thou with Ulysses hear the sirens sing, listen to their melody, and run unto endless misfortune?
Eriphila is wise. So was Helena, yet she played the wanton with Paris. She answers like the virgin at Delphos and her words are as nectar. Roses are sweet, yet they have pricks;