«By R.G. Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit dulci. London Printed by George Purslowe Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights ...»
the purest honey-bee is not without his sting. Wit in a woman is like oil in the flame, which either kindleth to great virtue or extreme vanity. Well, Meribates, howsoever it be, wit cannot be placed so bad but it is precious. What is beauty but a colour dashed with every breath, a flower nipped with every frost, a favour that time and age defaceth, whereas wit increaseth by years, and that love continueth longest that is taken by the ear, not by the eye. Yield then, Meribates, when thou must needs consent; run when thou art called by command. Pallas is wise, and will not be ingrateful to her votaries. Say none but Eriphila, for sure if ever thou wilt bestow thy freedom, she is worthy to have thee captive. If thou meanest to marry, thou canst not have a meeter match.
Yea, but how if her heart be placed, and her mind settled upon some gentleman in Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 26 ________________________________________________________________________
Taprobane? Then were I a great deal better to wail at the first than to weep at the last, to be content with a little prick than a deep wound, to resist love at the brim than at the bottom. The scorpion, if he touch never so lightly, envenometh the whole body; the least spark of wildfire will set an whole house on flame; the cockatrice killeth even with his sight. The sting of love woundeth deadly; the flame of fancy sets on fire all the thoughts, and the eyes of a lover are counted incurable. Fearfulness, Meribates, in love is a virtue.
Hast thou turned over so many books of philosophy, and hast thou not quoted Phocas’ precept to be fruitful [sic?]; that loves should proceed in their suit as the crab, whose pace is ever backward, that though love be like the adamant, which hath virtue to draw, yet thou shouldst be sprinkled with goat’s blood, which resisteth his operation? If the wit of some Pallas nymphs [sic for ‘nymph’?] have enclosed thy mind, yet thou shouldst take the oil of nenuphar, that cooleth desire.
What, Meribates, wilt thou become a precise Pythagoras in recounting of love? No, let not the precepts of philosophy subject the will of nature. Youth must have his course; he that will not love when he is young shall not be loved when he is old. Say then, Meribates, and never gainsay, that Eriphila is the mark thou shoot at, that her surpassing wit is the siren whose song hath enchanted thee, and the Circe’s cup which hath so sotted thy senses as either thou must with Ulysses have a speedy remedy, or else remain transformed. Consider, Meribates the cause of thy love, lest thou fail in the effects. Is the foundation of thy fancy fixed upon her feature? Think with thyself, beauty is but a blossom, whose flower is nipped with every frost. It is like the grass in India, which withereth before it springeth. What is more fair, yet what more fading? What more delightful, yet nothing more deadly. What more pleasant, and yet what is more perilous?
Beauty may well be compared to the bath Calycut, whose streams flow as clear as the flood Padus, and whose operation is as pestilent as the river Ormen.
Aye, but Meribates, what more clear than the crystal, and what more precious? What more comely than cloth of Arras, so what more costly? What creature so beautiful as a woman, and what so estimable? Is not the diamond of greatest dignity that is most glistering, and the pearl thought most precious that is most perfect in colour? Aristotle saith they cannot be counted absolutely happy, although they had all the virtues, if they want beauty. Yea, Apollonius, an arch-heretic and a professed enemy against the sacred laws of beauty, is driven both by the laws of nature and nurture to confess that virtue is the more acceptable by how much the more it is placed in a beautiful body.
But what long-digressed discourse is this thou makest of beauty, Meribates? It is not upon such a fickle foundation thou buildest thy love, but upon her wit, which only parteth with death, and therefore whatsoever philosophy or learning wills, I will consent unto nature, for the best clerks are not the wisest men. Whatsoever wisdom wills, I will at this time give the crimes [sic for ‘reins’?] of beauty to my amorous passions, for he that makes curiosity in love will so long strain courtesy that either he will be counted a solemn suitor or a witless wooer; therefore whatsoever the chance be, I will cast at all.
Meribates having thus debated with himself, rested on this resolution, that he would moderate his affection until he found opportunity to discourse his mind to Eriphila, who Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 27 ________________________________________________________________________
on the contrary side, noting the perfection of Meribates, was more enamoured of his person and qualities than Phyllis of Demophoon, or Dido of the false and unjust Troian, for he was so courteous in behaviour, so liberal, not only of his purse but his courtesy, that he had won all their hearts in Taprobane.
These considerations so tickled the mind of Eriphila that she fell thus to debate with
What means, Eriphila, these strange and sudden passions? Shall thy stayed life be compared now to the chameleon, that turneth herself into the likeness of every object; to the herb phanaros, whose bud is sweet, and the root bitter; to the ravens in Arabia, which being young have a pleasant voice, but in their age a horrible cry? Wilt thou consent unto lust in hoping to love; shall Cupid claim thee for his captive, who even now wert vowed a vestal virgin? Shall thy tender age be more virtuous than thy ripe years? What, shall the beauty of Meribates enchant thy mind, or his filed speech bewitch thy senses;
shall the property of a stranger draw thee on to affection? If thou shouldst hap to like him, would he not think the castle wanted but scaling that yieldeth at the first shot, that the bulwark wanteth but battery that at the first parley yields up the keys? Yes, yes, Eriphila, his beauty argues inconstancy, and his painted phrase deceit, and if he see thee won with a word, he will think thee lost with the wind; he will judge that which is lightly to be gained is as quickly lost. The hawk that cometh at the first call will never prove steadfast on the stand; the nyas that will be reclaimed to the fist at the first sight of the lure will bate at every bush. The woman that will love at the first look will never be chary of her choice. Take heed, Eriphila, the finest scabbard hath not ever the bravest blade, not the goodliest chest hath not the most gorgeous treasure. The bell with the best sound hath an iron clapper. The fading apples of Tantalus have a gallant show, but if they be touched, they turn to ashes. So a fair face may have a foul mind; sweet words, a sour heart; yea, rotten bones out of a painted sepulchre, for all is not gold that glisters.
Why, but yet the gem is chosen by his hue, and the cloth by his colour. Condemn not then, Eriphila, before thou hast cause. Accuse not so strictly without trial; search not so narrowly till thou hast occasion of doubt.
Yea, but the mariners sound at the first for fear of a rock; the chirurgeon tenteth betimes, for his surest proof. One fore-wit is worth two after. It is not good to beware when the act is done; too late cometh repentance. What is [sic for ‘Is it’?] the beauty of Meribates that kindleth this flame? Who more beautiful than Jason, yet who more false, for after Medea had yielded, he sacked the fort, and in lieu of her love, he killed her with kindness.
Is it his wit? Who wiser than Theseus, yet none more traitorous. Beware, Eriphila, I have heard thee [sic?] say she that marries for beauty, for every dram of pleasure shall have a pound of sorrow. Choose by the ear, not by the eye. Meribates is fair; so was Paris, and yet fickle. He is witty; so was Corsiris [sic?], and yet wavering. No man knoweth the nature of the herb by the outward show, but by the inward juice, and the operation consists in the matter, not in the form. The fox wins the favour of the lambs by play, and then devours them; so perhaps Meribates shows himself in outward show a demigod, whereas who tries him inwardly shall find him but a solemn saint. Why, since Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 28 ________________________________________________________________________
his arrival in Taprobane all the island speaks of his virtue and courtesy. But perchance he makes a virtue of his need, and so lays this balmed hook of feigned honesty as a luring bait to trap some simple dame. The cloth is never tried until it come to the wearing, nor the linen never shrinks till it comes to the wetting; so want of liberty to use his will may make a restraint of his nature, and though in a strange place he use faith and honesty to make his marriage, yet she perhaps that shall try him shall either find he never had them, or quite forgot them, for the nature of men (as I have heard say) is like the amber stone, which will burn outwardly and freeze inwardly, and like the bark of the myrtle-trees that grew [sic for ‘grow’?] in Armenia, that is as hot as fire in the taste, and as cold as water in the operation. The dog biteth sorest when he doth not bark; the onyx is hottest when it looks white; the sirens mean most mischief when they sing. The tiger then hideth his crabbed countenance when he meaneth to take his prey, and a man doth most dissemble when he speaketh fairest.
Try, then, Eriphila, ere thou trust, especially since he is a stranger; prove ere thou put in practice; cast the water before thou appoint the medicine. Do all things with deliberation; go as the snail, fair and softly. Haste makes waste; the malt is ever sweetest where the fire is softest. Let not wit overcome wisdom, nor the hope of a husband be the hazard of thine honesty. Cast not thy credit on the chance of a stranger, who perchance may prove to thee as Theseus did to Ariadne. Wade not too far where the ford is unknown; rather bridle thy affections with reason, and mortify thy mind with modesty, that as thou hast kept thy virginity inviolate without spot, so thy choice may be without blemish. Know this, it is too late to call again the day past; therefore keep the memory of Meribates as needful, but not necessary. Like him whom thou shalt have occasion to love, and love where thou hast tried him loyal. Until then, remain indifferent.
When Eriphila had uttered these words, she straight, to avoid all dumps that solitariness might breed, came to me and her sister, and there passed away the day in prattle. Thus these two lovers, passionate and yet somewhat patient, for that hope had ministered lenitive plasters to their new wounds, passed over two or three days only with glances and looks, bewraying their thoughts with their eyes which they could not discover with their tongues. Venus, taking pity of her patients, found them out so fit occasion that as Eriphila with her sister Marpesia were walking alone in the garden, gathering of flowers, at that instant, guided by love and fortune, Meribates went into the garden to be solitary, where straight he espied his mistress walking with her sister. Now Meribates was driven into an ecstasy with the extreme pleasure he conceived in the sudden sight of his goddess, insomuch as he stood amazed, for fear and necessity found a deadly combat in the mind of Meribates. He doubted if he should be over-bold to give offence to Eriphila, and so spill his pottage, but the law of necessity, saith Plato, is so hard that the gods themselves are not able to resist it, for as the water that by nature is cold is made hot by the force of fire, and the straight tree pressed down groweth always crooked, so nature is subject to necessity, that kind cannot have his course. And yet if there be anything which is more forcible than necessity, it is the law of love, which so incensed Meribates that casting all
fear aside, he offered himself to his mistress with this courteous parle:
Gentlewomen, if my presumption do trouble your muses, yet the cause of my boldness Modern spelling transcript copyright 2007 Nina Green All Rights Reserved ALCIDA; GREENE’S METAMORPHOSIS 29 ________________________________________________________________________
deserveth pardon, sith where the offence proceedeth of love, there the pardon ensueth of course. I stood in a maze at the first sight, for methought you resembled Pallas and Juno departing away from Venus after she had won the ball, you, madam Eriphila, like the one for wit, and Marpesia like the other for majesty. But howsoever, sweet saints, you grace this garden with your presence as Diana doth the groves, and honour me in admitting so unworthy a man into the company of such excellent personages.
Eriphila, hearing Meribates in these terms, giving a glory to her face by staining her
cheeks with a vermilion blush, both sharply and shortly made this reply:
It is never presumption, Lord Meribates, that fortune presents by chance, and therefore no pardon where is no offence. Our musing was not great, only gathering flowers, which we like by the hue but know not by the virtue, herein resembling lovers that, aiming at the fairest, oft stumble on such as are little worth. If you have made us any fault, it is in giving so kind a frump with your unlikely comparison, I being as unlike to Pallas in wit as Vulcan to Mars in property, and she as far different from Juno in majesty as old Baucis was to Venus in beauty. But you gentlemen of Massilia have the habit of jesting, and therefore since it is a fault of nature we brook and bear with it.
Meribates, hearing so courteous and witty an answer, swilled in love as merrily as ever Jupiter did virtue, so that delighting to hear his mistress prattle, he prosecuted his talk
As I am glad, madam, that my rashness was no occasion of offence, so I am sorry you take what I uttered in earnest to be spoken in sport; my comparison as I inferred it, so by your patience I dare maintain it, if not able by reasons, for that I am no scholar, yet by love, for that I shall draw mine arguments from fancy, which hath set on fire a poor stranger’s heart that he deems your sweet self not only like Pallas, but Pallas herself, so that had I in this humour been judge for Paris in the vale, wit, not beauty, had gotten what they strove for.