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I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden : only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world's hopeful expectation.
Your honour's in all duty,
* – and never after ear so barren a land,-) To ear is to plough or till : So in "All's Well That Ends Well," Act I. Sc. 3,-“ He that ears my land, spares my team,” &c. Again in “ King Richard II.” Act IIÍ. Sc. 2,
and let them go
This poem, if we are to accept the expression in the introductory epistle“ the first heir of my invention"_literally, was Shakespeare's earliest composition. Some critics conceive it to have been written, indeed, before he quitted Stratford ; but the question when and where it was produced has yet to be decided. It was entered on the Stationers' Registers by Richard Field, as "licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Wardens,” in 1593, and the first edition was printed in the same year.* This edition was speedily exhausted, and a second by the same printer was put forth in 1594. This again was followed by an octavo impression in 1596, and so much was the poem in demand that it had reached a fifth edition by 1602. After this date it was often reprinted, and copies of 1616, 1620, 1624, and 1627 are still extant. Its popularity, as Mr. Collier observes, is established also by the frequent mention of it in early writers.
"In the early part of Shakspeare's life, his poems seem to have gained him more reputation than his plays ;—at least they are oftener mentioned or alluded to. Thus the author of an old comedy, called The Return from Parnassis, written about 1602, in his review of the poets of the time, says not a word of his dramatick compositions, but allots him his portion of fame solely on account of the poems that he had produced.”-MALONE.
The text adopted in the present reprint of “ Venus and Adonis” is that of the first quarto, 1593, collated with the best of the later editions.
EVEN as the sun with purple-colour'd face
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold-fac'd suitor 'gins to woo him.
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
“ VENUS and ADONIS.
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua. London Imprinted by Richard Field, and are to be sold at the signe of the white Greyhound in Paules Church-yard. 1593."
* Rose-cheek'd Adonis] Malone has noticed the same compound epithet in “ Hero and Leander,"
" The men of wealthy Sestos every year
For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,
« Vouchsafe, thou wonder, to alight thy steed,
Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses,
And being set, I'll smother thee with kisses ;
A summer's day will seem an hour but short,
Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport."
Being so enrag'd, desire doth lend her force
The studded bridle on a ragged bough
Backward she push'd him, as she would be thrust,
So soon was she along, as he was down,
And kissing, speaks, with lustful language broken,
He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears
He saith she is immodest, blames her 'miss ; b
What follows more she murders with a kiss. precedent–] Precedent appears to be used here in the sense of sign, or indicator.
blames her 'miss;} Amiss is elsewhere employed by Shakespeare as a substantive ; thus in “Hamlet," Act IV. Sc. 5,
Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast,
Even so she kiss'd his brow, his cheek, his chin,
Forc'd to content, but never to obey,
Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers,
So they were dew'd with such-distilling showers.
Rain added to a river that is rank,
Perforce will force it overflow the bank.
Being red, she loves him best; and being white,
Look how he can, she cannot choose but love;
Which long have rain'd, making her cheeks all wet;
And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless debt.
But when her lips were ready for his pay,
“Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss." See also Sonnet XXXV.
• Tires-] To tire is to peck, to tear, to prey. 1 Forc'd to content,-) To acquiescence.
c - a river that is rank,–] “ Rank” meant brimming, full, &c. Thus in "Julius Cæsar,” Act III. Sc. 1,
“Who else must be let blood, who else is rank;" unless in that passage "rank" expresses too luxuriant, too high-topped. So, too, in Drayton's "Barons' Wars," 1603,
"Fetching full tides, luxurious, high, and rank."
Never did passenger in summer's heat
“0, pity," 'gan she cry, "flint-hearted boy!
“I have been woo'd, as I entreat thee now,
Yet hath he been' my captive and my slave,
And begg'd for that which thou unask'd shalt have.
Scorning his churlish drum, and ensign red,
Making my arms his field, his tent my bed.
0, be not proud, nor brag not of thy might,
For mastering her that foild the god of fight!
Look in mine eyeballs, there thy beauty lies;
Then why not lips on lips, since eyes in eyes ?
These blue-vein'd violets whereon we lean
Never can blab, nor know not what we mean.
Fair flowers that are not gather'd in their primo
Rot and consume themselves in little time. yet her fire must burn :) So read the editions, 1593, 1594, 1593 ; the later copies have,-"yet in fire must burn."
• To toy,--] The reading of the two earliest copies. The later ones have, “T: coy," &c.