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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
To ear the land that hath some hope to grow."



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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
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek'd Adonisa hied him to the chase;
Hunting he lov'd, but love he laugh'd to scorn:

Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,

And like a bold-fac'd suitor 'gins to woo him.
“Thrice fairer than myself," thus she began,
“ The field's chief flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are ;

Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.

Entitled :

Vilia miretur vulgus : mihi flavus Apollo

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,
Rose-check'd Adonis, kept a solemn feast," &c.

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« Vouchsafe, thou wonder, to alight thy steed,
And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow;
If thou wilt deign this favour, for thy meed
A thousand honey-secrets shalt thou know :

Here come and sit, where never serpent hisses,

And being set, I'll smother thee with kisses ;
“And yet not cloy thy lips with loath'd satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty,
Making them red and pale with fresh variety,-
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty:

A summer's day will seem an hour but short,

Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport."
With this she seizeth on his sweating palm,
The precedent of pith and livelihood,
And, trembling in her passion, calls it balm,
Earth's sovereign salve to do a goddess good:

Being so enrag'd, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.

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The studded bridle on a ragged bough
Nimbly she fastens ; (0, how quick is love!)
The steed is stalled up, and even now
To tie the rider she begins to prove :

Backward she push'd him, as she would be thrust,
And governd him in strength, though not in lust.

So soon was she along, as he was down,
Each leaning on their elbows and their hips :
Now doth she stroke his cheek, now doth he frown,
And 'gins to chide, but soon she stops his lips;

And kissing, speaks, with lustful language broken,
“If thou wilt chide, thy lips shall never open."

He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears
Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks:
Then with her windy sighs and golden hairs,
To fan and blow them dry again she seeks:

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,
Tires a with her beak on feathers, flesh, and bone,
Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste,
Till either gorge be stuff'd, or prey be gone;

Even so she kiss'd his brow, his cheek, his chin,
And where she ends she doth anew begin.


Forc'd to content, but never to obey,
Panting he lies, and breatheth in her face;
She feedeth on the steam as on prey,
And calls it heavenly moisture, air of grace ;

Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers,

So they were dew'd with such-distilling showers.
Look, how a bird lies tangled in a net,
So fasten'd in her arms Adonis lies;
l'ure shame and aw'd resistance made him fret,
Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes :

Rain added to a river that is rank,

Perforce will force it overflow the bank.
Still she entreats, and prettily entreats,
For to a pretty ear she tunes her tale ;
Still is he sullen, still he low’rs and frets,
'Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale ;

Being red, she loves him best; and being white,
Her best is better'd with a more delight.

Look how he can, she cannot choose but love;
And by her fair immortal hand she swears
From his soft bosom never to remove,
Till he take truce with her contending tears,

Which long have rain'd, making her cheeks all wet;

And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless debt.
Upon this promise did he raise his chin,
Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave,
Who, being look'd on, ducks as quickly in ;
So offers he to give what she did crave;

But when her lips were ready for his pay,
He winks, and turns his lips another way.

“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,–] “ Rankmeant 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
More thirst for drink than she for this good turn :
Her help she sees, but help she cannot get ;
She bathes in water, yet hera fire must burn:

“0, pity," 'gan she cry, "flint-hearted boy!
'Tis but a kiss I beg; why art thou coy?

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“I have been woo'd, as I entreat thee now,
Even by the stern and direful god of war,
Whose sinewy neck in battle ne'er did bow,
Who conquers where he comes, in every jar;

Yet hath he been' my captive and my slave,

And begg'd for that which thou unask'd shalt have.
“Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His batter'd shield, his uncontrolled crest,
And for my sake hath learn'd to sport and dance,
To toy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jest ;

Scorning his churlish drum, and ensign red,

Making my arms his field, his tent my bed.
“Thus he that overruld I oversway'd,
Leading him prisoner in a red-rose chain :
Strong-temper'd steel his stronger strength obey'd.
Yet was he servile to my coy disdain.

0, be not proud, nor brag not of thy might,

For mastering her that foild the god of fight!
“Touch but my lips with those fair lips of thine,-
Though mine be not so fair, yet are they red,-
The kiss shall be thine own as well as mine :-
What see'st thou in the ground ? hold up thy head;

Look in mine eyeballs, there thy beauty lies;

Then why not lips on lips, since eyes in eyes ?
“Art thou asham'd to kiss? then wink again,
And I will wink; so shall the day seem night;
Love keeps his revels where there are but twain ;
Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight:

These blue-vein'd violets whereon we lean

Never can blab, nor know not what we mean.
“The tender spring upon thy tempting lip
Shows thee unripe; yet mayst thou well be tasted:
Make use of time, let not advantage slip;
Beauty within itself should not be wasted:

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.

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