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November 23rd

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Twelfth Ode


A boy, to all intents and purposes, seduces a shepherd. The Ode nearly resembles some poems in the later French School of Decadence, with the shepherd's Poe-like fascination with the boy's "long dart," and the boy's role as a demonic tempter, a homme fatale.

   One night, I did attend my sheep,
   Which I, with watchful ward, did keep
         For fear of wolves assaulting:
   For, many times, they broke my sleep,
   And would into the cottage creep,
         Till I sent them out halting!

   At length, methought, about midnight,
   (What time clear CYNTHIA shineth bright)
         Beneath, I heard a rumbling!
   At first, the noise did me affright;
   But nought appeared in my sight,
         Yet still heard something tumbling.

   At length, good heart I took to rise,
   And then myself crossed three times thrice;
         Hence, a sharp sheephook raught
   I feared the wolf had got a prize;
   Yet how he might, could not devise!
         I, for his entrance sought.

   At length, by moonlight, could I espy
   A little boy did naked lie
         Frettished, amongst the flock:
   I, him approached somewhat nigh.
   He groaned, as he were like to die;
         But falsely did me mock!

   "For pity," he cried, "Well a day!"
   Good master, help me, if you may!
         For I am almost starved!"
   I pitied him, when he did pray;
   And brought him to my couch of hay.
         But guess as I was served*!

   He bare about him a long dart,
   Well gilded with fine painter's art;
         And had a pile of steel.
   On it I looked every part:
   Said I, "Will this pile wound a heart?"
         "Touch it!" quoth he, "and feel!"

   With that, I touched the javelin's point!
   Eftsoons it pierced to the joint!
         And rageth now so fierce,
   That all the balms which it anoint
   Cannot prevail with it, a point;
         But it mine heart will pierce.

*Served in Renaissance diction is frequently a pun upon copulation.

Cupid's favourite companions are always lovely lads themselves. Fletcher in Brittain's Ida says that the lovely Anchises would make "A dainty play-fellow for naked love"; John Wilmot notes that "the kind Deity of Wine/Kiss'd the soft wanton God of Love"; Spenser in The Faerie Queene noted that Cupid "played his wanton parts" with fair Adonis.


Parthenophe - Sonnet 54


When I was young, indued with Nature's graces,
      I stole blind Love's strong bow and golden arrows
      To shoot at redbreasts, goldfinches, and sparrows;
      At shrewd girls; and at boys, in other places.

I shot when I was vexèd with disgraces.
      I pierced no skin, but melted up their marrows.
      How many boys and girls wished mine embraces!
      How many praised my favour, 'bove all faces!
But once, Parthenophe! by thy sweet side sitting,
      Love had espied me, in a place most fitting:
      Betrayed by thine eyes' beams (which make blind see)
He shot at me; and said "for thine eyes' light,
      This daring boy (that durst usurp my right)
      Take him! a wounded slave to Love and Thee!"


Go to Barnabe Barnes' page.


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