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,
*Served in Renaissance diction is frequently a pun upon copulation.
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.
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.
But once, Parthenophe! by thy sweet side sitting,
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!
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.