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1 Sir John Harrington has writ an epigram in commendation of this poem. See the 2d Book, Epig. 67, at the end of his Translation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, folio.
It is a great pity, and to be lamented by the poetical world, that so very ingenious a poem should be left unfinished, or, what is more likely, that the imperfect part should be lost; for in all probability be completed it, being written in his youth, in queen Elizabeth's reign, as appears from the conclusion.
The sov'reign castle of the rocky isle,
Wherein Penelope the princess lay,
Shone with a thousand lamps, which did exile
The shadows dark, and turn'd the night to day,
Not Jove's blue tent, what time the sunny ray
Behind the bulwark of the Earth retires,
Is seen to sparkle with more twinkling fires.
That night the queen came forth from far within,
And in the presence of her court was seen;
For the sweet singer Phemius did begin
To praise the worthies that at Troy had been; Somewhat of her Ulysses she did ween.
In his grave hymn the heav'nly man would sing, Or of his wars, or of his wandering.
Pallas that hour with her sweet breath divine
Inspir'd immortal beauty in her eyes,
That with celestial glory she did shine,
Brighter than Venus when she doth arise
Out of the waters to adorn the skies;
The wooers all amazed do admire,
And check their own presumptuous desire.
Only Antinous, when at first he view'd
Her star-bright eyes that with new honour shin'd,
Was not dismay'd, but therewithal renew'd
The nobleness and splendour of his mind;
And as he did fit circumstances find,
Unto the throne he boldly did advance,
And with fair manners woo'd the queen to dance.
"Goddess of women, sith your heav'nliness
Hath now vouchsaf'd itself to represent
To our dim eyes, which though they see the less,
Yet are they bless'd in their astonishment,
Imitate Heaven, whose beauties excellent
Are in continual motion day and night,
And move thereby more wonder and delight.
"Let me the mover be, to turn about
Those glorious ornaments, that youth and love
Have fix'd in you, ev'ry part throughout,
Which if you will in timely measure move,
Not all those precious gems in Heav'n above
Shall yield a sight more pleasing to behold,
With all their turns and tracings manifold."
With this the modest princess blush'd and smil'd
Like to a clear and rosy eventide ;
And softly did return this answer mild:
"Fair sir, you needs must fairly be deny'd,
Where your demand cannot be satisfy'd:
My feet which only nature taught to go,
Did never yet the art of footing know.
"But why persuade you me to this new rage? (For all disorder and misrule is new) For such misgovernment in former age Our old divine forefathers never knew ; Who if they liv'd, and did the follies view Which their fond nephews make their chief affairs, Would hate themselves that had begot such heirs."
"Sole heir of virtue and of beauty both, Whence cometh it," Antinous replies, "That your imperious virtue is so loth To grant your beauty her chief exercise? Or from what spring doth your opinion rise, That dancing is a frenzy and a rage, First known and us'd in this new-fangled age?
"Dancing' (bright lady) then began to be,
When the first seeds whereof the world did spring,
The fire, air, earth, and water did agree,
By Love's persuasion, Nature's mighty king,
To leave their first disorder'd combating;
And in a dance such measure to observe,
As all the world their motion should preserve.
"Since when they still are carried in a round,
And changing come one in another's place,
Yet do they neither mingle nor confound,
But ev'ry one doth keep the bounded space
Wherein the dance doth bid it turn or trace:
This wondrous miracle did Love devise,
For dancing is Love's proper exercise.
"Like this, he fram'd the gods' eternal bow'r,
And of a shapeless and confused mass,
By his through piercing and digesting pow'r,
The turning vault of Heaven formed was:
Whose starry wheels he hath so made to pass,
As that their movings do a music frame,
And they themselves still dance unto the same.
"Or if this (all) which round about we see, (As idle Morpheus some sick brains have taught) Of undivided motes compacted be, How was this goodly architecture wrought? Or by what means were they together brought? They err, that say they did concur by chance, Love made them meet in a well order'd dance.
"As when Amphion with his charming lyre Begot so sweet a syren of the air,
That with her rhetoric made the stones conspire The ruin of a city to repair,
(A work of wit and reason's wise affair:) So Love's smooth tongue, the motes such measure taught That they join'd hands, and so the world was wrought.
"How justly then is dancing termed new,
Which with the world in point of time begun;
Yea Time itself, (whose birth Jove never knew,
And which indeed is elder than the Sun)
Had not one moment of his age outrun,
"Reason hath both her pictures in her treasure,
Where time the measure of all moving is;
And dancing is a moving all in measure;
Now if you do resemble that to this,
And think both one, I think you think amiss:
But if you judge them twins, together got,
And Time first born, your judgment erreth not.
2 The antiquity of dancing.
"Thus doth it equal age with age enjoy,
And yet in lusty youth for ever flow'rs,
Like Love his sire, whom painters make a boy,
Yet is he eldest of the heav'nly pow'rs;
Or like his brother Time, whose winged hours
Going and coming will not let him die,
But still preserve him in his infancy,"
This said; the queen with her sweet lips, divine,-
Gently began to move the subtle air,
Which gladly yielding, did itself incline
To take a shape between those rubies fair;
And being formed, softly did repair
With twenty doublings in the empty way,
Unto Antinous' ears, and thus did say :
"What eye doth see the Heav'n but doth admire
When it the movings of the Heav'ns doth see?
Myself, if I to Heav'n may once aspire,
If that be dancing, will a dancer be:
But as for this your frantic jollity,
How it began, or whence you did it learn,
I never could with reason's eye discern."
Antinous answer'd: "Jewel of the Earth,
Worthy you are that heav'nly dance to lead;
But for you think our Dancing base of birth,
And newly born but of a brain-sick head,
I will forthwith his antique gentry read;
And, for I love him, will his herald be,
And blaze his arms, and draw his pedigree.
"When Love had shap'd this world, this great fair wight,
That all wights else in this wide womb contains,
And had instructed it to dance aright',
A thousand measures with a thousand strains,
Which it should practise with delightful pains,
Until that fatal instant should revolve,
When all to nothing should again resolve.
"The comely order and proportion fair
On ev'ry side, did please his wand'ring eye,
Till glancing through the thin transparent air,
A rude disorder'd rout he did espy
Of men and women, that most spitefully
Did one another throng, and crowd so sore,
That his kind eye in pity wept therefore.
When out leap'd Dancing from the heap of things, He cuts the troops, that all asunder fling,
And lightly rode upon his nimble wings.
And ere they wist, he casts them in a ring.
"And swifter than the lightning down he came, Another shapeless chaos to digest,
He will begin another world to frame, (For Love till all be well will never rest) Then with such words as cannot be express'd,
"Then did he rarefy the element, And in the centre of the ring appear,
The beams that from his forehead spreading went,
Begot an horrour and religious fear
In all the souls that round about him were;
Which in their ears attentiveness procures,
While he, with such like sounds, their minds allures.
The original of dancing.
"This is the net wherein the Sun's bright eye Venus and Mars entangled did behold,
For in this dance, their arms they so employ,
As each doth seem the other to enfold:
What if lewd wits another tale have told
Of jealous Vulcan, and of iron chains?
Yet this true sense that forged lie contains.
15 Galliards. 17 Lavoltaes.
"These various forms of dancing Love did frame,
And besides these, a hundred millions more,
And as he did invent, he taught the same,
With goodly gesture, and with comely show,
Now keeping state, now humbly honouring low:
And ever for the persons and the place
He taught most fit, and best according grace 18,
"For Love, within his fertile working brain
Did then conceive those gracious virgins three,
Whose civil moderation does maintain
All decent order and conveniency,
And fair respect, and seemly modesty:
And then he thought it fit they should be born,
That their sweet presence dancing might adorn.