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Book Title: Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Poems|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 33.39 MB
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The author of the book: Christopher Marlowe
Edition: Everyman Paperback Classics
Date of issue: March 1st 2001
ISBN 13: 9780460879958
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Reader ratings: 4.9
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The poetry gets five stars, but the edition only gets two. With modernized spelling but no notes or context, Marlowe's translations of Ovid's Elegies and of Lucan's First Book are especially difficult to understand. This slim, inexpensive book (Dover Thrift Editions) might be useful if you already know the poetry well and just want to reread it for the beauty of it. As an introduction to Marlowe's nondramatic poetry, though, you'd be better off with a more extensively annotated edition.
A lot of the Ovid was really funny, like the Elegy about an episode of impotence:
Either she was foul, or her attire was bad,
Or she was not the wench I wished t’have had.
Idly I lay with her, as if I loved not,
And like a burden grieved the bed that moved not.
Yet though both of us performed our true intent,
Yet I could not cast anchor where I meant.
She on my neck her ivory arms did throw,
Her arms far whiter than the Scythian snow.
And eagerly she kissed me with her tongue,
And under mine her wanton thigh she flung.
Yea, and she soothed me up and called me sir,
And used all speech that might provoke and stir.
Yet, like as if cold hemlock I had drunk,
It mockèd me, hung down the head, and sunk.
Like a dull cipher or rude block I lay,
Or shade or body was I, who can say?
What will my age do, age I cannot shun,
When in my prime my force is spent and done?
I blush, that being youthful, hot and lusty,
I prove neither youth nor man, but old and rusty.
Pure rose she, like a nun to sacrifice,
Or one that with her tender brother lies.
Yet boarded I the golden Chie twice,
And Libas, and the white-cheeked Pitho thrice.
Corinna craved it in a summer’s night,
And nine sweet bouts we had before daylight.
What, waste my limbs through some Thessalian charms?
May spells and drugs do silly souls such harm?
With virgin wax hath some imbaste my joints
And pierced my liver with sharp needles’ points?
Charms change corn to grass and make it die.
By charms are running spring and fountains dry.
By charms mast crops from oaks, from vines grapes fall,
And fruit from trees when there’s no wind at all.
Why might not then my sinews be enchanted,
And I grow faint, as with some spirit haunted?
To this add shame: shame to perform it quailed me
And was the second cause why vigour failed me.
My idle thoughts delighted her no more
Than did the robe or garment which she wore.
Yet might her touch make youthful Pylius fire
And Tithon livelier than his years require.
Even her I had, and she had me in vain;
What might I crave more if I asked again?
I think the great gods grieved they had bestowed
The benefit which lewdly I for-slowed.
I wished to be received in. In I get me
To kiss. I kiss. To lie with her, she let me.
Why was I blessed? Why made king to refuse it?
Chuff-like had I not gold and could not use it?
So in a spring thrives he that told so much,
And looks upon the fruits he cannot touch.
Hath any rose so from a fresh young maid,
As she might straight have gone to church and prayed?
Well I believe she kissed not as she should,
Nor used the sleight and cunning which she could.
Huge oaks, hard adamants might she have moved,
And with sweet words cause deaf rocks to have loved.
Worthy she was to move both gods and men,
But neither was I man, nor lived then.
Can deaf ear take delight when Phaemius sings?
Or Thamiras in curious painted things?
What sweet thought is there but I had the same?
And one gave place still as another came.
Yet, notwithstanding, like one dead it lay,
Drooping more than a rose pulled yesterday.
Now, when he should not jet, he bolts upright
And craves his task, and seeks to be at fight.
Lie down with shame, and see thou stir no more,
Seeing thou wouldst deceive me as before.
Thou cozenest me, by thee surprised am I,
And bide sore loss with endless infamy.
Nay more, the wench did not disdain a whit
To take it in her hand and play with it.
But when she saw it would by no means stand,
But still drooped down, regarding not her hand,
‘Why mockst thou me?’ she cried. ‘Or, being ill,
Who bade thee lie down here against thy will?
Either thou art witch, with blood of frogs new dead,
Or jaded camest thou from some other bed.’
With that, her loose gown on, from me she cast her –
In skipping out her naked feet much graced her.
And, lest her maid should know of this disgrace,
To cover it, spilt water on the place.
The Elegy for the dead parrot of the poet's mistress also cracked me up:
In mortem psittaci
The parrot, from east India to me sent,
Is dead, all fowls her exequies frequent.
Go goodly birds, striking your breasts bewail,
And with rough claws your tender cheeks assail.
For woeful hairs let piece-torn plumes abound,
For long shrill'd trumpets let your notes resound.
Why, Philomel, dost Tereus' lewdness mourn?
All wasting years have that complaint outworn.
Thy tunes let this rare bird's sad funeral borrow,
Itis is great, but ancient cause of sorrow.
All you whose pinions in the clear air soar,
But most, thou friendly turtle-dove, deplore.
Full concord all your lives was you betwixt,
And to the end your constant faith stood fix'd.
What Pylades did to Orestes prove,
Such to the parrot was the turtle-dove.
But what availed this faith? Her rarest hue?
Or voice that how to change the wild notes knew?
What helps it thou wert given to please my wench,
Birds hapless glory, death thy life doth quench.
Thou with thy quills might'st make green emeralds dark,
And pass our scarlet of red saffrons mark.
No such voice-feigning bird was on the ground,
Thou spok'st thy words so well with stammering sound.
Envy hath rapt thee, no fierce wars thou mov'dst,
Vain babbling speech, and pleasant peace thou lov'dst.
Behold how quails among their battles live,
Which do perchance old age unto them give.
A little fill'd thee, and for love of talk,
Thy mouth to taste of many meats did balk.
Nuts were thy food, and poppy caused thee sleep,
Pure water's moisture thirst away did keep.
The ravenous vulture lives, the puttock hovers
Around the air, the caddesse rain discovers,
And crows survive arms-bearing Pallas' hate,
Whose life nine ages scarce bring out of date.
Dead is that speaking image of man's voice,
The parrot given me, the far world's best choice.
The greedy spirits take the best things first,
Supplying their void places with the worst.
Thersites did Protesilaus survive,
And Hector died, his brothers yet alive.
My wench's vows for thee what should I show,
Which stormy south-winds into sea did blow?
The seventh day came, none following might'st thou see,
And the Fates' distaff empty stood to thee,
Yet words in thy benumbed palate rung:
'Farewell Corinna' cried thy dying tongue.
Elisium hath a wood of holm-trees black,
Whose earth doth not perpetual green grass lack,
There good birds rest (if we believe things hidden)
Whence unclean fowls are said to be forbidden.
There harmless swans feed all abroad the river,
There lives the Phoenix, one alone bird ever.
There Juno's bird displays his gorgeous feather,
And loving doves kiss eagerly together.
The parrot into wood receiv'd with these,
Turns all the goodly birds to what she please.
A grave her bones hides, on her corpse great grave,
The little stones these little verses have:
'This tomb approves, I pleased my mistress well,
My mouth in speaking did all birds excel'.
I'd like to read another's translation of Ovid, to see how much of the humor and imagery is Ovid's and how much is Marlowe's.
While some of the translations read like juvenilia, "Hero and Leander" is a marvel, unfinished and unannotated though it is here. Apparently it was only partially written when Marlowe was murdered, so George Chapman finished it up for him. Only Marlowe's work appears in this edition, and it ends abruptly in the middle of the action. Even so, the beauty of the verse astonished me, as in this description of the temple of Venus in Sestos:
So fair a church as this had Venus none.
The walls were of discoloured jasper stone
Wherein was Proteus carved, and o'erhead
A lively vine of green sea agate spread,
Where by one hand lightheaded Bacchus hung,
And, with the other, wine from grapes out wrung.
Of crystal shining fair the pavement was.
The town of Sestos called it Venus' glass.
There might you see the gods in sundry shapes
Committing heady riots, incest, rapes.
For know, that underneath this radiant floor
Was Danae's statue in a brazen tower,
Jove slyly stealing from his sister's bed,
To dally with Idalian Ganymede,
And for his love Europa bellowing loud,
And tumbling with the Rainbow in a cloud;
Blood quaffing Mars heaving the iron net
Which limping Vulcan and his Cyclops set;
Love kindling fire to burn such towns as Troy;
Sylvanus weeping for the lovely boy
That now is turned into a cypress tree,
Under whose shade the wood gods love to be.
What surprised me about this poem is how queer and laugh-out-loud funny it was. The myth of Hero and Leander is a tragedy about opposite-sex lovers, but the poem keeps veering off into same-sex (specifically male-male) attraction. In describing Hero the poet talks mainly about her clothes, with embroidered flowers so realistic that she has to keep swatting away the bees. But when the poet describes Leander, it's all neck, shoulder, breast and belly, "For in his looks were all that men desire."
When our hero swims the Hellespont, Jove mistakes him for his catamite Ganymede, and even Neptune goes gay for Leander:
With that he stripped him to the ivory skin
And, crying "Love, I come," leaped lively in.
Whereat the sapphire visaged god grew proud,
And made his capering Triton sound aloud,
Imagining that Ganymede, displeased,
Had left the heavens; therefore on him he seized.
Leander strived; the waves about him wound,
And pulled him to the bottom, where the ground
Was strewed with pearl, and in low coral groves
Sweet singing mermaids sported with their loves
On heaps of heavy gold, and took great pleasure
To spurn in careless sort the shipwrack treasure.
For here the stately azure palace stood
Where kingly Neptune and his train abode.
The lusty god embraced him, called him "Love,"
And swore he never should return to Jove.
But when he knew it was not Ganymede,
For under water he was almost dead,
He heaved him up and, looking on his face,
Beat down the bold waves with his triple mace,
Which mounted up, intending to have kissed him,
And fell in drops like tears because they missed him.
Leander, being up, began to swim
And, looking back, saw Neptune follow him,
Whereat aghast, the poor soul 'gan to cry
"O, let me visit Hero ere I die!"
The god put Helle's bracelet on his arm,
And swore the sea should never do him harm.
He clapped his plump cheeks, with his tresses played
And, smiling wantonly, his love bewrayed.
He watched his arms and, as they opened wide
At every stroke, betwixt them would he slide
And steal a kiss, and then run out and dance,
And, as he turned, cast many a lustful glance,
And threw him gaudy toys to please his eye,
And dive into the water, and there pry
Upon his breast, his thighs, and every limb,
And up again, and close beside him swim,
And talk of love.
Leander made reply,
"You are deceived; I am no woman, I."
Thereat smiled Neptune, and then told a tale,
How that a shepherd, sitting in a vale,
Played with a boy so fair and kind,
As for his love both earth and heaven pined;
That of the cooling river durst not drink,
Lest water nymphs should pull him from the brink.
And when he sported in the fragrant lawns,
Goat footed satyrs and upstaring fauns
Would steal him thence. Ere half this tale was done,
"Ay me," Leander cried, "th' enamoured sun
That now should shine on Thetis' glassy bower,
Descends upon my radiant Hero's tower.
O, that these tardy arms of mine were wings!"
And, as he spake, upon the waves he springs.
Neptune was angry that he gave no ear,
And in his heart revenging malice bare.
He flung at him his mace but, as it went,
He called it in, for love made him repent.
The mace, returning back, his own hand hit
As meaning to be venged for darting it.
When this fresh bleeding wound Leander viewed,
His colour went and came, as if he rued
The grief which Neptune felt. In gentle breasts
Relenting thoughts, remorse, and pity rests.
And who have hard hearts and obdurate minds,
But vicious, harebrained, and illiterate hinds?
The god, seeing him with pity to be moved,
Thereon concluded that he was beloved.
(Love is too full of faith, too credulous,
With folly and false hope deluding us.)
Wherefore, Leander's fancy to surprise,
To the rich Ocean for gifts he flies.
'tis wisdom to give much; a gift prevails
When deep persuading oratory fails.
Without any annotations, however, it's impossible to tell how much of this description of Neptune as a doting older man trying to woo a younger lover with gifts (and falsely believing himself beloved in turn) comes from Marlowe's sources (Musaeus and Ovid) and how much is his own invention.
I hope the overall tone of comic ridiculousness is Marlowe's own, as when Hero hides her head under the bedcovers like an ostrich and hopes thus to preserve her virginity.
The last poem in the book is a translation of the first book of Lucan's Pharsalia. My understanding of it suffered terribly from the lack of any explanation or context in this edition. However, as I read it during the demonstrations and civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri subsequent to the shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the opening lines especially moved me:
Wars worse than civil on Thessalian plains,
And outrage strangling law, and people strong
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Read information about the authorChristopher "Kit" Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564) was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. The foremost Elizabethan tragedian next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his magnificent blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his own mysterious and untimely death.
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