by Robert Greene
When lordly Saturn in a sable robe
Sat full of frowns and mourning in the west,
The evening star scarce peep'd from out her lodge.
And Phoebus newly gallop'd to his rest;
Within my boat sit in the silent streams,
All void of cares as he that lies and dreams.
As Phao, so a ferryman I was;
The country lasses said I was too fair;
With easy toil I labour'd at mine oar,
To pass from side to side who did repair;
For pains take pence, and Charon-like transport
As soon the swain as men of high import.
When want of work did give me leave to rest,
My sport was catching of the wanton fish;
So did I wear the tedious time away,
And with my labour mended oft my dish;
That idle hours were calendars of ruth,
And time ill-spent was prejudice to youth.
I scorn'd to love; for were the nymph as fair,
As she that lov'd the beauteous Latmian swain,
Her face, her eyes, her tresses, nor her brows
Like ivory, could my affection gain;
With high disdain, “Love is a base desire,
And Cupid's flames, why, they're but watery fire.”
As thus I sat, disdaining of proud Love,
“Have over, ferryman,” there cried a boy;
And with him was a paragon for hue,
A lovely damsel, beauteous and coy;
A maiden, cover'd with a tawny veil,
Her face unseen for breeding lovers' bale.
I steer'd my boat, and when I came to shore,
The boy was wing'd; methought it was a wonder;
The dame had eyes like lightning, or the flash
That runs before the hot report of thunder;
Lovely her face; was ne'er so fair a creature,
For earthly carcass had a heavenly feature.
“My friend,” quoth she, “sweet ferryman, behold,
We three must pass, but not a farthing fare;
But I will give, for I am Queen of Love,
The brightest lass thou lik'st unto thy share;
Be she as fair as Love's sweet lady is,
She shall be thine, if that will be thy bliss.”
With that she smil'd with such a pleasing face,
As might have made the marble rock relent;
But I, that triumph'd in disdain of love,
Bade fie on him that to fond love was bent,
“So light the ferryman for love doth care,
As Venus pass not, if she pay no fare!”
At this a frown sat on her angry brow;
She winks upon her wanton son hard by;
He from his quiver drew a bolt of fire,
And aim'd so right as that he pierc'd my eye:
Draw down the veil that hid the virgin's face,
Whose heavenly beauty lighten'd all the place.
Straight then I lean'd mine ear upon mine arm,
And look'd upon the nymph (if so) was fair;
Her eyes were stars, and like Apollo's locks
Me thought appear'd the trammels of her hair.
And suck'd in beauty, till that sweet desire
Cast fuel on, and set my thought on fire.
When I was lodg'd within the net of love,
And that they saw my heart was all on flame,
The nymph away, and with her trips along
The winged boy, and with her goes his dame.
“Stay, ladies, stay, and take not any care,
You all shall pass, and pay no penny fare!”
Away they fling, and looking coyly back,
They laugh at me, O, with a loud disdain!
I send out signs to overtake the nymph,
And tears, as lures, to call them back again;
But I sit in my boat, with hand on oar
And feel a pain, but know not what's the sore.
At last I feel it is the flame of love,
I strive but bootless to express the pain;
It cools, it fires, it hopes, it fears, it frets,
And stirreth passions throughout every vein;
And sighing did fair Venus' laws approve,
And swore no thing so sweet and sour as love.
Last updated September 24, 2017