The Qvest Of Cynthia

A poem by Michael Drayton

What time the groues were clad in greene,
The Fields drest all in flowers,
And that the sleeke-hayred Nimphs were seene,
To seeke them Summer Bowers.

Forth rou'd I by the sliding Rills,
To finde where CYNTHIA sat,
Whose name so often from the hills,
The Ecchos wondred at.

When me vpon my Quest to bring,
That pleasure might excell,
The Birds stroue which should sweetliest sing,
The Flowers which sweet'st should smell.

Long wand'ring in the Woods (said I)
Oh whether's CYNTHIA gone?
When soone the Eccho doth reply,
To my last word, goe on.

At length vpon a lofty Firre,
It was my chance to finde,
Where that deare name most due to her,
Was caru'd vpon the rynde.

Which whilst with wonder I beheld,
The Bees their hony brought,
And vp the carued letters fild,
As they with gould were wrought.

And neere that trees more spacious roote,
Then looking on the ground,
The shape of her most dainty foot,
Imprinted there I found.

Which stuck there like a curious seale,
As though it should forbid
Vs, wretched mortalls, to reueale,
What vnder it was hid.

Besides the flowers which it had pres'd,
Apeared to my vew,
More fresh and louely than the rest,
That in the meadowes grew:

The cleere drops in the steps that stood,
Of that dilicious Girle,
The Nimphes amongst their dainty food,
Drunke for dissolued pearle.

The yeilding sand, where she had troad,
Vntutcht yet with the winde,
By the faire posture plainely show'd,
Where I might Cynthia finde.

When on vpon my waylesse walke,
As my desires me draw,
I like a madman fell to talke,
With euery thing I saw:

I ask'd some Lillyes why so white,
They from their fellowes were;
Who answered me, that Cynthia's sight,
Had made them looke so cleare:

I ask'd a nodding Violet why,
It sadly hung the head,
It told me Cynthia late past by,
Too soone from it that fled:

A bed of Roses saw I there,
Bewitching with their grace:
Besides so wondrous sweete they were,
That they perfum'd the place,

I of a Shrube of those enquir'd,
From others of that kind,
Who with such virtue them enspir'd,
It answer'd (to my minde).

As the base Hemblocke were we such,
The poysned'st weed that growes,
Till Cynthia by her god-like tuch,
Transform'd vs to the Rose:

Since when those Frosts that winter brings
Which candy euery greene,
Renew vs like the Teeming Springs,
And we thus Fresh are scene.

At length I on a Fountaine light,
Whose brim with Pincks was platted;
The Banck with Daffadillies dight,
With grasse like Sleaue was matted,

When I demanded of that Well,
What power frequented there;
Desiring, it would please to tell
What name it vsde to beare.

It tolde me it was Cynthias owne,
Within whose cheerefull brimmes,
That curious Nimph had oft beene knowne
To bath her snowy Limmes.

Since when that Water had the power,
Lost Mayden-heads to restore,
And make one Twenty in an howre,
Of Esons age before.

And told me that the bottome cleere,
Now layd with many a fett
Of seed-pearle, ere shee bath'd her there:
Was knowne as blacke as Jet,

As when she from the water came,
Where first she touch'd the molde,
In balls the people made the same
For Pomander, and solde.

When chance me to an Arbour led,
Whereas I might behold:
Two blest Elizeums in one sted,
The lesse the great enfold.

The place which she had chosen out,
Her selfe in to repose;
Had they com'n downe, the gods no doubt
The very same had chose.

The wealthy Spring yet neuer bore
That sweet, nor dainty flower
That damask'd not, the chequer'd flore
Of CYNTHIAS Summer Bower.

The Birch, the Mirtle, and the Bay,
Like Friends did all embrace;
And their large branches did display,
To Canapy the place.

Where she like VENVS doth appeare,
Vpon a Rosie bed;
As Lillyes the soft pillowes weare,
Whereon she layd her head.

Heau'n on her shape such cost bestow'd,
And with such bounties blest:
No lim of hers but might haue made
A Goddesse at the least.

The Flyes by chance mesht in her hayre,
By the bright Radience throwne
From her cleare eyes, rich Iewels weare,
They so like Diamonds shone.

The meanest weede the soyle there bare,
Her breath did so refine,
That it with Woodbynd durst compare,
And beard the Eglantine.

The dewe which on the tender grasse,
The Euening had distill'd,
To pure Rose-water turned was,
The shades with sweets that fill'd.

The windes were husht, no leafe so small
At all was scene to stirre:
Whilst tuning to the waters fall,
The small Birds sang to her.

Where she too quickly me espies,
When I might plainely see,
A thousand Cupids from her eyes
Shoote all at once at me.

Into these secret shades (quoth she)
How dar'st thou be so bold
To enter, consecrate to me,
Or touch this hallowed mold.

Those words (quoth she) I can pronounce,
Which to that shape can bring
Thee, which the Hunter had who once
Sawe Dian in the Spring.

Bright Nimph againe I thus replie,
This cannot me affright:
I had rather in thy presence die,
Then liue out of thy sight.

I first vpon the Mountaines hie,
Built Altars to thy name;
And grau'd it on the Rocks thereby,
To propogate thy fame.

I taught the Shepheards on the Downes,
Of thee to frame their Layes:
T'was I that fill'd the neighbouring Townes,
With Ditties of thy praise.

Thy colours I deuis'd with care,
Which were vnknowne before:
Which since that, in their braded hayre
The Nimphes and Siluans wore.

Transforme me to what shape you can,
I passe not what it be:
Yea what most hatefull is to man,
So I may follow thee.

Which when she heard full pearly floods,
I in her eyes might view:
(Quoth she) most welcome to these Woods,
Too meane for one so true.

Here from the hatefull world we'll liue,
A den of mere dispight:
To Ideots only that doth giue,
Which be her sole delight.

To people the infernall pit,
That more and more doth striue;
Where only villany is wit,
And Diuels only thriue.

Whose vilenesse vs shall neuer awe:
But here our sports shall be:
Such as the golden world first sawe,
Most innocent and free.

Of Simples in these Groues that growe,
Wee'll learne the perfect skill;
The nature of each Herbe to knowe
Which cures, and which can kill.

The waxen Pallace of the Bee,
We seeking will surprise
The curious workmanship to see,
Of her full laden thighes.

Wee'll suck the sweets out of the Combe,
And make the gods repine:
As they doe feast in Ioues great roome,
To see with what we dine.

Yet when there haps a honey fall,
Wee'll lick the sirupt leaues:
And tell the Bees that their's is gall,
To this vpon the Greaues.

The nimble Squirrell noting here,
Her mossy Dray that makes,
And laugh to see the lusty Deere
Come bounding ore the brakes.

The Spiders Webb to watch weele stand,
And when it takes the Bee,
Weele helpe out of the Tyrants hand,
The Innocent to free.

Sometime weele angle at the Brooke,
The freckled Trout to take,
With silken Wormes, and bayte the hooke,
Which him our prey shall make.

Of medling with such subtile tooles,
Such dangers that enclose,
The Morrall is that painted Fooles,
Are caught with silken showes.

And when the Moone doth once appeare,
Weele trace the lower grounds,
When Fayries in their Ringlets there
Do daunce their nightly rounds.

And haue a Flocke of Turtle Doues,
A guard on vs to keepe,
A witnesse of our honest loues,
To watch vs till we sleepe.

Which spoke I felt such holy fires
To ouerspred my breast,
As lent life to my Chast desires
And gaue me endlesse rest.

By Cynthia thus doe I subsist,
On earth Heauens onely pride,
Let her be mine, and let who list,
Take all the world beside.


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