Text Box with description of Book

Dover Book

    Wow! What a great book! I read it once, then read it again because I didn't want to miss anything, especially Ovid's naughty humor. Of the four different poems in this collection, only two were actually written by Marlowe. The other two are translations from Latin poems, the first, which takes up half the book is Ovid's Elegies, or Amores, which are, not exactly love poems, but more humorous and naughty sexual escapades, written as experiences by Ovid himself, but most likely, were not. Supposedly. The other Latin translation is Lucan's First Book, concerning the Civil War in Rome. Of Marlowe's original poems, one is a short love poem, and the other, a love poem from Roman mythology, left unfinished at his brutal and untimely death. It was completed later by George Chapman, but that part isn't included here. All but Ovid's works are serious in nature.
    Since this work encompasses three authors, this review includes biographical information on all of them, beginning with Marlowe himself. Baptized the same year as Shakespeare—1564—he influenced the latter (and perhaps would have become the more famous one, had he not died so young)—killed in a tavern brawl. Supposedly. Here is a paragraph from Wikipedia.

Events in Marlowe's life were sometimes as extreme as those found in his plays. Differing sensational reports of Marlowe's death in 1593 abounded after the event and are contested by scholars today owing to a lack of good documentation. There have been many conjectures as to the nature and reason for his death, including a vicious bar-room fight, blasphemous libel against the church, homosexual intrigue, betrayal by another playwright, and espionage from the highest level: the Privy Council of Elizabeth I. An official coroner's account of Marlowe's death was discovered only in 1925, and it did little to persuade all scholars that it told the whole story, nor did it eliminate the uncertainties present in his biography.

    This present Dover edition states that his death may have even been staged perhaps related to the work he was doing as a spy. More on that in a bit. Born in Canterbury, he was the second of nine children. He was very intelligent and well-educated, first at The King's School in Canterbury at age fourteen (on a scholarship), then two years later at Corpus Christie College, Cambridge, intended to become an Anglican clergyman, then worked on his Master of Art degree in Latin, where he read and translated Ovid's works. He was not awarded the degree, however, because of rumors that he planned to attend a seminary in Reims, France, to become a Roman Catholic priest, a direct violation of Queen Elizabeth's edict against Catholicism, which, I believe, came to a head and finally ended in 1780 during the brutal Lord George Gordon Riots. For a better understanding of the Catholic situation in England, please read Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge.
    However, the Privy Council intervened, and the degree was awarded. And it was at this time that, again, supposedly, Marlowe became engaged as a spy for the Queen. It seems to me that if he was planning to become a priest that he wouldn't have had the Queen's approval for such an important undertaking. Wikipedia admits several times that little is really known about Marlowe's adult life, and lots and lots of falsehoods were recorded, concerning his life and activities. I will leave it at that for this review, but Marlowe will eventually get his own Index Page, as the criteria for me creating one is that I have reviewed five works for a topic or person. This is my fourth for Marlowe, and I have discovered a number of other works of which I was unaware that are published for free downloading at Project Gutenberg. This collection is also available there as The Works of Christopher Marlowe, Vol. 3. It is a much better edition than this one because it contains footnotes, plus the George Chapman completion of Hero and Leander. You can also access Marlowe's other works through that link.

Ovid's Elegies, or Amores

    The first work in this collection, as mentioned above, is Ovid's Elegies in three books. They were originally five, but Ovid condensed them to three. Before I get to them, here's a bit about Ovid. He was born in 43 BCE in Sulmo, (Peligny), Italy, near Rome, and died in 17-18 CE in Tomis, Scythia Minor, then still part of the Roman Empire, but now Constanta, Romania, where he had been banished by the Emperor Augustus, "without participation of the Senate or of any Roman judge." We really don't know why, but "Ovid wrote that the reason for his exile was carmen et error—"a poem and a mistake", claiming that his crime was worse than murder, more harmful than poetry."
    I find this Wikipedia article a bit confusing, but here are a couple other statements concerning his exile.

The Emperor's grandchildren, Julia the Younger and Agrippa Postumus (the latter adopted by him), were also banished around the same time. Julia's husband, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, was put to death for a conspiracy against Augustus, a conspiracy of which Ovid potentially knew.

The Julian marriage laws of 18 BC, which promoted monogamous marriage to increase the population's birth rate, were fresh in the Roman mind. Ovid's writing in the Ars Amatoria concerned the serious crime of adultery. He may have been banished for these works, which appeared subversive to the emperor's moral legislation. However, in view of the long time that elapsed between the publication of this work (1 BC) and the exile (AD 8), some authors suggest that Augustus used the poem as a mere justification for something more personal.

    Ovid was married three times and divorced twice before the age of thirty, and while the Wikipedia page on the Amores, states that these poems were likely not about real love affairs carried on by Ovid, or certainly anything with serious emotional attachment, after reading about his personal life, gosh, you have to wonder. If he behaved like his poetic self, I can't imagine him getting a wife at all!
    Ovid is another person who will probably end up with an Index Page, or perhaps a combined one, as I did with the Ancient Greek Playwrights, so I won't go any more into his biographical information, as I have a lot to cover in this review. In any case, I really liked these poems, and thought they were humorous and "got" the naughty parts. I've found another translation of this work on Ovid's Project Gutenberg page, along with the few other works of his that still exist. The translator is Henry T. Riley (1885), so at least there won't be the added task of understanding words and terms of Elizabethan English! The poems aren't translated as "poetry," but as prose. I did not read them yet, but I glanced through, and the naughtiness has been, eh, rather subdued. Hmm. They are supposed to be erotic! And humorous!! They do, however, read more like romantic love, but as I said, I've just glanced through. I wonder what he's done with the issue of erectile dysfunction that comes up (no pun intended) in Book Three. Maybe I'll skip ahead. Anyways, at least I will hopefully gain a better understanding of certain confusing passages in Marlowe's translation.
    I really was surprised that I understood it so well the first time through, again, seeing that, not only is it ancient Roman, but it was translated into Elizabethan English! After I read it, I checked the synopsis of each Elegia with what Wikipedia wrote about it, and my notes were in agreement with most of theirs, although they weren't even sure what he meant in some cases. Well. Anyways. I will share my notes and quotes from the poems from the fifteen Elegies that make up Book One, then a few from the other two Books. Incidentally, though a number of Ovid's other works are still available, Emperor Augustus had many of them destroyed. Hmm. I was under the impression those old Romans were liberal concerning sex. The Greeks certainly were! Below is a likeness of Ovid.


    Incidentally, the Wikipedia article does not match up with my edition of the poems. Book Three has an extra Elegia, and Book Two is missing seven! The Project Gutenberg edition is better, and although it has some footnotes, they aren't that helpful. However, they do point out that Elegia V was missing from Marlowe's extant copy, so they numbered theirs differently than my copy. I recommend theirs rather than the Dover book.
    I would have appreciated some explanation of some of the more confusing elements, which were unfamiliar words, people or gods, or just interpretations. Book One was the easiest to understand, but still, I know there was much in the details that I missed. Reading it a second time cleared up questions, and I am still in the process of researching because I find it all so interesting. I am seriously into Ancient Greek and Roman literature.
    Wikipedia's general commentary is helpful. This work was first published in 16 BCE. The one woman's name that is most often used is "Corinna," although he has affairs with others at the same time. Wikipedia says:

Speculations as to Corinna's real identity are many, if indeed she lived at all. It has been argued that she is a poetic construct copying the puella-archetype from other works in the love elegy genre. The name Corinna may have been a typically Ovidian pun based on the Greek word for "maiden", "kore". According to Knox there is no clear woman that Corinna alludes to, many scholars have come to conclude that the affair detailed throughout Amores is not based on real-life, and rather reflects Ovid's purpose to play with genre of the love elegy rather than to record real, passionate feelings for a woman.

    Below is a statue of Corinna: "Corinna (The Lyric Muse)" "William Brodie" from Sculptures of Andromeda, the Toilet of Atalanta, Corinna, and a Naiad.

Corinna and a Naiad

    One of the themes that is used continually is the comparison of Love with War (and battles). HA! Well, that makes sense. The theme of getting locked out from seeing his mistress also occurs frequently, and he often begs, cajoles and even threatens the guard for not allowing him in. As mentioned, these are humorous, but there are also some that are serious in nature. Wikipedia notes their "playfulness." And I note that there's an awful lot of lying, cheating, and an unquenchable thirst for lust (on both his part and Corinna's). I also want to mention that Cupid plays a big role here, and also in the serious work by Marlowe. It seems, back in the days of the Greek and Roman mythological gods and goddesses, they were often the scapegoat for whatever went wrong, or for bad behavior by humans. We now think of Cupid as that cute, cherubic being, with his bow and arrow that typically shows up on Valentine's Day merchandise, but back then, he seemed to be the acceptable excuse for promiscuousness, often in forbidden partnerships! And so, as Elegia I, Book One begins, Ovid laments that he had originally planned to write of battles, until he got hit. Below is a classical interpretation of Cupid, a bit more, eh, developed than some of the cherubic depictions. And now, here are some quotes and commentary from Amores, Book One.


Elegia I
I have no mistress nor no favourite,
Being fittest matter for a wanton wit.
Thus I complained, but Love unlocked his quiver,
Took out the shaft, ordained my heart to shiver,
And bent his sinewy bow upon his knee,
Saying, "Poet, here's a work beseeming thee."
O, woe is me! he never shoots but hits,
I burn, love in my idle bosom sits:

Elegia II
    He tosses and turns, rather than sleeping, then finally decides to just give in and stop resisting Cupid's arrow. HA! What's that saying about being able to resist everything but temptation?

What makes my bed seem hard seeing it is soft?
Or why slips down the coverlet so oft?
Although the nights be long I sleep not tho
My sides are sore with tumbling to and fro.
Were love the cause it's like I should descry him,
Or lies he close and shoots where none can spy him?
'Twas so; he strook me with a slender dart;
'Tis cruel Love turmoils my captive heart.
Yielding or striving do we give him might,
Let's yield, a burden easily borne is light.

Elegia III
    Though he is from a lower class, he swears (in his mind) his undying love to Corinna. Yeah, right, and after he catches her, it's no fun anymore, as we later learn.
Elegia IV
    He is at a banquet where Corinna and her husband are also present. He sits there hoping it will be her husband's last supper and imagines them in bed later on. He gives her a list of signals to use to communicate with him. HA! Oh, my. This is one of the longer Elegies, and this is a good bit of it.

Thy husband to a banquet goes with me,
Pray God it may his latest supper be.
Shall I sit gazing as a bashful guest,
While others touch the damsel I love best?
Wilt lying under him, his bosom clip?
About thy neck shall he at pleasure skip?
Marvel not, though the fair bride did incite
The drunken Centaurs to a sudden fight.
I am no half horse, nor in woods I dwell,
Yet scarce my hands from thee contain I well.
But how thou should'st behave thyself now know,
Nor let the winds away my warnings blow.
Before thy husband come, though I not see
What may be done, yet there before him be.
Lie with him gently, when his limbs he spread
Upon the bed; but on my foot first tread.
View me, my becks, and speaking countenance;
Take, and return each secret amorous glance.
Words without voice shall on my eyebrows sit,
Lines thou shalt read in wine by my hand writ.
When our lascivious toys come to thy mind,
Thy rosy cheeks be to thy thumb inclined.
If aught of me thou speak'st in inward thought,
Let thy soft finger to thy ear be brought.
When I, my light, do or say aught that please thee,
Turn round thy gold ring, as it were to ease thee.
Strike on the board like them that pray for evil,
When thou dost wish thy husband at the devil.
What wine he fills thee, wisely will him drink;
Ask thou the boy, what thou enough dost think.
When thou hast tasted, I will take the cup,
And where thou drink'st, on that part I will sup.
If he gives thee what first himself did taste,
Even in his face his offered gobbets cast.
Let not thy neck by his vile arms be prest,
Nor lean thy soft head on his boisterous breast.
Thy bosom's roseate buds let him not finger,
Chiefly on thy lips let not his lips linger
If thou givest kisses, I shall all disclose,
Say they are mine, and hands on thee impose.
Yet this I'll see, but if thy gown aught cover,
Suspicious fear in all my veins will hover.
Mingle not thighs, nor to his leg join thine,
Nor thy soft foot with his hard foot combine.
I have been wanton, therefore am perplexed,
And with mistrust of the like measure vexed.
I and my wench oft under clothes did lurk,
When pleasure moved us to our sweetest work.

Elegia V
    Then finally, on a hot summer midday, after he had closed a window and darkened the room, she comes to him and gives in. As she drops off her apparel, he describes what he sees and likes it!

What arms and shoulders did I touch and see!
How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me!
How smooth a belly under her waist saw I,
How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh!
To leave the rest, all liked me passing well;
I clinged her naked body, down she fell:
Judge you the rest; being tired she bade me kiss;
Jove send me more such afternoons as this!

Elegia VI
    Here he begs, cajoles and threatens the gatekeeper to unlock the gate so he can get to Corinna before dawn. He points out that he is slender and can get through a small opening. He finally threatens to burn the house down!

But now perchance thy wench with thee doth rest,
Ah, how thy lot is above my lot blest:
Though it be so, shut me not out therefore;
Night goes away: I pray thee ope the door.
Err we? or do the turnèd hinges sound,
And opening doors with creaking noise abound?
We err: a strong blast seemed the gates to ope:
Ay me, how high that gale did lift my hope!
If Boreas bears Orithyia's rape in mind,
Come break these deaf doors with thy boisterous wind.
Silent the city is: night's dewy host
March fast away: the bar strike from the post.
Or I more stern than fire or sword will turn,
And with my brand these gorgeous houses burn.

Elegia VII
    The next one is about his remorse after he has hit Corinna and tears her hair. Oh, my!! He begs her to scratch his eyes with her long nails!

Before her feet thrice prostrate down I fell,
My fearèd hands thrice back she did repel.
But doubt thou not (revenge doth grief appease),
With thy sharp nails upon my face to seize;
Bescratch mine eyes, spare not my locks to break
(Anger will help thy hands though ne'er so weak);
And lest the sad signs of my crime remain,
Put in their place thy kembèd hairs again.

Elegia VIII
    In this one he hears Dipsas, a sort of sorceress/pimp (?) is instructing Corinna to demand payment for her favors. She doesn't know he's listening, and when she realizes it, he steps outof the shadow and curses her. This is the longest poem in Book One. Here are several quotes. The first and last are in the poet's voice, and the middle ones are Dipsas instructing Corinna.

If I have faith, I saw the stars drop blood,
The purple moon with sanguine visage stood;
Her I suspect among night's spirits to fly,
And her old body in birds' plumes to lie.
Fame saith as I suspect; and in her eyes,
Two eyeballs shine, and double light thence flies.
Great grandsires from their ancient graves she chides,
And with long charms the solid earth divides.
She draws chaste women to incontinence,
Nor doth her tongue want harmful eloquence.
By chance I heard her talk; these words she said,
While closely hid betwixt two doors I laid.

Who seeks, for being fair, a night to have,
What he will give, with greater instance crave.
Make a small price, while thou thy nets dost lay;
Lest they should fly; being ta'en, the tyrant play.
Dissemble so, as loved he may be thought,
And take heed lest he gets that love for naught.
Deny him oft; feign now thy head doth ache:
And Isis now will show what 'scuse to make.
Receive him soon, lest patient use he gain,
Or lest his love oft beaten back should wane.
To beggars shut, to bringers ope thy gate;
Let him within hear barred-out lovers prate.

On all the bed men's tumbling let him view,
And thy neck with lascivious marks made blue.
Chiefly show him the gifts, which others send:
If he gives nothing, let him from thee wend.
When thou hast so much as he gives no more,
Pray him to lend what thou may'st ne'er restore.

As thus she spake, my shadow me betrayed;
With much ado my hands I scarcely stayed;
But her blear eyes, bald scalp's thin hoary fleeces,
And rivelled cheeks I would have pulled a-pieces.
The gods send thee no house, a poor old age,
Perpetual thirst, and winter's lasting rage.

Elegia IX
    Near the midpoint of Book One, Ovid once again points out the similarities between the battles of War and the battles of Love.
Elegia X
    Here Corinna sort of tries to follow the advice of Dipsas, demanding reward for her pleasures. It doesn't work. He points out that animals do it for free. HA! Wikipedia says that he's angry because she asks for material gifts, rather than his gift of poetry. Here are two quotes.

Now all fear with my mind's hot love abates:
No more this beauty mine eyes captivates.
Ask'st why I change? because thou crav'st reward;
This cause hath thee from pleasing me debarred.
While thou wert plain I loved thy mind and face:
Now inward faults thy outward form disgrace.

Take from irrational beasts a precedent;
'Tis shame their wits should be more excellent.
The mare asks not the horse, the cow the bull,
Nor the mild ewe gifts from the ram doth pull.
Only a woman gets spoils from a man,
Farms out herself on nights for what she can;
And lets what both delight, what both desire,
Making her joy according to her hire.
The sport being such, as both alike sweet try it,
Why should one sell it and the other buy it?
Why should I lose, and thou gain by the pleasure,
Which man and woman reap in equal measure?

Elegia XI
    He sends Corinna's maid to deliver a note, asking if she will see him that night.
Elegia XII
    The answer is "no," and he thinks it was a bad omen that the maid tripped on her way out. He spends the remainder of the poem cursing the wooden tablets, (he does lots of cursing) ending thus:

Your name approves you made for such like things,
The number two no good divining brings.
Angry, I pray that rotten age you racks,
And sluttish white-mould overgrow the wax.

Elegia XIII
    In this one, he's angry with Aurora (dawn, sunrise) because he wants to remain longer with his mistress. He begs that she give him more time, and tells her it's not his fault that her mate is too old!

Thou leav'st his bed, because he's faint through age,
And early mount'st thy hateful carriage:
But held'st thou in thy arms some Cephalus,
Then would'st thou cry, "Stay night, and run not thus."
Dost punish me because years make him wane?
I did not bid thee wed an agèd swain.
The moon sleeps with Endymion every day;
Thou art as fair as she, then kiss and play.
Jove, that thou should'st not haste but wait his leisure,
Made two nights one to finish up his pleasure.
I chid no more; she blushed, and therefore heard me,
Yet lingered not the day, but morning scared me.

Elegia XIV
    He mocks Corinna because she's dyed her hair with something noxious and not only ruined it, but it's falling out.
Elegia XV
    He ends Book One in praise of poetry.

    Here are just some highlights from Book Two. Once again, he proclaims that as a servant of Cupid, he must write of Love, not War. He is still seeing Corinna, but they are both cheating. There are so many amusing scenarios in this one, but I will just share a couple. This one is from Elegia V, when he catches Corinna (it seems to still be her) kissing another man at a banquet.

Now many guests were gone, the feast being done,
The youthful sort to divers pastimes run.
I saw you then unlawful kisses join;
(Such with my tongue it likes me to purloin);
None such the sister gives her brother grave,
But such kind wenches let their lovers have.

    But then she does it to him, and he forgets about being upset! In Elegia IV, he proclaims his love (lust) for all women, no matter what shape, size, color, or age! HAHA!! Oh, my.

Trips she, it likes me well; plods she, what than?
She would be nimbler lying with a man.
And when one sweetly sings, then straight I long,
To quaver on her lips even in her song;
Or if one touch the lute with art and cunning,
Who would not love those hands for their swift running?
And her I like that with a majesty,
Folds up her arms, and makes low courtesy.
To leave myself, that am in love with all,
Some one of these might make the chastest fall.
If she be tall, she's like an Amazon,
And therefore fills the bed she lies upon:
If short, she lies the rounder: to speak troth,
Both short and long please me, for I love both.
I think what one undecked would be, being drest;
Is she attired? then show her graces best.
A white wench thralls me, so doth golden yellow:
And nut-brown girls in doing have no fellow.
If her white neck be shadowed with black hair,
Why so was Leda's, yet was Leda fair.
Amber-tress'd is she? then on the morn think I:
My love alludes to every history:
A young wench pleaseth, and an old is good,
This for her looks, that for her womanhood:
Nay what is she, that any Roman loves,
But my ambitious ranging mind approves?

    One of the few serious poems in the entire work is Elegia VI. It is about the parrot he gave to Corinna, imported from East India. It died, and this poem is really a tender and rather heartbreaking tribute to a creatures that everyone loved. It ends, describing the special cemetery where the bird was buried.

The seventh day came, none following might'st thou see,
And the Fate's distaff empty stood to thee:
Yet words in thy benumbèd palate rung;
"Farewell, Corinna," cried thy dying tongue.
Elysium 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 phœnix, one alone bird ever;
There Juno's bird displays his gorgeous feather,
And loving doves kiss eagerly together.
The parrot into wood received with these,
Turns all the godly birds to what she please.
A grave her bones hides: on her corps' great grave,
The little stones these little verses have.
This tomb approves I pleased my mistress well
My mouth in speaking did all birds excell

    In Elegia VII, he is angry when Corinna accuses him of sleeping with her handmaid, Cypassis. In Elegia VIII, he threatens Cypassis to tell Corinna what they've been doing if she refuses to continue sleeping with him. HA! Naughty Ovid.

    Elegia XIII and XIV are also very serious—about abortion. In XIII, Corinna has an abortion (his child, he believes), and almost dies. He prays to the gods for her recovery, and she does recover, but he also says if it happens again, it will not be forgiven. Wikipedia ends with XIV, but my copy, and Project Gutenberg go up to XIX.

    There are also differences in my Book Three, in this case I am missing one of the poems, which apparently was missing in Marlowe's manuscript. Again, Project Gutenberg has the missing poem (Elegia V), but in the Henry T. Riley translation only.

    Book Three begins with a confrontation between Elegia and Tragedy, and though Elegia is triumphant, it seems the poet's love life is not quite what it had been. Corinna isn't mentioned as much, and he meets a girl at the races. Then he has the little problem with erectile dysfunction. That is in Elegia VII. Oh-ho! I see what Henry T. Riley did with this one! He left it in Latin! HAHA!! What a prude! Well, Marlowe certainly wasn't prudish about it. Here are two rather graphic quotes. Yeah, always blame the woman.

Either she was foul, or her attire was bad,
Or she was not the wench I wished to have had.
Idly I lay with her, as if I loved not,
And like a burden grieved the bed that moved not.
Though both of us performed our true intent,
Yet could I 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,
Seeing 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.

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 would'st 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 mock'st thou me," she cried, "or being ill,
Who bade thee lie down here against thy will?
Either thou art witched with blood of frogs new dead,
Or jaded cam'st thou from some other's 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 in the place.

    And on that, I will end the section on Ovid. I had never read any of his works before, but as you can see, I have become a big fan because of this work. I can't wait to read the other works of his available in translation. I highly recommend reading the Marlowe version (from Project Gutenberg). It is not only entertaining, but transports you to a different world—that of Ancient Rome.

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
    This is a short, simple and tender love poem, the one for which Marlowe is most well-known, especially by the line, "Come live with me and be my love." At the bottom of the Wikipedia page for this work, under "Effect and Influence," there are some interesting comments, particularly Sir Walter Raleigh's "reply," The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd, which was used in a number of later works along with Marlowe's poem. Here's one that I found interesting. I love the music of John Rutter, although he's more known for his sacred music.
"Come Live With Me" from Birthday Madrigals

In "Birthday Madrigals" (1995) John Rutter sets both poems, giving Marlowe's words to tenors and basses, with the women singing Raleigh's reply, and the men singing over the women, changing the feel from question and reply to two people not listening each other.

    And I've seen Peter Schickele twice in concert, once at Cincinnati Music Hall and then at E.J. Thomas in Akron, Ohio. He just died in January, 2024. He was hysterically funny.

Hero and Leander
    This is the other poem written by Marlowe, but left unfinished by him. It was later complete by George Chapman. This Dover book doesn't include Chapman's work, but the Project Gutenberg edition does. (It is a much better edition in many respects.) It comes from ancient Greek mythology—the romance between Hero, the virgin priestess of Aphrodite (Marlowe substitutes the Roman equivalent, Venus), and a gorgeous young man, Leander. She lives in a tower in Sestos, and he, in Abydos, across the Hellespont. According to the myth, Leander falls in love with Hero, and though she has sworn chastity to Venus, he eventually convinces her that Aphrodite is the goddess of love and sex, and so she, therefore, has no reason to remain a virgin.
    During the summer, he swims across the strait to be with Hero, but cannot during the winter. However, he attempts once, but a winter wind blows out the candle in Hero's tower. He loses his way and drowns. When she discovers the body, she throws herself off the tower. The bodies wash up in an embrace, and are buried in a lovers' tomb. Below is the Hellespont, ancient and modern.

Hellespont, Modern

Hellespont, Ancient

    Marlowe adds his own embellishments, and since the poem was left unfinished by him, we don't know how he planned the ending, or even if he planned on adding more. His version was influenced by the poem of Musaeus Grammaticus.
    In Marlowe's version, the two young people meet during a festival in honor of Venus and Adonis. Hero and Leander are both physically beautiful, and are immediately attracted to each other, although Hero resists Leander's amorous advances. And of course, naughty Cupid shoots his arrow, making their love impossible to resist.
    And her resistance does begin to break down, so one night, he decides to swim the raging Hellespont. But Neptune spies him, and seeing his beauty, mistakes him for Ganymede and pulls him down. Realizing his error, he gives Leander a bracelet to protect him from drowning. He arrives at Hero's tower, stark naked, and she finally gives in. Dawn arrives too soon.
Below is a painting from the mythical version, The Last Watch of Hero by Frederic Leighton, depicting Hero anxiously waiting for Leander during the storm.

The Last Watch of Hero, by Frederic Leighton

Lucan's Pharsalia
    To end the collection, we have another translation from Latin, though a bit later in history. The book simply calls it "Lucan's First Book," and as I mentioned above, this edition lacks footnotes, nor does it contain much explanatory material concerning the works presented, which is really necessary, as they are most likely not familiar to the average reader. Well, I'm certainly well above the average reader, and as with the other works, I had to do quite a bit of research to understand (and appreciate) these poems. As mentioned above, I read the entire book twice, but the second time through, armed myself with additional material, beginning with a bit about Lucan.
    Lucan was born in 39 CE and died in 65 CE at the age of 25 of forced suicide by opening a vein, due to his role in a conspiracy against the Emperor Nero. The two at one time were close friends, but had a falling out, possibly because Nero became jealous of Lucan. In any case, this article doesn't provide much information on him simply because we have almost no records of his life. This is his only surviving work.
    It is known as On the Civil War, or more commonly the Pharsalia. Of this, Wikipedia says it

is a Roman epic poem written by the poet Lucan, detailing the civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Roman Senate led by Pompey the Great. The poem's title is a reference to the Battle of Pharsalus, which occurred in 48 BC, near Pharsalus, Thessaly, in Northern Greece. Caesar decisively defeated Pompey in this battle, which occupies all of the epic's seventh book. In the early twentieth century, translator J. D. Duff, while arguing that "no reasonable judgment can rank Lucan among the world's great epic poets", notes that the work is notable for Lucan's decision to eschew divine intervention and downplay supernatural occurrences in the events of the story. Scholarly estimation of Lucan's poem and poetry has since changed, as explained by commentator Philip Hardie in 2013: "In recent decades, it has undergone a thorough critical re-evaluation, to re-emerge as a major expression of Neronian politics and aesthetics, a poem whose studied artifice enacts a complex relationship between poetic fantasy and historical reality."

    Ten books of the poem were written at the time of Lucan's death, and all survive. Marlowe only translated the First Book, perhaps because of his own untimely death—not much older than Lucan. However, Project Gutenberg has the entire poem that you can download and read for free! Of course, I did download it, as I have a passion for anything Ancient Greek and Roman.
    Of all the poems in this collection, I found this one to be the most difficult to understand. Reading the Wikipedia page helped, but I also read the page on the Civil War, between Caesar and Pompey. More on that in a bit. The Wikipedia page supplies a short synopsis of each of the books, which are not that long. I will just cover the one Marlowe translated. The work was begun in 61 CE, and there is still debate on whether the work was unfinished at Lucan's death, or whether there were other books that were lost. (Nero prohibited publication of Lucan's works after their falling out.) Others believe that this work is complete as is. Here is the synopsis Wikipedia supplies for the first book, but I also have quite a bit more to add and some interesting quotes from the poem.

Book 1: After a brief introduction lamenting the idea of Romans fighting Romans and an ostensibly flattering dedication to Nero, the narrative summarizes background material leading up to the present war and introduces Caesar in northern Italy. Despite an urgent plea from the Spirit of Rome to lay down his arms, Caesar crosses the Rubicon, rallies his troops and marches south to Rome, joined by Curio along the way. The book closes with panic in the city, terrible portents and visions of the disaster to come.

     Crossing the Rubicon has come to mean crossing a point of no return. There is a modern book that was part of the community discussion several years ago at Geoengineering Watch called Crossing the Rubicon-Decline of the American Empire at the end of the Age of Oil by Michael Ruppert, with a Foreword by Catherine Austin Fitts. You can now download it for free at Internet Archive. But I never knew the history behind the saying. Now I do. Here is a photo of the Rubicon. It is in the town of Bellaria. Below is the modern Rubicon, and a map from Caesar's time.

Rubicon, Ancient

Rubicon, Modern

    For those who are really interested, here is the Wikipedia page for Caesar's civil war (49-45 BC), which they say "was a civil war during the late Roman Republic between two factions led by Gaius Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey), respectively. The main cause of the war was political tensions relating to Caesar's place in the republic on his expected return to Rome on the expiration of his governorship in Gaul."

The war was fought in Italy, Illyria, Greece, Egypt, Africa, and Hispania. The decisive events occurred in Greece in 48 BC: Pompey defeated Caesar at the Battle of Dyrrhachium, but the subsequent larger Battle of Pharsalus was won by Caesar and Pompey's army disintegrated. Many prominent supporters of Pompey (termed Pompeians) surrendered after the battle, such as Marcus Junius Brutus and Cicero. Others fought on, including Cato the Younger and Metellus Scipio. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated upon arrival.

    I found it interesting, and brought back memories of my high school Latin classes. "Veni, vidi, vici" or "I came, I saw, I conquered." Pompey had just been murdered in Egypt, and Caesar arrived three days later. This is also when he met Cleopatra, who was the co-ruler of Egypt with her brother, Ptolemy XIII, and they were not getting along. This was in 48 BCE. He remained there and became Cleopatra's lover. She bore him a child. He left Egypt in 47 BCE, where he fought the invasion of Pharnaces II, and it is this easy victory that inspired the above proclamation.
    It was in 44 BCE that he was permanently appointed as Dictator, which began a conspiracy against his life. He was assassinated on March 15, (Beware the Ides of March), and his friend(?) Brutus was supposedly in on it—(Et tu, Brute?)—at least according to Shakespeare.
    Having said all that, here are some quotes from Lucan's poem, (fictionalized to a point). First, he writes of the insanity of war. (Nothing has changed, has it?)

Rome, if thou take delight in impious war,
First conquer all the earth, then turn thy force
Against thyself: as yet thou wants not foes.

    He then goes on to point out that two strong but very different men could not both rule such a huge republic.

The Fates are envious, high seats quickly perish,
Under great burdens falls are ever grievous;
Rome was so great it could not bear itself. . . .

Dominion cannot suffer partnership.
This need no foreign proof nor far-fet story:
Rome's infant walls were steep'd in brother's blood;
Nor then was land or sea, to breed such hate;
A town with one poor church set them at odds.

Cæsar's and Pompey's jarring love soon ended,
'Twas peace against their wills; betwixt them both
Stepp'd Crassus in. Even as the slender isthmos,
Betwixt the Ægæan, and the Ionian sea,
Keeps each from other, but being worn away,
They both burst out, and each encounter other;
So whenas Crassus' wretched death, who stay'd them,
Had fill'd Assyrian Carra's walls with blood,
His loss made way for Roman outrages.

    Lucan also notes that had Julia lived longer, she might have kept the two in peace—she being the daughter of Caesar and wife of Pompey.

Swords share our empire: Fortune, that made Rome
Govern the earth, the sea, the world itself,
Would not admit two lords; for Julia,
Snatch'd hence by cruel Fates, with ominous howls
Bare down to hell her son, the pledge of peace,
And all bands of that death-presaging alliànce.
Julia, had heaven given thee longer life,
Thou hadst restrain'd thy headstrong husband's rage,
Yea, and thy father too, and, swords thrown down,
Made all shake hands, as once the Sabines did:
Thy death broke amity, and train'd to war
These captains emulous of each other's glory.

    Then Lucan compares the two personalities of Caesar and Pompey.

Thee war's use stirr'd, and thoughts that always scorn'd
A second place. Pompey could bide no equal,
Nor Cæsar no superior: which of both
Had justest cause, unlawful 'tis to judge:
Each side had great partakers; Cæsar's cause
The gods abetted, Cato lik'd the other.
Both differ'd much. Pompey was struck in years,
And by long rest forgot to manage arms,
And, being popular, sought by liberal gifts
To gain the light unstable commons' love,
And joy'd to hear his theatre's applause:
He lived secure, boasting his former deeds,
And thought his name sufficient to uphold him:
Like to a tall oak in a fruitful field,
Bearing old spoils and conquerors' monuments,
Who, though his root be weak, and his own weight
Keep him within the ground, his arms all bare,
His body, not his boughs, send forth a shade;
Though every blast it nod, and seem to fall,
When all the woods about stand bolt upright,
Yet he alone is held in reverence.
Cæsar's renown for war was less; he restless,
Shaming to strive but where he did subdue;
When ire or hope provok'd, heady and bold;
At all times charging home, and making havoc;
Urging his fortune, trusting in the gods,
Destroying what withstood his proud desires,
And glad when blood and ruin made him way:
So thunder, which the wind tears from the clouds,
With crack of riven air and hideous sound
Filling the world, leaps out and throws forth fire,
Affrights poor fearful men, and blasts their eyes
With overthwarting flames, and raging shoots
Alongst the air, and, not resisting it,
Falls, and returns, and shivers where it lights.

    And here's one that sounds familiar. Yep, here in 2024, wealth and greed rule and power corrupts. Many have compared the fall of Rome with the coming fall of the U.S.A., and I totally agree. But please note—what we call the "fall of Rome" was the Roman Empire, which came after this—the fall of the Roman Republic. Here's a quote from Britannica:

The main difference between the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire was that the former was a democratic society and the latter was run by only one man. Also, the Roman Republic was in an almost constant state of war, whereas the Roman Empire's first 200 years were relatively peaceful.

When Fortune made us lords of all, wealth flow'd,
And then we grew licentious and rude;
The soldiers' prey and rapine brought in riot;
Men took delight in jewels, houses, plate,
And scorn'd old sparing diet, and ware robes
Too light for women; Poverty, who hatch'd
Rome's greatest wits, was loath'd, and all the world
Ransack'd for gold, which breeds the world decay;
And then large limits had their butting lands;
The ground, which Curius and Camillus till'd,
Was stretched unto the fields of hinds unknown.
Again, this people could not brook calm peace;
Them freedom without war might not suffice:
Quarrels were rife; greedy desire, still poor,
Did vild deeds; then 'twas worth the price of blood,
And deem'd renown, to spoil their native town;
Force mastered right, the strongest govern'd all;
Hence came it that th' edicts were over-rul'd,
That laws were broke, tribunes with consuls strove,
Sale made of offices, and people's voices
Bought by themselves and sold, and every year
Frauds and corruption in the Field of Mars;
Hence interest and devouring usury sprang,
Faith's breach, and hence came war, to most men welcome.

    In line 11, the word "hinds" means peasant or servant in Elizabethan English. Marlowe used it frequently in these poems.     The next passage tells of the moment Caesar made the ominous decision to Cross the Rubicon.

This said, he, laying aside all lets of war,
Approach'd the swelling stream with drum and ensign:
Like to a lion of scorch'd desert Afric,
Who, seeing hunters, pauseth till fell wrath
And kingly rage increase, then, having whisk'd
His tail athwart his back, and crest heav'd up,
With jaws wide-open ghastly roaring out,
Albeit the Moor's light javelin or his spear
Sticks in his side, yet runs upon the hunter.

    In the map below, the lightest pinks are the areas Caesar ruled, which is mostly modern northern Italy and southern France. The darkest pink are Pompey's and Crassus had the medium pink. So when Caesar and his soldiers Crossed the Rubicon, he entered Pompey's area of Italy.

Territorial Map

    Caesar soon gets support from tribunes expelled from Rome.

The angry senate, urging Gracchus' deeds,
From doubtful Rome wrongly expell'd the tribunes
That cross'd them: both which now approach'd the camp,
And with them Curio, sometime tribune too,
One that was fee'd for Cæsar, and whose tongue
Could tune the people to the nobles' mind.
"Cæsar," said he, "while eloquence prevail'd,
And I might plead and draw the commons' minds
To favour thee, against the senate's will,
Five years I lengthen'd thy command in France;
But law being put to silence by the wars,
We, from her houses driven, most willingly
Suffer'd exile: let thy sword bring us home,
Now, while their part is weak and fears, march hence:
Where men are ready lingering ever hurts.

    Caesar is inspired and speaks out against Pompey and his former master, Sulla, a former dictator of Rome.

To exceed his master, that arch-traitor Sulla.
A brood of barbarous tigers, having lapp'd
The blood of many a herd, whilst with their dams
They kennell'd in Hyrcania, evermore
Will rage and prey; so, Pompey, thou, having lick'd
Warm gore from Sulla's sword, art yet athirst:
Jaws flesh with blood continue murderous.
Speak, when shall this thy long-usurped power end?
What end of mischief? Sulla teaching thee,
At last learn, wretch, to leave thy monarchy!

Then Lælius,
The chief centurion, crown'd with oaken leaves
For saving of a Roman citizen,
Stepp'd forth, and cried: "Chief leader of Rome's force,
So be I may be bold to speak a truth,
We grieve at this thy patience and delay.
What, doubt'st thou us? even now when youthful blood
Pricks forth our lively bodies, and strong arms
Can mainly throw the dart, wilt thou endure
These purple grooms, that senate's tyranny?
Is conquest got by civil war so heinous?
Well, lead us, then, to Syrtes' desert shore,
Or Scythia, or hot Libya's thirsty sands.
This band, that all behind us might be quail'd,
Hath with thee pass'd the swelling ocean,
And swept the foaming breast of Arctic Rhene.
Love over-rules my will; I must obey thee,
Cæsar: he whom I hear thy trumpets charge,
I hold no Roman; by these ten blest ensigns
And all thy several triumphs, shouldst thou bid me
Entomb my sword within my brother's bowels,
Or father's throat, or women's groaning womb,
This hand, albeit unwilling, should perform it?
Or rob the gods, or sacred temples fire,
These troops should soon pull down the church of Jove;
If to encamp on Tuscan Tiber's streams,
I'll boldly quarter out the fields of Rome;
What walls thou wilt be levell'd with the ground,
These hands shall thrust the ram, and make them fly,
Albeit the city thou wouldst have so raz'd
Be Rome itself." Here every band applauded,
And, with their hands held up, all jointly cried
They'll follow where he please.

     I will conclude with some random quotes from the long section that ends the poem concerning people fleeing Rome because they feared what was coming. I believe this part is all fictional because nothing I've read about this event indicates that happened. Immediately following are the numerous "omens," "presages" and "warnings" that accompanied the flight of the people of Rome. Even though it isn't necessarily true, remember, a fairly large part of ancient Greek and Roman life revolved around their gods and goddesses, and superstitions. so I found it all interesting.

Thus in his fright did each man strengthen fame,
And, without ground, fear'd what themselves had feign'd.
Nor were the commons only struck to heart
With this vain terror; but the court, the senate,
The fathers selves leap'd from their seats, and, flying,
Left hateful war decreed to both the consuls.
Then, with their fear and danger all-distract,
Their sway of flight carries the heady rout,
That in chain'd troops break forth at every port:
You would have thought their houses had been fir'd,
Or, dropping-ripe, ready to fall with ruin.
So rush'd the inconsiderate multitude
Thorough the city, hurried headlong on,
As if the only hope that did remain
To their afflictions were t' abandon Rome.

    And this one! Sounds like an eclipse to me, which we here in the U.S. experienced, and which came right through my backyard here in NE Ohio. (It was not exciting.) But we have seen some disturbing global events in the past few days and months. I didn't find any information that indicated there was an eclipse during this period in Rome, however.

Now evermore, lest some one hope might ease
The commons' jangling minds, apparent signs arose,
Strange sights appeared; the angry threatening gods
Filled both the earth and seas with prodigies.
Great store of strange and unknown stars were seen
Wandering about the north, and rings of fire
Fly in the air, and dreadful bearded stars,
And comets that presage the fall of kingdoms;
The flattering sky glittered in often flames,
And sundry fiery meteors blazed in heaven,
Now spear-like long, now like a spreading torch;
Lightning in silence stole forth without clouds,
And, from the northern climate snatching fire,
Blasted the Capitol; the lesser stars,
Which wont to run their course through empty night,
At noon-day mustered; Phœbe, having filled
Her meeting horns to match her brother's light,
Struck with th' earth's sudden shadow, waxèd pale;
Titan himself, throned in the midst of heaven,
His burning chariot plunged in sable clouds,
And whelmed the world in darkness, making men
Despair of day; as did Thyestes' town,
Mycenæ, Phœbus flying through the east.

    And more portents of disaster!

Cattle were seen that muttered human speech;
Prodigious births with more and ugly joints
Than nature gives, whose sight appals the mother;
And dismal prophecies were spread abroad:
And they, whom fierce Bellona's fury moves
To wound their arms, sing vengeance; Cybel's priests,
Curling their bloody locks, howl dreadful things.
Souls quiet and appeas'd sighed from their graves;
Clashing of arms was heard; in untrod woods
Shrill voices schright; and ghosts encounter men.

    And with that, I will end this long review. I hope you can make use of all the research I've done on this work. I know it's not for everyone, but people that love ancient history as I do, can't get enough of it!


All material on this site copyright © 2024 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.