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Perchaunce thou hast or this tyme heard of one that overcame
The swiftest men in footemanshippe. No fable was that fame.
She overcame them out of dowt. And hard it is to tell
Thee whither she did in footemanshippe or beawty more excell.
Uppon a season as she askt of Phebus, what he was
That should her husband bee, he sayd: For husband doo not passe,
O Atalanta, thou at all of husband hast no neede.
Shonne husbanding. But yit thou canst not shonne it, I thee reede.
Alyve thou shalt not be thy self. Shee being sore afrayd
Of this Apollos Oracle, did keepe herself a mayd,
And lived in the shady woodes. When wooers to her came,
And were of her importunate, shee drave away the same
With boystous woordes, and with the sore condition of the game.
I am not to be had (quoth shee) onlesse yee able bee
In ronning for to vanquish mee. Yee must contend with mee
In footemanshippe. And who so winnes the wager, I agree
To bee his wife. But if that he bee found too slowe, then hee
Shall lose his head. This of your game the verrye law shall bee.
Shee was in deede unmercifull. But such is beawties powre,
That though the sayd condition were extreme and over sowre,
Yit many suters were so rash to undertake the same.
Hippomenes as a looker on of this uncurteous game,
Sate by, and sayd: Is any man so mad to seeke a wyfe
With such apparant perill and the hazard of his lyfe?
And utterly he did condemne the yongmens love. But when
He saw her face and bodye bare, (for why the Lady then
Did strippe her to her naked skin) the which was like to myne,
Or rather (if that thou wert made a woman) like to thyne:
He was amazde. And holding up his hands to heaven, he sayth:
Forgive mee you with whom I found such fault even now: in fayth
I did not know the wager that yee ran for. As hee prayseth
The beawty of her, in himselfe the fyre of love he rayseth.
And through an envy fearing lest shee should away be woonne,
He wisht that nere a one of them so swift as shee might roonne.
And wherfore (quoth hee) put not I myself in preace to trye
The fortune of this wager? God himself continually
Dooth help the bold and hardye sort. Now whyle Hippomenes
Debates theis things within himselfe and other like to these,
The Damzell ronnes as if her feete were wings. And though that shee
Did fly as swift as arrow from a Turkye bowe: yit hee
More woondred at her beawtye than at swiftnesse of her pace.
Her ronning greatly did augment her beawtye and her grace.
The wynd ay whisking from her feete the labells of her socks
Uppon her back as whyght as snowe did tosse her golden locks,
And eeke th'embroydred garters that were tyde beneathe her ham.
A rednesse mixt with whyght uppon her tender bodye cam,
As when a scarlet curtaine streynd ageinst a playstred wall
Dooth cast like shadowe, making it seeme ruddye therwithall.
Now whyle he straunger noted this, the race was fully ronne,
And Atalant (as shee that had the wager cleerely wonne)
Was crowned with a garlond brave. The vanquisht sighing sore,
Did lose theyr lyves according to agreement made before.
Howbeeit nought at all dismayd with theis mennes lucklesse cace
He stepped foorth, and looking full uppon the maydens face,
Sayd: Wherfore doost thou seeke renowne in vanquisshing of such
As were but dastards? Cope with mee. If fortune bee so much
My freend to give mee victorie, thou needest not hold scorne
To yeeld to such a noble man as I am. I am borne
The sonne of noble Megaree, Onchestyes sonne, and hee
Was sonne to Neptune. Thus am I great graundchyld by degree
In ryght descent, of him that rules the waters. Neyther doo
I out of kynd degenerate from vertue meete therto,
Or if my fortune bee so hard as vanquisht for to bee,
Thou shalt obteine a famous name by overcomming mee.
In saying thus, Atlanta cast a gentle looke on him:
And dowting whither shee rather had to lose the day or win,
Sayd thus: What God, an enmy to the beawtyfull, is bent
To bring this person to his end, and therefore hath him sent
To seeke a wyfe with hazard of his lyfe? If I should bee
Myselfe the judge in this behalfe, there is not sure in mee
That dooth deserve so deerely to bee earned. Neyther dooth
His beawty moove my hart at all. Yit is it such in sooth
As well might moove mee. But bycause as yit a chyld he is,
His person mooves mee not so much as dooth his age Iwis.
Beesydes that manhod is in him, and mynd unfrayd of death:
Beesydes that of the watrye race from Neptune as he seth
He is the fowrth: beesydes that he dooth love mee, and dooth make
So great accompt to win mee to his wyfe, that for my sake
He is contented for to dye, if fortune bee so sore
Ageinst him to denye him mee. Thou straunger hence therfore.
Away, I say, now whyle thou mayst, and shonne my bloody bed.
My mariage cruell is, and craves the losing of thy hed.
There is no wench but that would such a husband gladly catch.
And shee that wyse were myght desyre to meete with such a match.
But why now after heading of so many, doo I care
For thee? Looke thou to that. For sith so many men as are
Alreadye put to slawghter can not warne thee to beeware,
But that thou wilt bee weerye of thy lyfe, dye: doo not spare.
And shall he perrish then bycause he sought to live with mee?
And for his love unwoorthely wvith death rewarded bee?
All men of such a victory will speake too foule a shame.
But all the world can testifye that I am not to blame.
Would God thou wouldst desist. Or else bycause thou are so mad,
I would to God a little more thy feete of swiftnesse had.
Ah what a maydens countenance is in this chyldish face.
Ah, foolish boy Hippomenes, how wretched is thy cace.
I would thou never hadst mee seene. Thou woorthy art of lyfe.
And if so bee I happy were, and that to bee a wyfe
The cruell destnyes had not mee forbidden, sure thou art
The onely wyght with whom I would bee matcht with all my hart.
This spoken: shee yit rawe and but new striken with the dart
Of Cupid, beeing ignorant, did love and knew it nat.
Anon her father and the folk assembled, willed that
They should begin theyr woonted race. Then Neptunes issue prayd
With carefull hart and voyce to mee, and thus devoutly sayd:
O Venus, favour myne attempt, and send mee downe thyne ayd
To compasse my desyred love which thou hast on mee layd.
His prayer movd mee (I confesse,) and long I not delayd
Before I helpt him. Now there is a certaine feeld the which
The Cyprian folk call Damasene, most fertile and most rich
Of all the Cyprian feelds: the same was consecrate to mee
In auncient tyme, and of my Church the glebland woont to bee.
Amid this feeld, with golden leaves there growes a goodly tree
The crackling boughes whereof are all of yellew gold. I came
And gathered golden Apples three: and bearing thence the same
Within my hand, immediatly to Hippomen I gat
Invisible to all wyghts else save him and taught him what
To doo with them.
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