Table of Contents:
Calld Cinyras who (had he had none issue) surely myght
Of all men underneathe the sun beene thought the happyest wyght.
Of wicked and most cursed things to speake I now commence.
Yee daughters and yee parents all go get yee farre from hence.
Or if yee mynded bee to heere my tale, beleeve mee nought
In this beehalfe: ne think that such a thing was ever wrought.
Or if yee will beeleeve the deede, beleeve the vengeance too
Which lyghted on the partye that the wicked act did doo.
But if that it be possible that any wyght so much
From nature should degenerate, as for to fall to such
A heynous cryme as this is, I am glad for Thracia, I
Am glad for this same world of ours, yea glad exceedingly
I am for this my native soyle, for that there is such space
Betweene it and the land that bred a chyld so voyd of grace.
I would the land Panchaya should of Amomie be rich,
And Cinnamom, and Costus sweete, and Incence also which
Dooth issue largely out of trees, and other flowers straunge,
As long as that it beareth Myrrhe: not woorth it was the chaunge,
Newe trees to have of such a pryce. The God of love denyes
His weapons to have hurted thee, O Myrrha, and he tryes
Himselfe ungiltie by thy fault. One of the Furies three
With poysonde Snakes and hellish brands hath rather blasted thee.
To hate ones father is a cryme as heynous as may bee,
But yit more wicked is this love of thine than any hate.
The youthfull Lordes of all the East and Peeres of cheef estate
Desyre to have thee to their wyfe, and earnest sute doo make.
Of all (excepting onely one) thy choyce, O Myrrha, take.
Shee feeles her filthye love, and stryves ageinst it, and within
Herself sayd: Whither roonnes my mynd? what thinke I to begin?
Yee Gods (I pray) and godlynesse, yee holy rites and awe
Of parents, from this heynous cryme my vicious mynd withdrawe,
And disappoynt my wickednesse. At leastwyse if it bee
A wickednesse that I intend. As farre as I can see,
This love infrindgeth not the bondes of godlynesse a whit.
For every other living wyght dame nature dooth permit
To match without offence of sin. The Heifer thinkes no shame
To beare her father on her backe: the horse bestrydes the same
Of whom he is the syre: the Gote dooth bucke the kid that hee
Himself begate: and birdes doo tread the selfsame birdes wee see
Of whom they hatched were before. In happye cace they are
That may doo so without offence. But mans malicious care
Hath made a brydle for it self, and spyghtfull lawes restreyne
The things that nature setteth free. Yit are their Realmes (men sayne)
In which the moother with the sonne, and daughter with the father
Doo match, wherethrough of godlynesse the bond augments the rather
With doubled love. Now wo is mee it had not beene my lot
In that same countrie to bee borne. And that this lucklesse plot
Should hinder mee. Why thinke I thus? Avaunt, unlawfull love.
I ought to love him, I confesse: but so as dooth behove
His daughter: were not Cinyras my father than, Iwis
I myght obtaine to lye with him. But now bycause he is
Myne owne, he cannot bee myne owne. The neerenesse of our kin
Dooth hurt me. Were I further off perchaunce I more myght win.
And if I wist that I therby this wickednesse myght shunne,
I would forsake my native soyle and farre from Cyprus runne.
This evill heate dooth hold mee backe, that beeing present still
I may but talke with Cinyras and looke on him my fill,
And touch, and kisse him, if no more may further graunted bee.
Why wicked wench, and canst thou hope for further? doost not see
How by thy fault thou doost confound the ryghts of name and kin?
And wilt thou make thy mother bee a Cucqueane by thy sin?
Wilt thou thy fathers leman bee? wilt thou bee both the moother
And suster of thy chyld? shall he bee both thy sonne and brother?
And standst thou not in feare at all of those same susters three
Whose heads with crawling snakes in stead of heare bematted bee?
Which pushing with theyr cruell bronds folks eyes and mouthes, doo see
Theyr sinfull harts? but thou now whyle thy body yit is free,
Let never such a wickednesse once enter in thy mynd.
Defyle not myghtye natures hest by lust ageinst thy kynd.
What though thy will were fully bent? yit even the very thing
Is such as will not suffer thee the same to end to bring.
For why he beeing well disposde and godly, myndeth ay
So much his dewtye that from ryght and truth he will not stray.
Would Godlyke furie were in him as is in mee this day.
This sayd, her father Cinyras (who dowted what to doo
By reason of the worthy store of suters which did woo
His daughter,) bringing all theyr names did will her for to show
On which of them shee had herself most fancie to bestow.
At first shee hild her peace a whyle, and looking wistly on
Her fathers face, did boyle within: and scalding teares anon
Ran downe her visage. Cyniras, (who thought them to proceede
Of tender harted shamefastnesse) did say there was no neede
Of teares, and dryed her cheekes, and kist her. Myrrha tooke of it
Exceeding pleasure in her selfe: and when that he did wit
What husband shee did wish to have, shee sayd: One like to yow.
He undertanding not hir thought, did well her woordes allow,
And sayd: In this thy godly mynd continew. At the name
Of godlynesse, shee cast mee downe her looke for very shame.
For why her giltie hart did knowe shee well deserved blame.
Hygh mydnight came, and sleepe bothe care and carkesses opprest.
But Myrrha lying brode awake could neyther sleepe nor rest.
Shee fryes in Cupids flames, and woorkes continewally uppon
Her furious love. One while shee sinkes in deepe despayre. Anon
Shee fully myndes to give attempt, but shame doth hold her in.
Shee wishes and shee wotes not what to doo, nor how to gin.
And like as when a mightye tree with axes heawed rownd,
Now redy with a strype or twaine to lye uppon the grownd,
Uncerteine is which way to fall and tottreth every way:
Even so her mynd with dowtfull wound effeebled then did stray
Now heere now there uncerteinely, and tooke of bothe encreace.
No measure of her love was found, no rest, nor yit releace,
Save only death. Death likes her best. Shee ryseth, full in mynd
To hang herself. About a post her girdle she doth bynd,
And sayd: Farewell deere Cinyras, and understand the cause
Of this my death. And with that woord about her necke shee drawes
The nooze. Her trustye nurce that in another Chamber lay
By fortune heard the whispring sound of theis her woordes (folk say).
The aged woman rysing up unboltes the doore. And whan
Shee saw her in that plyght of death, shee shreeking out began
To smyght her self, and scratcht her brest, and quickly to her ran
And rent the girdle from her necke. Then weeping bitterly
And holding her betweene her armes, shee askt the question why
Shee went about to hang her self so unadvisedly.
The Lady hilld her peace as dumb, and looking on the ground
Unmovably, was sorye in her hart for beeing found
Before shee had dispatcht herself. Her nurce still at her lay,
And shewing her her emptie dugges and naked head all gray,
Besought her for the paynes shee tooke with her both night and day
In rocking and in feeding her, shee would vouchsafe to say
What ere it were that greeved her. The Ladye turnd away
Displeasde and fetcht a sygh. The nurce was fully bent in mynd
To bowlt the matter out: for which not onely shee did bynd
Her fayth, in secret things to keepe: but also sayd, put mee
In truth to fynd a remedye. I am not (thou shalt see)
Yit altogither dulld by age. If furiousenesse it bee,
I have bothe charmes and chaunted herbes to help. If any wyght
Bewitcheth thee, by witchcraft I will purge and set thee quyght.
Or if it bee the wrath of God, we shall with sacrifyse
Appease the wrath of God right well. What may I more surmyse?
No theeves have broken in uppon this house and spoyld the welth.
Thy mother and thy father bothe are living and in helth.
When Myrrha heard her father naamd, a greevous sygh she fet
Even from the bottom of her hart. Howbee't the nurce as yet
Misdeemd not any wickednesse. But nerethelesse shee gest
There was some love: and standing in one purpose made request
To breake her mynd unto her, and shee set her tenderly
Uppon her lappe. The Ladye wept and sobbed bitterly.
Then culling her in feeble armes, shee sayd: I well espye
Thou art in love. My diligence in this behalf I sweare
Shall servisable to thee bee. Thou shalt not neede to feare
That ere thy father shall it knowe. At that same woord shee lept
From nurces lappe like one that had beene past her witts, and stept
With fury to her bed. At which shee leaning downe hir face
Sayd: Hence I pray thee: force mee not to shewe my shamefull cace.
And when the nurce did urge her still, shee answered eyther: Get
Thee hence, or ceace to aske mee why myself I thus doo fret.
The thing that thou desyrste to knowe is wickednesse. The old
Poore nurce gan quake, and trembling both for age and feare did hold
Her handes to her. And kneeling downe right humbly at her feete,
One whyle shee fayre intreated her with gentle woordes and sweete.
Another whyle (onlesse shee made her privie of her sorrow)
Shee threatned her, and put her in a feare shee would next morrow
Bewray her how shee went about to hang herself. But if
Shee told her, shee did plyght her fayth and help to her releef.
Shee lifted up her head, and then with teares fast gushing out
Beesloobered all her nurces brest: and going oft about
To speake, shee often stayd: and with her garments hid her face
For shame, and lastly sayd: O happye is my moothers cace
That such a husband hath. With that a greevous sygh shee gave,
And hilld her peace. Theis woordes of hers a trembling chilnesse drave
In nurcis limbes, which perst her bones: (for now shee understood
The cace) and all her horye heare up stiffly staring stood
And many things she talkt to put away her cursed love,
If that it had beene possible the madnesse to remove.
The Mayd herself to be full trew the councell dooth espye:
Yit if shee may not have her love shee fully myndes to dye.
Live still (quoth nurce) thou shalt obteine (shee durst not say thy father,
But stayd at that). And forbycause that Myrrha should the rather
Beleeve her, shee confirmd her woordes by othe. The yeerely feast
Of gentle Ceres came, in which the wyves bothe moste and least
Appareld all in whyght are woont the firstlings of the feeld,
Fyne garlonds made of eares of come, to Ceres for to yeeld.
And for the space of thryce three nyghts they counted it a sin
To have the use of any man, or once to towche his skin.
Among theis women did the Queene freequent the secret rites.
Now whyle that of his lawfull wyfe his bed was voyd a nightes,
The nurce was dooble diligent: and fynding Cinyras
Well washt with wyne, shee did surmyse there was a pretye lasse
In love with him. And hyghly shee her beawty setteth out.
And beeing asked of her yeeres, she sayd shee was about
The age of Myrrha. Well (quoth he) then bring her to my bed.
Returning home she sayd: bee glad my nurcechilde: we have sped.
Not all so wholly in her hart was wretched Myrrha glad,
But that her fore misgiving mynd did also make her sad.
Howbee't shee also did rejoyce as in a certaine kynd,
Such discord of affections was within her combred mynd.
It was the tyme that all things rest. And now Bootes bryght,
The driver of the Oxen seven, about the northpole pyght
Had sumwhat turnd his wayne asyde, when wicked Myrrha sped
About her buysnesse. Out of heaven the golden Phoebee fled.
With clowds more black than any pitch the starres did hyde their hed.
The nyght beecommeth utter voyd of all her woonted lyght.
And first before all other hid their faces out of syght
Good Icar and Erigonee, his daughter, who for love
Most vertuous to her fatherward, was taken up above
And made a starre in heaven. Three tymes had Myrrha warning given
By stumbling, to retyre. Three tymes the deathfull Owle that eeven
With doolefull noyse prognosticates unhappie lucke. Yet came
Shee forward still: the darknesse of the nyght abated shame.
Her left hand held her nurce, her right the darke blynd way did grope.
Anon shee to the chamber came: anon the doore was ope:
Anon she entred in. With that her foltring hammes did quake:
Her colour dyde: her blood and hart did cleerly her forsake.
The neerer shee approched to her wickednesse, the more
She trembled: of her enterpryse it irked her full sore:
And fayne shee would shee might unknowen have turned back. Nurce led
Her pawsing forward by the hand: and putting her to bed,
Heere, take this Damzell, Cinyras, shee is thine owne, shee sed.
And so shee layd them brest to brest. The wicked father takes
His bowelles into filthy bed, and there with wordes asslakes
The maydens feare, and cheeres her up. And lest this cryme of theyres
Myght want the ryghtfull termes, by chaunce as in respect of yeeres
He daughter did hir call, and shee him father. Beeing sped
With cursed seede in wicked womb, shee left her fathers bed,
Of which soone after shee became greate bagged with her shame.
Next night the lewdnesse doubled. And no end was of the same,
Untill at length that Cinyras desyrous for to knowe
His lover that so many nyghts uppon him did bestowe,
Did fetch a light: by which he sawe his owne most heynous cryme,
And eeke his daughter. Nathelesse, his sorrow at that time
Represt his speeche. Then hanging by he drew a Rapier bryght.
Away ran Myrrha, and by meanes of darknesse of the nyght
Shee was delivered from the death: and straying in the broade
Datebearing feeldes of Arabye, shee through Panchaya yode,
And wandring full nyne moonethes at length shee rested beeing tyrde
In Saba land. And when the tyme was neere at hand expyrde,
And that uneath the burthen of her womb shee well could beare,
Not knowing what she might desyre, distrest betweene the feare
Of death, and tediousnesse of lyfe, this prayer shee did make:
O Goddes, if of repentant folk you any mercye take,
Sharpe vengeance I confesse I have deserved, and content
I am to take it paciently. How bee it to th'entent
That neyther with my lyfe the quick, nor with my death the dead
Anoyed bee, from both of them exempt mee this same sted,
And altring mee, deny to mee both lyfe and death. We see
To such as doo confesse theyr faults sum mercy shewd to bee.
The Goddes did graunt her this request, the last that she should make.
The ground did overgrow hir feete, and ancles as she spake.
And from her bursten toes went rootes, which wrything heere and there
Did fasten so the trunk within the ground shee could not steare.
Her bones did into timber turne, whereof the marie was
The pith, and into watrish sappe the blood of her did passe.
Her armes were turnd to greater boughes, her fingars into twig,
Her skin was hardned into bark. And now her belly big
The eatching tree had overgrowen, and overtane her brest,
And hasted for to win her neck, and hyde it with the rest.
Shee made no taryence nor delay, but met the comming tree,
And shroonk her face within the barke therof. Although that shee
Togither with her former shape her senses all did loose,
Yit weepeth shee, and from her tree warme droppes doo softly woose.
The which her teares are had in pryce and honour. And the Myrrhe
That issueth from her gummy bark dooth beare the name of her,
And shall doo whyle the world dooth last. The misbegotten chyld
Grew still within the tree, and from his mothers womb defyld
Sought meanes to bee delyvered. Her burthende womb did swell
Amid the tree, and stretcht her out. But woordes wherwith to tell
And utter foorth her greef did want. She had no use of speech
With which Lucina in her throwes shee might of help beseech.
Yit like a woman labring was the tree, and bowwing downe
Gave often sighes, and shed foorth teares as though shee there should drowne.
Lucina to this wofull tree came gently downe, and layd
Her hand theron, and speaking woordes of ease the midwife playd.
The tree did cranye, and the barke deviding made away,
And yeelded out the chyld alyve, which cryde and wayld streyght way.
The waternymphes uppon the soft sweete hearbes the chyld did lay,
And bathde him with his mothers teares. His face was such as spyght
Must needes have praysd. For such he was in all condicions right,
As are the naked Cupids that in tables picturde bee.
But to th'entent he may with them in every poynt agree,
Let eyther him bee furnisshed with wings and quiver light,
Or from the Cupids take theyr wings and bowes and arrowes quight.
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