Giles Fletcher (1549-1611)

Licia (1593)

Introduction by Martha Crowe Foote and commentary by John Erskine


return to sonnet central return to elizabethan sonneteers


To the Reader

I had thought, courteous and gentle reader, not to have troubled thy patience with these lines; but that, in the neglect thereof, I should either scorn thee, as careless of thine opinion, a thing savoring of a proud humor; or despair to obtain thy favor, which I am loath to conceive of thy good nature.

If I were known, I would entreat in the best manner; and speak for him whom thou knewest. But being not known, thou speakest not against me; and therefore I much care not. For this kind of poetry wherein I wrote, I did it only to try my humor. And for the matter of love, it may be I am so devoted to some one into whose hands these may light by chance that she may say (which thou now sayest) that surely he is in love; which if she do, then have I the full recompense of my labor, and the poems have dealt sufficiently for the discharge of their own duty.

If thou muse what my Licia is: take her to be some Diana, at the least chaste; or some Minerva; no Venus--fairer far. It may be she is learning's image, or some heavenly wonder, which the precisest may not mislike. Perhaps under that name I have shadowed Discipline. It may be I mean that kind courtesy which I found at the patroness of these poems; it may be some college. It may be my conceit, and portend nothing...

TO LICIA

THE WISE, KIND, VIRTUOUS, AND FAIR

I

Bright matchless star, the honour of the sky,
From whose clear shine heaven's vault hath all his light,
I send these poems to your graceful eye;
Do you but take them, and they have their right.
I build besides a temple to your name,
Wherein my thoughts shall daily sing your praise;
And will erect an altar for the same,
Which shall your virtues and your honour raise.
But heaven the temple of your honour is,
Whose brasen tops your worthy self made proud;
The ground an altar, base for such a bliss
With pity torn, because I sighed so loud.
And since my skill no worship can impart,
Make you an incense of my loving heart.

Sad, all alone, not long I musing sat,
But that my thoughts compelled me to aspire;
A laurel garland in my hand I gat,
So the Muses I approached the nigher.
My suit was this, a poet to become,
To drink with them, and from the heavens be fed.
Phoebus denied, and sware there was no room,
Such to be poets as fond fancy led.
With that I mourned and sat me down to weep;
Venus she smiled, and smiling to me said,
Come drink with me, and sit thee still, and sleep.
This voice I heard; and Venus I obeyed.
That poison sweet hath done me all this wrong,
For now of love must needs be all my song.

II

Weary was love and sought to take his rest,
He made his choice, upon a virgin's lap;
And slyly crept from thence unto her breast,
Where still he meant to sport him in his hap;
The virgin frowned like Phœbus in a cloud;
Go pack, sir boy, here is no room for such,
My breast no wanton foolish boy must shroud."
This said, my love did give the wag a touch;
Then as the foot that treads the stinging snake
Hastes to be gone, for fear what may ensue,
So love my love was forced for to forsake,
And for more speed, without his arrows flew.
"Pardon," he said, "For why? You seemed to me
My mother Venus in her pride to be."

III

The heavens beheld the beauty of my queen,
And all amazed, to wonder thus began:
"Why dotes not Jove, as erst we all have seen,
And shapes himself like to a seemly man?
Mean are the matches which he sought before,
Like bloomless buds, too base to make compare,
And she alone hath treasured beauty's store,
In whom all gifts and princely graces are.
Cupid replied: "I posted with the sun
To view the maids that livéd in those days,
And none there was that might not well be won,
But she, most hard, most cold, made of delays.
Heavens were deceived, and wrong they do esteem,
She hath no heat, although she living seem.

IV

Love and my love did range the forest wild,
Mounted alike, upon swift coursers both.
Love her encountered, though he was a child.
"Let's strive," saith he, whereat my love was wroth,
And scorned the boy, and checked him with a smile.
"I mounted am, and arméd with my spear;
Thou art too weak, thyself do not beguile;
I could thee conquer if I naked were."
With this ]ove wept, and then my love replied:
"Kiss me, sweet boy, so weep my boy no more."
Thus did my love, and then her force she tried;
Love was made ice, that fire was before.
A kiss of hers, as I, poor soul, do prove,
Can make the hottest freeze and coldest love.

V

Love with her hair my love by force hath tied,
To serve ber lips, her eyes, her voice, her hand;
I smiled for joy, when I the boy espied
To lie unchained and live at her command.
She if she look, or kiss, or sing, or smile,
Cupid withal doth smile, doth sing, doth kiss,
Lips, hands, voice, eyes, all hearts that may beguile,
Because she scorns all hearts but only this.
Venus for this in pride began to frown
That Cupid, born a god, enthralled should be.
She in disdain her pretty son threw down,
And in his place, with love she chainéd me.
So now, sweet love, though I myself be thrall,
Not her a goddess, but thyself I call.

VI

My love amazed did blush herself to see,
Pictured by art, all naked as she was.
"How could the painter know so much by me,
Or art effect what he hath brought to pass?
It is not like he naked me hath seen,
Or stood so nigh for to observe so much."
No, sweet; his eyes so near have never been,
Nor could his hands by art have cunning such;
I showed my heart, wherein you printed were,
You, naked you, as here you painted are;
In that my love your picture I must wear,
And show't to all, unless you have more care.
Then take my heart, and place it with your own;
So shall you naked never more be known.

VII

Death in a rage assaulted once my heart
With love of her, my love that doth deny.
I scorned his force, and wished him to depart,
I heartless was, and therefore could not die.
I live in her, in her I placed my life,
She guides my soul, and her I honour must.
Nor is this life but yet a living strife,
A thing unmeet, and yet a thing most just.
Cupid enraged did fly to make me love,
My heart lay guarded with those burning eyes
The sparks whereof denied him to remove;
So conquered now, he like a captive lies;
Thus two at once by love were both undone,
My heart not loved, and armless Venus' son.

VIII

Hard are the rocks, the marble, and the steel,
The ancient oak with wind and weather tossed;
But you, my love, far harder do I feel
Than flint, or these, or is the winter's frost.
My tears too weak, your heart they cannot move;
My sighs, that rock, like wind it cannot rent;
Too tiger-like you swear you cannot love;
But tears and sighs you fruitless back have sent.
The frost too hard, not melted with my flame,
I cinders am, and yet you feel no heat.
Surpass not these, sweet love, for very shame,
But let my tears, my vows, my sighs entreat;
Then shall I say as I by trial find;
These all are hard, but you, my love, are kind.

IX

Love was laid down, all weary fast asleep,
Whereas my love his armor took away;
The boy awaked, and straight began to weep,
But stood amazed, and knew not what to say.
"Weep not, my boy," said Venus to her son,
"Thy weapons none can wield, but thou alone;
Licia the fair, this harm to thee hath done,
I saw her here, and presently was gone;
She will restore them, for she hath no need
To take thy weapons where thy valour lies;
For men to wound the Fates have her decreed,
With favour, hands, with beauty, and with eyes."
No, Venus, no: she scorns them, credit me;
But robbed thy son that none might care for thee.

X

A painter drew the image of the boy,
Swift love, with wings all naked, and yet blind;
With bow and arrows, bent for to destroy;
I blamed his skill, and fault I thus did find
"A needless task I see thy cunning take;
Misled by love, thy fancy thee betrayed;
Love is no boy, nor blind, as men him make,
Nor weapons wears, whereof to be affrayed;
But if thou, love, wilt paint with greatest skill
A love, a maid, a goddess, and a queen;
Wonder and view at Licia's picture still,
For other love the world hath never seen;
For she alone all hope all comfort gives;
Men's hearts, souls, all, led by her favour lives."

XI

In Ida vale three queens the shepherd saw,
Queens of esteem, divine they were all three,
A sight of worth. But I a wonder shaw,
Their virtues all in one alone to be.
Licia the fair, surpassing Venus' pride,
(The matchless queen, commander of the gods,
When drawn with doves she in her pomp doth ride)
Hath far more beauty, and more grace by odds
Juno, Jove's wife, unmeet to make compare,
I grant a goddess, but not half so mild;
Minerva wise, a virtue, but not rare;
Yet these are mean, if that my love but smiled.
She them surpasseth, when their prides are full
As far as they surpass the meanest trull.

XII

I wish sometimes, although a worthless thing,
Spurred by ambition, glad to aspire,
Myself a monarch, or some mighty king,
And then my thoughts do wish for to be higher.
But when I view what winds the cedars toss.
What storms men feels that covet for renown,
I blame myself that I have wished my loss,
And scorn a kingdom, though it give a crown.
Ah Licia, though the wonder of my thought,
My heart's content, procurer of my bliss,
For whom a crown I do esteem as naught,
As Asia's wealth, too mean to buy a kiss!
Kiss me, sweet love, this favor do for me;
Then crowns and kingdoms shall I scorn for thee.

XIII

Enamored Jove commanding did entreat
Cupid to wound my love, which he denied,
And swore he could not for she wanted heat
And would not love, as he full oft had tried.
Jove in a rage, impatient this to hear,
Replied with threats; "I'll make you to obey!"
Whereat the boy did fly away for fear
To Licia's eyes, where safe intrenched he lay.
Then Jove he scorned, and dared him to his face,
For now more safe than in the heavens he dwelled,
Nor could Jove's wrath do wrong to such a place
Where grace and honour have their kingdom held.
Thus in the pride and beauty of her eyes
The seely boy the greatest god defies.

XIV

My love lay sleeping, where birds music made,
Shutting her eyes, disdainful of the light;
The heat was great but greater was the shade
Which her defended from his burning sight.
This Cupid saw, and came a kiss to take,
Sucking sweet nectar from her sugared breath;
She felt the touch, and blushed, and did awake,
Seeing t'was love, which she did think was death,
She cut his wings and causéd him to stay,
Making a vow, he should not thence depart,
Unless to her the wanton boy could pay
The truest, kindest and most loving heart.
His feathers still she uséd for a fan,
Till by exchange my heart his feathers won.

XV

I stood amazed, and saw my Licia shine,
Fairer than Phœbus, in his brightest pride,
Set forth in colors by a hand divine,
Where naught was wanting but a soul to guide.
It was a picture, that I could descry,
Yet made with art so as it seemed to live,
Surpassing fair, and yet it had no eye,
Whereof my senses could no reason give.
With that the painter bid me not to muse;
"Her eyes are shut, but I deserve no blame;
For if she saw, in faith, it could not choose
But that the work had wholly been a flame,
"Then burn me, sweet, with brightness of your eyes,
That phœnix-like from thence I may arise.

XVI

Grant, fairest kind, a kiss unto thy friend!
A blush replied, and yet a kiss I had.
It is not heaven that can such nectar send
Whereat my senses all amazed were glad.
This done, she fled as one that was affrayed,
And I desired to kiss by kissing more;
My love she frowned, and I my kissing stayed,
Yet wished to kiss her as I did before.
Then as the vine the propping elm doth clasp,
Loath to depart till both together die,
So fold me, sweet, until my latest gasp,
That in thy arms to death I kissed may lie.
Thus whilst I live for kisses I must call;
Still kiss me, sweet, or kiss me not at all.

XVII

As are the sands, fair Licia, on the shore,
Or colored flowers, garlands of the spring,
Or as the frosts not seen, not felt before,
Or as the fruits that autumn forth doth bring;
As twinkling stars, the tinsel of the night,
Or as the fish that gallop in the seas;
As airs each part that still escapes our sight,
So are my sighs, controllers of my ease.
Yet these are such as needs must have an end,
For things finite none else hath nature done;
Only the sighs, which from my heart I send,
Will never cease, but where they first begun.
Accept them, sweet, as incense due to thee
For you immortal made them so to be.

XXXXXXXXXX

I swear, fair Licia, still for to be thine,
By heart, by eyes, by what I held most dear;
Thou checked mine oath, and said: these were not mine,
And that I had no right by them to swear.
Then by my sighs, my passions, and my tears,
My vows, my prayers, my sorrow, and my love,
My grief, my joy, my hope, and hopeless fears,
My heart is thine, and never shall remove.
These are not thine, though sent unto thy view,
All else I grant, by right they are thine own;
Let these suffice that what I swear is true,
And more than this if that it could be known.
So shall all these though troubles ease my grief;
If that they serve to work in thee belief.

XIX

That time, fair Licia, when I stole a kiss,
From off those lips, where Cupid lovely laid,
I quaked for cold, and found the cause was this:
My life which loved, for love behind me staid.
I sent my heart my life for to recall,
But that was held, not able to return,
And both detained as captives were in thrall,
And judged by her, that both by sighs should burn.
Fair, burn them both, for that they were so bold,
But let the altar be within thy heart;
And I shall live because my life you hold,
You that give life, to every living part;
A flame I took whenas I stole the kiss;
Take you my life, yet can I live with this.

XX

First did I fear, when first my love began,
Possessed in fits by watchful jealousy
I sought to keep what I by favor won,
And brooked no partner in my love to be.
But tyrant sickness fed upon my love,
And spread his ensigns, dyed with color white;
Then was suspicion glad for to remove,
And loving much did fear to lose her quite.
Erect, fair sweet, the colors thou didst wear;
Dislodge thy griefs, the short'ners of content;
For now of life, not love, is all my fear,
Lest life and love be both together spent.
Live but, fair love, and banish thy disease,
And love, kind heart, both when and whom thou please.

XXI

Licia my love was sitting in a grove,
Tuning her smiles unto the chirping songs,
But straight she spied where two together strove,
Each one complaining of the other's wrongs.
Cupid did cry lamenting of the harm;
Jove's messenger, thou wrong'st me too too far;
Use thou thy rod, rely upon the charm;
Think not by speech my force thou canst debar.
A rod, Sir boy, were fitter for a child,
My weapons oft and tongue and mind you took;
And in my wrong at my distress thou smiled,
And scorned to grace me with a loving look.
Speak you, sweet love, for you did all the wrong
That broke his arrows, and did bind his tongue.

XXII

I might have died before my life begun,
Whenas my father for his country's good
The Persian's favor and the Sophy won
And yet with danger of his dearest blood.
Thy father, sweet, whom danger did beset,
Escapéd all, and for no other end
But only this, that you he might beget,
Whom heavens decreed into the world to send.
Then father, thank thy daughter for thy life,
And Neptune praise that yielded so to thee,
To calm the tempest when the storms were rife,
And that thy daughter should a Venus be.
I call thee Venus, sweet, but be not wroth;
Thou art more chaste, yet seas did favor both.

XXIII

My love was masked, and arméd with a fan,
To see the sun so careless of his light,
Which stood and gazed, and gazing waxéd wan
To see a star himself that was more bright.
Some did surmize she hid her from the sun,
Of whom in pride she scorned for to be kissed,
Or feared the harm by him to others done.
But these the reason of this wonder missed,
Nor durst the sun, if that her face were bare
In greatest pride, presume to take a kiss.
But she more kind did show she had more care
Than with her eyes eclipse him of his bliss.
Unmask you, sweet, and spare not; dim the sun;
Your light's enough, although that his were done.

XXIV

Whenas my love lay sickly in her bed,
Pale death did post in hope to have a prey;
But she so spotless made him that he fled;
"Unmeet to die," she cried, and could not stay.
Back he retired, and thus the heavens he told;
"All things that are, are subject unto me,
Both towns, and men, and what the world doth hold;
But her fair Licia still immortal be."
The heavens did grant; a goddess she was made,
Immortal, fair, unfit to suffer change.
So now she lives, and never more shall fade;
In earth a goddess, what can be more strange?
Then will I hope, a goddess and so near,
She cannot choose my sighs and prayers but hear.

XV

Seven are the lights that wander in the skies,
And at these seven, I wonder in my love.
So see the moon, how pale she doth arise,
Standing amazed, as though she durst not move;
So is my sweet much paler than the snow,
Constant her looks, these looks that cannot change.
Mercury the next, a god sweet-tongued we know,
But her sweet voice doth wonders speak more strange.
The rising Sun doth boast him of his pride,
And yet my love is far more fair than he.
The warlike Mars can wieldless weapons guide,
But yet that god is far more weak than she.
The lovely Venus seemeth to be fair,
But at her best my love is far more bright.
Saturn for age with groans doth dim the air,
Whereas my love with smiles doth give it light.
Gaze at her brows, where heaven ingrafted is;
Then sigh, and swear, there is no heaven but this.

XXVI

I live, sweet love, whereas the gentle wind
Murmurs with sport in midst of thickest boughs,
Where loving woodbine doth the harbor bind,
And chirping birds do echo forth my vows;
Where strongest elm can scarce support the vine,
And sweetest flowers enameled have the ground;
Where Muses dwell; and yet hereat repine
That on the earth so rare a place was found.
But winds delight, I wish to be content;
I praise the woodbine, but I take no joy;
I moan the birds that music thus have spent;
As for the rest, they breed but mine annoy.
Live then, fair Licia, in this place alone;
Then shall I joy though all of these were gone.

XXVII

The crystal stream wherein my love did swim,
Melted in tears as partners of my woe;
Her shine was such as did the fountain dim,
The pearl-like fountain whiter than the snow;
Then like perfume, resolvéd with a heat,
The fountain smoked, as if it thought to burn;
A wonder strange to see the cold so great,
And yet the fountain into smoke to turn.
I searched the cause, and found it to be this:
She touched the water, and it burned with love.
Now by her means it purebased hath tbat bliss,
Which all diseases quickly can remove.
Then if by you these streams thus blesse'd be,
Sweet, grant me love, and be not worse to me.

XXVIII

In time the strong and stately turrets fall,
In time the rose and silver lilies die,
In time the monarchs captive are and thrall,
In time the sea and rivers are made dry;
The hardest flint in time doth melt asunder;
Still living fame in time doth fade away;
The mountains proud we see in time come under;
And earth for age we see in time decay;
The sun in time forgets for to retire
From out the east where he was wont to rise;
The basest thoughts we see in time aspire,
And greedy minds in time do wealth despise.
Thus all, sweet fair, in time must have an end,
Except thy beauty, virtues, and thy friend.

XXIX

Why died I not whenas I last did sleep?
O sleep too short that shadowed forth my dear!
Heavens, hear my prayers, nor thus me waking keep!
For this were heaven, if thus I sleeping were.
For in that dark there shone a princely light;
Two milk-white hills, both full of nectar sweet,
Her ebon thighs, the wonder of my sight,
Where all my senses with their objects meet,--
I pass these sports, in secret that are best,
Wherein my thoughts did seem alive to be;
We both did strive, and weary both did rest;
I kissed her still, and still she kissed me.
Heavens, let me sleep, and shows my senses feed
Or let me wake and happ