— 3.1 —
Colin, a shepherd who was in love with a young woman named Thestylis, sangthis love song:
“Oh, gentle Love, ungentle [unkind] for thy deed,
“Thou mak’st [make] my heart
“A bloody mark
“With piercing shot to bleed!”
Colin was complaining because Cupid, god of Love, had shot him with an arrow and made him fall in love.
Colin continued singing:
“Shoot soft [gently and carefully], sweet Love, for fear thou shoot amiss [thou miss],
“For fear too keen [sharp]
“Thy arrows been,
“And hit the heart where my beloved is.”
Colin wanted Cupid to shoot his (Colin’s) beloved with an arrow so she would return his (Colin’s) love.
Colin continued singing:
“Too fair that fortune were, nor never I
“Shall be so blest,
“Among the rest,
“That Love shall seize on her by sympathy.
“Then since with Love my prayers bear no boot [have proven to be useless],
“This doth [does] remain
“To cease my pain, I take [receive] the wound, and die at Venus’ foot.”
Colin was complaining that he has not had the good fortune for Cupid to take pity on him and so he will just have to die of unrequited love.
Colin then exited.
— 3.2 —
Hobbinol, Diggon, and Thenot talked together. They were shepherd friends of Colin’s.
Hobbinol said, “Poor Colin, woeful man, thy life predetermined by love, what strange fit, what malady, is this that thou do experience?”
Diggon said, “Either Love is completely void of medicine, or Love’s our common ruin, which gives us poison to bring us low, and let us lack medicine.”
This Love is Venus, Queen of Love, who excited sexual passion in mortals and immortals.
Hobbinol said, “How odd that Love was ever reverenced by naive shepherd swains! Perhaps Love hurts them most who most might bear their pains.”
Love can hurt people when it is not returned, but if one successfully pursues the loved one, then one’s pains are often richly rewarded.
Using a nickname, Thenot said, “Hobbin, it is some other god who cherishes her sheep, for surely this Love does nothing else but make our herdsmen weep.”
“Her sheep” are mortals: the shepherds. According to Thenot, Venus does not care about her “sheep” because she causes them pain by making them feel passion. Sometimes she did this by asking her son, Cupid, to shoot them with an arrow.
Diggon said, “And what an event is this, I say, when all our woods rejoice because of the visit of the three goddesses, for Colin thus to be denied his young and lovely choice: Thestylis?”
Thenot said, “Thestylis indeed is known to be so fresh and fair that well it is for thee that Colin and Nature have been thy friend and made it so that Cupid could not see you. If Cupid had seen you instead of Colin, he would have shot you with an arrow and made you love a woman who would not return your love.”
Hobbinol asked, “And whither wends yonder Colin, the unsuccessful swain? He is like the stricken deer that seeks dictamnum for his wound within our forest here.”
Dictamnum is an herb that deer eat to help heal their wounds, including wounds made with arrows.
Diggon said, “He wends his way to greet the Queen of Love, who is in these woods, with mirthless lays to make complaint to Venus about her son.”
Colin was going to see Venus and sing sad songs complaining about the love — unrequited — that her son Cupid is making him feel.
Thenot said, “Ah, Colin, thou are entirely deceived! Venus dallies with her son, and closes her eyes to all his wanton pranks, and she thinks thy love is only a trifle.”
Hobbinol said, “Then leave him to his luckless love and let him endure his fate. His sore is festering entirely too much, and our comfort comes too late.”
Diggon said, “Although Thestylis is the scorpion that breaks his sweet assault, yet will Rhamnusia take vengeance on Thestylis’ disdainful fault.”
A scorpion is a catapult. In a military metaphor, Colin had tried to conquer Thestylis and win her love, but she had repulsed him. Because Diggon was Colin’s friend, he (and the other shepherds) regarded Thestylis’ rejection of Colin’s love as wrong.
Thenot said, “Look, yonder comes the lovely nymph, who in these Ida vales plays with Amyntas’ lusty boy — Paris — and caresses him in the dales!”
Vales and dales are valleys.
Hobbinol said, “Thenot, I think her mood has changed, her mirthful looks are laid to rest, she frolics not; I pray to god that the lad has not beguiled the maiden!”
He was hoping that Paris had not deceived Oenone with a false promise of love.
— 3.3 —
Oenone entered the scene. She was wearing a wreath of poplar on her head.Paris had carved into a poplar tree his vow that he would always love Oenone.
Oenone said to herself, “Beguiled, disdained, and out of love! Live long, thou poplar tree, and let thy letters of the vow Paris carved grow in length, to witness this with me. Ah, Venus, if not for my reverence of thy sacred name, I might account it blame for thee to steal a naive maiden’s love! And if the tales I hear, and blush to repeat, are true, thou do me wrong to leave the plains and dally out of sight. False, disloyal Paris, this was not thy vow, when thou and I were one, to wander and exchange old love for new, but now those days are gone. But I will find and visit the goddess so that she may read thy vow, and I will fill these woods with my laments for thy unhappy deed.”
Hobbinol said, “She has so fair a face, and yet so foul a thought harbors in Paris’ breast! Thy hopes are ruined, poor nymph, and thy luck is worse than all the rest.”
Seeing Paris’ friends, Oenone said, “Ah, shepherds, you are full of wiles, and whet your wits on books, and enrapt poor maidens with music pipes and songs, and sweet alluring looks!”
Diggon said to her, “Don’t wrongly criticize all shepherds because of Paris’ misdeed. There are those who keep flocks who never chose any but one woman, and have never tricked a woman in love with false vows.”
“False Paris is not one of those faithful shepherds,” Oenone said. “His faithless double deed — vowing love to two women — will hurt many shepherds who otherwise might go near to success.”
Thenot said, “Poor Colin, that is ill for thee, who are as true in trust to thy sweet smart — Thestylis, who causes you pain — as Paris has been unjust to his nymph.”
“Ah, well is the woman whom Colin will win because he will have no other love!” Oenone said. “And woe is me, my luck is loss, my pains arouse no pity!”
Hobbinol said, “Farewell, fair nymph, since he who gave you the wound is the only man who must heal it. There grows on Dame Nature’s ground no herb with such healing power.”
The shepherdsHobbinol, Diggon, and Thenotexited.
— 3.4 —
Mercury, who wore winged sandals and a winged hat and carried a winged staff called a caduceus, and some of Vulcan’s Cyclopes, one of whom was named Pyracmon, entered the scene.
Vulcan’s Cyclopes were one-eyed giants who helped the god in his blacksmithing work. Mercury’s job was to carry messages from Jupiter, king of the gods.
Seeing the nymph Oenone, Mercury said to one of the Cyclopes, “Here is a nymph who sadly sits, and she likely can tell us some news, Pyracmon, about the jolly swain we seek. I dare to wage my wings that the lass is in love because she looks so bleak and thin out of anger or out of grief, but I will begin to talk with her.”
“Swain” can mean shepherd or lover. They were seeking Paris, who was both.
Oenone said to herself, “Break out, poor heart, and complain in song — moving even the mountain flocks — about what a proud repulse and thankless scorn thou have received from love.”
Mercury said, “She sings; sirs, be hushed a while.”
Oenone sang her lament as she sat:
“Melpomene, the Muse of tragic songs,
“With mournful tunes, in stole [a robe] of dismal hue [color],
“Assist a silly [naïve] nymph to wail her woe,
“And leave thy lusty [vigorous] company behind.”
Epic poets such as Homer and Virgil began their epic poems with invocations to a Muse or to all the Muses to assist them in creating their poems.
“Thou luckless wreath! becomes not me [it is not fitting for me] to wear
“The poplar tree for triumph of my love:
“Then, as my joy, my pride of love, is left,
“Be thou unclothed of thy lovely green;”
This means: Let your lovely green leaves fall, poplar wreath.
“And in thy leaves my fortune written be,”
This culture believed that one’s fortune could be discovered in leaves. Interestingly, the Cumaean Sibyl had visions that she wrote down on leaves that she kept in her cave. As long as the leaves were undisturbed, they stayed in the correct order. But if someone opened the door to her cave and the winds blew in, the leaves were blown out of order. The prophetess did not sort the leaves and did not restore them to their correct order.
“And them some gentle wind let blow abroad,
“[So] That all the world may see how false of love
“False Paris hath [has] to his Oenone been.”
The song ended, Oenone remained sitting.
Mercury said, “Good day, fair maiden. You are likely weary with the following of your game: the one you love. I wish thee the cunning ability to be able to spare or strike as you wish the one you love.”
Oenone said, “I thank you, sir; my game — my prey, who is Paris — is quick, and clears a length of ground, and yet I am deceived, or else he has received a deadly wound.”
She was punning on “quick,” which meant both 1) alive and 2) fast.
Mercury said, “Your hand perhaps did move and your arrow went awry and so only wounded him.”
“Or else it was my heart,” Oenone said.
“Then surely he applied his footmanship and escaped by running quickly away from you,” Mercury said.
“He played a ranging part,” Oenone said.
Paris was a rover (one who ranged): 1) a wanderer in the woods and 2) a chaser after females other than Oenone.
“You should have given him a deeper wound,” Mercury said.
“I could not do that because of pity,” Oenone said.
“You should have eyed him better, then, so you could aim at him better,” Mercury said.
“Blind love was not so witty,” Oenone said.
“Why, tell me, sweet, are you in love?” Mercury asked.
“Oh, I wish I were not so,” Oenone said.
“You mean because he does you wrong,” Mercury said.
“Certainly, the more my woe,” Oenone said.
“Why, do you mean Love, or him whom you loved?” Mercury asked.
Mercury was asking who wronged Oenone: the man she loved, or the Queen of Love?
“Well may I mean them both,” Oenone said.
“Is love to blame?” Mercury asked.
“The Queen of Love has made him false to his vow,” Oenone said.
“Do you mean, indeed, the Queen of Love?” Mercury asked.
“Yes, wanton Cupid’s mother,” Oenone said.
“Why, was thy love so lovely, then?” Mercury asked.
“His beauty is his shame,” Oenone said. “He is the fairest shepherd on our green.”
“Is he a shepherd, then?” Mercury asked.
“And for some time he kept a bleating flock,” Oenone said.
“Enough, this is the man,” Mercury said.
Mercury had been looking for Paris, and he had heard enough to know that Oenone was in love with Paris.
Mercury continued, “Where does he live, then?”
“About these woods, far from the poplar tree,” Oenone said.
“What poplar tree do you mean?” Mercury asked.
“The poplar tree that is the witness of the vows between him and me,”Oenone said. “Come and wend a little way, and you shall see his skill.”
Paris’ skill was carving false vows into a poplar tree.
“Sirs, stay here,” Mercury said to the Cyclopes.
“No, let them go,” Oenone said.
“No, not unless you will go,” Mercury said. “Instead of going, stay, nymph, and listen to what I say about him thou so blame. Believe me, I have a sad discourse to tell thee beforeI go. Know then, my pretty lass, that I am named Mercury. I am the messenger of heaven, and I have flown hither to seize upon the man whom thou do love, to summon him before my father Jove, to answer a matter of great consequence. And know that Jove himself will not be long away from here.”
Oenone replied, “Sweet Mercury, have poor Oenone’s cries because of Paris’ sin pierced the impartial skies and been heard by the unbiased gods?”
“The same is he, that jolly shepherd’s swain,” Mercury said.
Oenone described Paris: “His flock does graze upon the plain of Aurora, goddess of the dawn. The color of his coat is bright green. I wish that these eyes of mine had never seen his enticing curled hair, his ivory-white forehead. If I had not seen him, then I, poor I, would not have been made unhappy.”
Mercury said, “It is no marvel, wench, that we cannot find him, when all too recently the Queen of Heaven is paying attention to him.”
In this culture, the word “wench” was not negative.
The Queen of Heaven is Juno, who is married to Jupiter, the king of the gods. Because Paris had given the golden ball to Venus, Juno was angry at him. Because of that, Mercury thought that Venus might be keeping Paris out of sight.
Mercury continued, “But if thou will have medicine for thy sore, let others who wish to pay attention to him do so, but thou remember him no more. Find some other game — another man — and get thee gone. For here lusty suitors will come soon, too hot and lusty for thy dying vein. They are such as are never accustomed to make their suits in vain.”
Jupiter and other gods — who were very successful in pursuing females and making them pregnant — were soon to arrive.
Mercury exited with the Cyclopes.
“I will go sit and pine under the poplar tree,” Oenone said, “and I will write my answer to his vow, so that every eye may see it.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
Buy the Paperback
FREE eBook: davidbrucehaiku #14 (pdf)
SOMETIMES FREE EBOOK
John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce
SHAKESPEARE: 38 PLAYS
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE’S COMPLETE PLAYS: RETELLINGS
THE TROJAN WAR: 4 Epic Poems (Iliad, Posthomerica, Odyssey, Aeneid)
Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY: A Retelling in Prose