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Hero and Leander is a mythological short epic by the famous English writer and dramatist Christopher Marlowe. When Marlowe was killed after being accused of blasphemy, he left the poem unfinished to be later completed by George Chapman. The poem follows the love story between the two Greek mythological characters Hero and Leander which was first narrated in the works of the two ancient poets Musaeus Grammaticus and Ovid. Hero is a priestess of the goddess Venus to whom she has made a vow of chastity, yet she falls in love with Leander, a young man from Abydos on the opposite side of the narrow sea passage known as the Hellespont. Leander, who promises to cross the Hellespont every night to reach his beloved, gets in trouble with Neptune, the god of the seas.
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Hero and Leander
On Hellespont, guilty of true-love's blood,In view and opposite two cities stood,Sea-borderers, disjoined by Neptune's might;The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,And offered as a dower his burning throne,Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.The outside of her garments were of lawn,The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;Her wide sleeves green, and bordered with a grove,Where Venus in her naked glory stroveTo please the careless and disdainful eyesOf proud Adonis, that before her lies.Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,From whence her veil reached to the ground beneath.Her veil was artificial flowers and leavesWhose workmanship both man and beast deceives.Many would praise the sweet smell as she passed,When 'twas the odour which her breath forth cast;And there for honey bees have sought in vain,And, beat from thence, have lighted there again.About her neck hung chains of pebblestone,Which, lightened by her neck, like diamonds shone.She ware no gloves; for neither sun nor windWould burn or parch her hands, but to her mind,Or warm or cool them, for they took delightTo play upon those hands, they were so white.Buskins of shells, all silvered used she,And branched with blushing coral to the knee;Where sparrows perched of hollow pearl and gold,Such as the world would wonder to behold.Those with sweet water oft her handmaid fills,Which, as she went, would chirrup through the bills.Some say for her the fairest Cupid pinedAnd looking in her face was strooken blind.But this is true: so like was one the other,As he imagined Hero was his mother.And oftentimes into her bosom flew,About her naked neck his bare arms threw,And laid his childish head upon her breast,And, with still panting rocked, there took his rest.So lovely fair was Hero, Venus' nun,As Nature wept, thinking she was undone,Because she took more from her than she left,And of such wondrous beauty her bereft.Therefore, in sign her treasure suffered wrack,Since Hero's time hath half the world been black.
Amorous Leander, beautiful and young,(whose tragedy divine Musaeus sung,)Dwelt at Abydos; since him dwelt there noneFor whom succeeding times make greater moan.His dangling tresses, that were never shorn,Had they been cut, and unto Colchos borne,Would have allured the vent'rous youth of GreeceTo hazard more than for the golden fleece.Fair Cynthia wished his arms might be her sphere;Grief makes her pale, because she moves not there.His body was as straight as Circe's wand;Jove might have sipped out nectar from his hand.Even as delicious meat is to the taste,So was his neck in touching, and surpassedThe white of Pelop's shoulder. I could tell yeHow smooth his breast was and how white his belly;And whose immortal fingers did imprintThat heavenly path with many a curious dintThat runs along his back, but my rude penCan hardly blazon forth the loves of men,Much less of powerful gods. Let it sufficeThat my slack Muse sings of Leander's eyes,Those orient cheeks and lips, exceeding hisThat leaped into the water for a kissOf his own shadow and, despising many,Died ere he could enjoy the love of any.Had wild Hippolytus Leander seenEnamoured of his beauty had he been.His presence made the rudest peasant meltThat in the vast uplandish country dwelt.The barbarous Thracian soldier, moved with nought,
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