Early Modern Mythological Texts: Troia Britanica I (1-50)

Thomas Heywood.  Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO I (1-50)

Stanzas 1-10 — 11-20 — 21-30 — 31-40 — 41-50 — 50-103

Ed. Frédéric Delord



Titan and Saturn differ. Their great strife,

Is by their careful mother, Vesta, ended.

Saturn his sister Sibyl takes to wife,

And the heir-males that are from them descended

He dooms to death. Fair Sibyl saves the life

Of Jupiter.  Grim Saturn is offended,

   And to the Oracle at Delphos hies,

   While Titan through the earth his fortune tries.

The year of the Lord

above the line.

The year before Christ

under the line


Argumentum 2 

The world’s creation, gold from the earth’s veins,

Neptune and Pluto’s birth, Alpha contains.


This universe with all therein contained

Was not at first of water fashionèd,

Nor of the fire, as others oft have feigned,

Nor of the air, as some have vainly spread,

Nor the four elements in order trained,

Nor of vacuity and atoms bred.

   Nor hath it been eternal, as is thought

   By natural men that have no further sought.

The opinions of

the old philosophers

touching the creation

Thales Milesius

Heraclitus, Hippasus







Neither hath man in perpetuity been,

And shall on earth eternally persevere

By endless generation, running in

One circuit, in corruption lasting ever.

Nor did that nation first on earth begin       

Under the mid Equator; some endeavour

   So to persuade that man was first begun

   In the place next to the life-giving sun.








Neither was he of earth and water framed,

Tempered with lively heat, as others write.

Nor were we in a former world first named,

As in their curious problems some recite.

Others, more ripe in judgement, have proclaimed

Man framed of clay, in fashion exquisite,

   In whom were breathed sparks of celestial fire,

   Whence he still keeps his nature to aspire.









But this most glorious universe was made

Of nothing, by the great Creator’s will.

The ocean, bounded in—not to invade

Or swallow up the land—so resteth still;

The azure firmament, to over-shade

Both continent and waters; which fulfill

   The Maker’s word: one God doth sole extend

   Without beginning and shall see no end.





That powerful Trinity created man

Adam, of earth, in the fair field Damask,

And of his rib he Evah formèd then,

Supplying them with all things they can ask.

In these first two, humanity began,

In whom confined Jehovah’s six-days’ task.

   From Adam then and Evah’s first creation,

   It follows we derive our British Nation.



Inspire me in this task, Jove’s seed, I pray,

With Hippocrene’s drops besprinkle my head,

To comfort me upon this tedious way,

And quicken my cold brain, nigh dull and dead.

Direct my wandering spirits when they stray,

Lest foreign and forbidden paths they tread.

   My journey’s tedious; blame not then my fears.

   My voyage aims at many thousand years.



O give me leave from the world’s first creation

The ancient names of Britons to derive

From Adam, to the world’s first inundation,

And so from Noah, to us that yet survive.

And having of Troy’s worthies made relation,

Your spurs the chariot of my Muse must drive

   Through all past ages, and precedent times,

   To fill this new world with my worthless rimes.



O, may these artless numbers in your ears,

Renownèd James, seem musically strung,

Your fame, O Jove-starred Prince, spread everywhere,

First gave my still and speechless Muse a tongue:

From your majestic virtues, prizèd dear,

The infant life of these harsh meters sprung.

   O, take not then their industry in scorn,

   Who, but to emblaze you, had been yet unborn.



Nor let your princely peers hold in disdain

To have their ancestry styled and enrolled

In this poor register. A higher strain

Their merits ask, since brazen leaves unfold

Their never-dying fame. Yet thus much deign

Not to despise to hear your virtues told

   In a plain style, by one whose wish and heart

   Supplies in zeal, want both of skill and art.



Times faithfully conferred, the first invention

Of most things now in use, here you shall find;

Annexed with these, the use and comprehension

Of Poesy, once to the gods destined.

Suffer our bluntness then, since our intention

Is to good use, sent from a zealous mind.

   If stones, in lead set, keep their virtues, then,

   Your worth’s the same, though blazed by a rude pen.



In the world’s childhood, and those infant days,

When the first earth was in her strength and prime,

Of her own nature yielding plants and sprays,

Flowers, both for smell and medicine; when each time

The cheerful beams of the bright sun displays

To ripen fruits in their convenient time;

   Before the labouring swain with ’is iron plough,

   Made furrowed wrinkles in the Earth’s smooth brow.



The Golden Age



Hesiod, in Operibus et Diebus



When men were governed more by will than art,

And had their appetites by nature swayed,

When Fraud was unbegot, and had no part

In the world’s empire; before coin was made, 

When man his mutual fortunes did impart

Without extorsion, guile, or usurer’s trade;

   Before smooth cunning was to ripeness grown,

   Or devilish wax and parchment yet were known.








Marsilius Ficinus



I mean the golden world, the purest age, 

That knew not brazen war, or fatal steel,

For war was in his cradle. Iron age

Bred but his teeth. Yet did the world not feel

His ravenous fangs. No man did battle wage,

Or try the inconstant course of Fortune’s wheel;

   There was ’twixt king and king no grim defiance,

   Nor bands, save of affection and alliance.





Then lived Uranus, a great lord in Crete,

To Aethra  and great Demogorgon heir;

He married with a lady bright and sweet,

Vesta, through all those climes surnamed the fair;

With two young lads she did her husband greet:

Titan and Saturn, at two births she bare;

   Titan the eldest, crooked, and ill-faced;

   Saturn well-shaped, faire spoke, and comely graced.



Uranus and Vesta



Hiberius, son of Jubal,

governed Spain,

Ninus Assyria, Mogus Gallia



Uranus, in his hopeful issue famed,

Begot on Vesta two fair daughters more:

The first Sibylla, the last Ceres named,

Fairer were never seen in Crete before.

Both were by Nature in her cunning framed,

Out of her beauty’s choice, and purest store:

   Titan was for his ugly shape abhorred,

   But Saturn, for his comeliness adored.


Uranus called also Crete



This Saturn was the first by whose invention

The earth was tilled, and eared, and gave increase,

Before his fruitful days, was never mention

To sow or plant. Till then a general peace

Was made ’twixt th’earth and us; our apprehension

Stretched not to know her secrets. Now  ’gan cease

   Blind ignorance in man; Saturn first found

   To till, to plough, to sow, to reap the ground.



He likewise was the first that strung the bow,

And with a feathered arrow pierced the air.

Phoebus, at first, admired and did not know

What new-made birds could fly so swift and fair,

Mistaking Saturn’s shafts, for who would trow,

Man’s wisdom could invent a thing so rare,

   (Being earth-bred) to stretch his brain so high,

   As teach his shafts way through the empty sky.



And now began th’amazèd earth to admire,

To see such strange fruits in her bosom growing;

To see her head wear such unknown attire,

To see the swains, some planting, others sowing.

Now first began the birds to perch them higher,

And shun man’s sight, still wondering, but not knowing,

   How men below on th’earth’s verdure lying,

   Should reach into the air, and strike them flying.



To kill the savage beast he likewise taught,

And how to pierce the serpent’s scale from far,

By him, the wild, swift-running hart was caught;

He first devised for us the use of war;

He showed which mines of earth be good, which naught,

Which be the veins of gold, which silver are;

   He minerals first found, and from the mould,

   To deck his palace, brought refinèd gold.



Yet some great Saturn’s glory would deface,

And say that Cadmus first this metal found

In high Pangeus, a huge hill in Thrace,

Else Thoas and Aeaclis searched the ground

For gold ore; and Panchaia was the place

Known in such precious metals to abound.

   Some, twixt Erichthon and Aeacus divide,

   Finding bright silver first in Athens tried.








Idaei Dactyli Iron metal wrought

In Crete: some deem, two Jews in Cyprus made it,

Selmentes and Damnameneus brought

The ore from thence, and to their use assayed it,

For yellow brass the sly Pannonians sought,

The Scythian Lydus with the fire allayed it,

   And taught it first to melt; which some suppose

   The Phrygian Delas did by art disclose.











Midacritus a mineral more than these

Brought from a province that belongs to Spain,

Lead, from the Islands Cassiterides,

Which some would attribute to Tubal-cain.

Glaucus all metals brought beyond the seas

Taught how to sother (else their use were vain)

   The first smith’s forge, the black Calibians made,

   And after taught the Cyclopès their trade.







Cinyras the stithy, lever, tongues and file,

Pyrodes was the first from flint stroke fire,

Which how to keep in matches longer while

Prometheus taught. This Vulcan did acquire.

The bellows, Anacharsis in the isle

Called Scithes. And thus men did still aspire

   For knowledge, and in several countries nursed

   These arts, of whom we hold king Saturn first.






Therefore the Cretan people much esteemed him,

And called him God on earth for his rare wit.

Much honor he received which they beteemed him,

And in their popular judgements held it fit

To burn him myrrh  and incense, for they deemed him

Worthy alone amongst the Gods to sit,

   Persuaded such a high inventious strain

   Could not proceed from any mortal’s brain.



As these rare gifts the giddy commons noted,

So in his mother’s heart they took impression,

Who on her son’s perfections inly doted,

Making for him her daily intercession;

Thus in a sea of sweet content he floated,

For who, but of his virtues made confession?

   In process, and the chief of Saturn’s pride,

   The old Uranus crazed, fell sick and died.



After a few sad funeral sighs and tears

By Vesta o’er her husband’s body shed,

In crooked Titan, to the world appears

A strong intention to impale his head

With his dead father’s crown. This Vesta fears,

And calling Saturn, thus to him she said:

   “My dearest son, ’tis by the Lords decreed,

   That in Uranus’ Princedom thou succeed.



Thy brother Titan, though in age before thee,

Yet in thy wisdom thou hast him outstripped.

Thou hast the popular love, they all adore thee,

His blasted hopes are in the blossom nipped.

With coin, with men, with armour I will store thee,

Let him stand fast, or he shall sure be tripped.

   Both Lords and people join with me thy mother

   To invest Saturn and depose thy brother.”



With that, before her son could make reply,

Where they were speaking, rushed bold Titan in,

A storm was in his brow, fire in his eye,

After some tempest, he doth thus begin:   

“Must then young Saturn reign? O, tell me why?

Am I a bastard, and begot in sin?

   Hath Vesta played the strumpet with my father

   That you despise me, and elect him rather?





Difference ’twixt Titan

And Saturn



Was I not of that virgin womb the first?

And lay I not as near your heart as he?

Was I not of those breasts before him nursed?

And am I not his elder in degree?

What have I done, you should affect me worst?

Your maiden birth, and your first progeny.

   Before him I was born, and to be plain,

   By all the gods! I will before him reign.



Had I not in your womb the self-same being?

 Am I not of the self-same blood created?

Is not my royalty with his agreeing?

Is not my birth before his anti-dated?

Is elder Titan, now not worth the seeing?

Must in my right that young boy be instated?

   Hath he so well, or I so ill deserved?

   No. First I came, and I will first be served.”



And turning to young Saturn, with an eye

Threatening revenge and ruin to his life,

“Princox,” quoth he, “must you be placed so high,

The only darling of Uranus’ wife?

Canst thou so soon out-leap me? Thou shalt die,

And in thy fatal obits end this strife.”

   Then, with his fatal blade he blessed his head,

   Had the blow fallen, it had struck Saturn dead.



But Vesta stayed it coming, and withal

Came Ceres and Sibylla thrusting thither:

They hug young Saturn, but on Titan fall,

Thundering on him with clamours; altogether,

The younger brother they their sovereign call,

And bid the elder pack, they care not wither.

   The people second them. Thus in disgrace,

   The stigmatic is forced to leave the place.



But having better with himself advised,

Titan and Saturn thus the strife decide,

That Titan, for his shape so much despised,

Should leave the scepter unto Saturn’s guide,

 And so to stint all malice enterprised.

But after Saturn’s death, the crown t’abide

   To Titan and his heirs, by his last will.

   So Saturn swears all his heirs male to kill.


Erythraean Sibyl



Their strife compounded






King Saturn must not let a son survive

To keep his brother’s issue from the crown;

Only his daughters he may save alive,

These covenants are betwixt them both set down.

Henceforth, no more these haughty brothers strive,

For either by indenture knows his own.

   The crown is Saturn’s, due to Titan’s seed,

   To make which good, all Saturn’s sons must bleed.



Apollonius li.2 Argonaut.



The elder brother, thus o’erswayed with might,

Cannot endure that clime, but seeks another,

To see his younger thronèd in his right,

Or to be called a subject to his brother;

And therefore, full of anger and despite,

He leaves his country, sisters, and his mother.

   And to be rid at once of his disgraces,

   He seeks adventures strange, in foreign places.



Where Fortune his attempts so much befriended

That many warlike nations he subdued.

No quest, save arms and valour, he intended,

And how by usurpation to intrude

Into the rights of others, who defended

Their honours, both by strength and multitude.

   Thus he of many Islands reigns sole king,

   And all the world of Titan’s acts doth ring.



Yet into Crete he daily sends espial

To know if Saturn made his covenant good,

Forcing his sly scouts, maugre all denial,                 

To bring him word how Saturn’s glory stood,

Whether of marriage he had yet made trial,

Or having children male, has spilled their blood,

   Knowing himself to be sufficient strong,

   By force of arms to right his former wrong.



So with his five and forty sons makes thence,

With fair Titaea, mother to seventeen

Of that large brood, all these with rage dispense,

And by their late atonement, exiles been.

With patience they depart, but with pretence,

Hoping well armed once more to be seen,

   And with their brood of Titanois to meet

   And tug with Saturn for the crown of Crete.



Diod. Siculus



Rhea, of all the beauteous daughters fairest,

Brides with Hyperion, her best loved brother.

He likewise, for his feature was the rarest

Of Titan’s sons; there lived not such another.

O sweet Hyperion, thou in shape comparest

With all the giant issue of thy mother!

   At several births, two babes she childed soon,

   The male she called the Sun; female, the Moon.



The t’other Titans fearing to these two

Their father’s conquests should in time descend,

A monstrous act they have intent to do,

Whose scandal shall beyond both poles extend,

And none but parricides would yield unto,

For they that should their brother’s life defend,

   Conspire together and ‘gainst right or reason,

   In dead of night, they seek his death by treason.



But first they take his little son, the Sun,

And to the flood Eridanus—well known,

That streams along their coast—in haste they run,

Where the young lad amongst the waves is thrown.

This, when his tender sister knew was done,

From a high rock, herself she tumbled down:

   In pity of whose beauties, grace, and years,

   The gods translate them to the brightest spheres.


Pausanias in Corinthiacis



Meantime, the new-made king of Crete’s renown

Increased so much, that he was termed a god,

He was the first that ware a laurel crown,

The first that ventured on the seas, and rode

In triumph on the waters—this being known.

They held them happiest, that could make abode

   In his blessed province, which being well conducted,

   Kings sent their sons to him to be instructed.



Of Titan more,

canto 3 stanza 28



Saturn in those days was held only wise,

Many young princes in his court were trained,

He taught them both the use of seas and skies,

And what hid wealth within the earth remained;

Then ’gan he cities build, and laws devise,

For an irregular people he disdained.

   The mineral mountain-veins he undermined,

   And was the first that perfect gold refined.



Yet never did this king in ought miscarry,

Having what earth and sea and air could yield,

Happy in all things, save, he durst not marry.

He sees the gorgeous house he late did build

Shine with reflecting gold—his objects vary—,

He sees his ripe corn, growing in the field,

   He sees the wild birds by his archers caught,

   Pierced with those shafts, whose use before he taught;



He sees the vast seas by his oars divided,

And the deep waters without danger past,

By art of sail and rudder they are guided.

What greater happiness could mortal taste?

But when the covenant long before decided

’Twixt him and Titan he records, at last,

   It pierced his heart with sorrow, for his life

   Seems to him tedious, led without a wife.



What boots him all his honours and rich state?

His wealth’s increase, and all his worldly pleasure?

For whom doth he rise early, and sleep late,

Having no heir to inherit all his treasure?

He knows he hath incurred his brother’s hate,

Yet must his seed make of his kingdom seizure;

   He envies his own wealth, because he knows,

   All his life time he toils, t’enrich his foes.



He loves his sister Sibyl, yet not so

That if she children have, their bloods to spill;

And yet his timorous passions hourly grow,

Nor can he on her beauty gaze his fill;

Fain would he marry her, and yet doth know

If she have issue, he her sons must kill,

   So that he wishes now, but all too late

   That for his vow, he might exchange his state.



In this distraction many days he dwelt,

Till love at length in Saturn’s heart prevailed.

Such fervent passions in his breast he felt,

That spite his oath, which he so much bewailed,

He feels his soft thoughts in his bosom melt—

Needs must he yield whom such fair looks assailed—

   And now upon this desperate point he stood,

   To wade t’her bed, though through his children’s blood.



This can great Apis witness, who that time

Pelopennesus governed. This records

Jubalda, who the Spanish seat doth climb;

This Cranaus, kneeled to by th’Italian Lords;

This Satron, who the Gauls ruled in his prime,

Now to Semiramis Assyria affords

   The monarchy, who, after Ninus died,

   Married her son, and perished by his pride.











The marriage rights with solemn feasts are done,

Sibyl both wife and sister; the first queen

That  reigned in Crete hath now conceived a son,

Never hath less applausive joy been seen

At such a bride’s conception. The time’s come,

The long suspensive days expirèd been,

   For if a male, his blood the earth must stain,

   A male she brought forth, and the lad was slain.


Saturn marries his sister Sibyl









On to Canto I (

Notes to Canto I

How to cite

Frédéric Delord, ed., 2015.  Troia Britanica Canto I, 1-50 (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).



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