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

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO III (1-50)

Stanzas 1-1011-2021-3031-4041-5050-100


Ed. Yves PEYRÉ


Callisto, known to be with child, is driven

From Dian’s cloister. Arcas doth pursue

His mother. Unto him Pelasge is given,

Now termed Arcady. When Titan knew

Saturn had sons alive, his heart was riven

With anger; he his men together drew

   To battle. The two brothers fight their fills,

   Jove saves his father, and his uncle kills.





Argumentum 2

Transformed Callisto, and the giant kings,

Jove’s combat with great Typhon, Gamma sings.



 hen I record, the dire effects of war,

 I cannot but with happy praise admire

 The blessèd friends of peace, which smoothes the scar

 Of wounding steel and all-consuming fire.

O, in what safety, then, thy subjects are,

Royal King James, secured from War’s fierce ire,

   That, by thy peaceful government alone,

   Studiest divided Christendom t’ atone.
King James.



To thee, may poets sing their cheerful lays,

By whom their muses flourish in soft peace;

To thee, the swains may tune eternal praise,

By whom they freely reap the earth’s increase;

The merchants through the earth applaud thy days,

Wishing their endless date may never cease,

   By whom they through the quartered world may traffic.

   Asia, Europe, America, and Afric.



Thy liegemen thou hast placed as on a hill,

Free from the cannon’s reach, from far to see

Divided nations one another kill,

Whilst thy safe people as spectators be,

Only to take a view what blood they spill.

They near to ruin, yet in safety we,

   Alone in peace, whilst all the realms about us

   Envy our bliss, yet forced to fight without us.






So did the neuter Londoners once stand

On Barnet Heath, aloof, to see the fight

’Twixt the fourth Edward, sovereign of this land,

And the great duke of Warwick in the right

Of the sixt Henry, in which, hand to hand,

Brave John of Oxford, a renownèd knight,

   Made many a parting soul for life’s breath pant,

   And vanquished many a worthy combatant.


Warwick and Oxford.





So stood the Kentish men to view the main,

In the year eighty-eight, when th’English fleet

Fought with the huge Armadas brought from Spain.

With what impatience did they stand to see’t

On the safe shore, willing to leave the train

Of such faint cowards as think safety sweet

   In such a quarrel, where invaders threat us,

   And in our native kingdom seek to beat us!


The Spanish Armada,

sent to invade England.







Where Royal England’s Admiral, attended

With all the chivalry of our brave nation,

The name of Howard through the earth extended

By naval triumph o’er their proud invasion,

Where victory on the Red Cross descended

In lightning and earth’s thunder, in such fashion

   That all the sheavèd feathered shafts of Spain,

   Headed with death, were shot them back again.






It showed as if two towns, on th’ocean built,

Had been at once by th’heavens’ lightning fired.

The shining waters, with the bright flames gilt,

Breathed clouds of smoke, which to the spheres aspired.

The blood of Spanish soldiers that day spilt,

Which through the portholes ran, Neptune admired,

   And took it for the Red Sea, whilst the thunder

   Of English shot proclaimed the sea god’s wonder.



But lest this ordinance should wake from sleep

Our ancient enmity now buried quite,

The grave of all their shame shall be the deep

In which these peopled sea-towns first did fight.

Yet that I may a kind of method keep,

And some deserving captains to recite,

   Live famous Hawkins, Frobisher and Drake,

   Whose very name made Spain’s Armada quake.






Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Martin Frobisher



Now, to return unto Pelasgia back,

Which Jove hath made to him and to his seed,

Then takes his leave. The people, loath to lack

The prince that from a tyrant hath them freed,

Who of their lives and honours sought the wrack,

Would change his purpose, but he hath decreed

   Pelasgia to forsake, and I must leave him

   To Epire’s king, who gladly will receive him.






And to the forest to Callisto turn,

Whose sorrow with her swelling belly grows.

Alas, how can the lady choose but mourn,

To see herself so near her painful throes?

’Tis August, now the scorching dog-stars burn,

Therefore the Forest Queen a set day chose

   For all her train to bathe them in the flood.

   Callisto, ’mongst them, by the river stood.



The Queen with jealous eyes surveys the place,

Lest men or satyrs should be ambushed by them,

The naked ladies in the flood to face

Or in their clotheless beauty to espy them.

Now all at once they gin themselves t’unlace.

O, ravishing harmony! Had I been by them,

   I should have thought so many silken strings,

   Touched by such white hands, music fit for kings.



They doff their upper garments; each begins

Unto her milk-white linen smock to bare her;

Small difference ’twixt their white smocks and their skins,

And hard it were to censure which were fairer.

Some plunge into the river past their chins,

Some fear to venture, whist the others dare her,

   And with her tender foot the river feels,

   Making the water’s margent rinse her heels.



Some stand up to the ankles, some the knees,

Some to the breast, some dive above the crown.

Of this her naked fellow nothing sees,

Saving the troubled waves, where she slid down;

Another sinks her body by degrees,

And first her foot, and then her leg doth drown;

   Some their faint fellows to the deep are craving,

   Some sit upon the bank, their white legs laving.



One only, discontented, shrinks aside.

Her faint unbracing, idly she doth linger;

Full fain the lass her swelling breast would hide,

She pins and unpins with her thumb and finger.

Twice, Phoebe sends, and musing, she denied

To bathe her; she commands the rest to bring her,

   Who, betwixt mirth and earnest, force and play,

   All but her cobweb shadow, snatched away.



Dian at first perceives her breasts to swell

And whispers to At’lanta what she found,

Who straight perceived Callisto was not well.

They judged she had her virgin’s belt unbound,

But when her veil beneath her navel fell

And that her belly showed so plump and round,

   They little need to ask if she transgressed:

   Callisto’s guilty blush the act confessed.



Therefore she banished her. Nor suits nor tears

Can with the Queen of Damsels ought prevail,

Who, when by strict inquiry made, she hears

Of Jupiter and his deceitful stale,

Who seemed so like a virgin, Phoebe swears

Because her judgement thenceforth shall not fail,

   And to avoid occasion of like venture,

   To search all such as to her train shall enter.



Thus is Lycaon’s daughter banished now

The city, by her late assumed profession;

Banished the cloister by her breach of vow,

For by no prayers, tears, or intercession,

Diana her re-entrance will allow,

After exilement, for her late transgression;

   Therefore, ashamed, through dark shades she doth run,

   Till time expires, and she brings forth a son.



So did our Cynthia chastity prefer,

The most admired Queen that ever reigned.

If any of her virgin train did err,

Or with the like offence their honours stained,

From her imperial court she banished her,

And a perpetual exile she remained.

   Oh, bright Eliza, though thy dated days

   Confine, there is no limit to thy praise.
Queen Elizabeth



Callisto’s son imagine seven years old,

Brought up ’mongst lions, tigers, wolves, and bears;

The savage imp grows day by day more bold

And, half a brute, no beast at all he fears.

He brooks both summer’s heat and winter’s cold,

And from the wolf his prey by force he tears.

   Upon a time, his mother crossed his will,

   Whom he, enraged, pursued and sought to kill.



She flies, he follows her with furious rage

Till she is forced the forest to forsake,

And seeing no means can his spleen assuage,

She doth the way unto the city take,

The neighbour city, which is called Pelasge,

Where Jupiter, by chance, did merry-make,

   Whose hap it was, then crossing through the street,

   The mother and th’enragèd son to meet.



Callisto spies Jove and for help she cries,

And at his royal feet she humbly throws her.

He stops the savage, and with heedful eyes,

Viewing Callisto well, at length he knows her,

Though clad in bark and leaves—a strange disguise—

For a king’s daughter and a realm’s disposer.

   “Help, Jove”, quoth she, “and my pursuer stay,

   Arcas, thy son, his mother seeks to slay”.



Jove gladly doth acknowledge the bold lad

To be his son, for all the gifts of nature

Patterned and shaped by Jupiter he had,

And of him nothing wants but age and stature.

He caused him in rich garments to be clad,

And then he seemed to all a goodly creature,

   For being attired in cloth of gold and tissue,

   He may be easily known to be Jove’s issue.



The strife betwixt the mother and the child

Is by the father and the husband ended.

Callisto has again herself exiled,

Scorning the grace that Jove to her extended.

She hies her to the groves and forests wild,

With general mankind for Jove’s sake offended,

   But in her flight, as through the fields she ranged,

   She feels her figure and proportion changed.



Her upright body now gan forward bend, 

And on the earth she doth directly stare,

And as her hands she would to heaven extend,

She sees her fingers claws, o’ergrown with hair,

And those same lips Jove did of late commend

To be for colour peerless, kissing rare,

   Are rough and stretched in length, her head down hangs

   Her skin’s a rough hide and her teeth be fangs.




And when she would her strange estate bewail

And speak to heaven the sorrows of her heart,

Instead of words, she finds her organs fail,

And grunts out a harsh sound that makes her start;

She fears her shape, and over hill and dale,

Runs from herself, yet can she not depart

   From what she flies, for what she doth most fear

   She carries all the way: the shape of bear.



And though a perfect bear, yet bears affright her.

So do the wolves. Though ’mongst their savage crew

Her father lives, how should a wolf delight her

Unless Lycaon in such shape she knew?

Meantime, young Arcas proves a valiant fighter

And in all martial practice famous grew.

   Adding seven summers more unto his age,

   He sits him in the kingdom of Pelasge,

Callisto transformed

into a bear.




Pausanias in Arcadicis.



Where leave him reigning in his grandsire’s stead,

Changing his kingdom and his people’s name.

Whether by Jove or Fate, I know not, led,

Themselves Arcadians they abroad proclaim;

After the name of Arcas, now their head,

Pelasge, a city too of ancient fame,

   They Arcad call, a style that shall persevere

   Unto the people and the town for ever.


Pelasgia called Arcadia

of Arcas.



Arcas in Arcad lives, in Epire Jove,

Saturn in Crete, the god of earth proclaimed.

Titan through foreign seas and lands doth rove,

Having by conquest many nations tamed,

For time still gave him conquest where he strove,

Which made him through the world both feared and famed.

   Yet with a world the tyrant seems not pleased,

   Till he have Crete, his native birthright, seized.



By strict inquiry, he at length hath found

His perjured brother hath kept sons alive

Against the covenant he by oath was bound,

Which was that no male issue should survive.

This of his future war must be the ground.

He vows in iron his brother’s legs to gyve,

   His hands to manacle, his neck to yoke,

   In just revenge that he the league hath broke.



His sons, all giants and by nature strong,

He sends to assemble to this dreadful war,

Who, like their father apt for rape or wrong,

Without the cause demanding, gathered are.

Unnumbered people in their armies’ throng,

Brought by the big-boned Titanois from far.

   Where he and all his giant sons assemble,

   They make the groaning earth beneath them tremble.




Titan’s sons all giants.



Lycaon was not there, him Jove before

Had from th’Arcadian kingdom quite put down;

There was the giant Typhon, he that wore

The Cyprian wreath and the Sicilian crown;

Huge Briareus that the sceptre bore

Of Nericos, a monster at whose frown

   Nations have quaked, whole armies stood aghast,

   And gods themselves shook till his rage were past.









Coeon, likewise king of great Coeas isle,

A fellow of a high and matchless size,

Who the rough Ocean calmed with a smile,

And with a frown hath made the billows rise;

Aegeon too, that hath enlarged his style

Through many a kingdom; from whose raging eyes

   Bright lightning flames have in his furious ire,

   Afore a storm of thunder flashed out fire.




Of him the great Mediterranean Ocean

Is called th’Aegean sea: it doth divide

Europe from Asia, and hath further motion

Along the greatest part of Greece; beside,

This giant to the gods scorned all devotion,

Therefore was called Brianchus for his pride;

   The next, Hyperion, of the self-same breed;

   All these have sworn the death of Saturn’s seed.









There likewise came unto these wars Japetus,

Cœlum and Terra’s son; in Titan’s aid,

He brought with him his son Prometheus,

Whom Titan, the first hour, a captain made;

His brother Atlas too, and Hesperus,

Their royal ensigns in the field displayed,

   And over divers seas their armies ferried,

   From Mauritania, Lybia, and Hesperied.





Their rendez-vous in Sicily they made,

And thence by sea they rig a royal fleet

The flourishing realm of Saturn to invade.

In time, their countless host takes land in Crete.

Valleys by them are filled, hills even are laid,

Towns burnt, high castles levelled with their feet,

   Where’er they turn, fire from their eyeballs flashes,

   Which towns and villages consumes to ashes.



Saturn their bold invasion much admires,

Not knowing whence their quarrel may be grounded.

He calls his council and of them inquires

How their immense ambition may be bounded,

How with his enemies’ blood to quench the fires,

And by what power the foe may be confounded.

   Advice is given to make a general muster

   To beat them back, that in such numbers cluster.



And as the king, throned in his chair of state,

Sits in his palace, all his chief peers by him,

On these affairs to counsel and debate,

In thrusts a knight from Titan to defy him,

And ’mongst the lords that ‘bout him circled sat,

He rudely throngs and presseth to come nigh him;

   But being kept back, aloud he lifts his voice

   And thus greets Saturn from the Titanois:



“Thus says imperious Titan, Saturn’s lord:

Like a low vassal from my throne descend,

Or I shall chase thee thence by fire and sword,

And with thy glory, to thy days give end,

For thou hast broke thy oath and princely word,

And therein made an enemy of thy friend.

   My crown I but resigned upon condition,

   And thou those bonds hast broke by thy ambition.



Whilst Saturn his male children kills, so long

He is the king of Crete. But that neglected,

He wears the Cretan diadem by wrong.

Thy perjury is to the world detected,

And therefore with an army great and strong,

Shall Saturn from his high throne be dejected.

   Thus Titan doth the king of Crete defy,

   And by these summons, to submit or die.”


The occasion of this war.



Bold-spirited Saturn doubly moved appeareth

At his proud message, with disdain and wonder.

Disdain, as being a prince that nothing feareth

To hear his scorned enemy threat’ning thunder;

With admiration, when he strangely heareth

Of sons alive, which makes him deeply wonder,

   And, taking Cybel’ by the hand, thus say,

   Having commanded first his train away:



“Sister and wife, I charge thee by the zeal

Thou owest to me, thy husband and thy brother,

The truth of all this practice to reveal,

And what I next demand thee nothing smother,

Since it concerns th’estate of all our weal;

Art thou of any living son the mother?”

   The trembling queen, low kneeling, thus replied:

   “You charge me deep, and I will nothing hide.



I am a woman, and full well you know

A woman hath a soft and tender breast;

But more, I am a mother: can you show

A mother that in this kind hath transgressed?

Stranger may stranger kill, foe murder foe,

Which mothers to their children most detest.

   Was it for murder you espoused me first,

   To be a wife of all good wives accursed?



I’d rather be a piteous mother held,

Than through the world a murderess be esteemed,

Be myself murdered rather than compelled

To murder those for whom this womb has teemed;

This womb with three fair princely sons hath swelled,

Which dead to Saturn and the world are deemed,

   Yet all three live but, cruel husband, where,

   Saturn shall never know, nor Titan hear.”



Th’amazèd king imagines by her look

Her fervent tongue doth on her heart-string strike;

Necessity, at this time, makes him brook

What his disturbèd soul doth most dislike;

Without reply the sad queen he forsook,

It pierced his heart as if an enemy’s pike

   Had by the aim of some strong hand been cast

   And side to side through all his entrails passed.



He comes where all his lords in counsel sat,

And tells them of three sons preserved to life;

The peers at first seem much amazed thereat,

Yet all commend the pity of his wife

And praise her virtue; intermitting that,

They next proceed to Titan’s hostile strife,

   And thus conclude their enemies to expel,

   Whom they know barbarous, bloody, fierce and fell.



When calling him that the defiance brought,

This answer back to Titan they return,

That they his braving menace set at nought,

That their own bloods shall quench the towns they burn,

That their immediate ruins they have sought,

And they no longer can revenge adjourn,

   But the next sun shall see strange vengeance ta’en

   Of all his Cretan subjects they have slain.



The messenger’s dismissed, while they prepare

Arms and munitions for the morrow’s field.

Meantime, great Titan’s sons assembled are,

Who all their fortunes on their fury build.

Their haughty looks their spleenful hearts declare,

Each brandishing his sword and ponderous shield,

   Longing to hear from Saturn such reply

   That on his men they may their valours try.



Nor do they tempt the deities in vain;

They have what they desire; to them, behold,

The baffled messenger gallops amain;

But ere the knight his message hath half told,

So much the giant kings their braves disdain

That with their scornful feet they spurn the mould,

   Their brows they furrow and their teeth they grate,

   And all the gods blaspheme, to show their hate.



Now hath the Sun slid from his fiery car

And in cold Ister quenched his flaming head;

Black darkness, rising from the earth afar,

You might perceive the welkin to o’erspread;

Orion’s blazing locks discovered are,

Pale Cynthia governs in Apollo’s stead,

   Bootes his wain about the Pole hath driven

   And all the stars borne bright that spangle heaven.



The morning comes, Titan in field appears

In complete harness, armed from head to toe;

Next him Aegeon, who no corslet wears,

Or coat of arms to encounter any foe.

Unarmed as he is, he no man fears;

A plume doth from his gilded helmet flow,

   Made of the peacock’s train; his arm is strong,

   In which he shakes a skein, bright, broad and long.






The armour of the giants.


Back to Canto II (1-50 & 50-100)

Notes to Canto III

On to Canto III (51-100)


How to cite

Yves Peyré, ed., 2012.  Troia Britanica Canto III, 1-50 (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).



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