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

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO V (1-50)

Stanzas 1-1011-2021-3031-4041-5050-112

Ed. Patricia Dorval


King Tantalus before the Trojans flies;

Saturn arrives in Crete and, by Troas aided,

Once more intends his kingdom to surprise;

Crete is by Trojan Ganymede invaded;

In aid of Jupiter, the Centaurs rise;

Aegeon’s full-fraught galleys are disladed;

   Danae and her young son are turned afloat

   By Argos’ king into a mastless boat.





Argumentum 2

Pelops, the two Atrids and Aegeon,

Vulcan, the Gorgons in Epsilon.



 hose inspiration shall my heavy brain

 Implore, to make my dull invention light,

 Or to a loftier key my pen constrain,

 Or raise my Muse that takes so low a flight?

Thou, Jove-born Pallas, o’er my numbers reign,

And musical Apollo give me sprite,

   With the bright rays that from thy temples shine,

   To show me way unto the Muses nine,



Of whom the eldest Clio first devised

To chronicle the royal gests of kings;

Strutting Melpomene, in gules disguised,

In theatres ’mongst tragic actors sings;

But soft Thalia hath such strains despised,

And to her comic scenes shrill laughters brings;

   Wind instruments Euterpe best affects;

   Terpsichore the stringèd lyre directs;



The geometric figures Erato

Hath in her charge, as first by her disclosed;

But from Calliope high stanzas flow,

For the heroic numbers first composed;

The course of stars are by Urania know,

And how the planets be above disposed;

   But Polyhymnia smooth rhetoric chooses,

   The youngest of Jove’s daughters, and the Muses.



All these at once their sacred gifts aspire,

That may give beauty to my task in hand,

Affording help when I their aid desire,

To guide my tossed bark to desired land―

A slender bark, slow-sailed, and apt to tire,

And founder in the sea, weak and unmanned.

   Apollo with the rest, my voyage speed,

   Whilst to Troy’s fatal ruin we proceed.



King Tantalus, the son of Jupiter,

That reigned in Attic, brought an host ’fore Troy,

Which his son Pelops led. How can he err,

Being directed by so brave a boy,

That undertakes his army to transfer,

And Troos with his new city to destroy?

   This Pelops with the king of Elis ran,

   And in the course bright Hippodamia wan.



Her father, Oenomaus, was betrayed

By Myrtilus, his treacherous chariot-driver,

And in the race slain. Pelops by his aid,

Of many suitors dead the sole survivor,

After the goal obtained, enjoys the maid,

Intending with all pompous state to wive her.

   Th’ espousals ended, Time with swift pace runs,

   And she, in process, hath produced two sons, 








  2617/1346: Ehud, of the tribe of Benjamin, slew Eglon, King of Moab.





Thyestes and Atreus named. The first,

O’ercome with burning lust’s insatiate heat,

Ravished Atreus’ wife―O deed accursed!―

For which Atreus doth him home intreat,

And takes his children where the babes were nursed,

To dress their bodies for their father’s meat,

   Some baked, some roast, some sod. O bloody deed,

   To make a father on his own child feed!



Atreus two sons had, the eldest hight

Agamemnon, who was after Mycene’s king,

And Greekish general of the ten years’ fight

’Twixt Greece and Troy, which we must after sing;

The second, Menelaus, in whose right,

The Argive dukes their puissant armies bring,

   Husband to Helen, when Prince Paris sought her,

   And Helen, Jupiter and Leda’s daughter.






The progeny of Menelaus and Agamemnon.




But we digress: ’gainst Pelops and his sire,

Ilion and Ganymede from Troy appear.

These are the sons of Troos; many a bold squire

They led with them to Ilion. The first year

He reigned in Troy, in bright celestial fire

Came the Palladium down from heaven’s high sphere,

   Which Ilion’s towers long after did enjoy,

   Continuing till the utter sack of Troy.



Their hostile instruments to battle sound;

Ten thousand hands at once to heaven are raised,

Which in their falls, as many strike to ground;

Cowards are scorned, none but the bold are praised;

The Trojans have begirt the Phrygians round,

Pelops above the rest his fame emblazed,

   And Ganymede that doth bold Pelops see,

   Fights, as if none need kill a man, but he.



Such was the valour of this Trojan youth,

Though Troos and Ilion both did wondrous well,

He only stands, defends, breaks, and pursueth

Their standing battles; by his valour fell

The Phrygian host, now murdered without ruth;

Charon is tired with ferring souls to hell;

   The Trojans follow with victorious cries,

   Whilst Tantalus and valiant Pelops flies.



This was that Tantalus bright Plota bare,

Whom for a special grace the gods admit

To their high council, where they oft repair;

He blabs their secrets, therefore they held fit

To punish him in hell with torments rare:

In Lethe chin-deep he must ever sit,

   Hungry whilst apples touch his lips, and dry

   Whilst from his thirsty chin the waters fly.







Tantalus in hell.




And this that Pelops whom his father slew,

And hewed his body into gobbets small,

Whose massacre the gods in mercy rue;

And gathering up his limbs to match them all,

They miss that piece to join his body new,

Which from the throat doth to the shoulder fall,

   Which they with ivory piece, and who more bolder

   Than new-made Pelops, with his ivory shoulder!




Pelops' death and life.






And yet enforced to fly; but had his men

Been every one a Pelops, none had fled.

He was the last in field, preferring then

’Fore coward runners, the resolvèd dead.

But what can one alone ’gainst thousands ten?

Led by so brave a prince as Ganymede,

   Leave we triumphant Troos; now let our hand

   Direct sea-toiled Saturn safe a-land,



Who from his son in the last battle flying,

His grand-child Arcas to the seaside chased.

We left him in a ship the ocean trying,

Where he hath ploughed strange seas, great

[dangers passed,

Now entering th’ Hellespont, from far espying,

After his tedious course, a town at last.

   His mariners to shore their sails employ,

   And sea-beat Saturn touches land ’fore Troy,




Saturn's arrive in Troy.






Which Troos amidst his plausive triumphs seeing,

With Ilion, Ganymede, and thousands more,

Makes towards the harbour, whilst old Saturn freeing

His men from shipboard hath impressed the shore;

He makes his habit with his style agreeing;

The Trojans wonder at the state he bore:

   Himself so well prepared, his ships so fair,

   Both to the barbarous Trojans seeming rare.



So small a number can no war pretend,

Therefore their strange arrive they need not fear;

As far as doth their hemisphere extend,

They view the sea, but see no shipping near,

Which makes the king salute him as a friend,

And ask the reason of his landing there;

   Saturn replies: “Behold poor strangers thrown

   To unknown people, on a land unknown.



Yet would you have his country, nation, name,

That knows not on whose earth his bold feet tread,

Nor with what breath he may his style proclaim,

From his own native air so far being fled;

If you perhaps have relished Saturn’s fame,

Whose glory lives, although his state be dead,

   Then view that Saturn with respective eyes,

   Whose far-spread beams set, at his son’s uprise.”



Saturn hath spoke enough: whose longing ears

Have not been filled and cloyed with his renown?

The heavenly music of th’ harmonious spheres

Climb to his praise: by him the fields are sown,

The archers shoot, and childing Tellus bears;

In what remote clime is not Saturn known?

   By him are seas passed, heady ships controlled;

   He first tilled, ploughed, sowed, reaped, and finèd gold.



He need not of his ominous wars possess him,

Troos knows his issue’s triumph, and his flight

Inspired with supernatural gifts they gest him,

And hold themselves heaven-favoured in his sight.

He vows in Crete again to repossess him,

Where Jove usurps ’gainst all paternal right;

   After few days in feasts and triumphs ended,

   A puissant host is to his charge commended,



Of twenty thousand soldiers, Trojans all,

Commanded by the valiant Ganymede―

A better war-exploited general

Never appeared in sight of ensigns spread.

They pass the Aegean seas, which men so call

Of the grand thief Aegeon, he that fled

   From Jupiter, when all the Titans perished,

   Now on these seas by murderous pirates cherished.




Ganymede’s war against Jupiter.





Saturn directs their landing, as best knowing

The safest harbours, and their army guided

Through many furlongs of his ancient sowing,

Never till his days by the plough divided;

But as their host to Crete is nearer growing,

With hope to take the Cretans unprovided,

   King Jupiter is by the scouts descried,

   With many Centaurs that on horseback ride.



But not expecting any hostile power,

Or to beat back invaders, doth he gather

This puissant host: he’s for the brazen tower

Where Danae lives, cooped by her ruthless father.

But now that host the Cretan soil must scour,

Which amorous Jove would have conducted rather

   To scale the brazen fortress, the dark screen

   ’Twixt courtly freedom and his cloistered queen.



To this employment the stout Centaurs came,

Under Ixion’s conduct, twice two hundred,

Who first devised Thessalian steeds to tame.

They seemed at first half horse, half man unsundered,

At whose strange manage and admirèd name,

Unknown till now, th’ amazèd Trojans wondered.

   The battles join, and both the hosts discover,

   About Jove’s tent, a princely eagle hover.



He takes it for an ominous sign of good,

The Trojans for some heavy sad presage;

By this a thousand quarters swim in blood,

And from both sides the heated champions rage;

In a deep red they dye the neighbour flood;

Never did bolder spirits battle wage;

   The dying groan, the fear-confounded shrike,

   The wounded bleeding fall, the standing strike.



The Centaurs boldly fight, the prince of Troy

Shines both in arms and valour above all,

Having both art and strength his steel to employ,

And many half-dead limbs about him sprawl;

To him Jove makes, and is re-met with joy;

On either part whole troops before him fall;

   So have I seen two burning meteors fare,

   Breaking through diverse clouds to tilt in th’ air.









The combat ’twixt Jove and Ganymede.



Two fiery meteors I may call them right,

For they were both in gilded armours laced,

And had they fought in a dark cloudy night,

With such rough blows their shields and helms they raced,

And forced from them such store of fiery light,

With steel encountering steel, and blows well placed,

   The two main armies might have fought in view,

   By the bright sparks that from their armours flew.



This monomachy lasted not, for yonder

Comes Saturn on the part of Ganymede,

On th’ other side, the hoofèd Centaurs thunder,

And character deep half moons where they tread,

By whom the champions are enforced asunder,

And all confused that was in order led;

   Thus in this tumult and disordered brawl,

   By scores and hundreds they drop down and fall.



Saturn assails his son, but is refused:

He shuns th’ unnatural combat with his sire;

Amongst the Trojans he his champions choosed,

The hostile stranger shall his worth admire,

Against whose armies he such valour used,

That force, perforce, their vaward must retire;

   Meantime, Prince Ganymede King Saturn righting,

   Alone, is ’midst a hundred Centaurs fighting.



Encountering Aeson, armed at every piece,

Aeson well mounted, ’gainst the Trojan ran.

This Aeson’s son was after known in Greece:

’Twas he that did the stately Argos man,

And in his bold quest of the golden fleece,

With the rich sheep, deep-spelled Medea wan,

   Who after old, decrepit, weak, and hoared

   Was by his daughter to his youth restored.











Him Ganymede unhorsed, and in despite

Of the bold Centaurs mounted on his steed,

Proving the manage of his own fight,

And in the proof made many Centaurs bleed―

But all in vain: his troops are put to flight,

Saturn is shrunk, and left him at his need,

   And to their ships in troops his soldiers fled,

   Whose shameful steps, the prince of force must tread.



 The Centaurs and the Cretan king pursue them

Unto the Ocean’s margent, and even there,

’Twixt sea and shore, in countless heaps they slew them.

Such as escape, their course to Troy-ward bear,

For Saturn’s men, the Cretans cannot view them:

Another unknown tract―alas―they stear,

   Whether the winds and waves their vessel drive;

   Twice driven from Crete ’gainst heaven in vain we strive.



Jupiter and the Centaurs such ships take,

As should have been employed for Darrain’s tower,

And after Ganymede to sea they make,

Pursuing them to Troy with all their power.

They land at once. The fearful Trojans quake,

Doubting if earth or sea shall them devour.

   Troos with an host descends, as one that guessed

   The prince, his son, was by his foes distressed.



The battle is renewed; the king intends

To rescue son and subjects in such state,

But over-valiant Ganymede extends

His valour beyond wisdom; all too late

The king of Troy his puissant fury bends,

In rescue of his son, now in sad fate:

   The Cretans him surprise, and he being ta’en,

   With this rich prize, they make to sea again,









Ganymede taken.



Leave Troos and Ilion mated at this cross;

The pride of Troy is not to be re-won;

He rates him much above his kingdom’s loss,

And all Dardania mourneth for his son,

Now in the guard of those that from Molosse

Came with Ixion, and on horseback run.

   Jove gives command, being at sea assured,

   The prisoners to be cheered, the wounded cured.



And calling now to mind the bird that soared

About his rich pavillion, he ordained

Her picture should be drawn and quaintly scored

Upon a crimson ensign richly stained,

Which since that fight, to all that Mars adored,

As a perpetual instance hath remained:

   Till then, they bore no flags, no scutcheons drew,

   Jove’s eagle was the first in field that flew.








The first ensign born in battle.




He now remembers Danae, and commands

His pilots to direct his waftage thither.

But what the king enjoins, the wind withstands:

With boisterous gusts it folds their sails together,

And hurries them along by diverse lands;

They bear their wandering course they ken not whether.

   At length, they in the sea Aegean wander,

   Of which, the thief Aegeon was commander.













The blustering tempest hath divorced their fleet;

Only the ship wherein the Centaurs sail,

With Jove and Ganymede, the pirates meet;

The rest were strayed, and of their voyage fail.

Yet some amongst the rest take land in Crete,

Some bandied to and fro, by every gale,

   Yet all their barks live, none so near to die,

   As this the pirates from the shore descry.



Six galleys they disanchor from the isle

Called Desert, and their bark encompass round.

Jove and the Centaurs arm them in small while,

And all their martial notes to battle sound,

Which the bold Trojan hearing, ’gan to smile

In scornful guise to see his arms fast bound:

   “O when,” quoth he, “stood Ganymede thus still

   To hear the martial music of ‘Kill! Kill!’?



Is my opinion of known arms so weak,

My name so poor the Centaurs scorn mine aid?

Did we for this their main battalions break,

And with our armèd breast their hosts invade?

Why may I not in this case boldly speak?

Shall I stand still to see my life betrayed?

   Although a prisoner, yet this favour show

   To guard mine honour ’gainst a common foe.



Not fighting against Troy, we are a friend;

These pirates with your honours covet mine:

O let the king of Crete such grace extend,

That by his side I may in armour shine

To see how I can my head defend.

Some desperate act unto my charge assign.

   They hale us near; our ship the pirates board:

   For honour’s sake, give me my arms and sword!”



These words charm Jupiter, and draw a veil

Betwixt his heart and Ganymede’s disgraces.

The king relents; the prince’s words prevail:

His bands he looseth, and with kind embraces

Swears to him friendship that shall never fail.

Armed as they are, they take their pointed places,

   Jove in the prow, the Centaurs at his beck,

   To face their foes, girt round their upmost deck.



Their golden eagle is displayed; the galleys

Grapple on every side their hookèd steel;

Some from the beak-head, some the waist, make sallies.

But those the Centaurs make like drunkards reel,

And drop down to the sea. Here no man dallies.

Some with long pointed irons bear their keel

   To sink them, others by the ship sides crawl:

   The Centaurs lop their hands off, down they fall.



Twice they are forced t’ ungrapple and unhook

Their double chains. To this I may compare

Thy boarding, valiant Grenville: thou didst brook

A hotter skirmish than the pirates dare,

Who keeping one good ship, scornst to be took

By a whole fleet of Spanish men a-war,

   Fighting till powder, shot and men were wasted,

   And these consumed, even till thine own life lasted.




Sir Richard Grenville.



As often as they boarded thee, so oft

Bravely repulsed, their sides bored through and through,

And three times with thy three decks blown aloft

As high as heaven, what more could valour do?

Now thy proud ship hath all her ensigns doffed;

Those sails the amorous winds with courtings woo

   To tinder burnt. Thou proffered life despising,

   Leav’st thy Revenge even with the waters rising.









Revenge, one of Queen Elizabeth’s ships royal.



The galleys fasten still. A watchword given

By Jupiter: at once they headlong skip,

Dispersed, into such vessels as were driven

Within their reach, and leave their Cretan ship.

Now many a pirate’s skull is bruised and riven,

Some heaved o'er board, some softly slip

   Into the sea for fear their lives to smother,

   So, by avoiding one death, seek another.



Th’ undaunted giant thief Aegeon now

Kens Jupiter; him Jupiter espies,

And facing him in his own galley’s prow,

Thus with undaunted language he defies:

“Behold thy fate, see Jove thy ruin vow,

Whom thou by coward odds sought to surprise,

   Thou that by land my ruthless fury fled,

   Shalt now by sea be forced t’ abide me dead.



I am the son of Saturn, by whom fell

Titan with all the earth-bred giant seed.

Thy sire and brothers I have sent to hell,

And thy destruction I have next decreed.”

At this, th’ inflamed Aegeon ’gan to swell.

Rage makes his language lag, his fury speed;

   Action precedes his words: before he spake,

   With his huge axe upon Jove’s helm he strake.



The blow was put to loan. While they two strive,

Prince Ganymede hath all the galley cleared,

And ’mongst them all, he leaves not one alive,

Save the grand thief, who now not to be feared

Jove hath subdued, and ’gins his legs to gyve,

Since in the giant’s rescue none appeared;

   Bulk, hands, legs, thighs, the prince at once environs,

   And leads him with an hundred chains of iron.









Aegeon surprised.



In these the harmless travellers he bound,

Now his own plague. They that survive are fled,

And on the seas dispersed. Now doth Jove ground

His love upon his new friend Ganymede.

He enters his own ships and wanders round

The spacious vast, where wind and waters led,

   Crossing both torrid and the frozen lines,

   By this the sun had compassed all the signs.


Back to Canto IV (1-50 & 51-119)

Notes to Canto V

On to Stanzas 50-112

How to cite

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



<< back to top >>