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

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO VI (1-50)

Stanzas 1-10 — 11-20 — 21-30 31-40 41-50 — 51-110

Ed. Gaëlle Ginestet


Argumentum 1

Perseus the Gorgon kills, then takes his way

To Joppen, on his flying horse alone,

Destroys the monster, frees Andromeda,

Acrisius saves, turns Atlas into stone;

King Pricus’ wife, the beauteous Auria

Dotes on the valiant knight Bellerophon;

   The Trojans are with fearful pests annoyed,

   By Hercules great Troy is first destroyed.


Argumentum 2

In Zeta Phineus falls, Chimer’ is slain,

Dis acts his rape; Queen Ceres doth complain.



inerva, thou that hadst the power to make

Monsters of them that thy high name despise,

To turn a gold wire to a crawling snake

And change the beauty of bewitching eyes,

The patronage of all my labours take,

More sacred names, thy godhood may comprise:

   Religion, Virtue, Zeal, we may thee call,

   Whose foes are ugly, and with adders crawl.



The three foul Gorgons by thy power disguised

Were Lust insatiate, Avarice and Pride.

These sisters in Hesperia tyrannized,

All looking with one eye, who can divide

Their powers and natures, being three comprised

Within one head, and sisters near allied.

   All such as on their strength themselves assure,

   Senseless of good, as stones they soon obdure.



Therefore to arm us ’gainst this horrid fiend,

Behoves us to implore Minerva’s aid,

Perseus’ bright shield unto our arm to bind,

And then we boldly may such foes invade.

His shield was crystal, and so bright it shined, 

It dimmed the Gorgon’s eye, and whilst she played 

   In darkness, and her killing sight forsook,

   Her monstrous head he from her shoulder strook. 




Perseus killeth

    the Gorgon




About the time Perseus the Gorgon slew,                           

Busiris governed in Egyptia,                             

Cadmus ruled Thebes, to Romus France was due,

Belochus Emperor of Assyria,

Othoniel trumpets before Israel blew,

Prince Rhadamant’ reigned King in Lycia,

   Tyrrhenus Italy and Triton Spain,

   Whilst Liber Pater all the East doth gain.


lib. 3, Histor.

Theopompus lib. 17: Pegasus







The Gorgon’s head with power to turn to stone,

Upon his shield he fixed, and of the blood

That issued from the wound, swift Pegas’ shone

And neighed out of the earth, a stallion good,

Whom Perseus backed, and out of sight is gone,

Flying o’er mountain, valley, rock, and flood,

   From Arctos unto Cancer’s burning track,

   And from hot Cancer to cold Arctos’ back.



In his high airy progress over all

The provinces and climes beneath him spreading,

Where’er the purple drops from Gorgon fall,

Adders and snakes are bred; the people treading

Their secure steps see ugly serpents crawl,

Their venomous stings and fearful hisses dreading.

   Afric doth snakes in most abundance store      

   Because he longest did o’er Afric soar.           





 Africa most 

abounding with snakes



Yet whilst his venomous spoils were bleeding new,

But leaving Afric, forward Pegas’ flies,

He now the Ram, now doth the Fishes view,

And mounts and stoops as the winds fall or rise;

At length he leaves the Orient to pursue

The far Septentrion keeping still the skies,

   Till falling with Hyperion in the West,

   He with the day-tired Phoebus covets rest.



And stooping with the Sun into these seas

Where night by night he slecks his fiery car,

And Atlas of that orchard keeps the keys,      

Where golden apples in abundance are,

Thus Perseus greets him: “May your Highness please

To be my royal host, who come from far:

   If greatness may my welcome more approve,

   Know thou in me receiv’st the son of Jove.* 








If novelty in strangers thou acquirest,

Behold, my flying steed and covered shield”.

“Hence groom,” quoth Atlas, “thou that rest desirest,

Lodge with the waking stars in the broad field.

To thee that to our palace thus aspirest,

We scorn all succour and relief to yield.

   Thou comest, as prophets did long since reveal,

   From Hespery my golden fruit to steal.



One of Jove’s issue, our diviners say,

Must perpetrate such theft, and thee I fear,   

Thou lookst like one that aims at golden prey,

And I my aurea mala, hold so dear

That I have stopped up each accessive way.

Instead of pales, high mountains their heads rear

   About mine orchard, by a dragon kept,

   A wakeful monster, one that never slept”.


This prophecy

had his end

in Hercules







With that he violent hands on Perseus lays,

To beat him from his palace, but Jove’s son

The Gorgon-shield unto the King displays,

Who instantly turns to a hill of stone,

His hairs and beard increase to trees and sprays,

His bulk and shoulders into hills are grown,

   His head a promontory top, o’erpeering

   The neighbour rocks, and other mountains nearing.


Atlas transformed








His bones to stones, his blood to crystal springs,

And by the Gods’ decrees he so increaseth,

And with his growth such height and vastness brings,

That heaven’s huge weight the two strong poles releaseth

To rest them on his shoulders; the lark sings

The sun his early note, the night surceaseth,

   Acrisius’ grandchild doth with Phoebus rise,

   And to his arm his shield Gorgonian ties. 



His hookèd skene he fastens to his thigh,

So ’mongst the clouds on Pegas’ back he soars,

The swain below that fills his wandering eye,

Leaves off his labour, and the help implores

Of powers divine, t’explain this novelty,

He passeth diverse seas and sundry shores,

   Even to th’ Aethiopian clime, and thence,

   To where Cepheus makes his residence.



There, for her mother’s guilt, Andromeda

By unjust Amon was condemned to die,

Whom as young Perseus in his airy way,

Did from amongst the racking clouds espy;*

Save that the winds her golden hairs display,

And drops of pearl rain from her watery eye,

   He had mistook her, being chained alone,

   For some fair image of white marble stone.


The tale of

Perseus and Andromeda







But when he saw no marble was so white,

Nor ivory to her skin to be compared,

He reins his wingèd steed and stays his flight,

And greedily upon her beauty stared,

To shake his flaggy wings forgetting quite;

He loves, and grieves to see how ill she fared,

   And now his tongue no longer he refrains,

   But says: “O you, unworthy these rude chains,*



Much fitter for a lover’s kind embrace,

Tell me your stock, your nation, and your name,

And why such beauty should possess this place,

Or for what crime into these bands you came”.

Fain would the bashful girl have hid her face,

Save that her hands were bound; she blushed for shame;*

   Twice did he urge her, she was silent still,

   Yet the third time tells all, against her will.



How bright Cassiope her beauteous mother,

Knowing her daughter to be wondrous fair,

The pride her heart conceived could not smother,

But with Nereides must needs compare,

For which they all complained to Jove’s great brother

Neptune, who with infection taints the air.

   Nor can the pest cease, or the town be spared,

   Till she there die, that was with Nymphs compared.

                           Ctesias in Perseide







But in the midst of her discourse, behold,

Ere she can end her lamentable tale,

A huge sea-monster, with his long train rolled

In curlèd knots, makes the poor girl look pale.

The frowning billows are by him controlled,

’Bove which h’ advanceth many a shelly scale;

   She shrieks, her sire and mother both despair,

   The people with shrill outcries pierce the air. 



Which Danae’s son espying, thus he says

Unto the Queen and the lamenting King:

“The time you see is short, the monster stays

Assured destruction to yon maid to bring,

If then Jove’s son his towering fames can raise,

And pierce yon huge sea-dragon’s scaly wing,

   Destroy the monster, and preserve her life,

   Shall the bright virgin be my troth-plight wife?”.



Who doubts, but the sad parents soon agree?

They pawn their honours to this sudden motion;

Phineus besides, the maid doth promise free,

Resigning up his right with much devotion;

The covenant’s made, and now from far they see

The whaly monster bear abreast the ocean,

   And driving with his fins whole seas afore,

   In making to the virgin on the shore.



When suddenly young Perseus mounts the skies,

His shadow danced upon the silver waves,

Which when the wrathful serpent did espy,

Against the idle shape he fumes and raves,

And as his drownèd train appears on high

Above the brine, in which so oft he laves,

   The dauntless prince, whose courage never fails,

   Strikes with his falchion fire out of his scales.



And as you see a towering eagle, when

She spies a speckled serpent, soon her spangles

Upon the green breast of some moorish fen

Stoops down, and in the dragon’s crest entangles

Her talents: lest his jaws turning again,

Seize her proud seres, and whilst in vain she wrangles

   And threatens ruin to the princely fowl,

   She tires on every knot and curlèd roll.



So Perseus souses on the horrid beast;

He hews and beats him, till he makes him reel,

Possessing still his back, which much increased

The monster’s fury, such strange weight to feel;

Sometimes above the sea he lifts his breast,

And Perseus still pursues him with his steel;

   Sometime beneath the blood-stained waves he shrinks,

   The whilst his wounds, like graves, whole billows drinks.



Whilst he the sea, the prince the air supplies,

Waiting aloft to see the fiend appear,

Whose yawning chaps above the billows rise,

Ready to swallow all the confines near,

Whom as the valiant prince again espies,

He makes to him amain, all void of fear,

   And on his wingèd steed against him tilts,

   Shoving bright harpe up even to the hilts.



The wounded whale casts from his hellish jaws

Rivers of waters, mixed with purple gore,

But from their force the wary prince withdraws,

And strikes behind, on both sides and before,

In many a place his shelly armour flaws;

Still biting harpe, makes the Hell-hound roar:

   And tired at length, the brutish monster drownds,

   In the black blood that issued from his wounds.



The god of seas quaked at the frightful sound

His monster made; the gods above look pale.

The waters in the which his bulk lay drowned,

With fear shrunk from him; now the slaughtered whale

Receives from Perseus many an unfelt wound,

Whom keen-edged harpe piercèd from head to tail;

   The parents now clap hands, the maid rejoices,

   The people lift to heaven their plausive voices.



And whilst the multitude their wondering eyes

Cast on the monster, Perseus reins his steed,

And from the marble rock the maid unties,

By his late valour from the Hell-hound freed.

How can Cepheus or his Queen devise,

Or the bright maid, to give sufficient meed

   To Perseus for his merit, who desires

   With quick dispatch to kindle Hymen’s fires?










The year Andromeda from death was freed,

Phemonoe first in Pythia prophesied;

Cadmus found letters, taught the Greeks to read;

Cecrops th’ Athenian monarchy supplied;

Romus the Spanish sceptre (in the weed

Pontific); Ramses did through Egypt ride;

   Achaeus did Achaya first instore;

   Now breathed in Crete, the two-shaped Minotaur.









The palace is prepared, in every place

Loud music sounds, the bride is richly clad,

The father, his bold son-in-law to grace,

Invites the neighbour kings; but Phineus mad,

From this high feast absents himself a space,

Till of his friends great troops he gathered had

   To force the virgin, freed on Joppen’s shore,

   Now Perseus’ bride, though plight to him before.



Behold, the palace court thronged with a crew

Of men in armour glistering; the loud sound

Of nuptial music through the hall that flew,

With shrill confusions on the sudden drowned,

And still their shouts and cries more violent grew,

Till all the bridal guests, encompassed round

   With hostile siege, amazèdly descend,

   To know what foes their powers against them bend.



With wrath untamed, the hurrying multitude

Rageth, and grows impetuous: some cry, “Bring

That stranger hither, whom we will exclude

From the fair court”, some cry, “Let’s have the King”;

Others “The bride”, some ’mongst the rest more rude,

Say, “Come, the palace to the ground let’s fling”;

   And whilst these several clamours pierce their ears,

   Proud Phineus first, before them all appears.



And shaking in his hand an oaken spear

Headed with brass, he thus bold Perseus greets:

“Behold, th’ avenger of my nuptial phere,

Whom thou wouldst force. The palace court and streets*

Glister in arms, and canst thou hope to bear

Andromeda from hence?”. Him Cepheus meets,

   And as he was about his spear to cast

   At warlike Perseus, thus replies at last:*









“Oh! What will Phineus do? What hellish rage

Mads thee to mischief? Who begot this strife?*

Is this for Danae’s son sufficient wage,

Whose valour hath preserved my daughter’s life?

Why doest not thou thy love with ours engage,

For saving her that should have been thy wife?

   Whom not bold Perseus but the Gods bereft thee,

   The Fates, and not the prince, hath wifeless left thee. 



When she was married to the marble rock,

The fastening of those chains thy bands untied.

Was ’t not enough, thou borne of Cepheus’ stock,

Her husband and her kinsman near allied,*

Saw’st all this people round about her flock

To see the sea-whale in his bowels hide

   And bury her? Her freedom not pursuing,

   Unworthy thou didst leave her to her ruin.



Is Phineus sorry that she did not bleed,

That her redeemer he pursues with ire?

Or if thou holdst her such a high-prized meed,

Why didst thou not her from the rock desire?

Or else, to him that hath my daughter freed,

Why dost not yield her?”. Phineus’ eyes spark fire,

   Doubtful at whom he shall his javelin fling:

   His rival Perseus, or his kinsman king.*



The uproar like the raging sea increaseth,

Where thousand rebels are by Perseus slain,

Till tired with slaughter his tough arm surceaseth

With multitudes of men to strew the plain,

For not a daring soldier near him preaseth,

But dies by harpe, and yet all in vain;

   Such throngs of Phineus’ friends his valour cumber,

   That noble virtue must needs yield to number.



Therefore the prince his Gorgon shield uncases,

And says aloud: “Since you compel me, see

Revenge sufficient for my foul disgraces,

For where strength fails we must use policy,

All that are Perseus’ friends, turn hence their faces,*

My foes all perish in their surquedry”. 

   “Fright babes with bugbears”, quoth the next that stands,

   Aiming a spear at Perseus with both hands.



But as on Gorgon’s head he casts his eye,

His limbs grow stiff, and he is changed to stone;

Another strikes the next that stands him by,

And pierced him through the breast, who now doth groan

His soul to air; this done, he meant to fly,

But feels his active spirits fled and gone:

   His marble arm hath lost his nimble speed,

   To draw it from the bulk which he made bleed.



Behold a prince born by the sevenfold Nile,

Crying to Perseus thus: “See here thy bane,

Be proud, that we who dallied all this while,

Will at the length vouchsafe thy blood to drain”.

And as he spake such words, a scornful smile

His visage casts, intending to have slain

   The Jove-starred prince, his frozen statue shows

   Like one still smiling, and still threatening blows.



“What? Stand you at the Gorgon’s sight amazed?”,

Quoth noble Eryx, “or hath witchcraft’s spell

Such power upon the valiant, who have blazed

Their arms in many conflicts, and fought well?

Let’s see what devil in this shape is raised,

Whom my steel poleaxe cannot prostrate fell”.

   But in his pressing forward, he soon feels

   Cold leaden numbness give his senseless heels.



Amongst the rest, one of bold Perseus’ crew,

Glancing his eye upon his master’s shield,

Turned stone; him one of Phineus’ soldiers knew,

And thought to cleave him standing in the field,

But with the stroke fire from the marble flew,

His forehead sounded like a brazen shield,

   At which the soldier musing, Gorgon spies,

   So stands transformed, with wonder in his eyes.



So that at last Phineus repents his spleen

And unjust war made for Andromeda;

Two hundred of his train his eye hath seen,

All statues: unto some he calls “Away!”,*

“Follow!” to some. “Where lives that envious teen,

With which you threatened Perseus? Wherefore stay

   Your paces from pursuit? Where’s the defying?”,

   So claps them on the shoulders, “Courage!” crying. 



But when he felt their hardened limbs offend

His aching hand, and yield it no impression,

And that their mockery shapes did idly bend

Their threatening arms, now finds he his transgression:

His penitent hands he doth to heaven extend,

Praying that they would aid his intercession

   To great Acrisius’ grandchild, who strikes dead

   So many bold sprites with his Gorgon’s head.



Now as with oblique paces, and his eyes

Turned from the conquering prince, he, kneeling, speaks,

Hoping t'appease him with submissive cries,

The implacable prince his rage thus wreaks.

Behold what doom the impartial deities

Allot the wretch that laws of honour breaks;

   So with his shield Gorgonian him pursued,

   Hardening the face which he behind him screwed.*



At th’ instant, his retorted neck waxed hard,

His spread arms stiff, his fixed eyes showing fear,

And you would think his shape all sense debarred,

Spake as it stood, words that a man might hear.*

These tumults done, and Hymen’s rights prepared,

The prince intends another course to bear:

   He takes his leave, consorted with his bride,

   And to his mother his swift steps applied.



In the mid-way, he youthful Danaus meets,

—His hopeful brother—who at the first sight

Salutes him and his wife, with kind regreets,

In many a sweet discourse they spend that night.

At length the murk and palpèd darkness fleets

From the skies’ azured forehead: with the light

   The princes rise, and speed them to the shore

   To which the mastless boat their mother bore. 



Now Phrygian Midas (famous for his ears,

In giving Apollo’s honour to god Pan,

And for his golden wish) the sceptre bears

Of Phrygia; in Israel that good man,

Shamgar, was judge, whose power so great appears,

He of the Philistines killed many a man;

   And in one battle whilst the trumpets blew,

   With an ox goad six hundred Heathen slew.



But in these passages great Saturn’s son,

That with the Trojans was at broad hostility,

At Ganymede’s request, a league began.

Now Jove and Troos are one; he whose ability

Could not defend his Troy from being o’errun,

Now can command Troy’s foes with much facility:

   So, to yield way, rebates the greatest stroke,

   So, softest walls, hard bullets soonest choke. 



’Twixt England and great Spain, two potent nations,

Like enmity hath long time been commenced,

And whilst Eliza lived, her proclamations       

Opposed their pride, and her own province fenced,

But now with mutual kind congratulations,

All injuries on both sides are dispensed,

   And our great England’s Jove for Spain’s best use,

   Hath at their suit, granted a termine truce.



The league

’twixt England

and Spain


Troos yields his due to Nature; him succeeds

Ilion his son, who Ilion’s high towers reared,

More famous for his buildings than brave deeds,

A royal prince, and more beloved than feared.

He for a present, sends four milk-white steeds

To Cretan Jove—a present much endeared—,

   Who by the knight that such a treasure brought,

   Re-sends a precious gold-branch quaintly wrought.








Back to Canto V (1-50 & 51-112)

On to Canto VI (51-110)

Notes to Canto VI


How to cite

Gaëlle Ginestet, ed., 2012.  Troia Britanica Canto VI, 51-100 (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).



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