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

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO VII (1-50)

Stanzas 1-10 — 11-20 — 21-30 — 31-40 — 41-50 — 51-105

Ed. Gaëlle Ginestet



Eurydice stung with a snake and dying,

Sad Orpheus travels for her sake to Hell,

Among th’Infernals music’s virtue trying,

Much honoured, even where fiends and devils dwell.

Ceres to Hercules for vengeance crying,

Th’undaunted Greek seeks Pluto to expel;

Jason’s rich Fleece, and proud Troy once more razed

By Hercules, in our next schedes are placed.


Argumentum 2

Who music found; Hell sacked; Pirithous’ harms

Eta describes, with great Medea’s charms.



Music, by which the Spheres are taught to move

And tune their motion to their Maker’s praise,

Approves itself divine: first found above,

After, bequeathed frail man, to cheer his days;

Whether t’were taught us by the birds that prove

Their harmony in their sweet chirping lays,

   Or whether found by man; of this I am sure:

   It hath been ancient, and shall long endure.



Let Homer’s Demodocus witness bear,

And Virgil’s Iopas; with this heavenly skill,

Some say Amphion ravished first the ear,

Which Zethus did with notes and crotchets fill;

But others Dionysius hold most dear,

As one that made his airs loud and shrill,

   Men diversely derive music’s soft feet,

   Some from Arcadia; likewise, some from Crete.







Polybius, Solinus



On shawms Trezenius Dardanus first played,

On cranes’ legs first, but after framed of reed;

Bright Maya’s son on a parched tortoise made

Th’unshapèd harp: most writers have agreed

That Tubal gave it form, with pins that stayed

The tunèd strings, to make his music speed;

   Pan found the pipe, to play at Syrinx’ suit;

   Thamyris was the first that strung the lute.







Nables and regals, holy David found;

Dirceus, an Athenian, clarions shrill;

And these the Lacedaemons did first sound

When the Messenians they in arms did kill;

Unto the Dulcimer first dancèd round

The Troglodytes; after the rebec still

   Th’Arcadians fought; Pises Tyrrhenus was

   The first that fashioned trumpets made of brass,



Which some to Moses attribute, and say

The Hebrews with a silver trumpet led,

Marched, and retired, were taught to keep array,

When to fall off, when on, fly or make head;

Dromslades the Romans taught: the Cretans they,

After the lute their hostile paces tread;

   Great Alyattes, with his sword and shield,

   Marched not without loud pipers in the field.








Alyattes king of Lydia



This, as it hath the power in dreadful wars

’Mongst soft effeminate breasts to kindle rage,

And to relenting grace all entrance bars,

So hath it power the rudest thoughts t'assuage:

To music move the planets, dance the stars;

It tempers fury, makes the wild man sage,

   In this consent of strings, he that can well

   May with harmonious Orpheus enter Hell.



We left Queen Ceres in her daughter’s quest,

Measuring the earth from one side to another,

Yet can she find no end to her unrest,

Her daughter lost, she is no more a mother;

The earth once cherished, she doth now detest,

’Gainst which her spleen she can no longer smother:

   She calls it barbarous, unthankful, base,

   And no more worthy of her sovereign grace.



And much against her ancient pleasure speaks,

For what she favoured erst, she now dislikes.

In every place she comes, the ploughs she breaks,

The laborous oxen she with murrain strikes,

Upon the toiling swains her spleen she wreaks,

Cattle and men choke up their new-plashed dikes:

   The barren fields deceive the ploughman’s trust,

   The usuring seed is moulded unto dust,



Which rather in the parchèd furrow dries,

Laid open unto every rigorous blast,

Else to the thievish birds a prey it lies,

Or if it hap to gather root at last,

Cockle and tares even with the corn-ears rise,

Else by the choking couch-grass it is passed:

   Thus through her grief, the earth is barren made,

   The hopèd harvest perished in the blade.



Mean time Eurydice, the new-made bride

Of Orpheus, with a princely train consorted,

As in a meadow by a river’s side,

Unto her husband’s harp one day she sported,

And by his tune her measured paces guide,

In a swift hey-de-gay (as some reported);

   She shrieking starts, for whilst her husband sings

   Unto his harp, a snake her ankle stings.


Orpheus and




In Orpheus’ arms she dies, her soul descends,

Ferried by Charon o’er the Stygian lake.

The woeful bridegroom leaves his house and friends,

Vowing with her the loathed world to forsake;

To the Tenarian part, his course he bends,

And by the way, no cheerful word he spake,

   But by ten thousand paths turning, doth cross

   Through Tartary, and through the black Molosse.



There is a steep declivy way looks down,

Which to th'infernal kingdom Orpheus guides,

Whose louvre vapours breathes; he sits not down,

But enters the dark cavern with large strides;

With thousand shadows he is compassed round,

Yet still the suffocating mists divides;

   Millions of ghosts unbodied ’bout him play,

   Yet fearless, Orpheus still keeps on his way.


Molossia, a part

of Epire, so called

of Molossus

son to Pyrrhus and Andromache



Hell’s restless ferryman, with music paid,

Is pleased to give him waftage to and fro;

The triple Hell-hound, that his entrance stayed,

Charmed with music, likewise lets him go;

So through the airy throng he passage made,

—Th’immortal people that remain below—

   And tuning by the way his silver strings,

   To the three fatal sisters, thus he sings:



“You powers infernal, full of awful dread,

Whose deities no eye terrestrial sees,

I know all creatures that are mortal bred,

At first or last, must stand to your decrees,

I come not as a spy among the dead,

To blab your dooms or rob you of your fees.

   I only pierce these vaults, void of all crime,

   To seek my bride, that perished ’fore her time.


M. Manilius,

5 Rerum




By love, whose high command was never bounded

In earth or heaven, but hath some power below;

By your black Ministers, by Orcus rounded

With Styx, whose pitchy waters ebb and flow;

By those three kings, by whom all dooms are sounded,

The Elysian pleasures, and the Lake of Woe;

   By all the dreadful secrets of the dead,

   Fair Parcae, knit again her vital thread! 






Minos, Eacus, Rhadamantus.



I seek not to exempt her from your doom,

This is our general home, here we must stay,

Though now released, as all things hither come,

So must she too, and here abide for aye,

Grant that she now may but bespeak her room,

And to her death allot a longer day,

   Or if th’immovèd Fates this will not do,

   Before my time, with her detain me too”.



This, with such moving accents, Orpheus sang

That chin-deep Tantalus forgot to bow

Unto the shrinking wave, Ixion hung

Untossed upon the wheel, and Sisyphe now

Rests him upon his stone. His harp was strung

With such rare art, the Danaids knew not how

   To use their empty tubs, Styx breathed not fire,

   Nor can the vulture on Prometheus tire.


Hell’s torments



The sisters weep, Hell’s judges appear mild,

And every tortured ghost forgets his pain,

Proserpine laughed, and the dread Pluto smiled

To see her changed of cheer, no souls complain,

Hell’s senate to his grace is reconciled,

And all agree, she shall survive again:

   Through million ghosts, his bride is sought and found,

   And brought to him, still halting on her wound.


Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos



He takes her, with this charge at Pluto’s hand

Not to look back till he Avernus passed,

And the large limits of the Stygian strand,

Through dark and obscure ways, through deserts vast,

Steep hills and smoky caves, his wife he manned,

Until he came where a thin plank was placed

   O’er a deep raging torrent, where, dismayed,

   Orpheus looks back, her trembling arm t’have stayed;



In Argonauticis



Which the three-throated Cerberus espying,

Snatches her up, and bears her back to Hell.

In vain are all his sighs, his tears, his crying:

Louder than he can play, the dog can yell.

He blames his too much love, and, almost dying,

Is ready with his bride ’mongst shades to dwell.

   So long upon the barren plains he trifled,

   Till with Hell’s vapours he was almost stifled.



At length the Rhodopeian Orpheus turns

His feeble paces to the upper earth,

Which now with discontented Ceres mourns

The rape of Proserpine, still plagued with dearth.

Either the sun the gleby champion burns,

Else too much rain doth force abortive birth

   To the rank corn, the world forced to complain

   With widowed Orpheus and the Queen of grain,



Who having searched earth, of her child to know,

She finds her nowhere on the earth abiding;

And scaling Heaven, Heaven can no daughter show.

Therefore both heaven and earth the queen is chiding:

Only she left unsought the vaults below,

But hears how Orpheus hath by music’s guiding

   Passed through Avernus and the Stygian fires,

   Therefore of him she for her child inquires.



He tells her of her daughter new translated,

Whom in the vaulted kingdoms he had seen

With Pluto, in th'infernal throne instated,

Where, though against her will, she reigns as queen.

“O Jove”, quoth she, “and hath that god, most hated

Of Proserpine, the hellish raptor been!

   Monarch of devils, since thou doest constrain me,

   Unto the Gods above I must complain me”.



“This was”, quoth Hercules, “about the season

When Hippodamia, matched with Theseus’ friend,

Noble Pirithous, by the Centaurs’ treason

Was ravished and re-purchased. But an end:

Our water-toiled limbs we keep against all reason

From native rest. I feel soft sleep descend

   And close my eyelids with his downy wings,

   I must to rest, for this time, farewell, kings”.



Whether being weary of his hostile pain

Took in the former fight, he covets rest,

Or whether modesty made him refrain

To hear his praise where he deservèd best,

But his return the kings entreat in vain,

When Theseus thus proceeds at their request:

   “Ceres, displeased, the high Olympus mounts,

   And to the ear of Jove this rape recounts.



“Revenge, great Jove”, quoth she, “thy wrongs and mine,

And if mine cannot move thee, let thy own,

For ours betwixt us is fair Proserpine,

By devilish Pluto into Orcus thrown.

Long lost, long sought, my daughter's found in fine,

Rather not found, her loss is certain known:

   For how alas can I well term her found

   Whom I still lose, kept low, beneath the ground?



In the rude arms of the black Dis she’s placed,

Hell’s adamantine gates besides enclose her,

Let not thy aunt, great Jove, be thus disgraced,

But of my own child make me free disposer,

Else let my name be from thy bedroll razed,

And be no more a goddess, if I lose her”.

   But Jove, by fair words, seeks t’appease the mother,

   And reconcile her to his Stygian brother.



But th’unappeased goddess hates the thief

That with her daughter all her pleasure stale,

And since heaven gives no comfort to her grief,

She’ll try what mortal can her daughter bail,

She comes where Hercules and all the chief

Of Greece assembled, where she tells this tale,

   And weeping, swears to be at stern defiance,

   With the Tartarian Dis, and his alliance. 



Before Alcides on this journey went

Unwares to him, my friend and I prepare,

—Noble Pirithous—to this one descent,

Thinking to cheer the queen oppressed with care,

But Fate was opposite to his intent,

We scarce —well armed— had touched the lowest stair

   But Cerberus my friend untimely slew, 

   And me half-dead upon the pavement threw.








Pirithous slain



Unto my rescue great Alcides came,

To Hippodamia’s husband much too late;

The Jovial youth that can all monsters tame,

Ere he finds leisure to lament our fate,

Or on the murderous hell-hound to exclaim,

He falls his huge club on the monster’s pate,

   Which with such violent fury pashed his brains,

   It stounds him, so he leaves him bound in chains. 



Adventuring forward in his lion’s case,

Th’unbodied ghosts, affrighted, from him fly,

Who see such terror in his ireful face,

Poor souls, they fear by him again to die.

Hell’s marble gates he beats ope with his mace

And manly might amongst the devils’ cry,

   Who, as they stop his way, his club makes reel,

   Whilst Furies fly him with their whips of steel.



Vast Hell is all in uproar: Pluto wonders

To see his black-faced ministers afraid,

He fears th’imperial lord of fire and thunders

Attempts his lower kingdoms to invade.

From Proserpine, his twinèd arms he sunders,

Takes up his sable mace of porphyre made,

   And with his black guard forward marcheth still,

   Where greatest was the press, the cry most shrill.



Hell had been sacked, and all hells right displayed,

Had not the Fates, whom gods and men obey,

The fury of th’adventurous Grecian stayed,

And with their reverent paces stopped his way.

Those whom the gods incline to, he obeyed.

In their brass rolls that never shall decay,

   Alcides, by their license, reads his fate,

   And arms laid by, more mildly they debate.



Pluto inquires the cause of his arrive,

He tells him for the ravished Proserpine,

Whom, as he hears, the king intends to wive,

Whose heavenly face must among angels shine,

Not be amongst the devils damned alive,

Of this the Fates twixt him and Dis define:

   And thus amongst them they compound the cause,

   According to their never-changing laws,



That if Queen Proserpine hath kept strict fast,

And since her entering Hell not tasted food,

As she hath once the Stygian river passed,

So back to earth she may re-sail the flood.

Inquiry made, the girl alas did taste

Some few pomegranate grains, which understood,

   Her doom the Fates amongst themselves compound,

   That Proserpine must still live underground.



Atonement made with Hell, the glorious Greek,

Armed with his club, returns the way he came,

Upon the earth, achievements new to seek,

Since Hell is filled with his victorious name.

Through many a winding path and turning creek,

He comes at last where my dear friend lay slain,

   I wounded, and the triple hell-hound laid

   Bound in those gyves which he for others made.



To mournful Hippodamia he presents

The murderous dogs with her dear husband’s corpse,

She sings his dirge in many sad laments,

But at the fiend that slew without remorse

Her husband, she aims all her discontent,

And on his face imprints her womanish force”.

   Here Theseus wept, nor could he longer hide

   His private sorrow for his friend that died.



This is the noble Theseus, Aethra’s son

By King Aegeus, that durst Hell invade,

In battle th’Amazonian baldric won,

And stout Hippolyte his duchess made,

Who, when King Minos closed Pasiphae’s son,

The Minotaur, in the Daedalian shade,

He by her help, to whom he proved untrue,

Released the tribute, and the monster slew.






The labyrinth

made to Daedalus,

look in the




Eristheus and the valiant Theban king,

That knew the prince Pirithous, much lament him,

But with their tears, the day began to spring,

They wish the Fates a longer date had lent him.

With kindled lamps th'attendant pages bring

The princes to their cabins: he that sent him

   On this attempt, at parting they desire

   To bless their shores, whilst they the seas aspire.



Our thoughts must land them, which their trophies brought

From ruined Troy, on several coasts of Greece,

Remembering Jason, who with honour sought

The famed adventure of the Golden Fleece;

Duke Aeson in this voyage spared naught,

Many bold knights well armed at every piece

   Assist the noble Greek in this adventure,

   Offering the Argo with the Prince to enter.



Duke Pelias gave it furtherance, to whose court

Where Jason feasted, then Alcides came

With Philoctetes, as his dear consort,

From strange adventures that emblaze his fame,

Disanchoring from the fair Thessalian port,

Accompanied with many knights of fame:

   Castor and Pollux, bold Amphitryon,

   Amphion, Zethus, and stern Telamon.


Pelias, king of

Thessaly, and

uncle to Jason.



Amphion was a fair harmonious youth,

Well skilled in music, Zethus was his brother,

Begot by Cretan Jove one happy night

Upon the fair Antiopa his mother.

She, Lycus’ wife, yet ravished with the sight

Of Jupiter, her love she could not smother.

   These her fair sons built Thebes, with large extent,

   Two years before they on this voyage went.











With all the Grecian chivalry attended,

They disembogue, the gentle billows smile,

Th’Aegean seas they pass, but late defended

By the grand thief that gave those seas their style,

No wind or wave their well-rigged ship offended,

But the calm-looking Tethys harbours guile:

   Her fawning front she wrinkles with a frown,

   And thinks th'ambitious Argonauts to drown.



At the black evening close, the sea looked white,

The storm-presaging wave begins to swell,

And blustering Eurus rising now at night

With his flag wings, upon the waters fell;

The master bids slack sail, but ’gainst the might

Of his commanded mates, the winds rebel:

   The boatswain brawls, the mariners are chid,

   For what they would, the stubborn gusts forbid.


A tempest



All fall to labour: one man helps to steer,

Others to slacken the big-bellied sail,

Some to the capstring call, some pray, some swear,

Some let the tackles slip, whilst others hale;

Some cling unto the mainmast, and cleave there,

Some chafe with anger, some with fear look pale,

   Some ply the pomp, and that which would devour

   Their ship in time, sea into sea repour.



Sharp-biting winter grows, and on each side

The four seditious brothers threaten war

And toss the billows, who in scornful pride

Spit foaming brine, the winds with waters jar,

The breaking seas, whose entrance were denied,

Beat ’gainst each pitchy-rib and caulkèd spar:

   And by their oaken strength denied intention,

   Fall where they were begot, to mere confusion.



Now as the shrieking billows are divided,

Low valleys ’tween two mighty mountains fall,

From whose steep breasts the shaken vessel slided,

Burying in sea, sails, tackles, masts and all,

But there remains not long, the bark, well guided,

Climbs up those cliffs, a dreadful watery wall

   That to themselves, amazed with fear, they show,

   Like men in th’air surveying Hell below.



It seemed as if the heavens and seas had wars,

And that the one the other did defy,

’Twixt whom the mutinous winds make greater jars,

Th’ambitious billows seem to threat the sky,

And fling their brine waves in the face of stars,

Who therewith moved, melt all the clouds on high,

   And such tempestuous showers of rain thaw down,

   As if their drops meant the vast seas to drown.



The waters both of heaven and earth are mixed,

Flagging their sails to make them brook no blast,

No lamp of heaven appears, wandering or fixed,

Darkness hath o’er the face of both heavens passed,

And left his ugly blindness them betwixt,

Whose horrid presence makes the Greeks aghast,

   The heavens’ bright fire the troubled water braves,

   Singeing with lightning’s force the gulfy waves.



Unto these Argonauts I may compare

Our island voyages, alike distressed

With whelming seas, thick mists, and troubled air,

Loud claps of thunder; lightning from the west,

So dreadful that their pilots lose their care,

Through fear, forgetting what should stead them best;

   The sea to quench heavens’ glorious lamps aspires,

   Heaven burns the ocean with her lightning fires.


The islands’



Back to Canto VI (1-50 & 51-110)

On to Canto VII (51-105)

Notes to Canto VII


How to cite

Gaëlle Ginestet, ed., 2015.  Troia Britanica Canto VII (1609), Notes.  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).


<< back to top >>