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

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)


Stanzas 1-10 — 11-20 — 21-30 — 31-40 — 41-50 — 51-96

Ed. Patricia Dorval


The twice sacked Troy with all abundance flows,

Her walls enlarged, her spacious bounds augmented;

Fortune on Priam all her favour strows;

Her populous streets from all parts are frequented.

Proud of his sons, the king impatient grows,

And with all Greece, for wrongs past, discontented.

   Warlike Antenor by embassage seeks

   To have the king’s fair sister from the Greeks.


Argumentum 2

The worth of poets; who first weapons found,

Troy and the Trojans, Theta makes her ground.



Fair Poesy, both ancient and divine,

Tell me thy true divinity and age.

Ennius oft calls thee sacred. Thou didst shine

In Moses’ days, a prophet wise and sage,

Who sang sweet hymns, composed in measured line,

To great Jehova. Oft David did assuage

   His melancholy cares in many an ode,

   Tuned to the praises of th’almighty God.



A sweeter verse than good Isaiah wrote,

Or Solomon in his divinest song,

For number, accent, euphony or note,

Were never set with pen, or aired with tongue.

Greek Pindarus, whose meters made men dote,

Nor Sappho’s vein so musically strong

   Could in their fluent verse, or sweet invention,

   Better delight the ravished ear’s attention.



The rising and soft cadence of a verse,

In Deuteronomy lively is expressed;

He, that shall David’s Hebrew psalms rehearse,

Shall find true number in his words professed;

Not Orpheus, Horace’ line, could sooner pierce

Th’enchanted brain, not Homer, whom some guessed

   To be chief poet. This approves it holy,

   Not as some hold, derived from apish folly.



In verse hexameter did Moses praise

The heavens’ creator, through the Red Sea flying; 

Archilocus’ iambics first ’gan raise;

Apollo metered verse, all prose denying;

Daphnis, the son of Mercury, assays

The elegiac verse, soon after dying;

   ThespisEschylus, tragedies devised,

   Which Sophocles soon after enterprised.


 Saint Jerome 








A poem is the richest monument,

And only lives when marble tombs decay,

Showing kings’ deeds, their merit and descent,

Not stabbed by time, whom sepulchers obey.

Thou, proud Achilles, with thy great ostent,

Where stands thy monumental grave this day?

   Tomb-makers die disgraced; then Homer trust,

   By whom thy fame lives, now thy grave is dust.



By poem Troy’s name is preserved from fire,

Which else long since had perished with the town.

Who in these days would for her fame inquire,

Had not divine wits chronicled her down?

Those flames that eat her buildings with like ire,

Had burnt her name, and swallowed her renown,

   But poesy, apt all such things to save,

   Redeems her glory from oblivion’s grave.



Poets are makers: had great Homer pleased,

Penelop had been wanton, Helen chaste,

The Spartan king the mutinous host appeased,

And smooth Ulysses with the horn disgraced;

Thersites had th’imperial scepter ceased,

And Agamemnon in his rank been placed.

   O Homer! ’twas in thee Troy to subdue;

   Thy pen, not Greece, the Trojans overthrew.



Achilles durst not look on Hector when

He guled his silver arms in Greekish blood.

Homer, that loved him more than other men,

Gave him such heart that he ’gainst Hector stood;

’Twas not Achilles’ sword, but Homer’s pen

That drew from Hector’s breast a crimson flood:

   Hector, his Myrmidons and him subdued―

   In such high blood faint hands were not imbrued.



’Twas poesy that made Achilles bold,

Stout Ajax valiant, and Ulysses wise;

By Homer’s gift the great Alcide controlled

The host of Greeks. All such as highly prize

The sacred Muse, their names are writ in gold.

Thersites was well-featured, but denies

   The Muse her honour, therefore to his shame,

   The Muse hath made him stigmatic and lame.



This made great Scipio Africanus bring

Dead Ennius from the rude Calabrian coast,

Placing his statue, that his praise did sing,

In Rome’s high Capitol. Who now can boast

Of such rich meed, worthy the greatest king?

So Pompey guerdoned learning to his cost,

   And gave a large town rounded with a wall,

   And thought it for the Muse a gift too small.






 Pompey gave Theophanes a city




Art thou a tyrant? To thy service take

Some Heliconian scholar, whose fine quill

To after times thy reign may gentle make,

And give them life, whom thou in rage didst kill.

Art thou a usurer? Wilt thou not forsake

A hundred for a hundred? Learn this skill:

   To some one fluent poet pension give,

   And he shall make thy famous bounty live.



Had Thais favoured arts, the arts had raised her,

And made her chaste as fair. This, Lucrece knew:

Because she loved the Muse, the Muse hath praised her,

Lending the knife with which herself she slew.

Who Lais can accuse? Though fame hath blazed her

For wanton, who can say report is true?

   Haply, though chaste, all poets she eschews,

   And now lives only famous ’mongst the stews.


Thais, a courtesan of Athens




 Lais, a courtesan of Corinth



Art thou a coward? Exhibitions lend

To scholars that shall make thee vent’rous bold.

Art thou a glutton? Make the Muse thy friend.

Or a loose lecher? Give thy poet gold,

He’ll clear thy fame, and give thy scandal end.

He can redeem renown to ruin sold,

   Make rioters frugal, the dull blind to see,

   The drunkard temperate, and the covetous free,



Th’ambitious meek, the lofty-minded low,

Th’inconstant stable, and the rough remiss.

Women, that your defective humours know,

Are likewise by your bounty helped in this:

Some special grace unto the Muses show,

That have the power t’enthrone your names in bliss.

   Had fair-faced Helen this opinion cherished,

   O’erwhelmed Troy had not for her sake perished.



They can make wantons civil, the fool wise,

The stooping straight, the tawny-coloured fair,

The merry modest, and the loose precise,

And change the colour both of face and hair;

All your mercurial mixtures then despise,

For your vermilion tinctures take no care:

   What need you far for coloured unctions seek,

   When our black ink can better paint thy cheek?



Some of this artful colour now I want,

Which from the Muses I desire to borrow,

In melancholy Priam to dispaint

The perfect image and true face of sorrow:

At sight of ruined Troy his spirits faint,

Yet after gathers strength, and on the morrow

   Resolves himself with bootless cares to strive

   T’inter the dead, and cheer those that survive.



In process, taking truce with all vexation,

Priam intends a fairer Troy to rear,

Of larger bounds, so lays a firm foundation

So strong that being mounted they need fear

Nor Phoebus’ wrath, nor Neptune’s inundation,

Nor any other bordering neighbour near.

   His town repaired, King Priam in small space

   Takes to his wife a princess born in Thrace.



Great Aegypseus’ daughter, Hecuba,

Proves mother of five sons, the first in row

Hector, the boldest knight in Asia,

Paris, the fairest, expert in the bow,

Then Deiphebus, named by Phoebus’ ray,

Helenus taught all hidden arts to know;

   Bold Troilus, youngest of his mother’s store,

   Hath bastard brothers five and forty more.

 Aegypseus, king of Thrace

Hecuba’s issue




Some think young Polydore from her descended,

And Ganymede that stands in Hebe’s place;

Her eldest girl Creusa, much commended,

Matched with Aeneas, of a noble race,

Whose puissance next Priam most extended;

Then sweet Cassandra, one of regal grace,

   A prophetess, but Polyxene surpassed,

   Fairest of all the world, and Hecub’s last.



But now since arms and battles, swords and spears,

With other warlike engines we must use,

Before Troy’s rich abundance touch our ears,

With some delay we must restrain our Muse

To show what people the first armour bears,

And who they were first broke the general truce.

   In the first age, ere men keen weapons knew,

   They fought with naked fists, but no man slew.



Some say the Thracian Mars first armour brought, 

Others that Pallas was of wars the ground, 

Others that Tubal-Cain for weapons sought, 

And taught the way how to defend and wound;

Most think lame Vulcan on the stith’ first wrought; 

Helmets, swords, spears the Lacedaemons found;

   The haberion Midias Messenius filed;

   Javelins and darts Aetolus first compiled








Aetolus, son to Mars



Yet were not soldiers armed at every piece.

Some think th’Egyptians flourished in this trade,

And helmets and bright sallets brought to Greece;

Leg-harness by the Carians was first made:

These Jason used in conquest of the fleece;

Great Fulvius Flaccus joustings spears assayed

   At Capua first, by old Tyrrenus framed;

   For the brown bill, the Thracian was first named.











Pises, the hunting staff; the warlike queen,

Penthesilea, taught the poleaxe fight;

Crossbows were first among the Cretans seen;

Quarries and bolts the Syrians bring to fight;

The ever-bold Phoenicians furnished been

With brakes and slings to chronicle their might;

   In lists appointed, in the Argive fields,

   Acrisius and bold Proetus fought with shields.




The first that

was seen to use the shield






Epeus, at Troy’s siege, the ram devised;

The tortoise, city walls to undermine,

Artemon Clazemonius enterprised;

Bellerophon, to imitate the sign

Called Sagittarius, footmanship despised,

And backed the jennet; after, some divine,

   Bridles, bits, trappings to adorn a steed,

   Served first the Pelethronians’ warlike speed.








Pelethronians, a nation of Thessaly



But of all hellish engines, he whose brain

By devilish practice first devised the gun,

The world shall universally complain

A general murder, by that Almain done,

By which the strong men are by weaklings slain;

By him hath many a mother lost her son.

   This hell-born art, since by the devil, must

   Venice against Genoese practise first.







MachiavelliFlorentine History




Of Priam now and of his royal seed,

Their fashions and their features Dares writes:

The aged king of puissance in his deed,

And in his prime age expert in all fights;

Tall but well-shaped, mounted on his steed,

In horsemanship excelling all his knights;

   Grizzled his hair, grey-eyed, beard full and long,

   Soft-voiced, his limbs, though slender, rare and strong.










In enterprises dreadless; early rising,

Eating betimes; with music highly pleased;

Not rash to execute, but with advising;

Sound in his body, and no way diseased;

Upright in sentence, flattery despising;

Apt to be angry, and as soon appeased;

   Even to the last, in arms his body proving;

   Amorous of ladies, and soldiers dearly loving.



Hector, the eldest of King Priam’s race,

Passed in his puissance all knights of that age;

An able body and a pleasant face;

Affable and not much inclined to rage;

Big-limbed but featured well, which added grace

To his proportion; young but gravely sage;

   His flesh tough, hard, but white; his blue veins airy;

   His quick eye firy bright; his skin much hairy;











His head short-curled, his beard an auburn brown,

His pleasant language lisping, but not loud;

Save in the wars, he was not seen to frown;

Save to his gods and king, he never bowed;

In field a lion, but a lamb in town;

Strong without equal, but in arms not proud;

   Was never known to speak felonious word,

   Or but against Troy’s foes to use a sword.



Advent’rous bold, but with discreet advice;

Patient of travel, with no labour tired;

In the Pannonian wars he triumphed thrice,

And more the tent than wallèd town desired;

Oft hath his pillow been a cave of ice;

Oft hath his sword his foe’s cask proudly fired

   To warm him by, when he before appeared

   With icicles low hanging at his beard.



Forth of Troy’s gates ne’er issued man so strong,

So double-virtued, chivalrous and mild,

Or better usher through a martial throng;

’Mongst foes a giant, to his friends a child;

Dreaded and loved, and sooner bearing wrong

Than known t’oppress; he never grace exiled

   From captives, whom in arms he overthrew;

   He never fled the strong, or yielding slew.



A Homer’s fluence, or a Virgil’s pen,

Behooves him that should give great Hector due,

Whom with this title “valiantest of men”,

I now forbear, his brothers to pursue.

Next Alexander, surnamed Paris, when

His mother’s ominous dream ’mongst shepherds threw

   The infant prince. In him you may discover

   The true proportion of a perfect lover.











Straight-bodied, mid-statured, wondrous fair,

A pleasant look, his eye both great and grey,

Round-visaged, soft and crisp at end his hair,

Smooth-skinned, well-spoke, effeminate every way,

No coward, eloquent, an archer rare,

Swift, a good huntsman, and much given to play,

   Cunning at chess, which as most voices run,

   Was by King Priam first in Troy begun.







Chess play first devised in Troy




Loving gay clothes, and go richly clad;

Costly in jewels, and stones highly rated;

Quick-witted, jesting, dallying, seldom sad,

Who above all things melancholy hated;

At loose lascivious speeches seeming glad,

And by all star-conjecture fairly fated;

   A courtly carriage, and a promising face;

   A manly look mixed with a womanish grace.



Bold Deiphebus, and wise Helenus,

Were scarce to be distinguished, both so like,

The last a clerksaws hidden to discuss,

The first not taught to pray so well as strike;

The one devout, the other chivalrous;

One grubbed his pen, while th’other tossed his pike;

   Though several births, yet twins they seemed rather,

   And both the true proportions of their father.










The most redoubted Troilus, young’st of five,

Next after Hector was esteemed in field;

Save this bold brother, the best knight alive,

Most expert in the use of sword and shield,

Amorous of Calchas’ daughter. Ladies strive

Which to his sweet embracements soon’st may yield;

   Never was knight in valour better proved,

   Or courtier amongst ladies dearlier loved.










Then in one word, his apprises to comprise,

He was another Hector, shape, look, gait,

Stature, proportion, fashion, hair and eyes.

Martial encounter, or for courtly state,

Aeneas, a bold knight, a statesman wise,

Lover of peace, and foe to stern debate,

   A counsellor and soldier, who imparts,

   In equalized proportion, arms and arts.











Large stature, and broad set; divinely skilled;

His hair by nature brown, but greyed with years;

Clear-eyed, sharp-visaged, but with colour filled;

One of King Priam’s best-esteemèd peers;

Sober in speech, and seen to laugh but seild,

Whom Paphian Venus by Anchises bears;

   Preferring much the counsels of the old,

   And beards of silver, before hairs of gold.



Antenor, second to Aeneas, black,

Long, and lean-visaged, whom the king affected,

And much esteemed his counsel―in the sack

And fall of Troy, by Priam much suspected;

Polydamas his son, in whom no lack

Of virtue was, or valour well directed,

   Of counsel with his father in Troy’s fall,

   Resembling him, lean-visaged, swart and tall.









Menon, of all the kings that Priam aided

With best assistance, and most valiant knights,

Broad-breasted, and big-limbed, not soon dissuaded

From hostile oppositions and stern fights;

By him was many a Grecian knight disgraded,

Whom hope of honour, more than gain incites;

   Queen Hecuba, religious, grave, well-staid,

   A manly woman, somewhat rudely made.











Andromache, well-shaped, looking aloft,

Exceeding fair, her eye-ball broad and clear,

Her alabaster skin white, smooth and soft;

A worthy wife to such a worthy peer,

As full of grace as beauty, praying oft,

A visage lovely, but withal severe:

   Promising love, but with so chaste an eye

   That what her beauty grants, her looks deny.











Creusa, like her mother bodied well, 

But nothing fair; her grace is manly rude;

Only the wise Aeneas happy fell

Into her favour; with good thews endued,

Her inward, more than outward gifts excell,

Unapt young amorous courtiers to delude;

   A gracious, affable, kind, modest creature,

   Loved for her virtues, more than for her feature.









Cassandra, Hecub’s second, chaste and wise,

A professed virgin, and divinely read

In divinations, saws and prophecies;

She for her life abandons Hymen’s bed;

Fair-haired, mean-statured, round-mouthed, steadfast eyes;

Sometime her yellow locks about her spread,

   Rapt with divinest fury, oft she wears,

   Like a rich cloak, woven of her golden hairs.











But young Polyxena, among the rest,

Most beautifully perfect, ravishing sweet;

Of all terrestrial graces, lo, the best;

In one exact and complete creature meet

Celestial-coloured veins, swan-downy breast,

And from her native golden crown to feet

   Spotless, her brow the whitest, eye the clearest,

   And her rose-coloured cheek of all dyes dearest.











One lady’s beauty lies most in her hair,

Another’s in her cheek, this in her brow,

Her eye is quick, another’s colour rare,

To which the knights their deeds of honour vow;

Foot, skin or hand, and all esteemèd fair,

The least of these best-judging wits allow;

   And where but one of all these are extended,

   For that one gift bright ladies are commended.


On such quick feet as makes yon lady praised,

Polyxena doth lightly touch the ground;

Such hands as make another’s name emblazed,

White, azure-veined within her gloves are found;

A body on two ivory columns raised,

A breast so white, a globe-like head so round,

   A hair so bright-hued, breasts so softly swelled,

   Save in this maid no mortal hath beheld.



She is all beauty; nature showed her skill

To have this maid made in all parts complete;

Her storehouse the creator first did fill;

The prodigal queen doth for th’lady cheat

Her surplus; then the world lamenteth still

The Trojan lady’s largesse was so great,

   That high-born women yet in many places

   Are forced since her to have hard-favoured faces.



But lest we dwell upon her shape too long,

From her unto the buildings we look down,

Leaving the ladies fair, the princes strong.

It follows that we next surview the town,

How Priam sought to quit Hesione’s wrong,

His scepter, state and his imperial crown.

   These, by th’assistance of th’all-guiding Fate

   And by the Muses’ help, we next relate.



The glorious towers and spires of Troy look high;

Six principal percullised gates admit

The people in and out: first Dardany,

Timbria the second―but scarce finished yet―

Helias the third; we Chetas next descry,

Troyen the fifth, with marble turrets fit;

   The sixth and last, but of like state with these,

   Called by Antenor Antenorides.


The six gates of Troy








Unnumbered palaces, houses of state,

With their gilt covers, seem to mock the sun,

Which towards heaven their high tops elevate;

Staples of foreign merchants now begun,

Free-trafficked marts and wares of every rate,

By which much wealth may be acquired and won;

   Nothing is wanting in this new-built town,

   That may acquire Troy riches or renown.


Back to Canto VII (1-50 & 51-105)

On to Canto VIII (51-96)

Notes to Canto VIII

How to cite

Patricia Dorval, ed., 2013.  Troia Britanica Canto VIII, 1-50 (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).



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