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

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO XIV (1-50)

Stanzas 1-10 — 11-20 — 21-30 — 31-40 — 41-50 — 51-109

Ed. Patricia DORVAL



Troilus Achilles wounds, and is betrayed

By his fell Myrmidons, which being spread,

The bloody Greek still loves the beauteous maid

Polyxena, and for her love is led

To Pallas’ church, whom Paris doth invade,

And with an arrow in the heel strikes dead.

   Penthesilea, with her valiant maids,

   Assists sad Troy, Greece lofty Pyrrhus aids.


Argumentum 2

In this last fight, fall by the Argive spleen

Paris, Amphimacus and Scythia’s queen.



To whom, Andromache, may I compare


Thy funeral tears o’er Hector’s body shed?


If ’mongst late widows none survive so rare


To equal thee, let’s search among the dead,


The Carian queen that was as chaste as fair,


Bright Artemisia, a wonder bred.


   Galatian Camma did likewise constant prove,


   And rivalled her in firm conjugal love.




What father’s grief could equal Priam’s tears,


Who lost a son, no age, no world could match,


Whose arm upheld his glory many years,


Whose vigilant eye did on his safety watch?


England’s third Edward, in thy face appears

Edward III

Like grief, when timeless death did soon dispatch


   Thy brave son’s life, Edward surnamed the Black,


   By whom Spain flagged, and France sustainèd wrack.




Not Margaret, when at Tewkesbury her son

Queen Margaret, wife to

Was stabbed to death by tyrant Gloucester’s hand,

Henry VI

Felt from her rivelled cheeks more pearl-drops run


Than Hecuba, when she did understand


The thread of Hector’s life already spun,


Whose glories stretched through heaven, air, sea and land,


   Though he of semblant hope to England were


   With him, whom Asia did account most dear.




Nor could the Countess Mary sorrow more


To hear her brother, the brave Sidney, wounded,

Lady Mary, Countess of Pembroke

Whose death the seventeen Belgian states deplore,

and sister to Sir Philip Sidney

Whose fame for arts and arms the whole world sounded,


Than did Cassandra, who her garments tore,


Creusa who with extreme grief confounded,


   With whom Polyxena bare a sad strain


   To hear a third part of the earth complain.




Nor when the hopeful youth, Prince Arthur, died,

Prince Arthur, elder brother to

Leaving his brother both his life and crown,

Prince Henry, after Henry VIII

Could the Prince Henry less his sorrow hide


Than Hector’s brothers who still guard the town?


The universal city doffs her pride;


The king himself puts on a mourner’s gown;


   The queen and ladies, with their leaguèd kings,


   Bury with him their best and costliest things.




So when from Rome great Tully was exiled,

M.T. Cicero

Full twenty thousand citizens, the best,


In garments tragic, and in countenance wild,


For twelve sad moons their loves to him professed.


But Troy, even from the bedrid to the child,


From crutch unto cradle, have expressed


   A general grief in their lamenting cries,


   Looks, gestures, habits, mournful hearts and eyes.




Now when the fountain of their tears grew dry,

And men and matrons him bewailed their fill,

With one joint voice, for just revenge they cry

On him, that did the prince by treason kill.

They lay their sad and funeral garments by;

The soldiers long to prove their martial skill,

   And try their strengths upon Scamander plain,

   Thinking themselves too long immured in vain.



’Tis questionable whether greater woe

In Troy than glee within the camp abounded:

They hold themselves free from that late dread foe,

Who with his steed had oft their trenches rounded,

And never but to th’Argives’ overthrow

Appeared in field, or to the battle sounded.

   With shrill applause they proud Achilles crown,

   And with bravadoes oft-times front the town.



Thus when respirited Greece had domineered

And braved the siegèd Trojans at their gates,

Old Priam, for his age now little feared,

With Troilus and the rest, of wars debates.

For Hector’s slaughter―to them all endeared―

They vow revenge on those high potentates

   That were spectators of the ruthless deed,

   When Hector’s corpse thrice round the walls did bleed.



And, issuing with their power, the agèd king


Puts acts in execution, much above

The battle

His age or strength: he youthfully doth spring


Upon his steed and, for his Hector’s love,


Amongst the throng of Greeks dares anything.


Himself ’gainst Diomed he longs to prove,

The valour of King Priam

   And ’scapes untouched, then ’gainst Ulysses rides,


   And still his age doth equipage their prides.




Forthwith ’gainst Agamemnon he contends,

And on his beaver raught him many a blow,

Who like a soldier his renown defends,

Amazed that weak age should assault him so.

The king his puissance further yet extends

Against the Spartan king, an equal foe,

   Whom with his spear he did so ill entreat,

   Fair Helen’s husband sits beside his seat.



From them, he further to the throng proceeds,

And deals about great largesse of grim wounds,

Admired alone for his renownèd deeds.

Some with his sword upon the cask he ’stounds;

This day, old Nestor by his javelin bleeds,

With many more, and still the field he rounds.

   Against old Priam, not a Greek dare stay,

   Who solely claims the honour of the day.



Yet, the meantime the king was in this broil,

Bold Deiphebus kept the rest in fee

With bloods and death, whilst Paris made great spoil

Of such as in their valour seemed most free.

Aeneas, strongly mounted, gave the foil

Unto th’Athenian duke, whose warlike knee

   Bended to him, yet in an upright heart,

   Achilles in his rescue claims a part.



The King Epistropus amongst them fought,

So did Sarpedon ’gainst th’encampèd kings.

The stout Pelasgian strength they dreaded nought.

Now ’mongst their rangèd squadrons Troilus flings,

And on their foiled troops much effusion wrought;

In him the life and spirit of Hector springs;

   Twice he Achilles met, and twice him felled,

   Who all the other kings of Greece excelled.



A hundred thousand Trojans were that day

Led to the field to avenge Prince Hector’s life;

Double their number on Scamander stay

To entertain them in their emulous strife.

Duke Ajax Telamon then kept in play

Troilus, whilst murder through the field grew rife.

   The stern Polydamas did nobly fight,

   And was the death of many a gallant knight.



But Troilus that succeeds Hector in force,

In courage and in all good thews beside,

Whome’er he met that day did bravel’ unhorse,

Till his white armour was with crimson dyed.

For Hector’s sake, his sword used no remorse,

His war-steeled spirits to slaughter he applied.

   No man that saw him his bright weapons wield,

   But sware another Hector was in field.



This day is Troy’s, and now repose they borrow

From the still night to give the wounded cure,

And such of note as died t’entomb with sorrow.

They that survive themselves with arms assure,

And so prepare for battle on the morrow,

Some to besiege, the rest the siege t’endure,

   Or if they can, to their eternal praise,

   The foreign legions from their trenches raise.



Six moons gave nightly rest to th’hostile pains,

Of just so many days, for full so long,

Troy without respite the proud camp constrains

Hourly to prove whose puissance is most strong.

Blood-drops by planets on Scamander rains,

Horrid Destruction flies the Greeks among,

   Troilus still held the noblest arms professor

   And Hector’s equal, though his late successor.



T’omit a thousand combats and contentions,

Hostile encounters, oppositions brave,

Such as exceed all human apprehensions,

Where some win living honour, some a grave,

With stratagems and sundry rare inventions,

The town to fortify, the camp to save,

   And contrary, to stretch all human reach,

   The host t’endamage, and the town t’impeach,



In all which, Troilus wondrous fame achieved.

His sword and armour were best known and feared;

Above the rest the Argive dukes he grieved;

By his sole valour were the Trojans cheered.

In acting wonders scarce to be believed,

The life of Hector in his blood appeared.

   Priam and Troy now think themselves secure,

   So long as Troilus ’mongst them may endure.



Achilles by his valour mated oft,

And―as he thinks―much blemished in renown

To see another’s valour soar aloft,

But his own bruitful fame still sinking down,

His downy bed to him appears unsoft.

He takes no pleasure in his regal crown;

   The best delights to him are harsh and sour,

   Since in one arm rests a whole city’s power.



The Greeks think Hector in this youth alive,

To stop whose honour’s torrent they devise.

For since by force of arms in vain they strive

To catch at that which soars above the skies,

They to the depth of all their counsels dive,

How they by cunning may the prince surprise,

   Being well assured that whilst his honours grow,

   In vain they seek Troy’s fatal overthrow.



The son of Thetis feels his arms yet sore

By the rude strokes that from his fury came,

His armour here and there besprinked with gore

Of his own wounds, that he is well-nigh lame

With often justlesand can no more

Endure the virtue of his strength or fame,

   For since his breast’s in many places scarred,

   He’ll fly unto the rescue of his guard.



Since neither the broad-breasted Diomed

Can in the course his rude encounter stay,

Since last when Telamon against him sped,

He was perforced to give his fury way,

Since all those princes Agamemnon led,

Though marshalled in their best and proud’st array,

   Could not repel his swift and violent speed,

   He by his guard his ruin hath decreed.



The self-same charge that he ’gainst Hector used,


’Gainst Troilus he his Myrmidons persuades.


Behold where he, with Hector’s spirit infused,


The warlike Thoas in even course invades,


Him, whom his strength of arms might have excused,


The Trojan sends unto th’Elysian shades.


   The Athenian duke against him spurs his horse,


   But quite through-pierced, the Greek drops down, a corpse.




Four princes in as many courses tasted

Like fate, yet still the Dardan prince sits high,

No course, no towering blow he vainly wasted―

In his great heart an host he dares defy.

King Diomed once more against him hasted,

And longed with him a warlike course to try.

   But horse and man were in the race o’erthrown,

   Nor marvel now the prince’s strength was grown.



The elder of th’Atrides next him grew,

And tries the vigour of his arm and spear;

Him likewise Troilus bravely overthrew,

And forth, unshook himself, he passed on clear.

Now well-nigh breathless he himself withdrew,

Whom then the spleenful Pelean watchèd near,

   And as he lights to rest him on the ground,

   Him the black Myrmidons encompass round.



With merciless keen glaives they siege the youth,

Whom all at once with fury they assail;

In them is neither honoured grace nor ruth,

Nor is one Trojan near, the prince to bail;

Achilles, with the rest, his blood pursueth.

Thousands against one man must needs prevail,

   Who seeing nothing else save death appearing,

   Even ’gainst all odds, contemns despair or fearing,



But through their squadrons hews a bloody tract,

And lops the foremost that before him stand.

Had Deiphebus now his brother backed,

Or had the place been by Sarpedon manned,

Or had Epistropus, whom he now lacked,

Upon his party reared his conquering hand,

   Had their bright falchions brandished by his side,

   The Myrmidons had failed, Troilus not died.



But he’s alone, round-girt with death and ruin,

And still maintains the battle, though in vain.

On every side a bloody passage hewing,

To work himself out through a dismal lane

Of Myrmidons, Achilles still pursuing,

Who keeps the hindmost of his rough-haired train.

   Yet had Prince Troilus marked him where he stood,

   And almost wrought to him through death and blood.



But odds prevailed, he sinks down the midway,

The death of Troilus

Even in his fall his sword against him darting,


That did both Hector’s and his life betray,


Boasting a noble spirit in his departing.


By Troilus’ death the Greeks obtain the day;


The Myrmidons their many wounds yet smarting


   Cure in their lord’s tent, whom the Greeks applaud


   For Troilus’ death, ’gainst honour, wrought by fraud.




Now the dejected Trojans dare no more

Enter the field. The Greeks approach the gates,

And dare them to grim war, who still deplore

Hector and Troilus in their tragic fates.

Queen Hecuba yet keeps revenge in store,

Of which at length with Paris she debates,

   Vowing to catch his life in some sly train,

   That by like fraud her two bold sons had slain.



She calls to mind the great Achilles’ pride,

Withal the love he to her daughter bears,

A thing in zeal she can no longer hide,

Since in Polyxena like love appears.

Troy’s weak dejection she makes known besides,

Disabled by a siege of many years,

   Therefore entreats him to accept her love,

   And in a general truce the Argives move.



The lofty Greek, proud by so great a queen

To be sued to, when he records withal

How much he’s feared, he ’gins to slake his spleen,

And the maid’s beauty to remembrance call.

What can he more, since he hath dreaded been,

And seen his ablest foes before him fall,

   But yield to beauty’s soft enchanting charm,

   Knowing weak Troy dares not conspire his harm?



The day draws on, a peace hath been debated,


To which Achilles the proud Greeks persuades;


Some think it needful, others higher rated


Their honours, and this concord much upbraids.


Alone, Achilles longs to be instated


In her fair grace, the beautiful’st of maids,


   And with the son of Nestor makes repair

Archilochus, the son of Nestor

   Where Priam with his sons and daughters are.




Truce is proclaimed, the damsel richly clad,

And by the Trojan ladies proudly attended,

Whom none that saw, but admiration had,

As at a goddess from high heaven descended.

The innocent maid was still in countenance sad

For loss of those that Troy but late defended,

   Yet guiltless in her soul of any spleen

   Dreamt ’gainst the prince by Paris or the queen.



Unarmed Achilles to the temple goes,

Whom Nestor’s son attends to Pallas’ shrine,

And all the way with gold and jewels strows,

Prizing them earthy but his bride divine.

And nothing of their treacherous act he knows,

When Paris, from a place where he had line,

   With armed knights issues, and a keen shaft drew,

   Which in the heel the proud Achilles slew;



Who when he sees himself and friend betrayed


And wounded to the death, whilst he could stand,

The death of Achilles and

Brandished his sword, and ’mongst them slaughters made;


But now he wants his Myrmidons at hand,


And his strong armour Paris to invade.


Alack, the temple was too strongly manned;


   His strength, that cannot bandy ’gainst them all,


   At length must sink, and his high courage fall.




There lies the great Achilles in his gore,

And by his side the son of Nestor slain,

Amongst the Trojans to be feared no more.

His body to the Greeks is sent again,

Whom they for Hector’s change, and long deplore

His death, by treason wrought. Upon the plain,

   For him a monumental tomb they rear,

   And for his death a joint revenge they swear.



The siege still lasts. Upon the part of Troy,


Penthesilea with a thousand maids


Vows all their Amazonian strength to employ,


And for the death of Hector Greece upbraids,


Whilst in the camp, with much applausive joy,


Grim Pyrrhus is received, Pyrrhus that trades


   In gore and slaughter, with revenge pursuing,


   Even to the death, Troy for his father’s ruin.




No longer time he will delay, but straight

Dare them to battle by the morrow’s sun.

The Scythian damsels long to show their height,

And imitate their deeds before time dun.

They know they enterprise a work of weight,

And long for signal. Now to battle run

   The unfleshed Greeks that were of Pyrrhus’ train,

   Whom th’Amazonians soon repulse again.



Penthesilea was not that fair queen

A tale of a chaste queen amongst

Of Amazons, of whom we now entreat,

the Amazons

That made a law: what man soe’er had been


Within her court to make a ’biding seat,


Above three days, he might not there be seen,


Though his power mighty and his state were great,


   For if within her court he longer dwelt,


   The penal law was he should sure be gelt.




So much she fearèd the supposèd trains

With which soft womenkind us men accuse,

That our society she quite disdains,

Nor shall our fellowship her ladies use.

To this decree she their applause constrains.

Because false men their weaker sex abuse,

   From which her words nor warning can restrain them,

   She choosed this way, the only means to tame them.



This strict decree kept many from her coast,

That else had flocked as suitors to the place.

Their angel-beauties, which men covet most,

Must from the eyes of man receive no grace.

Many too bold their dearest jewel lost,

And were made eunuchs within three days’ space;

   Else they were thought unfit for the queen’s diet,

   Who held that the first way to keep them quiet.



Some that could well have ventured their best blood

Were loath to hazard what they needs must pay.

The queen so much upon this edict stood

That she had driven her suitors quite away,

And still, to be at rest, she held it good,

Vowing t’observe it to her dying day.

   Having this proved, those men that came most bold

   Their forfeit pay, none more submiss and cold,



So that in process few approached their shore,

But such as had no means to live elsewhere,

Whom their own countries did esteem no more,

But pay their fine, they may be welcome here,

And have good place and lands and livings store;

Nothing the court hath can be held too dear.

   Amongst the rest that held a sovereign place,

   There lived a baron of a noble race.



He that was from his native country fled,

For some offence that questionèd his life,

And as a refuge to secure his head,

He shunned the deadly axe to taste the knife.

But time outwears disgrace; his course he led

Among the damsels, free from feminine strife.

   Doubtless the woman that’s suspicious most

   Would be resolved to see what he has lost.



The noble eunuch left a son behind

In his own country, who being grown to years

Grew fairly featured, of a generous mind,

And in his face much excellence appears.

He vows the world to travel till he find

His banished father whose estate he fears.

   At length by search he’s made to understand

   Of his late sojourn in the Scythians’ land.



Thither he will for so his vow decrees.

But when he knows an edict too severe,

He’s loath to pay unto the land such fees,

Which he hopes better to bestow elsewhere.

In this distraction, lo from far he sees

A nimble fairy tripping like a deer,

   And, as he lies strowed on the grassy plain,

   With swiftest speed she makes to him amain,



And greets him thus: “Fair youth, boldly proceed;

I promise thee good fortune on thy way.

Among the Scythian dames thou shalt not bleed.

Only observe and keep still what I say.

My counsel now may stand thee much in steed,

And save thee that thou wouldst be loath to pay.

   Receive this handkerchief, this purse, this ring,

   The least of them a present for a king.


Back to Canto XIII

Notes to Canto XIV

On to Canto XIV (51-111)

How to cite

Patricia Dorval, ed., 2017.  Troia Britanica Canto XIV (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).


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