Shakespeare, The tale of Cupid's torch (Sonnet 154, or "The little Love-god lying once asleep")
Recorded in March 2022. From Shakespeare’s Sonnets, first printed in 1609.
A translation of this poem into prose:
Once upon a time, Cupid fell asleep, and so lay down his torch that sets hearts on fire. Many maidens of the goddess Diana (whose lives were devoted to chastity) stumbled upon him as they were passing by. But Diana herself, most beautiful of them all, seized hold of the torch—that torch which had warmed so many loyal and loving hearts. Thus the General of Desire was disarmed by the hand of a virgin.
Diana quenched the torch in a nearby well. The well was cool; but so hot was that fire, that the well was set a-blaze forevermore. It grew into a bath, and a remedy for men who came to cure their diseases.—But I, the slave of love for my mistress, sought help for my affliction there, and could find none. Love’s fire, therefore, heats water; but water does not cool love.
Shakespeare makes use of several periphrases. “The little Love-God” and “the General of hot desire” are Cupid. “Nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep” are assistants to the goddess Diana, or Artemis. “The fairest votary” is Diana herself.
Diana was a virgin goddess; hence her followers “vowed chaste life to keep,” and she is said to have a “virgin hand.” She was also the goddess of the hunt; so we may infer that she and her maidens happened upon Cupid while they hunted.
(All text above is free to use under CC BY 4.0.).
The little Love-god lying once asleep,
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
And so the General of hot desire
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy,
For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,
Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.
|Category||Arts & Literature|
|Sensitivity||Normal - Content that is suitable for ages 16 and over|
4 months, 3 weeks ago
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