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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘David and Bethsabe’

By George Peele (1556–1596)

From Dyce’s Edition of Peele’s Works, Vol. II.

He draws a curtain and discovers Bethsabe with her maid bathing over a spring; she sings, and David sits above viewing her.

HOT sun, cool fire, tempered with sweet air,

Black shade, fair nurse, shadow my white hair:

Shine, sun; burn, fire; breathe, air, and ease me;

Black shade, fair nurse, shroud me and please me;

Shadow, my sweet nurse, keep me from burning,—

Make not my glad cause, cause of mourning.

Let not my beauty’s fire

Inflame unstayed desire,

Nor pierce any bright eye

That wandereth lightly.

Bethsabe—Come, gentle Zephyr, trickt with those perfumes

That erst in Eden sweetened Adam’s love,

And stroke my bosom with thy silken fan:

This shade, sun-proof, is yet no proof for thee;

Thy body, smoother than this waveless spring,

And purer than the substance of the same,

Can creep through that his lances cannot pierce.

Thou and thy sister, soft and sacred air,

Goddess of life, and governess of health,

Keep every fountain fresh and arbor sweet;

No brazen gate her passage can repulse,

Nor bushy thicket bar thy subtle breath:

Then deck thee with thy loose delightsome robes,

And on thy wings bring delicate perfumes,

To play the wanton with us through the leaves.

David—What tunes, what words, what looks, what wonders pierce

My soul, incensèd with a sudden fire?

What tree, what shade, what spring, what paradise,

Enjoys the beauty of so fair a dame?

Fair Eva, placed in perfect happiness,

Lending her praise-notes to the liberal heavens,

Strook with the accents of archangels’ tunes,

Wrought not more pleasure to her husband’s thoughts

Than this fair woman’s words and notes to mine.

May that sweet plain that bears her pleasant weight

Be still enameled with discolored flowers;

That precious fount bear sand of purest gold;

And for the pebble, let the silver streams

That pierce earth’s bowels to maintain the source,

Play upon rubies, sapphires, chrysolites;

The brims let be embraced with golden curls

Of moss, that sleeps with sound the waters make,

For joy to feed the fount with their recourse;

Let all the grass that beautifies her bower

Bear manna every morn instead of dew;

Or let the dew be sweeter far than that

That hangs, like chains of pearl, on Hermon’s hill,

Or balm which trickled from old Aaron’s beard.


Now comes my lover tripping like the roe,

And brings my longings tangled in her hair.

To joy her love I’ll build a kingly bower,

Seated in hearing of a hundred streams,

That, for their homage to her sovereign joys,

Shall, as the serpents fold into their nests

In oblique turnings, wind the nimble waves

About the circles of her curious walks;

And with their murmur summon easeful sleep,

To lay his golden sceptre on her brows.

Open the doors, and entertain my love;

Open, I say, and as you open, sing,

Welcome fair Bethsabe, King David’s darling.