Home  »  library  »  poem  »  From ‘The Lover’s Melancholy’

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

From ‘The Lover’s Melancholy’

By John Ford (1586–c. 1640)


MENAPHON—Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales

Which poets of an elder time have feigned

To glorify their Temple, bred in me

Desire of visiting that paradise.

To Thessaly I came; and living private

Without acquaintance of more sweet companions

Than the old inmates to my love, my thoughts,

I day by day frequented silent groves

And solitary walks. One morning early

This accident encountered me: I heard

The sweetest and most ravishing contention

That art and nature ever were at strife in.

Amethus—I cannot yet conceive what you infer

By art and nature.
Menaphon—I shall soon resolve ye.

A sound of music touched my ears, or rather

Indeed entranced my soul. As I stole nearer,

Invited by the melody, I saw

This youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute,

With strains of strange variety and harmony,

Proclaiming, as it seemed, so bold a challenge

To the clear quiristers of the woods, the birds,

That, as they flocked about him, all stood silent,

Wondering at what they heard: I wondered too.

Amethus—And so do I: good, on!
Menaphon—A nightingale,

Nature’s best skilled musician, undertakes

The challenge, and for every several strain

The well-shaped youth could touch, she sung her own;

He could not run division with more art

Upon his quaking instrument than she,

The nightingale, did with her various notes

Reply to: for a voice and for a sound,

Amethus, ’tis much easier to believe

That such they were than hope to hear again.

Amethus—How did the rivals part?
Menaphon—You term them rightly;

For they were rivals, and their mistress harmony.

Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last

Into a pretty anger, that a bird,

Whom art had never taught cliffs, moods, or notes,

Should vie with him for mastery, whose study

Had busied many hours to perfect practice.

To end the controversy, in a rapture

Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly

So many voluntaries and so quick,

That there was curiosity and cunning,

Concord in discord, lines of differing method

Meeting in one full centre of delight.

Amethus—Now for the bird.
Menaphon—The bird, ordained to be

Music’s first martyr, strove to imitate

These several sounds; which when her warbling throat

Failed in, for grief down dropped she on his lute,

And brake her heart. It was the quaintest sadness,

To see the conqueror upon her hearse

To weep a funeral elegy of tears;

That trust me, my Amethus, I could chide

Mine own unmanly weakness that made me

A fellow mourner with him.
Amethus—I believe thee.

Menaphon—He looked upon the trophies of his art,

Then sighed, then wiped his eyes, then sighed and cried:—

“Alas, poor creature! I will soon revenge

This cruelty upon the author of it;

Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood,

Shall never more betray a harmless peace

To an untimely end:” and in that sorrow,

As he was pushing it against a tree,

I suddenly stept in.