Sonnet 61

Madame se levoit un beau matin d’Esté,
Quand le Soleil attache à ses chevaux la bride :
Amour estoit present avec sa trousse vuide,
Venu pour la remplir des traicts de sa clairté.

J’entre-vy dans son sein deux pommes de beauté,
Telles qu’on ne voit point au verger Hesperide :
Telles ne porte point la Deesse de Gnide,
Ny celle qui a Mars des siennes allaité.

Telle enflure d’yvoire en sa voûte arrondie,
Tel relief de Porphyre, ouvrage de Phidie,
Eut Andromede alors que Persée passa,

Quand il la vit liée à des roches marines,
Et quand la peur de mort tout le corps luy glaça,
Transformant ses tetins en deux boules marbrines.

                                                                              My Lady arose one fine morning in Summer
                                                                              When the sun was harnessing his horses ;
                                                                              Love was present with his quiver empty,
                                                                              Come to refill it with the arrows of her brightness.
                                                                              I glimpsed in her bosom two apples of beauty
                                                                              Such as one could not find in the Hesperides’ orchard ;
                                                                              Such as the goddess of Cnidus does not bear,
                                                                              Nor she who gave Mars milk from hers.
                                                                              Such a swelling of ivory in its rounded arch,
                                                                              Such a relief in porphyry, the work of Phidias,
                                                                              Had Andromeda when Perseus passed by,
                                                                              When he saw her bound to sea-board rocks,
                                                                              And when the fear of death made her whole body like ice,
                                                                              Transforming her breasts into two marble-like globes.


A crescendo of classical allusion as we near the end of the book! The garden of the Hesperides was where the golden apples grew – a wedding gift from Juno to Jupiter;  Juno is also Mars’s mother.  The goddess of Cnidos is Venus – the ‘Venus of Cnidos’ was also the most famous statue of Praxiteles (picture here), one of the foremost Greek sculptors. Phidias was the other great sculptor of antiquity, whose name is a byword for quality.  Andromeda was rescued by Perseus from a sea-monster after being chained naked to a rock as a sacrifice – hence a classic example of the nude female form (several examples on her Wikipedia page!)


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