Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extract from Orchestra, or A Poeme of Dauncing: Antinous Praises Dancing before Queen Penelope
By Sir John Davies (1570–1626)
 
‘FOR that brave Sun the Father of the Day,
Doth love this Earth, the Mother of the Night;
And like a reveller in rich array,
Doth dance his galliard in his leman’s sight,
Both back, and forth, and sideways, passing light;        5
  His princely grace doth so the gods amaze,
  That all stand still and at his beauty gaze.
 
‘But see the Earth, when he approacheth near,
How she for joy doth spring and sweetly smile;
But see again her sad and heavy cheer        10
When changing places he retires awhile;
But those black clouds he shortly will exile,
  And make them all before his presence fly,
  As mists consum’d before his cheerful eye.
*        *        *        *        *
‘And now behold your tender nurse the Air        15
And common neighbour that aye runs around;
How many pictures and impressions fair
Within her empty regions are there found;
Which to your senses Dancing do propound.
  For what are Breath, Speech, Echos, Music, Winds,        20
  But Dancings of the Air in sundry kinds?
 
‘For when you breathe, the air in order moves,
Now in, now out, in time and measure true;
And when you speak, so well she dancing loves,
That doubling oft, and oft redoubling new,        25
With thousand forms she doth herself endue,
  For all the words that from our lips repair
  Are nought but tricks and turnings of the air.
 
‘Hence is her prattling daughter Echo born,
That dances to all voices she can hear;        30
There is no sound so harsh that she doth scorn,
Nor any time wherein she will forbear
The airy pavement with her feet to wear;
  And yet her hearing sense is nothing quick,
  For after time she endeth every trick.        35
 
‘And thou sweet Music, Dancing’s only life,
The ear’s sole happiness, the air’s best speech;
Loadstone of fellowship, charming-rod of strife,
The soft mind’s Paradise, the sick mind’s leech;
With thine own tongue, thou trees and stones canst teach,        40
  That when the Air doth dance her finest measure,
  Then art thou born, the gods’ and men’s sweet pleasure.
 
‘Lastly, where keep the Winds their revelry,
Their violent turnings, and wild whirling hays, 1
But in the Air’s translucent gallery?        45
Where she herself is turn’d a hundred ways,
While with those Maskers wantonly she plays;
  Yet in this misrule, they such rule embrace,
  As two at once encumber not the place.
 
‘If then fire, air, wand’ring and fixed lights        50
In every province of the imperial sky,
Yield perfect forms of dancing to your sights,
In vain I teach the ear, that which the eye
With certain view already doth descry.
  But for your eyes perceive not all they see,        55
  In this I will your Senses master be.
 
‘For lo the Sea that fleets about the Land,
And like a girdle clips her solid waist,
Music and measure both doth understand;
For his great crystal eye is always cast        60
Up to the Moon, and on her fixèd fast;
  And as she danceth in her pallid sphere,
  So danceth he about his Centre here.
 
‘Sometimes his proud green waves in order set,
One after other flow unto the shore;        65
Which, when they have with many kisses wet,
They ebb away in order as before;
And to make known his courtly love the more,
  He oft doth lay aside his three-forked mace,
  And with his arms the timorous Earth embrace.        70
 
‘Only the Earth doth stand for ever still,
Her rocks remove not, nor her mountains meet,
(Although some wits enriched with Learning’s skill
Say heav’n stands firm, and that the Earth doth fleet,
And swiftly turneth underneath their feet;)        75
  Yet though the Earth is ever steadfast seen,
  On her broad breast hath Dancing ever been.
 
‘For those blue veins that through her body spread,
Those sapphire streams which from great hills do spring
(The Earth’s great dugs; for every wight is fed        80
With sweet fresh moisture from them issuing;)
Observe a dance in their wild wandering;
  And still their dance begets a murmur sweet,
  And still the murmur with the dance doth meet.’
 
Note 1. country-dances. [back]
 
 
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