Richard Lovelace

(1618-1657 / London / England)

The Toad And Spyder. A Duell - Poem by Richard Lovelace

Upon a day, when the Dog-star
Unto the world proclaim'd a war,
And poyson bark'd from black throat,
And from his jaws infection shot,
Under a deadly hen-bane shade
With slime infernal mists are made,
Met the two dreaded enemies,
Having their weapons in their eyes.

First from his den rolls forth that load
Of spite and hate, the speckl'd toad,
And from his chaps a foam doth spawn,
Such as the loathed three heads yawn;
Defies his foe with a fell spit,
To wade through death to meet with it;
Then in his self the lymbeck turns,
And his elixir'd poyson urns.
Arachne, once the fear oth' maid
Coelestial, thus unto her pray'd:
Heaven's blew-ey'd daughter, thine own mother!
The Python-killing Sun's thy brother.
Oh! thou, from gods that didst descend,
With a poor virgin to contend,
Shall seed of earth and hell ere be
A rival in thy victorie?
Pallas assents: for now long time
And pity had clean rins'd her crime;
When straight she doth with active fire
Her many legged foe inspire.
Have you not seen a charact lie
A great cathedral in the sea,
Under whose Babylonian walls
A small thin frigot almshouse stalls?
So in his slime the toad doth float
And th' spyder by, but seems his boat.
And now the naumachie begins;
Close to the surface her self spins:
Arachne, when her foe lets flye
A broad-side of his breath too high,
That's over-shot, the wisely-stout,
Advised maid doth tack about;
And now her pitchy barque doth sweat,
Chaf'd in her own black fury wet;
Lasie and cold before, she brings
New fires to her contracted stings,
And with discolour'd spumes doth blast
The herbs that to their center hast.
Now to the neighb'ring henbane top
Arachne hath her self wound up,
And thence, from its dilated leaves,
By her own cordage downwards weaves,
And doth her town of foe attack,
And storms the rampiers of his back;
Which taken in her colours spread,
March to th' citadel of's head.
Now as in witty torturing Spain,
The brain is vext to vex the brain,
Where hereticks bare heads are arm'd
In a close helm, and in it charm'd
An overgrown and meagre rat,
That peece-meal nibbles himself fat;
So on the toads blew-checquer'd scull
The spider gluttons her self full.
And vomiting her Stygian seeds,
Her poyson on his poyson feeds.
Thus the invenom'd toad, now grown
Big with more poyson than his own,
Doth gather all his pow'rs, and shakes
His stormer in's disgorged lakes;
And wounded now, apace crawls on
To his next plantane surgeon,
With whose rich balm no sooner drest,
But purged is his sick swoln breast;
And as a glorious combatant,
That only rests awhile to pant,
Then with repeated strength and scars,
That smarting fire him new to wars,
Deals blows that thick themselves prevent,
As they would gain the time he spent.

So the disdaining angry toad,
That calls but a thin useless load,
His fatal feared self comes back
With unknown venome fill'd to crack.
Th' amased spider, now untwin'd,
Hath crept up, and her self new lin'd
With fresh salt foams and mists, that blast
The ambient air as they past.
And now me thinks a Sphynx's wing
I pluck, and do not write, but sting;
With their black blood my pale inks blent,
Gall's but a faint ingredient.
The pol'tick toad doth now withdraw,
Warn'd, higher in CAMPANIA.
There wisely doth, intrenched deep,
His body in a body keep,
And leaves a wide and open pass
T' invite the foe up to his jaws,
Which there within a foggy blind
With fourscore fire-arms were lin'd.
The gen'rous active spider doubts
More ambuscadoes than redoubts;
So within shot she doth pickear,
Now gall's the flank, and now the rear;
As that the toad in's own dispite
Must change the manner of his fight,
Who, like a glorious general,
With one home-charge lets fly at all.
Chaf'd with a fourfold ven'mous foam
Of scorn, revenge, his foes and 's own,
He seats him in his loathed chair,
New-made him by each mornings air,
With glowing eyes he doth survey
Th' undaunted hoast he calls his prey;
Then his dark spume he gred'ly laps,
And shows the foe his grave, his chaps.

Whilst the quick wary Amazon
Of 'vantage takes occasion,
And with her troop of leggs carreers
In a full speed with all her speers.
Down (as some mountain on a mouse)
On her small cot he flings his house;
Without the poyson of the elf,
The toad had like t' have burst himself:
For sage Arachne with good heed
Had stopt herself upon full speed,
And, 's body now disorder'd, on
She falls to execution.
The passive toad now only can
Contemn and suffer. Here began
The wronged maids ingenious rage,
Which his heart venome must asswage.
One eye she hath spet out, strange smother,
When one flame doth put out another,
And one eye wittily spar'd, that he
Might but behold his miserie.
She on each spot a wound doth print,
And each speck hath a sting within't;
Till he but one new blister is,
And swells his own periphrasis.
Then fainting, sick, and yellow-pale,
She baths him with her sulph'rous stale;
Thus slacked is her Stygian fire,
And she vouchsafes now to retire.
Anon the toad begins to pant,
Bethinks him of th' almighty plant,
And lest he peece-meal should be sped,
Wisely doth finish himself dead.
Whilst the gay girl, as was her fate,
Doth wanton and luxuriate,
And crowns her conqu'ring head all or
With fatal leaves of hellebore.
Not guessing at the pretious aid
Was lent her by the heavenly maid.
The neer expiring toad now rowls
Himself in lazy bloody scrowls,
To th' sov'raign salve of all his ills,
That only life and health distills.
But loe! a terror above all,
That ever yet did him befall!

Pallas, still mindful of her foe,
(Whilst they did with each fires glow)
Had to the place the spiders lar
Dispath'd before the ev'nings star.
He learned was in Natures laws,
Of all her foliage knew the cause,
And 'mongst the rest in his choice want
Unplanted had this plantane plant.

The all-confounded toad doth see
His life fled with his remedie,
And in a glorious despair
First burst himself, and next the air;
Then with a dismal horred yell
Beats down his loathsome breath to hell.

But what inestimable bliss
This to the sated virgin is,
Who, as before of her fiend foe,
Now full is of her goddess too!
She from her fertile womb hath spun
Her stateliest pavillion,
Whilst all her silken flags display,
And her triumphant banners play;
Where Pallas she ith' midst doth praise,
And counterfeits her brothers rayes,
Nor will she her dear lar forget,
Victorious by his benefit,
Whose roof inchanted she doth free
From haunting gnat and goblin bee,
Who, trapp'd in her prepared toyle,
To their destruction keep a coyle.

Then she unlocks the toad's dire head,
Within whose cell is treasured
That pretious stone, which she doth call
A noble recompence for all,
And to her lar doth it present,
Of his fair aid a monument.


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Read poems about / on: fire, sick, star, daughter, dog, brother, despair, girl, hate, strength, fate, war, change, house, mother, fear, heaven, home, dark, sea



Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002



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