Venus and Adonis: stanzas 69-101 (part 2), or “you must remember this…”

OK, so yesterday, I left you hanging, mid- (actually late-)section of Venus and Adonis. Adonis has just told Venus that if she’ll let him go, he’ll give her a kiss. She accepts, throws her arms around his neck in an embrace, and they kiss.

And what a kiss this is…

If love and kissing can be seen as life-giving water, then Adonis is “with her plenty pressed, she faint with dearth, / Their lips together glued, fall upon the earth” (545-6). And you’ve got to love the imagery: “And gluttonlike she feeds, yet never filleth; Her lips are conquerors, his lips obey” (548-9). If before she fed, now “with blindfold fury she begins to forage” (554), her blood boils, her skin steams, “careless lust stirs up a desperate courage” (556) in her. And in this fight, she wears him down “with her hard embracing” until “He now obeys and now no more resisteth, / While she takes all she can, not all she listeth” (559, 563-4). That last couplet is interesting: she takes all she can, but not all she wants. Why?

I’m not really sure. The next two stanzas speak of how love is most exciting when there is a chase involved, so possibly what we’re talking here is that the chase being done and he surrendered, there’s not as much to be gained. (and if that’s the case, there’s a sick and twisted view of love plopped down in there somewhere).

She, in “pity” (577), releases him, but not before telling him her heart is in his breast, and asking if they shall meet again tomorrow. And the response? “He tells her, no, tomorrow he intends / To hunt the boar with certain of his friends” (587-8).

And Venus loses her freaking mind. She turns pale, she throws her arms around his neck again, and slides to the ground, with “he on her belly falls, she on her back” (594). Again, some pretty solid visual comedy there. We get some jousting imagery (“lists of love” [595] and “champion mounted” [596]), which, believe me, can be taken bawdily (I mean: “hot encounter” [596] and “He will not manage her, although he mount her”? [598]… really). And she begins to kiss him again, and all for one purpose: “The warm effect which she in him finds missing / She seeks to kindle with continual kissing” (605-6). And whether you want to see that clean as her wanting his love, or wanting to change his mind, or something a little more carnal, you’ve got to admit that’s a great couplet.

And thus ends the section, with Adonis needing again to make a decision…

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