Venus and Adonis: stanzas 129-76, or “despair and hope”

When we last left Venus and Adonis, (and the careful-reading of you among us will have noticed–as I did not until this very morning–that I cut Friday’s section short), Venus at the end of stanza 128 has told Adonis that it was time for him to start procreating (cough sex cough), to pass that beauty on to future generations…this after her releasing him, him telling her he’s going to hunt boar in the morning, and this final argument from her.

“Nay, then,” quoth Adon, “you will fall again
Into your idle over-handled theme.
The kiss I gave you is bestowed in vain,
And all in vain you strive against the stream”
  • 769-72

Pretty funny. If we were becoming a little bored by her constant verbal volleys, he’s feeling our pain, too. He tells her that even if she had “twenty thousand tongues” (775), his heart is guarding his ear. But before she can get the idea of overcoming his heart/guard, he tells her “No, lady, no, my heart longs not to groan / But soundly sleeps while now it sleeps alone” (785-6); and I love how he uses a little double entendre himself (“groan”). He tells her that he could deny each of her arguments, but he begins with her latest one:

I hate not love, but your device in love,
That lends embracements unto every stranger.
 You do it for increase. O strange excuse,
 When reason is the bawd to lust’s abuse!
  • 789-92

He says he doesn’t hate love but only her use of it, throwing it “every stranger” as an example of “lust’s abuse.” He then spends three stanzas telling her what he thinks love is (and it’s a very nice thing) and how it’s not lust before saying his ears burn with her “wanton talk” (809). He tears himself away and runs off. And she chases after him.

[and this is where I had originally planned to leave off Friday…that flu — still here — must have addled my lil’ ol’ brain]

She attempts to follow, calling out his name, but she hears only “twenty echoes twenty times cry” (834). She wails then sings. And like Adonis, it’s clear that our narrator is tiring of her antics, as he notes, “Her song was tedious, and outwore the night” (841). And again all she hears are echoes. She notices the lark, herald of the morning, which she greets with a statement that Adonis can supply the day with light, he is so bright.

She continues to search for him, listening for his hounds, getting scratched by the bushes she runs through…and then she hears them. Immediately, she thinks the worst: “the blunt boar, rough bear, or lion proud” (884) has been cornered. She becomes “overcome by doubt” (891) and trembles, then tells herself it’s all “a causeless fantasy” (897). Which would be great if she didn’t now suddenly see the boar.


Worse than that: his mouth is bloody. She runs off then turns around to “rate” (906) or berate or chastise the boar. Only now she can’t find him. Instead she finds a wounded hound, asks it for its master Adonis, and it can only howl in response.

Because, well, you know, he’s a dog.

He’s joined by other bleeding dogs. This must mean Adonis’ death, and it is to death she now–in absence of a boar–exclaims her invective. She tells death that if her love is dead, then death has made a horrible mistake. She squeezes her eyes shut, stopping her tears (of which we get a very poetic two stanzas of description).

Can you text death, call him a bastard, then type “jk” and expect good things? Probably not.

But the she hears a huntsman’s call, causing her “despair and hope” (988) to fight each other. And now with hope, she speaks to death again, only now it’s “sweet death, I did but jest” (997).  Venus tells him it wasn’t her fault but rather the boar who “provoked [her] tongue” (1003), and then proclaims her innocence with “Grief hath two tongues, and never woman yet / Could rule them both without ten women’s wit” (1007-8). And does it strike anyone as sexist for a male writer to proclaim this about women? No? Really? It’s almost as if the narrator has problems getting this out of his pen–look at that pretty lame rhyme. Regardless, he goes on to call death “Jove” (1015), telling him that love is full of fears.

She hears a horn, which is now “merry” instead of “forlorn” (1025-6), and runs off to find it.

And she finds the “foul boar’s conquest” (1030). Then she closes her eyes, she wants to see only night, but when she reopens her eyes, they find “the wide wound that the boar had trenched / In his soft flank” (1052-3). His blood spills on to the dead earth which “stole his blood and seemed to with him bleed” (1056).

And with that image of death, we’ll stop for the day (sorry, it was a good breaking point)…

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