John Lyly: Endimion (2)

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Passage 1: The big speech on love

Endimion is in love with Cynthia, but she is so far above him that he cannot even think of telling her of his love. He in turn is beloved by Tellus (the name means "earth"), who is jealous of his love for Cynthia, and (just after this soliloquy) arranges for him to be bewitched into a deep sleep. [Note 1]
ENDIMION: No rest, Endimion? Still uncertain how to settle thy steps by day or thy thoughts by night? Thy truth is measured by thy fortune, and thou art judged unfaithful because thou art unhappy. I will see if I can beguile myself with sleep, and, if no slumber will take hold in my eyes, yet will I embrace the golden thoughts in my head, and wish to melt by musing; that, as ebony, which no fire can scorch, is yet consumed with sweet savors, [Note 2] so my heart, which cannot be bent by the hardness of fortune, may be bruised by amorous desires. On yonder bank never grew anything but lunary, [Note 3] and hereafter I will never have any bed but that bank. O Endimion, Tellus was fair, but what availeth beauty without wisdom? Nay, Endimion, she was wise, but what availeth wisdom without honor? She was honorable, Endimion; belie her not. Ay, but how obscure is honor without fortune! Was she not fortunate whom so many followed? Yes, yes, but base is fortune without majesty. [Note 4] Thy majesty, Cynthia, all the world knoweth and wondereth at, but not one in the world that can imitate it or comprehend it. No more. Endimion! Sleep or die! Nay, die, for to sleep, it is impossible.--And yet I know not how it cometh to pass, I feel such a heaviness both in mine eyes and heart that I am suddenly benumbed, yea, in every joint. It may be weariness, for when did I rest? It may be deep melancholy, for when did I not sigh? Cynthia! Ay, so--Cynthia! He falls asleep.

Passage 2: Courtly love parodied

The braggart soldier, Sir Tophas, has fallen in love with the wicked Dipsas (who has bewitched Endimion at Tellus' behest). He enters with his tiny servant Epiton, a contrast very like Falstaff and his page in Henry the Fourth part Two, or Don Armado and Moth in Love's Labour's Lost. If Endimion is a portrait of an idealized courtly lover almost straight from Castiglione, Sir Tophas shows that the ideal was already being satirized. Lyly is anticipating the fun with the tradition that Shakespeare would have in Love's Labour's Lost, As You Like It, and Much Ado About Nothing.

EPITON: Here, sir.

SIR TOPHAS: Unrig me. Heigh-ho!

EPITON: What's that?

SIR TOPHAS: An interjection, whereof some are of mourning: as eho, vah. [Note 5]

EPITON: I understand you not.

SIR TOPHAS: Thou seest me.


SIR TOPHAS: Thou hear'st me.


SIR TOPHAS: Thou feelest me.


SIR TOPHAS: And not understand'st me?


SIR TOPHAS: Then am I but three-quarters of a noun substantive. But alas, Epi, to tell thee the troth, I am a noun adjective.


SIR TOPHAS: Because I cannot stand without another.

EPITON: Who is that?


EPITON: Are you in love?

SIR TOPHAS: No; but love hath, as it were, milked my thoughts and drained from my courage. It worketh in my head like new wind, so as I must hoop my sconce [temples] with iron, lest my head break, and so I bewray my brains. But, I pray thee, first discover me in all parts, that I may be like a lover, and then will I sigh and die. Take my gun and give me a gown: Cedant arma togae [Let arms give place to the toga].


SIR TOPHAS: Take my sword and shield and give me beard-brush and scissors: Bella gerant alii, tu Pari semper ama [Let others wage wars; thou, O Paris, should always love]. EPITON: Will you be trimmed, sir?

SIR TOPHAS: Not yet; for I feel a contention within me whether I shall frame the bodkin beard or the bush [pointed or bushy]. But take my pike and give me pen: Dicere quae puduit, scribere jussit amor [Those things one was ashamed to say, Love has given orders to write]. EPITON: I will furnish you, sir.

SIR TOPHAS: Now, for my bow and bolts give me ink and paper, for my smiter a penknife; for

Scalpellum, calami, atramentum, charta, libelli,
sint semper studiis arma parata meis.
[Penknife, ink, quills, paper, booklets
are weapons always ready for my studies.]

EPITON: Sir, will you give over wars and play with that bauble called love?

SIR TOPHAS: Give over wars? No, Epi, Militata omnis amans, et habet sua castra Cupido [Every lover goes to war, and Cupid takes possession of his camp].

EPITON: Love hath made you very eloquent, but your face is nothing fair.

SIR TOPHAS: Non formosus erat, sed erat facundus Ulysses [Not handsome, but eloquent, was Ulysses].

EPITON: Nay, I must seek a new master if you can speak nothing but verses.

SIR TOPHAS: Quinquid conabar dicere, versus erat [Everything I tried to say came out as poetry]. Epi, I feel all Ovid De Arte Amandi lie as heavy at my heart as a load of logs. O, what a fine, thin hair hath Dipsas! What a pretty, low forehead! What a tall and stately nose! What little, hollow eyes! What great and goodly lips! How harmless she is, being toothless! Her fingers fat and short adorned with long nails like a bittern [a bird similar to the heron]! In how sweet a proportion her cheeks hang down to her breasts like dugs and her paps to her waist like bags! What a low stature she is, and yet what a great foot she carrieth! How thrifty must she be in whom there is no waist! How virtuous is she like to be over whom no man can be jealous!

EPITON: Stay, master, you forget yourself.

SIR TOPHAS: O Epi, even as a dish melteth by the fire, so doth my wit increase by love.

EPITON: Pithily, and to the purpose! But what, begin you to nod?

SIR TOPHAS: Good Epi, let me take a nap; for, as some man may better steal a horse than another look over the hedge, so divers shall be sleepy when they would fainest take rest. He sleeps.

Passage 3: The faithful lover

Now the two lovers Endimion and Sir Tophas are asleep, the one parodying the other. Eumenides, Endimion's faithful friend (rejected by his loved one Semele) is searching for a cure for Endimion. He discovers a well which only true lovers can see the bottom of; he of course can see the message--and it gives him one wish only. His choice is between helping Endimion and satisfying his desire for Semele. Geron ("old man") guards the well (it turns out that he is Dipsas' estranged husband). The debate here is between the claims of friendship between men and love between man and woman; the same renaissance attitudes expressed here are referred to in Shakespeare's Sonnets.
EUMENIDES: FATHER, I plainly see the bottom, and there in white marble engraven these words: Ask one for all, and but one thing at all.

GERON: O fortunate Eumenides (for so have I heard thee call thyself), let me see.-- I cannot discern any such thing. I think thou dreamest.

EUMENIDES: Ah, Father, thou art not a faithful lover, and therefore canst not behold it.

GERON: Then ask, that I may be satisfied by the event, and thyself blessed.

EUMENIDES: Ask? So I will. And what shall I do but ask, and whom should I ask but Semele, the possessing of whose person is a pleasure that cannot come within the compass of comparison; whose golden locks seem most curious when they seem most careless; whose sweet looks seem most alluring when they are most chaste; and whose words the more virtuous they are, the more amorous they be accounted? I pray thee, Fortune, when I shall first meet with fair Semele, dash my delight with some light disgrace, lest, embracing sweetness beyond measure, I take a surfeit without recure. Let her practice her accustomed coyness that I may diet myself upon my desires; otherwise the fullness of my joys will diminish the sweetness, and I shall perish by them before I possess them. [Note 6] Why do I trifle the time in words? The least minute being spent in the getting of Semele is more worth than the whole world; therefore let me ask. What now, Eumenides! Whither art thou drawn? Hast thou forgotten both friendship and duty, care of Endimion, and the commandment of Cynthia? Shall he die in a leaden sleep because thou sleepest in a golden dream? Ay, let him sleep ever, so I slumber but one minute with Semele. Love knoweth neither friendship nor kindred.

Shall I not hazard the loss of a friend for the obtaining of her for whom I would often lose myself? Fond Eumenides, shall the enticing beauty of a most disdainful lady be of more force than the rare fidelity of a tried friend? The love of men to women is a thing common and of course; the friendship of man to man infinite and immortal.--Tush! Semele doth possesss my love,--Ay, but Endimion hath deserved it. I will help Endimion. I found Endimion unspotted in his truth.--Ay, but I shall find Semele constant in her love. I will have Semele.--What shall I do? Father, thy gray hairs are ambassadors of experience. Which shall I ask?

GERON: Eumenides, release Endimion, for all things, friendship excepted, are subject to fortune. Love is but an eye-worm [a worm in the eye], which only tickleth the head with hopes and wishes; friendship the image of eternity, in which there is nothing movable, nothing mischievous. As much difference as there is between beauty and virtue, bodies and shadows, colors and life, so great odds is there between love and friendship.

Love is a chameleon, which draweth nothing into the mouth but air, and nourisheth nothing in the body but lungs. [Note 7] Believe me, Eumenides, desire dies in the same moment that beauty sickens, and beauty fadeth in the same instant that it flourisheth. When adversities flow, then love ebbs; but friendship standeth stiffly in storms. Time draweth wrinkles in a fair face, but addeth fresh colors to a fast friend, which neither heat, nor cold, nor misery, nor place, nor destiny can alter or diminish. O friendship, of all things the most rare, and therefore most rare because most excellent, whose comfort in misery is always sweet, and whose counsels in prosperity are ever fortunate! Vain love, that, only coming near to friendship in name, would seem to be the same or better in nature!

EUMENIDES: Father, I allow your reasons, and will therefore conquer mine own. Virtue shall subdue affections, wisdom lust, friendship beauty.


The negative attitudes expressed by Geron and Eumenides towards love for and of a woman are not unusual; later in this subunit you will read more about the long-standing misogynistic traditions of the period. Later in the play, Endimion is released from his sleep by a magnanimous and chaste kiss from Cynthia; Eumenides is united with Semele; and Sir Topas (finding Dipsas already married) is content with her no less ugly assistant Bagoa. In its courtly elegance, combined with clowning and word-play, Endimion anticipates many of the comic effects of Love's Labour's Lost.

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  1. Endimion has been reprinted many times; the authoritative edition (old spelling) is R. W. Bond, ed., The Complete Works of John Lyly (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902). Endimion is in vol. III. I have modernized spelling in the version printed here. [Back]
  2. Lyly often uses fanciful legends about the imagined properties of plants and animals to develop analogies; here the hard ebony is thought to be dissolved by mere perfume. [Back]
  3. A plant which was supposed to wax and wane in growth at the same time as the moon. [Back]
  4. In Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick similarly questions himself. [Back]
  5. Sir Tophas is very fond of his learning; he quotes the Latin grammar used by small boys at school, and recites Ovid freely. [Back]
  6. Compare Troilus' sentiments just before his love for Cressida is consummated (Troilus and Cressida 3.2.17-28). [Back]
  7. It was a common belief that the chameleon fed on air. [Back]

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