Archive for March 19th, 2020

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Cupid Lost and Cried by Jacob Cats

The Child of Venus, wanton, wild,
The slyest rogue that ever smiled,
Had lately strayed—where? who shall guess?
His mother pines in sad distress;—

She calls the boy, she sighs, complains,
But still no news of Cupid gains:
For though her sorrow grows apace,
None knows the urchin’s resting-place.
She therefore vows the boy shall be
Cried o’er the country speedily:

“If there be any who can tell
Where little Cupid’s wont to dwell,
A fit reward he shall enjoy
If he track out the truant boy;
His recompense a fragrant kiss
From Venus’ ruby mouth of bliss;
But he who firmly holds the knave
Shall yet a sweeter guerdon have.
And lest ye should mistake the wight,
List to his form described aright:—
He is a little wayward thing
That’s panoplied on fiery wing;
Two pinions, like a swan, he carries,
And never for an instant tarries,
But now is here and now is there,
And couples many a curious pair.
His eyes like two bright stars are glowing,
And ever sidelong glances throwing:
He bears about a crafty bow,
And wounds before the wounded know:
His dart, though gilt to please the view,
Is dipp’d in bitter venom too:
His body, though ’tis bare to sight,
Has overthrown full many a knight:
His living torch, though mean and small,
Oft makes the hardiest warrior fall;
The highest dames with care invades,
And spares not e’en the tenderest maids;—
Nay, what is worse than all the rest,
He sometimes wounds his mother’s breast.

If such an urchin should be found,
Proclaim the joyous news around;
And should the boy attempt to fly,
O seize him, seize him daringly.
But if you have the child at last,
Be careful that you hold him fast,
Or else the roving bird he’ll play,
And vanish in thin air away;
And if he seem to pine and grieve,
You must not heed him— nor believe—
Nor trust his tears and feign’d distress,
His winning glance and bland caress;
But watch his cheek when dimples wreathe it,
And think that evil lurks beneath it;
For under his pretended smile
Are veil’d the deepest craft and guile.
If he a kiss should offer, shun
The proffer’d gift, or be undone;
His ruby lips thy heart would sentence
To brief delight, but long repentance:
But if the cunning boy will give
His dart to you—Oh! ne’er receive,
If you would hope for blissful years,
The present that so fair appears:
It is no pledge of love— but shame,
And danger and destroying flame.
Then, friends—to speak with brevity—
This wholesome warning take from me:
Let those who seize the wily ranger
Be on their guard ’gainst many a danger;
For, if they venture too securely,
Misfortunes will assail them surely;
And if they trust the boy in aught,
The catchers will themselves be caught.”

From: Bowring, John and van Dyk, Harry S., Batavian Anthology; or, Specimens of the Dutch Poets; with remarks on the poetical literature and language of the Netherlands, to the end of the Seventeenth century, 1824, Taylor and Hessey: London, pp. 74-77.

Date: 1625 (original in Dutch); 1824 (translation in English)

By: Jacob Cats (1577-1660)

Translated by: John Bowring (1792-1872) and Harry Stoe van Dyk (1798-1828)