The wanton Troopers riding by
Have shot my Faun and it will dye.
Ungentle men! They cannot thrive
To kill thee. Thou neer didst alive
Them any harm: alas nor cou'd
Thy death yet do them any good.
I'me sure I never wisht them ill;
Nor do I for all this; nor will:
But, if my simple Pray'rs may yet
Prevail with Heaven to forget
Thy murder, I will Joyn my Tears
Rather then fail. But, O my fears!
It cannot dye so. Heavens King
Keeps register of every thing:
And nothing may we use in vain.
Ev'n Beasts must be with justice slain;
Else Men are made their Deodands.
Though they should wash their guilty hands
In this warm life blood, which doth part
From thine, and wound me to the Heart,
Yet could they not be clean: their Stain
Is dy'd in such a Purple Grain.
There is not such another in
The World, to offer for their Sin,
Unconstant Sylvio, when yet
I had not found him counterfeit,
One morning (I remember well)
Ty'd in this silver Chain and Bell,
Gave it to me: nay and I know
What he said then; I'm sure I do.
Said He, look how your Huntsman here
Hath taught a Faun to hunt his Dear.
But Sylvio soon had me beguil'd.
This waxed tame; while he grew wild,
And quite regardless of my Smart,
Left me his Faun, but took his Heart.
Thenceforth I set my self to play
My solitary time away,
With this: and very well content,
Could so mine idle Life have spent.
For it was full of sport; and light
Of foot, and heart; and did invite,
Me to its game: it seem'd to bless
Its self in me. How could I less
Than love it? O I cannot be
Unkind, t' a Beast that loveth me.
Had it liv'd long, I do not know
Whether it too might have done so
As Sylvio did: his Gifts might be
Perhaps as false or more than he.
But I am sure, for ought that I
Could in so short a time espie,
Thy Love was far more better then
The love of false and cruel men.
With sweetest milk, and sugar, first
I it at mine own fingers nurst.
And as it grew, so every day
It wax'd more white and sweet than they.
It had so sweet a Breath! And oft
I blusht to see its foot more soft,
And white, (shall I say then my hand?)
Nay any Ladies of the Land.
It is a wond'rous thing, how fleet
Twas on those little silver feet.
With what a pretty skipping grace,
It oft would challenge me the Race:
And when 'thad left me far away,
'T would stay, and run again, and stay.
For it was nimbler much than Hindes;
And trod, as on the four Winds.
I have a Garden of my own,
But so with Roses over grown,
And Lillies, that you would it guess
To be a little Wilderness.
And all the Spring time of the year
It onely loved to be there.
Among the beds of Lillyes, I
Have sought it oft, where it should lye;
Yet could not, till it self would rise,
Find it, although before mine Eyes.
For, in the flaxen Lillies shade,
It like a bank of Lillies laid.
Upon the Roses it would feed,
Until its lips ev'n seem'd to bleed:
And then to me 'twould boldly trip,
And print those Roses on my Lip.
But all its chief delight was still
On Roses thus its self to fill:
And its pure virgin Limbs to fold
In whitest sheets of Lillies cold.
Had it liv'd long, it would have been
Lillies without, Roses within.
O help! O help! I see it faint:
And dye as calmely as a Saint.
See how it weeps. The Tears do come
Sad, slowly dropping like a Gumme.
So weeps the wounded Balsome: so
The holy Frankincense doth flow.
The brotherless Heliades
Melt in such Amber Tears as these.
I in a golden Vial will
Keep these two crystal Tears; and fill
It till it do o'reflow with mine;
Then place it in Diana's Shrine.
Now my sweet Faun is vanish'd to
Whether the Swans and Turtles go
In fair Elizium to endure,
With milk-white Lambs, and Ermins pure.
O do not run too fast: for I
Will but bespeak thy Grave, and dye.
First my unhappy Statue shall
Be cut in Marble; and withal,
Let it be weeping too: but there
Th' Engraver sure his Art may spare;
For I so truly thee bemoane,
That I shall weep though I be Stone:
Until my Tears, still dropping, wear
My breast, themselves engraving there.
There at my feet shalt thou be laid,
Of purest Alabaster made:
For I would have thine Image be
White as I can, though not as Thee.
In this beautiful pastoral elegy by Marvell a nymph, or female nature spirit, laments the death of a young deer she loved. ("Faun" in this meaning would in modern English be spelt "fawn", Marvell's spelling being now reserved for the half-man, half-goat creatures of mythology.) The nymph's monologue is rich in striking imagery and clever wordplay.
The nymph begins by lamenting the unjustness of the fawn's death, moving on to describe her parting with the unfaithful man Sylvio. Having been betrayed by him, she has turned her affection to the ever-loving deer that Sylvio had given her as a pet. She goes on to describe the fawn's fleetness of foot and to tell how the white animal would lie hidden among white lilies and eat rose petals which stained its mouth red. She concludes by imagining her own grave with a statue of herself and a monument of alabaster for the deer, which yet would not be as white as her beloved was.
Notes: A deodand was an instrument of death, "a personal chattel which, having been the immediate occasion of the death of a person, was forefeited to the Crown to be applied to pious uses." (OED.) "Elizium" refers to the Elysian Fields where the most blessed of the dead went in Greek mythology. The reference to "turtles" is to turtle-doves rather than to shelled sea-going turtles. Diana was the virginal Roman goddess of hunting, associated with deer. The Heliades were the sisters of Phaeton; they were turned into poplar trees after their brother was killed trying to drive the sun's chariot.