Gateway to the Classics: Oxford Book of English Verse, Part 1 by Arthur Quiller-Couch
Oxford Book of English Verse, Part 1 by  Arthur Quiller-Couch

Ulysses and the Siren

Siren:        Come, worthy Greek! Ulysses, come,

Possess these shores with me:

The winds and seas are troublesome,

And here we may be free.

Here may we sit and view their toil

That travail in the deep,

And joy the day in mirth the while,

And spend the night in sleep.

Ulysses:     Fair Nymph, if fame or honour were

To be attain'd with ease,

Then would I come and rest me there,

And leave such toils as these.

But here it dwells, and here must I

With danger seek it forth:

To spend the time luxuriously

Becomes not men of worth.

Siren:        Ulysses, O be not deceived

With that unreal name;

This honour is a thing conceived,

And rests on others' fame:

Begotten only to molest

Our peace, and to beguile

The best thing of our life—our rest,

And give us up to toil.

Ulysses:     Delicious Nymph, suppose there were

No honour nor report,

Yet manliness would scorn to wear

The time in idle sport:

For toil doth give a better touch

To make us feel our joy,

And ease finds tediousness as much

As labour yields annoy.

Siren:        Then pleasure likewise seems the shore

Whereto tends all your toil,

Which you forgo to make it more,

And perish oft the while.

Who may disport them diversely

Find never tedious day,

And ease may have variety

As well as action may.

Ulysses:     But natures of the noblest frame

These toils and dangers please;

And they take comfort in the same

As much as you in ease;

And with the thought of actions past

Are recreated still:

When Pleasure leaves a touch at last

To show that it was ill.

Siren:        That doth Opinion only cause

That's out of Custom bred,

Which makes us many other laws

Than ever Nature did.

No widows wail for our delights,

Our sports are without blood;

The world we see by warlike wights

Receives more hurt than good.

Ulysses:     But yet the state of things require

These motions of unrest:

And these great Spirits of high desire

Seem born to turn them best:

To purge the mischiefs that increase

And all good order mar:

For oft we see a wicked peace

To be well changed for war.

Siren:        Well, well, Ulysses, then I see

I shall not have thee here:

And therefore I will come to thee,

And take my fortune there.

I must be won, that cannot win,

Yet lost were I not won;

For beauty hath created been

T' undo, or be undone.

— Samuel Daniel

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