The conceit of the ancients is that love was beyond control, instead the son of Venus, Cupid, shot you and you were ensared in love, without control. It was fate. The drama was that the noble youth and maiden were bought down by the fickle nature of the Gods. But the Elizabethans knew better. Though they used the ancient mythos as metaphor, they know that it was their flaws.

Their desire, their animal nature. The reference to the pagan was to a nature that need to be tamed. So that we could create something akin to Eden within England, in our gardens. The woods were for the outlaws, who the nobles considered poachers of the game that was theirs by right.

The worship of nature as nature was known, correctly, as an error. Marriage was too serious a commitment to leave to eros, infatuation or desire. Stella married another. Astrophel knew his duty. Walk away. The knightly pining for his master's wife was treason.

Photo by Josh Millgate / Unsplash

XLIII

Faire eyes, sweet lips, dear heart, that foolish I
Could hope, by Cupids help, on you to pray,
Since to himselfe he doth your gifts apply,
As his maine force, choise sport, and easefull stay!

For when he will see who dare him gain-say,
Then with those eyes he looeks: lo, by and by
Each soule doth at Loues feet his weapons lay,
Glad if for her he giue them leaue to die.

When he will play, then in her lips he is,
Where, blushing red, that Loues selfe them doe loue,
With either lip he doth the other kisse;
But when he will, for quiets sake, remoue

From all the world, her heart is then his rome,
Where well he knowes no man to him can come.

Sir Philip Sydney

Unrequited this love was. Sydney used this poetry cycle to rid himself of this desire. He continued to do his duty as an officer of his Queen. We should do likewise. Leave Pagan cupid alone, and keep the marriage bed holy.