The Plays of John Lyly: Sapho and Phao

Modern spelling.Transcribed by BF. copyright © 2002
Run-on lines (closing open endings) are indicated by ~~~.
Items discussed in the glossary are underlined.

Act 2
Note: It is revealed that, preceding this scene Venus had been so taken with the Ferryman Phao that she made him exceedingly fair. This spectacular offstage alteration precipitates the actions of the remainder of the play.

Scene II.1: [Before Sybilla's Cave].
[Enter Phao with a small mirror: Sybilla sitting in her cave.]

PHAO: Phao, thy mean fortune causeth thee to use an oar,
and thy sudden beauty a glass. By the one is seen thy need,
in the other thy pride. Oh Venus! In thinking thou has blest
me, thou hast cursed me, adding to a poor estate a proud heart;
and to a disdained man a disdaining mind. Thou dost not
flatter thyself, Phao, thou art fair. Fair? I fear me fair be a
word too foul for a face so passing fair. But what availeth
beauty? Hadst thou all things, thou wouldst wish, thou
mightst die tomorrow; and didst thou want all things thou
desirest, thou shalt live till thou diest. Tush Phao! There is ... [II.1.10]
grown more pride in thy mind than favor in thy face.
Blush, foolish boy, to think on thine own thoughts; cease
complaints, & counsel. And lo! Behold Sybilla in the
mouth of her cave: I will salute her. Lady, I fear me I am out
of my way and so benighted withal that I am compelled to
ask your direction.

SYBILLA: Fair youth, if you will be advised by me, you shall
for this time seek none other inn than my cave, for that it is
no less perilous to travel by night than uncomfortable.

PHAO: Your courtesy offered hath prevented what my ... [II.1.20]
necessity was to entreat.

SYBILLA: Come near, take a stool, and sit down. Now for that
these winter nights are long and that children delight in
nothing more than to hear old wives' tales, we will beguile
the time with some story. And though you behold wrinkles
and furrows in my tawny face, yet may you haply find
wisdom and counsel in my white hairs.

PHAO: Lady, nothing can content me better than a tale,
neither is there anything more necessary for me than counsel.

SYBILLA: Were you born so fair by nature? ... [II.1.30]

PHAO: No, made so fair by Venus.

SYBILLA: For what cause?

PHAO: I fear me for some curse.

SYBILLA: Why, do you love and cannot obtain?

PHAO: No, I may obtain but cannot love.

SYBILLA: Take heed of that, my child.

PHAO: I cannot choose, good Madame.

SYBILLA: Then hearken to my tale, which I hope shall be as
a straight thread to lead you out of those crooked conceits
and place you in the plain path of love. ... [II.1.40]

PHAO: I attend.

SYBILLA: When I was young, as you now are (I speak it
without boasting), I was as beautiful. For Phoebus in his
godhead sought to get my maidenhead; but I (fond wench),
receiving a benefit from above, began to wax squeamish
beneath; not unlike to asolis, which being made green by
heavenly drops, shrinketh into the ground when there fall
showers; or the Syrian mud, which being made white chalk
by the sun, never ceaseth rolling til it lie in the sha-dow. He
to sweet prayers added great promises. I, either desirous to ... [II.1.50]
make trial of his power, or willing to prolong mine own life,
caught up my handful of sand, consenting to his suit if I
might live as many years as there were grains. Phoebus
(for what cannot gods do, and what for love will they not do?)
granted my petition. And then, I sigh and blush to tell the
rest, I recalled my promise.

PHAO: Was not the god angry to see you so unkind?

SYBILLA: Angry, my boy, which was the cause that I was

PHAO: What revenge for such rigor used the gods? ... [II.1.60]

SYBILLA: None, but suffering us to live and know we are
no gods.

PHAO: I pray tell on.

SYBILLA: I will. Having received long life by Phoebus and
rare beauty by nature, I thought all the year would have
been May, that fresh colors would always continue, that time
and fortune could not wear out what gods and nature had
wrought up; not once imagining that white and red should
return to black and yellow, the juniper, the longer it grew, the
crookeder it waxed; or that in a face without blemish there ... [II.1.70]
should come wrinkles without number. I did as you do, go
with my glass, ravished with the pride of mine own beauty;
& you shall do as I do: loathe to see a glass, disdaining
deformity. There was none that heard of my fault but
shunned my favor, insomuch as I stooped for age before I
tasted of youth, sure to be long lived, uncertain to be
beloved. Gentlemen that used to sigh from their hearts for
my sweet love began to point with their fingers at my
withered face, and laughed to see the eyes, out of which fire
seemed to sparkle, to be succored (being old) with spectacles. ... [II.1.80]
This causeth me to withdraw myself to a solitary cave,
where I must lead six hundred years in no less pensive-ness
of crabbed age than grief of remembered youth. Only this
comfort: that being ceased to be fair, I study to be wise, wishing
to be thought a grave matron since I cannot return to be a
young maid.

PHAO: Is it not possible to die before you become so old?

SYBILLA: No more possible than to return as you are, to be
so young.

PHAO: Could not you settle your fancy upon any, or would ... [II.1.90]
not destiny suffer it?

SYBILLA: Women willingly ascribe that to fortune which
wittingly was committed by frowardness.

PHAO: What will you have me do?

SYBILLA: Take heed you do not as I did. Make not too much of
fading beauty, which is fair in the cradle & foul in the
grave, resembling polyon, whose leaves are white in the
morning and blue before night, or anyta, which being a
sweet flower at the rising of the sun becometh a weed if it be
not plucked before the setting. Fair faces have no fruits if
they have no witnesses. When you shall behold over this ... [II.1.100]
tender flesh a tough skin, your eyes, which were wont to
glance on others' faces to be sunk so hollow that you can
scarce look out of your head; and when all your teeth shall
wag as fast as your tongue, then will you repent the time
which you cannot recall and be en-forced to bear what most
you blame. Lose not the pleasant time of your youth, than
the which there is nothing swifter, nothing sweeter. Beauty
is a slippery good which decreaseth whilst it is increasing,
resembling the med-lar, which in the moment of his full ... [II.1.110]
ripeness is known to be in a rottenness. Whiles you look in
the glass, it waxeth old with time; if on the sun, parched with
heat; if on the wind, blasted with cold. A great care to keep
it, a short space to enjoy it, a sudden time to lose it. Be not coy
when you are courted: fortune's wings are made of time's
feathers, which stay not whilst one may measure them. Be
affable and courteous in youth, that you may be honored in
age. Roses that lose their colors keep their savors, and plucked
from the stalk are put to the still. Cotonea, because it boweth
when the sun riseth, is sweetest when it is oldest; and ... [II.1.120]
children which in their tender years sow courtesy, shall in
their declining states reap pity. Be not proud of beauty's
painting, whose colors consume themselves because they are
beauty's painting.

PHAO: I am driven by your counsel into divers conceits,
neither knowing how to stand or where to fall; but to yield
to love is the only thing I hate.

SYBILLA: I commit you to fortune, who is like to play such
pranks with you as your tender years can scarce bear nor
your green wits understand. But repair unto me often, and if ... [II.1.130]
I cannot remove the effects, yet I will manifest the causes.

PHAO: I go, ready to return for advice before I am resolved
to adventure.

SYBILLA: Yet hearken two words: thou shalt get friendship
by dissembling, love by hatred; unless thou perish, thou shalt
perish: in digging for a stone, thou shalt reach a star: thou
shalt be hated most because thou art loved most. Thy death
shall be feared & wished: so much for prophecy, which
nothing can prevent; and this for counsel, which thou mayst
follow. Keep not company with ants that have wings, nor ... [II.1.140]
talk with any near the hill of a mole; where thou smellest the
sweetness of serpent's breath, beware thou touch no part of
the body. Be not merry among those that put bugloss in their
wine and sugar in thine. If any talk of the eclipse of the sun,
say thou never sawest it. Nourish no conies in thy vaults, nor
swallows in thine eaves. Sew next thy vines mandrake, and
ever keep thine ears open and thy mouth shut, thine eyes
upward and thy fingers down. So shalt thou do better than
otherwise, though never so well as I wish.

PHAO: Alas! Madam, your prophecy threateneth miseries, ... [II.1.150]
and your counsel warneth impossibilities.

SYBILLA: Farewell. I can answer no more. [Exit (into cave).]

Scene II.2: [The same.]
[Enter to Phao, Sapho, Trachinus, Pandion, Criticus, Molus.]

PHAO: Unhappy Phao! -- But soft, what gallant troupe is this?
What gentlewoman is this?

CRITICUS: Sapho, a Lady here in Sicily.

SAPHO: What fair boy is that?

TRACHINUS: Phao, the ferryman of Syracusa.

PHAO: I never saw one more brave: be all Ladies of such

CRITICUS: No, this is she that all wonder at and worship.

SAPHO: I have seldom seen a sweeter face: be all ferrymen
of that fairness? ... [II.2.10]

TRACHINUS: No Madam, this is he that Venus determined
among men to make the fairest.

SAPHO: Seeing I am only come forth to take the air, I will
cross the ferry and so the fields, then going in through the
park. I think the walk will be pleasant.

TRACHINUS: You will much delight in the flattering green,
which now beginneth to be in his glory.

SAPHO: Sir boy, will ye undertake to carry us over the
water? Are you dumb, can you not speak?

PHAO: Madam, I crave pardon. I am spurblind; I could ... [II.2.20]
scarce see.

SAPHO: It is pity in so good a face there should be an evil eye.

PHAO: I would in my face there were never an eye.

SAPHO: Thou canst never be rich in a trade of life of all the

PHAO: Yet content Madam, which is a kind of life of all the

SAPHO: Wilt thou forsake thy ferry, and follow the court as
a page?

PHAO: As it pleaseth fortune, Madam, to whom I am a ... [II.2.30]

SAPHO: Come, let us go.

TRACHINUS: Will you go, Pandion?

PANDION: Yea. [Exeunt.]

Scene II.3: A Street.
[Enter Molus and Criticus, meeting.]

MOLUS: Criticus comes in good time; I shall not be alone.
What news, Criticus?

CRITICUS: I taught you that lesson, to ask what news, &
this is the news: tomorrow there shall be a desperate fray
between two, made at all weapons, from the brown bill to
the bodkin.

MOLUS: Now thou talkest of frays, I pray thee what is that
whereof they talk so commonly in court: valor, the stab,
the pistol, for the which every man that dareth is so much
honored? ... [II.3.10]

CRITICUS: Oh Molus, beware of valor! He that can look big,
and wear his dagger pommel lower than the point, that lieth
at a good ward, and can hit a button with a thrust, and will
into the field man to man for a bout or two: he, Molus, is a
shrewd fellow and shall be well followed.

MOLUS: What is the end?

CRITICUS: ~~~ Danger or death.

MOLUS: If it be but death that bringeth all this commendation,
I account him as valiant that is killed with a surfeit, as with
a sword.

CRITICUS: How so? ... [II.3.20]

MOLUS: If I venture upon a full stomach to eat a rasher on
the coals, a carbon-ado, drink a carouse, swallow all things
that may procure sickness or death, am not I as valiant to
die so in a house, as the other in a field? Methinks that
Epicures are as desperate as soldiers, and cooks provide as
good weapons as cutlers.

CRITICUS: Oh valiant knight!

MOLUS: I will die for it: what greater valor?

CRITICUS: Scholars fight, who rather seek to choke their
stomachs than see their blood. ... [II.3.30]

MOLUS: I will stand upon this point: if it be valor to dare die,
he is valiant howsoever he dieth.

CRITICUS: Well, of this hereafter: but here cometh Calypho,
we will have some sport. [Enter Calypho.]

CALYPHO: My mistress, I think, hath got a gadfly; never at
home, and yet none can tell where abroad. My master was a
wise man when he matched with such a woman. When she
comes in, we must put out the fire, because of the smoke,
hang up our hammers because of the noise, and do no work,
but watch what she wanteth. She is fair, but by my troth I ... [II.3.40]
doubt of her honesty. I must seek her that I fear Mars hath

CRITICUS: Whom dost thou seek?

CALYPHO: I have found those I seek not.

MOLUS: I hope you have found those which are honest.

CALYPHO: It may be, but I seek no such.

MOLUS: Criticus, you shall see me, by learning, to prove
Calypho to be the devil.

CRITICUS: Let us see; but I pray thee prove it better than
thou didst thyself to be valiant. ... [II.3.50]

MOLUS: Calypho, I will prove thee to be the devil.

CALYPHO: Then will I swear thee to be a god.

MOLUS: The devil is black.

CALYPHO: ~~~ What care I?

MOLUS: Thou art black.

CALYPHO: ~~~ What care you?

MOLUS: Therefore thou art the devil.

CALYPHO: I deny that.

MOLUS: ~~~ It is the conclusion, thou must not deny it.

CALYPHO: In spite of all conclusions, I will deny it.

CRITICUS: Molus, the Smith holds you hard.

MOLUS: Thou seest he hath no reason.

CRITICUS: Try him again. ... [II.3.60]

MOLUS: I will reason with thee now from a place.

CALYPHO: I mean to answer you in no other place.

MOLUS: Like master, like man.

CALYPHO: ~~~ It may be.

MOLUS: But thy master hath horns.

CALYPHO: ~~~ And so mayst thou.

MOLUS: Therefore thou hast horns, and ergo a devil.

CALYPHO: Be they all devils have horns?

MOLUS: All men that have horns, are.

CALYPHO: Then are there more devils on earth than in hell.

MOLUS: But what dost thou answer? ... [II.3.70]

CALYPHO: I deny that.

MOLUS: ~~~ What?

CALYPHO: Whatsoever it is, that shall prove me a devil. But
hearest thou, scholar, I am a plain fellow, and can fashion
nothing but with the hammer. What wilt thou say, if I prove
thee a smith?

MOLUS: Then will I say thou art a scholar.

CRITICUS: Prove it Calypho, and I will give thee a good

CALYPHO: I will prove it or else --

CRITICUS: ~~~ Or else what?

CALYPHO: Or else I will not prove it. Thou art a Smith: ... [II.3.80]
therefore thou art a smith. The conclusion, you say, must
not be denied: & therefore it is true, thou art a smith.

MOLUS: Aye, but I deny your antecedent.

CALYPHO: Aye, but you shall not. Have I not touched him,

CRITICUS: You have both done learnedly; for as sure as he
is a smith, thou art a devil.

CALYPHO: And then he a devil because a smith; for that it
was his reason to make me a devil, being a smith.

MOLUS: There is no reasoning with these Mechanical dolts, ... [II.3.90]
whose wits are in their hands, not in their heads.

CRITICUS: Be not choleric: you are wise. But let us take up
this matter with a song.

CALYPHO: I am content, my voice is as good as my reason.

MOLUS: Then shall we have sweet music. But come, I will
not break off.


CRITICUS: Merry knaves are we three-a,

MOLUS: When our Songs do agree-a.

CALYPHO: Oh now I well see-a
What anon we shall be-a. ... [II.3.100]

CRITICUS: If we ply thus our singing,

MOLUS: Pots then must be flinging;

CALYPHO: If the drink be but stinging,

MOLUS: I shall forget the Rules of Grammar,

CALYPHO: And I the pit-apat of my hammer.

ALL: To the Tap-house then let's gang and roar.
Call hard, 'tis rare to vamp a score.
Draw dry the tub, be it old or new,
And part not till the ground look blue. [Exeunt.]

Scene II.4: [Before Sybilla's Cave.]
[Enter Phao.]

PHAO: What unacquainted thoughts are these, Phao, far
unfit for thy thoughts; unmeet for thy birth, thy fortune,
thy years, for Phao! Unhappy, canst thou not be content to
behold the sun, but thou must covet to build thy nest in the
Sun? Doth Sapho bewitch thee, whom all the Ladies in Sicily
could not woo? Yea, poor Phao, the greatness of thy mind is
far above the beauty of thy face, and the hardness of thy
fortune beyond the bitterness of thy words. Die, Phao, Phao
die: for there is no hope if thou be wise; nor safety, if thou be
fortunate. Ah Phao, the more thou seekest to suppress those ... [II.4.10]
mounting affections, they soar the loftier, & the more thou
wrestlest with them, the stronger they wax, not unlike unto
a ball, which the harder it is thrown against the earth, the
higher it boundeth into the air; or our Sicilian stone, which
groweth hardest by hammering. Oh divine love! And
therefore divine, because love, whose deity no conceit can
compass, and therefore no authority can con-strain, as
miraculous in working as mighty, & no more to be
suppressed than comprehended. How now, Phao, whither art
thou carried, committing idolatry with that God whom thou ... [II.4.20]
hast cause to blaspheme? Oh Sapho, fair Sapho! Peace,
miserable wretch, enjoy thy care in covert, wear willow in
thy hat and bays in thy heart. Lead a lamb in thy hand, &
a fox in thy head, a dove on the back of thy hand, & a
sparrow in the palm. Gold boileth best, when it bubbleth least:
water runneth smoothest, where it is deepest. Let thy love
hang at thy heart's bottom, not at the tongue's brim. Things
untold are undone; there can be no greater comfort than to
know much, nor any less labor than to say nothing. But ah.
thy beauty Sapho, thy beauty! Beginnest thou to blab? Aye, ... [II.4.30]
blab it Phao, as long as thou blabbest her beauty. Bees that
die with honey are buried with harmony. Swans that end
their lives with songs are covered when they are dead with
flowers; and they that till their latter gasp commend beauty,
shall be ever honored with benefits. In these extremities I
will go to none other Oracle than Sybilla, whose old years
have not been idle in these young attempts, & whose sound
advice may mitigate (though the heavens cannot remove)
my miseries. Oh Sapho, sweet Sapho! Sapho! -- Sybilla?
[Sybilla appears in the mouth of the cave.]

SYBILLA: Who is there?

PHAO: ~~~ One not worthy to be one. ... [II.4.40]

SYBILLA: Fair Phao?

PHAO: ~~~ Unfortunate Phao!

SYBILLA: Come in.

PHAO: So I will; and quite thy tale of Phoebus with one
whose brightness darkeneth Phoebus. I love Sapho, Sybilla;
Sapho, ah Sapho, Sybilla!

SYBILLA: A short tale Phao, and a sorrowful; it asketh pity
rather than counsel.

PHAO: So it is, Sybilla: yet in these firm years methinketh
there should harbor such experience as may defer, though
not take away, my destiny. ... [II.4.50]

SYBILLA: It is hard to cure that by words, which cannot be
eased by herbs; and yet if thou wilt take advice, be attentive.

PHAO: I have brought mine ears of purpose, and will hang at
your mouth til you have finished your discourse.

SYBILLA: Love, fair child, is to be governed by art, as thy boat
by an oar; for fancy, though it cometh by hazard, is ruled
by wisdom. If my precepts may persuade (and I pray thee
let them persuade), I would wish thee first to be diligent, for
that women desire nothing more than to have their servants'
officious. Be always in sight but never slothful. Flatter, I ... [II.4.60]
mean lie: little things catch light minds, and fancy is a worm
that feedeth first upon fennel. Imagine with thyself all are to
be won: otherwise mine advice were as unnecessary as thy
labor. It is unpossible for the brittle metal of women to
withstand the flattering attempts of men; only this: let them
be asked; their sex requireth no less, their modesties are to be
allowed so much. Be prodigal in praises and promises: beauty
must have a trumpet, & pride a gift. Peacocks never spread
their feathers but when they are flattered, & Gods are
seldom pleased if they be not bribed. There is none so foul ... [II.4.70]
that thinketh not herself fair. In commending thou canst
lose no labor; for of everyone thou shalt be believed. Oh simple
women that are brought rather to believe what their ears
hear of flattering men, than what their eyes see in true glasses!

PHAO: You digress, only to make me believe that women do
so lightly believe.

SYBILLA: Then to the purpose. Choose such times to break thy
suit, as thy Lady is pleasant. The wooden horse entered Troy
when the soldiers were quaffing; and Penelope forsooth, whom
fables make so coy, among the pots wrung her wooers by the ... [II.4.80]
fists when she lowered on their faces. Grapes are mind-glasses.
Venus worketh in Bacchus' press, & bloweth fire upon his
liquor. When thou talkest with her, let thy speech be pleasant,
but not incredible. Choose such words as may (as many may)
melt her mind. Honey rankleth when it is eaten for pleasure,
and fair words wound when they are heard for love. Write,
and persist in writing; they read more than is written to
them, & write less than they think. In conceit study to be
pleasant, in attire brave, but not too curious; when she smileth,
laugh outright; if rise, stand up; if sit, lie down. Lose all thy ... [II.4.90]
time to keep time with her. Can you sing, show your
cunning; can you dance, use your legs; can you play upon
any instrument, practice your fingers to please her fancy;
seek out qualities. If she seem at the first cruel, be not
discouraged. I tell thee a strange thing: women strive because
they would be overcome. Force they call it, but such a
welcome force they account it, that continually they study to
be enforced. To fair words join sweet kisses, which if they
gently receive, I say no more: they will gently receive. But
be not pinned always on her sleeves; strangers have green ... [II.4.100]
rushes, when daily guests are not worth a rush. Look pale,
and learn to be lean, that whoso seeth thee may say, 'the
Gentleman is in love.' Use no sorcery to hasten thy success:
wit is a witch: Ulysses was not fair, but wise, not cunning in
charms but sweet in speech, whose filed tongue made those
enamored that sought to have him enchanted. Be not coy:
bear, sooth, swear, die to please thy Lady: these are rules for
poor lovers; to others I am no mistress. He hath wit enough,
that can give enough. Dumb men are eloquent, if they be
liberal. Believe me, great gifts are little Gods. When thy ... [II.4.110]
mistress doth bend her brow, do not bend thy fist. Cammocks
must be bowed with sleight, not strength; water [is] to be trained
with pipes, not stopped with sluices; fire to be quenched with
dust, not with swords. If thou have a rival, be patient; art
must wind him out, not malice; time, not might; her change,
and thy constancy. Whatsoever she weareth, swear it
becomes her. In thy love be secret. Venus' coffers, though
they be hollow, never sound, & when they seem emptiest,
they are fullest. Old fool that I am! To do thee good, I begin
to dote, & counsel that which I would have concealed. Thus, ... [II.4.120]
Phao, have I given thee certain regards, no rules, -- only to set
thee in the way, not to bring thee home.

PHAO: Ah, Sybilla, I pray go on, that I may glut myself in
this science.

SYBILLA: Thou shalt not surfeit, Phao, whilest I diet thee.
Flies that die on the honeysuckle become poison to bees. A
little in love is a great deal.

PHAO: But all that can be said not enough.

SYBILLA: White silver draweth black lines, and sweet words
will breed sharp torments. ... [II.4.130]

PHAO: What shall become of me?

SYBILLA: ~~~ Go dare. [Exit into cave.]

PHAO: I go! -- Phao, thou canst but die; & then as good die
with great desires, as pine in base fortunes. [Exit.]

Continue to Sapho and Phao Act 3

Sapho and Phao Act 4
Sapho and Phao Act 5

Go to Sapho and Phao Glossary and Appendices

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