Libretto: Venus and Adonis

von John Blow

(Maestoso, Allegro, Tempo Primo)


The curtain is drawn where is discovered Cupid with a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other and arrows by his side and around him Shepherds and Shepherdesses.

Cupid's Entry
Cupid bows and sings:

Behold my arrows and my bow
And I desire my art to show:
No one bosom shall be found
Ere I have done, without a wound,
But it would be the greatest art
To shoot myself into your heart;
Thither with both my wings I move,
Pray entertain the God of Love.

Come, Shepherds all, let's sing and play,
Be willing, lovesome, fond and gay.

She who those soft hours misuses
And a begging Swain refuses
When she would the time recover
May she have a feeble lover.

The best of the Celestial Pow'rs
Is come to give us happy hours.

Oh, let him not from hence remove

Till ev'ry bosom's full of love.

Courtiers, there is no faith in you,
You change as often as you can:
Your women they continue true
But till they see another man.

Cupid hast thou many found
Long in the same fetters bound?

At court I find constant and true
Only an aged lord or two

Who do their Empire longest hold

The foolish ugly and the old ...
In these sweet groves love is not taught
Beauty and pleasure is not bought;
To warm desires the women nature moves
And ev'ry youthful swain by nature loves ...

In these sweet groves etc.

While this Chorus is singing a Shepherd and Shepherdess dance to it.

Lovers to the close shades retire,
Do what your kindest thoughts inspire.

Exeunt omnes. The Curtain closes.


The Act Tune

The Curtain opens and discovers Venus and Adonis sitting together upon a Couch, embracing one another.



Venus, when shall I taste soft delights
And on thy bosom lie?
Let's seek the shadiest covert of this grove
And never, never disappoint expecting love.

Adonis, thy delightful youth
Is full of beauty and of truth.
With thee the Queen of Love employs
The hours design'd for softer joys.

My Venus still has something new
Which forces lovers to be true.

Me my lovely youth shall find
Always tender, ever kind.

Hunter's Music
They rise from the Couch when they hear the Music.

Hark, hark, the rural music sounds,
Hark, hark the hunters, hark, hark the hounds!
They summon to the chase, haste haste away.

Adonis will not hunt today.
I have already caught the noblest prey.

No, my shepherd, haste away,
Absence kindles new desire,
I would not have my lover tire ...
My shepherd, will you know the art
By which I keep a conquer'd heart?
I seldom vex a lover's ears
With business or with jealous fears.
I give him freely all delights
With pleasant days and easy nights.

Yet there is a sort of men
Who delight in heavy chains
Upon whom ill-usage gains
And they never love till then.

Those are fools of mighty leisure
Wise men love the easiest pleasure.
I give you freely all delights
With pleasant days and easy nights.

Adonis will not hunt today.

No, my shepherd, haste away.

Enter Huntsmen to Adonis, and sing this Chorus.

Come follow, follow, follow,
Come follow to the noblest game.
Here the spritely youth may purchase fame.

A mighty boar our spear and darts defies,
He foams and rages, see, see, he wounds
The stoutest of our Cretan hounds,
He roars like thunder and he lightens from his eyes.

You who the slothful joys of city hate
And, early up, for rougher pleasures wait,
Next the delight which heav'nly beauty yields
Nothing, oh nothing is so sweet
As for our huntsmen, that do meet
With able coursers and good hounds to range the fields.

Lachne has fastened first but she is old;
Bring hither Ladon, he is strong and bold,
Heigh Lachne, heigh Melampus; oh, they bleed,
Your spears, your spears, Adonis thou shalt lead.

Exeunt singing.

Entry: A dance by a Huntsman

The Curtain closes.


The Act Tune

The Curtain opens and Venus and Cupid are seen standing with Little Cupids round about them.

You place with such delightful care
The fetters which your lovers wear;
None can be weary to obey
When you their eager wishes bless,
Cupid points to the little Cupids
The crowding Joys each other press
And round you smiling Cupids play.

Flattering boy, hast thou been reading
Thy lessons and refined arts
By which thou may'st set ableeding
A-thousand, thousand tender hearts?

Yes, but mother, teach me to destroy
All such as scorn your wanton boy.

Fit well your arrows when you strike
And choose for all what each may like.
But make some love, they know not why,
And for the ugly and ill-humour'd die;
Such as scorn Love's fire,
Force them to admire.

The Cupid's Lesson
The little Cupids repeat their lesson after Cupid.

The insolent, the arrogant,
The M-E-R-: Mer; C-E: Ce; N-A: Na; R-Y: Ry;
The mercenary, the vain and silly.
The jealous and uneasy, all such as tease ye ...
Choose for the formal fool
Who scorns Love's mighty school,
One that delights in secret glances
And a great reader of romances.
For him that's faithless, wild and gay,
Who with Love's pain does only play,
Take some affected, wanton she,
As faithless and as wild as he.

But, Cupid, how shall I make Adonis constant still?

Use him very ill ...
Venus laughs
To play, my Loves, to play;
Venus makes it holiday.

A Dance of Cupids
(Allegro Leggiero)

After the dance the little Cupids piay together at hide and seek and hot cockles till Cupid frightens them off the stage with a Vizard Mask, and then they come on again, peeping, when Cupid calls the Graces.

Call, call the Graces.

Come, all ye Graces! 'Tis your duty
To keep the Magazine of Beauty.

Enter the Graces

Mortals below, Cupids above,
Sing the praises of the Queen of Love.
The world for that bright Beauty dies;
Sing the triumphs of her conqu'ring eyes.
Hark, ev'n Nature sighs. This joyful night
She will beget desire and yield delight.

The Graces' Dance
(L'istesso tempo)


Saraband for the Graces

A Ground

While the Graces dance, the Cupids dress Venus, one combing her head, another ties a bracelet of pearls round her waist etc.
After the dances the Curtain closes upon them.


The Act Tune

The Curtain opens and discovers Venus standing in a melancholy posture. A mourning Cupid goes across the stage and shakes an arrow at her.

Adonis, uncall'd-for sighs
From my sad bosom rise,
And grief has the dominion of my eyes.
A mourning Love passed by me now that sung
Of tombs and urns and ev'ry mournful thing:
Return, Adonis, 'tis for thee I grieve.

Venus leans against the side of the stage and weeps. Adonis is led in wounded.

I come, as fast as Death will give me leave.
Behold the wound made by th' Aedalian boar;
Faithful Adonis now must be no more.

Ah, blood and warm life his rosy cheeks forsake.
Alas, Death's sleep thou art too young to take.
My groans shall reach the heav'ns; oh, pow'rs above
Take pity on the wretched Queen of Love!

Oh, I could well endure the pointed dart,
Did it not make the best of lovers part.

Ye cruel gods, why should not I
Have the great privilege to die?

Love, mighty Love, does my kind bosom fire;
Shall I for want of vital heat expire?
No, no, warm life returns, and Death's afraid
This heart (Love's faithful kingdom) to invade.

No, the grim Monster gains the day;
With thy warm blood life steals away.

I see fate calls; let me on your soft bosom lie.
There I did wish to live, and there I beg to die.

Adonis dies.

Ah, Adonis my love, ah, Adonis ...
With solemn pomp let mourning Cupids bear
My soft Adonis through the yielding air ...
He shall adorn the heav'ns, here I will weep
Till I am fall'n into as cold a sleep.

Mourn for thy servant, mighty God of Love,
Weep for your huntsman, oh forsaken grove.
Mourn, Echo, mourn, thou shalt no more repeat
His tender sighs and vows when he did meet
With the wretched Queen of Love
In this forsaken grove.