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(Poem #506) Lament for Zenocrate
Black is the beauty of the brightest day, The golden belle of heaven's eternal fire, That danced with glory on the silver waves, Now wants the fuel that inflamed his beams: And all with faintness and for foul disgrace, He binds his temples with a frowning cloud, Ready to darken earth with endless night: Zenocrate that gave him light and life, Whose eyes shot fire from their ivory bowers, And tempered every soul with lively heat, Now by the malice of the angry skies, Whose jealousy admits no second mate, Draws in the comfort of her latest breath All dazzled with the hellish mists of death. Now walk the angels on the walls of heaven, As sentinels to warn th'immortal souls, To entertain divine Zenocrate. Apollo, Cynthia, and the ceaseless lamps That gently looked upon this loathsome earth, Shine downwards now no more, but deck the heavens To entertain divine Zenocrate. The crystal springs whose taste illuminates Refined eyes with an eternal sight, Like tried silver runs through Paradise To entertain divine Zenocrate. The Cherubins and holy Seraphins That sing and play before the King of Kings, Use all their voices and their instruments To entertain divine Zenocrate. And in this sweet and curious harmony, The God that tunes this music to our souls, Holds out his hand in highest majesty To entertain divine Zenocrate. Then let some holy trance convey my thoughts, Up to the palace of th'imperial heaven: That this my life may be as short to me As are the days of sweet Zenocrate.
From Tamburlaine the Great, Part II. Marlowe's Tamburlaine fascinates me. He's a 'most bloody and insatiate' tyrant, wanton in his cruelty and destructiveness, cold and ruthless in his pursuit of power. And yet Marlowe gives him the most eloquent of tongues, capable of both subtle meditations and vaunting flights of fancy... indeed, it's almost impossible not to be swayed by Tamburlaine's rhetoric even as he puts cities to the sword and declares himself 'the Scourge of God'. There's more about Marlowe's play in the notes that follow, but for now I'll be content to merely analyse this particular speech of Tamburlaine's. It's an odd blend of bombast and tenderness: lines such as "That this my life may be as short to me As are the days of sweet Zenocrate." play a sorrowful counterpoint to the grandeur of "The golden belle of heaven's eternal fire, That danced with glory on the silver waves." The initial conceit foreshadows the Metaphysicals in the multiple levels of meaning which Marlowe teases out of it: Zenocrate's beauty is such that the sun himself falls in love with her; this arouses the jealousy of 'the angry skies', which are the cause of her ailment . The laboured breaths of the dying queen are not enough to draw replenishment from the baleful air; the sun, meanwhile, darkens the earth with endless night in his sorrow and his shame. From this point onwards, the images are piled on thick and fast, as Tamburlaine describes how Heaven itself strives 'to entertain divine Zenocrate' . Two rhetorical tricks are noteworthy here: first, the progression from Apollo to the Cherubim and Seraphim to the King of Kings is a wonderful example of how to build up to a climax , and second, the refrain of 'to entertain divine Zenocrate' adds structure and direction to each stirring phrase. All in all, a magnificent speech. thomas.  Keep in mind the belief, widespread in Elizabethan times, that sickness and health were governed by four humours - phlegm, blood, choler, bile - corresponding to the four elements - earth, water, fire and air. Hence the ability of the sky (air) to cause illness in a mortal. Furthermore, Empedocles identifies Hera with the sky and Zeus with fire; given Hera's reputation as a jealous consort, it's hardly surprising that Zenocrate should arouse her wrath.  I like the double-meaning of the word 'divine' here.  It's also a wonderful example of how to mix mythologies, but we'll let that pass in this case <grin>. [Biography] baptized Feb. 26, 1564, Canterbury, Kent, Eng. died May 30, 1593, Deptford, near London, Eng. Marlowe was the second child and eldest son of John Marlowe, a Canterbury shoemaker. Nothing is known of his first schooling, but on Jan. 14, 1579, he entered the King's School, Canterbury, as a scholar. A year later he went to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Obtaining his bachelor of arts degree in 1584, he continued in residence at Cambridge--which may imply that he was intending to take Anglican orders. In 1587, however, the university hesitated about granting him the master's degree; its doubts (arising from his frequent absences from the university) were apparently set at rest when the Privy Council sent a letter declaring that he had been employed "on matters touching the benefit of his country"--apparently in Elizabeth I's secret service. After 1587 Marlowe was in London, writing for the theatres, occasionally getting into trouble with the authorities because of his violent and disreputable behaviour, and probably also engaging himself from time to time in government service. Marlowe won a dangerous reputation for "atheism," but this could, in Elizabeth I's time, indicate merely unorthodox religious opinions. In Robert Greene's deathbed tract, Greenes groats-worth of witte, Marlowe is referred to as a "famous gracer of Tragedians" and is reproved for having said, like Greene himself, "There is no god" and for having studied "pestilent Machiuilian pollicie." There is further evidence of his unorthodoxy, notably in the denunciation of him written by the spy Richard Baines and in the letter of Thomas Kyd to the lord keeper in 1593 after Marlowe's death. Kyd alleged that certain papers "denying the deity of Jesus Christ" that were found in his room belonged to Marlowe, who had shared the room two years before. Both Baines and Kyd suggested on Marlowe's part atheism in the stricter sense and a persistent delight in blasphemy. Whatever the case may be, on May 18, 1593, the Privy Council issued an order for Marlowe's arrest; two days later the poet was ordered to give daily attendance on their lordships "until he shall be licensed to the contrary." On May 30, however, Marlowe was killed by Ingram Frizer, in the dubious company of Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley, at a lodging house in Deptford, where they had spent most of the day and where, it was alleged, a fight broke out between them over the bill. [Assessment] Marlowe ... alone realized the tragic potential inherent in the popular style, with its bombast and extravagance. His heroes are men of towering ambition who speak blank verse of unprecedented (and occasionally monotonous) elevation, their "high astounding terms" embodying the challenge that they pose to the orthodox norms and limitations of the societies they disrupt. In Tamburlaine the Great (two parts, published 1590) and Edward II (c. 1591; published 1594) traditional political orders are overwhelmed by conquerors and politicians who ignore the boasted legitimacy of weak kings; The Jew of Malta (c. 1589; published 1633) studies the man of business whose financial acumen and trickery give him unrestrained power; The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (c. 1593; published 1604) shows the overthrow of a man whose learning and atheism threaten even God. The main focus of all these plays is on the uselessness of society's moral and religious sanctions against pragmatic, amoral will. They patently address themselves to the anxieties of an age being transformed by new forces in politics, commerce, and science; indeed, the sinister, ironic prologue to The Jew of Malta is spoken by Machiavelli. In his own time Marlowe was damned as atheist, homosexual, and libertine, and his plays remain disturbing because his verse makes theatrical presence into the expression of power, enlisting the spectators' sympathies on the side of his gigantic villain-heroes. His plays thus present the spectator with dilemmas that can be neither resolved nor ignored, and they articulate exactly the divided consciousness of their time. [Tamburlaine] In the earliest of his plays, the two-part Tamburlaine the Great (c. 1587; published 1590), Marlowe's characteristic "mighty line" (as Ben Jonson called it) established blank verse as the staple medium for later Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatic writing. It appears that originally Marlowe intended to write only the first part, concluding with Tamburlaine's marriage to Zenocrate and his making "truce with all the world." But the popularity of the first part encouraged Marlowe to continue the story to Tamburlaine's death. This gave him some difficulty, as he had almost exhausted his historical sources in part I; consequently the sequel has, at first glance, an appearance of padding. Yet the effort demanded in writing the continuation made the young playwright look more coldly and searchingly at the hero he had chosen, and thus part II makes explicit certain notions that were below the surface and insufficiently recognized by the dramatist in part I. The play is based on the life and achievements of Timur (Timurlenk), the bloody 14th-century conqueror of Central Asia and India. Tamburlaine is a man avid for power and luxury and the possession of beauty: at the beginning of part I he is only an obscure Scythian shepherd, but he wins the crown of Persia by eloquence and bravery and a readiness to discard loyalty. He then conquers Bajazeth, emperor of Turkey, he puts the town of Damascus to the sword, and he conquers the sultan of Egypt; but, at the pleas of the sultan's daughter Zenocrate, the captive whom he loves, he spares him and makes truce. In part II Tamburlaine's conquests are further extended; whenever he fights a battle, he must win, even when his last illness is upon him. But Zenocrate dies, and their three sons provide a manifestly imperfect means for ensuring the preservation of his wide dominions; he kills Calyphas, one of these sons, when he refuses to follow his father into battle. Always, too, there are more battles to fight: when for a moment he has no immediate opponent on earth, he dreams of leading his army against the powers of heaven, though at other times he glories in seeing himself as "the scourge of God"; he burns the Qur'an, for he will have no intermediary between God and himself, and there is a hint of doubt whether even God is to be granted recognition. Certainly Marlowe feels sympathy with his hero, giving him magnificent verse to speak, delighting in his dreams of power and of the possession of beauty, as seen in the following of Tamburlaine's lines: Nature, that fram'd us of four elements Warring within our breasts for regiment, Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds: Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend The wondrous architecture of the world, And measure every wandering planet's course, Still climbing after knowledge infinite, And always moving as the restless spheres, Wills us to wear ourselves and never rest, Until we reach the ripest fruit of all, That perfect bliss and sole felicity, The sweet fruition of an earthly crown. But, especially in part II, there are other strains: the hero can be absurd in his continual striving for more demonstrations of his power; his cruelty, which is extreme, becomes sickening; his human weakness is increasingly underlined, most notably in the onset of his fatal illness immediately after his arrogant burning of the Qur'an. In this early play Marlowe already shows the ability to view a tragic hero from more than one angle, achieving a simultaneous vision of grandeur and impotence. [Timur] also spelled Timour, byname Timurlenk, (Turkish: 'Timur the Lame'), English Tamerlane, or Tamburlaine, b. 1336, Kesh, near Samarkand, Transoxania [now in Uzbekistan] d. Feb. 19, 1405, Otrar, near Chimkent [now Shymkent,Kazakstan] Turkic conqueror of Islamic faith, chiefly remembered for the barbarity of his conquests from India and Russia to the Mediterranean Sea and for the cultural achievements of his dynasty. Timur began his rise as leader of a small nomad band and by guile and force of arms established dominion over the lands between the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers (Transoxania) by the 1360s. He then, for three decades, led his mounted archers to subdue each state from Mongolia to the Mediterranean. He was the last of the mighty conquerors of Central Asia to achieve such military successes as leader of the nomad warrior lords, ruling both agricultural and pastoral peoples on an imperial scale. The poverty, bloodshed, and desolation caused by his campaigns gave rise to many legends, which in turn inspired such works as Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great. The name Timur Lenk signified Timur the Lame, a title of contempt used by his Persian enemies, which became Tamburlaine, or Tamerlane, in Europe. Timur was heir to a political, economic, and cultural heritage rooted in the pastoral peoples and nomad traditions of Central Asia. He and his compatriots cultivated the military arts and discipline of Genghis Khan and, as mounted archers and swordsmen, scorned the settled peasants. Timur never took up a permanent abode. He personally led his almost constantly campaigning forces, enduring extremes of desert heat and lacerating cold. When not campaigning he moved with his army according to season and grazing facilities. His court traveled with him, including his household of one or more of his nine wives and concubines. He strove to make his capital, Samarkand, the most splendid city in Asia, but when he visited it he stayed only a few days and then moved back to the pavilions of his encampment in the plains beyond the city. Timur was, above all, master of the military techniques developed by Genghis Khan, using every weapon in the military and diplomatic armory of the day. He never missed an opportunity to exploit the weakness political, economic, or military) of the adversary or to use intrigue, treachery, and alliance to serve his purposes. The seeds of victory were sown among the ranks of the enemy by his agents before an engagement. He conducted sophisticated negotiations with both neighbouring and distant powers, which are recorded in diplomatic archives from England to China. In battle, the nomadic tactics of mobility and surprise were his major weapons ofattack. Timur's most lasting memorials are the Timurid architectural monuments of Samarkand, covered in azure, turquoise, gold, and alabaster mosaics; these are dominated by the great cathedral mosque, ruined by an earthquake but still soaring to an immense fragment of dome. His mausoleum, the Gur-e Amir, is one of the gems of Islamic art. Within the sepulchre he lies under a huge, broken slab of jade. The tomb was opened in 1941, having remained intact for half a millennium. The Soviet Archaeological Commission found the skeleton of a man who, though lame in both right limbs, must have been of powerful physique and tall for a Tatar. Timur's sons and grandsons fought over the succession when the Chinese expedition disbanded, but his dynasty survived in Central Asia for a century in spite of fratricidal strife. Samarkand became a centre of scholarship and science. It was here that Ulugh Beg, his grandson, set up an observatory and drew up the astronomical tables that were later used by the English royal astronomer in the 17th century. During the Timurid renaissance of the 15th century, Herat, southeast of Samarkand, became the home of the brilliant school of Persian miniaturists. At the beginning of the 16th century, when the dynasty ended in Central Asia, his descendant Babur established himself in Kabul and then conquered Delhi, to found the Muslim line of Indian emperors known as the Great Mughals. -- the above four sections from the Encyclopaedia Brittanica