Alexander And Campaspe

by John Lyly
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"Cupid And My Campaspe Played At Cards For Kisses"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 184

Context: This quotation is from one of the almost innumerable love songs written during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The songs were all alike in theme: the poets celebrated the more than divine charms of the ladies to whom the songs were addressed, elaborating upon the irresistible power which the love of such women could generate. Hyperbole was pushed to its limits in an effort to portray how overwhelming was the beauty of the mistress to whom the poem was dedicated. Lyly uses the metaphor of a card game in which Cupid, the god of love, is so rash as to pit himself against the poet's mistress, Campaspe. The well-known fact in mythology that "Cupid is blind" has its origin in this game, for Cupid loses all the wagers, including his eyes, to the beautiful Campaspe. If she can defeat the God of Love himself, what will she do to the poet? The song begins:

Cupid and my Campaspe played
At cards for kisses–Cupid paid.
He stakes his quiver, bow, and arrows,
His mother's doves, and team of sparrows;
Loses them too. . . .

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