Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Wishes to His Supposed Mistress
By Richard Crashaw (c. 1613–1649)
 
WHOE’ER 1 she be—
That not impossible She
That shall command my heart and me:
 
Where’er she lie,
Locked up from mortal eye        5
In shady leaves of destiny:
 
Till that ripe birth
Of studied Fate stand forth,
And teach her fair steps to our earth:
 
Till that divine        10
Idea take a shrine
Of crystal flesh, through which to shine:
 
Meet you her, my Wishes,
Bespeak her to my blisses,
And be ye called my absent kisses.        15
 
I wish her Beauty,
That owes not all its duty
To gaudy tire, or glist’ring shoe-tie:
 
Something more than
Taffata or tissue can,        20
Or rampant feather, or rich fan.
 
A Face, that’s best
By its own beauty drest,
And can alone commend the rest:
 
A Face, made up        25
Out of no other shop
Than what Nature’s white hand sets ope.
 
A Cheek, where youth
And blood, with pen of truth,
Write what the reader sweetly ru’th.        30
 
A Cheek, where grows
More than a morning rose,
Which to no box his being owes.
 
Lips, where all day
A lover’s kiss may play,        35
Yet carry nothing thence away.
 
Looks, that oppress
Their richest tires, but dress
And clothe their simplest nakedness.
 
Eyes, that displace 2        40
The neighbour diamond, and outface
That sunshine by their own sweet grace.
 
Tresses, that wear
Jewels but to declare
How much themselves more precious are:        45
 
Whose native ray
Can tame the wanton day
Of gems that in their bright shades play.
 
Each ruby there,
Or pearl that dare appear,        50
Be its own blush, be its own tear.
 
A well-tamed Heart,
For whose more noble smart
Love may be long choosing a dart.
 
Eyes, that bestow        55
Full quivers on love’s bow,
Yet pay less arrows than they owe.
 
Smiles, that can warm
The blood, yet teach a charm,
That chastity shall take no harm.        60
 
Blushes, that bin
The burnish of no sin,
Nor flames of aught too hot within.
 
Joys, that confess
Virtue their mistress,        65
And have no other head to dress.
 
Fears, fond and slight 3
As the coy bride’s, when night
First does the longing lover right.
 
Days that need borrow        70
No part of their good morrow,
From a fore-spent night of sorrow:
 
Days that in spite
Of darkness, by the light
Of a clear mind are day all night.        75
 
Nights, sweet as they,
Made short by lovers’ play,
Yet long by the absence of the day.
 
Life that dares send
A challenge to his end,        80
And when it comes, say, “Welcome, friend!”
 
Sydneian showers 4
Of sweet discourse, whose powers
Can crown old Winter’s head with flowers.
 
Soft silken hours,        85
Open suns, shady bowers;
’Bove all, nothing within that lowers.
 
Whate’er delight
Can make Day’s forehead bright,
Or give down to the wings of Night.        90
 
I wish her store
Of worth may leave her poor
Of wishes; and I wish—no more.
 
Now, if Time knows
That Her, whose radiant brows        95
Weave them a garland of my vows;
 
Her, whose just bays
My future hopes can raise,
A trophy to her present praise;
 
Her, that dares be        100
What these lines wish to see;
I seek no further, it is She.
 
’Tis She, and here,
Lo! I unclothe and clear
My Wishes’ cloudy character.        105
 
May she enjoy it
Whose merit dare apply it,
But modesty dares still deny it!
 
Such worth as this is
Shall fix my flying Wishes,        110
And determine them to kisses.
 
Let her full glory,
My fancies, fly before ye;
Be ye my fictions—but her story.
 
Note 1. Whoe’er she be.  This, perhaps, the best known of Crashaw’s poems, though it ill-deserves to be, in comparison with two among the other of his pieces included in this volume; it originally appeared in The Delights of the Muses, 1646, The volume was reprinted in 1648 and 1670. The text here followed is that of Dr. Grosart (Complete Works of Richard Crashaw, Fuller Worthies’ Library) from the 1648 ed., with the omission of one stanza between the eighth and ninth, two stanzas between twenty-three and twenty-four, and two stanzas between the thirtieth and thirty-first. “His Wishes to his (supposed) Mistresse has things in it vivid and subtle as anything in Shelley at his best; and I affirm this deliberately.” (Dr. Grosart, in Essay on the Life and Poetry of Crashaw, p. lxxiv. Complete Works.) [back]
Note 2. Eyes that displace: “Here, as in the poem, On the bleeding wounds of our crucified Lord where we read, ‘The thorns that Thy flesh brows encloses,’ and elsewhere, we have an example of the Elizabethan use of ‘that’ as a singular (referring to and thus made a collective plural) taken as the governing nominative to the rest.” (Grosart.) [back]
Note 3. Fears, fond and slight: Dr. Grosart reads flight, and says, “I think ‘flight’ is correct, and not a misprint for ‘slight.’” [back]
Note 4. Sydneian showers: “Either in allusion to the conversation in the Arcadia, or to Sidney himself, as a model of gentleness in spirit and demeanor.” (F. T. Palgrave, Golden Treasury, First Series.) [back]
 
 
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