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.
 
Hence Away, You Sirens
By George Wither (1588–1667)
 
HENCE 1 away, you Sirens, leave me,
  And unclasp your wanton arms;
Sug’red words shall ne’er deceive me
  Though you prove a thousand charms.
      Fie, fie, forbear;        5
      No common snare
  Could ever my affection chain;
      Your painted baits
      And poor deceits
  Are all bestowed on me in vain.        10
 
I’m no slave to such as you be;
  Neither shall a snowy breast,
Wanton eye, or lip of ruby
  Ever rob me of my rest;
      Go, go, display        15
      Your beauty’s ray
  To some o’ersoon enamoured swain:
      Those common wiles
      Of sighs and smiles
  Are all bestowed on me in vain.        20
 
I have elsewhere vowed a duty;
  Turn away your tempting eyes,
Show not me a naked beauty,
  Those impostures I despise;
      My spirit loathes        25
      Where gaudy clothes
  And feignèd oaths may love obtain:
      I love her so
      Whose look swears no,
  That all your labours will be vain.        30
 
Can he prize the tainted posies
  Which on every breast are worn,
That may pluck the spotless roses
  From their never-touchèd thorn?
      I can go rest        35
      On her sweet breast
  That is the pride of Cynthia’s train;
      Then stay your tongues,
      Your mermaid songs
  Are all bestowed on me in vain.        40
 
He’s a fool that basely dallies
  Where each peasant mates with him;
Shall I haunt the throngèd vallies,
  Whilst there’s noble hills to climb? 2
      No, no, though clowns        45
      Are scared with frowns,
  I know the best can but disdain:
      And those I’ll prove,
      So shall your love
  Be all bestowed on me in vain.        50
 
Yet I would not deign embraces
  With the greatest-fairest she
If another shared those graces
  Which had been bestowed on me.
      I gave that one        55
      My love, where none
  Shall come to rob me of my gain.
      Your fickle hearts
      Makes tears, and arts
  And all, bestowed on me in vain.        60
 
I do scorn to vow a duty
  Where each lustful lad may woo;
Give me her, whose sun-like beauty
  Buzzards dare not soar unto:
      She, she it is        65
      Affords that bliss,
  For which I would refuse no pain;
      But such as you,
      Fond fools, adieu,
  You seek to captive me in vain.        70
 
Proud she seemed in the beginning
  And disdained my looking on,
But that coy one in the winning,
  Proves a true one, being won.
      Whate’er betide        75
      She’ll ne’er divide
  The favour she to me shall deign;
      But your fond love
      Will fickle prove,
  And all that trust in you are vain.        80
 
Therefore know, when I enjoy one,
  And for love employ my breath,
She I court shall be a coy one
  Though I win her with my death.
      A favour there        85
      Few aim at dare;
  And if, perhaps, some lover plain;
      She is not won
      Nor I undone
  By placing of my love in vain.        90
 
Leave me, then, you Sirens, leave me,
  Seek no more to work my harms,
Crafty wiles cannot deceive me,
  Who am proof against your charms:
      You labour may        95
      To lead astray
  The heart that constant shall remain;
      And I the while
      Will sit and smile
To see you spend your time in vain.        100
 
Note 1. Hence away, you Sirens, leave me.  In, commenting on this poem in A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics, Professor Schelling says: “There is a second decidedly weaker version of this facile poem. Wither was often troubled with pangs of conscience for the levity of his earlier Muse; it may have been in one of these moments that he reduced his Sirens to one, and somewhat prudishly covered their antique nakedness.” [back]
Note 2. Whilst there’s noble hills to climb: nouns in the plural were used as the subject of is. Cf. Shakespeare’s ‘There is salmons in both’Henry V., act iv. sc. 6. [back]
 
 
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