Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
Friendship and Single Life, against Love and Marriage
By Sir John Denham (1615–1669)
 
LOVE, in what poison is thy dart
Dipt, when it makes a bleeding heart?
None know, but they who feel the smart.
 
It is not thou, but we are blind,
And our corporeal eyes (we find)        5
Dazzle the optics of our mind.
 
Love to our citadel resorts,
Through those deceitful sally-ports,
Our sentinels betray our forts.
 
What subtle witchcraft man constrains,        10
To change his pleasure into pains,
And all his freedom into chains?
 
May not a prison or a grave,
Like wedlock, honour’s title have?
That word makes free-born man a slave.        15
 
How happy he that loves not, lives!
Him neither hope nor fear deceives,
To fortune who no hostage gives.
 
How unconcern’d in things to come!
If here uneasy, finds at Rome,        20
At Paris, or Madrid, his home.
 
Secure from low and private ends,
His life, his zeal, his wealth attends
His prince, his country, and his friends.
 
Danger and honour are his joy;        25
But a fond wife, or wanton boy,
May all those generous thoughts destroy.
 
Then he lays-by the public care,
Thinks of providing for an heir;
Learns how to get, and how to spare.        30
 
Nor fire, nor foe, nor fate, nor night,
The Trojan hero did affright,
Who bravely twice renew’d the fight.
 
Though still his foes in number grew,
Thicker their darts and arrows flew,        35
Yet left alone, no fear he knew.
 
But death in all her forms appears,
From every thing he sees and hears,
For whom he leads, and whom he bears.
 
Love, making all things else his foes,        40
Like a fierce torrent, overflows
Whatever doth his course oppose.
 
This was the cause the poets sung,
Thy mother from the sea was sprung,
But they were mad to make thee young.        45
 
Her father, not her son, art thou:
From our desires our actions grow;
And from the cause the effect must flow.
 
Love is as old as place or time;
’Twas he the fatal tree did climb,        50
Grandsire of father Adam’s crime.
 
Well may’st thou keep this world in awe;
Religion, wisdom, honour, law,
The tyrant in his triumph draw.
 
’Tis he commands the power aboves;        55
Phœbus resigns his darts, and Jove
His thunder, to the God of Love.
 
To him doth his feign’d mother yield;
Nor Mars (her champion’s) flaming shield
Guards him, when Cupid takes the field.        60
 
He clips Hope’s wings, whose airy bliss
Much higher than fruition is;
But less than nothing if it miss.
 
When matches Love alone projects,
The cause transcending the effects,        65
That wild-fire’s quench’d in cold neglects.
 
Whilst those conjunctions prove the best,
Where Love’s of blindness despossest,
By perspectives of interest.
 
Though Solomon with a thousand wives,        70
To get a wise successor strives,
But one (and he a fool) survives.
 
Old Rome of children took no care,
They with their friends their beds did share,
Secure t’adopt a hopeful heir.        75
 
Love, drowsy days and stormy nights
Makes; and breaks friendship, whose delights
Feeds, but not glut our appetites.
 
Well-chosen friendship, the most noble
Of virtues, all our joys make double,        80
And into halves divides our trouble.
 
But when the unlucky knot we tie,
Care, avarice, fear, and jealousy,
Make friendship languish till it die.
 
The wolf, the lion, and the bear,        85
When they their prey in pieces tear,
To quarrel with themselves forbear.
 
Yet timorous deer, and harmless sheep,
When love into their veins doth creep,
That law of nature cease to keep.        90
 
Who then can blame the amorous boy,
Who, the fair Helen to enjoy,
To quench his own, set fire on Troy?
 
Such is the world’s preposterous fate,
Amongst all creatures, mortal hate        95
Love (though immortal) doth create.
 
But love may beasts excuse, for they
Their actions not by reason sway,
But their brute appetites obey.
 
But man’s that savage beast, whose mind        100
From reason to self-love declin’d.
Delights to prey upon his kind.
 
 
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