Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
A Rapture
By Thomas Carew (1595?–1639?)
 
(From The Poems and Masque of Thomas Carew. London. 1640. Edited by Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth. London. 1893)

I WILL enjoy thee now, my Celia, come,
And fly with me to Love’s Elysium,
The Giant, Honour, that keeps cowards out,
Is but a masquer, and the servile rout
Of baser subjects only bend in vain        5
To the vast Idol; whilst the nobler train
Of valiant Lovers daily sail between
The huge Colossus’ legs, and pass unseen
Unto the blissful shore. Be bold and wise,
And we shall enter: the grim Swiss 1 denies        10
    Only to fools a passage, that not know
    He is but form, and only frights in show.
 
  Let duller eyes that look from far, draw near,
And they shall scorn what they were wont to fear.
We shall see how the stalking Pageant goes        15
With borrow’d legs, a heavy load to those
That made and bear him: not, as we once thought,
The seed of Gods, but a weak model, wrought
    By greedy men, that seek to enclose the common,
    And within private arms impale free Woman.        20
 
  Come, then, and mounted on the wings of Love
We’ll cut the fleeting air, and soar above
The Monster’s head, and in the noblest seat
Of those blest shades quench and renew our heat.
There shall the Queens of Love and Innocence,        25
Beauty and Nature, banish all offence
From our close Ivy-twines: there I’ll behold
Thy bared snow and thy unbraided gold;
There my enfranchised hand on every side
Shall o’er thy naked polish’d ivory slide.        30
No curtain there, though of transparent lawn,
Shall be before thy virgin-treasure drawn;
But the rich Mine, to the enquiring eye
Exposed, shall ready still for mintage lie:
And we will coin young Cupids. There a bed        35
Of roses and fresh myrtles shall be spread,
Under the cooler shade of Cypress groves;
Our pillows, of the down of Venus’ doves;
Whereon our panting limbs we’ll gently lay,
In the faint respites of our amorous play:        40
That so our slumbers may in dreams have leisure
To tell the nimble fancy our past pleasure,
    And so our souls—that cannot be embraced—
    Shall the embraces of our bodies taste.
 
  Meanwhile the babbling stream shall court the shore,        45
Th’ enamour’d chirping Wood-choir shall adore
In varied tunes the Deity of Love;
The gentle blasts of Western wind shall move
The trembling leaves, and thro’ the close boughs breathe
Still music, whilst we rest ourselves beneath        50
Their dancing shade: till a soft murmur, sent
From souls entranced in amorous languishment,
    Rouse us, and shoot into our veins fresh fire,
    Till we in their sweet ecstasy expire.
 
  Then, as the empty Bee, that lately bore        55
Into the common treasure all her store,
Flies ’bout the painted field with nimble wing,
Deflow’ring the fresh virgins of the Spring—
So will I rifle all the sweets that dwell
In thy delicious Paradise, and swell        60
My bag with honey, drawn forth by the power
Of fervent kisses from each spicy flower.
I’ll seize the Rose-buds in their perfumed bed,
The violet knots, like curious mazes spread
O’er all the garden; taste the ripened cherries,        65
The warm firm apple, tipp’d with coral berries.
Then will I visit with a wand’ring kiss
The Vale of lilies, and the Bower of bliss;
And where the beauteous region doth divide
Into two milky ways, my lip shall slide        70
Down those smooth alleys, wearing as they go
A track for lovers on the printed snow;
Then climbing o’er the swelling Apennine,
Retire into the grove of Eglantine:
Where I will all those ravished sweets distil        75
Through Love’s alembic, and with chymic skill
    From the mixed mass one sovereign balm derive,
    Then bring the great Elixir to thy hive.
 
  Now in more subtle wreaths I will entwine
My sinewy limbs, my arms and legs, with thine.        80
Thou like a sea of milk shalt lie display’d,
Whilst I the smooth calm ocean will invade,
With such a tempest, as when Jove of old
Fell down on Danæ in a stream of gold;
Yet my tall pinnace shall in the Cyprian strait        85
Ride safe at anchor, and unload her freight:
My rudder with thy bold hand, like a tried
And skilful pilot, thou shalt steer, and guide
    My Bark into Love’s channel, where it shall
    Dance, as the bounding waves do rise or fall.        90
 
  Then shall thy circling arms embrace and clip
My naked body, and thy balmy lip
Bathe me in juice of kisses, whose perfume
Like a religious incense shall consume,
And send up holy vapours to those powers        95
That bless our loves and crown our sportful hours:
That with such Halcyon calmness fix our souls
In steadfast peace, that no annoy controuls.
There no rude sounds fright us with sudden starts;
No jealous ears, when we unrip our hearts,        100
Suck our discourse in; no observing spies
This blush, that glance traduce; no envious eyes
Watch our close meetings: nor are we betray’d
To rivals, by the bribed Chambermaid.
No wedlock bonds unwreath our twisted love;        105
We seek no midnight Arbour nor dark grove,
To hide our kisses: there the hated name
Of husband, wife, chaste, modest, lust or shame,
Are vain and empty words, whose very sound
Was never heard in the Elysian ground.        110
All things are lawful there, that may delight
Nature or unrestrained appetite:
    Like and enjoy: to will and act is one:
    We only sin when Love’s rites are not done.
 
  The Roman Lucrece there reads the divine        115
Lectures of Love’s great master, Aretine,
And knows as well as Lais how to move
Her pliant body in the act of love.
To quench the burning Ravisher, 2 she hurls
Her limbs into a thousand winding curls,        120
And studies artful postures, such as be
Carved on the bark of every neighbouring tree,
By learned hands, that so adorned the rind
Of those fair plants, which, as they lay entwined,
Have fann’d their glowing fires. The Grecian dame, 3        125
That in her endless Web toil’d for a name,
As fruitless as her work, doth now display
Her self before the youth of Ithaca,
And th’ amorous sport of gamesome nights prefer
Before dull dreams of the lost Traveller. 4        130
Daphne hath broke her back, and that swift foot
Which th’ angry Gods had fast’ned with a root
To the fix’d earth, doth now unfetter’d run
To meet th’ embraces of the youthful Sun. 5
She hangs upon him, like his Delphic Lyre;        135
Her kisses blow the old, and breathe new, fire;
Full of her God, she sings inspired lays,
Sweet Odes of love, such as deserve the Bays,
Which she herself was. Next her, Laura lies
In Petrarch’s learned arms, drying those eyes        140
That did in such sweet smooth-paced numbers flow,
As made the world enamour’d of his woe.
These, and ten thousand Beauties more, that died
Slave to the Tyrant, 6 now enlarged deride
    His cancell’d Laws, and for their time mis-spent        145
    Pay unto Love’s Exchequer double rent.
 
  Come then, my Celia, we’ll no more forbear
To taste our joys, struck with a Panic fear,
But will depose from his imperious sway
This proud Usurper, and walk free as they,        150
With necks unyoked; nor is it just that he
Should fetter your soft sex with chastity,
Whom Nature made unapt for abstinence;
When yet this false Impostor can dispense
With human Justice and with sacred Right,        155
And (maugre both their laws) command me fight
With Rivals, or when emulous Lovers dare
Equal with thine their Mistress’ eyes or hair.
  If thou complain’st of wrong, and call my sword
To carve out thy revenge, upon that word        160
He bids me fight and kill; or else he brands
With marks of infamy my coward hands.
And yet Religion bids from blood-shed fly,
And damns me for that act. Then tell me why
  This goblin ‘Honour’, whom the world enshrined,        165
  Should make men Atheists, and not women Kind?
 
Note 1. Warder. [back]
Note 2. Tarquin. [back]
Note 3. Penelope. [back]
Note 4. Odysseus. [back]
Note 5. Phœbus. [back]
Note 6. i.e., Honour. [back]
 
 
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