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.
 
The Fan
By John Gay (1685–1732)
 
(From The Fan, 1713)
*        *        *        *        *
SEE, to his soft embraces how she steals,
And on his lips her warm caresses seals;
No more her hand the glitt’ring jav’lin holds,
But round his neck her eager arms she folds.
Why are our secrets by our blushes shown?        5
Virgins are virgins still—while ’tis unknown.
Here let her on some flowery bank be laid,
Where meeting beeches weave a grateful shade,
Her naked bosom wanton tresses grace,
And glowing expectation paints her face,        10
O’er her fair limbs a thin loose veil is spread,
Stand off, ye shepherds; fear Actaeon’s head;
Let vig’rous Pan the unguarded minute seize,
And in a shaggy goat the virgin please,
Why are our secrets by our blushes shown?        15
Virgins are virgins still—while ’tis unknown.
 
  There with just warmth Aurora’s passion trace,
Let spreading crimson stain her virgin face;
[Behind, her rosy mantle loosely flows,
Her blooming features youthful health disclose.]        20
See Cephalus her wanton airs despise,
While she provokes him with desiring eyes;
[Now unconstrain’d she will indulge her flame,
Prevailing love hath stifled all her shame.]
To raise his passion she displays her charms,        25
His modest hand upon her bosom warms;
Nor looks, nor prayers, nor force his heart persuade,
But with disdain he quits the rosy maid.
 
  Here let dissolving Leda grace the toy,
Warm cheeks and heaving breasts reveal her joy;        30
Beneath the pressing swan she pants for air,
While with his flutt’ring wings he fans the fair.
There let all-conqu’ring gold exert its power,
And soften Danae in a glitt’ring shower.
 
  Would you warn beauty not to cherish pride,        35
Nor vainly in the treach’rous bloom confide,
On the machine the sage Minerva place,
With lineaments of wisdom mark her face;
See, where she lies near some transparent flood,
And with her piper cheers the resounding wood:        40
Her image in the looking glass she spies,
Her bloated cheeks, worn lips, and shrivelled eyes;
She breaks the guiltless pipe, and with disdain
Its shattered ruins flings upon the plain.
With the loud reed no more her cheek shall swell;        45
What, spoil her face! no. Warbling strains, farewell.
Shall arts—shall sciences employ the fair?
Those trifles are beneath Minerva’s care.
 
  From Venus let her learn the married life,
And all the virtuous duties of a wife.        50
Here on a couch extend the Cyprian dame,
Let her eye sparkle with the growing flame;
The God of war within her clinging arms,
Sinks on her lips, and kindles all her charms.
[The prying Sun their am’rous strife betrays,        55
And through the casement darts his treach’rous rays.]
Paint limping Vulcan with a husband’s care,
And let his brow the cuckhold’s honours wear;
Beneath the net the captive lovers place,
Their limbs entangled in a close embrace.        60
[The summon’d Gods survey the struggling bride,
And with contemptuous smiles the spouse deride.]
Let these amours adorn the new machine,
And female nature on the piece be seen;
So shall the fair as long as fans shall last        65
Learn from your bright examples to be chaste.
 
 
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