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.
 
Charles VII. and Agnes Sorel
By Voltaire (1694–1778)
 
(From La Pucelle, the Maid of Orleans, Canto I.; translated by Ernest Dowson, 1899)
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OUR good King Charles within his youthful prime
His revels kept at Tours, at Eastertime,
Where at a ball, (for well he loved to dance)
It so fell out, that for the good of France
He met a maid who beggared all compare,        5
Named Agnes Sorel, (Love had framed the fair).
Let your warm fancy youthful Flora trace,
Of Venus add her most enchanting grace,
The wood-nymph’s stature and bewitching guise,
With Love’s seductive air and brilliant eyes,        10
Arachne’s art, the Syren’s dulcet song,—
All these were hers and she could lead along
Kings, Heroes, Sages in her captive chain.
To see her, love her, feel the increasing pain,
Of young Desire, its growing warmth to prove,        15
With faultering utterance to speak of Love;
To tremble and regard with dove-like eyes,
To strive and speak and utter nought but sighs,
Her hands, with a caressing hand to hold,
Till panting all the flames her breast enfold;        20
By turns each other’s tender pains impart,
And own the luscious thrill that sways the heart;
To please, in short, is just a day’s affair
For Kings in love are swift and debonnaire.
Agnes was fain—she knew the art to please        25
To deck the thing in garb of mysteries,
Veils of thin gauze, through which will always pry,
The envious courtier’s keen, malignant eye.
To mask this business, that none might know
The King made choice of Councillor Bonneau;        30
A trusty man of Tours, skilled in device
Who filled a post that is not over nice,
Which, though the court, that always seeks to lend
Beauty to all things, calls the Prince’s friend,
The vulgar town and every rustic imp        35
Are grossly apt to designate a Pimp.
Upon Loire’s banks thus worthy Sieur Bonneau
Stood seigneur of an elegant chateau,
Whither one day, about the time of shade,
In a light skiff fair Agnes was conveyed,        40
There the same knight King Charles would fain recline
And there they supped, while Bonneau poured the wine.
State was dismissed, though all was served with care,
Banquets of gods could not with this compare!
Our Lovers their delight and joy confessed,        45
Desire inflamed and transport filled each breast,
Supremely formed by sprightly wit to please,
Eager they listen and alternate gaze;
While their discourse, without indecence, free,
Gave their impatience fresh vivacity.        50
The ardent prince’s eyes her charms devoured,
While in her ear soft tales of love he poured,
And with his knee her gentle knees deflowered.
The supper over, music played awhile,
Italian music—the chromatic style.        55
Flutes, hautboys, viols softly breathed around,
While three melodious voices swelled the sound;
They sang historic allegories, their strain
Told of those heroes mighty Love had slain,
And those they sang, who some proud Fair to please,        60
Quit fields of glory for inglorious ease.
In a recess this skilful band was set
Hard by the chamber where the good king ate;
As yet they sought their secret joys to screen
And Agnes fair enjoyed the whole unseen.        65
The moon upon the sky begins to glower;
Midnight has struck; it is Love’s magic hour;
In an alcove begilt with art most sure,
Not lit too much and yet not too obscure,
Between two sheets of finest Holland made        70
The lovely Agnes’ glowing charms were laid.
Here did Dame Alix leave her to repose;
But, cunning Abigail! forgot to close
The private door that ope’d an easy way
To eager Charles, impatient of delay.        75
Perfumes most exquisite, with timely care
Are poured already on his braided hair:
And ye, who best have loved, can tell the best
The anxious throbbings of our monarch’s breast.
The sanctuary gained which shrines her charms,        80
In bed he clasps her naked to his arms.
Moment of ecstasy! propitious night!
Their hearts responsive beat with fond delight.
Love’s brightest roses glow on Agnes’ cheek;
In the warm blush, her fears and wishes speak.        85
But maiden fears in transport melt away,
And Love triumphant rules with sovran sway.
The ardent Prince now pressed her to his breast,
His eyes surveyed, his eager hands caressed,
Beauties enough which had been given her        90
To make a hermit an idolater.
Beneath a neck, whose dazzling whiteness shone
Pure and resplendent as the Parian stone,
With gentlest swell two breasts serenely move,
Severed and moulded by the hand of Love.        95
Each crowned with vermeil bud of damask rose,
Enchanting nipples, which ne’er know repose;
You seemed the gaze and pressure to invite,
And wooed the longing lips to seek delight.
Ever complying with my reader’s taste,        100
I meant to paint as low as Agnes’ waist;
To show that symmetry, devoid of blot,
Where Argus’ self could not discern a spot;
But Virtue, which the world good manners calls,
Stops short my hand:—and lo! the pencil falls.        105
In Agnes all was beauty, all was fair;
Voluptuousness, whereof she had her share,
Spurred every sense which instant took the alarm,
Adding new grace to every brilliant charm
It animated: Love can use disguise,        110
And pleasure heightens beauty in our eyes.
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