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.
 
Nature That Washed Her Hands
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
 
(From Harlein MS. 6917, fol. 48)

NATURE that wash’d her hands in milk
  And had forgot to dry them,
Instead of earth took snow and silk
  At Love’s request to try them,
If she a mistress could compose        5
To please Love’s fancy out of those.
 
Her eyes he would should be of light;
  A violet breath, and lips of jelly;
Her hair not black, nor over-bright;
  And of the softest down her belly:        10
As for her inside he’ld have it
Only of wantonness and wit.
 
At Love’s entreaty such a one
  Nature made, but with her beauty
She hath framed a heart of stone;        15
  So as Love, by ill destiny,
Must die for her whom Nature gave him,
Because her darling would not save him.
 
But Time, which Nature doth despise,
  And rudely gives her love the lie,        20
Makes Hope a fool, and Sorrow wise,
  His hands do[th] neither wash nor dry;
But being made of steel and rust,
Turns snow and silk and milk to dust.
 
The light, the belly, lips, and breath,        25
  He dims, discolours, and destroys;
With those he feeds, but fills not, Death,
  Which sometimes were the food of joys:
Yea Time doth dull each lively wit,
And dries all wantonness with it.        30
 
Oh, cruel Time, which takes in trust,
  Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust;
  Who in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wander’d all our ways,        35
Shuts up the story of our days.
 
 
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