Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Love-poems (from The Mistress of Philarete)
By George Wither (1588–1667)
 
1.
  AND her lips (that shew no dulness)
Full are, in the meanest fulness:
Those, the leaves be, whose unfolding
Brings sweet pleasures to beholding:
For, such pearls they do disclose,        5
Both the Indies match not those:
Yet are so in order placed,
As their whiteness is more graced.
Each part is so well disposed,
And her dainty mouth composed,        10
So, as there is no distortion
Misbeseems that sweet proportion.
  When her ivory teeth she buries,
Twixt her two enticing cherries,
There appear such pleasures hidden,        15
As might tempt what were forbidden.
If you look again the whiles
She doth part those lips in smiles,
’Tis as when a flash of light
Breaks from heaven to glad the night.        20
 
2.
Oft have the Nymphs of greatest worth,
    Made suit my songs to hear;
As oft (when I have sighed forth
    Such notes as saddest were)
‘Alas!’ said they, ‘poor gentle heart,        25
    Whoe’er that shepherd be:’
But, none of them suspects my smart,
    Nor thinks, it meaneth me.
 
When I have reached so high a strain
    Of passion in my song,        30
That they have seen the tears to rain
    And trill my cheek along:
Instead of sigh, or weeping eye,
    To sympathise with me;
‘Oh, were he once in love,’ they cry,        35
    ‘How moving would he be!’
 
Oh pity me, you powers above,
    And take my skill away;
Or let my hearers think I love,
    And fain not what I say.        40
For, if I could disclose the smart,
    Which I unknown do bear;
Each line would make them sighs impart,
    And every word, a tear.
 
3.
Her true beauty leaves behind,
        45
Apprehensions in my mind,
Of more sweetness than all art
Or inventions can impart;
Thoughts too deep to be exprest,
And too strong to be supprest;        50
Which oft raiseth my conceits,
To so unbelieved heights,
That (I fear) some shallow brain
Thinks my muses do but feign.
Sure, he wrongs them if he do:        55
For, could I have reached to
So like strains as these you see,
Had there been no such as she?
Is it possible that I,
Who scarce heard of Poesy,        60
Should a mere Idea raise
To as true a pitch of praise
As the learned poets could,
Now, or in the times of old,
All those real beauties bring,        65
Honoured by their sonneting?
(Having arts and favours too
More t’encourage what they do)—
No; if I had never seen
Such a beauty; I had been        70
Piping in the country shades,
To the homely dairy maids,
For a country fiddler’s fees;
Clouted cream, and bread and cheese.
  I no skill in numbers had,        75
More than every shepherd’s lad,
Till she taught me strains that were
Pleasing to her gentle ear.
Her fair splendour and her worth
From obscureness drew me forth.        80
And, because I had no Muse,
She herself deigned to infuse
All the skill by which I climb
To these praises in my rhyme.
Which, if she had pleased to add,        85
To that art sweet Drayton had,
Or that happy swain that shall
Sing Britannia’s Pastoral;
Or to theirs, whose verse set forth
Rosalind, and Stella’s worth;        90
They had doubled all their skill,
Gained on Apollo’s Hill:
And as much more set her forth
As I ’m short of them in worth.
They had unto heights aspired,        95
Might have justly been admired;
And, in such brave strains had moved
As of all had been approved.
 
 
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