Adrienne Rich |
You, once a belle in Shreveport,
with henna-colored hair, skin like a peachbud,
still have your dresses copied from that time,
and play a Chopin prelude
called by Cortot: "Delicious recollections
float like perfume through the memory.
Your mind now, moldering like wedding-cake,
heavy with useless experience, rich
with suspicion, rumor, fantasy,
crumbling to pieces under the knife-edge
of mere fact.
In the prime of your life.
Nervy, glowering, your daughter
wipes the teaspoons, grows another way.
Banging the coffee-pot into the sink
she hears the angels chiding, and looks out
past the raked gardens to the sloppy sky.
Only a week since They said: Have no patience.
The next time it was: Be insatiable.
Then: Save yourself; others you cannot save.
Sometimes she's let the tapstream scald her arm,
a match burn to her thumbnail,
or held her hand above the kettle's snout
right inthe woolly steam.
They are probably angels,
since nothing hurts her anymore, except
each morning's grit blowing into her eyes.
A thinking woman sleeps with monsters.
The beak that grips her, she becomes.
that sprung-lidded, still commodious
steamer-trunk of tempora and mores
gets stuffed with it all: the mildewed orange-flowers,
the female pills, the terrible breasts
of Boadicea beneath flat foxes' heads and orchids.
Two handsome women, gripped in argument,
each proud, acute, subtle, I hear scream
across the cut glass and majolica
like Furies cornered from their prey:
The argument ad feminam, all the old knives
that have rusted in my back, I drive in yours,
ma semblable, ma soeur!
Knowing themselves too well in one another:
their gifts no pure fruition, but a thorn,
the prick filed sharp against a hint of scorn.
Reading while waiting
for the iron to heat,
writing, My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun--
in that Amherst pantry while the jellies boil and scum,
or, more often,
iron-eyed and beaked and purposed as a bird,
dusting everything on the whatnot every day of life.
Dulce ridens, dulce loquens,
she shaves her legs until they gleam
like petrified mammoth-tusk.
When to her lute Corinna sings
neither words nor music are her own;
only the long hair dipping
over her cheek, only the song
of silk against her knees
adjusted in reflections of an eye.
Poised, trembling and unsatisfied, before
an unlocked door, that cage of cages,
tell us, you bird, you tragical machine--
is this fertillisante douleur? Pinned down
by love, for you the only natural action,
are you edged more keen
to prise the secrets of the vault? has Nature shown
her household books to you, daughter-in-law,
that her sons never saw?
"To have in this uncertain world some stay
which cannot be undermined, is
of the utmost consequence.
a woman, partly brave and partly good,
who fought with what she partly understood.
Few men about her would or could do more,
hence she was labeled harpy, shrew and whore.
"You all die at fifteen," said Diderot,
and turn part legend, part convention.
Still, eyes inaccurately dream
behind closed windows blankening with steam.
Deliciously, all that we might have been,
all that we were--fire, tears,
wit, taste, martyred ambition--
stirs like the memory of refused adultery
the drained and flagging bosom of our middle years.
Not that it is done well, but
that it is done at all? Yes, think
of the odds! or shrug them off forever.
This luxury of the precocious child,
Time's precious chronic invalid,--
would we, darlings, resign it if we could?
Our blight has been our sinecure:
mere talent was enough for us--
glitter in fragments and rough drafts.
Sigh no more, ladies.
Time is male
and in his cups drinks to the fair.
Bemused by gallantry, we hear
our mediocrities over-praised,
indolence read as abnegation,
slattern thought styled intuition,
every lapse forgiven, our crime
only to cast too bold a shadow
or smash the mold straight off.
For that, solitary confinement,
tear gas, attrition shelling.
Few applicants for that honor.
she's long about her coming, who must be
more merciless to herself than history.
Her mind full to the wind, I see her plunge
breasted and glancing through the currents,
taking the light upon her
at least as beautiful as any boy
poised, still coming,
her fine blades making the air wince
but her cargo
no promise then:
John Wilmot |
Much wine had passed, with grave discourse
Of who fucks who, and who does worse
(Such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear),
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness relieved by lechery,
Went out into St.
To cool my head and fire my heart.
But though St.
James has th' honor on 't,
'Tis consecrate to prick and cunt.
There, by a most incestuous birth,
Strange woods spring from the teeming earth;
For they relate how heretofore,
When ancient Pict began to whore,
Deluded of his assignation
(Jilting, it seems, was then in fashion),
Poor pensive lover, in this place
Would frig upon his mother's face;
Whence rows of mandrakes tall did rise
Whose lewd tops fucked the very skies.
Each imitative branch does twine
In some loved fold of Aretine,
And nightly now beneath their shade
Are buggeries, rapes, and incests made.
Unto this all-sin-sheltering grove
Whores of the bulk and the alcove,
Great ladies, chambermaids, and drudges,
The ragpicker, and heiress trudges.
Carmen, divines, great lords, and tailors,
Prentices, poets, pimps, and jailers,
Footmen, fine fops do here arrive,
And here promiscuously they swive.
Along these hallowed walks it was
That I beheld Corinna pass.
Whoever had been by to see
The proud disdain she cast on me
Through charming eyes, he would have swore
She dropped from heaven that very hour,
Forsaking the divine abode
In scorn of some despairing god.
But mark what creatures women are:
How infinitely vile, when fair!
Three knights o' the' elbow and the slur
With wriggling tails made up to her.
The first was of your Whitehall baldes,
Near kin t' th' Mother of the Maids;
Graced by whose favor he was able
To bring a friend t' th' Waiters' table,
Where he had heard Sir Edward Sutton
Say how the King loved Banstead mutton;
Since when he'd ne'er be brought to eat
By 's good will any other meat.
In this, as well as all the rest,
He ventures to do like the best,
But wanting common sense, th' ingredient
In choosing well not least expedient,
Converts abortive imitation
To universal affectation.
Thus he not only eats and talks
But feels and smells, sits down and walks,
Nay looks, and lives, and loves by rote,
In an old tawdry birthday coat.
The second was a Grays Inn wit,
A great inhabiter of the pit,
Where critic-like he sits and squints,
Steals pocket handkerchiefs, and hints
From 's neighbor, and the comedy,
To court, and pay, his landlady.
The third, a lady's eldest son
Within few years of twenty-one
Who hopes from his propitious fate,
Against he comes to his estate,
By these two worthies to be made
A most accomplished tearing blade.
One, in a strain 'twixt tune and nonsense,
Cries, "Madam, I have loved you long since.
Permit me your fair hand to kiss";
When at her mouth her cunt cries, "Yes!"
In short, without much more ado,
Joyful and pleased, away she flew,
And with these three confounded asses
From park to hackney coach she passes.
So a proud bitch does lead about
Of humble curs the amorous rout,
Who most obsequiously do hunt
The savory scent of salt-swoln cunt.
Some power more patient now relate
The sense of this surprising fate.
Gods! that a thing admired by me
Should fall to so much infamy.
Had she picked out, to rub her arse on,
Some stiff-pricked clown or well-hung parson,
Each job of whose spermatic sluice
Had filled her cunt with wholesome juice,
I the proceeding should have praised
In hope sh' had quenched a fire I raised.
Such natural freedoms are but just:
There's something generous in mere lust.
But to turn a damned abandoned jade
When neither head nor tail persuade;
To be a whore in understanding,
A passive pot for fools to spend in!
The devil played booty, sure, with thee
To bring a blot on infamy.
But why am I, of all mankind,
To so severe a fate designed?
Ungrateful! Why this treachery
To humble fond, believing me,
Who gave you privilege above
The nice allowances of love?
Did ever I refuse to bear
The meanest part your lust could spare?
When your lewd cunt came spewing home
Drenched with the seed of half the town,
My dram of sperm was supped up after
For the digestive surfeit water.
Full gorged at another time
With a vast meal of slime
Which your devouring cunt had drawn
From porters' backs and footmen's brawn,
I was content to serve you up
My ballock-full for your grace cup,
Nor ever thought it an abuse
While you had pleasure for excuse -
You that could make my heart away
For noise and color, and betray
The secrets of my tender hours
To such knight-errant paramours,
When, leaning on your faithless breast,
Wrapped in security and rest,
Soft kindness all my powers did move,
And reason lay dissolved in love!
May stinking vapors choke your womb
Such as the men you dote upon
May your depraved appetite,
That could in whiffling fools delight,
Beget such frenzies in your mind
You may go mad for the north wind,
And fixing all your hopes upon't
To have him bluster in your cunt,
Turn up your longing arse t' th' air
And perish in a wild despair!
But cowards shall forget to rant,
Schoolboys to frig, old whores to paint;
The Jesuits' fraternity
Shall leave the use of buggery;
Crab-louse, inspired with grace divine,
From earthly cod to heaven shall climb;
Physicians shall believe in Jesus,
And disobedience cease to please us,
Ere I desist with all my power
To plague this woman and undo her.
But my revenge will best be timed
When she is married that is limed.
In that most lamentable state
I'll make her feel my scorn and hate:
Pelt her with scandals, truth or lies,
And her poor cur with jealousied,
Till I have torn him from her breech,
While she whines like a dog-drawn bitch;
Loathed and despised, kicked out o' th' Town
Into some dirty hole alone,
To chew the cud of misery
And know she owes it all to me.
And may no woman better thrive
That dares prophane the cunt I swive!
John Wilmot |
Naked she lay, clasped in my longing arms,
I filled with love, and she all over charms;
Both equally inspired with eager fire,
Melting through kindness, flaming in desire.
With arms,legs,lips close clinging to embrace,
She clips me to her breast, and sucks me to her face.
Her nimble tongue, Love's lesser lightening, played
Within my mouth, and to my thoughts conveyed
Swift orders that I should prepare to throw
The all-dissolving thunderbolt below.
My fluttering soul, sprung with the painted kiss,
Hangs hovering o'er her balmy brinks of bliss.
But whilst her busy hand would guide that part
Which should convey my soul up to her heart,
In liquid raptures I dissolve all o'er,
Melt into sperm and, and spend at every pore.
A touch from any part of her had done't:
Her hand, her foot, her very look's a cunt.
Smiling, she chides in a kind murmuring noise,
And from her body wipes the clammy joys,
When, with a thousand kisses wandering o'er
My panting bosom, "Is there then no more?"
"All this to love and rapture's due;
Must we not pay a debt to pleasure too?"
But I, the most forlorn, lost man alive,
To show my wished obedience vainly strive:
I sigh, alas! and kiss, but cannot swive.
Eager desires confound my first intent,
Succeeding shame does more success prevent,
And rage at last confirms me impotent.
Ev'n her fair hand, which might bid heat return
To frozen age, and make cold hermits burn,
Applied to my dead cinder, warms no more
Than fire to ashes could past flames restore.
Trembling, confused, despairing, limber, dry,
A wishing, weak, unmoving lump I lie.
This dart of love, whose piercing point, oft tried,
With virgin blood ten thousand maids have dyed;
Which nature still directed with such art
That it through every cunt reached every heart -
Stiffly resolved, 'twould carelessly invade
Woman or man, nor aught its fury stayed:
Where'er it pierced, a cunt it found or made -
Now languid lies in this unhappy hour,
Shrunk up and sapless like a withered flower.
Thou treacherous, base deserter of my flame,
False to my passion, fatal to my fame,
Through what mistaken magic dost thou prove
So true to lewdness, so untrue to love?
What oyster-cinder-beggar-common whore
Didst thou e'er fail in all thy life before?
When vice, disease, and scandal lead the way,
With what officious haste dost thou obey!
Like a rude, roaring hector in the streets
Who scuffles, cuffs, and justles all he meets,
But if his king or country claim his aid,
The rakehell villain shrinks and hides his head;
Ev'n so thy brutal valour is displayed,
Breaks every stew, does each small whore invade,
But when great Love the onset does command,
Base recreant to thy prince, thou dar'st not stand.
Worst part of me, and henceforth hated most,
Through all the town a common fucking-post,
On whom each whore relieves her tingling cunt
As hogs do rub themselves on gates and grunt,
May'st thou to ravenous chancres be a prey,
Or in consuming weepings waste away;
May strangury and stone thy days attend;
May'st thou ne'er piss, who did refuse to spend
When all my joys did on false thee depend.
And may ten thousand abler pricks agree
To do the wronged Corinna right for thee.
Jonathan Swift |
Corinna, Pride of Drury-Lane,
For whom no Shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent Garden boast
So bright a batter'd, strolling Toast;
No drunken Rake to pick her up,
No Cellar where on Tick to sup;
Returning at the Midnight Hour;
Four Stories climbing to her Bow'r;
Then, seated on a three-legg'd Chair,
Takes off her artificial Hair:
Now, picking out a Crystal Eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
Her Eye-Brows from a Mouse's Hide,
Stuck on with Art on either Side,
Pulls off with Care, and first displays 'em,
Then in a Play-Book smoothly lays 'em.
Now dextrously her Plumpers draws,
That serve to fill her hollow Jaws.
Untwists a Wire; and from her Gums
A Set of Teeth completely comes.
Pulls out the Rags contriv'd to prop
Her flabby Dugs and down they drop.
Proceeding on, the lovely Goddess
Unlaces next her Steel-Rib'd Bodice;
Which by the Operator's Skill,
Press down the Lumps, the Hollows fill,
Up hoes her Hand, and off she slips
The Bolsters that supply her Hips.
With gentlest Touch, she next explores
Her Shankers, Issues, running Sores,
Effects of many a sad Disaster;
And then to each applies a Plaster.
But must, before she goes to Bed,
Rub off the Daubs of White and Red;
And smooth the Furrows in her Front,
With greasy Paper stuck upon't.
She takes a Bolus e'er she sleeps;
And then between two Blankets creeps.
With pains of love tormented lies;
Or if she chance to close her Eyes,
Of Bridewell and the Compter dreams,
And feels the Lash, and faintly screams;
Or, by a faithless Bully drawn,
At some Hedge-Tavern lies in Pawn;
Or to Jamaica seems transported,
Alone, and by no Planter courted;
Or, near Fleet-Ditch's oozy Brinks,
Surrounded with a Hundred Stinks,
Belated, seems on watch to lie,
And snap some Cull passing by;
Or, struck with Fear, her Fancy runs
On Watchmen, Constables and Duns,
From whom she meets with frequent Rubs;
But, never from Religious Clubs;
Whose Favour she is sure to find,
Because she pays them all in Kind.
A dreadful Sight!
Behold the Ruins of the Night!
A wicked Rat her Plaster stole,
Half eat, and dragged it to his Hole.
The Crystal Eye, alas, was miss'd;
And Puss had on her Plumpers piss'd.
A Pigeon pick'd her Issue-Peas;
And Shock her Tresses fill'd with Fleas.
The Nymph, tho' in this mangled Plight,
Must ev'ry Morn her Limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her Arts
To recollect the scatter'd Parts?
Or show the Anguish, Toil, and Pain,
Of gath'ring up herself again?
The bashful Muse will never bear
In such a Scene to interfere.
Corinna in the Morning dizen'd,
Who sees, will spew; who smells, be poison'd.
Robert Herrick |
Get up, get up for shame! the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air!
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangled herb and tree.
Each flower has wept and bowed toward the east
Above an hour since,—yet you not dressed;
Nay! not so much as out of bed?
When all the birds have matins said
And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin—
Nay, profanation—to keep in,
Whenas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.
Rise, and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the springtime, fresh and green
And sweet as Flora.
Take no care
For jewels for your gown or hair:
Fear not, the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.
Come, and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:
And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth.
Wash, dress, be brief in praying:
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.
Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park
Made green and trimmed with trees! See how
Devotion gives each house a bough
Or branch! Each porch, each door, ere this
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of whitethorn neatly interwove,
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
Can such delights be in the street
And open fields and we not see 't?
Come, we'll abroad; and let's obey
The proclamation made for May,
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.
There's not a budding boy or girl this day
But is got up and gone to bring in May.
A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with whitethorn laden, home.
Some have dispatched their cakes and cream,
Before that we have left to dream;
And some have wept and wooed and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
Many a green-gown has been given,
Many a kiss, both odd and even;
Many a glance too has been sent
From out the eye, love's firmament;
Many a jest told of the key's betraying
This night, and locks picked: yet we're not a-Maying!
Come, let us go while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless folly of the time!
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun;
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain,
Once lost can ne'er be found again;
So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drowned with us in endless night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying!
Robert Herrick |
THE APPARITION OF HIS, MISTRESS,
CALLING HIM TO ELYSIUM
Come then, and like two doves with silvery wings,
Let our souls fly to th' shades, wherever springs
Sit smiling in the meads; where balm and oil,
Roses and cassia, crown the untill'd soil;
Where no disease reigns, or infection comes
To blast the air, but amber-gris and gums.
This, that, and ev'ry thicket doth transpire
More sweet than storax from the hallow'd fire;
Where ev'ry tree a wealthy issue bears
Of fragrant apples, blushing plums, or pears;
And all the shrubs, with sparkling spangles, shew
Like morning sun-shine, tinselling the dew.
Here in green meadows sits eternal May,
Purfling the margents, while perpetual day
So double-gilds the air, as that no night
Can ever rust th' enamel of the light:
Here naked younglings, handsome striplings, run
Their goals for virgins' kisses; which when done,
Then unto dancing forth the learned round
Commix'd they meet, with endless roses crown'd.
And here we'll sit on primrose-banks, and see
Love's chorus led by Cupid; and we'll he
Two loving followers too unto the grove,
Where poets sing the stories of our love.
There thou shalt hear divine Musaeus sing
Of Hero and Leander; then I'll bring
Thee to the stand, where honour'd Homer reads
His Odyssees and his high Iliads;
About whose throne the crowd of poets throng
To hear the incantation of his tongue:
To Linus, then to Pindar; and that done,
I'll bring thee, Herrick, to Anacreon,
Quaffing his full-crown'd bowls of burning wine,
And in his raptures speaking lines of thine,
Like to his subject; and as his frantic
Looks shew him truly Bacchanalian like,
Besmear'd with grapes,--welcome he shall thee thither,
Where both may rage, both drink and dance together.
Then stately Virgil, witty Ovid, by
Whom fair Corinna sits, and doth comply
With ivory wrists his laureat head, and steeps
His eye in dew of kisses while he sleeps.
Then soft Catullus, sharp-fang'd Martial,
And towering Lucan, Horace, Juvenal,
And snaky Persius; these, and those whom rage,
Dropt for the jars of heaven, fill'd, t' engage
All times unto their frenzies; thou shalt there
Behold them in a spacious theatre:
Among which glories, crown'd with sacred bays
And flatt'ring ivy, two recite their plays,
Beaumont and Fletcher, swans, to whom all ears
Listen, while they, like sirens in their spheres,
Sing their Evadne; and still more for thee
There yet remains to know than thou canst see
By glimm'ring of a fancy; Do but come,
And there I'll shew thee that capacious room
In which thy father, Jonson, now is placed
As in a globe of radiant fire, and graced
To be in that orb crown'd, that doth include
Those prophets of the former magnitude,
And he one chief.
But hark! I hear the cock,
The bell-man of the night, proclaim the clock
Of late struck One; and now I see the prime
Of day break from the pregnant east:--'tis time
I vanish:--more I had to say,
But night determines here;(Away!
Robert Herrick |
I have lost, and lately, these
Many dainty mistresses:--
Stately Julia, prime of all;
Sapho next, a principal:
Smooth Anthea, for a skin
White, and heaven-like crystalline:
Sweet Electra, and the choice
Myrha, for the lute and voice.
Next, Corinna, for her wit,
And the graceful use of it;
With Perilla:--All are gone;
Only Herrick's left alone,
For to number sorrow by
Their departures hence, and die.
Walter Savage Landor |
Tanagra! think not I forget
Thy beautifully-storey’d streets;
Be sure my memory bathes yet
In clear Thermodon, and yet greets
The blythe and liberal shepherd boy,
Whose sunny bosom swells with joy
When we accept his matted rushes
Upheaved with sylvan fruit; away he bounds, and blushes.
I promise to bring back with me
What thou with transport wilt receive,
The only proper gift for thee,
Of which no mortal shall bereave
In later times thy mouldering walls,
Until the last old turret falls;
A crown, a crown from Athens won!
A crown no god can wear, beside Latona’s son.
There may be cities who refuse
To their own child the honours due,
And look ungently on the Muse;
But ever shall those cities rue
The dry, unyielding, niggard breast,
Offering no nourishment, no rest,
To that young head which soon shall rise
Disdainfully, in might and glory, to the skies.
Sweetly where cavern’d Dirce flows
Do white-arm’d maidens chaunt my lay,
Flapping the while with laurel-rose
The honey-gathering tribes away;
And sweetly, sweetly, Attick tongues
Lisp your Corinna’s early songs;
To her with feet more graceful come
The verses that have dwelt in kindred breasts at home.
O let thy children lean aslant
Against the tender mother’s knee,
And gaze into her face, and want
To know what magic there can be
In words that urge some eyes to dance,
While others as in holy trance
Look up to heaven; be such my praise!
Why linger? I must haste, or lose the Delphick bays.
Robert Herrick |
Be not proud, but now incline
Your soft ear to discipline;
You have changes in your life,
Sometimes peace, and sometimes strife;
You have ebbs of face and flows,
As your health or comes or goes;
You have hopes, and doubts, and fears,
Numberless as are your hairs;
You have pulses that do beat
High, and passions less of heat;
You are young, but must be old:--
And, to these, ye must be told,
Time, ere long, will come and plow
Loathed furrows in your brow:
And the dimness of your eye
Will no other thing imply,
But you must die
As well as I.