Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
His Supposed Mistress
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
  IF 1 I freely can discover
  What would please me in my lover,
  I would have her fair and witty,
  Savouring more of court than city;
  A little proud, but full of pity;        5
  Light and humourous in her toying;
  Oft building hopes, and soon destroying;
  Long, but sweet in the enjoying,
Neither too easy, nor too hard:
All extremes I would have barred.        10
 
She should be allowed her passions, 2
So they were but used as fashions;
  Sometimes froward, 3 and then frowning,
  Sometimes sickish, and then swowning,
  Every fit with change still crowning.        15
  Purely jealous I would have her;
  Then only constant when I crave her,
  ’Tis a virtue should not save her.
Thus, nor her delicates 4 would cloy me,
Neither her peevishness annoy me.        20
 
Note 1. From Jonson’s The Poetaster, 1601. Bell, in his Songs of the Dramatists, p. 113, suggests the germ of this song to be in the following quotation from Martial’s Epigrams, i., 58:
  Qualem, Flacce, velim quæris, nolimve puellam?
  Nolo nimis facilem, difficilemque nimis.
Illud, quod medium est, atque inter utrumque, probamus.
  Nec volo, quod cruciat; nec volo, quod satiat.
Note 2. She should be allowed her passions: “Professor Winchester reminds me of the wonderful realization of the ideal of this stanza by Shakespeare in the ‘infinite variety’ of his Cleopatra.” (Prof. Schelling in A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics.) [back]
Note 3. Froward: in sense of wilful. [back]
Note 4. Delicates: charms. [back]
 
 
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