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.
 
The Song of Lais
By Thomas Heywood (c. 1570–1641)
 
(From Earth and Age, c. 1637)

IF any fables have been sung in praise
Of Prostitutes, what fame their shapes could raise;
I, the Corinthian Lais, choice and best,
Have been the crown and grace to all the rest.
My chin the ivory stained, lilies my brow,        5
To match mine eyes, the world knew not then how;
My neck was long and straight, and my veins blue,
Soft lips, in my clear cheeks fresh roses grew;
My nose was neither crooked, long nor flat,
My visage it became, it graced that:        10
My wanton paps like two round hillocks grew,
From which moist springs two milky rivers flow,
My belly comely swelled, for it became
Like a plump Peacock’s, soft as the young lamb:
My stomach like the temperate turtles feeding;        15
Modest my diet and no surfeits breeding;
My arms much whiter than the lilies showing,
Or flowers, Alcinous, in thy garden growing.
Who that my leg did look upon, but did think
He burnt in flames, or in the seas did sink?        20
Or who my back parts did behold, but said,
O that I were a flea in Lais bed.
Or who my foot, but wished himself a stone,
With upturned eyes, for me to tread upon.
And yet this face, these cheeks, these lips, these eyes,        25
This neck, these hairs, these temples, legs and thighs,
This stomach, belly, back, arms, hands and feet
Are worms’ meat now, and with corruption meet.
Learn, woman, then, that which we trust in most
Is dust and filth: In age are all things lost.        30
 
 
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