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.
 
Epithalamium
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
(From The Masque of Hymen, 1616)

GLAD time is at his point arrived,
For which love’s hopes were so long lived.
  Lead, Hymen, lead away;
  And let no object stay,
  Nor banquets, but sweet kisses,        5
  The turtles from their blisses.
  ’Tis Cupid calls to arm:
  And this his last alarm.
 
Shrink not, soft virgin, you will love,
Anon, what you so fear to prove.        10
  This is no killing war,
  To which you pressed are;
  But fair and gentle strife,
  Which lovers call their life.
  ’Tis Cupid cries, to arm;        15
  And this his last alarm.
 
Help, youths and virgins, help to sing
The prize which Hymen here doth bring.
  And did so lately rap
  From forth the mother’s lap,        20
  To place her by that side
  Where she must long abide.
  On Hymen, Hymen call,
  This night is Hymen’s all.
 
See! Hesperus is yet in view.        25
What star can so deserve of you?
  Whose light doth still adorn
  Your bride, that, ere the morn,
  Shall far more perfect be,
  And rise as bright as he;        30
  When, like to him, her name
  Is changed, but not her flame.
 
Haste, tender lady, and adventure;
The covetous house would have you enter,
  That it might wealthy be,        35
  And you, her mistress, see:
  Haste your own good to meet;
  And lift your golden feet
  Above the threshold high,
  With prosperous augury.        40
 
Now, youths, let go your pretty arms;
The place within chants other charms.
  Whole showers of roses flow;
  And violets seem to grow,
  Strew’d in the chamber there,        45
  As Venus’ mead it were.
  On Hymen, Hymen call,
  This night is Hymen’s all.
 
Good matrons, that so well are known
To aged husbands of your own,        50
  Place you our bride to night;
  And snatch away the light:
  That she not hide it dead
  Beneath her spouse’s bed;
  Nor he reserve the same        55
  To help the funeral flame.
 
So! now you may admit him in;
The act he covets is no sin,
  But chaste and holy love,
  Which Hymen doth approve:        60
  Without whose hallowing fires
  All aims are base desires.
  On Hymen, Hymen call,
  This night is Hymen’s all.
 
Now free from vulgar spite or noise,        65
May you enjoy your mutual joys;
  Now, you no fear controls,
  But lips may mingle souls;
  And soft embraces bind
  To each the other’s mind,        70
  Which may no power untie,
  Till one or both must die!
 
And look, before you yield to slumber,
That your delights be drawn past number;
  Joys, got with strife, increase.        75
  Affect no sleepy peace;
  But keep the bride’s fair eyes
  Awake with her own cries,
  Which are but maiden fears:
  And kisses dry such tears.        80
 
Then coin them ’twixt your lips so sweet,
And let not cockles closer meet;
  Nor may your murmuring loves
  Be drown’d by Cypris’ doves:
  Let ivy not so bind        85
  As when your arms are twined:
  That you may both ere day,
  Rise perfect every way.
 
And, Juno, whose great powers protect
The marriage-bed, with good effect,        90
  The labour of this night
  Bless thou, for future light:
  And thou, thy happy charge,
  Glad Genius, enlarge;
  That they may both, ere day,        95
  Rise perfect, ev’ry way.
 
And Venus, thou, with timely seed,
Which may their after-comforts breed,
  Inform the gentle womb;
  Nor let it prove a tomb:        100
  But, ere ten moons be wasted,
  The birth, by Cynthia hasted.
  So may they both, ere day,
  Rise perfect every way.
 
And, when the babe to light is shown,        105
Let it be like each parent known;
  Much of the father’s face,
  More of the mother’s grace;
  And either grandsire’s spirit,
  And fame, let it inherit.        110
  That men may bless th’ embraces,
  That joined two such races.
 
Cease, youths and virgins, you have done;
Shut fast the door: and as they soon
  To their perfection haste,        115
  So may their ardours last.
  So either’s strength out-live
  All loss that age can give:
  And, though full years be told,
  Their forms grow slowly old.        120
 
 
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