Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
Certain Epigrams Concerning Marriage
By George Wither (1588–1667)
(From Epithalmia, or Nuptial Poems, 1612)

’TIS said, in marriage above all the rest
The children of a king find comforts least,
Because without respect of love or hate
They must, and oft be, ruled by the State;
But if contented love, religion’s care,        5
Equality in state, and years declare
A happy match, as I suppose no less,
Then rare and great’s Eliza’s happiness.
God was the first that marriage did ordain,
By making one, two; and two, one again.        10
Soldier, of thee I ask, for thou canst best,
Having known sorrow, judge of joy and rest;
What greater bliss than after all thy harms
To have a wife that’s fair and lawful thine,
And lying prison’d ’twixt her ivory arms,        15
There tell what thou hast ’scaped by powers divine?
How many round thee thou hast murdered seen,
How oft thy soul hath been near-hand expiring,
How many times thy flesh hath wounded been:
Whilst she thy fortune and thy worth admiring,        20
  With joy of health and pity of thy pain,
  Doth weep and kiss, and kiss and weep again.
Fair Helen having stain’d her husband’s bed,
And mortal hatred ’twixt two kingdoms bred,
Had still remaining in her so much good        25
That heroes for her lost their dearest blood:
Then if with all that ill such worth many last,
Oh, what is she worth that’s as fair—and chaste!
Old Orpheus knew a good wife’s worth so well
That when his died he followed her to hell,        30
And for her loss at the Elysian grove
He did not only ghosts to pity move,
But the sad poet breathed his sighs so deep,
’Tis said, the devils could not choose but weep.
Long did I wonder, and I wonder much,
Rome’s Church should from her clergy take that due:
Thought I, why should she that contentment grutch?
What, doth she all with continence endue?
No; but why then are they debarr’d that state?
Is she become a foe unto her own?        40
Doth she the members of her body hate,
Or is it for some other cause unshown?
Oh yes, they find a woman’s lips so dainty,
They tie themselves from one ’cause they’ll have twenty.
Women, as some men say, unconstant be;
’Tis like enough, and so no doubt are men:
Nay, if their scapes we could so plainly see,
I fear that scarce there will be one for ten.
Men have but their own lusts that tempt to ill:
Women had lusts and men’s allurements too:        50
Alas, if their strengths cannot curb their will,
What should poor women, that are weaker, do?
  O, they had meed be chaste and look about them,
  That strive ’gainst lust within and knives without them.

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