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.
An Epithalamy to Sir Thomas Southwell and His Lady
By Robert Herrick (1591–1674)
(From Hesperides, 1648)

NOW, now’s the time, so oft by truth
Promis’d should come to crown your youth.
    Then, fair ones, do not wrong
    Your joys by staying long;
    Or let Love’s fire go out,        5
    By lingering thus in doubt;
    But learn that time once lost
    Is ne’er redeem’d by cost.
Then away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.        10
Is it, sweet maid, your fault these holy
Bridal rites go on so slowly?
    Dear, is it this you dread,
    The loss of maidenhead?
    Believe me, you will most        15
    Esteem it when ’tis lost;
    Then it no longer keep,
    Lest issue lie asleep.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.        20
There precious, pearly, purling tears
But spring from ceremonious fears.
    And ’tis but native shame
    That hides the loving flame,
    And may a while control        25
    The soft and am’rous soul;
    But yet, Love’s fire will waste
    Such bashfulness at last.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.        30
Night now hath watch’d herself half blind,
Yet not a maidenhead resign’d!
    ’Tis strange, ye will not fly
    To Love’s sweet mystery.
    Might yon full moon the sweets        35
    Have, promis’d to your sheets,
    She soon would leave her sphere,
    To be admitted there.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.        40
On, on devoutly, make no stay:
While Domiduca leads the way:
    And Genius, who attends
    The bed for lucky ends:
    With Juno goes the hours        45
    And Graces strewing flowers.
    And the boys with sweet tunes sing:
    Hymen! O Hymen! bring
Home the turtles; Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.        50
Behold! how Hymen’s taper-light
Shows you how much is spent of night.
    See, see the bridegroom’s torch
    Half wasted in the porch.
    And now those tapers five,        55
    That show the womb shall thrive,
    Their silv’ry flames advance,
    To tell all prosp’rous chance
Still shall crown the happy life
Of the good man and the wife.        60
Move forward then your rosy feet,
And make what ere they touch, turn sweet.
    May all, like flow’ry meads,
    Smell, where your soft foot treads;
    And every thing assume        65
    To it, the like perfume,
    As Zephyrus when he ’spires
    Through woodbine and sweetbriars.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.        70
And now the yellow veil at last
Over her fragrant cheek is cast.
    Now seems she to express
    A bashful willingness:
    Showing a heart consenting,        75
    As with a will repenting.
    Then gently lead her on
    With wise suspicion;
For that, matrons say, a measure
Of that passion sweetens pleasure.        80
You, you that be of her nearest kin,
Now o’er the threshold force her in.
    But to avert the worst
    Let her, her fillets first
    Knit to the posts: this point        85
    Remembering, to anoint
    The sides: for ’tis a charm
    Strong against future harm;
And the evil deeds, the which
There was hidden by the witch.        90
O Venus! thou to whom is known
The best way how to loose the zone
    Of virgins! tell the maid
    She need not be afraid,
    And bid the youth apply        95
    Close kisses if she cry:
    And charge, he not forbears
    Her, though she woo with tears.
Tell them now they must adventure,
Since that Love and Night bid enter.        100
No fatal owl the bedstead keeps,
With direful notes to fright your sleeps;
    No furies here about
    To put the tapers out,
    Watch or did make the bed:        105
    ’Tis omen full of dread;
    But all fair signs appear
    Within the chamber here.
Juno here far off doth stand,
Cooing sleep with charming wand.        110
Virgins, weep not; ’twill come when,
As she, so you’ll be ripe for men.
    Then grieve her not with saying
    She must no more a Maying,
    Or by rosebuds divine        115
    Who’ll be her Valentine.
    Nor name those wanton reaks
    You’ve had at barley-breaks,
But now kiss her and thus say,
“Take time, lady, while ye may.”        120
Now bar the doors; the bridegroom puts
The eager boys to gather nuts.
    And now, both Love and Time
    To their full height do climb:
    Oh! give them active heat        125
    And moisture both complete:
    Fit organs for increase,
    To keep and to release
That which may the honour’d stem
Circle with a diadem.        130
And now, behold! the bed or couch
That ne’er knew bride’s or bridegroom’s touch,
    Feels in itself a fire;
    And, tickled with desire,
    Pants with a downy breast,        135
    As with a heart possesst,
    Shrugging as it did move
    Even with the soul of love.
And, oh! had it but a tongue,
Doves, ’t would say, ye bill too long.        140
O enter then! but see ye shun
A sleep, until the act be done.
    Let kisses in their close
    Breathe as the damask rose,
    Or sweet as is that gum        145
    Doth from Panchaia come.
    Teach nature now to know
    Lips can make cherries grow
Sooner than she ever yet
In her wisdom could beget.        150
On your minutes, hours, days, months, years,
Drop the fat blessing of the spheres.
    That good which Heav’n can give
    To make you bravely live
    Fall like a spangling dew        155
    By day and night on you.
    May Fortune’s lily-hand
    Open at your command;
With all lucky birds to side
With the bridegroom and the bride.        160
Let bounteous Fate your spindles full
Fill, and wind up with whitest wool.
    Let them not cut the thread
    Of life until ye bid.
    May death yet come at last,        165
    And not with desp’rate haste,
    But when ye both can say,
    “Come, let us now away.”
Be ye to the barn then borne,
Two, like two ripe shocks of corn.        170

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.