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.
The Description of a Woman
By Robert Herrick (1591–1674)
(Rawlinson MS. 160 Poet. fols. 105–6)

WHOSE head befringed with bescattered tresses
Seems like Apollo’s when the morn he blesses
Or like unto Aurora when she sets
Her long dishevel’d rose-crown’d tramaletts:
Her forehead smooth full polished bright and high        5
Bares in itself a graceful majesty.
Under the which two crawling eyebrows twine
Like to the tendrils of a flat’ring vine,
Under whose shade two starry sparkling eyes
Are beautifi’d with fair fring’d canopies.        10
Her comely nose with uniformal grace
Like purest white stands in the middle place
Parting the pair, as we may well suppose
Each cheek resembling still a damask rose,
Which like a garden manifestly show        15
How roses, lilies and carnations grow,
Which sweetly mixed both with white and red
Like rose leaves, white and red seem mingled.
Then nature for a sweet allurement sets
Two smelling swelling (bashful) cherrylets,        20
The which with ruby redness being tip’d.
Do speak a virgin merry cherry-lip’d.
Over the which a neat sweet skin is drawn
Which makes them shew like roses under lawn.
These be the Ruby portals and divine        25
Which ope themselves to shew an holy shrine
Whose breath is rich perfume, that to the sense
Smells like the burnt Sabæan frankincense
In which the tongue, though but a member small,
Stands guarded with rosy hilly wall,        30
And her white teeth which in the gums are set
Like pearl and gold make one rich Cabinet
Next doth her chin with dimpled beauty strive
For his plump white and smooth prerogative,
At whose fair top to please the sight there grows        35
The blessed Image of a blushing rose
Mov’d by the chin whose motion causeth this
That both her lips do part, do meet, do kiss;
Her ears, which like two Labyrinths are plac’d
On either side with rich rare Jewels grac’d,        40
Moving a question whether that by them
The gem is grac’d? or they grac’d by the Gem?
But the foundation of this Architect
Is the swan-staining fair rare, stately neck
Which with ambitious humbleness stands under        45
Bearing aloft this rich round world of wonder.
In which the veins implanted seem to lie
Like loving vines hid under Ivory,
So full of claret that who so pricks a vine
May see it sprout forth streams of muscadine.        50
Her breast (a place for beauty’s throne most fit)
Bears up two globes where love and pleasure sit,
Which headed with two rich round rubies show
Like wanton rose buds growing out of snow,
And in the milky valley that’s between        55
Sits Cupid kissing of his mother Queen,
(Fing’ring) the paps that feel like sleeded silk
And prest a little they will weep new milk.
Then comes the belly seated next below
Like a fair mountain in Riphean snow,        60
Where nature in a whiteness without spot
Hath in the middle tied a Gordian knot
Or else that she on that white waxen hill
Hath seal’d the promise of her utmost skill.
But now my muse hath spy’d a dark descent        65
From this so peerless precious permanent,
A milky high way that direction yields
Unto the port mouth of th’ Elysian fields,
A place desir’d of all but got by these
Whom love admits to this Hesperides.        70
Here’s golden fruit that far exceeds all price
Growing in this love guarded paradise.
Above the entrance there is written this
This is the portal to the bower of bliss.
Through mid’st thereof a crystal stream there flows        75
Passing the sweet sweet of a musky rose.
Now love invites me to survey her thighs
Swelling in likeness like two crystal skies
With plump soft flesh of mettle pure and fine
Resembling shields both smooth and crystalline.        80
Hence rise those two ambitious hills that look
Into the middle (most) sight pleasing crook
Which for the better beautifying shrouds
Its humble self ’twixt two aspiring clouds,
Which to the knees by nature fastened on        85
Derive their overwell grac’d motion.
Her legs with two clear calves like silver tride
Kindly swell up with little pretty pride,
Leaving a distance for the beauteous small
To beautify the leg and foot withal.        90
Then lowly yet most lovely stand the feet,
Round short and clear, like pounded spices sweet
And whatsoever thing they tread upon
They make it scent like bruisèd Cinnamon.
The lovely shoulders now allure the eye        95
To see two tablets of pure Ivory
From which two arms like branches seem to spread
With tender rind and silver coloured,
With little hands and fingers long and small
To grace a Lute, a vial, Virginal.        100
In length each finger doth his next excel,
Each richly headed with a pearly shell
Richer then that fair precious virtuous horn
That arms the forehead of the Unicorn.
Thus every part in contrariety        105
Meets in the whole and makes a harmony
As divers strings do singly disagree
But form’d by number make sweet melody.
Unto the Idol of ye work divine
I consecrate this loving work of mine,        110
Bowing my lips unto ye stately root
Whence beauty springs, and thus I kiss thy foot.

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