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.
Song: “Methinks the Poor Town Has Been Troubled Too Long”
By Charles Sackville, Earl of Dorset (1638–1706)
(Music in Playford’s Choice Ayres, 1676)

METHINKS the poor Town has been troubled too long,
With Phillis and Chloris in every Song;
By Fools who at once, can both Love and Despair,
And will never leave calling them Cruel and Fair:
Which justly provokes me in Rhyme to express,        5
The truth that I know of my Bonny black Bess.
This Bess of my Heart, this Bess of my Soul,
Has a Skin white as Milk, but Hair black as a Coal;
She’s plump, yet with ease you may span round her Waist,
But her round swelling Thighs can scarce be embraced:        10
Her Belly is soft, not a word of the rest,
But I know what I mean, when I drink to the Best.
The Plow-man, and Squire, the Erranter Clown,
At home she subdued in her Paragon Gown,
But now she adorns the Boxes and Pit,        15
And the proudest Town Gallants are forced to submit:
All Hearts fall a-leaping wherever she comes,
And beat Day and Night, like my Lord Craven’s Drums.
*        *        *        *        *
But to those who have had my dear Bess in their Arms,
She’s gentle and knows how to soften her Charms;        20
And to every Beauty can add a new Grace,
Having learned how to Lisp, and to trip in her pace:
And with Head on one side, and a languishing Eye,
To Kill us with looking, as if she would Die.

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