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.
By William Congreve (1670–1729)
(A Song, c. 1700)

DORIS, a nymph of riper age,
  Has every grace and art;
A wise observer to engage,
  Or wound a heedless heart.
Of native blush and rosy dye        5
  Time has her cheek bereft;
Which makes the prudent nymph supply,
  With paint, the injurious theft.
Her sparkling eyes she still retains,
  And teeth in good repair;        10
And her well-furnish’d front disdains
  To grace with borrow’d hair.
Of size, she is nor short nor tall,
  And does to fat incline
No more than what the French would call        15
  Aimable embonpoint.
Farther her person to disclose
  I leave—let it suffice,
She has few faults, but what she knows,
  And can with skill disguise.        20
She many lovers has refused,
  With many more complied
Which, like her clothes, when little used,
  She always lays aside.
She’s one who looks with great contempt        25
  On each affected creature,
Whose nicety would seem exempt
  From appetites of nature.
She thinks they want or health or sense,
  Who want an inclination;        30
And therefore never takes offence
  At him who pleads his passion.
Whom she refuses, she treats still
  With so much sweet behaviour,
That her refusal, through her skill        35
  Looks almost like a favour.
Since she this softness can express
  To those whom she rejects,
She must be very fond, you’ll guess,
  Of such whom she affects.        40
But here our Doris far outgoes
  All that her sex have done;
She no regard for custom knows,
  Which reason bids her shun.
By reason, her own reason’s meant,        45
  Or, if you please, her will;
For when this last is discontent,
  The first is served but ill.
Peculiar, therefore, is her way;
  Whether by nature taught,        50
I shall not undertake to say,
  Or by experience bought.
But who o’er night obtain’d her grace,
  She can next day disown;
And stare upon the strange man’s face,        55
  As one she ne’er had known.
So well she can the truth disguise,
  Such artful wonder frame,
The lover or distrusts his eyes,
  Or thinks ’twas all a dream.        60
Some censure this as lewd and low,
  Who are to bounty blind;
For to forget what we bestow,
  Bespeaks a noble mind.
Doris our thanks nor asks her needs,        65
  For all her favours done:
From her love flows, as light proceeds
  Spontaneous from the sun.
On one or other still her fires
  Display their genial force,        70
And she, like Sol, alone retires,
  To shine elsewhere of course.

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