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.
To a Young Gentleman in Love
By Matthew Prior (1664–1721)
(A Tale)

FROM public noise and factious strife,
From all the busy ills of life,
Take me, my Celia, to thy breast,
And lull my wearied soul to rest.
For ever, in this humble cell,        5
Let thee and I, my fair one, dwell;
None enter else, but Love—and he
Shall bar the door, and keep the key.
  To painted roofs, and shining spires
(Uneasy seats of high desires)        10
Let the unthinking many crowd,
That dare be covetous and proud:
In golden bondage let them wait,
And barter happiness for state.
But oh! my Celia, when thy swain        15
Desires to see a court again,
May Heaven around this destin’d head
The choicest of its curses shed!
To sum up all the rage of Fate,
In the two things I dread and hate;        20
Mayest thou be false, and I be great!
  Thus, on his Celia’s panting breast,
Fond Celadon his soul express’d;
While with delight the lovely maid
Receiv’d the vows, she thus repaid:        25
  Hope of my age, joy of my youth,
Blest miracle of love and truth!
All that could e’er be counted mine,
My love and life, long since are thine:
A real joy I never knew,        30
Till I believ’d thy passion true:
A real grief I ne’er can find,
Till thou prov’st perjur’d or unkind.
Contempt, and poverty, and care,
All we abhor, and all we fear,        35
Blest with thy presence, I can bear.
Through waters, and through flames I’ll go,
Sufferer and solace of thy woe:
Trace me some yet unheard-of way,
That I thy ardour may repay;        40
And make my constant passion known,
By more than woman yet has done.
  Had I a wish that did not bear
The stamp and image of my dear;
I’d pierce my heart through every vein,        45
And die to let it out again.
No; Venus shall my witness be,
(If Venus ever lov’d like me)
That for one hour I would not quit
My shepherd’s arms, and this retreat,        50
To be the Persian monarch’s bride,
Partner of all his power and pride;
Or rule in regal state above,
Mother of gods, and wife of Jove.
  O happy these of human race!        55
But soon, alas! our pleasures pass.
He thank’d her on his bended knee;
Then drank a quart of milk and tea:
And leaving her ador’d embrace,
Hasten’d to court, to beg a place.        60
While she, his absence to bemoan,
The very moment he was gone,
Call’d Thyrsis from beneath the bed!
Where all this time he had been hid.
While men have these ambitious fancies;
And wanton wenches read romances;
Our sex will—What? out with it. Lie;
And theirs in equal strains reply.
The moral of the tale I sing
(A posy for a wedding ring)        70
In this short verse will be confin’d:
Love is a jest, and vows are wind.

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