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.
Hymn to the Kiss
By Joannes Secundus (1511–1536)
(Translated by George Ogle)

O CHOICEST gift of heav’nly kind!
O, sacred source of joy refin’d!
Thou latent spring, whose vast control
Extends throughout the boundless whole!
Attraction strong! all-powerful cause,        5
Enforcing Nature’s hidden laws!
Thou magic lightning, that canst burn
What-e’er you touch, where-e’er you turn!
Touch but the lips, and you dispense
The brisk alarm thro’ ev’ry sense:        10
Come, hover round my tuneful lyre,
And ev’ry swelling note inspire;
So shall the warmth my strains express
Thy rapture-giving pow’r confess.
To those, who own your gentle sway,
You darts of pleasing flame convey;
Your kindling sparks, that ne’er can die,
Blind Cupid’s burning torch supply:
How dull the spring of life wou’d prove,
Without the kiss that waits on love!        20
Youth first to thee its homage pays,
Becomes enlighten’d from thy rays;
And, hast’ning by your fost’ring fires
The birth of all the gay desires,
From youthful lips you soon receive        25
The richest harvests lips can give.
Far from the world’s more glaring eye,
What crowds of wretched beings lie;
Who seem in dull oblivion doom’d
For ever to remain entomb’d!        30
To them no zephyr’s balmy wing
Refreshing gales, or sweets can bring;
No rip’ning crops of golden grain
For them adorn the waving plain:
Yet, thy persuasive magic binds        35
To this terrestrial orb their minds;
And bids them, in their gloomy state,
Smile, nor regret their piteous fate.
The flow’rs, that in yon meadow grow,
To thee their bloom, their fragrance owe;        40
The blossom’d shrubs, in gaudy dress,
Thy genial warmth, thy pow’r confess;
The stream, that winds along the grove,
And courts the shore with waves of love,
Is taught by thee the fond embrace,        45
By thee is taught each rural grace:
On gently-parted lips, say, why
Is plac’d the rose’s beauteous dye?
Because, on that soft seat of bliss
Abides the rosy-breathing kiss.        50
Let rigid scruple furl her brow,
And blame the comforts you bestow:
The sage, the hero, thee obey;
Nay, legislators own thy sway.
See, threat’ning Cæsar mounts his car,        55
To join th’ embattled sons of war;
Swift from the capitol he flies,
And ev’ry hostile warrior dies:
But soon he quits the bleeding plain,
With transport hugs fair beauty’s chain,        60
And, e’en beneath his laurel’s shade,
Caresses many a Roman maid.
Could Mahomet, whose dauntless soul
Superior rose to all control,
Whose breast was fir’d with hope sublime,        65
Who thought that ignorance and crime
Were destin’d o’er this globe t’ have reign’d;
Could that stern victor have sustain’d
The harsh, fatiguing toil of arms;
Had not his houris’ soothing charms,        70
And tender kisses, lull’d to rest
The martial tumults of his breast;
If the seraglio of this earth
Had not to those sweet joys giv’n birth,
Which, in the paradise of love,        75
The prophet hop’d to taste above?
But tow’ring domes, that strike the eyes
With outward grandeur, you despise;
There stormy passions govern sense,
And banish tender feelings thence.        80
Say, couldst thou well-contented lie
On lips with shrivell’d coldness dry,
On lips, that no bright purple wear!
But pal’d by sickness, or by care?
The gilded ceilings, beds of state,        85
The gaudy chambers of the great,
Th’ embroider’d cushions they display,
Must fright the gentle kiss away.
Fly to the rural, shadowy dells:
There peace in calm retirement dwells;        90
And, underneath the beech’s shade,
Thy am’rous secrets are display’d;
There, on the hay-mow, or the grass,
Sport the fond youth, and fonder lass;
There, unconstrain’d in frolic play,        95
A kiss they lend, a kiss repay;
Pleasures so num’rous round them flow,
Envy can ne’er the number know;
Nor are the lips’ sweet joys deny’d
By prudes, affecting virtuous pride.        100
Tho’ tempted hence your flight to take,
My humble mansion ne’er forsake;
To you if constant I remain,
Let kindness recompense my pain!
Around my youth fresh flow’rets shed,        105
Till age shall silver o’er my head;
Then softly fan my drooping fires,
And wake the half-extinct desires:
So mayst thou, in thy wand’rings, meet
Young innocence, who smiles so sweet!        110
And may she all-submissive prove,
To thee, the guiltless guest of love!
So may the nymph of gay fifteen,
By strict maternal eyes unseen,
To some sequester’d grove retire;        115
There, reading, nurse her infant fire;
Free from a parent’s stern control,
Explore her newly-op’ning soul;
And riot o’er my am’rous page,
Soft-yielding to voluptuous rage!        120
So may sweet dreams of rapt’rous joy
Her pleasing slumbers oft employ;
Till many a fond, illusive kiss
Shall almost realise the bliss!

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