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.
From “The Passionate Pilgrim”
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
WHEN my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
Unskilful in the world’s false forgeries.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,        5
Although I know my years be past the best,
I smiling credit her false-speaking tongue,
Outfacing faults in love with love’s ill rest.
But wherefore says my love that she is young?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?        10
O, love’s best habit is a soothing tongue,
And age, in love, loves not to have years told.
  Therefore I’ll lie with love, and love with me,
  Since that our faults in love thus smother’d be.
Sweet Cytherea, sitting by a brook        15
With young Adonis, lovely, fresh and green,
Did court the lad with many a lovely look,
Such looks as none could look but beauty’s queen.
She told him stories to delight his ear,
She show’d him favours to allure his eye;        20
To win his heart, she touch’d him here and there;
Touches so soft still conquer chastity.
But whether unripe years did want conceit,
Or he refused to take her figured proffer,
The tender nibbler would not touch the bait,        25
But smile and jest at every gentle offer:
  Then fell she on her back, fair queen, and toward:
  He rose and ran away; ah, fool too froward.
Scarce had the sun dried up the dewy morn,
And scarce the herd gone to the hedge for shade,        30
When Cytherea, all in love forlorn,
A longing tarriance for Adonis made
Under an osier growing by a brook,
A brook where Adon used to cool his spleen;
Hot was the day; she hotter that did look        35
For his approach, that often there had been.
Anon he comes, and throws his mantle by,
And stood stark naked on the brook’s green brim:
The sun look’d on the world with glorious eye,
Yet not so wistly as this queen on him.        40
  He spying her, bounced in, whereas he stood:
  O Jove, quoth she, why was not I a flood!
Fair is my love, but not so fair as fickle,
Mild as a dove, but neither true nor trusty,
Brighter than glass and yet, as glass is, brittle,        45
Softer than wax and yet as iron rusty:
  A lily pale, with damask dye to grace her,
  None fairer, nor none falser to deface her.
Her lips to mine how often hath she joined,
Between each kiss her oaths of true love swearing!        50
How many tales to please me hath she coined,
Dreading my love, the loss thereof still fearing!
  Yet in the midst of all her pure protestings,
  Her faith, her oaths, her tears, and all were jestings.
She burn’d with love, as straw with fire flameth;        55
She burn’d out love, as soon as straw out-burneth;
She framed the love, and yet she foil’d the framing;
She bade love last, and yet she fell a-turning.
  Was this a lover, or a lecher whether?
  Bad in the best, though excellent in neither.        60
Fair was the morn when the fair queen of love,
*        *        *        *        *
Paler for sorrow than her milk-white dove,
Adon’s sake, a youngster proud and wild;
Her stand she takes upon a steep-up hill:
Anon Adonis comes with horn and hounds;        65
She, silly queen, with more than love’s good will,
Forbade the boy he should not pass those grounds:
Once, quoth she, did I see a fair sweet youth
Here in these brakes deep-wounded with a boar,
Deep in the thigh, a spectacle of ruth!        70
See, in my thigh, quoth she, here was the sore.
  She showed hers: he saw more wound than one,
  And blushing fled, and left her all alone.
Venus, with young Adonis sitting by her
Under a myrtle shade, began to woo him:        75
She told the youngling how god Mars did try her,
And as he fell to her, so fell she to him.
‘Even thus,’ quoth she, ‘the warlike god embraced me,’
And then she clipp’d Adonis in her arms;
‘Even thus,’ quoth she, ‘he seized on my lips,’        80
And with her lips on his did act the seizure:
And as she fetched breath, away he skips,
And would not take her meaning nor her pleasure.
  Ah, that I had my lady at this bay,
  To kiss and clip me till I run away!        85
Whenas thine eye hath chose the dame,
And stall’d the deer that thou shouldst strike,
Let reason rule things worthy blame,
As well as fancy, partial wight:
  Take counsel of some wiser head,        90
  Neither too young nor yet unwed.
And when thou comest thy tale to tell,
Smooth not thy tongue with filed talk,
Lest she some subtle practice smell,—
A cripple soon can find a halt;—        95
  But plainly say thou lovest her well,
  And set thy person forth to sell.
What though her frowning brows be bent,
Her cloudy looks will calm ere night:
And then too late she will repent        100
That thus dissembled her delight;
  And twice desire, ere it be day,
  That which with scorn she put away.
What though she strive to try her strength,
And ban and brawl, and say thee nay,        105
Her feeble force will yield at length,
When craft hath taught her thus to say;
  Had women been so strong as men,
  In faith, you had not had it then.
And to her will frame all thy ways;        110
Spare not to spend, and chiefly there
Where thy desert may merit praise,
By ringing in thy lady’s ear:
  The strongest castle, tower and town,
  The golden bullet beats it down.        115
Serve always with assured trust,
And in thy suit be humble true;
Unless thy lady prove unjust,
Press never thou to choose anew:
  When time shall serve, be thou not slack        120
  To proffer, though she put thee back.
The wiles and guiles that women work,
Dissembled with an outward show,
The tricks and toys that in them lurk,
The cock that treads them shall not know.        125
  Have you not heard it said full oft,
  A woman’s nay doth stand for nought?
Think women still to strive with men,
To sin and never for to saint:
There is no heaven, by holy then,        130
When time with age shall them attaint.
  Were kisses all the joys in bed,
  One woman would another wed.
But, soft! enough—too much, I fear—
Lest that my mistress hear my song:        135
She will not stick to round me on the ear,
To teach my tongue to be so long:
  Yet will she blush, here be it said,
  To hear her secrets so bewray’d.

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