Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
Song: ‘It is not Beauty I demand’
By George Darley (1795–1846)
IT is not Beauty I demand,
  A crystal brow, the moon’s despair,
Nor the snow’s daughter, a white hand,
  Nor mermaid’s yellow pride of hair.
Tell me not of your starry eyes,        5
  Your lips that seem on roses fed,
Your breasts where Cupid tumbling lies,
  Nor sleeps for kissing of his bed.
A bloomy pair of vermeil cheeks,
  Like Hebe’s in her ruddiest hours,        10
A breath that softer music speaks
  Than summer winds a-wooing flowers:
These are but gauds: nay, what are lips?
  Coral beneath the ocean stream,
Whose brink when your adventurer sips        15
  Full oft he perisheth on them.
And what are cheeks but ensigns oft
  That wave hot youth to fields of blood?
Did Helen’s breast, though ne’er so soft,
  Do Greece or Ilium any good?        20
Eyes can with baleful ardour burn;
  Poison can breath that erst perfumed;
There ’s many a white hand holds an urn
  With lovers’ hearts to dust consumed.
For crystal brows—there ’s naught within;        25
  They are but empty cells for pride;
He who the Siren’s hair would win
  Is mostly strangled in the tide.
Give me, instead of beauty’s bust,
  A tender heart, a loyal mind,        30
Which with temptation I could trust,
  Yet never link’d with error find.
One in whose gentle bosom I
  Could pour my secret heart of woes,
Like the care-burthen’d honey-fly        35
  That hides his murmurs in the rose.
My earthly comforter! whose love
  So indefeasible might be,
That, when my spirit won above,
  Hers could not stay, for sympathy.        40

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