Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Language of Love: Tips from Old Masters

It’s fair to say they don’t write poems like they used to, love poems in particular. The days of unfazed openness in regard to sexuality are well gone. Who now would write a poem entitled ‘Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast’?
The 17th century poet, Robert Herrick, was a clergy-man and bachelor who said a lot more than his prayers.  
Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast 
Have ye beheld (with much delight)
A red rose peeping through a white?
Or else a cherry (double graced)
Within a lily? Centre placed?
Or ever marked the pretty beam
A strawberry shows half drowned in cream?
Or seen rich rubies blushing through
A pure smooth pearl, and orient too?
So like to this, nay all the rest,
Is each neat niplet of her breast.  

John Donne, one of the greatest English poets, matches Herrick with this title

"On a Flea on his Mistress’s Bosom", and starts,  

“MADAM, that flea which crept between your breasts 
I envied, that there he should make his rest; 
The little creature’s fortune was so good 
That angels feed not on so precious food.”

I particularly  like his poetic take on the modern ‘get your kit off’;

from  "Elegies XX. To his Mistress Going to Bed" 

“ Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing. 
Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear,
That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopp’d there. 
Unlace yourself…………………………….”

and from  “Elegy XVIII: Love’s Progress”: 

"Her swelling lips; to which when we are come,
 We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,
 For they seem all: there sirens’ songs, and there
 Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear;
 There in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,
 The remora, her cleaving tongue doth dwell.
 These, and the glorious promontory, her chin
 O’erpast; and the strait Hellespont between
 The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts,
 (Not of two lovers, but two loves the nests)
 Succeeds a boundless sea, but that thine eye
 Some island moles may scattered there descry;
 And sailing towards her India, in that way
 Shall at her fair Atlantic navel stay;
 Though thence the current be thy pilot made,
 Yet ere thou be where thou wouldst be embayed,
 Thou shalt upon another forest set,
 Where some do shipwreck, and no further get.
 When thou art there, consider what this chase
 Misspent by thy beginning at the face."

Holy moly!

No comments: