Sunday, May 02, 2010

May Never Was the Month of Love

Love's Servile Lot
by Robert Southwell


Love, mistress is of many minds,
Yet few know whom they serve;
They reckon least how little Love
Their service doth deserve.

The will she robbeth from the wit,
The sense from reason's lore;
She is delightful in the rind,
Corrupted in the core.

She shroudeth vice in virtue's veil,
Pretending good in ill;
She offereth joy, affordeth grief,
A kiss where she doth kill.

A honey-shower rains from her lips,
Sweet lights shine in her face;
She hath the blush of virgin mind,
The mind of viper's race.

She makes thee seek, yet fear to find
To find, but not enjoy:
In many frowns some gliding smiles
She yields to more annoy.

She woos thee to come near her fire,
Yet doth she draw it from thee
Far off she makes thy heart to fry,
And yet to freeze within thee.

She letteth fall some luring baits
For fools to gather up;
Too sweet, too sour, to every taste
She tempereth her cup.

Soft souls she binds in tender twist,
Small flies in spinner's web;
She sets afloat some luring streams,
But makes them soon to ebb.

Her watery eyes have burning force;
Her floods and flames conspire:
Tears kindle sparks, sobs fuel are,
And sighs do blow her fire.

May never was the month of love,
For May is full of flowers;
But rather April, wet by kind,
For love is full of showers.

Like tyrant, cruel wounds she gives,
Like surgeon, salve she lends;
But salve and sore have equal force,
For death is both their ends.

With soothing words enthralled souls
She chains in servile bands;
Her eye in silence hath a speech
Which eye best understands.

Her little sweet hath many sours,
Short hap immortal harms;
Her loving looks are murd'ring darts,
Her song bewitching charms.

Like winter rose and summer ice,
Her joys are still untimely;
Before her Hope, behind Remorse:
Fair first, in fine unseemly.

Moods, passions, fancy's jealous fits
Attend upon her train:
She yieldeth rest without repose,
And heaven in hellish pain.

Her house is Sloth, her door Deceit,
And slippery Hope her stairs;
Unbashful Boldness bids her guests,
And every vice repairs.

Her diet is of such delights
As please till they be past;
But then the poison kills the heart
That did entice the taste.

Her sleep in sin doth end in wrath,
Remorse rings her awake;
Death calls her up, Shame drives her out,
Despairs her upshot make.

Plough not the seas, sow not the sands,
Leave off your idle pain;
Seek other mistress for your minds,
Love's service is in vain.

Robert Southwell, by the way, is on the calendar of saints; he was not just a poet but also a Jesuit martyr at Tyburn, and is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who share as their feast-day October 25.

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