by: Lady Mary Wortley Montague (1689-1762)


      T length, by so much importunity pressed,
      Take, Congreve, at once, the inside of my breast:
      This stupid indiff'rence so often you blame,
      Is not owing to nature, to fear, or to shame.
      I am not so cold as a virgin in lead,
      Nor is Sunday's sermon so strong in my head:
      I know but too well how time flies along,
      That we live but few years, and yet fewer are young.
      But I hate to be cheated, and never will buy
      Long years of repentance for moments of joy.
      Oh, was there a man (but where shall I find
      Good-sense and good-nature so equally joined?)
      Would value his pleasure, contribute to mine;
      Not meanly would boast, nor would lewdly design,
      Nor over severe, yet not stupidly vain,
      For I would have the power, tho' not give the pain.
      No pedant, yet learned; nor rake-helly gay,
      Or laughing, because he has nothing to say;
      To all my whole sex obliging and free,
      Yet ne'er be he fond of any but me;
      In public preserve the decorum that's just,
      And shew in his eyes he is true to his trust;
      Then rarely approach, and respectfully bow,
      But not fulsomely pert, or foppishly low.
      But when the long hours of public are past,
      And we meet with champagne and a chicken at last,
      May ev'ry fond pleasure that moment endear;
      Be banish'd afar both discretion and fear!
      Forgetting or scorning the airs of the crowd,
      He may cease to be formal, and I to be proud,
      Till lost in the joy, we confess that we live,
      And he may be rude, and yet I may forgive.
      And that my delight may be solidly fixed,
      Let the friend and the lover be handsomely mixed,
      In whose tender bosom my soul may confide,
      Whose kindness can soothe me, whose counsel can guide,
      From such a dear lover as here I describe,
      No danger should fright me, no millions should bribe;
      But till this astonishing creature I know
      As I long have liv'd chaste, I will keep myself so.
      I never will stare with the wanton coquet,
      Or be caught by a vain affectation of wit.
      The toasters and songsters may try all their art,
      But never shall enter the pass of my heart.
      I loathe the lewd rake, the dress'd fopling despise:
      Before such pursuers the nice virgin flies:
      And as Ovid has sweetly in parables told,
      We harden like trees, and like rivers grow cold.

"The Lover: a Ballad" is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921.




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