by: Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

      LOVE! what shall be said of thee?
      The son of grief begot by joy?
      Being sightless, wilt thou see?
      Being sexless, wilt thou be
      Maiden or boy?
      I dreamed of strange lips yesterday
      And cheeks wherein the ambiguous blood
      Was like a rose's--yea,
      A rose's when it lay
      Within the bud.
      What fields have bred thee, or what groves
      Concealed thee, O mysterious flower,
      O double rose of Love's,
      With leaves that lure the doves
      From bud to bower?
      I dare not kiss it, lest my lip
      Press harder than an indrawn breath,
      And all the sweet life slip
      Forth, and the sweet leaves drip,
      Bloodlike, in death.
      O sole desire of my delight!
      O sole delight of my desire!
      Mine eyelids and eyesight
      Feed on thee day and night
      Like lips of fire.
      Lean back thy throat of carven pearl,
      Lest thy mouth murmur like the dove's;
      Say, Venus hath no girl,
      No front of female curl,
      Among her Loves.
      Thy sweet low bosom, thy close hair,
      Thy straight soft flanks and slenderer feet,
      Thy virginal strange air,
      Are these not over fair
      For Love to greet?
      How should he greet thee? what new name,
      Fit to move all men's hearts, could move
      Thee, deaf to love or shame,
      Love's sister, by the same
      Mother as Love?
      Ah sweet, the maiden's mouth is cold,
      Her breast-blossoms are simply red,
      Her hair mere brown or gold,
      Fold over simple fold
      Binding her head.
      Thy mouth is made of fire and wine,
      They barren bosom takes my kiss
      And turns my soul to thine
      And turns thy lip to mine,
      And mine it is.
      Thou hast a serpent in thine hair,
      In all the curls that close and cling;
      And ah, thy breast-flower!
      Ah love, thy mouth too fair
      To kiss and sting!
      Cleave to me, love me, kiss mine eyes,
      Satiate thy lips with loving me;
      Nay, for thou shalt not rise;
      Lie still as Love that dies
      For love of thee.
      Mine arms are close about thine head,
      My lips are fervent on thy face,
      And where my kiss hath fed
      Thy flower-like blood leaps red
      To the kissed place.
      O bitterness of things too sweet
      O broken singing of the dove!
      Love's wings are over fleet,
      And like the panther's feet
      The feet of Love.

"Fragoletta" is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921.




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