Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE COMPLAINT OF CHASTITIE, by RICHARD BARNFIELD



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THE COMPLAINT OF CHASTITIE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: You modest dames, inrichte with chastitie
Last Line: For fame is toomblesse, vertue lives for aye.
Alternate Author Name(s): Barnefield, Richard
Subject(s): Chastity


You modest Dames, inrichte with Chastitie.
Maske your bright eyes with Vestaes sable Vaile,
Since few are left so faire or chast as shee;
(Matter for me to weepe, you to bewaile):
For manie seeming so, of Vertue faile;
Whose lovely Cheeks (with rare vermilion tainted)
Can never blush because their faire is painted.

O faire-foule Tincture, staine of Woman-kinde,
Mother of Mischiefe, Daughter of Deceate,
False traitor to the Soule, blot to the Minde,
Usurping Tyrant of true Beauties seate,
Right Cousner of the eye, lewd Follies baite,
The flag of filthines, the sinke of shame,
The Divells dye, dishonour of thy name.

Monster of Art, Bastard of bad Desier,
Il-worshipt Idoll, false Imagerie,
Ensigne of Vice, to thine owne selfe a lier,
Silent Inchaunter, mindes Anatomie,
Sly Bawd to Lust, Pandor to Infamie,
Slaunder of Truth, Truth of Dissimulation;
Staining our Clymate more than anie Nation.

What shall I say to thee? thou scorne of Nature,
Blacke spot of sinne, vylde lure of lecherie;
Iniurious Blame to everie faemale creature,
Wronger of time, Broker of trecherie,
Trap of greene youth, false Womens witcherie,
Hand-maid of pride, high-way to wickednesse;
Yet path-way to Repentance, nerethelesse.

Thou dost entice the minde to dooing evill,
Thou setst dissention twixt the man and wife;
A Saint in show, and yet indeed a devill:
Thou art the cause of everie common strife;
Thou art the life of Death, the death of Life;
Thou doost betray thyselfe to Infamie,
When thou art once discerned by the eye.

Ah, little knew Matilda of thy being,
Those times were pure from all impure complection;
Then Love came of Desert, Desire of seeing,
Then Vertue was the mother of Affection;
(But Beautie now is under no subiection)
Then women were the same that men did deeme,
But now they are the same they doo not seeme.

What faemale now intreated of a King
With gold and iewels, pearles and precious stones,
Would willingly refuse so sweete a thing?
Onely for a little show of Vertue ones?
Women have kindnes grafted in their bones.
Gold is a deepe-perswading Orator,
Especially where few the fault abhor.

But yet shee rather deadly poyson chose,
(Oh cruell Bane of most accursed Clime;)
Than staine that milk-white Mayden-virgin Rose,
Which shee had kept unspotted till that time:
And not corrupted with this earthly slime,
Her soule shall live: inclosd eternally,
In that pure shrine of Immortality.

This is my Doome: and this shall come to passe,
For what are Pleasures but still-vading ioyes?
Fading as flowers, brittle as a glasse,
Or Potters Clay crost with the least annoyes;
All thinges in this life are but trifling Toyes:
But Fame and Vertue never shall decay,
For Fame is Toomblesse, Vertue lives for aye.





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