Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, by HUMPHREY DILLERVILLE

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First Line: In other ages men spoke other ways
Last Line: And I had memorized you, unaware.
Subject(s): Browne, Sir Thomas (1605-1682); Poetry & Poets


Newly Digested into Sonnets Anatomizing Phancies and Fevers

A true and full coppy

Many expressions therein meerly Tropicall.

-- Sir Thos. Browne, Rel. Med.


In other ages men spoke other ways,
And yet I think their meaning was the same:
I bless old poets for many a curious phrase;
In their dead words my living thoughts I claim.
What of their anguish, then? The identic flame
That charred their hearts is now my private blaze:
Like them I hide the ember in my wame
And cool it by bequest to future days.
Though I'm not proud, great masters I have had
(I mention Herrick, Herbert, Marvell, Donne)
Who taught me arrows are bright when targets rot:
What otherwise would make me sad or mad
I'll share with dear posterity or none;
Man's own unsavories disgust him not.


What have I had of you? One pitiful book
Wherein, though fading fast, I disengage
A faint exhale of you. My reason shook
To find that wraith of sweetness on each page.
Yes, my poor darling, with a kind of rage
Upon these happy curlicues I look
Which caught in one long night such heritage,
And had from you so much more than I took.
And yet the book I loved, you loved it, too:
And so herein I take some soft console;
Your pencil marked it, and your mind was moved.
These leaves impart some quiddity of you;
Knowing your mind, perhaps I'll know the whole;
Women are virgins till their minds are loved.


Aye, since I have you not, you are perfection,
Unblemished wonder and most dear surprise;
I also, spared too intimate complexion,
May seem unduly tender, puissant, wise.
But why these shadows underneath your eyes?
Poor soul, have I been clumsy in dissection
Of such frail hearts and nerves? Your wisdom cries
That passion suffers not such keen inspection.
Could I erase the carnal from my veins,
I would not; flesh is, deeply understood,
Irrelevant, but imperative, undefiled.
Yes, if occasion chanced, after such pains,
You'd come into my arms (I know you would)
Bright and unshamed, unquestioning as a child.


Whatever we may do, we shall repent,
Is the prudential judgment. Ah, sweet fool,
Our casualty was so excellent,
Could we not rupture the accustomed rule?
We'll send our too hot hearts to daily school,
Drill them to parse the intolerable event
Softly, softly! If rapture slackens, you'll
Be unaware just when and how it went.
For this, which was so pure and natural,
Imposes tenderness and high regard:
Since no man has known beauty more than I,
So must I serve her stricter than the thrall
Of sense; and pay her, when it seems too hard,
The honorable tribute of a sigh.


The sonnet, by its artful dignity,
Lifts one to moods too grave to be quite true;
These sentiments, perhaps, have flown too high
To tell the actual mirth of me and you.
For such astounding merriments we knew,
Such reckless gust and kinship, you and I,
Our happy hazard let no man construe
As something written on a darkened sky.
Sonnets are heavy fuel for quick flame:
To tell how quaint you are, or blithe or sad,
Clear, honest, rash, as quick as April wind,
Needs a more free, more volatile exclaim.
But, smiling at these laughters we have had,
I am less pricked by sins we never sinned.


But lucky, lucky you? Since I can't take you,
You are beyond the speck of all decay;
Gross disillusion now can never break you,
Nor weariness, fruition, nor dismay.
For in my hungry wonder I shall say
Such words of you, not even Time can shake you;
And you, however wistful, must be gay --
Made by these lines, oblivion can't unmake you!
Because I cannot have you, all men shall;
In general currency gold-coined and set,
A wakefulness for those who think about you.
But ere you don this incorruptible
Just wait a minute; for I haven't yet
Quite made up my mind to do without you.


Writing these precedent, from a fiery whirl
Of thought my lines came forth exact and sure;
Postscriptively reviewing them, poor churl,
Part arrogant they seem, and part obscure.
But shall I file and smoothen? I abjure!
Such honest edges let none pare and knurl,
And mayhap find them (thought beyond endure!)
Shamed by the beauty of some chance-met girl.
In poetry there is one test of art --
With whispering stealth, and keeping delicate time,
It creps into your mind: you find it there.
You are my poem, then; for in my heart,
Lovelier than a sonnet, you made rhyme,
And I had memorized you, unaware.

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