Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PARADOX: THAT IT IS BEST FOR A YOUNG MAID TO MARRY AN OLD MAN, by HENRY KING (1592-1669)



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PARADOX: THAT IT IS BEST FOR A YOUNG MAID TO MARRY AN OLD MAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Fair one, why cannot you an old man love
Last Line: Your elevation is for fifty-two.
Subject(s): Love - Age Differences; Marriage; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


FAIR one, why cannot you an old man love?
He may as useful, and more constant prove.
Experience shows you that maturer years
Are a security against those fears
Youth will expose you to; whose wild desire
As it is hot, so 'tis as rash as fire.
Mark how the blaze extinct in ashes lies,
Leaving no brand nor embers when it dies
Which might the flame renew: thus soon consumes
Youth's wand'ring heat, and vanishes in fumes.
When age's riper love unapt to stray
Through loose and giddy change of objects, may
In your warm bosom like a cinder lie,
Quick'ned and kindled by your sparkling eye.
'Tis not deni'd, there are extremes in both
Which may the fancy move to like or loathe:
Yet of the two you better shall endure
To marry with the cramp than calenture.
Who would in wisdom choose the Torrid Zone
Therein to settle a plantation?
Merchants can tell you, those hot climes were made
But at the longest for a three years' trade:
And though the Indies cast the sweeter smell,
Yet health and plenty do more Northward dwell;
For where the raging sunbeams burn the earth,
Her scorched mantle withers into dearth;
Yet when that drought becomes the harvest's curse,
Snow doth the tender corn most kindly nurse:
Why now then woo you not some snowy head
To take you in mere pity to his bed?
I doubt the harder task were to persuade
Him to love you: for if what I have said
In virgins as in vegetals holds true,
He'll prove the better nurse to cherish you.
Some men we know renown'd for wisdom grown
By old records and antique medals shown;
Why ought not women then be held most wise
Who can produce living antiquities?
Besides if care of that main happiness
Your sex triumphs in, doth your thoughts possess,
I mean your beauty from decay to keep;
No wash nor mask is like an old man's sleep.
Young wives need never to be sunburnt fear,
Who their old husbands for umbrellas wear:
How russet looks an orchard on the hill
To one that's water'd by some neighb'ring drill?
Are not the floated meadows ever seen
To flourish soonest, and hold longest green?
You may be sure no moist'ning lacks that bride,
Who lies with winter thawing by her side.
She should be fruitful too as fields that join
Unto the melting waste of Apennine.
Whilst the cold morning-drops bedew the rose,
It doth nor leaf, nor smell, nor colour lose;
Then doubt not, Sweet! Age hath supplies of wet
To keep You like that flower in water set.
Dripping catarrhs and fontinells are things
Will make You think You grew betwixt two springs.
And should You not think so, You scarce allow
The force or merit of Your marriage-vow;
Where maids a new creed learn, and must from thence
Believe against their own or others' sense.
Else love will nothing differ from neglect,
Which turns not to a virtue each defect.
I'll say no more but this; you women make
Your children's reck'ning by the almanac.
I like it well, so you contented are,
To choose their fathers by that kalendar.
Turn then, old Erra Pater, and there see
According to life's posture and degree,
What age or what complexion is most fit
To make an English maid happy by it;
And You shall find, if You will choose a man,
Set justly for Your own meridian,
Though You perhaps let One and Twenty woo,
Your elevation is for Fifty-Two.





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