Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO HIS UNCONSTANT FRIEND, by HENRY KING (1592-1669)



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TO HIS UNCONSTANT FRIEND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: But say, thou very woman, why to me
Last Line: I shall find ten as fair, and yet more true.
Subject(s): Unfaithfulness; Infidelity; Adultery; Inconstancy


BUT say, thou very woman, why to me
This fit of weakness and inconstancy?
What forfeit have I made of word or vow,
That I am rack'd on thy displeasure now?
If I have done a fault, I do not shame
To cite it from thy lips, give it a name:
I ask the banes, stand forth, and tell me why
We should not in our wonted loves comply?
Did thy cloy'd appetite urge thee to try
If any other man could love as I?
I see friends are like clothes, laid up whilst new,
But after wearing cast, though ne'er so true.
Or did thy fierce ambition long to make
Some lover turn a martyr for thy sake?
Thinking thy beauty had deserv'd no name
Unless someone do perish in that flame:
Upon whose loving dust this sentence lies,
Here's one was murther'd by his mistress' eyes.

Or was't because my love to thee was such,
I could not choose but blab it? swear how much
I was thy slave, and doting let thee know,
I better could myself than thee forgo.

Hearken! ye men that e'er shall love like me,
I'll give you counsel gratis: if you be
Possess'd of what you like, let your fair friend
Lodge in your bosom, but no secrets send
To seek their lodging in a female breast;
For so much is abated of your rest.
The steed that comes to understand his strength
Grows wild, and casts his manager at length:
And that tame lover who unlocks his heart
Unto his mistress, teaches her an art
To plague himself; shows her the secret way
How she may tyrannize another day.

And now, my fair Unkindness, thus to thee;
Mark how wise Passion and I agree:
Hear and be sorry for't. I will not die
To expiate thy crime of levity:
I walk (not cross-arm'd neither), eat, and live,
Yea live to pity thy neglect, not grieve
That thou art from thy faith and promise gone,
Nor envy him who by my loss hath won.
Thou shalt perceive thy changing Moon-like fits
Have not infected me, or turn'd my wits
To lunacy. I do not mean to weep
When I should eat, or sigh when I should sleep;
I will not fall upon my pointed quill,
Bleed ink and poems, or invention spill
To contrive ballads, or weave elegies
For nurses' wearing when the infant cries.
Nor like th'enamour'd Tristrams of the time,
Despair in prose and hang myself in rhyme.
Nor thither run upon my verses' feet,
Where I shall none but fools or madmen meet,
Who midst the silent shades, and myrtle walks,
Pule and do penance for their mistress' faults.
I'm none of those poetic malcontents
Born to make paper dear with my laments:
Or wild Orlando that will rail and vex,
And for thy sake fall out with all the sex.
No, I will love again, and seek a prize
That shall redeem me from thy poor despise.
I'll court my fortune now in such a shape
That will no faint dye, nor starv'd colour take.

Thus launch I off with triumph from thy shore,
To which my last farewell; for never more
will I touch there. I put to sea again
Blown with the churlish wind of thy disdain.
Nor will I stop this course till I have found
A coast that yields safe harbour, and firm ground.

Smile, ye Love-Stars; wing'd with desire I fly,
To make my wishes' full discovery:
Nor doubt I but for one that proves like you,
I shall find ten as fair, and yet more true.





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