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Poem by Francis Beaumont
Ad Comitissam Rutlandiæ
Madam, so may my verses pleasing be, So may you laugh at them and not at me, 'Tis something to you gladly I would say; But how to do't I cannot find the way. I would avoid the common beaten ways To women used, which are love or praise: As for the first, the little wit I have Is not yet grown so near unto the grave, But that I can, by that dim fading light, Perceive of what, or unto whom I write. Let such as in a hopeless, witless rage, Can sigh a quire, and read it to a page; Such is do backs of books and windows fill, With their too furious diamond or quill; Such as were well resolved to end their days With a loud laughter blown beyond the seas; Who are so mortified that they can live Contemned of all the world, and yet forgive, Write love to you: I would not willingly Be pointed at in every company; As was that little tailor, who till death Was hot in love with Queen Elizabeth: And, for the last, in all my idle days I never yet did living woman praise In prose or verse: and when I do begin I'll pick some woman out as full of sin As you are full of virtue; with a soul As black as you are white; a face as foul As you are beautiful: for it shall be Out of the rules of physiognomy So far, that I do fear I must displace The art a little, to let in her face. It shall att least four faces be below The devil's; and her parched corpse shall show In her loose skill as if some sprite she were Kept in a bag by some great conjurer. Her breath shall be as horrible and wild As every word you speak is sweet and mild; It shall be such a one as will not be Covered with any art or policy: But let her take all powders, fumes, and drink, She shall make nothing but a dearer stink; She shall have such a foot and such a nose, She shall not stand in anything but prose; If I bestow my praises upon such, 'Tis charity, and I shall merit much. My praise will come to her like a full bowl, Bestowed at most need on a thirsty soul; Where, if I sing your praises in my rhyme, I lose my ink, my paper, and my time; And nothing add to your o'erflowing store, And tell you nought, but what you knew before. Nor do the virtuous-minded (which I swear, Madam, I think you are) endure to hear Their own perfections into questions brought, But stop their ears at them; for if I thought You took a pride to have your virtues known, Pardon me, madam, I should think them none. To what a length is this strange letter grown, In seeking of a subject, yet finds none! But your brave thoughts, which I so much respect Above your glorious titles, shall accept These harsh disordered lines. I shall ere long Dress up your virtues new, in a new song; Yet far from all base praise and flattery, Although I know whate'er my verses be, They will like the most servile flattery shew, If I write truth, and make the subject you.
Francis Beaumont's other poems:
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