Gateway to the Classics: Oxford Book of English Verse, Part 1 by Arthur Quiller-Couch
Oxford Book of English Verse, Part 1 by  Arthur Quiller-Couch

Beauty, Time, and Love

Sonnet I

Fair is my Love and cruel as she's fair;

Her brow-shades frown, although her eyes are sunny.

Her smiles are lightning, though her pride despair,

And her disdains are gall, her favours honey:

A modest maid, deck'd with a blush of honour,

Whose feet do tread green paths of youth and love;

The wonder of all eyes that look upon her,

Sacred on earth, design'd a Saint above.

Chastity and Beauty, which were deadly foes,

Live reconciléd friends within her brow;

And had she Pity to conjoin with those,

Then who had heard the plaints I utter now?

For had she not been fair, and thus unkind,

My Muse had slept, and none had known my mind.

Sonnet II

My spotless love hovers with purest wings,

About the temple of the proudest frame,

Where blaze those lights, fairest of earthly things,

Which clear our clouded world with brightest flame.

My ambitious thoughts, confinéd in her face,

Affect no honour but what she can give;

My hopes do rest in limits of her grace;

I weigh no comfort unless she relieve.

For she, that can my heart imparadise,

Holds in her fairest hand what dearest is;

My Fortune's wheel's the circle of her eyes,

Whose rolling grace deign once a turn of bliss.

All my life's sweet consists in her alone;

So much I love the most Unloving one.

Sonnet III

And yet I cannot reprehend the flight

Or blame th' attempt presuming so to soar;

The mounting venture for a high delight

Did make the honour of the fall the more.

For who gets wealth, that puts not from the shore?

Danger hath honour, great designs their fame;

Glory doth follow, courage goes before;

And though th' event oft answers not the same—

Suffice that high attempts have never shame.

The mean observer, whom base safety keeps,

Lives without honour, dies without a name,

And in eternal darkness ever sleeps.—

And therefore, Delia, 'tis to me no blot

To have attempted, tho' attain'd thee not.

Sonnet IV

When men shall find thy flow'r, thy glory, pass,

And thou with careful brow, sitting alone,

Receivéd hast this message from thy glass,

That tells the truth and says that All is gone;

Fresh shalt thou see in me the wounds thou mad'st,

Though spent thy flame, in me the heat remaining:

I that have loved thee thus before thou fad'st—

My faith shall wax, when thou art in thy waning.

The world shall find this miracle in me,

That fire can burn when all the matter's spent:

Then what my faith hath been thyself shalt see,

And that thou wast unkind thou may'st repent.—

Thou may'st repent that thou hast scorn'd my tears,

When Winter snows upon thy sable hairs.

Sonnet V

Beauty, sweet Love, is like the morning dew,

Whose short refresh upon the tender green

Cheers for a time, but till the sun doth show,

And straight 'tis gone as it had never been.

Soon doth it fade that makes the fairest flourish,

Short is the glory of the blushing rose;

The hue which thou so carefully dost nourish,

Yet which at length thou must be forced to lose.

When thou, surcharged with burthen of thy years,

Shalt bend thy wrinkles homeward to the earth;

And that, in Beauty's Lease expired, appears

The Date of Age, the Calends of our Death—

But ah, no more!—this must not be foretold,

For women grieve to think they must be old.

Sonnet VI

I must not grieve my Love, whose eyes would read

Lines of delight, whereon her youth might smile;

Flowers have time before they come to seed,

And she is young, and now must sport the while.

And sport, Sweet Maid, in season of these years,

And learn to gather flowers before they wither;

And where the sweetest blossom first appears,

Let Love and Youth conduct thy pleasures thither.

Lighten forth smiles to clear the clouded air,

And calm the tempest which my sighs do raise;

Pity and smiles do best become the fair;

Pity and smiles must only yield thee praise.

Make me to say when all my griefs are gone,

Happy the heart that sighed for such a one!

Sonnet VII

Let others sing of Knights and Paladines

In agéd accents and untimely words,

Paint shadows in imaginary lines,

Which well the reach of their high wit records:

But I must sing of thee, and those fair eyes

Authentic shall my verse in time to come;

When yet th' unborn shall say, Lo, where she lies!

Whose beauty made him speak, that else was dumb!

These are the arcs, the trophies I erect,

That fortify thy name against old age;

And these thy sacred virtues must protect

Against the Dark, and Time's consuming rage.

Though th' error of my youth in them appear,

Suffice, they show I lived, and loved thee dear.

— Samuel Daniel

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