had I been cut of a nobler cloth the pleasures of the flesh would be of less consequence to me.
Philosophy or politics would hold the day, and the vagaries of romance would not waylay my every
thought. But, alas, I am a man of mere heart and bone, wont to turn my head at a passing beauty or linger
over the trivialities of tea and toe polish. It is for this reason that I read Lovelace and feel at ease in his world of playful love. For even in the midst of the political turmoil of seventeenth century England,
Lovelace wrote of lust and longing, inking his quill for the Lucastas and the Altheas, the Chlorises and the
Nor, apparently, were the Amaranthas in short supply. In one poem, Lovelace responds to his mistress’
concerns about his fidelity in truly exemplary fashion: “Lady it is already morn, / And ’twas last night I
swore to thee / That fond impossibility. / Have I not loved thee much and long / A tedious twelve hours’
space?” I ask you, Is there a terser manifesto of a rollin’ stone? And while Muddy Waters promised five minutes,
Lovelace claims twelve hours, leading me to wonder what more a woman could want — except, of course, not to be considered tedious.
In the poem below, however, the dynamic is a little different. As this Chloris apparently did not* * *
take good Richard up on his offers, he inundates her with images of the golden age of romance that are meant to get her all worked up. But in the last lines we’ll see
that it’s the author himself who gets jazzed from the descriptions, so much so that he loses whatever interest he had in the girl. Given the chance, she didn’t take it, and Lovelace found another lover. Perhaps miss Chloris would have done well to remember that even with pen in hand, one hand remains free.
From “Love Made in the First Age: To Chloris” by Richard Lovelace
In the nativity of time,
Chloris, it was not thought a crime
In direct Hebrew for to woo . . .
Thrice happy was that golden age . . .
When cursed “No” stained no maid’s bliss,
And all discourse was summed in “Yes,”
And nought forbidden, but to forbid.
Love then unstinted, Love did sip,
And cherries plucked fresh from the lip,
On cheeks and roses free he fed;
Lasses like Autumn plums did drop,
And lads, indifferently did crop
A flower, and a maidenhead.
Then unconfined each did tipple
Wine from the bunch, milk from the nipple,
Paps tractable as udders were;
Then equally the wholesome jellies,
Were squeezed from olive trees, and bellies,
Nor suits of trespass did they fear . . .
Naked as their own innocence,
And unembroidered from offense
They went, above poor riches, gay;
On softer than the cignet’s down,
In beds they tumbled of their own;
For each within the other lay.
Thus did they live: thus did they love,
Repeating only joys above;
And angels were, but with clothes on,
Which they would put off cheerfully,
To bathe them in the galaxy,
Then gird them with the heavenly zone.
Now, Chloris, miserably crave
The offered bliss you would not have;
Which evermore I must deny,
Whilst ravished with these noble dreams,
And crowned with mine own soft beams,
Enjoying of myself I lie.