Jack’s Naughty Bits: Sir Walter Raleigh’s “Dulcina”

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Jack's Naughty Bits

Night time / is the right time / to be / with the one you love.

While I’m sure Ray Charles is an authority on a lot of things, he is not, for obvious reasons, the person most likely to know whether sex is better during the day or at night. I personally have always been of the and/or school of sexuality, but I’ve known women who only want to have sex under the cloak of darkness and once had a male roommate in college who would only get nasty a la lumi?re; I thought him, fittingly, a benighted creature. Sadly, the opinion seems rather widespread that somehow sex in the dark is better than in sunlight, by candlelight, beneath dashboard light, under hot lights or in the small diameter beam of the handheld torch.

It is true, however, that my roommate’s bias could be no more than the intellectual and aesthetic justification for a biological reality. I have been told that it is a documented scientific fact that men are at their best — reproductively speaking — first thing in the morning. The faithful reality of waking wood notwithstanding, this still came as something of a shock to me. Stereotypes would certainly have you believe the reverse: men are famous for getting off, rolling off and commencing to snore, not for starting early so there’s more time to cuddle, discuss and repeat after round one was over. No, on this score, evolutionary biology seems to be losing out to the unfortunate work-sleep/work-sleep conditioning of the modern, industrialized male.

And yet there is still the issue of the morning woody, and erections in general. Many philosophers will tell you that just because the sun rose today, doesn’t mean it’s going to rise tomorrow. It’s called the critique of inductive reasoning, and I suspect a lot of men feel the same way about their erections. Frail man, first imperiled by the inexperience of youth, then by the decline of age. Even a decade of successful erections will not erase the memory of one failure, or eliminate the doubt that it could happen again. Which means that somewhere in the back of a man’s mind is always the fear that he won’t be able to get it up. I believe this accounts, in part, for a lot of men’s resistance to sex — for the fact that they are often a lot less interested than their wives or the media would have it. It also accounts for a certain urgency when there is a ready and willing hard-on. It’s a poker, clearly, so if it’s hot . . .

The poem below is a bit more lighthearted than all that. Attributed to the great Elizabethan explorer and statesman Sir Walter Raleigh, it is a dialogue between a man and a woman about when they should get it on. He says now; she says later, when it’s dark. Fair jury, I submit this: Both?


“Dulcina” attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh

As at noon Dulcina rested
In her sweet and shady bower;
Came a shepherd, and requested
In her lap to sleep an hour.
But from her look
A wound he took
So deep, that for a further boon
The nymph he prays.
Whereto she says,
Forgo me now, come to me soon.

But in vain did she conjure him
To depart her presence so;
Having a thousand tongues to allure him,
And but one to bid him go:
Where lips invite,
And eyes delight,
And cheeks, as fresh as rose in June,
Persuade delay;
What boots, she say,
Forgo me now, come to me soon?

He demands what time for pleasure
Can there be more fit than now:
She says, night gives loves that leisure,
Which the day cannot allow.
He says, the sight
Improves delight.
Which she denies: Night’s murky noon
In Venus’ plays
Makes bold, she says;
Forgo me now, come to me soon.

But what promise or profession
From his hands could purchase scope?
Who would sell the sweet possession
Of such beauty for a hope?
Or for the sight
Of lingering night
Forgo the present joys of noon?
Though ne’er so fair
Her speeches were,
Forgo me now, come to me soon.

How, at last, agreed these lovers?
She was fair; and he was young:
The tongue may tell what th’ eye discovers;
Joys unseen are never sung.
Did she consent,
Or he relent:
Accepts he night, or grants she noon;
Left he her a maid,
Or not; she said
Forgo me now, come to me soon.