[Editor: This poem by William Blocksidge (also known as William Baylebridge) was published in Songs o’ the South (1908). This composition was the first in the section “Metrical Exercises”.]
To the Supposed Fair
Dear Heart, like blossoms born to kiss the Spring
Are those that on thy cheeks I would survey;
Summer has naught to show thy lovely day —
’Tis such as Beauty seldom deigns to bring.
I read my fortune — favour or dismay —
Within the firmament that fills thine eyes,
For stars that all my destiny devise,
And all my good and evil tell, are they.
Thy teeth like snow within a red, red rose
Appear; and this thy lovely lips would seem,
Its petals giving perfume of a dream
That on a zephyr from some valley blows —
A valley filled with breath of fragrant flowers,
Late purified in sweet baptismal showers.
The lovely livery that decks thy form
(And Beauty’s best thou fairly hold’st in fee)
Is favoured more in that sweet modesty
Doth every movement, every thought, inform —
Such charm as ever moves love-simple man
From settled purposes and destined end:
In Love’s full-flowing bowl doth ever blend
All care, till pleasure blots its weighty plan.
Nor scorn, ye ones who boast a heart of stone,
The rapture swelling in a lover’s soul;
Who never knew the sorrow-quenching coal
To riper season judgment should postpone.
Can Death, who never kissed the sun’s kind ray,
Know what it means to frolic in the day?
How can my barren pen thy meed indite —
My sluggard quill that labours for thy due?
Can neutral words unfold the lovely hue
That colours well thy cheek’s unblemished white?
Where Nature’s hand has left her loved design,
Poor words the pleasing vision but impair:
My lifeless numbers load my heavy care
In that, Dear Heart, they tell no charm of thine.
As gallants sung their loves in ancient lays,
So would I sing the measure in my mind;
For there one melody alone I find,
And that, my Love, doth tell thy beauty’s praise.
And O, to think of thee my heart doth fill
With holy thoughts, confounding every ill!
When thou art near, life proves a witching dream,
Loaded with happiness and pleasing cares;
When thou art far, how dull my day compares!
For eyes gem-dazzled darkness greater deem.
But even cruel absence leisure gives
To gauge the love that in my bosom lies;
And, robbed by space, I rate my lovely prize
The fairest far that ’neath high heaven lives.
Then, if my heart alone doth tell me this,
How do mine eyes the argument sustain!
And thus, my sight but proving to my gain,
I would augment the measure of my bliss.
If thoughts were deeds, then ever would I be,
Though distance frowned disdain, Dear Heart, with thee.
O Time, thou tyrant, lift thy heavy chains!
I long my loved one in mine arms to fold.
As lovely summer follows winter’s cold,
My heart then to its summer’s prime attains.
Still, if division doth my being move
To long thee, Love, with pulse at fever beat,
’Tis but the fan that fills my passion’s heat:
Pleasures indulged too often heavy prove.
And yet, I know, a hundred sights of thee
Would each some hidden charm then first display:
Who would descry the seasons of thy day
Must linger there on love’s sweet embassy —
The beauty on thy brow all men may know;
Thy heart’s pure loveliness is hid below.
Full pleasures some in paltry things aver,
And trick their quills to pamper trivial themes;
But thy soul’s purity more lovely seems
Than those sad charms poor Folly would confer.
And all thine outward form an index serves
To show the goodness of the form within;
Thus, inward soul to outward sight being kin,
A double harmony the whole preserves;
And yet ’twould seem one full harmonious whole,
Each rounding out the chords the other sounds,
Until supernal tones the bond compounds
Whose lovely concord fills my list’ning soul.
Thus beauty, by itself in thee sustained,
A greater beauty for itself hath gained.
When louring night shall fill thy lovely morn,
And winter rob the wealth of bygone spring;
When youth’s fair days have flown on fitful wing,
And raves the blast that fills cold winter’s bourne;
When time hath basely ploughed thy full-fair brow,
And threaded silver through those locks of gold —
Then will I say: Dear heart, in days of old
I loved thee well, and so I love thee now.
Death-dealing time may worldly hopes dispel,
But never shall my hope from thee depart;
For, living in the temple of thy heart,
My hope in joy and purity shall dwell.
And thus, Love’s beacons lighting all our way,
What may deny ev’n heaven to our day?
William Blocksidge, Songs o’ the South, London: Watts, 1908, pp. 83-85
art = (archaic) are
aver = to assert, declare, or state something to be a fact; to declare positively that something is definitely true; (in a court of law) to allege or assert something as a fact (past tense: averred)
base = ignoble, lacking decent moral values, lacking good personal qualities, lacking honour; contemptible; cowardly; dishonest; infamous; selfish; corrupt, evil, terrible; regarding someone from a low socio-economic class, of or relating to a peasant; born outside of marriage; born as a slave; coinage not made from valuable metal or having a low proportion of valuable metal; counterfeit; lacking value, of inferior quality or worth, worthless
bourne = boundary; in the context of life and soul, it refers to the boundary between life and death (a bourn, also spelt bourne, is a small stream)
doth = (archaic) does
ev’n = (vernacular) even
fee = full ownership, legal ownership without any time limit; (archaic) under the complete power of another; possession, property, an estate (as used in the real estate phrase “fee simple”)
hath = (archaic) has
hold’st = (archaic) a contraction of “holdest” (meaning: hold)
lay = song, tune; ballad (may also refer to ballads or narrative poems, as sung by medieval minstrels or bards)
list’ning = (archaic) listening
lour = dark, gloomy, overcast, showing signs of bad weather (e.g. dark clouds); to frown, to be sullen in appearance (is also an alternate spelling of: lower)
meed = a fitting recompense
mine = (archaic) my; in the context of the archaic usage, “mine” is normally used prior to a word beginning with a vowel or with an unstressed or silent letter H, e.g. “Mine eyes have seen the glory” (Battle Hymn of the Republic, by Howe), “Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?” (Henry IV, Part 1, by Shakespeare), “If I lose mine honour, I lose myself” (Antony and Cleopatra, by Shakespeare), “Conduct me to mine host” (Macbeth, by Shakespeare; it has been theorised that, in earlier times, “host” was pronounced with a silent H)
morn = morning
naught = nothing; zero; failure, without result; lost, ruined (older meanings are: ruined, useless, worthless; morally bad, wicked)
’neath = (vernacular) beneath
supernal = of or relating to, or emanating from, the sky or heaven; celestial, heavenly; divine, exalted, extremely good, exquisite, superlative
thee = (archaic) you
thine = (archaic) your; yours
thou = (archaic) you
thy = (archaic) your
’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”
’twould = (vernacular) a contraction of “it would”
ye = (archaic) you (however, still in use in some places, e.g. in Cornwall, Ireland, Newfoundland, and Northern England; it can used as either the singular or plural form of “you”, although the plural form is apparently the more common usage)
Zephyr = a breeze from the west, especially a gentle breeze (from Zephyrus, or Zephyr, god of the west wind in Greek mythology)
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