Poetry By Heart Blog

Illustrating ‘The Witch’

3rd February 2020

Witch BWC

In this blogpost, artist Ben Westley Clarke explains how he went about illustrating Mary Elizabeth Coleridge’s poem for Poetry By Heart. This is designed to accompany Mike Dixon’s resource for creative explorations of a poem which can be found in the Poetry By Heart Teaching Zone.

The first, and perhaps the most important thing I did, when I began work on illustrating ‘The Witch’, was to write the poem down in my own rough, barely legible handwriting. This gave me a feel for the length of its lines and stanzas, as well as its structure and rhythms – I knew that nothing else would give me as much insight into how the poem was made. It helped me to give equal attention to words or phrases that I might normally skip over. The more I read the poem, the more the initial idea I had in my head of a stereotypical witch, with a pointed hat and a broomstick, dissolved. It gave way to a more shadowy, mutating, ambiguous character. I noted the persistent parallels between this old, ragged woman and the memory of her more nubile, less browbeaten self.

 

Small-ish pencil drawings formed the basis of my preparatory work. I continued to be drawn to the references to the old woman’s youth throughout the poem, as well as, towards the end of the poem, the mention of the figure who greets her to ‘lift her over the threshold’. The word ‘threshold’ is ambiguous – it could be a physical threshold (the woman coming in from the cold) or it could be the threshold between life and death. I conceived of this helpful figure as mirroring the old woman – perhaps she is a younger version of her. Are both characters facets of the writer’s personality? I was also drawn to the regular description of the hostile weather environment, which conjured images of snow, blowing leaves and bare, twisted trees.

 

I remembered drawing old bodies in life drawing classes – I had noted their androgyny and sometimes exaggerated features. Their crumpling, sagging skin reveals, more than younger bodies do, the skeletal structure underneath. The ‘carrying over the threshold’ reminded me of so many themes in religious painting – especially the Pieta – the Virgin Mary carrying the dead Christ. In particular, I thought of Van Der Weyden’s ‘The Descent From The Cross’, a painting I had drawn from at the Prado Museum in Madrid, in which a group of mourning figures supports Christ’s body as it falls.

 

I made a large number of loose sketches, all based on my memory of bodies. I also drew from a handful of photographs of old faces. I formatted the drawings so that there would be one for each stanza of the poem. I then went about drawing up a final design, over which ink was added. My illustration feels to me like one potential visualization of many, but I’ve tried to ensure that it is lucid and that it transports the viewer.


About Ben Westley Clarke
Ben Westley Clarke (b. Ipswich, 1990) studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and later at the Royal Drawing School. Ben lived in London for 10 years before moving to Madrid in 2018, after he received the Richard Ford Award to study at the Prado Museum. Ben is primarily a painter who works from both observation and memory. He is interested in empathetic depictions of human figures in Art History, from Velásquez to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Drawing is the lifeblood of his work. He has been involved in a number of educational projects over recent years, including the execution of a mural commission for a primary school in the Community of Madrid, and the direction of Family Art Workshops at the Royal Academy of Arts. Ben is also a curator and tattooist.

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The posh mums are boxing in the square

30th October 2018

roughing each other upin a nice way
This is not the world into which I was born
so I’m changing it
I’m sinking deep into the past and dressing my own mum
in their blue spandexes
svelte black stripes from hip to hem
and husbands with better dispositions toward kindness
or at leastI’m giving her new lungs
I’m giving her a best friend with no problems and both of them pads
some gloves to go at each other with in a nice way
I’m making it a warm day for them but also
I’m making it rain
the two of them dapping it out in long shadows
I’m watching her from the trees grow
strength in her thighs my mum
grow strength in her glutes my mum
her back taught upright
her knees
and watching her grow no bad thing in her stomach no tumour
her feet do not hurt to touch my mum she is hopping
sinews are happening
wiry arms developing their full reach
no bad thing explodes

sweat and not gradual death I’m cheering
no thing in her stomach no alcohol
no cigarettes with their crotonaldehyde let my dad keep those
no removal of her womb
– and I’m cheering her on in better condition
cheering she is learning to fight for her own body
in spandex her new life
and though there is no beef between them
if her friend is gaining the upper hand
I will call out from the trees
her name
Christine!
and when she turns as turn she must
my mum in the nicest possible way
can slug her right in the gut

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The Door

28th October 2018

We hope to have this poem here soon. Until then, you can read and listen to it on the Children’s Poetry Archive website here.

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Sound Machine

30th October 2017

My mirth can laugh and talk, but cannot sing;
My grief finds harmonies in everything
– James Thomson

And what comes out if it isn’t the wires
dad welds to his homemade sound system
which I accidently knock loose
while he is recording Talk-Over dubs, killing
the bass, flattening the mood and his muses
making dad blow his fuses and beat me.
It wasn’t my fault, the things he made
could be undone so easily –
and we would keep losing connection.
But I praise my dad’s mechanical hands –
even though he couldn’t fix my deafness
I channel him. My sound system plays
on Father’s Day in Manor Park Cemetery
where I find his grave, and for the first time
see his middle name Osbert, derived from Old English
meaning God, and Bright. Which may have
been a way to bleach him, darkest
of his five brothers, the only one sent away
from the country to live uptown
with his light skin aunt. She protected him
from police who didn’t believe he belonged
unless they heard his English,
which was smooth as some uptown roads.
His aunt loved him and taught him
to recite Wordsworth and Coleridge – rhythms
that wouldn’t save him. He would become
Rasta and never tell a soul about the name
that undid his blackness. It is his grave
that tells me the name his black
body, even in death, could not move or mute.

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Eastbourne

29th October 2017

Kicking the pebbles along Eastbourne beach
as the orange-pink of sunset
plays with the ebbing tide,
my mother asks…

“What do you want to do when you’re older?”

There is every colour of pebble beneath my feet,
grey lumps of flint winking their sharp, shining
cores,
gritty ovals of sandstone, pregnant with fossils,
worn amulets of glass of every sparkle.

They crunch and shift under synced steps
as we stroll, towels wrapped around sand-dusted
bodies.
The sea sings with the pebbles,
knocking a tone from each,
forming a hushing melody.

Sunbursts dip into the wispy clouds,
bounce from the greens, blacks and purples of the
rock pools,
shine red and gold and white from the sea.
There is every colour in the sun.

My baby sister toddles alongside my grandmother,
the years between them
like the ghosts of waves already ebbed
and the years to come
like the promise of tides,
as their silhouettes whisper in the sunshine.

“What do I want to be when I’m older?”

The question bounces around my head
like light and wind and water and time
and I smile…

“I don’t know.”

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Being your slave what should I do but tend…

18th January 2017

Being your slave what should I do but tend
Upon the hours, and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend;
Nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world without end hour,
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,
When you have bid your servant once adieu;

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where you are, how happy you make those.

So true a fool is love, that in your will,
Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

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Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep…

18th January 2017

Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;

Which borrowed from this holy fire of Love,
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.

But at my mistress’ eye Love’s brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distempered guest,

But found no cure, the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire; my mistress’ eyes.

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Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not…

18th January 2017

Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not,
When I against myself with thee partake?
Do I not think on thee, when I forgot
Am of my self, all tyrant, for thy sake?

Who hateth thee that I do call my friend,
On whom frown’st thou that I do fawn upon,
Nay, if thou lour’st on me, do I not spend
Revenge upon myself with present moan?

What merit do I in my self respect,
That is so proud thy service to despise,
When all my best doth worship thy defect,
Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?

But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind,
Those that can see thou lov’st, and I am blind.

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Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth…

18th January 2017

Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth,
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument all bare is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside!

O! blame me not, if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace.

Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;

And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
Your own glass shows you when you look in it.

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That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect …

17th January 2017

That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.

So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being wooed of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.

Thou hast passed by the ambush of young days
Either not assailed, or victor being charged;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy, evermore enlarged,

If some suspect of ill masked not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

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O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power…

17th January 2017

O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold Time’s fickle glass, his sickle, hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st
Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow’st;

If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure:
Her audit, though delay’d, answer’d must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.

( )
( )

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If my dear love were but the child of state…

17th January 2017

If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for Fortune’s bastard be unfathered,
As subject to Time’s love or to Time’s hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gathered.

No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto th’ inviting time our fashion calls:

It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-number’d hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic,
That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with showers.

To this I witness call the fools of time,
Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.

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My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming…

16th January 2017

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandized, whose rich esteeming,
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where.

Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days:

Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.

Therefore like her, I sometime hold my tongue:
Because I would not dull you with my song.

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The forward violet thus did I chide…

16th January 2017

The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love’s breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells

In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly dy’d.
The lily I condemned for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair;
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,

One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stol’n of both,
And to his robbery had annexed thy breath;
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.

More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,
But sweet, or colour it had stol’n from thee.

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Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness…

16th January 2017

Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness;
Some say thy grace is youth and gentle sport;
Both grace and faults are lov’d of more and less:
Thou mak’st faults graces that to thee resort.

As on the finger of a throned queen
The basest jewel will be well esteem’d,
So are those errors that in thee are seen
To truths translated, and for true things deem’d.

How many lambs might the stern wolf betray,
If like a lamb he could his looks translate!
How many gazers mightst thou lead away,
If thou wouldst use the strength of all thy state!

But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.

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Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault…

16th January 2017

Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence:
Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,
Against thy reasons making no defence.

Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill,
To set a form upon desired change,
As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,
I will acquaintance strangle, and look strange;

Be absent from thy walks; and in my tongue
Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell,
Lest I, too much profane, should do it wrong,
And haply of our old acquaintance tell.

For thee, against my self I’ll vow debate,
For I must ne’er love him whom thou dost hate.

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Who is it that says most, which can say more…

16th January 2017

Who is it that says most, which can say more,
Than this rich praise, that you alone, are you,
In whose confine immured is the store
Which should example where your equal grew?

Lean penury within that pen doth dwell
That to his subject lends not some small glory;
But he that writes of you, if he can tell
That you are you, so dignifies his story.

Let him but copy what in you is writ,
Not making worse what nature made so clear,
And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,
Making his style admired every where.

You to your beauteous blessings add a curse,
Being fond on praise, which makes your praises worse.

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I never saw that you did painting need…

16th January 2017

I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set;
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet’s debt:

And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.

This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory being dumb;
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life, and bring a tomb.

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.

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Or I shall live your epitaph to make…

16th January 2017

Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten,
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read;
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;

You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

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Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear…

16th January 2017

Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear,
And of this book, this learning mayst thou taste.

The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show
Of mouthed graves will give thee memory;
Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know
Time’s thievish progress to eternity.

Look what thy memory cannot contain,
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book.

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But be contented when that fell arrest…

16th January 2017

But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.

When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:

So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.

The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.

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No longer mourn for me when I am dead…

16th January 2017

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:

Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.

O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;

Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.

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Against my love shall be as I am now…

16th January 2017

Against my love shall be as I am now,
With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn;
When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn

Hath travelled on to age’s steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;

For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:

His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

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Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye…

16th January 2017

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul, and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.

Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.

But when my glass shows me myself indeed
Beated and chopp’d with tanned antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity.

‘Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

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If there be nothing new, but that which is…

16th January 2017

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguil’d,
Which labouring for invention bear amiss
The second burthen of a former child.

Oh that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done,

That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or where better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.

Oh sure I am the wits of former days,
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

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So am I as the rich, whose blessed key…

16th January 2017

So am I as the rich, whose blessed key,
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.

Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since, seldom coming in the long year set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet.

So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special-blest,
By new unfolding his imprisoned pride.

Blessed are you whose worthiness gives scope,
Being had, to triumph, being lacked, to hope.

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How careful was I when I took my way…

16th January 2017

How careful was I when I took my way,
Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,
That to my use it might unused stay
From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust!

But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,
Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief,
Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,
Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.

Thee have I not locked up in any chest,
Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art,
Within the gentle closure of my breast,
From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part;

And even thence thou wilt be stol’n I fear,
For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.

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Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took…

16th January 2017

Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took,
And each doth good turns now unto the other:
When that mine eye is famish’d for a look,
Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother,

With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast,
And to the painted banquet bids my heart;
Another time mine eye is my heart’s guest,
And in his thoughts of love doth share a part:

So, either by thy picture or my love,
Thy self away, art present still with me;
For thou not farther than my thoughts canst move,
And I am still with them, and they with thee;

Or, if they sleep, thy picture in my sight
Awakes my heart, to heart’s and eyes’ delight.

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Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war…

16th January 2017

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war,
How to divide the conquest of thy sight;
Mine eye my heart thy picture’s sight would bar,
My heart mine eye the freedom of that right.

My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie,
A closet never pierced with crystal eyes,
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
And says in him thy fair appearance lies.

To ‘cide this title is impannelled
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart;
And by their verdict is determined
The clear eye’s moiety, and the dear heart’s part:

As thus: mine eye’s due is thine outward part,
And my heart’s right, thine inward love of heart.

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The other two, slight air and purging fire…

16th January 2017

The other two, slight air and purging fire,
Are both with thee, wherever I abide;
The first my thought, the other my desire,
These present-absent with swift motion slide.

For when these quicker elements are gone
In tender embassy of love to thee,
My life, being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy;

Until life’s composition be recured
By those swift messengers return’d from thee,
Who even but now come back again, assured
Of thy fair health, recounting it to me:

This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,
I send them back again and straight grow sad.

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If the dull substance of my flesh were thought…

16th January 2017

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.

No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.

But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan,

Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

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When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see…

16th January 2017

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!

All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

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Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits…

16th January 2017

Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits,
When I am sometime absent from thy heart,
Thy beauty, and thy years full well befits,
For still temptation follows where thou art.

Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won,
Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed;
And when a woman woos, what woman’s son
Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed?

Ay me! but yet thou mightst my seat forbear,
And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth,
Who lead thee in their riot even there
Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth:

Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee,
Thine by thy beauty being false to me.

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If thou survive my well-contented day…

16th January 2017

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,

Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.

O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:

But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love’.

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Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts…

16th January 2017

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.

How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things removed that hidden in thee lie!

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give,
That due of many now is thine alone:

Their images I loved, I view in thee,
And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.

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Mine eye hath played the painter and hath steeled…

16th January 2017

Mine eye hath played the painter and hath steeled,
Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein ’tis held,
And perspective that is best painter’s art.

For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictured lies,
Which in my bosom’s shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.

Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done:
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;

Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art,
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.

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So is it not with me as with that Muse…

16th January 2017

So is it not with me as with that Muse,
Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,

Making a couplement of proud compare
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare,
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.

O! let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fixed in heaven’s air:

Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

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But wherefore do not you a mightier way…

16th January 2017

But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
And fortify your self in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?

Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens, yet unset,
With virtuous wish would bear you living flowers,
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:

So should the lines of life that life repair,
Which this, Time’s pencil, or my pupil pen,
Neither in inward worth nor outward fair,
Can make you live your self in eyes of men.

To give away yourself, keeps yourself still,
And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.

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When I consider every thing that grows…

16th January 2017

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;

When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and checked even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;

Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with decay
To change your day of youth to sullied night,

And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

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As a decrepit father takes delight…

16th January 2017

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth;

For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts, do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:

So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am sufficed,
And by a part of all thy glory live.

Look what is best, that best I wish in thee:
This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

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Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth…

16th January 2017

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
… … … these rebel powers that thee array
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?

Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?

Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:

So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.

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In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes…

16th January 2017

In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But ’tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote.

Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted;
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:

But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unswayed the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal wretch to be:

Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

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Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will…

16th January 2017

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vexed thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.

Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?

The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.

Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

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So now I have confessed that he is thine…

16th January 2017

So now I have confessed that he is thine,
And I my self am mortgaged to thy will,
Myself I’ll forfeit, so that other mine
Thou wilt restore to be my comfort still:

But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,
For thou art covetous, and he is kind;
He learned but surety-like to write for me,
Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.

The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take,
Thou usurer, that put’st forth all to use,
And sue a friend came debtor for my sake;
So him I lose through my unkind abuse.

Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me:
He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.

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Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain…

16th January 2017

Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full charactered with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain,
Beyond all date, even to eternity:

Or, at the least, so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to razed oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be missed.

That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive thee more:

To keep an adjunct to remember thee
Were to import forgetfulness in me.

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‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed…

16th January 2017

‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,
When not to be receives reproach of being;
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed
Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing:

For why should others’ false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts, my deeds must not be shown;

Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad and in their badness reign.

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'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed…

16th January 2017

‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,
When not to be receives reproach of being;
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed
Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing:

For why should others’ false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts, my deeds must not be shown;

Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad and in their badness reign.

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Your love and pity doth the impression fill…

16th January 2017

Your love and pity doth the impression fill,
Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow;
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you o’er-green my bad, my good allow?

You are my all-the-world, and I must strive
To know my shames and praises from your tongue;
None else to me, nor I to none alive,
That my steeled sense or changes right or wrong.

In so profound abysm I throw all care
Of others’ voices, that my adder’s sense
To critic and to flatterer stopped are.
Mark how with my neglect I do dispense:

You are so strongly in my purpose bred,
That all the world besides methinks y’are dead.

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Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul…

16th January 2017

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Now with the drops of this most balmy time,
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes:

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

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Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck…

16th January 2017

Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;

Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find:

But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;

Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

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