The Mistress (1691)

John Wilmot

An age in her embraces passed,
Would seem a winter’s day;
Where life and light, with envious haste,
Are torn and snatched away.

But oh, how slowly minutes roll
When absent from her eyes,
That feed my love, which is my soul:
It languishes and dies.

For then no more a soul, but shade,
It mournfully does move
And haunts my breast, by absence made
The living tomb of love.

You wiser men, despise me not
Whose love-sick fancy raves
On shades of souls, and heaven knows what:
Short ages live in graves.

Whene’er those wounding eyes, so full
Of sweetness, you did see,
Had you not been profoundly dull,
You had gone mad like me.

Nor censure us, you who perceive
My best beloved and me
Sigh and lament, complain and grieve:
You think we disagree.

Alas! ’tis sacred jealousy,
Love raised to an extreme;
The only proof ‘twixt her and me,
We love, and do not dream.

Fantastic fancies fondly move
And in frail joys believe,
Taking false pleasure for true love;
But pain can ne’er deceive.

Kind jealous doubts, tormenting fears,
And anxious cares, when past,
Prove our hearts’ treasure fixed and dear,
And make us blest at last.

Learn more about the language of this poem in the
Oxford English Dictionary:

shade  kind, adj  dull, adj.