Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thomas Campion: My Sweetest Lesbia

My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,
And, though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
Let us not weigh them: heaven's great lamps do dive
Into their west, and straight again revive,

But, soon as once set is our little light,
Then must we sleep one ever-during night.

If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armour should not be,
No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,
Unless alarm came from the camp of love:
But fools do live, and waste their little light,
And seek with pain their ever-during night.

When timely death my life and fortune ends,
Let not my hearse be vexed with mourning friends,
But let all lovers, rich in triumph come,
And with sweet pastimes grace my happy tomb;
And, Lesbia, close up thou my little light,
And crown with love my ever-during night.

This is a masterpiece among carpe diem poems, whose sweetly amicable and altogether reasonable message is: Let’s get drunk and screw, because we’re already on the way out. These are sentiments I find it hard to argue with, but I like the poem for its anti-military, make-love-not-war stance as well, and for the utter simplicity of its iambic pentamer lines, built mostly of monosyllables—“If all would lead their lives in love like me....”


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