For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
thy hair is as a flock of goats,
that appear from mount Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn,
which came up from the washing;
whereof every one bear twins,
and none is barren among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,
and thy speech is comely:
thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury,
whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins,
which feed among the lilies.
This description would not seem very flattering to a modern American woman! It does seem to have been a model for some English-language poets. William Shakespeare wrote a humorous list poem, poking fun at classical poems describing a poet’s lover:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
In her Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning used the list approach to express her love in Sonnet 43:
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
*Robert Herrick, “The Argument of His Book,” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176694.
*Rebecca Lindenbert, “Catalogue of Ephemera,” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/243892.
*Serina Matteson, “Morning Sounds All Around,” http://templepoetry.blogspot.com/2009/02/catalog-poem-example.html.
September Poetry Challenge
Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Be sure to provide your e-mail address. Include a brief bio which can be printed with your poem, if you are a winner this month.