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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century



Gabriel Metsu. Man Writing a Letter, c1665
Gabriel Metsu. Man Writing a Letter, c1665.

To Alexis in Answer to his Poem against Fruition.

Ah hapless sex! Who bear no charms,
But what like lightning flash and are no more
      False fires sent down for baneful harms,
Fires which the fleeting lover feebly warms
      And given like past beboches o'er,
      Like songs that please (though bad) when new,
      But learned by heart neglected grew.

In vain did Heav'n adorn the shape and face
With beauties which by angels' forms it drew:
In vain the mind with brighter glories grace,
While all our joys are stinted to the space
      Of one betraying interview,
With one surrender to the eager will
We're short lived nothing or a real ill.

Since man with that inconstancy was born,
To love the absent, and the present scorn.
      Why do we deck, why do we dress
      For such a short-lived happiness?
      Why do we put attraction on,
Since either way 'tis we must be undone?

      They fly if honour take our part,
      Our virtue drives 'em o'er the field.
      We lose 'em by too much desert,
      And Oh! They fly us if we yeild.
Ye Gods! Is there no charm in all the fair
To fix this wild, this faithless, wanderer.

      Man! Our great business and our aim,
      For whom we spread our fruitless snares,
No sooner kindles the designing flame,
      But to the next bright object bears
The trophies of his conquest and our shame:
      Inconstancy's the good supreme
The rest is airy notion, empty dream!

      Then, heedless nymph, be ruled by me
      If e'er your swain the bliss desire;
      Think like Alexis he may be
    Whose wished possession damps his fire;
      The roving youth in every shade
      Has left some sighing and abandoned maid,
For 'tis a fatal lesson he has learned,
After fruition ne'er to be concerned.

Early Modern Women's Writing. Paul Salzman, ed.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 385-386.

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