by Robert Herrick

YOU have beheld a smiling rose
        When virgins' hands have drawn
        O'er it a cobweb-lawn;
And here you see this lily shows,
        Tomb'd in a crystal stone,
More fair in this transparent case
        Than when it grew alone
        And had but single grace.

You see how cream but naked is
        Nor dances in the eye
        Without a strawberry,
Or some fine tincture like to this,
        Which draws the sight thereto,
More by that wantoning with it
        Than when the paler hue
        No mixture did admit.

You see how amber through the streams
        More gently strokes the sight
        With some conceal'd delight,
Than when he darts his radiant beams
        Into the boundless air;
Where either too much light his worth
        Doth all at once impair,
        Or set it little forth.

Put purple grapes or cherries in-
        To glass, and they will send
        More beauty to commend
Them from that clean and subtle skin
        Than if they naked stood,
And had no other pride at all
        But their own flesh and blood
        And tinctures natural.

Thus lily, rose, grape, cherry, cream,
        And strawberry do stir
        More love when they transfer
A weak, a soft, a broken beam,
        Than if they should discover
At full their proper excellence;
        Without some scene cast over
        To juggle with the sense.

Thus let this crystal'd lily be
        A rule how far to teach
        Your nakedness must reach;
And that no further than we see
        Those glaring colours laid
By art's wise hand, but to this end
        They should obey a shade,
        Lest they too far extend.

So though you're white as swan or snow,
        And have the power to move
        A world of men to love,
Yet when your lawns and silks shall flow,
        And that white cloud divide
Into a doubtful twilight, then,
        Then will your hidden pride
        Raise greater fires in men.

Tincture, colour, dye.
Scene, a covering.

Titian. Venus at her Toilet. 1555.
Titian. Venus at her Toilet. 1555.
Washington, National Gallery of Art.

Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 90-92.

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