by Robert Herrick
AFTER the feast, my Shapcot, see
The fairy court I give to thee ;
Where we'll present our Oberon, led
Half-tipsye to the fairy bed,
Where Mab he finds, who there doth lie,
Not without mickle majesty.
Which done, and thence remov'd the light,
We'll wish both them and thee good-night.
Full as a bee with thyme, and red
As cherry harvest, now high fed
For lust and action, on he'll go
To lie with Mab, though all say no.
Lust has no ears ; he's sharp as thorn,
And fretful, carries hay in's horn,
And lightning in his eyes ; and flings
Among the elves, if moved, the stings
Of peltish wasps ; well know his guard—
Kings, through they're hated, will be fear'd.
Wine lead[s] him on. Thus to a grove,
Sometimes devoted unto love,
Tinselled with twilight, he and they,
Led by the shine of snails, a way
Beat with their num'rous feet, which, by
Many a neat perplexity,
Many a turn and many a cross-
Track they redeem a bank of moss
Spongy and swelling, and far more
Soft than the finest Lemster ore,
Mildly disparkling, like those fires,
Which break from the enjewell'd tyres
Of curious brides ; or like those mites
Of candi'd dew in moony nights.
Upon this convex all the flowers
Nature begets by th' sun, and showers,
Are to a wild digestion brought,
As if love's sampler here was wrought :
Or Citherea's cestus, which
All with temptation doth bewitch.
Sweet airs move here, and more divine
Made by the breath of great-eyed kine,
Who as they low, impearl with milk
The four-leaved grass or moss-like silk.
The breath of monkeys met to mix
With musk-flies are th' aromatics.
Which 'cense this arch ; and here and there,
And farther off, and everywhere,
Throughout that brave mosaic yard,
Those picks or diamonds in the card
With peeps of hearts, of club, and spade
Are here most neatly inter-laid.
Many a counter, many a die,
Half-rotten and without an eye,
Lies hereabouts ; and, for to pave
The excellency of this cave,
Squirrels' and children's teeth late shed,
Are neatly here enchequered
With brownest toadstones, and the gum
That shines upon the bluer plum.
The nails fallen off by whitflaws : art's
Wise hand enchasing here those warts
Which we to others, from ourselves,
Sell, and brought hither by the elves.
The tempting mole, stolen from the neck
Of the shy virgin, seems to deck
The holy entrance, where within
The room is hung with the blue skin
Of shifted snake : enfriez'd throughout
With eyes of peacock's trains and trout-
Flies' curious wings ; and these among
Those silver pence that cut the tongue
Of the red infant, neatly hung.
The glow-worm's eyes ; the shining scales
Of silv'ry fish ; wheat straws, the snail's
Soft candle light ; the kittling's eyne ;
Corrupted wood ; serve here for shine.
No glaring light of bold-fac'd day,
Or other over-radiant ray,
Ransacks this room ; but what weak beams
Can make reflected from these gems
And multiply ; such is the light,
But ever doubtful day or night.
By this quaint taper light he winds
His errors up ; and now he finds
His moon-tann'd Mab, as somewhat sick,
And (love knows) tender as a chick.
Upon six plump dandillions, high-
Rear'd, lies her elvish majesty :
Whose woolly bubbles seem'd to drown
Her Mabship in obedient down.
For either sheet was spread the caul
That doth the infant's face enthral,
When it is born (by some enstyl'd
The lucky omen of the child),
And next to these two blankets o'er-
Cast of the finest gossamore.
And then a rug of carded wool,
Which, sponge-like drinking in the dull
Light of the moon, seemed to comply,
Cloud-like, the dainty deity.
Thus soft she lies : and overhead
A spinner's circle is bespread,
With cob-web curtains, from the roof
So neatly sunk as that no proof
Of any tackling can declare
What gives it hanging in the air.
The fringe about this are those threads
Broke at the loss of maidenheads :
And, all behung with these, pure pearls,
Dropp'd from the eyes of ravish'd girls
Or writhing brides ; when (panting) they
Give unto love the straiter way.
For music now, he has the cries
Of feigned lost virginities ;
The which the elves make to excite
A more unconquered appetite.
The king's undrest ; and now upon
The gnat's watchword the elves are gone.
And now the bed, and Mab possess'd
Of this great little kingly guest ;
We'll nobly think, what's to be done,
He'll do no doubt ; this flax is spun.
Carries hay in's horn (foenum habet in cornu), is dangerous.
Lemster ore, Leominster wool.
Picks, diamonds on playing-cards were so called from their points.
Corrupted, i.e., phosphorescent.
Winds his errors up, brings his wanderings to an end.
Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 204-209.