An Ode upon a Question moved, Whether
Love should continue for ever?
by Edward Herbert, Lord Chirbury
HAVING interr'd her Infant-birth,
The watry ground that late did mourn,
Was strew'd with flow'rs for the return
Of the wish'd Bridegroom of the earth.
The well accorded Birds did sing
Their hymns unto the pleasant time,
And in a sweet consorted chime
Did welcom in the chearful Spring.
To which, soft whistles of the Wind,
And warbling murmurs of a Brook,
And vari'd notes of leaves that shook,
An harmony of parts did bind.
While doubling joy unto each other,
All in so rare concent was shown,
No happiness that came alone,
Nor pleasure that was not another.
When with a love none can express,
That mutually happy pair,
Melander and Celinda fair,
The season with their loves did bless.
Walking thus towards a pleasant Grove,
What did, it seem'd, in new delight
The pleasures of the time unite,
To give a triumph to their love,
They stay'd at last, and on the Grass
Reposed so, as o'er his breast
She bow'd her gracious head to rest,
Such a weight as no burden was.
While over eithers compass'd waist
Their folded arms were so compos'd,
As if in straitest bonds inclos'd,
They suffer'd for joys they did taste.
Long their fixt eyes to Heaven bent,
Unchanged, they did never move,
As if so great and pure a love
No Glass but it could represent.
When with a sweet, though troubled look,
She first brake silence, saying, Dear friend,
O that our love might take no end,
Or never had beginning took !
I speak not this with a false heart,
(Wherewith his hand she gently strain'd)
Or that would change a love maintain'd
With so much faith on either part.
Nay, I protest, though Death with his
Worst Counsel should divide us here,
His terrors could not make me fear,
To come where your lov'd presence is.
Only if loves fire with the breath
Of life be kindled, I doubt,
With our last air 'twill be breath'd out,
And quenched with the cold of death.
That if affection be a line,
Which is clos'd up in our last hou ;
Oh how 'twould grieve me, any pow'r
Could force so dear a love as mine !
She scarce had done, when his shut eyes
An inward joy did represent,
To hear Celinda thus intent
To a love he so much did prize.
Then with a look, it seem'd, deny'd
All earthly pow'r but hers, yet so,
As if to her breath he did owe
This borrow'd life, he thus repli'd ;
O you, wherein, they say, Souls rest,
Till they descend pure heavenly fires,
Shall lustful and corrupt desires
With your immortal seed be blest ?
And shall our Love, so far beyond
That low and dying appetite,
And which so chast desires unite,
Not hold in an eternal bond ?
Is it, because we should decline,
And wholly from our thoughts exclude
Objects that may the sense delude,
And study only the Divine ?
No sure, for if none can ascend
Ev'n to the visible degree
Of things created, how should we
The invisible comprehend ?
Or rather since that Pow'r exprest
His greatness in his works alone,
B'ing here best in his Creatures known,
Why is he not lov'd in them best ?
But is't not true, which you pretend,
That since our love and knowledge here,
Only as parts of life appear,
So they with it should take their end.
O no, Belov'd, I am most sure,
Those vertuous habits we acquire,
As being with the Soul intire,
Must with it evermore endure.
For if where sins and vice reside,
We find so foul a guilt remain,
As never dying in his stain,
Still punish'd in the Soul doth bide.
Much more that true and real joy,
Which in a vertuous love is found,
Must be more solid in its ground,
Than Fate or Death can e'er destroy.
Else should our Souls in vain elect,
And vainer yet were Heavens laws,
When to an everlasting Cause
They gave a perishing Effect.
Nor here on earth then, nor above,
Our good affection can impair,
For where God doth admit the fair,
Think you that he excludeth Love ?
These eyes again, then, eyes shall see,
And hands again these hands enfold,
And all chast pleasures can be told
Shall with us everlasting be.
For if no use of sense remain
When bodies once this life forsake,
Or they could no delight partake,
Why should they ever rise again ?
And if every imperfect mind
Make love the end of knowledge here,
How perfect will our love be, where
All imperfection is refin'd ?
Let then no doubt, Celinda, touch,
Much less your fairest mind invade,
Were not our souls immortal made,
Our equal loves can make them such.
So when one wing can make no way,
Two joyned can themselves dilate,
So can two persons propagate,
When singly either would decay.
So when from hence we shall be gone,
And be no more, nor you, nor I,
As one anothers mystery,
Each shall be both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes which did that beauty crown,
Were like two stars, that having faln down,
Look up again to find their place :
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some Influence
Their ravish'd spirits did possess.
The Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse.
H. J. C. Grierson and G. Bullough, eds.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934. 231-236.