Poems and Extracts/From "The Mistress of Philarete"

From "The Mistress of Philarete"

By George Wither

Sometime I do admire
All men burn not with desire:
Nay I muse her servants are not
Pleading love; but O! they dare not.
And I therefore wonder, why
They do not grow sick and die.
Sure they would do so, but that,
By the ordinance of fate,
There is some concealed thing
So each gazer limiting10
He can see no more of merit,
Than beseems his worth and spirit.

For in her a grace there shines,
That o'er-daring thought confines
Making worthless men despair
To be loved of one so fair.
Yea, the destinies agree,
Some good judgments blind should be,
And not gain the power of knowing
Those rare beauties in her growing.20
Reason doth as much imply:
For if every judging eye,
Which beholdeth her should there
Find what excellencies are,
All o'ercome by those perfections,
Would be captive to affections.
So, if happiness unblest,
She for lovers should not rest.

What pearls, what rubies can
Seem so lovely fair to man,
As her lips whom he doth love,
When in sweet discourse they move,
Or her lovelier teeth, the while
She doth bless him with a smile?
Stars indeed fair creatures be;
Yet amongst us where is he
Joys not more the whilst he lies
Sunning in his mistress' eyes,10
Than in all the glimmering light
Of a starry winter's night?
Note the beauty of an eye—
And if aught you praise it by
Leave such passion in your mind
Let my reason's eye be blind.
Mark if ever red or white
Anywhere gave such delight,

As when they have taken place
In a worthy woman's face.20
I must praise her as I may,
Which I do mine own rude way,
Sometime setting forth her glories
By unheard of allegories—
Her true beauty leaves behind
Apprehensions in my mind
Of more sweetness, than all art
Or inventions can impart,
Thoughts too deep to be express'd
And too strong to be suppress'd.

"Wither has chosen to bestow upon the Lady whom he commends, the name of Arete, or Virtue; and, assuming to himself the character of Philarete, or Lover of Virtue, there is a sort of propriety in that heaped measure of perfections which he attributes to this partly real and partly allegorical Personage."

Lamb's Essay on the Poetical works of G. Wither.