The Cavalier Poets (Top Pick-Up Poems of the Seventeenth Century)
A while back, when I posted on Richard Brautigan, Pickled Olives noted that his poetry wasn't very seductive. I, of course, started thinking about poetic seduction, and who would be on my personal mix tape of great poetic seducers.
The problem is that seducing someone with poetry is cheesy. It's hard to imagine a situation in which it would come off well. In fact, the only way that I could imagine it working would be if one were to "ironically" rattle off a few lines of a good, seductive poem. Of course, the gentleman in question would then have to look off in the distance in an incredibly deep, "I am way too multilayered for you" kind of way. Maybe that would work.
Still, what poems would he use? Personally, my vote is for one of the Cavalier or Metaphysical poets. Everyone who's seen Dead Poets Society is familiar with Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" and Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress." My personal vote, however, goes to John Donne for "The Flea:"
MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is ;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two ;
And this, alas! is more than we would do.
O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
'Tis true; then learn how false fears be ;
Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
Seriously, what could be cooler than this poem? Donne is using a bloodsucking parasite to convince a girl to have sex with him. Best of all, he makes a really convincing argument. In some ways, this poem strikes me as a Jackass-type dare. It's easy to imagine Donne hanging out at a local alehouse with a few of his buddies, talking about the most bizarre way to hit on a girl. They're listing improbable things to use--the pox, unclean clothes, an outhouse--when one of them hits on the idea of a flea. Donne, the wild man (this is before he found religion) looks around the table and says, with studied nonchalance, "I could do it." A couple of weeks later, he shows up with this beautiful poem. And everybody buys him a round.
Of course, we don't know if he ever field tested it...
Ben Jonson was another great seduction poet; in fact, he's considered the father of the Cavalier poet tradition. Ironically, he has fallen by the wayside in terms of popularity. Check out his "Song to Celia":
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.
Now, I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to bet that this one would do the trick. It might not even seem cheesy if one were to recite it aloud to the right woman at the right time.
I wonder what has happened to the art of seduction. I once read about how moles reproduce. Apparently, the females mark their tunnels to demonstrate their readiness. Shortly thereafter, the males find them and they commence a hurried, fumbling copulation in the dark, after which they go their separate ways.