Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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.

Sounds familiar.

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  • No mention though, of the sonnet you had Omar read at our wedding... :)

    By Blogger misanthropster, At January 10, 2007 at 2:11 PM  

  • Your description of the first reminds me of a portayal of Porthos (3 musketeers) The second would be lovely attached to a note with a personal scent attached and the note stating the time and place of the next date. That would be sexy. Especially in this day and age of text msgs.

    You have spurred me on, I am going to have to find a REALLY sexy poem now. I'll let you know when I find one. NONE are on the top of my head.

    By Blogger Pickled Olives, At January 10, 2007 at 3:52 PM  

  • Wow....I've always loved Song to Celia...but I've never heard the first one...I think it's awesome though. I can't wait to see what pickled comes up with. ;-)

    By Blogger Odat, At January 10, 2007 at 6:34 PM  

  • Misanthropster-
    Give me a break! Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 isn't exactly seductive...

    I can't wait! It would be fun to play a game of "seductive poem tennis." I wonder if we could get anyone else involved.

    Are you listening?

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 10, 2007 at 7:00 PM  

  • Seriously....I tried with all my heart to read your poems. But I kept falling asleep. I'm an Asian redneck.

    But I do like the occassional bawdy limerick.

    By Blogger Lee, At January 10, 2007 at 8:16 PM  

  • Lee-
    There once was a southern belle named Gwen
    Who said Johnny reb had lost his yen
    To impale Dixie Tail,
    Since "impalers" would fail.
    But the South, suh, is risin' again!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 10, 2007 at 8:51 PM  

  • So poetry is the new booze? Or was it always that way?

    By Blogger The CEO, At January 11, 2007 at 1:57 AM  

  • Oh, man, you just took me back to English 10 my freshman year of college; that John Donne was a saving grace for me.

    By Blogger Jocelyn, At January 11, 2007 at 2:46 AM  

  • right Im in for a game of doubles! Im in work at the moment so you will have to wait until I get back to my porn wing of my house and I consult my mass volumes on erotica! (I kid you not! hey Im a scorpio - google it LOL)

    By Blogger Judith, At January 11, 2007 at 3:38 AM  

  • Have always loved the Marvell and am a huge Donne fan. But their seduction poems were written principally as displays of their rhetorical and reasoning skills. Sorry to dispel the mystique.

    I don't think being wooed by poetry is cheesy - it has always proved very effective with me!

    Can I throw Byron into the mix?


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 11, 2007 at 7:09 AM  

  • CEO-
    I'd prefer to think of it as the old diamonds!

    He's always been one of my favorites, too. Hell, I even love his more religious poetry.

    Bring it on! (I'm rubbing my hands with glee).

    Seduction versus rhetorical skills, eh?

    Are they mutually exclusive? I'd say that an intransigent female would be the ultimate test of one's rhetorical skill.

    Hee hee hee.

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 11, 2007 at 8:37 AM  

  • Dude...that rocked! Thank you!

    By Blogger Lee, At January 11, 2007 at 9:20 AM  

  • Indeed. I have always been talked into bed - am a total sucker for a large brain and a silver tongue. Sigh.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 11, 2007 at 12:19 PM  

  • Don't kill me for this...ok? ahahahahahha

    My First Time

    The sky was dark
    the moon was high
    all alone just her and I
    Her hair so soft
    her eyes so blue
    I knew just what she wanted to do
    Her skin so soft
    her legs so fine
    I ran my fingers down her spine
    I didn't know how
    but I tried my best
    to place my hand on her breast
    I remember my fear
    my fast beating heart
    but slowly she spread her legs apart
    And when she did
    I felt no shame
    as all at once the white stuff came
    At last it was finished
    it's all over now,
    my first time...milking a cow.

    By Blogger Odat, At January 11, 2007 at 2:18 PM  

  • Lee-
    Don't thank me. Thank Playboy's Party jokes, circa 1986.

    I admit it--I had a misspent youth.

    Well, it is the biggest sexual organ. The brain, that is. Unless you're Gene Simmons, in which case the tongue is a good bet.

    You are pure evil. Thanks for making me snarf my drink!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 11, 2007 at 7:16 PM  

  • Your Donne is a good choice. What about the one with "My America, My new found land"? I can still hear our prof telling us it was all about sex. I'd like to vainly and foolishly add that words, "poetic" or not, are seductive. What could be better in bed than reading poetry to each other? Either before or after. But most certainly not during.

    By Blogger Pawlie Kokonuts, At January 11, 2007 at 10:58 PM  

    My first initial choice is Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti for allegorical poems - now its a long one (no pun intended) but how she ever got it published is a mystery, (Please read and tell me what you think of it because Id love to hear what you guys think) but thats my first choice until , as they say, I know where to draw the line and see what Pickled olives has to come up with I dont want to be seen as breaking through the bottom of the barrel with some of the other poems I was thinking of quoting. (Btw when flicking through some of my books walt whitman pissed me off no end LOL)

    By Blogger Judith, At January 12, 2007 at 4:08 AM  

  • Sorry to butt in here but, Judith, I can tell you how 'Goblin Market' made it past the moral majority but it depends how long you've got - Victorian social mores are complex.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 12, 2007 at 6:55 AM  

  • Glamourpuss
    They where inconsistant with their moralities if you ask me because they made Le Fanu change the sex of his character in Carmilla and yet let rossetti publish Goblin Market on the basis it was a 'childrens poem'..? Im all ears Glamourpuss.

    By Blogger Judith, At January 12, 2007 at 8:57 AM  

  • Pawlie-
    Please see part two of this thread. And thanks for the Donne!

    Personally, I have to give Whitman respect for the following line--

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then, I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

    Which Byron is your favorite?

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 12, 2007 at 5:54 PM  

  • Er, there's more than one: Bits of 'Don Juan' are tres naughty, 'I Watched Thee' smoulders and 'She Walks In Beauty Like the Night' is airy and beautiful.

    I also like the langourousness of 'Her Voice' by Oscar Wilde and Herrick's 'Upon the Nipples of Julia's Breast' is saucy and funny.

    Finally, the old English song 'She Lay All Naked on her Bed' is wonderfully rude.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 15, 2007 at 6:51 AM  

  • Okay, you've basically laid out an entire post. I think I'll need to edit a little.

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 15, 2007 at 5:38 PM  

  • Er, and I forgot one of my all-time faves: When you Are Old by Yeats. I would melt if someone wrote that to me. Sigh.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 16, 2007 at 8:24 AM  

  • Puss, Crankster - Ominous and Rejoiceful yeats to melt and harden the heart

    Never give all the Heart
    W.B. Yeats
    Never give all the heart, for love
    Will hardly seem worth thinking of
    To passionate women if it seem
    Certain, and they never dream
    That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
    For everything that's lovely is
    But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
    O never give the heart outright,
    For they, for all smooth lips can say,
    Have given their hearts up to the play.
    And who could play it well enough
    If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
    He that made this knows all the cost,
    For he gave all his heart and lost

    Brown Penny Yeats

    I whispered, 'I am too young,'
    And then, 'I am old enough';
    Wherefore I threw a penny
    To find out if I might love.
    'Go and love, go and love, young man,
    If the lady be young and fair.'
    Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
    I am looped in the loops of her hair.

    O love is the crooked thing,
    There is nobody wise enough
    To find out all that is in it,
    For he would be thinking of love
    Till the stars had run away
    And the shadows eaten the moon.
    Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
    One cannot begin it too soon.

    By Blogger Judith, At January 16, 2007 at 9:18 AM  

  • Puss and Judith-
    Gorgeousness and Gorgeosity. I think I'll have to have a Keats-only post sometime in the future.

    Thanks for the beautiful inspiration!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 16, 2007 at 11:34 AM  

  • Byron referred to Keats as 'Little Johnny Piss-A-Bed Keats.'

    I can take him or leave him with a few exceptions.

    Yeats is another matter.

    Save your post for him!


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 16, 2007 at 1:03 PM  

  • Puss-
    You got me. Still, you can't blame me for having Keats on the brain. He died so well!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 16, 2007 at 2:27 PM  

  • Tuberculosis?

    Is that glamorous then?

    I just thought it involved a lot of phlegm.

    Best ask Proust.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At January 17, 2007 at 7:48 AM  

  • Puss-
    It's more that I like the epitaph that he wrote for himself:

    "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

    Of course, Severn added a lot of extraneous crap!

    By Blogger Crankster, At January 18, 2007 at 7:08 PM  

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