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Poem by Robert Southwell


Love's Servile Lot


LOVE, mistress is of many minds,
Yet few know whom they serve;
They reckon least how little Love
Their service doth deserve.

The will she robbeth from the wit,
The sense from reason's lore;
She is delightful in the rind,
Corrupted in the core.

She shroudeth vice in virtue's veil,
Pretending good in ill
She offereth joy, affordeth grief,
A kiss where she doth kill.

A honey-shower rains from her lips,
Sweet lights shine in her face;
She hath the blush of virgin mind,
The mind of viper's race.

She makes thee seek, yet fear to find
To find, but not enjoy:
In many frowns some gliding smiles
She yields to more annoy.

She woos thee to come near her fire,
Yet doth she draw it from thee;
Far off she makes thy heart to fry,
And yet to freeze within thee.

She letteth fall some luring baits
For fools to gather up;
Too sweet, too sour, to every taste
She tempereth her cup.

Soft souls she binds in tender twist,
Small flies in spinner's web;
She sets afloat some luring streams,
But makes them soon to ebb.

Her watery eyes have burning force;
Her floods and flames conspire:
Tears kindle sparks, sobs fuel are,
And sighs do blow her fire.

May never was the month of love,
For May is full of flowers;
But rather April, wet by kind,
For love is full of showers.

Like tyrant, cruel wounds she gives,
Like surgeon, salve she lends;
But salve and sore have equal force,
For death is both their ends.

With soothing words enthralled souls
She chains in servile bands;
Her eye in silence hath a speech
Which eye best understands.

Her little sweet hath many sours,
Short hap immortal harms;
Her loving looks are murd'ring darts,
Her song bewitching charms.

Like winter rose and summer ice,
Her joys are still untimely;
Before her Hope, behind Remorse:
Fair first, in fine unseemly.

Moods, passions, fancy's jealous fits
Attend upon her train:
She yieldeth rest without repose,
And heaven in hellish pain.

Her house is Sloth, her door Deceit,
And slippery Hope her stairs;
Unbashful Boldness bids her guests,
And every vice repairs.

Her diet is of such delights
As please till they be past;
But then the poison kills the heart
That did entice the taste.

Her sleep in sin doth end in wrath,
Remorse rings her awake;
Death calls her up, Shame drives her out,
Despairs her upshot make.

Plough not the seas, sow not the sands,
Leave off your idle pain;
Seek other mistress for your minds,
Love's service is in vain. 



Robert Southwell


Robert Southwell's other poems:
  1. New Heaven, New War
  2. The Nativity of Christ
  3. New Prince, New Pomp
  4. The Burning Babe
  5. Content and Rich

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