Friday, April 15, 2011

National Poetry Month

It's National Poetry Month in Canada! To celebrate, I wanted to share one of my most favourite poems.

In university, I majored in English. I don't share this point to sound pretentious.  In fact, because I focussed mostly on the 18th century, I ended up missing out on many of the classics you'd expect an English major to have read. (Think, Austen, Twain, and Bronte). This poem I'm sharing is from the 18th century, but the message is one that still means a lot today.  I think that's why it's my favourite.  It's about holding out for someone special and not settling for anyone less than the best. (Though there's also a sneaky warning about being too picky...) It's lovely and fun!

The Lover: A Ballad
by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

At length, by so much importunity pressed,
Take, C– –, the inside of my breast;
This stupid indifference so often you blame
Is not owing to nature, to fear, or to shame;
I am not as cold as a Virgin in lead,
Nor is Sunday's sermon so strong in my head;
I know but too well how time flies along,
That we live but few years and yet fewer are young.

But I hate to be cheated, and never will buy
Long years of repentance for moments of joy.
Oh was there a man (but where shall I find
Good sense and good nature so equally joined?)
Would value his pleasure, contribute to mine,
Not meanly would boast, nor would lewdly design,
Not over severe, yet not stupidly vain,
For I would have the power though not give the pain;

No pedant yet learned, not rakehelly gay
Or laughing because he has nothing to say,
To all my whole sex obliging and free,
Yet never be fond of any but me;
In public preserve the decorum that's just,
And show in his eyes he is true to his trust,
Then rarely approach, and respectfully bow,
Yet not fulsomely pert, nor yet foppishly low.

But when the long hours of public are past
And we meet with champagne and a chicken at last,
May every fond pleasure that hour endear,
Be banished afar both discretion and fear,
Forgetting or scorning the airs of the crowd
He may cease to be formal, and I to be proud,
Till lost in the joy we confess that we live,
And he may be rude, and yet I may forgive.

And that my delight may be solidly fixed,
Let the friend and the lover be handsomely mixed,
In whose tender bosom my soul might confide,
Whose kindness can sooth me, whose counsel could guide.
From such a dear lover as here I describe
No danger should fright me, no millions should bribe;
But till this astonishing creature I know,
As I long have lived chaste, I will keep myself so.

I never will share with the wanton coquette,
Or be caught by a vain affectation of wit.
The toasters and songsters may try all their art
But never shall enter the pass of my heart.
I loathe the lewd rake, the dressed fopling despise;
Before such pursuers the nice virgin flies;
And as Ovid has sweetly in parables told
We harden like trees, and like rivers are cold.

Before you log off, check out The League of Canadian Poets website for more information on National Poetry Month. Teachers, there's a link there that'll give you some ideas for activities for young poets!

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