Archive for July 5th, 2012

Thursday, 5 July 2012

I W To her Unconstant Lover by Isabella Whitney

As close as you your wedding kept,
        yet now the truth I hear,
Which you (ere now) might me have told —
        what need you nay to swear?

You know I always wisht you well,
        so will I during life:
But sith you shall a husband be,
        God send you a good wife.

And this (where so you shall become)
        full boldly may you boast:
That once you had as true a love,
        as dwelt in any coast.

Whose constantness had never quailed
        if you had not begon:
And yet it is not so far past
        but might again be won.

If you so would, yea, and not change
        so long as life would last,
But if that needs you marry must?
        then farewell — hope is past.

And if you cannot be content
        to lead a single life?
 (Although the same right quiet be)
        then take me to your wife.

So shall the promises be kept
        that you so firmly made:
Now choose whether ye will be true,
        or be of Sinon’s trade.

Whose trade if that you long shall use,
        it shall your kindred stain:
Example take by many a one
        whose falsehood now is plain.

As by Aeneas first of all,
        who did poor Dido leave,
Causing the Queen by his untruth
        with sword her heart to cleave.

Also I find that Theseus did
        his faithful love forsake,
Stealing away within the night,
        before she did awake.

Jason that came of noble race,
        two ladies did begile.
I muse how he durst shew his face,
        to them that knew his wile.

For when he by Medea’s art
        had got the Fleece of Gold
And also had of her that time,
        all kind of things he wold.

He took his ship and fled away
        regarding not the vows
That he did make so faithfully
        unto his loving spouse.

How durst he trust the surging seas
        knowing himself forsworn?
Why did he scape safe to the land
        before the ship was torn?

I think king Aeolus stayed the winds
        and Neptune ruled the sea:
Then might he boldly pass the waves
        no perils could him slee.

But if his falsehed had to them
        been manifest before,
They would have rent the ship as soon
        as he had gone from shore.

Now may you hear how falseness is
        made manifest in time:
Although they that commit the same
        think it a venial crime.

For they, for their unfaithfulness,
        did get perpetual fame:
Fame? wherefore did I term it so?
        I should have called it shame.

Let Theseus be, let Jason pass,
        let Paris also scape
That brought destruction unto Troy
        all through the Grecian rape,

And unto me a Troylus be,
        if not you may compare
With any of these persons that
        aboue expressed are.

But if I can not please your mind
        for wants that rest in me,
Wed whom you list, I am content,
        your refuse for to be.

It shall suffice me, simple soul,
        of thee to be forsaken:
And it may chance, although not yet,
        you wish you had me taken.

But rather than you should have cause
        to wish this through your wife,
I wish to her, ere you her have,
        no more but love of life.

For she that shall so happy be,
        of thee to be elect,
I wish her virtues to be such,
        she need not be suspect.

I rather wish her Helen’s face
        than one of Helen’s trade:
With chasteness of Penelope
        the which did never fade.

A Lucres for her constancy,
        and Thisbie for her truth:
If such thou have, then Peto be,
        not Paris, that were ruth.

Perchance ye will think this thing rare
        in one woman to find:
Save Helen’s beauty, all the rest
        the Gods have me assigned.

These words I do not speak, thinking
        from thy new love to turn thee:
Thou know’st by proof what I deserve —
        I need not to inform thee.

But let that pass: would God I had
        Cassandra’s gift me lent:
Then either thy ill chance or mine
        my foresight might prevent.

But all in vain for this I seek;
        wishes may not attain it.
Therefore may hap to me what shall,
        and I cannot refrain it.

Wherefore I pray God be my guide
        and also thee defend,
No worser than I wish my self,
        until thy life shall end.

Which life, I pray God, may again
        King Nestor’s life renew:
And after that your soul may rest
        amongst the heavenly crew.

Thereto I wish King Xerxes’ wealth
        or else King Cressus’ gold,
With as much rest and quietness
        as man may have on mould.

And when you shall this letter have,
        let it be kept in store,
For she that sent the same hath sworn
        as yet to send no more.

And now farewell, for why at large
        my mind is here exprest,
The which you may perceive if that
        you do peruse the rest.



Date: 1567

By: Isabella Whitney (c1540-c1580)