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My Sweetest Lesbia -- Thomas Campion

(Poem #1466) My Sweetest Lesbia
 (in imitation of Catallus)

 My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,
 And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
 Let us not weigh them. Heaven's great lamps do dive
 Into their west, and straight again revive,
 But soon as once set is our little light,
 Then must we sleep one ever-during night.

 If all would lead their lives in love like me,
 Then bloody swords and armour should not be;
 No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,
 Unless alarm came from the camp of love.
 But fools do live, and waste their little light,
 And seek with pain their ever-during night.

 When timely death my life and fortune ends,
 Let not my hearse be vexed with mourning friends,
 But let all lovers, rich in triumph, come
 And with sweet pastimes grace my happy tomb;
 And Lesbia, close up thou my little light,
 And crown with love my ever-during night.
-- Thomas Campion
An unabashedly hedonistic poem. Life is short, Campion says, so let us
devote it to love, not to the vain pursuit of honour and glory. And when
death comes, a life thus lived will seem more worthwhile, and more
worthy of celebration, than one lived according to the precepts of
'sager sorts'.

Notice how the 'never-ending night' of Catullus becomes a refrain with
which Campion ends his stanzas: this gives each verse a sense of
finality. Form cleaves to content, as indeed it should. Notice also how
melodic and rhythmic the lines are: this is more song than poem.


[Minstrels Links]

Four poems in imitation of Catullus:
Poem #1463, Song Five -- Catullus / Richard Crashaw
Poem #1464, From Catullus 5 -- Sir Walter Raleigh
Poem #1465, Come, My Celia -- Ben Jonson
Poem #1466, My Sweetest Lesbia -- Thomas Campion

Other poems by poets named Thomas:
Poem #96, During Wind and Rain  -- Thomas Hardy
Poem #199, Lord Ullin's Daughter  -- Thomas Campbell
Poem #236, Memory  -- Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Poem #251, No!  -- Thomas Hood
Poem #359, The Angler  -- Thomas Buchanan Read
Poem #461, Couplets  -- Thomas Lynch
Poem #489, Horatius  -- Thomas Babbington Macaulay
Poem #499, Lay of Ancient Rome  -- Thomas Ybarra
Poem #527, I Bended Unto Me a Bough of May -- Tom Brown
Poem #565, Now Winter Nights Enlarge -- Thomas Campion
Poem #595, The Last Man -- Thomas Lovell Beddoes
Poem #957, Whoso list to hunt -- Thomas Wyatt
Poem #1091, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard -- Thomas Grey
Poem #1274, The Time I've Lost in Wooing -- Thomas Moore
Poem #1305, Poem in Thanks -- Thomas Lux
Poem #1390, The Salutation -- Thomas Traherne

21 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

babulal said...

a different point of view,

From A Letter From Lesbia

... So, praise the gods, Catullus is away!
And let me tend you this advice, my dear:
Take any lover that you will, or may,
Except a poet. All of them are queer.

It's just the same- a quarrel or a kiss
Is but a tune to play upon his pipe.
He's always hymning that or wailing this;
Myself, I much prefer the business type.

That thing he wrote, the time the sparrow died-
(Oh, most unpleasant- gloomy, tedious words!)
I called it sweet, and made believe I cried;
The stupid fool! I've always hated birds....

Dorothy Parker

Paul Smith said...

Set to music by Campion himself. The strophic nature of the poem fits
the lovely tune, and it's a popular piece for lute-song recitals.
Campion was one of the few recognised poets also to be a recognised
composer, and achieves synthesis of words and music better than any of
his contemporaries except perhaps (the composer) John Dowland.

Anonymous said...

I find it very5x difficult to understand its meaning. can any one out there help me????

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i need help analyzing this poem :/ for my school research paper will any1 please help me

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