George Wither

(11 June 1588 – 2 May 1667 / Bentworth, Hampshire)

The Choice


Me so oft my fancy drew
Here and there, that I ne’er knew
Where to place desire before
So that range it might no more;
But as he that passeth by
Where, in all her jollity,
Flora’s riches in a row
Do in seemly order grow,
And a thousand flowers stand
Bending as to kiss his hand;
Out of which delightful store
One he may take and no more;
Long he pausing doubteth whether
Of those fair ones he should gather.
First the Primrose courts his eyes,
Then the Cowslip he espies;
Next the Pansy seems to woo him,
Then Carnations bow unto him;
Which whilst that enamour’d swain
From the stalk intends to strain,
(As half-fearing to be seen)
Prettily her leaves between
Peeps the Violet, pale to see
That her virtues slighted be;
Which so much his liking wins
That to seize her he begins.
Yet before he stoop’d so low
He his wanton eye did throw
On a stem that grew more high,
And the Rose did there espy.
Who, beside her previous scent,
To procure his eyes content
Did display her goodly breast,
Where he found at full exprest
All the good that Nature showers
On a thousand other flowers;
Wherewith he affected takes it,
His belovàd flower he makes it,
And without desire of more
Walks through all he saw before.
So I wand’ring but erewhile
Through the garden of this Isle,
Saw rich beauties, I confess,
And in number numberless:
Yea, so differing lovely too,
That I had a world to do
Ere I could set up my rest,
Where to choose and choose the best.
Thus I fondly fear’d, till Fate
(Which I must confess in that
Did a greater favour to me
Than the world can malice do me)
Show’d to me that matchless flower,
Subject for this song of our;
Whose perfection having eyed,
Reason instantly espied
That Desire, which ranged abroad,
There would find a period:
And no marvel if it might,
For it there hath all delight,
And in her hath nature placed
What each several fair one graced.
Let who list, for me, advance
The admiràd flowers of France,
Let who will praise and behold
The reservàd Marigold;
Let the sweet-breath’d Violet now
Unto whom she pleaseth bow;
And the fairest Lily spread
Where she will her golden head;
I have such a flower to wear
That for those I do not care.
Let the young and happy swains
Playing on the Britain plains
Court unblamed their shepherdesses,
And with their gold curlàd tresses
Toy uncensured, until I
Grudge at their prosperity.
Let all times, both present, past,
And the age that shall be last,
Vaunt the beauties they bring forth.
I have found in one such worth,
That content I neither care
What the best before me were;
Nor desire to live and see
Who shall fair hereafter be;
For I know the hand of Nature
Will not make a fairer creature.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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