Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury
An Ode Upon A Question Moved, Whether Love Should Continue Forever - Poem by Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury
Having interred her infant-birth,
The watery ground that late did mourn,
Was strewed with flowers for the return
Of the wished bridegroom of the earth.
The well-accorded birds did sing
Their hymns unto the pleasant time,
And in a sweet consorted chime
Did welcome in the cheerful spring.
To which, soft whistles of the wind,
And warbling murmurs of a brook,
And varied notes of leaves that shook,
An harmony of parts did bind.
While doubling joy unto each other,
All in so rare consent was shown,
No happiness that came alone,
Nor pleasure that was not another.
When with a love none can express,
That mutually happy pair,
Melander and Celinda fair,
The season with their loves did bless.
Walking towards a pleasant grove,
Which did, it seemed, in new delight
The pleasures of the time unite,
To give a triumph to their love,
They stayed at last, and on the grass
Reposed so, as o'er his breast
She bowed her gracious head to rest,
Such a weight as no burden was.
While over either's compassed waist
Their folded arms were so composed,
As if in straitest bonds enclosed,
They suffered for joys they did taste.
Long their fixed eyes to heaven bent,
Unchanged, they did never move,
As if so great and pure a love
No glass but it could represent.
When with a sweet though troubled look,
She first brake silence, saying, 'Dear friend,
O, that our love might take no end,
Or never had beginning took!
I speak not this with a false heart,
(Wherewith his hand she gently strained)
'Or that would change a love maintained
With so much faith on either part.
Nay, I protest, though death with his
Worst counsel should divide us here,
His terrors could not make me fear
To come where your loved presence is.
Only if love's fire with the breath
Of life be kindled, I doubt
With our last air 'twill be breathed out,
And quenched with the cold of death.
That if affection be a line,
Which is closed up in our last hour;
O how 'twould grieve me, any power
Could force so dear a love as mine!'
She scarce had done, when his shut eyes
An inward joy did represent,
To hear Celinda thus intent
To a love he so much did prize.
Then with a look, it seemed, denied
All earthly power but hers, yet so,
As if to her breath he did owe
This borrowed life, he thus replied:
'O you, wherein they say souls rest,
Till they descend pure heavenly fires,
Shall lustful and corrupt desires
With your immortal seed be blessed?
And shall our love, so far beyond
That low and dying appetite,
And which so chaste desires unite,
Not hold in an eternal bond?
Is it because we should decline
And wholly from our thoughts exclude
Objects that may the sense delude,
And study only the divine?
No sure, for if none can ascend
Even to the visible degree
Of things created, how should we
The invisible comprehend?
Or rather, since that Power expressed
His greatness in his works alone,
Being here best in his creatures known,
Why is he not loved in them best?
But is't not true, which you pretend,
That since our love and knowledge here
Only as parts of life appear,
So they with it should take their end.
O no, beloved, I am most sure,
Those virtuous habits we acquire,
As being with the soul entire,
Must with it evermore endure.
For if, where sins and vice reside,
We find so foul a guilt remain,
As never dying in his stain,
Still punished in the soul doth bide,
Much more that true and real joy,
Which in a virtuous love is found,
Must be more solid in its ground,
Than fate or death can e'er destroy.
Else should our souls in vain elect,
And vainer yet were heaven's laws,
When to an everlasting cause
They gave a perishing effect.
Nor here on earth then, nor above,
Our good affection can impair,
For where God doth admit the fair,
Think you that he excludeth love?
These eyes again then eyes shall see,
And hands again these hands enfold,
And all chaste pleasures can be told
Shall with us everlasting be.
For if no use of sense remain
When bodies once this life forsake,
Or they could no delight partake,
Why should they ever rise again?
And if every imperfect mind
Make love the end of knowledge here,
How perfect will our love be, where
All imperfection is refined!
Let then no doubt, Celinda, touch,
Much less your fairest mind invade,
Were not our souls immortal made,
Our equal loves can make them such.
So when one wing can make no way,
Two joined can themselves dilate,
So can two persons propogate,
When singly either would decay.
So when from hence we shall be gone,
And be no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall be both, yet both but one.'
This said, in her uplifted face,
Her eyes which did that beauty crown,
Were like two stars, that having fallen down,
Look up again to find their place:
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
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