Poems about seduction (click on the link below for a playlist of selections)


(Seduction playlist) **Art: The Bolt by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1777 (source)

“English Girl Eats Her First Mango” by John Agard (b. 1949; British Guiana; playwright, children’s book writer) – from Being Alive

If I did tell she
hold this gold
of sundizzy
tonguelicking juicy
mouthwater flow
ripe with love
from the tropics

she woulda tell me
trust you to be

so I just say
taste this mango

and I watch she hold
the smooth cheeks
of the mango

blushing yellow
and a glow
rush to she own cheeks (…)

“Fragment 17” by Anacreon (570-485 BCE; Teos, Ionia, Greece; lyric poet, lyre musician)
– from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

May the youths love me for my words and songs;
I sing beautifully, and know what charming words to say.

“The Disappointment” by Aphra Behn (1640-1689; Canterbury, England; playwright, novelist, translator) – from Early Modern Women Poets (1520-1700)

1   ONE Day the Amarous Lisander,
By an impatient Passion sway’d,
Surpris’d fair Cloris, that lov’d Maid,
Who cou’d defend her self no longer ;
All things did with his Love conspire,
The gilded Planet of the Day,
In his gay Chariot, drawn by Fire,
Was now descending to the Sea,
And left no Light to guide the World,
But what from Cloris brighter Eyes was hurl’d. (…)

Photo of The Rover by Aphra Behn, produced by ArtLuxe in London, 2012 (source)

“I led my Silvia to a grove” by Aphra Behn (1640-1689; Canterbury, England; playwright, novelist, translator) – The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose

I led my Silvia to a Grove,
Where all the Boughs did shade us
The Sun it self, though it had strove
It could not have betray’d us.
The place secur’d from humane eyes
No other fear alows,
But when the Winds do gently rise;
And kiss the yeilding Boughs.
Down there we sate upon the Moss,
And did begin to play,
A thousand wanton tricks to pass,
The heat of all the day. (…)

“Think’st thou to seduce me then” by Thomas Campion (1567-1620; London, England; composer for lute, physician)
– from The Oxford Anthology of English Poetry: Volume I: Spenser to Crabbe

THINK’ST thou to seduce me then with words that have no meaning?
Parrots so can learn to prate, our speech by pieces gleaning:
Nurses teach their children so about the time of weaning.

Learn to speak first, then to woo: to wooing much pertaineth:
He that courts us, wanting art, soon falters when he feigneth,
Looks asquint on his discourse and smiles when he complaineth.

Skilful anglers hide their hooks, fit baits for every season;
But with crooked pins fish thou, as babes do that want reason:
Gudgeons only can be caught with such poor tricks of treason.

Ruth forgive me (if I erred) from human heart’s compassion,
When I laughed sometimes too much to see thy foolish fashion:
But alas, who less could do that found so good occasion?

{see also “Sweet, exclude me not, nor be divided”
“Thrice Toss These Oaken Ashes in the Air”}

“Short Poem” by Kenneth Carroll (Washington, DC; teacher, writing organizations administrator) – from Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry

my hand moved furiously,
trying to capture & convert
scattered thoughts into poetry,
miles blew bags grooves
outside the summer sky exploded
in thunderous applause and warm rain

she caressed my hand, sending my words
spiraling toward incomprehension
her tongue trailed a wet, searing path (…)

“To Aurelius” by Catullus (84-54 BC; Verona, Italy; neoteric style of poetry)
– from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Aurelius, father of hungers,
you desire to fuck,
not just these, but whoever my friends
were, or are, or will be in future years.
not secretly: now at the same time as you joke
with one, you try clinging to him on every side.
In vain: now my insidious cock
will bugger you first.
And, if you’re filled, I’ll say nothing:
Now I’m grieving for him: you teach
my boy, mine, to hunger and thirst.
So lay off: while you’ve any shame,
or you will end up being buggered.

“The Vain Advice” by Catherine Trotter Cockburn (1674?-1749; London, England; novelist, dramatist, philosopher) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

Ah, gaze not on those eyes! forbear
That soft enchanting voice to hear:
Not looks of basilisks give surer death,
Nor Syrens sing with more destructive breath.

Fly, if thy freedom thou’dst maintain,
Alas! I feel th’advice is vain!
A heart, whose safety but in flight does lie,
Is too far lost to have the power to fly.

“A Moment” by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907; London, England; novelist, essayist, literary critic) – from Poetry by English Women: Elizabethan to Victorian

The clouds had made a crimson crown
Above the mountains high.
The stormy sun was going down
In a stormy sky.

Why did you let your eyes so rest on me,
And hold your breath between?
In all the ages this can never be
As if it had not been.

“Dedicace” by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947; Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire (UK); occultist, novelist, mountaineer) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

You crown me king and queen. There is a name
For whose soft sound I would abandon all
This pomp. I liefer would have had you call
Some soft sweet title of beloved shame.
Gold coronets be seemly, but bright flame
I choose for diadem; I would let fall
All crowns, all kingdoms, for one rhythmical
Caress of thine, one kiss my soul to tame.

You crown me king and queen: I crown thee lover!
I bid thee hasten, nay, I plead with thee,
Come in the thick dear darkness to my bed.
Heed not my sighs, but eagerly uncover,
As our mouths mingle, my sweet infamy,
And rob thy lover of his maidenhead. (…)

“The Flea” by John Donne (1573-1631; London, England; Anglican priest, lawyer)
– from The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead,
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do. (…)

“Worked Late on a Tuesday Night” by Deborah Garrison (b. 1965; Ann Arbor, Michigan, US; publisher, editor) – from Good Poems

Midtown is blasted out and silent,
drained of the crowd and its doggy day.
I trample the scraps of deli lunches
some ate outdoors as they stared dumbly
or hooted at us career girls—the haggard
beauties, the vivid can-dos, open raincoats aflap
in the March wind as we crossed to and fro
in front of the Public Library.

Never thought you’d be one of them,
did you, little Lady?
Little Miss Phi Beta Kappa,
with your closetful of pleated
skirts, twenty-nine till death do us
part! Don’t you see?
The good schoolgirl turns thirty,
forty, singing the song of time management
all day long, lugging the briefcase (…)

“At a Reception” by Karen Gershon (1923-1993; Germany; historian, memoirist, novelist)
– from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

Now I am glad to be one whom people ignore:
none except we know that you have singled me out.
Shaking hands as if you had not kissed my eyes,
exchanging memories of touch, let go before
others can see you making me become
the most exciting woman in the room.

“Eve-Song” by Mary Gilmore (1865-1962; Crookwell, New South Wales, Australia; journalist, activist, essayist, letter-writer) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

I span and Eve span
A thread to bind the heart of man;
But the heart of man was a wandering thing
That came and went with little to bring:
Nothing he minded what we made,
As here he loitered, and there he stayed.

I span and Eve span
A thread to bind the heart of man;
But the more we span the more we found
It wasn’t his heart but ours we bound.
For children gathered about our knees: (…)

“Why should you freeze to sleep?” by Hanu [tr. Peter H. Lee]
– from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Korean Poetry

Why should you freeze to sleep?
for what reason should you be cold?
A pillow with mandarin-duck design and
kingfisher-pattern quilt,
how could you freeze tonight?
Since you came, wet with cold rain,
won’t you melt in bed with me?

“She Didn’t Say ‘Yes’” from the musical The Cat and the Fiddle by Otto Abels Harbach (1873-1963; Salt Lake City, Utah, US; librettist) (Ella Fitzgerald rendition)
– from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

She didn’t say ‘Yes’, she didn’t say ‘No’
She didn’t say ‘Stay’, she didn’t say ‘Go’
She only knew that he had spied her there
And then she knew he sat beside her there

At first there was heard not one little word
Then coyly she took one sly little look
Then something awoke and smiled inside
Her heart began beating wild inside

So, what did she do, I leave it to you
She did just what you’d do, too

She didn’t say ‘Yes’, she didn’t say ‘No’
They very soon stood beside his chateau
They lingered like two poor waifs outside
For well she knew ’twas only safe outside (…)

“The Dark-Eyed Gentleman” by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928; Stinsford, Dorset, UK; novelist, short story writer, playwright) – from Modern British Poetry

I PITCHED my day’s leazings in Crimmercrock Lane,
To tie up my garter and jog on again,
When a dear dark-eyed gentleman passed there and said,
In a way that made all o’ me colour rose-red,
“What do I see—
O pretty knee!”
And he came and he tied up my garter for me.

’Twixt sunset and moonrise it was, I can mind:
Ah, ’tis easy to lose what we nevermore find!—
Of the dear stranger’s home, of his name, I knew nought,
But I soon knew his nature and all that it brought.
Then bitterly
Sobbed I that he
Should ever have tied up my garter for me!

Yet now I’ve beside me a fine lissom lad,
And my slip’s nigh forgot, and my days are not sad;
My own dearest joy is he, comrade, and friend,
He it is who safe-guards me, on him I depend;
No sorrow brings he,
And thankful I be
That his daddy once tied up my garter for me!

“Art Above Nature, to Julia” by Robert Herrick (1591-1674; Cheapside, London (UK); cleric; lyric poet) – from The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse

WHEN I behold a forest spread
With silken trees upon thy head,
And when I see that other dress
Of flowers set in comeliness;
When I behold another grace
In the ascent of curious lace,
Which like a pinnacle doth shew
The top, and the top-gallant too;
Then, when I see thy tresses bound
Into an oval, square, or round,
And knit in knots far more than I
Can tell by tongue, or true-love tie;
Next, when those lawny films I see
Play with a wild civility,
And all those airy silks to flow,
Alluring me, and tempting so:
I must confess mine eye and heart
Dotes less on Nature than on Art.

“Delight in Disorder” by Robert Herrick (1591-1674; Cheapside, London (UK); cleric; lyric poet) – from The Erotic Spirit

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribands to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.

{see also “Upon Julia’s Clothes” }

“To the Tune “A Floating Cloud Crosses Enchanted Mountain”” by Huang Ho (or O) (1498-1569; China) – from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

Every morning I get up
Beautiful as the goddess
Of Love in Enchanted Mountain.
Every night I go to bed
Seductive as Yang Kuei-fei, (…)

“Concentrating” by Michael Hulse (b. 1955; Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK; German translator, editor) – from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

Standing at the
window watching

three Italian
women rowing,

rocking and tipping
and bobbing, I hear (…)

max-jacob-danse-dhommes-en-natureDanse d’hommes en nature by Max Jacob, 1940 (Source)

“Le Coq et la Perle” (The Rooster and the Pearl) by Max Jacob (1876-1944; Quimper, Brittany, France; painter, writer, essayist, critic) – from The Cubist Poets in Paris: An Anthology

Ses bras blancs devinrent tout mon horizon.

Un incendie est une rose sur la queue ouverte d’un paon
Il etait deux heures du matin : ells etaient elegantes les trois vielles,

Her white arms became my entire horizon.

A fire is a rose on the open tail of a peacock.
It was two o’clock in the morning: they were elegant those three old (…)

“Cavafy in Redondo” by Mark Jarman (b. 1952; Mount Sterling, Kentucky, US; essayist, creative writing professor; New Formalism movement)
– from The Geography of Home: California’s Poetry of Place

Our ruins run back to memory.
stucco palaces, pleasure bungalows, honeycomb
of the beachcombers’ cluster of rentals-
I remember them, filings in sand
pricking up at the magnet of nostalgia,
a sight of dusty filaments. Our ruins (…)

Song. To Celia “Come my Celia, let us prove” by Ben Jonson (1572-1637; Westminster, London (UK); playwright, actor, literary critic; popularized comedy of humours, lyric poet)
– from Poems, Poets, Poetry: an Introduction and Anthology

Come, my Celia, let us prove,
While we can, the sports of love;
Time will not be ours forever;
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain.
Suns that set may rise again;
But if once we lose this light,
’Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys?
Fame and rumor are but toys. (…)

“In the Southern Mode, to the Tune “A Sprig of Flowers” The Refusal to Get Old” by Kuan Han-ch’ing (or Guan Hanqing) (1241-1320; China; playwright) [tr. Wayne Schlepp]
– from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

I’ve plucked every flower that grows over the wall,
And gathered every willow overhanging the road;
The tenderest buds were the flowers I picked,
And the willows I gathered, of the supplest green fronds;
A wastrel, gay and dashing,
Trusting to my willow gathering, flower plucking hand,
I kept at it till the flowers fell and the willows withered;
Half my life I’ve been willow gathering and flower plucking
And for a whole generation slept with flowers and lain among the willows.

“At the Party” by Mikhail Kuzmin (1872-1936; Yaroslavl, Russia; composer, novelist, essayist) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

You and I and a fat lady,
having softly closed the doors,
withdrew from the general din.

I played you my Chimes [of Love],
the doors constantly creaked,
fashion plates and dandies kept coming in. (…)

“The Proud Ladye” by Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838; Chelsea, London, UK; novelist)
– from Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology

Oh, what could the ladye’s beauty match,
An it were not the ladye’s pride?
An hundred knights from far and near
Woo’d at that ladye’s side

The rose of the summer slept on her cheek
It’s lily upon her breast,
And her eye shone forth like the glorious star
That rises the first in the west

There were some that woo’d for her land and gold,
And some for her noble name,
And more that woo’d for her loveliness
But her answer was still the same

“Delilah” by Primo Michele Levi (1919-1987; Turin, Italy; chemist, memoirist, novelist, short story writer, essayist; Holocaust survivor) – from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

Samson of Timnah, rebel,
Big talking earthshaking Judaean,

Was in my delicate hands
As workable as clay.

It was easy to get out of him
The secret of his vain strength.

I flattered and cajoled him,
I had him sleep on my lap, (…)

“In the north there is a lovely woman” by Li Yen-nien (82 BC; China; music composer) [tr. Anne Birrell] – from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

In the north there is a lovely woman,
Beyond compare, unique.
One glance destroys a man’s city,
A second glance destroys a man’s kingdom.
Would you rather not know a city and kingdom destroyer?
Such beauty you won’t find twice!

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from the film Neptune’s Daughter by Frank Loesser (1910-1969; New York, US; composer, screenwriter) (1949 film rendition)  – from Reading Lyrics: More than a Thousand of the Finest Lyrics from 1900 to 1975

I really can’t stay – but baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away – but baby it’s cold outside
This evening has been – Been hoping that you’d drop in
So very nice – I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice

My mother will start to worry – Beautiful words you’re ??
And father will be pacing the floor – Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry – Beautiful, please don’t hurry
Well, maybe just a half a drink more – Put some records on while I pour (…)

“Sulpicia” by Michael Longley (b. 1939; Belfast, Ireland; magazine editor, arts administrator) – from The Routledge Anthology of Cross-Gendered Verse

Round this particular date I have drawn a circle
For Mars, dressed myself up for him, dressed to kill:
When I let my hair down I am a sheaf of wheat
And I bring in the harvest without cutting it. (…) Lorde photographed by Robert Alexander, 1983 (source)

“On a Night of the Full Moon” by Audre Lorde (1934-1992; New York, US; essayist, diarist, novelist; feminist, civil rights activist)
– from The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: the Tradition in English

Out of my flesh that hungers
and my mouth that knows
comes the shape I am seeking
for reason.
The curve of your waiting body
fits my waiting hand
your breasts warm as sunlight
your lips quick as young birds
between your thighs the sweet
sharp taste of limes. (…)

“Carrefour” by Amy Lowell (1874-1925; Brookline, Massachusetts, US; anthologist, essayist; Imagist movement) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

O You,
Who came upon me once
Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,
Why did you not strangle me before speaking
Rather than fill me with the wild white honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy
Of the forest bees.

“Magic” by Glenna Luschei (Iowa, US; Spanish translator, arts administrator)
– from In Company: An Anthology of New Mexico Poets After 1960

You went by my house
just as I was reading up
on aphrodisiacs
and seductions. (…)

“By this Leander being near the land” from Hero and Leander by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593; Canterbury, England; playwright) – from The New Penguin Book of English Verse

By this, Leander, being near the land,
Cast down his weary feet, and felt the sand.
Breathless albeit he were, he rested not
Till to the solitary tower he got;
And knocked and called: at which celestial noise
The longing heart of Hero much more joys,
Than nymphs and shepherds when the timbrel rings,
Or crooked dolphin when the sailor sings.
She stayed not for her robes, but straight arose,
And, drunk with gladness, to the door she goes;
Where seeing a naked man, she screeched for fear,
(Such sights as this to tender maids are rare)
And ran into the dark herself to hide.
Rich jewels in the dark are soonest spied.
Unto her was he led, or rather drawn
By those white limbs which sparkled through the lawn.
The nearer that he came, the more she fled,
And, seeking refuge, slipped into her bed; (…)

{see also “What is’t sweet wag, I should deny thy youth?”}

“The Fair Singer” by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678; Winestead, England; satirist, politician; metaphysical poet) – from Five Seventeenth-Century Poets: Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Marvell, Vaughan

To make a final conquest of all me,
Love did compose so sweet an enemy,
In whom both beauties to my death agree,
Joining themselves in fatal harmony;
That while she with her eyes my heart does bind,
She with her voice might captivate my mind. (…)

“D” by Jeffrey McDaniel (b. 1967; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; creative writing teacher, faculty advisor) – from The New American Young Poets

When the sun was child’s breath above the Earth
you were the one I turned to
wearing something dark and celestial
like the sky over Colorado.

You were elegant, like a night stick
balanced on the tip of a steeple (…)

Untitled, 1962 - Henri MichauxUntitled  by Henri Michaux, 1962 (source)

“Simplicity” by Henri Michaux (1899-1984; Namur, Belgium; experimental writer, journalist, painter, travel writer, art critic) [tr. Richard Ellmann]
– from The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology

What has been particularly lacking in my life up to now is simplicity.
Little by little I am beginning to change.

For example, I always go out with my bed now and when a woman
pleases me, I take her and go to bed with her immediately.

If her ears are ugly and large, or her nose, I remove them along with her
clothes and put them under the bed, for her to take back when she
leaves; I keep only what I like. (…)

“Pretty Piece of Tail” by Harryette Mullen (b. 1953; Alabama / Texas, US; literature professor, short story writer, essayist)
– from The Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry

Pretty piece of tail,
now I wanted you so bad.
Nice, pretty piece of tail
and I wanted it mighty bad.
I thought if I could get it,
that piece be the best I ever had.

She had her legs together
the way her mama said she should (…)

“Villeggiature” by Edith Nesbit (1858-1924; Kennington, Surrey, UK; children’s book writer, novelist, short story writer, socialist activist)
– from Poetry by English Women: Elizabethan to Victorian

My window, framed in pear-tree bloom,
White-curtained shone, and softly lighted:
So, by the pear-tree, to my room
Your ghost last night climbed uninvited.
Your solid self, long leagues away,
Deep in dull books, had hardly missed me;
And yet you found this Romeo’s way,
And through the blossom climbed and kissed me. (…)

“Drunk in Fairyland” by Ou-yang Hsiu (or Ouyang Xiu) (1007-1072; Jishui, Jiangxi, China; statesman, historian, essayist, calligrapher) [tr. James Robert Hightower]
– from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

Shyly she knits her brows
And shows a face delicately rouged:
Supple waist in white silk
Beside the peony balustrade.
Vexed, she won’t let him approach —
Half hiding her coy face,
Her voice low and shaking,
She asks, ” Does anyone know? ”
Smoothing her silk skirt,
She steals an upward glance
And takes a step or two away. (…) Dancing (1909) by Norman Lindsay from a scene from The Satyricon by Petronius (source)

“However, Eumolpus, our champion in time of trouble and the author of the present harmony” from The Satyricon by Petronius (Gaius Petronius Arbiter) (27-66 AD; Massalia (Marseille), France; novelist) – from Erotic Literature: Twenty-Four Centuries of Sensual Writing

However, Eumolpus, our champion in time of trouble and the author of the present harmony, to prevent the general merriment lapsing into silence without a few stories, began a succession of gibes about female fickleness – how easily they fell in love, how quickly they forgot even their children. There was no woman so pure that she could not be driven crazy by some stranger’s physical attractions. He wasn’t thinking of old tragedies or famous historical names but of something that happened within his own living memory, and he would tell us about it if we wanted to hear it. So when everyone’s eyes were turned to him, he began the following storie.

‘There was once a lady of Ephesus so famous for her fidelity to her husband that she even attracted women from neighboring countries to come just to see her. (…)

“Iranian Whirling Girls” by Po Chu-yi (772-846; Henan, China; government official) and Yuan Chen (779-831; China; politician, short story writer; New Yuefu movement) [tr. Victor H. Mair] – from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

An admonition against contemporary morals

Iranian whirling girl, Iranian whirling girl—
Her heart answers to the strings,
Her hands answer the drums.
At the sound of the strings and drums, she raises her arms,
Like swirling snowflakes tossed about, she turns in her twirling dance. (…)

“Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” by Cole Porter (1891-1964; Peru, Indiana, US; composer, lyricist) (Ella Fitzgerald rendition)

Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

In Spain the best upper sets do it
Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
Not to mention the Finns
Folks in Siam do it
Think of Siamese twins (…)

“Serenade” by Adélia Prado (b. 1935; Divinópolis, Minas Gerais, Brazil; teacher)
– from These Are Not Sweet Girls: Poetry by Latin American Women

Some night under a pale moon and geraniums
he would come with his incredible hands and mouth
to play the flute in the garden.
I am beginning to despair
and can see only two choices:
either go crazy or turn holy. (…)

Do You wonder Why I Am Sleepy” by James Otis Purdy (1914-2009; Hicksville, Ohio, US; letter-writer, novelist, short-story writer, playwright)
– from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Last night it was already half past eleven
the doorbell rang.
Paul a young hustler barely 19
but with
body and face of a 14-year old
stood on my threshold.
Yes, I let him in
though I know he is
a profiteer.
Our relation is tense and tentative.
I never was one of his clients.
I know I should have sent him away, (…)

“Rose Leaves When the Rose Is Dead” by Mark-André Raffalovich (essayist, researcher on homosexuality) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

Give me the words of once upon a time,
So long ago your voice is not the same,
Your lips have altered: but the rose trees climb
Still to the window where the morning came
And called himself Delight, that left off name,
And all the East was noisy all at once.
If to the nesting place the sure bird runs,
If in rose time the rose-trees climb,
Shall we not go back to the red rose nest,
And say that words once sad are best? (…)

“Judith of Bethulia” by John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974; Pulaski, Tennessee, US; educator, scholar, literary critic, essayist; New Criticism school) – from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry

Beautiful as the flying legend of some leopard
She had not chosen yet her captain, nor Prince
Depositary to her flesh, and our defense;
A wandering beauty is a blade out of its scabbard.
You know how dangerous, gentlemen of threescore?
May you know it yet ten more.

Nor by process of veiling she grew less fabulous.
Grey or blue veils, we were desperate to study
The invincible emanations of her white body,
And the winds at her ordered raiment were ominous.
Might she walk in the market, sit in the council of soldiers?
Only of the extreme elders. (…)!Large.jpgMary Robinson As Perdita by John Hoppner (1782) from The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

 “XIII. She Endeavors to Fascinate Him” by Mary Robinson (née Darby) (1757-1800; Bristol, England; actress, dramatist, essayist, memoirist, novelist)
– from Romantic Woman Poets: An Anthology

Bring, bring to deck my brow, ye Sylvan girls,
A roseate wreath; nor for my waving hair
The costly band of studded gems prepare,
Of sparkling crysolite or orient pearls:
Love, o’er my head his canopy unfurls,
His purple pinions fan the whisp’ring air;
Mocking the golden sandal, rich and rare,
Beneath my feet the fragrant woodbine curls.
Bring the thin robe, to fold about my breast,
White as the downy swan; while round my waist
Let leaves of glossy myrtle bind the vest,
Not idly gay, but elegantly chaste!
Love scorns the nymph in wanton trappings drest;
And charms the most concealed, are doubly grac’d.

{see also Phaon Awakes: “Now, round my favor’d grot let roses rise / To strew the bank”- To the Eolian Harp: “Come, soft Eolian harp, while zephyr plays / Along the meek”}

“Brooklyn Bridge” by Matthew Rohrer (b. 1970; Michigan / Oklahoma; magazine editor)
– from The New American Young Poets

Bowlegged lady crawled across the river on cables
and towers above me, sinuous stone lady.

Below me nothing but the two-inch dimension
of the two-by-fours, and birds bugging the barges.

Her Graceful pelvis arches into the orange evening,
implacably. Who is waiting for?

“Empty Diary 1905” by Robert Sheppard (b. 1955; London, England; literary critic, editor, pamphleteer) – from Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970

She falls for him, conventional longing well
tutored, no pose held, broken but breathing,
yet she keeps a finger in a
page of last year’s tightly scribbled diary:
the ranked delights of the Paris corsetiere,
the dummies’ impersonal whorish display of lace
and china flesh, a flat-buttoned pressing
of chamber-maids’ etiquette; can’t bear his:
“I sleep, I wake, I never dream”
; wants to slit his throat, to hoist
him, dripping from his penis; her story
stalled, veins in her bare neck pleading.

“Lending Out Books” by Hal Sirowitz (b. 1949; New York, US; teacher; Nuyorican Poets Café) – from Good Poems

You’re always giving, my therapist said.
You have to learn how to take. Whenever
you meet a woman, the first thing you do
is lend her your books. You think she’ll
have to see you again in order to return them.
But what happens is, she doesn’t have the time
to read them, & she’s afraid if she sees you again
you’ll expect her to talk about them, & will
want to lend her even more. So she
cancels the date. You end up losing
a lot of books. You should borrow hers. of the Nuyorican Poets Café in action (New York) (source)

“Remember?” from the musical A Little Night Music by Stephen Joshua Sondheim (b. 1930; New York, US; composer, lyricist, former president of Dramatists Guild) (2010 rendition)

DESIREÉ: Dignity. We women have the right to commit any crime toward our husbands, our lovers, our sons, as long as we do not hurt their dignity. We should make men’s dignity our best ally and caress it, cradle it, speak tenderly to it, and handle it as our most delightful toy. Then a man is in our hands, at our feet, and anywhere else we momentarily wish him to be.

ANNE: I want to go home!


MR. LINDQUIST: Remember?

MRS. NORDSTROM: Remember? The local village dance on the green, Remember?

MR. LINDQUIST: Remember? The lady with the large tambourine, Remember?

MRS. NORDSTROM: The one who played the harp in her boa / Thought she was so adept

BOTH: Ah, how we laughed! Ah, how we wept! Ah, how we polka’d (…)

“The Beautiful Person” by Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju (or Sima Xiangru) (179-117 BC; Shu (modern Sichuan), China; court poet, writer, musician, official) [tr. John A. Scott] – from Classical Chinese Literature: From antiquity to the Tang dynasty

When I was young
long years in the West
I dwelt by myself in a solitary place.
My mansion was vast and rambling,
yet I found no diversions
My neighbor to the East had a daughter
black her hair, comely her figure,
moth eyebrows and white teeth,
Features full and sensual,
a luster like flashing light.
She often gazed towards my residence
as if she would wish me to join her;
As she mounted her steps
she would pause and look at me. (…)

{see also Cock-Phoenix, Hen-Phoenix: “Cock-phoenix, cock-phoenix goes back to his hometown / From roaming the four seas in search of his hen.”

“I loathe a boy who won’t be hugged and kissed” by Strato (or Straton) (100 AD; Sardis, Lydia, Turkey; epigrammatic poet) – from The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature

I loathe a boy who won’t be hugged and kissed,
Raises his voice and hits me with his fist,
Nor do I wish the wanton willingness
Of one who in my arms at once says, Yes.
I like the one in between who seems to know
The secret of saying at once Yes and No.

{see also “To start with, grapple your opponent ‘round”}

“Medusa” by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie (New York, US; creative writing professor, essayist, lecturer, workshop leader) – from Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam

As a plaited girl
I was stung by the word “Medusa”
me and my friends covered cornrows with towels
and slips to toss and flip, to pretend
we were sexy
Seduction looked like brustiers, light jeans
short skirts, high heels-
tresses fingers eased through
hair talks back
swings moods
giggles and hisses (…)

Scenes from the stage drama Du Fu Photos: Courtesy of Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre Photo from the stage drama Du Fu (2012), engaging in an abstract interpretation of the poet’s work (source)

“Shua Hai-erh” Country Cousin at the Theater by Tu Shan-fu (or Du Fu) (712-770; China; historian, philosopher) – from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature [tr. James I. Crump]

When the rains are in season and the wind sets fair
Nothing is better than the farmer’s share.
Our silkworms had mulberries to spare.
Our grains had been reaped to the final stook
And the tax men had left us more than they took.
Since my village had a vow at the temple to pay,
They sent me to redeem it on market day.
As I reached the high road by the top of the town
I saw a paper banner they had just hung down.
On it was writing with designs in between
And below it the biggest gaggle I had ever seen.

Among ’em was the one who was working a door,
Yelling, ” This way, this way, pay your fee before
The whole place is full and you can’t find a bench!
Our first act’s a yüan-pen called Seductive Wench ,
This is followed by a short yao-mo ,
It’s easy on the stage to make time go
But hard to get applause for doing so.” (…)

“Green, green riverside grass” by Unknown Chinese [tr. Anne Birrell]
– from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

Green, green riverside grass,
Lush, lush willow in the garden,
Sleek, sleek a girl upstairs,
White, white faces her window.
air, fair her rouge and powder face,
Slim, slim she shows her white hand.
Once I was a singing-house girl,
Now I am a playboy’s wife.
A playboy roves, never comes home,
My empty bed is hard to keep alone.

“In the wilds, a dead doe” by Unknown Chinese [tr. Wai-lim Yip]
– from Chinese Poetry: An Anthology of Major Modes and Genres

In the wilds, a dead doe. White reeds to wrap it.
A girl, spring-touched: A fine man to seduce her.
In the woods, bushes. In the wilds, a dead deer.
White reeds in bundles. A girl like jade.
Slowly. Take it easy.
Don’t feel my sash! Don’t make the dog bark!

“My perfume?” by Unknown Chinese [tr. Jeanne Larsen]
– from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

My perfume?
No more
than incense leaves.
Seductive face?
You really think I’d dare?

But heaven doesn’t rob us
of desires:
that’s why it’s sent me
here, why I’ve seen you.

Night after night,
I do not comb my hair
Silky tangles
hang across (…)

“Pleasant Songs of the Sweetheart Who Meets You in the Fields” by Unknown Mediterranean [tr. Ezra Pound and Noel Stock]
– from World Poetry: an Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

You, mine, my love,
My heart strives to reach the heights of your love.

See, sweet, the bird-trap set with my own  hand.

See the birds of Punt,
Perfume a-wing
Like a shower of myrrh
Descending on Egypt.

Let us watch my handiwork,
The two of us together in the fields. (…)

“The Song of Crede, Daughter of Guare” by Unknown [tr. Kuno Meyer]
– from Ireland’s Love Poems

THESE are the arrows that murder sleep
At every hour in the night’s black deep ;
Pangs of Love through the long day ache,
All for the dead Dinertach’s sake.

Great love of a hero from Roiny’s plain
Has pierced me through with immortal pain,
Blasted my beauty and left me to blanch
A riven bloom on a restless branch.

Never was song like Dinertach’s speech
But holy strains that to Heaven’s gate reach ;
A front of flame without boast or pride,
Yet a firm, fond mate for a fair maid’s side. (…)

“I. The Sun Sinks low” by Unknown Chinese [tr. Jeanne Larsen]
– from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature

The sun sinks low. I
go to my front gate,
and look long, and see
you passing by.

Seductive face,
so many charms,
such hair!
—and sweet perfume
that spills
in from the road.

“Waly, Waly, Love Be Bonny” by Unknown Scottish (June Tabor rendition)
– from The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918

Oh, waly, waly up the bank and waly, waly down the brae
And waly, waly yon burnside where I and my love used to gae
I was a lady of high renown as lived in the North country
I was a lady of high renown when Jamie Douglas loved me

When we came in by Glasgow town, we were a comely sight to see
My lord was clad in green velvet and I myself in cramasie
And when my eldest son was born and set upon the nurse’s knee
I was the happiest woman born and my good lord, he loved me

There came a man into this house and Jamie Lockhart was his name
And it was told to my good lord that I was in bed with him
In the morning I arose, my bonnie palace for to see
I came unto my lord’s roomdoor, but ne’er a word would he speak
with me (…)

“另外还有一首也是他译的” (When I started wanting) by Unknown Chinese [tr. Jeanne Larsen] – from The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature


When I started wanting
to know that man,
I hoped our coupled hearts
would be like one.
Silk thoughts threaded
on a broken loom –
who’d have known
the tangled snarls to come?

“Ye-you si-jun: Lies a Dead Deer” by Unknown Chinese [tr. Ezra Pound]
– from The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry

In the wilds there is a dead doe;
In white rushes it is wrapped.
There was a girl longing for spring;
A fine gentleman seduced her.

In the woods there are tree stumps;
In the wilds lies a dead deer,
Wrapped and bound with white rushes.
There was a girl fair as jade.

“Ah, not so hasty, not so rough!
Do not move my girdle kerchief;
Do not make the dog bark.”

“Why?” by Mary Webb (1881-1927; Leighton, Shropshire, UK; novelist, short story writer, essayist) – from Love’s Witness: Five Centuries of Love Poetry by Women

Why did you come, with your enkindled eyes
And mountain-look, across my lower way,
And take the vague dishonour from my day
By luring me from paltry things, to rise
And stand beside you, waiting wistfully
The looming of a larger destiny?

Why did you with strong fingers fling aside
The gates of possibility, and say
With vital voice the words I dream to-day?
Before, I was not much unsatisfied:
But since a god has touched me and departed,
I run through every temple, broken-hearted.

“Everlasting Quail” by Sam Witt (b. 1991; Wimbledon, England; creative writing professor, poetry publishing editor) – from The New American Young Poets

Then the air was a brutal architecture of sugar.

Boys wading to their knees
into blue carpeting,

centurions at dawn, waist-deep in the street
& drunk, looking for her—

Meanwhile the cherry tree was dripping with bees,
a tremble of everlasting quail. . .

I left my wife in a tall hotel. (…)

“The Lover Showeth How He Is Forsaken of Such as He Sometime Enjoyed” by Thomas Wyatt, Sir (1503-1542; Allington Castle, Kent, US; ambassador)
– from The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame and meek
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune, it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better, but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall
And she caught me in her arms long and small,
Therewithal sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking.
And I have leave to go of her goodness
And she also to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I fain would know what she hath deserved.

“The Ugly Heart” by Martha Anthony
“I said, “Be Mine”” by Archilochus
“Lake” by Belev: “The blue woman climbed out and kissed him” (…)
“Sighle of the Lovespot” by Joseph Campbell
“Silver Clasps” by Paul Dermee
“These apples” by Paul Dermee
“Where once you could win over grasping boys” by Glaukos
“Here,” said the Cloud-gatherer Zeus, “that is a journey you may well postpone” by Homer
“Now Here of the Golden Throne, looking out from where she stood on the summit of Olympus, was quick to observe two things” by Homer
“Tricks for the Barmaid” by Roddy Lumsden
“Persuasion” by Patty Seyburn
“The Single Urge” by Baron Wormser
“Love Poem” by Barbara Orton
“Rear Window” by Angela Shaw
“Come close to me, my love” by Unknown
“If I stare at you with such great insistence” by Unknown
“Intoxicated just because I smiled at you” by Unknown
“The large-headed beauty, head so alluring, wears embroidery neath a grasscloth shroud.” by Unknown
“On the offering mound, a dead roe” by Unknown
“So plentiful, the babes-in-a-pot” by Unknown
“Private Thoughts” by Clyde A. Wray
“Throw me a quince” by Unknown

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