Friday, July 14, 2006

Thomas Shipman requests a kiss

Thomas Shipman: 'The Kiss, To Mrs. C.'

Hold not your Lips so close; dispence

Treasures, Perfumes, and Life from thence.

Squeeze not those full-ripe Cherries; this

Becomes a Simper, not a Kiss.

There’s danger to lock up your Breath,

It Cousin-German is to Death.

None bags up wind, the Merchant swears,

Unless some wrinkled Laplanders.

What needs this Guard? It is small sence

Thus to hedge in a double Fence.

Clos’d Lips express but silent Blisses,

And at best are but dumb Kisses.

You are with Cupid little kind

To make him Dumb as well as Blind.

Such Smacks but shew a silent state;

Kisses should be articulate.

An open-mouted Kiss speaks sence,

It is the lover’s eloquence.

Let your speak out then! There’s no Bliss

To the Pronunciation of a Kiss.

~ a fairly standard 17th century lyric, but giving the impression of being personal and 'practical'. Some of Shipman's other poems have dedications after their titles to identifiable women ('Right choice at last, 1662' was his well-meant poem to his wife to be, though it does accidentally flaunt his track record with such as 'Mistress C', who perhaps had her own notions of osculatory decorum. Cavalier poetry featured lots of kiss poems, most graciously in the dialogue on a kiss Lawes set from Herrick. On the specific topic of what the 1930's began to call the 'French Kiss', this is a passage from Harington's translation of Orlando Furioso, with Rogero (Harington relishes his bawdy version of 'Ruggiero') getting it together with the sorceress Alcyna:

And look how close the Ivy doth embrace
The tree or branch about the which it grows,
So close the lovers couched in the place,
Each drawing in the breath the other blows:
But how great joys they found that little space,
We well may guess, but none for certain knows:
Their sport was such, so well they leere their couth,
That oft they had two tongues within one mouth.

(Book 7, canto 1, stanza 27).

My image, from the Weg Gallery of Art, is Bartholomeus van der Helst, ' Abraham del Court and Maria de Keersegieter' of 1654: the gentleman courting, the lady in the role of a rose in bud, still attached to its native and thorny bush.

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