Louise Imogen Guiney
A Footnote to a Famous Lyric
TRUE love’s own talisman, which here
Shakespeare and Sidney failed to teach,
A steel-and-velvet Cavalier
Gave to our Saxon speech:
Chief miracle of theme and touch
That upstart enviers adore:
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.
No critic born since Charles was king
But sighed in smiling, as he read:
“Here ’s theft of the supremest thing
A poet might have said!”
Young knight and wit and beau, who won,
Mid war’s adventure, ladies’ praise,
Was ’t well of you, ere you had done,
To blight our modern bays?
O yet to you, whose random hand
Struck from the dark whole gems like these,
Archaic beauty, never planned
Nor reared by wan degrees,
Which leaves an artist poor, and art
An earldom richer all her years;
To you, dead on your shield apart,
Be “Ave!” passed in tears.
How shall this singing era spurn
Her master, and in lauds be loath?
Your worth, your work, bid us discern
Light exquisite in both.
’T was virtue’s breath inflamed your lyre,
Heroic from the heart it ran;
Nor for the shedding of such fire
Lives since a manlier man.
And till your strophe sweet and bold
So lovely aye, so lonely long,
Love’s self outdo, dear Lovelace! hold
The pinnacles of song.
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