Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
My near-total web silence over the last week was caused by an enormously-enjoyable trip to Wellington. I was going to write intelligently on sex education when I came back, but Tallulah has beaten me to it (so to speak) and one of my lovely friends has given me a death-cold.
But, while I was away I stayed with an old university friend of mine, and we took a brief trip through our old Renaissance Lit reading material. So today’s porn is the written porn of the 1630s. If you wish to read along, please turn to this page in your internet. Those of you who own “Hollander and Kermode” can turn to page 620. Thomas Carew’s A Rapture. This is “a masterpiece of erotic vision strengthened, rather than kept in check by, the action of wit.” As all erotic vision should be.
A Rapture is a glorious exploration of just how unsubtle you can make a sexual metaphor. Seriously. Get this:
Now in more subtle wreaths I will entwine
My sinewy thighs, my legs and arms with thine ; 80
Thou like a sea of milk shalt lie display’d,
Whilst I the smooth calm ocean invade
With such a tempest, as when Jove of old
Fell down on Danaë in a storm of gold ;
Yet my tall pine shall in the Cyprian strait 85
Ride safe at anchor and unlade her freight :
My rudder with thy bold hand, like a tried
And skilful pilot, thou shalt steer, and guide
My bark into love’s channel, where it shall
Dance, as the bounding waves do rise or fall.
I am seriously tempted to try “Want I should steer your rudder?” as a pick-up line. Or at least I would be, if I were That Sort of Person.
There’s more to it than just the delicious smut, though.
There, no rude sounds shake us with sudden starts ;
No jealous ears, when we unrip our hearts, 100
Suck our discourse in ; no observing spies
This blush, that glance traduce ; no envious eyes
Watch our close meetings ; nor are we betray’d
To rivals by the bribed chambermaid.
No wedlock bonds unwreathe our twisted loves, 105
We seek no midnight arbour, no dark groves
To hide our kisses : there, the hated name
Of husband, wife, lust, modest, chaste or shame,
Are vain and empty words, whose very sound
Was never heard in the Elysian ground. 110
All things are lawful there, that may delight
Nature or unrestrained appetite ;
Like and enjoy, to will and act is one :
We only sin when Love’s rites are not done.
Carew has some ideas about the essential sexual nature of women, too:
Come then, my Celia, we’ll no more forbear
To taste our joys, struck with a panic fear,
But will depose from his imperious sway
This proud usurper, and walk as free as they, 150
With necks unyoked ; nor is it just that he
Should fetter your soft sex with chastity,
Whom Nature made unapt for abstinence ;
Tallulah and I may have some inappropriate remarks about fetters and chastity, but the less said the better. No, wait, that’s exactly wrong…