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An Epithalamy To Sir Thomas Southwell And His Lady

by Robert Herrick, 1648


Now, now’s the time, so oft by truth
Promis’d should come to crown your youth.
  Then, fair ones, do not wrong
  Your joys by staying long;
  Or let love’s fire go out,
  By lingering thus in doubt;
  But learn that time once lost
  Is ne’er redeem’d by cost.
Then away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.


Is it, sweet maid, your fault these holy
Bridal rites go on so slowly?
  Dear, is it this you dread
  The loss of maidenhead?
  Believe me, you will most
  Esteem it when ’tis lost;
  Then it no longer keep,
  Lest issue lie asleep.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.


These precious, pearly, purling tears
But spring from ceremonious fears.
  And ’tis but native shame
  That hides the loving flame,
  And may a while control
  The soft and am’rous soul;
  But yet love’s fire will waste
  Such bashfulness at last.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.


Night now hath watch’d herself half blind,
Yet not a maidenhead resign’d!
  ’Tis strange, ye will not fly
  To love’s sweet mystery.
  Might yon full moon the sweets
  Have, promised to your sheets,
  She soon would leave her sphere,
  To be admitted there.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.


On, on devoutly, make no stay;
While Domiduca leads the way,
  And Genius, who attends
  The bed for lucky ends.
  With Juno goes the Hours
  And Graces strewing flowers.
  And the boys with sweet tunes sing:
  Hymen, O Hymen, bring
Home the turtles; Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.


Behold! how Hymen’s taper-light
Shows you how much is spent of night.
  See, see the bridegroom’s torch
  Half wasted in the porch.
  And now those tapers five,
  That show the womb shall thrive,
  Their silv’ry flames advance,
  To tell all prosp’rous chance
Still shall crown the happy life
Of the goodman and the wife.


Move forward then your rosy feet,
And make whate’er they touch turn sweet.
  May all, like flowery meads,
  Smell where your soft foot treads;
  And everything assume
  To it the like perfume,
  As Zephyrus when he ‘spires
  Through woodbine and sweetbriars.
Then, away; come, Hymen, guide
To the bed the bashful bride.


And now the yellow veil at last
Over her fragrant cheek is cast.
  Now seems she to express
  A bashful willingness:
  Showing a heart consenting,
  As with a will repenting.
  Then gently lead her on
  With wise suspicion;
For that, matrons say, a measure
Of that passion sweetens pleasure.


You, you that be of her nearest kin,
Now o’er the threshold force her in.
  But to avert the worst
  Let her her fillets first
  Knit to the posts, this point
  Remembering, to anoint
  The sides, for ’tis a charm
  Strong against future harm;
And the evil deads, the which
There was hidden by the witch.


O Venus! thou to whom is known
The best way how to loose the zone
  Of virgins, tell the maid
  She need not be afraid,
  And bid the youth apply
  Close kisses if she cry,
  And charge he not forbears
  Her though she woo with tears.
Tell them now they must adventure,
Since that love and night bid enter.


No fatal owl the bedstead keeps,
With direful notes to fright your sleeps;
  No furies here about
  To put the tapers out,
  Watch or did make the bed:
  ’Tis omen full of dread;
  But all fair signs appear
  Within the chamber here.
Juno here far off doth stand,
Cooling sleep with charming wand.


Virgins, weep not; ’twill come when,
As she, so you’ll be ripe for men.
  Then grieve her not with saying
  She must no more a-maying,
  Or by rosebuds divine
  Who’ll be her valentine.
  Nor name those wanton reaks
  You’ve had at barley-breaks,
But now kiss her and thus say,
“Take time, lady, while ye may”.


Now bar the doors; the bridegroom puts
The eager boys to gather nuts.
  And now both love and time
  To their full height do climb:
  Oh! give them active heat
  And moisture both complete:
  Fit organs for increase,
  To keep and to release
That which may the honour’d stem
Circle with a diadem.


And now, behold! the bed or couch
That ne’er knew bride’s or bridegroom’s touch,
  Feels in itself a fire;
  And, tickled with desire,
  Pants with a downy breast,
  As with a heart possesst,
  Shrugging as it did move
  Ev’n with the soul of love.
And, oh! had it but a tongue,
Doves, ‘twould say, ye bill too long.


O enter then! but see ye shun
A sleep until the act be done.
  Let kisses in their close,
  Breathe as the damask rose,
  Or sweet as is that gum
  Doth from Panchaia come.
  Teach nature now to know
  Lips can make cherries grow
Sooner than she ever yet
In her wisdom could beget.


On your minutes, hours, days, months, years,
Drop the fat blessing of the spheres.
  That good which heav’n can give
  To make you bravely live
  Fall like a spangling dew
  By day and night on you.
  May fortune’s lily-hand
  Open at your command;
With all lucky birds to side
With the bridegroom and the bride.


Let bounteous Fate[s] your spindles full
Fill, and wind up with whitest wool.
  Let them not cut the thread
  Of life until ye bid.
  May death yet come at last,
  And not with desp’rate haste,
  But when ye both can say
  “Come, let us now away,”
Be ye to the barn then borne,
Two, like two ripe shocks of corn.

Published in Hesperides

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