Here we are without our clothes,
One excited watering can, one peculiar rose...
- Craig Raine, Sexual Couplets
Poetry, love and sex have always gone together, it seems, and Valentines
Day often brings many would-be poets out of the woodwork. Poetry
is often a method of expressing ardour, and sexual need, in a delicate
way, one that arouses the senses, and engages the emotions.
Nonetheless, we can sometimes still be shocked at the sexual content
of some older poetry. Modern day society has tended to assume that
poetry is slightly dusty and boring, out of touch or sexless. I
thought I'd include a few excerpts from great erotic poems on this
page, just to counter that notion.
Down, wanton, down! Have you no shame,
That at the whisper of Love's name,
Or Beauty's, presto! up you raise
Your angry head and stand at gaze?
- Robert Graves, Down, Wanton, Down!
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Princess
Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short;
And done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not rush blindly on unto it,
Like lustful beasts, that only know to do it:
For lust will languish, and that heat decay,
But thus, thus, keeping endless Holy-day,
Let us together closely lie, and kiss,
There is no labour, nor no shame in this;
This hath pleased, doth please and long will please; never
Can this decay, but is beginning ever.
- Petronius Arbiter, translated from the Latin by Ben Jonson
Good God, what a night that was,
The bed was so soft, and how we clung,
Burning together, lying this way and that,
Our uncontrollable passions
Flowing through our mouths.
If I could only die that way,
I'd say goodbye to the business of living.
- Petronius Arbiter, translated from the Latin by Kenneth Rexroth
Open the curtains of your being
Clothe you in a further nudity
Uncover the bodies of your body
Invent another body for your body
- Octavio Paz, Touch, translated from the Spanish by Charles
Licence my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
- John Donne, On His Mistress Going To Bed
I grant, I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
- William Shakespeare
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved,
and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.
- Song of Solomon, the Old Testament
All these excerpts are taken from poems featured in the New
Penguin Book of Love Poetry. Great book, I recommend it!