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The Well Read Poem

Jan 10, 2022

In this seventh season, we are going to read six poems about romantic love. Love may seem to be the most fundamental subject for poetry, but interestingly, it is not. When we consider the great poetic traditions of almost any people, we find that love is by no means the first matter that has inspired their poets. The poems we will read together come from several different periods in time, and I would like to examine, among other things, how the language of romance has changed in the English-speaking world over the centuries. Today's piece is "A Farewell to Arms" by George Peele. Poem begins at timestamp 5:28.

A Farewell to Arms

by George Peele

HIS golden locks Time hath to silver turn’d;
    O Time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing!
His youth ’gainst time and age hath ever spurn’d,
    But spurn’d in vain; youth waneth by increasing:
Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen;
Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.

His helmet now shall make a hive for bees;
    And, lovers’ sonnets turn’d to holy psalms,
A man-at-arms must now serve on his knees,
    And feed on prayers, which are Age his alms:
But though from court to cottage he depart,
His Saint is sure of his unspotted heart.

And when he saddest sits in homely cell,
    He’ll teach his swains this carol for a song,—
‘Blest be the hearts that wish my sovereign well,
    Curst be the souls that think her any wrong.’
Goddess, allow this aged man his right
To be your beadsman now that was your knight.