Is poetry the greatest form of seduction? I think many people would answer that question with a yes. I don’t know – maybe I’m seduction proof or just a big ol’ spoil sport, but I would have to stay that most seductive poetry is almost anything but seductive.
Today I’m going to look at No Platonic Love by William Cartwright.
Tell me no more of minds embracing minds,
And hearts exchang’d for hearts;
That spirits spirits meet, as winds do winds,
And mix their subt’lest parts;
That two unbodied essences may kiss,
And then like Angels, twist and feel one Bliss.
I was that silly thing that once was wrought
To practise this thin love;
I climb’d from sex to soul, from soul to thought;
But thinking there to move,
Headlong I rolled from thought to soul, and then
From soul I lighted at the sex again.
As some strict down-looked men pretend to fast,
Who yet in closets eat;
So lovers who profess they spririts taste,
Feed yet on grosser meat;
I know they boast they souls to souls convey,
Howe’r they meet, the body is the way.
Come, I will undeceive thee, they that tread
Those vain aerial ways
Are like young heirs and alchemists misled
To waste their wealth and days,
For searching thus to be for ever rich,
They only find a med’cine for the itch.
Oh, William. I think we may have a winner here.
While this poem is from the 1600’s and does use older diction, the idea contained within is very, shall we say, liberated.
The speaker of this poem denounces the idea of platonic, disembodied love where souls mingle while bodies do not touch. The speaker flat out says that kind of love is B.S. and the only real love comes from physicality.
Sure I think people can have emotional connections and that platonic love does exist between friends, but the idea that you can be in love with someone but never physically with them kind of sucks.
What I really like about this poem is the way it addresses the audience – it doesn’t put down women or focus on their imagery like some Shakespeare sonnets do, it doesn’t have an imaginary conversation with the audience with strange, strange religious logical reasonings the way John Dunne’s The Flea does, and it doesn’t make sex sound creepy and wrong the way To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick does.
This poem is logical, well presented, and if someone where have to written this to me and presented it in the hopes of getting me into bed, it probably would have worked. I don’t feel put down as a woman. I don’t feel religious pressures. I feel like, yeah, if I care about the speaker and want to express that, physical rather than spiritual would be the best avenue. The speaker really had me by the line “Come, I will undeceive thee,” because I now love the word undeceive and want to incorporate it into my personal vocabulary.
I think this poem’s homerun worthy.
– Amanda Riggle