The phoenix prefers to die in her fragrant bosom and by a complicated math, rise from its (own) ashes

“A song” by Thomas Carew

Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
When June is past, the fading rose;
For in your beauty’s orient deep
These flowers, as in their causes, sleep.

Ask me no more whither doth stray
The golden atoms of the day;
For in pure love heaven did prepare
Those powders to enrich your hair.

Ask me no more whither doth haste
The nightingale, when May is past;
For in your sweet, dividing throat
She winters, and keeps warm her note.

Ask me no more where those stars light,
That downwards fall in dead of night;
For in your eyes they sit, and there
Fixed become, as in their sphere.

Ask me no more if east or west
The phoenix builds her spicy nest;
For unto you at last she flies,
And in your fragrant bosom dies.

Thomas Carew of the Elizabethan times had little better to do than indulging in fantastic hyperbole for his favorite mistress because that was how it was then and that was what one was expected to do in those times.None of the complexity of a post-modern poet indulging in difficult imagery .It is with this frame of mind I approached the poetry of Carew but once in a while you do find some interesting uses of imagery.

For instance I find this interesting image of the golden atoms of the day,which were powder prepared to enrich her hair. The visual beauty of the image comes home if you imagine the beloved sitting with her tresses against the setting sun,a gentle breeze lifting her hair against a soft sunlight. Powder is a nice image drawn from alchemy ,so popular in those times , the science for transmuting baser metals into gold. No doubt Carew indulges in hyperbole but there is a method in all this.

The other “science” image that has captured my fancy is the falling stars. The stars are falling at the dead of the night because they are out of their sphere.But now that they have fallen they are rehabilitated in her eyes and become as fixed there as they have been in the stellar world.

The phoenix ,the legendary bird ,has to rise from its ashes and what better place to die for this than her bosom! A common image of those times but with an interesting twist, a sensual one at that ! Her bosom is so warm that the bird can easily die by its fire only to rise from its ashes again! Complicated math indeed!

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