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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

Flos Florum

George Wither (1588–1667)

ME so oft my fancy drew

Here and there, that I ne’er knew

Where to place desire before

So that range it might no more;

But as he that passeth by

Where, in all her jollity,

Flora’s riches in a row

Do in seemly order grow,

And a thousand flowers stand

Bending as to kiss his hand;

Out of which delightful store

One he may take and no more;

Long he pausing doubteth whether

Of those fair ones he should gather.

First the Primrose courts his eyes,

Then a Cowslip he espies;

Next the Pansy seems to woo him,

Then Carnations bow unto him;

Which whilst that enamoured swain

From the stalk intends to strain,

(As half-fearing to be seen)

Prettily her leaves between

Peeps the Violet, pale to see

That her virtues slighted be;

Which so much his liking wins

That to seize her he begins.

Yet before he stooped so low

He his wanton eye did throw

On a stem that grew more high,

And the Rose did there espy.

Who, beside her precious scent,

To procure his eyes content

Did display her goodly breast,

Where he found at full expresst

All the good that Nature showers

On a thousand other flowers;

Wherewith he affected takes it,

His belovèd flower he makes it,

And without desire of more

Walks through all he saw before.

So I wandering but erewhere

Through the garden of this Isle,

Saw rich beauties I confess,

And in number numberless.

Yea, so differing lovely too,

That I had a world to do

Ere I could set up my rest,

Where to choose and choose the best.

Thus I fondly feared, till Fate

(Which I must confess in that

Did a greater favour to me

Than the world can malice do me)

Showed to me that matchless flower,

Subject for this song of our;

Whose perfection having eyed,

Reason instantly espied

That Desire, which ranged abroad,

There would find a period:

And no marvel if it might,

For it there hath all delight,

And in her hath nature placed

What each several fair one graced.

Let who list, for me, advance

The admirèd flowers of France,

Let who will praise and behold

The reservèd Marigold;

Let the sweet-breath’d Violet now

Unto whom she pleaseth bow;

And the fairest Lily spread

Where she will her golden head;

I have such a flower to wear

That for those I do not care.

Let the young and happy swains

Playing on the Britain plains

Court unblamed their shepherdesses,

And with their gold curlèd tresses

Toy uncensured, until I

Grudge at their prosperity.

Let all times, both present, past,

And the age that shall be last,

Vaunt the beauties they bring forth.

I have found in one such worth,

That content I neither care

What the best before me were;

Nor desire to live and see

Who shall fair hereafter be;

For I know the hand of Nature

Will not make a fairer creature.