Poetry – A poem from the 1600s

[As a quick aside, my work has increased a lot for the next several months, so I won’t be posting as often, and poetry is my go-to option for less involved posts. Expect several of them over the next few months!]

The poem I am going to introduce in this post is an older one, from the poet Thomas Carew, who lived from 1595 to 1640. I haven’t found an exact date for this particular poem, but approximately 1620-1640 would be likely. I mention this because the wording can be a little harder to read because of differences in language use, but it still gets the meaning across clearly. The poem is Mediocrity in Love Rejected, and is one that I enjoy because it states a truth about humanity very well. I am not sure that was the intention of the poet, who was known for his erotic (at least for the 15th century) poem titled A Rapture. The website Poetry Foundation has a good overview of Thomas Carew and his life and writings if you are interested. In all honesty, though, my interest in this poem has nothing to do with the writer, but instead with how it shows how universal is the want to feel things intensely, rather than go along peacefully. At least, we seem to want that in the abstract! I am not so sure we enjoy it nearly as much when it is happening to us.

The poem describes the two extremes of falling in love, both joy and despair. The need for one or the other, rather than a more stable, comfortable experience, seems to sum up that need for intense experiences that so many think they want. There is no effort to make this relationship peaceful! Like many of the poems I like to read, it is very good at giving a description of a complicated subject in a short summary. I have never read any other poem by this poet, and I doubt I would want to; however, this one appealed to me for some reason. See what you think!

Mediocrity in Love Rejected

Give me more love, or more disdain;
    The torrid or the frozen zone
Bring equal ease unto my pain;
    The temperate affords me none;
Either extreme, of love or hate,
    Is sweeter than a calm estate.

Give me a storm; if it be love,
    Like Danae in that golden shower,
I swim in pleasure; if it prove
    Disdain, that torrent will devour
My vulture hopes; and he's possessed
    Of heaven's that's but from hell released.

Then crown my joys, or cure my pain;
Give me more love, or more disdain.
                Thomas Carew, 1595-1640

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