ENGL 204 / 331: Renaissance Literature
Dr. Debora B. Schwartz
English Department, California Polytechnic State University

Supplemental Readings: Two Poems by Thomas Campion

1. "Think'st thou to seduce me then"1
[text and notes reproduced as printed in NA 7th ed. (2000), pp. 1199-1206]

       Think'st thou to seduce me then with words that have no meaning?
       Parrots so can learn to prate, our speech by pieces gleaning;
 3    Nurses teach their children so about the time of weaning.

       Learn to speak first, then to woo; to wooing much pertaineth:
       He that courts us, wanting art, soon falters when he feigneth,
 6    Looks asquint on his discourse,2 and smiles when he complaineth.

        Skillful anglers hide their hooks, fit baits for every season;
       But with crooked pins fish thou, as babes do that want reason:
 9    Gudgeons3 only can be caught with such poor tricks of treason.

       Ruth4 forgive me, if I erred from humane heart's compassion,
       When I laughed sometimes too much to see thy foolish fashion:
12    But, alas, who less could do that found so good occasion?

Notes to the text (adapted from the NA, 7th ed., 2000):

1. In this poem and in "Fain would I wed" [NA 8th ed. p. 1231], Campion assumes the voice of a female speaker; the procedure is rare among early poets.  Both poems are written in the old-fashioned metrical form known as fourteeners -- verses of fourteen or fifteen syllables, with seven accented beats.

2. Looks away from the lady to check on his script.  "Wanting art": lacking skill.

3. Small fish.

4. Pity, which misled the girl into seeming too complaisant.


2. "Fain would I wed"1
[text and notes reproduced as printed in NA 8th ed. (2006), pp. 1231]

Fain would I wed a fair young man that night and day could please me,
When my mind or body grieved, that had the power to ease me.
Maids are full of longing thoughts that breed a bloodless sickness,
And that, oft I hear men say, is only cured by quickess.2

Oft have I been wooed and praised, but never could be movèd;
Many for a day or so I have most dearly lovèd,
But this foolish mind of mine straight3 loathes the thing resolvèd;
If to love be sin in me, that love is soon absoveèd.

Sure I think I shall at last fly to some holy order;
When I once am settled there, then can I fly no farther.
Yet I would not die a maid, because I had a mother,
As I was by one brought forth, I would bring forth another.

Notes to the text (adapted from the NA, 8th ed., 2006):
1. In this poem Campion assumes the voice of a female speaker; the procedure is rare among early poets.  The poem is written in the old-fashioned metrical form known as fourteeners -- verses of fourteen or fifteen syllables, with seven accented beats.  "Fain": gladly.

2. "quickness": liveliness, motion; also, may connote pregnancy.

3. "straight": at once.



Comments (from Dr. Schwartz's Pastoral Poetry and Women's Voices study guide)

Like Sir Walter Ralegh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" (NA, 8th ed., p. 917), written in response to Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" (NA, 8th ed., p. 989), Campion's "Think'st thou to seduce me then" offers the perspective of a young woman who is skeptical about the sincerity of the man who courts her.  Afraid of being seduced and abandoned, each doubts that her admirer's love will endure if she allows herself to believe his pretty words. 

Campion also adopts a female perspective in "Fain Would I Wed" (NA, 8th ed., p. 1231), which gives voice to an unmarried woman's desire for erotic love.  Given societal expectations of appropriate gender behavior, it is not surprising that this poem was written by a man; it would have been far riskier for a woman poet writing in the first person to voice premarital erotic desire. 

Looking forward:  you may wish to compare Campion's use of the fishing metaphor in the third stanza of "Think'st thou to seduce me then" (lines 7-9) with John Donne's more elaborate literary conceit in "The Bait" (see NA, 9th ed. [2012], p. 1384).
 

Click here for Pastoral Poetry and Women's Voices study guide

Click here for Backgrounds to Pastoral Poetry

Click here for Sonnets study guide

Click here for 17th-century Lyrics study guide

Click here for An Approach to Reading and Writing About Poems

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