This beautiful, measured poem by Michael Drayton (1563-1631), poet laureate, was written the night before he died, addressed to the woman he had loved since childhood but with whom marriage had been socially impossible.
It has two metaphors: in the first, love is like seed cast on the earth of his feelings by her eyes, enabling him to then bear emotional fruit.
In the second, which I find more tender and surprising, he speaks of a broken mirror in which each fragment can capture her reflection as perfectly as a single, unfractured mirror. He likens these pieces to his many thoughts of her, which put together create a perfect impression of a lifelong love.
Source: Michael Drayton, ‘Last Verses’
Photo credit: Humusak, pixabay.com
So well I love thee as without thee I
Love nothing; if I might choose, I’d rather die
Than be one day debarred thy company.
Since beasts and plants do grow and live and move,
Beasts are those men that such a life approve:
He only lives that deadly is in love.
The corn, that in the ground is sown, first dies,
And of one seed do many ears arise;
Love, this world’s corn, by dying multiplies
The seeds of love first by thy eyes were thrown
Into a ground untilled, a heart unknown
To bear such fruit, til by thy hands ’twas sown.
Look as your looking-glass by chance may fall,
Divide, and break in many pieces small,
And yet shows forth the selfsame face in all,
Proportions, features, graces, just the same,
And in the smallest piece as well the name
Of fairest one deserves as in the richest frame;
So all my thoughts are pieces but of you,
Which put together makes a glass so true
As I therein no other’s face but yours can view.