“Not silken dress but toil shall tire thy loveliness”

~ by Cecil Day Lewis

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
Of peace and plenty, bed and board,
That chance employment shall afford.

I’ll handle dainties on the docks
And thou shalt read of summer frocks.
At evening by the sour canals
We’ll hope to hear some madrigals.

Care on thy maiden brow shall put
A wreath of wrinkles, and thy foot
Be shod with pain. Not silken dress
But toil shall tire thy loveliness.

Hunger shall make thy modest zone
And cheat fond death of all but bone.
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.


A dockworker replaces Christopher Marlowe’s shepherd in this 1930s proletarian version of a pastoral lyric. Polluted canals replace freshwater brooks. Reading a magazine full of ads for unaffordably expensive dresses replaces a beautiful handmade kyrtle. Juxebox noise replaces ancient madrigals.

When Cecil Day Lewis uses the the line, “Not silken dress but toil shall tire thy loveliness,” he is playing upon the idiom of Marlowe’s era when “tire” would mean “to attire.” The backstage area where Marlowe’s actors put on their costumes was the “tiring house.”


Author: MDM

Michael Dennis Mooney is a student of humor and witticism in verse. At this site he is compiling a selection of the best works using extended metaphor in poetry, with a special interest in satire, parody, and humor. Suggestions are welcome. Send your citations of favorites, by email, to mike.mooney.home@gmail.com He has a site "New Writings" at http://jcbcast.blogspot.com And a site for essays, 'His Epistles To The Philistines" at http://tothephilistines.wordpress.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s