By Richard Barnfield
Long have I long’d to see my love again,
Still have I wished, but never could obtain it;
Rather than all the world (if I might gain it)
Would I desire my love’s sweet precious gain.
Yet in my soul I see him every day,
See him, and see his still stern countenance,
But (ah) what is of long continuance,
Where majesty and beauty bears the sway?
Sometimes, when I imagine that I see him,
(As love is full of foolish fantasies)
Weening to kiss his lips, as my love’s fees,
I feel but air: nothing but air to bee him.
Thus with Ixion*, kiss I clouds in vain:
Thus with Ixion, feel I endless pain.
By Richard Barnfield
Cherry-lipped Adonis in his snowy shape,
Might not compare with his pure ivory white,
On whose faire front a poet’s pen may write,
Whose roseate red excels the crimson grape,
His love-enticing delicate soft limbs,
Are rarely framed to entrap poor gazing eyes:
His cheeks, the lily and carnation dyes,
With lovely tincture which Apollo’s dims.
His lips ripe strawberries in nectar wet,
His mouth a Hive, his tongue a honeycomb,
Where Muses (like bees) make their mansion.
His teeth pure pearl in blushing coral set.
Oh how can such a body sin-procuring,
Be slow to love, and quick to hate, enduring?
Richard Barnfield was born in Staffordshire, England. In his youth, Barnfield was deeply influenced by Virgil’s work and the 1591 publication of Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, which popularized the sonnet sequence. Best known for his poem “As it fell upon a day,” Barnfield is the only Elizabethan male poet apart from Shakespeare—whom he admired—to address love poems to a man.
Little is known about Barnfield’s life and career, but it is thought that his maternal aunt raised him and his sister after his mother died during childbirth. In 1592 he graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford. At the age of 21 he published his first two books, The Affectionate Shepherd (1594) and Cynthia (1595), both addressed to “Ganymede.” Originally published anonymously, The Affectionate Shepherd expands upon Virgil’s second eclogue, and its homoerotic themes made Barnfield’s poems controversial for his time.
* Ixion, in Greek legend, son either of the god Ares or of Phlegyas, king of the Lapiths in Thessaly. He murdered his father-in-law and could find no one to purify him until Zeus did so and admitted him as a guest to Olympus. Ixion abused his pardon by trying to seduce Zeus’s wife, Hera. Zeus substituted for her a cloud, by which Ixion became the father of Centaurus, who fathered the Centaurs by the mares of Mount Pelion. Zeus, to punish him, bound him on a fiery wheel, which rolled unceasingly through the air or, according to the more common tradition, in the underworld.