“It’s rather an unusual case,” said Madam Chairwoman blandly. “The prisoner is a poet. You will all, I know, cast your minds back to the many poets who have written favorably of our race—’Her feet beneath her petticoat, like little mice stole in and out’—Suckling, the Englishman—what a charming compliment! Thus do not poets deserve specially well of us?”
—from The Rescuers by Margery Sharp
The esteemed and sleek-whiskered Mouse Chairwoman is quoting from “Ballad Upon a Wedding” by Sir John Suckling, one of the English “Cavalier poets,” those dashing, witty, and sensitive 17th-century Carpe Diem fellows who came out in support of King Charles I against Parliament and the Puritans. Suckling wrote a number of plays which I have not read (“The Goblins” sounds interesting) and a good deal of poetry, which his contemporaries seemed to enjoy quite a lot.
Here he is in a portrait by Van Dyck.
Suddenly I see where Johnny Depp found his inspiration for facial hair.
You could rock those long curly locks as well, Johnny. The off-the-shoulder cape, not so much.
“Ballad upon a Wedding” is light and a little snarky and a little bawdy, and reads a bit like a blog entry if blogs were written in meter and rhyme. Here’s the bit Madam Chairwoman liked, part of a description of a young bride:
Her feet beneath her petticoat,
Like little mice, stole in and out,
As if they feared the light:
But oh! she dances such a way
No sun upon an Easter-day
Is half so fine a sight.
And I think this is rather sweet:
O’ th’ sudden up they rise and dance;
Then sit again and sigh, and glance;
Then dance again and kiss:
Thus several ways the time did pass,
Whilst every woman wished her place,
And every man wished his.
But being sweet isn’t really Suckling’s aim in this poem; he’s much more focused on the wedding-night feeling in the air, winkwinknudgenudge, and is also mightily enjoying poking fun at the folks he’s describing—calling out the bee-sting on the bride’s chin is kind of a cheap shot.
As mouse-appreciating poems go, this one doesn’t hold a candle to the work of auld Robbie Burns. And then there’s our favorite book about a poet with a proper appreciation of mice: The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires.
(That’s a four-year-old post and contains links to my Amazon Affiliate account, which means if you click through and purchase something I get a small referral fee. I don’t do affiliate links anymore, but I’m not going back through old posts to remove them, so here’s your disclosure notice.)
This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Wild Rose Reader.
What We’re Up to These Days
Reading Notes: Words and Whuffie
One Day in Elizabethan England