Posted by: Phoebe | August 17, 2008

My Beloved is Mine

 I have been savoring this poem by Francis Quarles, which was set to music by Benjamin Britten. The musical setting is masterful and I wish I could share it with you, but if you read it slowly enough, the poem will speak for itself.


My beloved is mine, and I am his;

He feedeth among the lillies



(Canticles ii. 16, from Emblems, Book 5, iii, 1635)

(Set to music as Canticle I: My Beloved is Mine by Benjamin Britten. Britten omits verse 4) 


EV’N like two little bank-dividing brooks,

    That wash the pebbles with their wanton streams,

And having rang’d and search’d a thousand nooks,

    Meet both at length in silver-breasted Thames,

        Where in a greater current they conjoyn:

So I my best-beloved’s am; so he is mine.


Ev’n so we met; and after long pursuit,

    Ev’n so we joyn’d; we both became entire;

No need for either to renew a suit,

    For I was flax and he was flames of fire:

        Our firm-united souls did more than twine;

So I my best-beloved’s am; so he is mine.


If all those glitt’ring Monarchs that command

    The servile quarters of this earthly ball,

Should tender, in exchange, their shares of land,

    I would not change my fortunes for them all:

        Their wealth is but a counter to my coin:

The world’s but theirs; but my beloved’s mine.


Nay more; If the fair Thespian Ladies all

    Should heap together their diviner treasure:

That treasure should be deem’d a price too small

    To buy a minutes lease of half my pleasure.

        ‘Tis not the sacred wealth of all the nine

Can buy my heart from him, or his, from being mine.


Nor Time, nor Place, nor Chance, nor Death can bow

    My least desires unto the least remove;

He’s firmly mine by oath; I his by vow;

    He’s mine by faith; and I am his by love;

        He’s mine by water; I am his by wine;

Thus I my best-beloved’s am; thus he is mine.


He is my Altar; I his Holy Place,

    I am his guest; and he, my living food;

I’m his by penitence; he mine by grace;

    I’m his by purchase; he is mine by blood;

        He’s my supporting elm; and I his vine:

Thus I my best-beloved’s am; thus he is mine.


He gives me wealth, I give him all my vows:

    I give him songs; he gives me length of dayes.

With wreaths of grace he crowns my conqu’ring brows:

    And I his Temples with a crown of Praise,

        Which he accepts as an ev’rlasting signe,

That I my best-beloved’s am; that he is mine.








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