You have beheld a smiling rose When virgins' hands have drawn O'er it a cobweb-lawn: And here, you see, this lily shows, Tomb'd in a crystal stone, More fair in this transparent case Than when it grew alone, And had but single grace.
You see how cream but naked is, Nor dances in the eye Without a strawberry; Or some fine tincture, like to this, Which draws the sight thereto, More by that wantoning with it, Than when the paler hue No mixture did admit.
You see how amber through the streams More gently strokes the sight, With some conceal'd delight, Than when he darts his radiant beams Into the boundless air; Where either too much light his worth Doth all at once impair, Or set it little forth.
Put purple grapes or cherries in- To glass, and they will send More beauty to commend Them, from that clean and subtle skin, Than if they naked stood, And had no other pride at all, But their own flesh and blood, And tinctures natural.
Thus lily, rose, grape, cherry, cream, And strawberry do stir More love, when they transfer A weak, a soft, a broken beam; Than if they should discover At full their proper excellence, Without some scene cast over, To juggle with the sense.
Thus let this crystall'd lily be A rule, how far to teach Your nakedness must reach; And that no further than we see Those glaring colours laid By art's wise hand, but to this end They should obey a shade, Lest they too far extend.
--So though you're white as swan or snow, And have the power to move A world of men to love; Yet, when your lawns and silks shall flow, And that white cloud divide Into a doubtful twilight;--then, Then will your hidden pride Raise greater fires in men.