Friday, December 12, 2008

"The slimie kisse" (Bonus Herrick)

Here, with its original seventeenth-century spelling, is Robert Herrick's poem "Kisses Loathsome," in which he expresses his distaste for sloppy kisses:
I abhor the slimie kisse,
(Which to me most loathsome is.)
Those lips please me which are plac't
Close, but not too strictly lac't:
Yeilding I wo'd have them; yet
Not a wimbling Tongue admit:
What sho'd poking-sticks make there,
When the ruffe is set elsewhere?
My late father-in-law was a scholar of seventeenth-century English poetry, but in his copy of The Poetical Works of Robert Herrick (Oxford 1915), there is a question mark beside the last lines of this poem, and the words "poking-sticks" and "ruffe" are underlined. What is Herrick talking about?

A "ruff" is a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century collar, as seen in this detail from Frans Hals' Portrait of a Man Holding a Skull (1611). The elaborate folds in the ruff were made using a special iron called a "poking-stick." In the illustration below, the tool labeled "B" is a poking-stick; the tool labeled "A" is a "goffering iron." The goffering iron is placed on a stove and heated, and the end of the poking-stick is inserted into the hollow tube at the top of the iron. This heats the poking-stick.

Herrick seems to be using the process of ironing a ruff as a metaphor for kissing with too much tongue. But the images of poking-stick, goffering iron, and ruff may suggest a metaphor for something else. Perhaps even "tongue" and "kiss" and "lips" are metaphors. After all, what does Herrick mean by "the ruffe is set elsewhere"? Indeed, there is precedent in Shakespeare (see 2 Henry IV 2.4.131: "tearing a poor whore's ruff in a bawdy-house") for "ruff" as a metaphor for vagina.

Note: "Wimbling," incidentally, means "piercing" or "penetrating;" a "wimble" is a tool for boring holes.

1 comment:

Bleeet said...

You are a sick, sick man! How dare you besmirch and befoul and bebungle the meaning of a beautiful poem. The poet's intent couldn't be clearer, Mr. Hardy! He hates French kisses! He also hates, by extension, the French - as God intended.

He much prefers cunnilingus, just as God intended!

You smut merchant! You should be striving for beauty in your art, yet you debase our culture with you nasty inSINuations!

Have you not thought about the children!? Oh, what about the children?!

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .