Sunday Poetry – Philip Ayres

Not much is known about Philip Ayres, the 17th century poet. He was a tutor to the family of Montagu Drake in Buckinghamshire for most of his life & that’s about it. He’s known for some beautiful lyric pieces such as this poem, Love’s Contrariety, but I don’t know if it’s based on his own life. It’s addressed to Cynthia but this was just one of the names poets often used as the name of a generic mistress. I couldn’t even find a picture of him. I’ve chosen a portrait of Hortense Mancini, one of Charles II’s mistresses (photo from here). She looks quite contrary enough to have tormented a potential lover.

I make no war, and yet no peace have found,
With heat I melt, when starv’d to death with cold.
I soar to Heav’n, while grovelling on the ground,
Embrace the world, yet nothing do I hold.

I’m not confin’d, yet cannot I depart,
Nor loose the chain tho’ not a captive led;
Love kills me not, yet wounds me to the heart,
Will neither have m’ alive, nor have me dead.

Being blind, I see; not having voice, I cry:
I wish for Death, while I of Life make choice;
I hate myself, yet love you tenderly;
Do feed of tears, and in my grief rejoice.

Thus, Cynthia, all my health is but disease;
Both life and death do equally displease. 

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