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Taytoman Agonistes
Monday, February 13, 2006
Recently picked up a remaindered copy of this which is fabulous. Not only great verses by Pope, Swift, Dr Johnson et al but some utter gems from unknowns. Some are moving, some are profound, some are utterly hilarious. The Seventeenth Century saw a pleasing number of poems on astronomy, animal husbandry, mill design and other topics not necessarily regarded as "poetic" since.

My favourite must be the extract from "Callipaedia, or the Art of Getting Beautiful Children" ("from the Latin of Claudius Quillet") by one George Sewell ("Sad to say Sewell's education at Eton, Cambridge, Leyden and Edinburgh (M.D. in 1725) did not prevent his miserable existence as a bookseller's hack") which deserves a wider audience than its complete non-existence on the net (based on Googleing, judiciously given the title!):

Beneath those parts, where stretching to its bound,
The low abdomen girths the belly round,
The shop of Nature lies; a vacant space
Of small circumference divides the place,
Pear-like the shape; within a membrane spreads
Her various texture of meandrous threads;
These draw the vessel to a pursy state,
And to contract their substance, or dilate.
Here veins, nerves, arteries in a pairs declare,
How nobler parts deserve a double care;
They from the mass the blood and spirits drain,
That irrigate profuse the thirsty plain;
The bottom of the womb 'tis called; the sides are cleft,
By cells distinguished into right and left.
'Tis thought that females in the left prevail,
And that the right contains the sprighly male.
A passage here in form oblong extends,
Where fast compressed the stiffened nerve ascends,
And the warm fluid with concurring fluids blends.
The sages thus the womb's neck justly name;
Within the hollow of its inward frame,
Joined to the parts a small protuberence grows,
Whose rising lips the deep recesses close.
For while the tiller all his strength collects,
While Hope anticipates the fair effects,
The lubricated parts their station leave,
And closely to the working engine cleave;
Each vessel stretches, and distending wide,
The greedy womb attracts the glowing tide,
And either sex commixed, the streams united glide.
But now the womb relaxed, with pleasing pain
Gently subsides into itself again;
The seed moves with it, and thus closed within,
The tender drops of entity begin.
What joy the fibres of the stomach feel,
Long pinched with hunger, at a grateful meal,
Such tickling pleasure through the womb is sent,
When the first particles of life ferment.
This easy picture of the parts explains
How frequent motion no effect obtains;
The seed and pleasure lost in eager strife;
A useful lesson to the forward wife.

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