Bad-Mouthing Women | A Short Poetic History
The Saints victory in the La Supair Bowle this past week gave everyone ample opportunity to talk about Kim Kardashian’s big ass. Why, you may wonder? So many questions torture my already fevered brain… If they lost, would her presence on the field have blamed like Jessica Simpson was for Tony Romo’s flameout awhile back? Can a body part be a scapegoat? Is Kim’s ass a kind of voodoo fetish drawing evil spirits towards its drum-like beckoning embrace?
We now know that if her famed fanny does tune bad loas, they were not strong enough to derail the success of a mega-bucks football team and the combined hopes of millions of superstitious Louisianians. Even if our fair heroine can keep millions pinned to the couch, waiting in drooling interest for a peek, she couldn’t stop the Saints.
If only I had mentioned it earlier, I could have saved you worry and aggravation. Our desire to speak ill of Kim’s ass has little to do with its power over the gods of sport. We just like to talk smack about things we actually sort of like. As in:
Now it turns out that poets, who are supposed to supply us with arts of love, have had a healthy sideline in shit-talking the ladies. Hm. Not for me to speculate on what this means, or to generalize why this might be. But here’re a few examples from hundreds of years ago anyway… Intriguingly, the examples I found focused on women’s age much more than their weight, which might be a postmodern concern. At any rate, here’s Michael Drayton’s Sonnet #8 from his cycle, Idea (1619):
“THERE’S nothing grieves me, but that Age should haste,
That in my days I may not see thee old,
That where those two clear sparkling eyes are placed
Only two loop-holes then I might behold;
That lovely, arched, ivory, polished brow
Defaced with wrinkles that I might but see;
Thy dainty hair, so curl’d and crisped now,
Like grizzled moss upon some aged tree;
Thy cheek, now flush with roses, sunk and lean;
Thy lips with age as any wafer thin;
Thy pearly teeth out of thy head so clean,
That, when thou feed’st, thy nose shall touch thy chin.
These lines that now thou scorn’st, which should delight thee,
Then would I make thee read but to despite thee.”
Mixed compliments, non? Good thing poetry is around to save this poor young woman’s beauty from its inevitable disappearance. One more such business from William Congreve, entitled “Doris” (1710):
“Doris, a nymph of a riper age,
Has every grace and art
A wise observer to engage,
Or wound a heedless heart.
Of native blush and rost dye
Time has her cheek bereft,
Which makes the prudent nymph supply
With paint th’ injurious theft…”
The poem goes on to describe the various arts by which Doris manages to keep her many lovers interested well into her “riper age”; and by which she avoids the troubles usually attending to promiscuity. So the lesson, ladies, to learn from this, is expect no discretion from poets, nor should you think you’ll always get described with wine and roses. Beware both “sensitive” boys with pens, and burly boys with balls… Neither are as they seem.