On Presenting a Moss Rose to Miss F Nesbitt (1796)

Coleridge became a mild rake at Cambridge, and in the summer holidays returned to Ottery to flirt with local belles, writing them subliminally erotic verses. Nor did he present them to just one beauty; the original addressee of this was Angelina, and later, Sara Fricker, Coleridge adapting lines to suit the occasion―so line 12 became ‘On spotless SARA'S breast.’ PW 56; 1793


altAs late each flower that sweetest blows
    I pluck'd, the Garden's pride!
Within the petals of a Rose
   A sleeping Love I spy’d.

Around his brows a lucid wreath
    Of many a mingled hue;
All purple glow'd his cheek beneath,
    Inebriate with the dew.

I softly seiz'd th’ unguarded Power,
    Nor scar’d his balmy rest:
And plac’d him, cag’d within the flower,
   On lovely Nesbitt’s breast.

But when all reckless of the guile
    Awoke the pris’ner sweet,
He struggled to escape awhile
    And stamp'd his angry feet.

Ah! soon the soul-entrancing sight
    Subdued th’ impatient boy!
He gaz’d―he thrill'd with deep delight!
    Then clapp'd his wings for Joy.
‘And O!' he cried—‘What charms refin’d
    This magic Throne endear!
Some other Love let Venus find—
    I'll fix my empire here.'

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