The Fair Flower in its Luster

This is an excellent blog post. A Commentary on a song from one of my favourite operas.

Grove to Grub St.

“Virgins are like the fair flower in its luster,

Which in the garden enamels the ground;

Near it the bees in play flutter and cluster,

And gaudy butterflies frolic around.

But, when once plucked, ‘tis no longer alluring,

To Covent Garden ‘tis sent (as yet sweet),

There fades, and shrinks, and grows past all enduring,

Rots, stinks, and dies, and is trod under foot.” (Gay, Act 1, Scene 7)

Polly sings this song to her father, Peachum, in Act 1, Scene 7 of John Gay’s, The Beggar’s Opera. This song is Polly’s way of describing the significance of a woman’s virginity. A virgin woman is attractive to both lovers and her friends, because of her supposed ‘honor.’ The bees and butterflies fluttering and frolicking around the flower, which is her virginity, represent lovers and jealous friends, respectively.

Peachum believes women gain their worth through marriage, but Polly shows that…

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