POETRY

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"Abbie", from the old London Life League Magazine

"Londontown", from Punch

"The Lay of the Lacer"

"Beware O' Bonie Ann"

"Ode to the Corset"

"The Squeezer"

"16 Inches"

 

           

     A charming poem sent by Lissa
    (transcribed below).

        

    "Now off in days forever past, my form thou hast embraced!
     Another takes thy place at last. And clasps me round the waist.
   But such is life - we meet to past. In midst of change we dwell.
      I clasp another to my breast.  Old corset - fare thee well."


A Toast

(From a 1905 postcard)

Here's to the girl
with painted lips
peroxide hair
and padded hips
wasp-like waist
and a nerve sublime
art beats nature
every time!


Stephen K.: "In 1906 the prolific author Carolyn Wells published a collection of poetry called A Whimsey Anthology. A very badly scanned copy
of the text is to be found here
. There is a section devoted to figurate verse, that is, poetry arranged in the shapes of things. This is the one that appealed to me:

A TYPE OF BEAUTY 
  
Here hang my bangs 
o'er eyes that dream, 
And nose and rose- 
bud lips for cream. 
And here's my 
chin with dimples in. 
This is my neck without a speck, 
which doth these snowy shoulders 
deck ; and here is — see, oh, 
double T-O-N, which girls all 
wear, like me; and here's a 
heart, from cupid's dart, safe- 
shielded by this corset's art. 
This is my waist too tightly 
laced on which a bustle big is placed. 
This is my dress. 
Its cost, I guess, 
did my poor papa much dis-tress, 
because he sighed when mamma tried it on, 
and scolded so I cried; 
but mamma said I soon would 
wed and buy pa's clothes for him instead. 
It's trimmed with lace just in this place, 
'neath which two ankles show, with grace, 
in silken hose to catch the beaus who think they're lovely, I suppose.
These are my feet in slippers neat, 
and now if we should chance to meet we'll flirt 
a little on the street. 
How sweet. 


Observer, 2nd June 1883

A Tiny Waist
  

A tiny waist!
My lady sighs;
And her languid eyes
Look sad in the morning light;
Head and heart both ache,
And her hands, they shake,
And her lips and cheeks are white;
Of the pain of pleasure she  knows the taste,
And the price she pays for a tiny waist.

Each day in the Park
The men remark
Her girdle of eighteen inches;
They praise her dress,
But they never guess
How that exquisite garment pinches -
How her body is tortured. and tightly laced,
And what price she pays for a tiny waist.

Her maid could say
What there's to pay
For a figure so slight and slender;
And the doctor's bills
Might tell of ills
Which the follies of fashion engender.
There's a subtle poison in paint and paste,
And a chill hand circles a tiny waist.

There's many a maid
By fashion laid
In the arms of an early grave;
So maiden and dame,
Says who's to blame,
And stretch out an arm to save;
For death and disease are always placed
By the side of the girl with a tiny waist.

Dear damsels who
Your bodies screw
Into half of their true proportions,
If you only heard
The terms conferred
On your ugly vain contortions,
You would not be in such painful haste
To make a display of your tiny waist.

Up, women and men
By tongue and pen
Let us drive out this folly between us,
For nature has given
A spirit of heaven
Unto you, and the form of a Venus.
Why spoil such a figure so sweetly graced,
And blight life's rose for a tiny waist?

[Ed; Certainly a negative view of corseting!]


Charles S.:  "An evocative little poem by Thomas Oldham (1840) [source]. LISA readers may disagree with the last two lines!"

 

The Fair-one, at her toilet, thus exprest

The ambitious aims that swell’d her panting breast:

‘Pull, Fanny, pull again, with all your might;

I must, today, be laced up very tight;

For, to a glorious conquest I aspire:—

Know, that two Noblemen my charms admire!

Pull, then, good girl! I’ll be so tightly laced,

That half-a-yard will measure round my waist.’

‘Hold!’ Cupid cries, ‘for Love’s, for Pity’s sake;

You’ll strangle Beauty, and my bowstring break.’

 


The Science of Illusion
Chelle Miko

She is bound. Sometimes at the waist with hidden strings, pulled taut like a piano's,
but of whalebone and steel, wrenched, with fingers laced to a bedpost,
legs anchored to the floor, to make six inches of her disappear,
to make new, more pleasing curves appear.

Sometimes at the feet, with cotton strips or silk, after resistance is crushed
like bones with a hammer, the arch driven skyward,
and her toes embedded in her sole, so she is no more than five inches from the heel,
an erotic stumble and sway of hips across the bedroom floor: san zun jin lian,
three inches of golden lotus. The cast is set.
     Poof!
Blooms spring from sleeves, rabbits flop from a hat and her foot, unwrapped, turns into a hoof.

Sometimes at the head, an embroidered cap attached to lattice work, stitched of gossamer silk,
that  leaves the lid of eyes to open and close like a coffin but hides the rest of her features;
sometimes a black cape that ghosts her body, head to toe,
so she can walk unseen in broad daylight.

And sometimes in a flicker of moonlight, at the magic mirror,
she can see the curvaceous outline of her vanity, the table of tricks of the trade,
containers of paint that make parts of her invisible;
that angle the rouged cheekbones, the line of lips,
the echo of eyes in shadow.

Sometimes she's the magician who erases herself.
She presses wax to make an arc of her brow,
presses more wax to make less of the hair that warms her pubis.
She winds the bed sheets as if to suppress what slopes and curves without restraint,
and with a dramatic flourish, as if she were always bound to be made less beautiful.


Chelle Miko has published in the North American Review, Paumonock Review, and Moondance, and is working on her first screenplay. She writes from New York state.


There was a young lady from Thrace
Whose corsets got too tight to lace.
Her mother said, "Nelly,
There's things in your belly
That never got in through your face.
                                                                 
    (1932)

Stephen K. discovered these fetching limericks:

She was boning her corset for days
While inserting its twenty-odd stays.
Now she's tugged and she's squeezed,
Got it on; and she's pleased:
How a twenty-inch waist can amaze!

 

Every girl of the rich upper crust,
Knows a real whale-boned corset's a must.
When it's cinched really tight,
It creates quite a sight:
An appealingly busk-boosted bust.

Original from GŁnter:

A chubby girl eager to please
wore a corset, her waistline to squeeze.

But last Friday night, she laced it so tight
that it busted when she sneezed.

 

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