‘A Song: Ask me no more where Jove bestows’ by Thomas Carew is a five stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, or quatrains. Each of these quatrains follows a structured rhyme scheme. It conforms to the pattern of aabb ccdd, and so on, alternating end sounds as the poet saw fit. A reader will immediately take note of another repetitive element of the text. The first line of each stanza utilizes anaphora. This means that the starting words of a phrase are repeated. In this case, “Ask me no more…” begins every stanza.
The following lines, although less obvious, are repetitive in their structure. The speaker uses the first two lines to tell his listener to stop asking him a number of questions about nature and the progression of time. Then in the following two lines, he gives a simple answer to the question.
Summary of A Song: Ask me no more where Jove bestows
Each stanza of this piece begins with the speaker telling his listener, presumably his lover, to stop asking a specific question. These are generally all associated with the changing of the season from summer to winter.
He tells her that the beauty of the world never vanishes, even though it may disappear from its original location. The sun relocates to her eyes, the flowers to her general beauty and the nightingale to her voice. She becomes the embodiment of all things good, pure, and lovely that exist in the summer.
You can read more poetry by Thomas Carew here.
Analysis of A Song: Ask me no more where Jove bestows
Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
When June is past, the fading rose;
For in your beauty’s orient deep
These flowers, as in their causes, sleep.
In the first stanza of ‘A Song: Ask me no more where Jove bestows’, the speaker begins by asking his listener to stop asking him “where Jove bestows…the fading rose” after June. Jove is a reference to the Roman God Jupiter, also known as Zeus to the Greeks. More simply, when the seasons change and the roses die, where does their beauty go?
The speaker gives an answer, one that is idealistic and complimentary towards the listener. He tells her that the rose becomes embodied within her own beauty. The beauty transitions to her while the roses “sleep.” Her loveliness has a connection to the wider world that transcends time.
Ask me no more whither do stray
The golden atoms of the day;
For in pure love heaven did prepare
Those powders to enrich your hair.
In the next stanza, he requests that the listener no longer ask him where the “golden atoms of the day” go during the darker months of the year. He speaks of the light of the day as “stray[ing]” from where it’s supposed to be as if it’s just gone off for a moment and will return soon.
While they are gone, they too are added to the speaker’s beauty. They come as a powder that helps to “enrich” her hair.
Ask me no more whither doth haste
The nightingale, when May is past;
For in your sweet dividing throat
She winters, and keeps warm her note.
The same format is used again in the third stanza. This time he speaks on the listener’s voice and how to takes on the attributes of a nightingale. This particular type of bird is known for its beautiful song and the speaker states that it “winters” in the listener’s “sweet dividing throat.” During the cold months of the year, it finds safety within the speaker’s body. It also is able to take advantage of the speaker’s voice to continue to share its song.
Ask me no more where those stars ’light,
That downwards fall in dead of night;
For in your eyes they sit, and there
Fixed become, as in their sphere.
The fourth stanza begins again with the refrain. She has been asking the speaker where the stars go that usually light the sky. During the darkest winter nights she previously noted that they disappear, and like the other questions, he has a ready answer for her.
The stars move from the sky to “your eyes.” This is where they ‘sit” and rest as they would in the sky. Rather than moving, as they seem to from the perspective of a human on earth, they “Fixed become.” They stay in her eyes like they are their new “sphere.”
Ask me no more if east or west
The phoenix builds her spicy nest;
For unto you at last she flies,
And in your fragrant bosom dies.
In the final stanza of ‘A Song: Ask me no more where Jove bestows’, the speaker ends with a reference to rebirth and immortality. This is a suiting ending to a text that revolves around the loss and gain of beauty and life. He speaks of the place where the “phoenix builds her spicy nest.” It does not matter if it’s to the “east or west,” or where the sun rises or sets.
It is only important to know it is “unto you,” the listener, that “she flies.” The phoenix, which is famous for its ability to die and be reborn, dies in the listener’s chest. By default, this means that the bird will be reborn there as well.
One of the most important things to note about this text is the way the speaker gets around the passage of time and fundamental change in the world. If the beauty never recedes, from summer to winter, then what really changes? It might move from the sound of a bird in a tree to the voice of a woman, but it’s always there. This is an optimistic message, separate but connected to the speaker’s clear love and appreciation for the listener.