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What does this verse mean? Do fain and use have archaic meanings here?

When first Amyntas su'd for a Kiss,
My innocent Heart was tender;
That tho‘ I push'd him away from the bliss,
My Eyes declar'd my Heart was won.
I fain an artful coyness wou'd use,
Before I the Fort did surrender:
But Love wou'd suffer no more such abuse
And soon, alas! my cheat was known:

Song: When First Amintas su'd for a kiss (1719)

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  • Questions of archaic English are not really suitable for English Learners (we sometimes answer questions on Shakespeare, because he is so ubiquitous and often quoted (and misquoted) in modern English) Moreover, you haven't specified a source for this line of poetry. There is a "literature" stack exchange, which is a much better place to ask
    – James K
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 20:20
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    Users need to cite their sources, for example the title of the book. Quotes need to be copied correctly, I have never seen "woul'd" spelled like that before, and in fact googling the source proved impossible until the apostrophe was removed.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 15:59

2 Answers 2

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Here use means ‘practice’; the sense survives in used to for a former habit.

fain is an adverb meaning, more or less, ‘by preference’.

artful may mean ‘insincere’.

Translating the line to a modern idiom: “I preferred to play hard-to-get.”

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It would have been helpful if you had given more context or even got the date of the quotation close to right. It could be as late as the eighteenth century, which in my opinion, is recent enough that we should address your question.

It simply means

I want to show a false reluctance [to be kissed]

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  • "When first Amyntas su'd for a kiss." tinyurl.com/y9rllned That source dates it to 1707. "Poetica Erotica" edited by Thomas Robert Smith. Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 21:01
  • Also included in "Art and Mirth" by Thomas D'Urfey, 1719. See books.google.com/… Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 22:30
  • Well, in either case, it seems to postdate the 16th century. Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 23:17

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