Cowley, Abraham . The Third Part of the Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley
Being his Six Books of Plants
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library
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SPLEENWORT or MILTWAST.
ME cruel Nature, when she made me, gave 46
Nor stalk, nor seed, nor flow'r, as others have.
The Sun ne'r warms me, nor will she allow,
I shou'd in cultivated Gardens grow.
And to augment the torment of my years,
No lovely colour in my leaves appears.
You'd think me Heav'ns aversion, and the Earth
Had brought me forth at some chance, spurious Birth.
Vain outward gaudy shews mankind surprize,
And they resign their Reason to their eyes.
To Gardens no poor Plant admittance gains,
For there, God wot, the painted Tulip reigns.
But the wise Gods mind no such vanity, 660
Phoebus above all Tulips values me.
So does that Coan, old Hippocrates,
Who the next place to Phoebus challenges.
For when the Members Nature did divide, [image]
And over such or such bad Herbs preside; [Latin: 620]
I of the savage and unruly Spleen,
A stubborn Province, was created Queen.
I that restrain, though it resist my power,
And bring its swelling, rebel humor lower.
The passages with Rampires it in vain
Obstructs; I quickly break them down again.
All Commerce I with speedy force restore,
And the ways open all my Kingdom o'r.
If I don't take that course, it furious grows,
And into every part Contagion throws.
With poisonous vapours it infects the blood,
And Life it self drinks of a venomous flood.
Foul Leprosie upon the skin appears,
And the chang'd visage Deaths pale colours wears.
Hence watchfulness, distracting cares, and tears, 680
And pain proceeds; with hasty, killing fears.
Hence Halters, cruel Love! our necks release
From thy more fatal Yoke; and Daggers ease
Our Souls of Life's incurable Disease:
May no such monstrous evils good Men hurt,
Jove and my Virtue all such things avert!
The Treasury Trajan rightly to the Spleen
Compar'd; for, when that swells, the body's lean. [Latin: 640]
Why do you laugh? Is it, because that I
Pretend to know the Roman History,
I a dull stock and not a Plant shou'd be,
Having so long kept Doctors company,
If their discourse shou'd not advantage me.
It has; and I great wonders cou'd relate,
But I'm a Plant, that ne'r was given to prate.
But to return from whence I have digrest,
I many Creatures ease by Spleen opprest.
Creet, though so used to lye, you may believe, 47
When for their Swine their thanks to me they give.
The wretched Ass, whom constant labour tires, 700
Sick of the Spleen my speedy aid desires.
Eating my leaves (for I relieve his pain)
He cheerfully resumes his work again.
Now, if you can, vain, painted Flow'rs admire,
Delights, scarce sooner born, than they expire.
They're fair, 'tis true, they're cheerful and they're green;
But I, though sad, procure a gladsom mein.
 The Vertues of this Herb are told in its name.
 Vitruvius says that in Creet, where this Herb abounds, the Swine have no Spleen.