Cowley, Abraham . The Third Part of the Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley Being his Six Books of Plants
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TAke my advice, Men! and no Riddles use; 68
Why won't you rather to speak plainly choose?
If you're affraid, your secrets shou'd be told,
Your tongues you (that's the surest way) may hold.
Why shou'd we Sense with barbarous cruelty
Put to the Rack, to make it tell a lye?
Of this just reason I have to complain;       1120
Old dubious Saws long since my fame do stain.
How many ill conjectures grounded are
On this, that I must ne'r be set in War.
The Reader of a thing obscure will be
Inclin'd to carp, and to take liberty.       [Latin: 1040]
Hence one says, Mint, Mars does entirely hate,
And Mint to Venus also is ingrate.
Mars loves as well to get as to destroy
Mankind, the booty of his fierce employ.
Mint from the seed all seminal virtue takes,
And of brisk Men dull frigid Eunuchs makes. [image]
And then (to make the spreading error creep
Farther and farther still) they hear I keep
Their Milk from thickning; but how this I do
I'll tell you on these terms alone, That you
Shall me before resolve how first you gain
Notions of things, then, how you them retain.
This I dare boldly say; the fire of Love
With genial heat I gently do improve;
Though constantly the noble, human seed       1140
That sacred Lamp with vital Oil does feed:
For what to Venus e'r will faithful seem,
If Heat it self an Enemy you esteem?
Whether I know her Proserpine can tell, 69
I by my punishment am clear'd too well. 70
Besides, nought more the stomach rectifies,
Or strengthens the digestive faculties.       [Latin: 1060]
Such, such a Plant that feeds the amorous flame,
If Venus love not, she is much to blame;
And with ingratitude the seed I may
Charge, if to me great thanks it do not pay.
But other causes others have assign'd,
Who make the reason, which they cannot find.
They say, Wounds, if I touch them, bleed anew,
And I wound wounds themselves; 'tis very true.
For I a dry, astringent Pow'r retain,
By which all Ulcers of their gore I drain.
I Bloody fluxes stop, my Virtue's sure
The Wounds that Natures self has made to cure.
On bites of Serpents and mad Dogs I seize [image]       1160
And them (Wars hurts are slight) I heal with ease.
I scarce dare mention, that from Galling, I,
If in the hand I'm born, preserve the thigh.
D' ye laugh? laugh on, so I with laughter may
Requite the scandals which on me you lay.
Of which some I omit; and the true cause
Of all will tell (and then she made a pause.)
Though I abhor my sorrows to recal
(And here the tears down her green cheeks did fall)       [Latin: 1080]
I did not always in your Gardens grow,
But once a comely Virgins face cou'd show.
Black though I was (Cocytus was my Sire)
Yet Beauty had to kindle am'rous fire.
Lest anyone should think this is a lye,
Ovid will tell you so as well as I. 71
My Father had a pleasant, shady Grove,
Where he perpetually to walk did love.
There mournful Yew, and funeral Cypress grow,
Whose melancholy Greens no Winter know,
With other Trees whose looks their sorrow shew.       1180
Here Pluto, (Jove of the infernal Throne)
Saw me, as I was walking all alone.
He saw me and was pleas'd; for his desire
At any face, or white or black, takes fire.
Ah! if you knew him but so well as I,
He's an unsatiable Deity!
He never stands a tender Maid to woo,
But cruelly by violence falls to.
He caught me, though I fled till out of breath
I was; I thought he wou'd ha' been my death.
What cou'd I do? his strength was far above
Mine; he, the strength has of his Brother Jove.       [Latin: 1100]
In short, Me to a secret Cave he lead,
And there the Ravisher got my Maidenhead; [image]
But in the midst of all his wickedness,
(How it fell out the Poets don't express.
Nor can you think that I, poor Creature, well
The cause at such a time as that cou'd tell)
Lo! Proserpine, his Wife came in, and found
My wretched limbs all prostrate on the ground.       1200
She no excuse wou'd hear, nor me again
Let rise; but said, There fix'd I shou'd remain.
She spake, and straight my body I perceiv'd,
(Each limb dissolv'd) of all its strength bereav'd.
My Veins are all straight rooted in the Earth
(From whence my ruddy stalk receives its birth)
A blushing crown of Flowers adorns my head,
My leaves are jagged, of a darkish red,
And so a lovely Bed of Mint I make
In the same posture, that she did me take.
But the infernal Ravisher my Fate
('Twou'd move a Devil) did commiserate;
And, his respect for what I was, to show,
great Virtue on my leaves he did bestow.       [Latin: 1120]
Rich qualities to humble Me he gave,
Of which my fragrant Smell's the least I have.
All this the Ancients understood was true,
And thence their great Religious caution grew.
They thought me sacred to th'infernal King,
And that 'twas ominous for me to spring       1220
In times of death and danger, nor wou'd let
Me in the midst of war and blood be set.
But they mistaken were; for I take care
That others be not caught in his strong snare,
Nor pass the Stygian Lake without gray hair.


[68] Aristotle gave the World a Rule, Neither eat Mint nor plant it in time of War; which being variously understood by his Followers; The said Herb does in this Speech make out, that it can with no sense be interpreted to its dishonour, by telling her Virtues in chearing the Spirits and exciting the Stomach.


[69] Venus.


[70] Minthe was a Nymph, one of Pluto's Harlots, whom Proserpine therefore chang'd into this Herb. Opp. Hal. 3.


[71] Ovid. Met. I. 10.