Cowley, Abraham . The Third Part of the Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley Being his Six Books of Plants
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WElcome, thrice welcome, sacred Misseltoe! [image] [image]
The greatest Gift, Teutates does bestow. 72
With more Religion, Druid Priests invoke
Thee, than thy sacred, sturdy Sire, the Oak.
Raise holy Altars from the verdant ground,
And strow your various Flowers all around:
Next let the Priest when to the Gods h' 'as paid 73
All due Devotion, and his Or'sons made,
Cloth'd all in white, by the attendants be,
With Hands and Necks rais'd to the sacred Tree.
Where that he may more freely it receive,
Let him first beg the Shrubs indulgent leave.
And when h' 'as cut it with a golden hook,
Let the expecting crowd, that upward look, [image]
Array'd in White, the falling Treasure meet,       1240
And catch it in a pure, clean snowy Sheet.
Then let two spotless Bulls before him lie,
And with their grateful blood the Altar die.       [Latin: 1140]
Which when you've done then feast, and dance, and sing,
And let the Wood with their loud voices ring.
Such honour had the Misseltoe; which hate
And envy to it did in Gods create.
Th'Egyptian Temples do not louder sound,
When there again th'adored Heifer's found.
Nor did she seem less Majesty to wear
(If any Tree there, Misseltoe did bear)
When in Dodonas Grove upon an Oak
She grew, that in its hollow Ora'cles spoke;
For this one Plant the Ancients, above all,
Protectress of their Life did think and call:
She onely from the Earth loaths to be born,
And on the meaner ground to tread thinks scorn.
Nor did she from prolifick matter come,
But like the World from Nothings fruitful womb.
Others are set and grow by humane care,       1260
Her leaves the product of mere Nature are.
Hence Serpents She of their black stings disarms, 74
And baffles (Mans worse Poison) Magick Charms;
Besides all other kinds of Maladies
(How numberless; alas!) that on us seize.
Nor wonder, that all others ills it beats,
Since the Herculean Sickness it defeats, 75
Than which none more Chiæra-like appears;
One part on't's dead, the other raves and tears.       [Latin: 1160]
This Monster she subdues; hence 'twas believ'd
(And truly though 'twas false, it was receiv'd
On no bad grounds) that lesser Monsters She
Cou'd make the Trophies of her Victory.
The Antients thought so in the infancy
O' th'World, they then knew nought of Fallacy.
Nor was She then thought onely to defend,
And guard Lifes Fort, but Life it self to lend,
Ev'n the Wombs fruitful Soil t'improve and mend;
For what Soil barren to that Plant can be,
Which without Seed has its Nativity?       1280
Or what to her close shut and lock'd can seem,
That makes th'obdurate Oaks hard entrails teem?
That from a Tree comes forth in pangs and pain,
Like the Athenian Goddess from Jove's brain.
But if that's true, which Antient Bards have writ
(For though they're Antient Bards, I question it) 76
I wonder not, that Misseltoe's so kind
To us, since her the ties of Nature bind.
For Men of old, (if you'll believe 'twas so)
Born out of Oaks, were the first Misseltoe.


[72] Teutates and Hesus were the two greatest Gods of the Gauls.


[73] Concerning these Ceremonies, see Plin. l. 16.43.


[74] It averts Charms being tied to the Neck. Clus.


[75] The Falling-Sickness.


[76] Virg. Juven. Statius.