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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GReen Berries I, and Seed, and Flowers bear;
And Patroness o' th'Womb's my Character.
But deeper yet my great Perfection lies,
For as my chiefest fruit my root I prize.
This Nature did with the Wombs figure seal, 640
Nor suffer'd me its Virtues to conceal.
Thence am I call'd Earths Apple; such a one,
As in th'Hesperian Gardens there are none. [Latin: 620]
Had this (fair Atalanta!) then been thrown
Before you, when you ran (I know you'll own
Now you are married), 't has so sweet a face,
You for this sooner wou'd ha' slack'd your pace,
Than that, for which you lost your Maiden race.
Hence in her own Embraces Mother Earth
Retains and hugs it, where she gave it birth,
Nor trusts dull Trees with things of so much worth.
Easing all Births, 'tis I the wonder prove
O' th'Earth our universal Parents love.
That Poet was no fool, nor did he lye,
Who said each Herb cou'd shew a Deity.
Nor shou'd we Egypts Piety despise,
Which to green Gods paid daily Sacrifice.
Rome, why dost jeer? "They are in Gardens born,
"And Vegetable Gods the Fields adorn.
What's Ceres else, but Corn, and Bacchus, Vines? 660
And every holy Plain with Godheads shines.
And I Lucina am; for I make way, 108
And Lifes streight folding doors wide open lay.
Oh! pardon, Luna! what I rashly spoke,
That from my lips such impious words have broke.
In me, in me, Lucina, you remain,
And in disguise a Goddess I contain: [Latin: 640]
For in my roots small circle you inclose
Part of those Virtues, which your Wisdom knows.
Triumphant Conquests over Death I make;
Arms from my self, but Pow'r from thee I take.
O'rseer o' th'ways the body's roads I clear,
And streets, as I that Cities Aedile were.
Straight passages I widen, stops remove,
And every obstacle down headlong shove.
The Soul and her attendants nothing stays,
But they may freely come and go their ways.
I also dry each sink and fenny flood,
Lest the swift Messengers shou'd stick i' th'mud.
But to my stricter charge committed is 680
The pleasant, sacred Way that leads to bliss.
When dawning Life Cimmerian night wou'd leave,
And its relation Days bright rays perceive,
I keep Death off the Wombs straight passages,
That them the watchful Foe can ne'r possess.
You'd wonder (for great Nature when she shows,
her greatest wonders, nothing greater does) [Latin: 660]
Which way the narrow womb, so void of pain
Such an unweildy weight cou'd e'r contain,
How such a bulk, forc'd from its native place,
Though such a narrow Avenue shou'd pass.
When such cross motions teeming wombs attain
First to dilate, then fold themselves again,
What knots unties and solid bones divides,
And what again unites the distant sides.
But this I cannot do, nor all the Earth,
Wherever pow'rful Plants receive their birth.
'Tis true, both I and you, my Sisters, share
In this great work, and humble Handmaids are.
But God (you know) performs the chiefest part; 700
This work is fit for the Almighty Art.
He to the growing Embryo bids the womb
Extend, and bids the Limbs for that make room.
He parts the meeting Rocks, and with his hand
They gently forth at open order stand.
Mean time th'industrious Infant, loth to stay,
Struggles and with his head wou'd make its way. [Latin: 680]
Whilst the tormented, labouring Wretch wou'd fain
Be eas'd both of her burthen and her pain.
Them too my piercing heat both instigates,
And the inclining quarters separates.
Sometimes within his Mothers fatal Womb,
Before he's born, the Infant finds his Tomb.
Life from her native soil Deaths terrors chase,
Who fertile is herself in such a place.
Th'included carcass breaths forth dire perfumes,
And its own Grave the buried Corps consumes.
Strange! the preposterous Child's his Mothers death,
And dead deprives his living Tomb of breath.
From that sad fate, ye Gods, chast Women guard; 720
And let it be Adulteries reward.
As far as in me lies, I save the tree
And take the rotten [fruit] away with me.
The goods to drown, 'tis the best way I think,
Lest in a storm the Ship and all shou'd sink.
Rash Infants often make escapes; unbind
Their cords and leave their luggage all behind. [Latin: 700]
Their thicker coats and thinner shirts they leave,
And that sweet Cake where they their food receive.
Lucina twice poor Women then implore
Their throws return although the Birth be o'r.
Here to the Womb again my aid I lend,
And hard as well as noisom work attend.
What I to cleanse the passage undergo,
You wot not, but, let no man, pray you, know.
For if he do, 'twill Cupid's power impair,
Nor will he such an awe o'r mortals bear.
But though in me a secret Virtue lie
Of pulling Darts from deepest Wounds, yet I 109
Thy pleasant Darts, kind Cupid never strove 740
To draw; That me no friend to th'womb wou'd prove.
In me one Virtue I my self admire
(Ah! who can know themselves as they desire.)
For 'tis a Riddle; wherefore I wou'd know
How I so oft have done the thing I do.
For though I life to humane Creatures give,
Yet if he eat of me, no Fish can live. [Latin: 720]
As soon as me they tast, away they fly
Under the water and in silence die.
What may the cause of this strange quarrel be?
I know them not, nor have they injur'd me.
No Animals, than these more fruitful passe,
When yet I hate, though fruitfulness I love.
Th'Effect is plain and easie to be found,
But deep the Cause lies rooted underground.
 Luna and Lucina, both the same Goddess of Midwifry, etc.
 It draws splinters, scales of bones, etc. Fernel.