Cowley forgot? forbid it, rural powers!
Ye rural powers, your choicest treasures shed,
To form a garland for your Cowley's head:
Collect the radiance of the showery bow,
The rose's scarlet, and the lily's snow,
To emulate his works, confusedly bright,
Where glories rise on glories, light on light.
The prism of wit! Apollo, once before,
So gilded Donne, but so could gild no more. 10
Our moderns flow, 'tis true, in easy rhymes;
But will our moderns flow through future times?
Warm distant ages with their glorious fire,
Inspired themselves, and potent to inspire?
Cowley, this praise is thine!--an age is pass'd,
Yet still you charm the present as the last:
Your thoughts, your verse, their pristine lustre hold,
Like rows of jewels ranged on cloth of gold:
Aeneas' passport thus, the golden bough,
Solid and bright at once, resembles you; 20
Like that you lead us to Elysium too.
No muddy streams of dull pollution run
In your chaste lines; each wanton hint you shun,
Save when a transient Venus blots the sun.
You sung each flower that spreads the vivid hue,
Each healing plant that sips the silver dew,
Each tree that decks the garden, or the grove;
You sung, but never felt, the fires of love *:
For love too witty and from passion free,
You had your mistress, but no lover she: 30
Goaded with points, Love never wept so sore,
Though wounded by a Muse's bee before.
O master of the many-chorded lyre,
Whom all the Nine, with all their gifts, inspire!
Next Spenser's bower, accept this humble shed,
He charm'd you living, and you join him dead.
But far I place thee from coy Daphne's tree;
The tree that hates Apollo, loves not thee:
Yet had Apollo sung so well, the maid
Had yielded, nor been turn'd into a shade.
|* In a clever convergence proleptic of Johnson's "Life of Cowley" § 123, Thompson hints that Plantarum as well as The Mistress is in its own way antidotal to love; for the further programmatic suggestion (not far from a Cowleian topos, recharted in Marvell's "The Garden") that passion is more than an equal for herbal correctives, see Ovid, Met. 1.523 ("nullis amor est sanabilis herbis"), with the last several lines (targeting a supposed aphrodisiac, rocket) of Cowley's Plantarum Book I, recapped in Thompson's Gondibert and Birtha: a Tragedy (1757):|
| Copy-text: Thompson's "Garden Inscriptions," published with his Poems (1757) in The British Poets, 54 (Chiswick: Whittingham, 1822), 188-202. "Shed" in line 35 is most likely an echo of line 1 of Cowley's own "Living Author's Epitaph" as translated in 1689. Thompson's Oxfordshire garden of verses is briefly surveyed by David Coffin (The English Garden: Meditation and Memorial [Princeton, 1994], 172); writers honored include Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Chaucer, Jeremy Taylor of Golden Grove fame, Addison, Virgil, Thomson, and Philips. The vicissitudes of Cowley's reputation in better-known texts are effectively sketched in the following:|