The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

"Epitaphium Vivi Autoris" / "The Living Author's Epitaph"
Englished by Various Hands

Hic, ô Viator, sub Lare parvulo
COULEIUS Hîc est Conditus, Hîc Jacet,
  Defunctus humani laboris
    Sorte, supervacuáque Vitâ.
indecorâ pauperie nitens,
Et non
inerti nobilis otio,
  Vanóque dilectis popello
animosus hostis.
Possis ut illum dicere Mortuum,
En Terra jam nunc Quantula sufficit?
  Exempta sit curis,
    Terra sit illa Levis, precare.
Hîc sparge
flores, sparge breves rosas,
Nam Vita gaudet Mortua floribus,
  Herbísque odoratis corona
    Vatis adhuc
Cinerem Calentem.
          [Poemata Latina 1668 / Works 1668]

Here Passenger, beneath this Shed
Lies Cowley, though entomb'd, not dead;
Yet freed from human Toil and Strife,
And all th'Impertinence of Life;
Who in his Poverty is neat,
And even in Retirement, Great.
With Gold, the People's Idol, he
Holds endless War and Enmity.
Can you not say he has resign'd
His breath, to this small Cell confin'd?
With this small Mansion let him have
The Rest and Silence of the Grave:
Strew Roses here as on his Hearse,
And reckon this his funeral Verse:
With Wreaths of fragrant Herbs adorn
The yet surviving Poet's Urn.
          [tr. anon. (Nahum Tate?), 1689]
From life's superfluous cares enlarg'd,
His debt of human toil discharg'd,
Here Cowley lies! beneath this shed,
To every worldly interest dead;
With decent poverty content,
His hours of ease not idly spent;
To fortune's goods a foe profest,
And hating weath by all carest.
'Tis true he's dead; for oh! how small
A spot of earth is now his all;
Oh! wish that earth may lightly lay,
And every care be far away;
Bring flowers; the short-liv'd roses bring,
To life deceas'd fit offering;
And sweets around the poet strow,
While yet with life his ashes glow.
          [tr. Joseph Addison]
Here, Traveller, from Human Eyes
Conceal'd for ever, Cowley lies:
In this mean Cell the Poet chose
To seek his long-lov'd last Repose;
When tir'd with each ambitious Strife,
And all the foolish Farce of Life,
To sacred Silence he withdrew,
And bid the busy World adieu.
His better Part surviving tries
To Truth's and Wisdom's Heights to rise,
The solid Joys of Virtue finds,
Converses with Celestial Minds,
And pitying sees what various Woe
The giddy Crowd pursues below.
Peace to his ever-gentle Shade!
May no rude Cares his rest invade!
Light lie the Earth, that Flow'rs may bloom
Around the metaphoric Tomb!
That here in this small Spot may grow
(A Spot how small suffices now!)
What Summer's short-liv'd Pride bestows,
The Lily, and the blushing Rose.
Surely unenvy'd we may have
Flow'rs to attend us in the Grave.
          [tr. Thomas Fitzgerald]
Trav'ller, within this Moss-grown-Cot,
Cowley has all the World forgot;
From Toil and Care he here is free,
And Life's prolix Anxiety.
Thro' Fortune's Cloud he graceful shines,
Nor at this noble Ease repines;
Riches contems as trifling Things,
The Vulgar's Wish, and Pride of Kings.
For Cowley, dead, you sure may mourn,
When here so little serves his Turn.
Light, Trav'ller, lie this turf on me,
Exempt from Noise this little be!
O sprinkle Flow'rs and Rose-buds round,
With flow'rets still the Grave is crown'd;
And with sweet Herbs her Poet strew,
While warm with Life his Ashes glow.
   [Eugenio; Frobisher's ... Epitaphs (1790?)]
Here, stranger, in this humble nest,
  Here Cowley sleeps; here lies,
Scaped all the toils that life molest,
  And its superfluous joys.
Here, in no sordid poverty,
  And no inglorious ease,
He braves the world, and can defy
  Its frowns and flatteries.
The little earth, he asks, survey.
  Is he not dead, indeed?
"Light lie that earth," good stranger, pray,
  "Nor thorn upon it breed!"
With flowers, fit emblem of his fame,
  Compass your poet round;
With flowers of ev'ry fragrant name
  Be his warm ashes crown'd!
          [tr. anon. (Essays 1819)]
Here, stranger, in this lowly spot,
  The buried Cowley finds at last
Rest from the labors of his lot,
  And leaves life's follies with the past.
In not unseemly low estate,
  Nor meanly slothful, though retired,
Well hath the poet learned to hate
  The wealth by staring crowds admired.
Yea, speak of him as dead; for see
  How little earth is now his share;
And, Stranger, pray that light may be
  Its burden, and may bring no care.
Strow flowers; they please the living dead;
  Here roses ere they wither strow;
And o'er his yet warm ashes shed
  The sweetest-smelling herbs that grow.
        [tr. William Cullen Bryant (1877)]

O wayfarer, beneath his household shrine
  Here Cowley lies, closed in a little den;
A life too empty and his lot combine
  To give him rest from all the toils of men.
Not shining with unseemly shows of want,
  Nor noble with the indolence of ease;
Fearless of spirit as a combatant
  With mob-loved wealth and all its devotees.
That you may fairly speak of him as dead,
  Behold how little earth contents him now!
Pray, wayfarer, that all his cares be fled,
  And that the earth lie lightly on his brow.
Strew flowers here, strew roses soon to perish,
  For the dead life joys in all flowers that blow;
Crown with sweet herbs, bank blossoms high, to cherish
  The poet's ashes that are yet aglow.  [tr. Henry Morley]

Here, traveler, here, beneath this little roof
was Cowley laid to rest, and here he lies,
beyond the lot of human toil
and aimless life departed;
adorned with not unseemly poverty,
ennobled by not unproductive leisure,
of the vain many's darling wealth
a passionate despiser.
To make it easier to call him dead,
see what a little earth is now enough;
that he be care-free, traveler, pray
the earth weigh light upon him.
Here scatter flowers and scatter fleeting roses,
since dead life finds in flowers a source of joy,
and crown with aromatic herbs
the poet's still-warm ashes.   [tr. DK]

Porch House, Chertsey,
Cowley's Last Home,
later fitted with a
carving of this Epitaph

Cowley's Urn and Epitaph, Westminster // In Cowley's Shade // Garden-Grave // Prosary, or a Critical Garland
Cowley's "Poppy," trans. Nahum Tate (1689) // Back to Texts, Editions, and Early Illustrations