The Abraham Cowley
Cowley's "Solitudo" / "Solitude"
|Solitudo. [Poemata Lat. 1668]
RUra laudamus meritò Poëtæ,
Rure floremus; Dominóque Laurum
Sole gaudentem necat Oppidorum
Nam priùs crescet Seges in plateis,
Et coronabunt fora densa flores
Spontè nascentes, priùs ipsa Civis
Fiet et Herba.
Urbe Quam surgat mediâ bonorum
Carminum Messis; bona semper Urbem 10
Carmina oderunt, neque nutrit omnis
Rure, Persarum veluti Tyrannus,
Abditus longo maneam recessu,
Sæpè Legatum satìs est ad urbem
Arbores salvete, bonæque sylvæ,
Civitas flix Avium innocentum!
Regna Musarum! sacra rusticantum
Villa Deorum! 20
Hic jacens vestris temerè sub umbris,
Audiam suprà Zephyros volantes
Cúmque facundis benè disputantes
O sacrum risum juvenilis anni!
Cùm calor totos penetrans per artus,
Fertilem pubem, Venerémque adulti
Hîc mihi æstivo Domus apta Sole,
Pulchra Naturæ Domus Architectæ! 30
Quis Trabem excisam priùs æstimabit
Audiam hîc proni per aprica collis
Luce turgentes liquidísque gemmis,
Dulcè ridentes properare Rivos,
Esse qui secum nequit Occupatus,
Aut laborabit miser ille vitæ
Tædio, aut caras malè collocabit
Prodigus horas. 40
Tu Deum longis comitata sclis
Sola tu Rerum, Sacra solitudo,
Antequam Trunco Numerorum abiret
Arbor ab Uno.
Impetus Mentis nimiùm evagantes
Instar Aurigæ cohibes periti,
Et jubes pulchrum breviore gyro
Languidos Mentis fluidæ Calores
Et nimis multum spacii occupantes 50
Ritè constringénsque fovénsque pulchros
Quid mihi æterno populum, fluentem
Fonte, Londinum, numerósque jactas?
Quid mihi ingentes nihil invidenti
Eximam Stultos numero tuorum,
Eximam densum genus Improborum,
Vicus obscurus, propè Solitudo
Tu quoque fies. 60
| Solitude. [trans. DK]
We poets rightly praise the fields
and flourish there; delighting in
its lord the sun, the laurel dies in
towns' murky shadows.
For corn will grow in city squares,
flowers crown the crowded marketplace,
simply sprung up, and grass itself first
move to the city
before the city's midst will yield
a harvest of good verse; that hates 10
the city, always has; all plots will
not bear all products.
Afield may I long stay, withdrawn,
sequestered like the Persians' king;
it's often well enough to make a
verse my town-envoy.
Hail trees, and you good woods, the blest
metropolis of harmless birds!
The muses' realm! Hallowed estate of
gods of the country! 20
Here may I loiter in your shade
and hear the zephyrs overhead
and fecund boughs and breeze contending
well with each other.
Ah, for the young year's sacred smile
when driving warmth through all the limbs
draws on to fruitful ripeness and an
My house here's made for summer sun,
fair house of Nature, Architect! 30
Who rates a cut beam higher than a
tree that is living?
Here I will hear down sunny slopes
welling with light and liquid gems
swift-footed streamlets sweetly laughing,
Who cannot live alone, engaged,
content, lives miser-like, fed up
with life, or prodigal, misspending
his precious hours. 40
God's partner sole long ages through,
of all things, holy Solitude,
before the tree of numbers branched from
its trunk of oneness,
you rein the mind's too-wayward drives
like an experienced charioteer,
making a fairer finish in a
the heat of an unsettled mind
that fades and dissipates you fix, 50
and fan and focus it into a
fire of real brightness.
London, why flaunt your endless flood
of citizens, your sums, at me?
Why cast up your tall towers to someone
not at all envious?
From those sums take away the fools,
away the thronging tribe of rogues;
a small town next to solitude is
what you too end in. 60
[From "Of Solitude." Works 1668]|
|1| Hail, old Patrician Trees, so great and good!
Hail, ye Plebeian under wood!
Where the Poetique Birds rejoyce,
And for their quiet Nests and plenteous Food
Pay with their grateful voice.
|2| Hail, the poor Muses richest Mannor Seat!
Ye Countrey Houses and Retreat.
Which all the happy Gods so Love,
That for you oft they quit their Bright and Great
|3| Here Nature does a House for me erect,
Nature the wisest Architect,
Who those fond Artists does despise
That can the fair and living Trees neglect,
Yet the Dead Timber prize.
|4| Here let me careless and unthoughtful lying,
Hear the soft winds above me flying,
With all their wanton Boughs dispute,
And the more tuneful Birds to both replying,
Nor be myself too Mute.
|5| A Silver stream shall roul his waters near,
Guilt with the Sun-beams here and there
On whose enamel'd Bank I'll walk,
And see how prettily they Smile, and hear
How prettily they Talk.
|6| Ah wretched, and too Solitary Hee
Who loves not his own Company!
He'l feel the weight of't many a day,
Unless he call in Sin or Vanity
To help to bear't away.
|7| Oh Solitude, first state of Human-kind!
Which blest remain'd till man did find
Even his own helpers Company.
As soon as two (alas!) together joyn'd,
The Serpent made up Three.
|8| Though God himself, through countless Ages Thee
His sole Companion chose to be,
Thee, sacred Solitude alone,
Before the branchy head of Numbers Tree
Sprang from the Trunk of One.
|9| Thou (though men think thine an unactive part)
Dost break and tame th' unruly heart,
Which else would know no settled pace
Making it move, well mannag'd by thy Art
With Swiftness and with Grace.
|10| Thou the faint beams of Reasons scatter'd Light,
Dost like a Burning-glass unite,
Dost multiply the feeble Heat,
And fortifie the strength; till thou dost bright
And noble Fires beget.
|11| Whilst this hard Truth I teach, methinks, I see
The Monster London laugh at me,
I should at thee too, foolish city,
If it were fit to laugh at Misery,
But thy Estate I pity.
|12| Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And the Fools that crowd thee so,
Even thou, who dost thy Millions boast,
A Village less than Islington wilt grow,
A Solitude almost.
|Both the Latin and English are based on texts owned by the editor and comprising these errors, which are duly corrected above: Latin 23: fcundis for facundis; English st. 11: his for this. Ampersands have been silently expanded in both texts, and long "s" and italicized punctuation have been normalized throughout. Cowley's Latin consists of 15 four-line Sapphic stanzas and his English of 12 five-line stanzas, so that, even though the line-counts are equal, the stanzas do not correspond. This is the only one of four parallel-text lyrics not to feature a metrical near-match between English and Latin, and since Cowley elsewhere favors a compact four-line stanza for both, it seems likely that the English poem on solitude with its diffuse five-line arrangements was actually the first of the series. The Latin poem was first published posthumously in the Carminum Miscellaneorum Liber concluding the Poemata Latina of 1668; the English poem, part of Cowley's English Works, first appeared that same year in the essay, "Of Solitude."
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