The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

from The Mistress, Poems (1656; editor's copy)

BEauty, thou wilde fantastick Ape,
Who dost in ev'ry Country change thy shape!
Here black, there brown, here tawny, and there white;
Thou Flatt'rer which compli'st with every sight!
   Thou Babel which confoundst the Ey
With unintelligible variety!
   Who hast no certain What, nor Where,
But vary'st still, and dost thy self declare
Inconstant, as thy she-Possessors are.
   Beauty, Loves Scene and Maskerade,  10
So gay by well-plac'd Lights, and Distance made;
False Coyn, with which th'Impostor cheats us still;
The Stamp and Colour good, but Mettal ill!
   Which Light, or Base we find, when we
Weigh by Enjoyment, and examine Thee!
   For though thy Being be but show,
'Tis chiefly Night which men to Thee allow:
And choose t'enjoy Thee, when Thou least art Thou.  [1656: lest
   Beauty, Thou active, passive Ill!
Which dy'st thy self as fast as thou dost kill!  20
Thou Tulip, who thy stock in paint dost waste,
Neither for Physick good, nor Smell, nor Tast.
   Beauty, whose Flames but Meteors are,
Short-liv'd and low, though thou wouldst seem a Starre,
   Who dar'st not thine own Home descry,
Pretending to dwell richly in the Eye,
When thou, alas, dost in the Fancy lye.
   Beauty, whose Conquests still are made
O're Hearts by Cowards kept, or else betray'd!
Weak Victor! who thy self destroy'd must be  30
When sickness storms, or Time besieges Thee!
   Thou'unwholesome Thaw to frozen Age!
Thou strong wine, which youths Feaver dost enrage,
   Thou Tyrant which leav'st no man free!
Thou subtle thief, from whom nought safe can be!
Thou Murth'rer which hast kill'd, and Devil which wouldst Damn me.

This text normalized in the same way as Cowley's "Hymn to Light."
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