The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

from Pindarique Odes  [VIII.],  Poems (1656; editor's copy)

EXcellent Brutus, of all humane race,
The best till Nature was improv'ed by Grace,
Till men above themselves Faith raised more
         Then Reason above Beasts before.
Virtue was thy Lifes Centre, and from thence
Did silently and constantly dispense
         The gentle vigorous Influence
To all the wide and fair Circumference:
And all the parts upon it lean'd so easilie,
Obey'd the mighty force so willinglie      10
That none could discord or disorder see
         In all their Contrarietie.
Each had his motion natural and free,
And the Whole no more mov'ed then the whole world could be.
From thy strict rule some think that thou didst swerve
(Mistaken Honest men) in Cæsars blood;
What Mercy could the Tyrants Life deserve,
From him who kill'd Himself rather then serve?
Th'Heroick Exaltations of Good
         Are so far from Understood,      20
We count it Vice, alas our Sight's so ill,
That things which swiftest Move seem to stand still.
We look not upon Virtue in her height,
On her supreme Idea, brave and bright
         In the Original Light
   But as her Beams reflected pass
Through our own Nature or ill Customs Glass.
         And 'tis no wonder so,
         If with dejected Ey
   In standing Pools we seek the sky,      30
That Stars so high above should seem to us below.
         Can we stand by and see
Our Mother robb'ed, and bound, and ravisht be,
         Yet not to her assistance stir,
Pleas'd with the Strength and Beauty of the Ravisher?
Or shall we fear to kill him, if before
         The cancell'd Name of Friend he bore?
   Ingrateful Brutus do they call?
Ingrateful Cæsar who could Rome enthral!
An act more barbarous and unnatural      40
(In th'exact ballance of true Virtue try'de)
Then his Successor Nero's Parricide!
         There's none but Brutus could deserve
         That all men else should wish to serve,
And Cæsars usurpt place to him should proffer;
None can deserve't but he who would refuse the offer.
Ill Fate assum'ed a Body thee t'affright,
And wrapt itself i'th' terrors of the night,
I'll meet thee at Philippi, said the Spright;
         I'll meet thee there, saidst Thou,      50
   With such a voyce, and such a brow,
As put the trembling Ghost to sudden flight,
         It vanisht as a Tapers light
         Goes out when Spirits appear in sight.
One would have thought to'had heard the morning crow,
   Or seen her well-appointed Starre
Come marching up the Eastern Hill afare,
Nor durst it in Philippi's field appeare,
   But unseen attaqu'ed thee there.
Had it presum'ed in any shape thee to oppose,      60
Thou wouldst have forc'ed it back upon thy foes:
         Or slain't like Cæsar, though it be
A Conqu'eror and a Monarch mightier far then He.
What joy can humane things to us afford,
When we see perish thus by odde events,
   Ill men, and wretched Accidents,
The best Cause and best Man that ever drew a Sword?
            When we see
The false Octavius, and wilde Antonie,
         God-like Brutus, conquer Thee?      70
What can we say but thine own Tragick Word,
That Virtue, which had worshipt been by thee
As the most solid Good, and greatest Deitie,
         By this fatal proof became
         An Idol onely, and a Name,
   Hold noble Brutus and restrain
The bold voyce of thy generous Disdain:
         These mighty Gulphs are yet
Too deep for all thy Judgement and thy Wit.
The Time's set forth already which shall quell      80
Stiff Reason, when it offers to Rebell.
         Which these great Secrets shall unseal,
         And new Philosophies reveal.
A few years more, so soon hadst thou not dy'ed,
Would have confounded Humane Virtues pride,
         And shew'd thee a God crucifi'ed.

Click here for a facsimile sequence of Cowley's elaborate prose notes; the verse text has been normalized in the same way as Cowley's "Hymn to Light."
Edward Sexby ("William Allen"), Killing No Murder & related texts // Dying to Help Out (Mors perniciosorum gratissima)
Cowley ("Ezekiel Grebner"), Visions and Prophecies / A Discourse ... concerning ... Cromwell
Pindarique Odes Preface  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  /   Return to The Works on the Web