The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive


Hoc quoq; Fatale est sic ipsum expendere Fatum. Manil.

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

1    STrange and unnatural! lets stay and see
             This Pageant of a Prodigie.
    Lo, of themselves th'enlivened Chesmen move,
    Lo, the unbred, ill-organ'd Pieces prove,
             As full of Art, and Industrie,
             Of Courage and of Policie,
    As we our selves who think ther's nothing Wise but We.
2             Here a proud Pawn I'admire
             That still advancing higher
             At top of all became      10
             Another Thing and Name.
    Here I'm amaz'ed at th'actions of a Knight,
             That does bold wonders in the fight.
             Here I the losing party blame
3             For those false Moves that break the Game,
    That to their Grave the Bag, the conquered Pieces bring,
    And above all, th'ill Conduct of the Mated King.
    What e're these seem, what e're Philosophie
             And Sense or Reason tell (said I)
    These Things have Life, Election, Libertie;      20
             'Tis their own Wisdom molds their State,
             Their Faults and Virtues make their Fate.
             They do, they do (said I) but strait
    Lo from my'enlightned Eyes the Mists and shadows fell
    That hinder Spirits from being Visible.
[1]    And, lo, I saw two Angels plaid the Mate.
    With Man, alas, no otherwise it proves,
       An unseen Hand makes all their Moves.
             And some are Great, and some are Small,
    Some climb to good, some from good Fortune fall,      30
             Some Wisemen, and some Fools we call,
    Figures, alas, of Speech, for Desti'ny plays us all.  [1656 om. for
    Me from the womb the Midwife Muse did take:
    She cut my Navel, washt me, and mine Head
             With her own Hands she Fashioned;
             She did a Covenant with me make,
    And circumcis'ed my tender Soul, and thus she spake,
             Thou of my Church shalt be,
             Hate and renounce (said she)
    Wealth, Honor, Pleasures, all the World for Me.      40
    Thou neither great at Court, nor in the war,
    Nor at th'Exchange shalt be, nor at the wrangling Bar.
    Content thy self with the small Barren Praise,
             That neglected Verse does raise.
       She spake, and all my years to come
             Took their unlucky Doom.
    Their several ways of Life let others choose,
       Their several pleasures let them use,
    But I was born for Love, and for a Muse.
             With Fate what boots it to contend?      50
    Such I began, such am, and so must end.
             The Star that did my Being frame,
             Was but a Lambent Flame,
             And some small Light it did dispence,
             But neither Heat nor Influence.
    No Matter, Cowley, let proud Fortune see,
    That thou canst her despise no less then she does Thee.
             Let all her gifts the portion be
             Of Folly, Lust, and Flattery,
             Fraud, Extortion, Calumnie,      60
             Murder, Infidelitie,
             Rebellion and Hypocrisie.
       Do Thou nor grieve nor blush to be,
       As all th'inspired tuneful Men,
    And all thy great Forefathers were from Homer down to Ben.

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."
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