The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

Dialogue. After Enjoyment
from The Mistress, Poems (1656; editor's copy)

WHat have we done? what cruel passion mov'd thee,
      Thus to ruine her that lov'd Thee?
   Me thou'hast robb'ed, but what art thou
   Thy Self the richer now?
      Shame succeeds the short-liv'd pleasure;
So soon is spent, and gone, this thy Ill-gotten Treasure.

We'have done no harm; nor was it Theft in me,
      But noblest Charity in Thee.
   I'll the well-gotten Pleasure
   Safe in my Mem'orie Treasure;  10
      What though the Flower it self do wast,
The Essence from it drawn does long and sweeter last.

No: I'm undone; my Honor Thou hast slain,
      And nothing can restore't again.
   Art and Labour to bestow,
   Upon the Carcase of it now,
      Is but t'embalm a body dead,
The Figure may remain, the Life and Beautie's fled.

Never, my dear, was Honor yet undone,
      By Love, but Indiscretion.  20
   To th' wise it all things does allow;
   And cares not What we do; but How.
      Like Tapers shut in ancient Urns,
Unless it let in air, for ever shines and burns.

Thou first perhaps who didst the fault commit,
      Wilt make thy wicked boast of it.
   For Men, with Roman pride, above
   The Conquest, do the Triumph love:
      Nor think a perfect Victo'ry gain'd,  29
Unless they through the streets their Captive lead enchain'd.

Who e're his secret joys has open laid,
      The Baud to his own Wife is made.
   Beside what boast is left for me,
   Whose whole wealth's a Gift from Thee?
      'Tis you the Conqu'eror are, 'tis you
Who have not only ta'ne, but bound, and gag'd me too.

Though publique pun'ishment we escape, the Sin
      Will rack and torture us within:
   Guilt and Sin our bosom bears;
   And though fair, yet the Fruit appears,  40
      That Worm which now the Core does wast,
When long t'has gnaw'd within will break the skin at last.

That Thirsty Drink, that Hungry Food I sought,
      That wounded Balm, is all my fault.
   And thou in pity didst apply,
   The kind and onely remedie:
      The Cause absolves the Crime; since Mee
So mighty Force did move, so mighty Goodness Thee.

Curse on thine Arts! methinks I Hate thee now;
      And yet I'm sure I love Thee too!  50
   I'm angry, but my wrath will prove,
   More Innocent than did thy Love.
      Thou hast this day undone me quite;
Yet wilt undo me more should'st thou not come at night.

This text normalized in the same way as Cowley's "Hymn to Light."
Return to The Works on the Web