The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

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

Thou worst estate even of the sex that's worst;
   Therefore by Nature made at first,
   T'attend the weakness of our birth!
Slight, outward Curtain to the Nuptial Bed!
Thou Case to buildings not yet finished!
   Who like the Center of the Earth,
   Dost heaviest things attract to thee,
Though Thou a point imaginary be.
A thing God thought for Mankind so unfit,
   That his first Blessing ruin'd it.  10
   Cold frozen Nurse of fiercest fires!
Who, like the parched plains of Africks sand,
(A steril, and a wild unlovely Land)
   Art always scorcht with hot desires,
   Yet barren quite, didst thou not bring
Monsters and Serpents forth thy self to sting!
Thou that bewitchest men, whilst thou dost dwell
   Like a close Conj'urer in his Cell!
   And fear'st the days discovering Eye!
No wonder 'tis at all that thou shouldst be  20
Such tedious and unpleasant Companie,
   Who liv'st so Melancholily!
   Thou thing of subtil, slippery kind,
Which Women lose, and yet no Man can find!
Although I think thou never found wilt be,
   Yet I'm resolv'd to search for thee;
   The search it self rewards the pains.
So, though the Chymick his great secret miss,
(For neither it in Art nor Nature is)
   Yet things well worth his toyle he gains:  30
   And does his Charge and Labour pay
With good unsought exper'iments by the way.
Say what thou wilt, Chastity is no more,
   Thee, than a Porter is his Dore.
   In vain to honour they pretend,
Who guard themselves with Ramparts and with Walls,
Them only fame the truly valiant calls,
   Who can an open breach defend.
   Of thy quick loss can be no doubt,
Within so Hated, and so Lov'd without.  40

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