The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

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

Chromius, the Son of Agesidamus, a young Gentleman of Sicilie, is celebrated for having won the prize of the Chariot-Race in the Nemeæan Games (a Solemnity instituted first to celebrate the Funeral of Opheltes, as is at large described by Statius; and afterwards continued every third year, with an extraordinary conflux of all Greece, and with incredible honor to the Conquerors in all the exercises there practised) upon which occasion, the Poet begins with the commendation of his Countrey, which I take to have been Ortygia (an Island belonging to Sicilie, and a part of Syracuse, being joyned to it by a Bridge) though the title of the Ode call him Ætnæan Chromius, perhaps because he was made Governour of that Town by Hieron. From thence he falls into the praise of Chromius his person, which he draws from his great endowments of Minde and Body, and most especially from his Hospitality, and the worthy use of his riches. He likeneth his beginning to that of Hercules, and according to his usual manner of being transported with any good Hint that meets him in his way, passing into a Digression of Hercules, and his slaying the two Serpents in his Cradle, concludes the Ode with that History.
    Beauteous Ortygia, the first breathing place
[1]       Of great Alpheus close and amorous race,
2         Fair Delos Sister, the Child-Bed
3       Of bright Latona, where she bred
4           The Original New-Moon,
    Who saw'st her tender Forehead e're the Horns were grown.
5    Who like a gentle Scion, newly started out,
         From Syracusa's side dost sprout.
[6]         Thee first my Song does greet
         With numbers smooth and fleet,      10
         As thine own Horses airy feet,
       When they young Chromius Chariot drew,
    And o're the Nemeæan race triumphant flew.
       Jove will approve my Song and Me,
7    Jove is concern'd in Nemea, and in Thee.
1         With Jove, my Song; this happy man,
           Young Chromius too with Jove began;
           From hence came his success,
         Nor ought he therefore like it less,
    Since the best Fame is that of Happiness.      20
         For whom should we esteem above
           The Men whom Gods do love.
    'Tis them alone the Muse too does approve.
         Lo how it makes this victory shine
2    Ore all the fruitful Isle of Proserpine!
         The Torches which the Mother brought
         When the ravisht Maid she sought,
           Appear'd not half so bright,
           But cast a weaker light,
    Through earth, and ayr, and Seas, and up to th'heavenly Vault.      30
1    To thee, O Proserpine, this Isle I give,
           Said Jove, and as he said,
2           Smil'd, and bent his gracious Head.
    And thou, O Isle, said he, for ever thrive,
    And keep the value of our Gift alive.
           As Heaven with Stars, so let
           The Countrey thick with Towns be set,
           And numberless as Stars
           Let all the Towns be then
           Replenish'd thick with Men,      40
           Wise in Peace, and Bold in Wars.
         Of thousand glorious Towns the Nation,
    Of thousand glorious Men each Town a Constellation.
         Nor let their warlike Lawrel scorn,
3    With the Olympique Olive to be worn,
    Whose gentler Honors do so well the Brows of Peace adorn.
1    Go to great Syracuse, my Muse, and wait
         At Chromius Hospitable Gate.
           'Twill open wide to let thee in,      50
           When thy Lyres voyce shall but begin.
    Joy, Plenty, and free Welcome dwells within.
    The Tyrian Beds thou shalt find ready drest,
    The Ivory Table crowded with a Feast.
    The Table which is free for every Guest,
           No doubt will thee admit,
    And feast more upon Thee, then Thou on it.
         Chromius and Thou art met aright,
2         For as by Nature thou dost Write,
    So he by Nature Loves, and does by Nature Fight.
1    Nature herself, whilst in the womb he was,      60
    Sow'd Strength and Beauty through the forming Mass,
    They mov'ed the vital Lump in every part,
    And carv'ed the Members out with wondrous art.
    She fill'd his Mind with Courage, and with Wit,
         And a vast Bounty, apt and fit
    For the great Dowre which Fortune made to it.
         'Tis Madness sure Treasures to hoord,
    And make them useless, as in Mines, remain,
    To lose th' Occasion Fortune does afford
         Fame, and publick Love to gain.      70
         Even for self-concerning ends,
         'Tis wiser much to hoord up Friends.
    Though Happy men the present goods possess,
    Th' Unhappy have their share in future Hopes no less.
    How early has young Chromius begun
    The Race of Virtue, and how swiftly run,
         And born the noble Prize away,
    Whilst other youths yet at the Barriere stay?
1    None but Alcides e're set earlier forth then He;
    The God, his Fathers, Blood nought could restrain,      80
         'Twas ripe at first, and did disdain
    The slow advance of dull Humanitie,
    The big-limm'ed Babe in his huge Cradle lay,
    Too weighty to be rockt by Nurses hands,
         Wrapt in purple swadling-bands.
    When, Lo, by jealous Juno's fierce commands,
         Two dreadful Serpents come
    Rowling and hissing loud into the roome.
    To the bold Babe they trace their bidden way,
    Forth from their flaming eyes dread Lightnings went,      90
    Their gaping Mouths did forked Tongues like Thunderbolts present.
1    Some of th' amazed Women dropt down dead
         With fear, some wildly fled
    About the room, some into corners crept,
         Where silently they shook and wept.
    All naked from her bed the passionate Mother lept
         To save or perish with her Child,
    She trembled, and she cry'ed, the mighty Infant smil'd.
2         The mighty Infant seem'd well pleas'd      100
           At his gay gilded foes,
    And as their spotted necks up to the Cradle rose,
    With his young warlike hands on both he seis'd;
           In vain they rag'd, in vain they hist,
           In vain their armed Tails they twist,
         And angry Circles cast about,
    Black Blood, and fiery Breath, and poys'nous Soul he squeezes out.
1         With their drawn Swords
    In ran Amphitryo, and the Theban Lords,
2    With doubting Wonder, and with troubled joy
           They saw the conquering Boy      110
         Laugh, and point downwards to his prey,
    Where in deaths pangs, and their own gore they folding lay.
3    When wise Tiresias this beginning knew,
         He told with ease the things t'ensue,
4           From what Monsters he should free
5           The Earth, the Ayr, and Sea,
6           What mighty Tyrants he should slay,
           More Monsters far then They.
7    How much at Phlægras field the distrest Gods should ow
           To their great Off-spring here below,      120
         And how his Club should there outdo,
8    Apollos silver Bow, and his own Fathers Thunder too.
1         And that the grateful Gods at last,
    The race of his laborious Virtue past,
         Heaven, which he sav'ed, should to him give,
2    Where marry'd to eternal Youth he should for ever live;
    Drink Nectar with the Gods, and all his senses please
    In their harmonious golden Palaces.
         Walk with ineffable Delight
    Through the thick Groves of never-withering Light,      130
           And as he walks affright
3           The Lyon and the Bear,
    Bull, Centaur, Scorpion, all the radiant Monsters there.

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