The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

To the New Year
from Pindarique Odes  [XII.],  Poems (1656; editor's copy)

1    GReat Janus, who dost sure my Mistris view
    With all thine eyes, yet think'st them all too few:
             If thy Fore-face do see
       No better things prepar'ed for me,
             Then did thy Face behind,
    If still her Breast must shut against me bee
2    (For 'tis not Peace that Temples Gate does bind)
    Oh let my Life, if thou so many deaths a coming find,
             With thine old year its voyage take
    Born down, that stream of Time which no return can make.      10
             Alas, what need I thus to pray?
             Th'old avaritious year
             Whether I would or no, will bear
             At least a part of Me away.
    His well-horst Troops, the Months, and Days, and Hours,
             Though never any where they stay,
             Make in their passage all their pray.
    The Months, Days, Hours that march i'th' Rear can find
             Nought of Value left behind.
    All the good Wine of Life our drunken youth devours;      20
    Sowreness and Lees, which to the bottom sink,
             Remain for latter years to Drink.
    Until some one offended with the taste
    The Vessel breaks, and out the wretched Reliques run at last.
       If then, young year, thou needs must come,
             (For in Times fruitful womb
    The Birth beyond his Time can never tarry,
             Nor ever can miscarry)
    Choose thy Attendants well; for 'tis not Thee
             We fear, but 'tis thy Companie,      30
    Let neither Loss of Friends, or Fame, or Libertie,
    Nor pining Sickness, nor tormenting Pain,
    Nor Sadness, nor uncleanly Povertie,
             Be seen among thy Train,
             Nor let thy Livery be
    Either black Sin, or gawdy vanitie;
             Nay, if thou lov'st me, gentle Year,
             Let not so much as Love be there:
    Vain fruitless Love, I mean; for, gentle Year,
                Although I feare,      40
             There's of this Caution little need,
                Yet, gentle Year, take heed
                   How thou dost make
                   Such a Mistake.
             Such Love I mean alone
    As by thy cruel Predecessors has been shown,
       For though I'have too much cause to doubt it,
    I fain would try for once if Life can Live without it.
    Into the Future Times why do we pry,
    And seek to Antidate our Misery?      50
    Like Jealous men why are we longing still
    To See the thing which onely seeing makes an Ill?
    'Tis well the Face is vail'd; for 'twere a Sight
             That would even Happiest men affright,
    And something still they'd spy that would destroy
             The past and Present Joy
             In whatsoever Character;
             The Book of Fate is writ,
             'Tis well we understand not it,
    We should grow Mad with little Learning there.      60
    Upon the Brink of every Ill we did Foresee,
             Undecently and foolishlie
    We should stand shivering, and but slowly venter
             The Fatal Flood to enter,
    Since willing, or unwilling we must do it,
    They feel least cold and pain who plunge at once into it.

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."
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