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The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

The Vote
from Sylva, Poems Part II: Juvenilia (editor's copy)

Lest the misconstring world should chance to say,
I durst not but in secret murmurs pray,
    To whisper in Joves eare,
How much I wish that funerall,
Or gape at such a great ones fall,
    This let all ages heare,
And future times in my soules picture see
What I abhorre, what I desire to bee.

I would not be a Puritan, though he
Can preach two houres, and yet his Sermon be       10
    But halfe a quarter long,
Though from his old mechanicke trade
By vision hee's a Pastor made,
    His faith was growne so strong.
Nay though he thinke to gaine salvation,
By calling th'Pope the Whore of Babylon.

I would not be a School-master, though he
His Rods no lesse than Fasces deemes to be,
    Though he in many a place,       20
Turnes Lilly oftner than his gownes,
Till at the last hee make the Nownes,
    Fight with the Verbes apace.
Nay though he can in a Poeticke heat,
Figures, borne since, out of poore Virgill beat.

I would not be Justice of Peace, though he
Can with equality divide the Fee,
    And stakes with his Clarke draw.
Nay though he sit upon the place
Of Judgement with a learned face       30
    Intricate as the Law.
And whilst he mulcts enormities demurely,
Breaks Priscians head with sentences securely.
I would not be a Courtier, though he
Makes his whole life the truest Comedy:
    Although he be a man
In whom the Taylors forming Art,
And nimble Barber claime more part
    Than Nature her selfe can.
Though, as he uses men, 'tis his intent
To put off death too, with a Complement.      40

From Lawyers tongues, though they can spin with ease
The shortest cause into a Paraphrase,
    From Usurers conscience
(For swallowing up young Heyres so fast
Without all doubt, they'l choakt at last)
    Make me all innocence
Good Heaven; and from thy eyes, ô Justice keepe,
For though they be not blind, they're oft asleepe.

From Singing-mens Religion; who are
Alwayes at Church just like the Crowes, 'cause there       50
    They build themselves a nest.
From too much Poetry, which shines
With gold in nothing but its lines,
    Free, ô you powers, my brest.
And from Astronomy within the skies
Finds fish, and bulls, yet doth but Tantalize.

From your Court-Madams beauty, which doth carry
At morning May, at night a January.
    From the grave City brow
(For though it want an R, it has       60
The letter of Pythagoras)
    Keepe me ô Fortune now,
And chines of beefe innumerable send me,
Or from the stomacke of the Guard defend me.
This onely grant me: that my meanes may lye
Too low for envie, for contempt too high.
    Some honour I would have,
Not from great deeds, but good alone,
Th'ignote are better than ill knowne
    Rumor can ope the grave.       70
Acquaintance I would hug, but when't depends
Not from the number, but the choyse of friends.

Bookes should, not businesse, entertaine the light,
And sleepe, as undisturb'd as death the night.
    My house a cottage more
Then palace, and should fitting be
For all my use, no luxurie.
    My garden painted ore
With natures hand, not arts and pleasures yield,
Horace might envie in his Sabine field.      80

Thus would I double my lifes fading space,
For he that runs it well, twice runs his race.
    And in this true delight,
These unbought sports, and happy state,
I would nor feare, nor wish my fate,
    But boldly say each night,
To morrow let my Sunne his beames display,
Or in clouds hide them; I have liv'd to day.

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