The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

Other Verses on Cowley

Upon the Poems of the English Ovid, Ana-
creon, Pindar and Virgil, ABRAHAM
COWLEY, in Imitation of his own Pin-
darick Odes.

LET all this meaner rout of Books stand by,
    The common People of our Library;
  Let them make way for Cowley's Leaves to come,
  And be hung up within this Sacred Room:
    Let no prophane Hands break the Chain,
  Or give them unwish'd Liberty again.
  But let this Holy Relick be laid here,
    With the same Religious Care,
    As Numa once the Target kept,
      Which down from Heav'n leapt;  10
    Just such another is this Book,
  Which its Original from Divine Hands took,
And brings as much good too, to those that on it look.
  But yet in this they differ, that cou'd be
  Eleven times likened by a Mortal Hand,
      But this which here doth stand
    Will never any of its own sort see,
  But must live still without such Company.
      For never yet was writ,
In the two learned Ages which Time left behind,  20
    Nor in this ever shall we find,
      Nor any one like to it,
Of all the numerous Monuments of Wit.
  Cowley! What God did fill thy Breast,
    And taught thy Hand t'Indite?
    (For God's a Poet too,
  He doth create and so do you)
    Or else at least
What Angel sate upon thy Pen when thou didst write?
  There he sate and mov'd thy Hand  30
    As proud of his Command,
As when he makes the dancing Orbs to reel,
  And Spins out Poetry from Heaven's Wheel.
  Thy Hand too, like a better Sphear,
Gives us more ravishing Musick, made for Men to hear.
  Thy Hand too like the Sun which Angels move,
    Has the same Influence from above,
  Produces Gold and Silver of a nobler Kind;
    Of greater Price and more refin'd.
Yet in this it exceeds the Sun, 't has no degenerate Race,  40
  Brings forth no Lead, nor any thing so base.
    What holy vestal Hearth,
      What immortal Breath,
  Did give so pure Poetick Flame its Birth?
      Just such a Fire as thine,
    Of such an unmixt glorious Shine,
      Was Prometheus's Flame,  [1716: Flames,
    Which from no less than Heav'n came,
    Along he brought the sparkling Coal,
    From some Coelestial Chimney stole,  50
    Quickly the plundred Stars he left,
      And as he hastned down
    With the robb'd Flames his Hands stil shone,
  And seem'd as if they were burnt for the Theft;
  Thy Poetry's compounded of the same,
    Such a Bright Immortal Flame,
    Just so temper'd is thy Rage,
    Thy Fires as Light, and pure as they,
  And go as high as his did, if not higher,
    That thou may'st seem to us  60
    A true Prometheus,
But that thou didst not steal the least Spark of thy Fire.
      Such as thine was Arion's Verse.
    Which he did to the list'ning Fish rehearse;
    Which when they heard play'd on his Lute,
  They first curst Nature that she made them Mute.
So noble were his Lines, which made the very Waves
    Strive to turn his Slaves,
    Lay down their boistrous Noise,
  And dance to his harmonious Voice,  70
    Which made the Sirens lend their Ear,
  And from his sweeter Tunes some Treachery fear.
    Which made the Dolphin proud,
    That he was allow'd,
With Atlas, the great Porter of the Skies, to take
Such Heav'nly Musick up, and carry't on his Back.
    So full and graceful thy Words go,
  And with the same Majestick Sweetness flow,
  Yet his Verse only carry'd him o'er the Seas,
  But there's a very Sea of Wit in these,  80
As Salt and Boundless as the other Ocean is.
  Such as thine are, was great Amphion's Song,
    Which brought the wond'ring Stones along;
  The wond'ring Stones skipt from their Mother Earth,
  And left their Father Cold, as his first Birth  [1716: Breath,
They rose, and knew not by what magick Force they hung.
    So were his Words, so plac'd his Sounds,
  Which forc'd the Marbles rise from out their Grounds,
    Which cut and carved, and made them shine,
  A Work which can be out-done by none but thine.  90
  The amazed Poet saw the Building rise,
    And knew not how to trust his Eyes:
  The willing Mortar came, and all the Trees
    Leapt into Beams he sees.
    He saw the Streets appear,
  Streets, that must needs be Harmonious there:
    He saw the Walls dance round t' his Pipe,
    The Glorious Temple shew its Head,
    He saw the Infant City ripe,
And all like the Creation by a Word was Bred.  100
So great a Verse is thine, which tho' it will not raise
    Marble Monuments to thy Praise;
  Yet 'tis no matter, Cities they must fall,
And Houses, by the greatest Glutton Time be Eaten all:
    But thy Verse builds a Fame for thee,
  Which Fire cannot devour, nor Purifie,
    Which Sword and Thunder doth defie,
As round, and full, as the great Circle of Eternity.
    To thee the English Tongue doth owe;
      That it need not seek,  110
  For Elegancy from the round-Mouth'd Greek;
  To thee, that Roman Poets now may hide,
    In their own Latium, their Head:
  To thee, that our enlarged Speech can shew,
  Far more than the three Western Daughters Born
  Out of the Ashes of the Roman Urn:
Daughters Born of a Mother, which did yield to admit,
The adulterate Seed of several Tongues with it:
More than the smooth Italian, tho' Nature gave
That Tongue in Poetry a Genius to have.  120
  And that she might the better fit it to't,
    Made the very Land a Foot,
  More than the Spanish, tho' that in one Mass,
  The Moorish, Jewish, Gothish Treasures has,
  And Just as in their Kingdom, in their Tongue,
  Most Quarters of the Earth together throng.
  More than the Courtly French, tho' that doth pace,
    And not Trot o'er the Tongue its Race:
That has not any Thing, so elaborate Wit;
Tho' it by its sliding seems to have more Oil in it.  130
  Thy Soul hath gone thro' all the Muses Track;
  Where never Poets Feet were seen before,
  Hath pass'd those Sands where others left their Wrecks,
And Sailed an Ocean thro' which some thought had no Shore,
  Thy Spirit has discover'd all Poetry;
  Thou found'st no Tropicks in the Poets Sky.
More than the Sun can do, hast brought a sacred Flower
To mount Parnassus; and hast open'd to our Hand,
    Apollo's Holy Land,
  Which yet hid in the frigid Zone did lye.  140
    Thou hast Sail'd the Muses Globe;  [1716: Globes
Not as the other Drake, or Ca'ndish did, to Rob.
    Thou hast brought Home the Treasure too,
    Which yet no Spaniard can claim his due:
    Thou hast search'd thro' every Creek,
From the East-Indies of the Poets World, the Greek,
    To the America of wit,
  Which was last-known, and has most Gold in it.
    That Mother-Tongue which we do speak,
  This World thy greater Spirit has run through,  150
    And view'd and conquer'd too,
  A World as round and large as th' other is,
  And yet in it there can be no Antipodes,
  For none hereafter will go contrary to you.
  Poets 'till now deserv'd Excuse, not Praise,
'Till now the Muses liv'd in Taverns, and the Bays,
    That they were truly Trees did shew,
Because by sucking Liquor they did only grow.
  Verses were counted Fiction, and a Lie
    The very Nature of good Poetry.  160
  He was a Poet that cou'd speak least Truth,
    Sober and grave Men scorn'd the Name,
    Which once was thought the greatest Fame.
Poets had nought else of Apollo, but his Youth:
  Few ever spake in Rhime, but that their Feet
  The Trencher of some liberal Man might meet,
  Or else they did some rotten Mistress paint,
    Call her their Goddess, or their Saint.
Tho' contrary in this, they to their Master run,
    For the great God of Wit, the Sun,  170
  When he doth shew his Mistress, the white Moon,
He makes her Spots, as well as Beauty, to be shewn.
'Till now the Sisters were too Old, and therefore grew
    Extreamly Fabulous too:
  'Till you, Sir came, they were despis'd;
    They were all Heathens yet,
  Nor ever into the Church could get;
And tho' they had a Font so long, yet never were Baptiz'd.
  You, Sir, have rais'd the Price of Wit,
  By bringing in more Store if it:  180
  Poetry the Queen of Arts can now,
    Reign without dissembling too.
You have shewed a Poet must not needs be bad;
    That one may be Apollo's Priest,
And be fill'd with his Oracles without being Mad:
  'Till now, Wit was a Curse (as to Lot's Wife,
      'Twas to be turn'd to Salt)
  Because it made Men lead a Life,
  Which was nought else but one continual Fault.
  You first the Muses to the Christians brought,  190
  And you then first the holy Language taught:
  In you good Poetry and Divinity meet,
  You are the first Bird of Paradise with Feet.
    Your Miscellanies do appear,
Just such another glorious Indigested Heap,
      As the first Mass was, where
    All Heav'ns and Stars inclosed were,
  Before they each one to their place did leap.
  Before God the great Censor them bestow'd,
According to their Ranks, in several tribes abroad;  200
      Whilst yet Sun and Moon
  Were in perpetual Conjunction;
  Whilst all the Stars were but one Milky Way,
    And in natural Embraces lay.
  Whilst yet none of the Lamps of Heav'n might
  Call this their own, and that another's Light.
    So glorious a Lump is thine,
Which Chymistry may separate, but not refine:
  So mixt, so pure, so united does it shine,
A Chain of Sand, of which each Link is all Divine.  210
  Thy Mistress shews, that Cupid is not always Blind,
  Where we a pure exalted Muse do find,
Such as may well become a glorified Mind.
  Such Songs tune Angels when they Love,
And do make Courtship to some Sister Mind above.
  (For Angels need not scorn such soft Desires,
  Seeing thy Heart is touch'd with the same Fires.)
    So when they cloath themselves in Flesh,
  And their Light in some human Shapes do dress,
  (For which they fetch'd Stuff from the Neighbouring Air:)  220
  So when they stoop, to like some mortal Fair,
    Such Words, such Odes as thine they use,
  With such soft Strains, Love into her Heart infuse,
Thy Love is on the Top, if not above Mortality;
    Clean, and from Corruption free,
Such as Affections in Eternity shall be;
    Which shall remain unspotted there,
    Only to shew what once they were:
    Thy Cupid's Shafts all Golden are;
Thy Venus has the Salt, but not the Froth o'th' Sea.  230
    Thy high Pindaricks soar
So high, where never any Wing 'till now could get;
      And yet thy Wit
  Doth seem so great, as those that do fly lower.
    Thou stand'st on Pindar's Back;
  And therefore thou a higher Flight dost take:
  Only thou art the Eagle, he the Wren,
    Thou has brought him from the Dust,
      And made him live again.
Pindar has left his Barbarous Greece, and thinks it just  240
  To be led by thee to the English Shore,
An Honour to him, Alexander did no more,
Nor scarce so much, when he did save his House before.
      When his Word did asswage,
    A warlike Army's violent Rage:
    Thou hast given to his Name,
Than that great Conqueror sav'd him from, a brighter Flame.
He only left some Walls where Pindar's Name might stay,
    Which with Time and Age decay:
  But thou hast made him once again to live;  250
  thou didst to him new Life and Breathing give.
  And as in the last Resurrection,
Thou hast made him rise more glorious, and put on
More Majesty; a greater Soul is given to him, by you,
Than ever he in happy Thebes, or Greece could shew.
      Thy David too----
    But hold thy headlong Pace, my Muse;
    None but the Priest himself doth use
    Into the holy'st Place to go.
    Check thy young Pindarick Heat,  260
    Which makes thy Pen too much to Sweat;
      'Tis but an Infant yet,
      And just now left the Teat,
    By Cowley's matchless Pattern Nurst:
      Therefore it is not fit,
  That it should dare to speak so much at first.
    No more, no more for shame.
Let not thy Verse be as his Worth is, Infinite:
It is enough that thou hast learn'd, and spoke thy Father's Name.
  He that thinks, Sir, he can enough praise you,  270
  Had need of brazen Lungs and Forehead too.
[from The Fourth Part of Miscellany Poems (1716); British Library copy // Johnson's text of this poem]
Vpon two greene Apricockes sent to Cowley
by Sir [Richard]

TAke these, times tardy truants, sent by me,
To be chastis'd (sweet friend) and chide by thee,
Pale sons of our Pomona! whose wan cheekes
Have spent the patience of expecting weekes,
Yet are scarce ripe enough at best to show
The redd, but of the blush to thee they ow.
By thy comparrison they shall put on
More summer in their shames reflection,
Than ere the fruitfull Phoebus flaming kisses
Kindled on their cold lips. O had my wishes  10
And the deare merits of your Muse, their due,
The yeare had found some fruit early as you;
Ripe as those rich composures time computes
Blossoms, but our blest tast confesses fruits.
How does thy April-Autumne mocke these cold
Progressions 'twixt whose termes poor time grows old?
With thee alone he weares no beard, thy braine
Gives him the morning worlds fresh gold againe.
'Twas only Paradice, 'tis onely thou,
Whose fruit and blossoms both blesse the same bough.  20
Proud in the patterne of thy pretious youth,
Nature (methinks) might easily mend her growth.
Could she in all her births but coppie thee,
Into the publick yeares proficiencie,
No fruit should have the face to smile on thee
(Young master of the worlds maturitie)
But such whose sun-borne beauties what they borrow
Of beames to day, pay back againe to morrow,
Nor need be double-gilt. How then must these,
Poore fruites looke pale at thy Hesperides!  30
Faine would I chide their slownesse, but in their
Defects I draw mine owne dull character.
Take them, and me in them acknowledging,
How much my summer waites upon thy spring.
[from Delights of the Muses (1648); Folger Library copy]

Upon Mr. Abraham Cowley's Retirement.
Katherine Philips.

NO, no, unfaithful World, thou hast
Too long my easie Heart betray'd,
And me too long thy Foot-ball made:
  But I am wiser grown at last,
And will improve by all that I have past.
I know 'twas just I should be practis'd on;
    For I was told before,
And told in sober and instructive lore,
How little all that trusted thee have won:
And yet I would make haste to be undone.  10
Now by my suff'ring I am better taught,
And shall no more commit that stupid fault.
    Go, get some other Fool,
    Whom thou mayst next cajole:
On me thy frowns thou dost in vain bestow;
      For I know how
To be as coy and as reserv'd as thou.  [1678: reserv'e
In my remote and humble seat
    Now I'm again possest
Of that late fugitive, my Breast,  20
From all thy tumults and from all thy heat
I'le find a quiet and a cool retreat;
  And on the Fetters I have worn
Look with experienc'd and revengeful scorn
  In this my sov'raign Privacy.
  'Tis true I cannot govern thee,
  But yet my self I may subdue;
And that's the nobler Empire of the two.
  If evry Passion had got leave
  Its satisfaction to receive,  30
Yet I would it a higher pleasure call,
To conquer one, then to indulge them all.
  For thy inconstant Sea, no more
  I'le leave that safe and solid Shore:
  No, though to prosper in the cheat,
Thou shouldst my Destiny defeat,
And make me be Belov'd, or Rich, or Great:
  Nor from my self shouldst me reclaim
With all the noise and all the pomp of Fame.
  Judiciously I'le these despise;  40
Too small the Bargain, and too great the Price,
    For them to cozen twice.
  At length this secret I have learn'd;
Who will be happy, must be unconcern'd,
Must all their Comfort in their Bosom wear,
And seek their treasure and their power there.
  No other Wealth will I aspire,
  But that of Nature to admire;
Nor envy on a Laurel will bestow,
Whil'st I have any in my Garden grow.  50
    And when I would be Great,
    'Tis but ascending to a Seat
Which Nature in a lofty Rock hath built;
A Throne as free from trouble as from guilt.
  Where when my Soul her wings does raise
  Above what Worldlings fear or praise,
With innocent and quiet pride I'll sit,
And see the humble waves pay tribute to my feet.
O Life Divine, when free from joys diseas'd,
Not always merry, but 'tis always pleas'd!  60
  A Heart, which is too great a thing
To be a Present for a Persian King,
Which God himself would have to be his Court,
Where Angels would officiously resort,
  From its own height should much decline,
  If this Converse it should resign
    (Ill-natur'd World!) for thine.
Thy unwise rigour hath thy Empire lost;
  It hath not onely set me free,
    But it hath made me see,  70
They onely can of thy possession boast,
Who do enjoy thee least, and understand thee most.
For lo, the Man whom all Mankind admir'd,
(By ev'ry Grace adorn'd, and ev'ry Muse inspir'd)
  Is now triumphantly retir'd.
  The mighty Cowley this hath done,
And over thee a Parthian Conquest won:
Which future Ages shall adore,
And which in this subdues thee more
Then either Greek or Roman ever could before.  80
[from Poems (1678); Duke University copy]

Some grateful Acknowledgments to
that most excellent Poet, Mr.
A. C.
By Thomas Shipman.

HEnceforth, my Muse, more boldly claim the Bays,
Ennobled now by Cowley's generous Praise.
Apollo here has silver'd o're thy shades:
Thus Lords can Ladies make of Chamber-maids.
Thou art a royal Miss, and now must get
No lesser Honour than a Coronet.
Nay, richer Blessings Cowley's Praises share;
Now thou'lt be thought both vertuous and fair.
Such plenteous Contributions to the Poor,
Proclaim his Soul as large as is his store.  10
The Sun is no less glorious in his Blaze,
Although he gild the lower World with Rays.
His Beams thou must reflect, and grateful prove,
And nourish in thy Breast his kindling Love.
'Twill bring effects worthy his virtual Powers,
Making thee pregnant both in Fruits and Flowers.
For that which blossoms not with Cowley's Praise,
Is but a sapless branch of wither'd Bays,
Warm'd vainly by Apollo's quickning Rays.
Without his Light, vain are the quickest Eyes;  20
His influence, ev'n from Dust, makes Insects rise.
Such mighty Sums 'tis easi'r to repay
When they're not lent, but freely giv'n away.
Like heav'nly Blessings upon thee bestow'd,
To make thee thankful and thy Works more good.
     Hail God of Wit! England's Apollo, hail!
Thou art no Off-spring of an idle Tale,
Like Homer's Deity. But since that fame
All Ages gave him, is thy proper claim;
Accept the Veneration and the Name.  30
Fulfill'd in thee is what the Ancients feign,
And Pallas is the issue of thy Brain,
As th' Muses of thy Wit: when safely laid,
Of thy first-sheets their swathing Cloaths were made.
Others there are would thy fair Off-spring claim;
Theirs (by their want of heed) o're-laid or lame.
But when it comes to Tryal they resign;
Justice decrees the Living Child for thine.
    The Muse's Empire bears so great a Name,
Thou hast two Rivals in thy Lady-Fame;  40
Waller and Donne. You are the only three
Who justly can pretend that Monarchy.
Donne's Judgment, Fancy, Humour, and his Wit,
Strong, searching, happy, and before ne're hit,
Gives him a fair pretence to climb the Throne;
But Waller rather stops than plucks him down.
Rich he appears; his courtly Vesture grac'd
With golden Similes all over lac'd.
But Cowley (like the Infant of the Sun)
Out-glitters Waller, and ev'n dazzles Donne.  50
Both of 'em, to Augustus, leave the Field;
Like Lepidus and Anthony, they yield.
He triumphs! their triumv'racy of Rays
Unite in Cowley and compound his blaze.
[from Carolina, or, Loyal Poems (1683);
      Bodleian copy]

[Parodic rejoinder to Poems (1656)]
On the ingenuous Poet Mr. Cowley.
A Pyndarique Ode.
I Can't now comprehend unless I'me taught
To write a strein above my self, aloft:
If that my Muse would honour him with a Song,
  It must first learn to chat in th' Hebrew tongue.
    Stand off thou Poetaster (1) from the Press,  [1658: pygni'st
      Who pygmi'st Martyrs with thy dwarf-like verse
    Whose white, long bearded flame of Zeal aspires,
  To wrack their Ashes, more than did their Fires.
Confine not this our Poet to thy Black, durty Ink,
  Lest thou bespot his name, and make it stink.
Hand then at Quill, that's plundred in the sight
  Of Mercury, whil'st he beat's by flight.
    He muster'd up the Forces of his Armes,
    Ordred each Wing for to escape the charms
  Of the easie conquer'd Air, and shall not I
      Alarum now the Muses Chevalry?
      And beat up the Head-quarters of my strength,
    Whose power drawn out, may help my soul at length,
  To finde his Ambuscado'd Verses out,
Which on all sides besiege me round about.
I here condemn plain Seneca's crumpled style,
  And Sentence, Cicero's longer by a mile.
For neither spand'd him; none can speak his worth
More fully, then a stiff-neck't Holder forth,
  Who draws his mouth at large, spins out his lungs
    And ne're is tir'd with tuning holy Songs,
      Whose surly Ela's note he far exceeds,
        For body'd Angels cloth'd in Ladies weeds (2)
    Can only throat him, whose virtues cannot brook
    A spirit's knowledge through a single look.
  That vaste Triumvirate's Poetique hand
Which dig'd graves for lost sense in words, is damn'd
  By Him, and must at last grant His the better,
  Who buries Mysteries in every letter.
  Antiquity is fettred in their Verses;
Long hangers (3) on each side the Printer Presse's,
Rais'd on the Publique Faith, for the defence
Of their benighted, and most doubtful sense:
But stay!
  That jolly Trine if any any Eye will round,
A flock of Books in sheep's clothes (4) may be found;
But his Muse mounts enrob'd in Noon-day glory,
    Candied with light, as if his head were hoary.
First dipped in those sacred streams with thee,
And when ground up coated with purity.
His Fancy in Black-art (5) mourning owns the name
    Of a dark lanthorn'd Dungeon to a flame.
    Whilest I the letters, and the clear sense find,
    My weaker Eye can't reach the Soul behinde.
      So that in reverence my head is bow'd,
Thinking of Juno clothed in a Cloud.
    Like that dunc't wit, how does my willing hand
Scribble that out, which I can't understand (6)!
    For feigned ill Husbandry let none thee mock,
    Who ever heard that Poets e're did smock
  Their naked coin in Napkins: frank they be
  Both of their Jests, and of their Money free.
    That Ethnick Priest (7) which did attire his Pelf
With th' same Trunk-breeches which he wore himself
Whilst in his wooden Pulpit stuff apparel'd
Did seem a Hogshead in an Hogshead barrel'd:
Had he but known the Grecian would disjoynt,
And burst in two stout Vulcan's Iron point,
Which tied th' luxurious placquet of his Chest
In th' Italian Mode, that deifi'd it might rest
    Coop't up t' one master: that subtle cub
    Had strait unbutton'd the Codpiss of his Tub,
    And brok up his soon cooled Zeal in haste
    To save his Gold from running out in the waste,
I dare not Poet christen him by birth,
  Who Atheist like ador'd that guilded Earth;
    This onely common I hold fast with thee,
    I scorn such dirt, and worship Poetrie.
A Knocking Poet (8) sure, who joyntly beds
Nine lusty Girles, which bow their Maiden-heads
To Him, and straightway left the Sacred Hill
  For to attend upon his sainted Quill.
Could my weak flutt'ring soul to heaven flie,
  Through the shuffled Clouds of Maskt Divinity,
Begot by him; there then my Muses Taper (9)
Breathing its last, would from its socket caper;
To see a vision of him in a sound,
Would in deep contemplation my soul drown'd.
1. One Billingley wrote a Martyrology in Verse, Anno 1657.
2. In contradistinction to Ladies Flowers.
3. O bawdry!
4. Sure the Authour's wits went on wool-gathering here.
5. Now he conjures.
6. Sanat confessio crimen.
7. All this I don't understand.
8. A Ring for the Author --
9. Olet lucernam.
[from Thomas Jordan[?], Thomas Flatman[?],
Naps upon Parnassus (1658); British Library copy]

All texts normalized in the same way as Cowley's "Hymn to Light."
Thomas Sprat's Portrait and Works // Elegies on the Death // Poems Commending Plantarum // In Cowley's Shade
Prosary, or a Critical Garland // Crashaw's Life and Works / Dialogue on Hope // Back to Fugitive Pieces