The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

Against and For Hope

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

(Click here for "On Hope," a verse dialogue between Cowley and Richard Crashaw

Against Hope
HOpe, whose weak Being ruin'd is,
Alike if it succeed, and if it miss;
Whom Good or Ill does equally confound,
And both the Horns of Fates Dilemma wound,
   Vain shadow! which dost vanish quite,
   Both at full Noon, and perfect Night!
The Stars have not a possibility
   Of blessing Thee;
If things then from their End we happy call,
'Tis Hope is the most Hopeless thing of all.  10
   Hope, thou bold Taster of Delight,
Who whilst thou shouldst but tast, devour'st it quite!
Thou bringst us an Estate, yet leav'st us Poore,
By clogging it with Legacies before!
   The Joys which we entire should wed,
   Come deflowr'd Virgins to our bed;
Good fortunes without gain imported be,
   Such mighty Custom's paid to Thee.
For Joy, like Wine, kept close does better taste;
If it take air before, his spirits waste.  20
   Hope, Fortunes cheating Lotterie!
Where for one prize an hundred blanks there be;
Fond Archer, Hope, who tak'st thy aim so far,
That still or short or wide thine arrows are!
   Thin, empty Cloud, which th'eye deceives
   With shapes that our own Fancy gives!
A Cloud, which gilt and painted now appears,
   But must drop presently in tears!
When thy false beams o're Reasons light prevail,
By Ignes fatui for North-Stars we sail.
   Brother of Fear, more gaily clad!
The merr'ier Fool o'th' two, yet quite as Mad:
Sire of Repentance, Childe of fond Desire!
That blow'st the Chymicks, and the Lovers fire!
   Leading them still insensibly 'on
   By the strange witchcraft of Anon!
By Thee the one does changing Nature through
   Her endless Labyrinths pursue,
And th'other chases Woman, whilst She goes
More ways and turns than hunted Nature knows.  40
For Hope
HOpe, of all Ills that men endure,
The onely cheap and Universal Cure!
Thou Captives freedom, and Thou sick Mans Health!
Thou Losers Victo'ry, and thou Beggars wealth!
   Thou Manna, which from Heav'n we eat,
   To every Taste a several Meat!
Thou strong Retreat! thou sure entail'd Estate,
   Which nought has power to alienate!
Thou pleasant, honest Flatterer! for none
Flatter unhappy Men, but thou alone!  10
   Hope, thou First-fruits of Happiness!
Thou gentle Dawning of a bright Success!
Thou good Prepar'ative, without which our Joy
Does work too strong, and whilst it cures, destroy;
   Who out of Fortunes reach dost stand,
   And art a blessing still in hand!
Whilst Thee, her Earnest-Money we retain,
   We certain are to gain,
Whether she'her bargain break, or else fulfill;
Thou only good, not worse, for ending ill!  20
   Brother of Faith, 'twixt whom and Thee
The joys of Heav'n and Earth divided be!
Though Faith be Heir, and have the fixt estate,
Thy Portion yet in Moveables is great.
   Happiness it self's all one
   In Thee, or in possession!
Onely the Future's Thine, the present His!
   Thine's the more hard and noble bliss;
Best apprehender of our joys, which hast
So long a reach, and yet canst hold so fast!  30
   Hope, thou sad Lovers onely Friend!
Thou Way that mayst dispute it with the End!
For Love I fear's a fruit that does delight
The Tast it self less than the Smell and Sight.
   Fruition more deceitful is
   Than Thou canst be, when thou dost miss;
Men leave thee by obtaining, and strait flee
   Some other way again to Thee;
And that's a pleasant Countrey, without doubt,
To which all soon return that travel out.  40

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