The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

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

Nascentes Morimur. Manil.

1    We're ill by these Grammarians us'd;
        We are abus'd by Words, grosly abus'd;
          From the Maternal Tomb,
          To the Graves fruitful Womb,
        We call here Life; but Life's a name
        That nothing here can truly claime:
    This wretched Inn, where we scarce stay to baite,
          We call our Dwelling-place;
          We call one Step a Race:
    But Angels in their full enlightned state,
Angels who Live, and know what 'tis to Bee,
2    Who all the nonsense of our Language see,
    Who speak Things, and our Words, their ill-drawn Pictures scorn,
          When we by'a foolish Figure say,
3          Behold an old man Dead! then they
    Speak properly, and cry, Behold a man-childe born.
          My Eyes are opened, and I see
          Through the Transparent Fallacie:
          Because we seem wisely to talk
    Like men of business; and for business walk
          From place to place,
        And mighty voyages we take,
        And mighty Journeys seem to make,
1    O're Sea and Land, the little Point that has no space.
        Because we fight, and Battels gain;
    Some Captives call, and say, the rest are slain.
    Because we heap up yellow Earth, and so,
    Rich, valiant, wise, and vertuous seem to grow;
    Because we draw a long Nobilitie
2    From Hieroglyphick proofs of Heraldrie,
    And impudently talk of a Posteritie,
3        And, like Egyptian Chroniclers,
        Who write of twenty thousand years,
4        With Maravedies make the' account,
    That single Time might to a sum amount,
    We grow at last by Custom to believe,
        That really we Live.
    Whilst all these Shadows that for Things we take,
    Are but the empty Dreams which in Deaths sleep we make.
    But these fantastique errors of our Dream,
        Lead us to solid wrong;
    We pray God, our Friends torments to prolong,
    And wish uncharitably for them,
        To be as long a Dying as Methusalem.
    The ripened Soul longs from his pris'on to come,
    But we would seal, and sow up, if we could, the Womb.
    We seek to close and plaster up by Art
    The cracks and breaches of the' extended Shell,
        And in that narrow Cell
        Would rudely force to dwell,
    The noble vigorous Bird already wing'd to part.

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