The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

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

Written in praise of Theron Prince of Agrigentum (a famous City in Sicily built by his Ancestors) who in the seventy seventh Olympique won the Chariot-prize. He is commended from the Nobility of his Race (whose story is often toucht on) from his great Riches (an ordinary Common-Place in Pindar) from his Hospitality, Munificence, and other Virtues. The Ode (according to the constant custom of the Poet) consists more in Digressions, than in the main subject: And the Reader must not be chocqued to hear him speak so often of his own Muse; for that is a Liberty which this kind of Poetry can hardly live without.
1    Queen of all Harmonious things,
       Dancing Words, and Speaking Strings,
2       What God, what Hero wilt thou sing?
    What happy Man to equal glories bring?
       Begin, begin thy noble choice,
    And let the Hills around reflect the Image of thy Voice.
3       Pisa does to Jove belong,
       Jove and Pisa claim thy Song.
4    The fair First-fruits of War, th'Olympique Games,
       Alcides offered up to Jove;      10
       Alcides too thy strings may move;
    But, oh, what Man to join with these can worthy prove!
    Join Theron boldly to their sacred Names;
       Theron the next honour claims;
       Theron to no man gives place,
    Is first in Pisa's, and in Virtue's Race;
       Theron there, and he alone,
    Ev'n his own swift Forefathers has outgone.
1    They through rough ways, o're many stops they past,      20
       Till on the fatal bank at last
2    They Agrigentum built, the beauteous Eye
       Of fair-fac'ed Sicilie,
       Which does it self i'th' River by
       With Pride and Joy espy.
    Then chearful Notes their Painted Years did sing,
    And Wealth was one, and Honour th' other Wing.
    Their genuine Virtues did more sweet and clear,
       In Fortunes graceful dress appear.
3       To which great Son of Rhea, say      30
    The Firm Word which forbids things to Decay.
       If in Olympus Top, where Thou
       Sit'st to behold thy Sacred Show,
4       If in Alpheus silver flight,
       If in my Verse thou dost delight,
       My Verse, O Rhea's Son, which is
       Lofty as that, and smooth as This.
       For the past sufferings of this noble Race
    (Since things once past, and fled out of thine hand,
       Hearken no more to thy command)
       Let present joys fill up their place,      40
1    And with Oblivions silent stroke deface
       Of foregone Ills the very trace.
       In no illustrious line
       Do these happy changes shine
       More brightly Theron than in thine.
2       So in the Chrystal Palaces
       Of the blew-ey'd Nereides
       Ino her endless youth does please,
       And thanks her fall into the Seas.
3       Beauteous Semele does no less      50
       Her cruel Midwife Thunder bless,
       Whilst sporting with the Gods on high,
4       She enjoys secure their Company,
       Plays with Lightnings as they fly,
    Nor trembles at the bright Embraces of the Deity.
    But Death did them from future dangers free,
       What God (alas) will Caution be
       For Living Mans securitie,
    Or will ensure our Vessel in this faithless Sea?
       Never did the Sun as yet      60
       So healthful a fair day beget,
1    That Travelling Mortals might rely on it.
       But Fortunes favour and her Spight
    Rowl with alternate Waves like Day and Night.
    Vicissitudes which thy great race pursue,
2    Ere since the fatal Son his Father slew,
       And did old Oracles fulfill
    Of Gods that cannot Lye, for they foretel but their own Will
1    Erynnis saw't, and made in her own seed      70
       The innocent Parricide to bleed,
2    She slew his wrathful Sons with mutual blows;
       But better things did then succeed,
3    And brave Thersander in amends for what was past arose.
       Brave Thersander was by none
       In war, or warlike sports out-done.
4    Thou Theron his great virtues dost revive,
    He in my Verse and Thee again does live.
       Loud Olympus happy Thee,
5    Isthmus and Nemea does twice happy see.
       For the well-natur'ed honour there      80
    Which with thy Brother thou didst share,
       Was to thee double grown
       By not being all thine Own.
    And those kind pious glories do deface
    The old Fraternal quarrel of thy Race.
1       Greatness of Mind and Fortune too
       The' Olympique Trophees shew.
       Both their several parts must do
       In the noble Chase of Fame,
    This without that is Blind, that without this is Lame.      90
    Nor is fair Virtues Picture seen aright
       But in Fortunes golden light.
    Riches alone are of uncertain date,
       And on short-Man long cannot wait.
       The Vertuous make of them the best,
    And put them out to Fame for Interest.
       With a frail good they wisely buy
    The solid Purchase of Eternity.
    They whilst Lifes air they breath, consider well and know      100
    Th'account they must hereafter give below.
    Whereas th'unjust and Covetous above,
       In deep unlovely vaults,
       By the just decrees of Jove
2       Unrelenting torments prove,
    The heavy Necessary effects of Voluntary Faults.
1    Whilst in the Lands of unexhausted Light
    O're which the God-like Suns unwearied sight,
       Ne're winks in Clouds, or Sleeps in Night,
    An endless Spring of Age the Good enjoy,
    Where neither Want does pinch, nor Plenty cloy.      110
       There neither Earth nor Sea they plow,
       Nor ought to Labour ow
    For Food, that whil'st it nour'ishes does decay,
    And in the Lamp of Life consumes away.
2    Thrice had these men through mortal bodies past,
       Did thrice the tryal undergo,
    Till all their little Dross was purg'd at last,
       The Furnace had no more to do.
       Then in rich Saturns peaceful state
3       Were they for sacred Treasures plac'ed,      120
    The Muse-discovered World of Islands Fortunate.
    Soft-footed Winds with tuneful voyces there
       Dance through the perfum'd Air.
    There Silver Rivers through enamell'd Meadows glide,
       And golden Trees enrich their side.
    Th'illustrious Leaves no dropping Autumn fear,
       And Jewels for their fruit they bear.
       Which by the Blest are gathered
    For Bracelets to the Arm, and Garlands to the Head.
    Here all the Hero's, and their Poets live,      130
1    Wise Rhadamanthus did the Sentence give,
       Who for his justice was thought fit
    With Soveraign Saturn on the Bench to sit.
       Peleus here, and Cadmus reign,
    Here great Achilles wrathful now no more,
       Since his blest Mother (who before
       Had try'd it on his Body' in vain)
       Dipt now his Soul in Stygian Lake,
    Which did from thence a divine Hardness take,
    That does from Passion and from Vice Invulnerable make.      140
    To Theron, Muse, bring back thy wandring Song,
    Whom those bright Troops expect impatiently;
       And may they do so long.
1    How, noble Archer, do thy wanton Arrows fly
    At all the Game that does but cross thine Eye?
       Shoot, and spare not, for I see
    Thy sounding Quiver can ne're emptied be;
    Let Art use Method and good Husbandry,
    Art lives on Natures Alms, is weak and poor;
    Nature herself has unexhausted store,      150
    Wallows in Wealth, and runs a turning Maze,
       That no vulgar Eye can trace.
       Art instead of mounting high,
    About her humble Food does hov'ering fly,
2    Like the ignoble Crow, rapine and noise does love,
    Whilst Nature, like the sacred Bird of Jove,
3    Now bears loud Thunder, and anon with silent joy
       The beauteous Phrygian Boy,
    Defeats the Strong, o'retakes the Flying prey;
4    And sometimes basks in th'open Flames of Day,      160
       And sometimes too he shrowds,
       His soaring wings among the Clouds.
    Leave, wanton Muse, thy roving flight,
    To thy loud String the well-fletcht Arrow put,
       Let Agrigentum be the But,
       And Theron be the White.
       And lest the Name of Verse should give
    Malitious men pretext to misbelieve,
       By the Castalian waters swear,
    (A sacred Oath no Poets dare      170
       To take in vain,
1    No more then Gods do that of Styx prophane)
       Swear in no City e're before,
    A better man, or greater-soul'd was born,
       Swear that Theron sure has sworn
       No man near him should be poor.
    Swear that none e're had such a graceful art,
    Fortunes free gifts as freely to impart
    With an Unenvious band, and an unbounded Heart.
       But in this thankless world the Givers      180
       Are envi'ed ev'en by the Receivers.
       'Tis now the cheap and frugal fashion,
    Rather to Hide then Pay the Obligation.
       Nay 'tis much worse than so,
       It now an Artifice does grow,
       Wrongs and outrages to do,
       Lest men should think we ow.
    Such Monsters, Theron, has thy Vertue found,
       But all the malice they profess,
       Thy secure Honour cannot wound:      190
    For thy vast Bounties are so numberless,
    That them or to Conceal, or else to Tell,
       Is equally Impossible.

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