The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

The Praise of Pindar
In Imitation of Horace his second Ode, B. 4.

Pindarum quisquis studet æmulari, &c.

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

1    PIndar is imitable by none;
          The Phœnix Pindar is a vast Species alone.
    Who e're but Dædalus with waxen wings could fly,
    And neither sink too low, nor soar too high?
          What could he who follow'd claim,
    But of vain boldness the unhappy fame,
          And by his fall a Sea to name?
          Pindars unnavigable Song
    Like a swoln Flood from some steep Mountain pours along.
          The Ocean meets with such a Voice      10
    From his enlarged Mouth, as drowns the Oceans noise.
    So Pindar does new Words and Figures roul
1    Down his impetuous Dithyrambique Tide,
          Which in no Channel deigns t'abide,
2          Which neither Banks nor Dikes controul.
          Whether th' Immortal Gods he sings
          In a no less Immortal strain,
3    Or the great Acts of God descended Kings,
    Who in his Numbers still survive and Reign.
          Each rich embroidered Line,      20
       Which their triumphant Brows around,
          By his sacred Hand is bound,
4    Does all their starry Diadems outshine.
    Whether at Pisa's race he please
1    To carve in polisht Verse the Conquer'ors Images,
2    Whether the Swift, the Skilful, or the Strong,
    Be crowned in his Nimble, Artful, Vigorous Song:
3    Whether some brave young man's untimely fate
    In words worth Dying for he celebrate,
          Such mournful, and such pleasing words,      30
    As joy to'his Mothers and his Mistress grief affords:
          He bids him Live and Grow in fame,
4          Among the Stars he sticks his Name:
    The Grave can but the Dross of him devour,
    So small is Deaths, so great the Poets power.
    Lo, how th'obsequious Wind, and swelling Ayr
1          The Theban Swan does upwards bear
    Into the walks of Clouds, where he does play,
    And with extended Wings opens his liquid way.
       Whilst, alas, my tim'erous Muse      40
       Unambitious tracks pursues;
       Does with weak unballast wings,
       About the mossy Brooks and Springs;
       About the Trees new-blossom'ed Heads,
       About the Gardens painted Beds,
       About the Fields and flowry Meads,
       And all inferior beauteous things
          Like the laborious Bee,
       For little drops of Honey flee,
    And there with Humble Sweets contents her Industrie.      50

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."
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