The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

To Dr. Scarborough
from Pindarique Odes  [IX.],  Poems (1656; editor's copy)

    HOw long, alas! has our mad Nation been
    Of Epidemick War the Tragick Scene,
             Whilst Slaughter all the while
    Seem'd like its Sea, embracing round the Isle,  [1656: to embrace
    With Tempests, and red waves, Noise, and Affright?
    Albion no more, nor to be nam'ed from white!
    What Province, or what City did it spare?
    It, like a Plague, infected all the Aire.
             Sure the unpeopled Land
    Would now untill'd, desert, and naked stand,      10
             Had Gods All-mighty hand
    At the same time let loose Diseases rage
             Their Civil Wars in Man to wage.
             But Thou by Heaven wert sent
             This Desolation to prevent,
    A Medicine and a Counter-poyson to the Age,
    Scarce could the Sword dispatch more to the Grave,
             Then Thou didst save;
    By wondrous Art, and by successful care
    The Ruines of a Civil War thou dost alone repair.      20
1    The Inundations of all Liquid pain,
             And Deluge Dropsie thou do'est drain.
             Feavers so hot that one would say
             Thou mightst as soon Hell-fires allay
    (The Damn'd scarce more incurable then They)
2             Thou dost so temper, that we find
             Like Gold the Body but refin'd;
             No unhealthful dross behind.
    The subtle Ague, that for sureness sake
    Takes its own times th' assault to make,      30
    And at each battery the whole Fort does shake,
             When thy strong Guards, and works it spies,
                   Trembles for it self, and flies.
             The cruel Stone that restless pain
                   That's sometimes roll'd away in vain,
3    But still, like Sisyphus his stone, returns again,
    Thou break'st and meltest by learn'd Juyces force,
    (A greater work, though short the way appear,
4                   Then Hannibals by Vinegar)
       Oppressed Natures necessary course      40
                   It stops in vain, like Moses, Thou
    Strik'st but the Rock, and straight the Waters freely flow.
    The Indian Son of Lust, that foul Disease
    Which did on this his new-found World, but lately sease;
    Yet since a Tyrannie has planted here,
    As wide and Cruel as the Spaniard there,
             Is so quite rooted out by Thee,
             That thy Patients seem to be
    Restor'ed not to Health onely, but Virginitie,
    The Plague himself, that proud Imperial Ill      50
    Which destroys Towns, and does whole Armies kill,
    If thou but succour the besieged Heart,
    Calls all his poysons forth, and does depart,
             As if he fear'd no less thy Art,
    Then Aarons Incense, or then Phineas dart.
    What need there here repeated be by me
             The vast and barbarous Lexicon
                   Of Mans Infirmitie?
             At thy strong charms it must be gon
    Though a Disease, as well as Devil, were called Legion.      60
    From creeping Moss to soaring Cedar thou,
    Dost all the powers and several Portions know,
    Which Father-Sun, Mother-Earth below
             On their green Infants here bestow.
    Can'st all those Magick Virtues from them draw,
             That keep Disease, and Death in aw.
    Who whilst thy wondrous skill in Plants they see,
    Fear lest the Tree of Life should be found out by Thee.
    And Thy well-travell'd knowledge too does give
    No less account of th'Empire Sensitive,      70
             Chiefly of Man, whose Body is
             That active Souls Metropolis.
1    As the great Artist in his Sphere of Glass
    Saw the whole Scene of Heav'enly Motions pass,
    So thou know'st all so well that's done within,
    As if some living Chrystal Man thou'dst seen.
    Nor does this Science make thy Crown alone,
1             But whole Apollo is thine owne.
    His gentler Arts, belov'ed in vain by Mee,
             Are wedded and enjoy'd by Thee.      80
             Thou'rt by this noble Mixture free
    From the Physitians frequent Maladie,
             Fantastick Incivilitie,
    There are who all their Patients chagrin have,
    As if they took each morn worse potions then they gave.
    And this great race of Learning thou hast runne,
             E're that of Life be half yet done.
             Thou see'st thy self still fresh and strong,
             And like t'enjoy thy Conquests long.
2    The first fam'd Aphorism thy great Master spoke,      90
             Did he live now he would revoke,
             And better things of Man report;
    For thou do'est make Life long, and Art but short.
    Ah, learned friend, it grieves me, when I think
             That Thou with all thy Art must dy
                   As certainly as I.
1    And all thy noble Reparations sink
    Into the sure-wrought Mine of treacherous Mortality,
    Like Archimedes, hon'orably in vain,
2    Thou holdst out Towns that must at last be ta'ne,      100
    And Thou thy self their great Defendor slain.
    Let's ev'en compound, and for the Present Live,
    'Tis all the Ready Money Fate can give,
             Unbend sometimes thy restless care;
             And let thy Friends so happy be
             T'enjoy at once their Health and Thee.
    Some hours at least to thine own pleasures spare.
    Since the whole stock may soon exhausted be,
             Bestow't not all in Charitie.
    Let Nature, and let Art do what they please,      110
    When all's done, Life is an Incurable Disease.

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