The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive

On the Queens Repairing Somerset House
from Works (1668; editor's copy)

WHen God (the Cause to Me and Men unknown)
Forsook the Royal Houses, and his Own,
And both abandon'd to the Common Foe;
How near to ruine did my Glories go?
Nothing remain'd t' adorn this Princely place
Which Covetous hands could Take, or Rude Deface.
In all my rooms and galleries I found
The richest Figures torn, and all around
Dismembred Statues of great Heroes lay;
Such Naseby's Field seem'd on the fatal Day.  10
And Me, when nought for Robbery was left,
They starv'd to death; the gasping walls were cleft,
The Pillars sunk, the Roofs above me wept,
No sign of Spring, or Joy, my Garden kept,
Nothing was seen which could content the Eye,
Till Dead the impious Tyrant Here did lye.
      See how my face is chang'd, and what I am
Since my true Mistress, and now Foundress, came.
It does not fill her Bounty to restore
Me as I was (nor was I small) before.  20
She imitates the Kindness to Her shown;
She does, like Heaven (which the dejected Throne
At once restores, fixes, and higher rears.)
Strengthen, Enlarge, Exalt what she Repairs.
And now I dare (though proud I must not be,
Whil'st my great Mistress I so Humble see
In all her various Glories) now I dare
Ev'n with the proudest Palaces compare,
My Beauty, and Convenience will (I'm sure)
So just a boast with Modesty endure.  30
And all must to me yield, when I shall tell,
How I am plac'd, and Who does in me dwell.
      Before my Gate a Street's broad Channel goes,
Which still with Waves of crowding people flows,
And every day there passes by my side,
Up to its Western Reach, the London Tide,
The Spring-Tides of the Term; my Front looks down
On all the Pride, and Business of the Town.
My other Front (for as in Kings we see
The liveliest Image of the Deity,  40
We in their Houses should Heaven's likeness find,
Where nothing can be said to be Behind)
My other fair and more Majestick Face
(Who can the Fair to more advantage place?)
For ever gazes on it self below
In the best Mirrour that the world can show.
      And here, Behold, in a long bending row,
How two joynt Cities make one glorious Bow,
The Midst, the noblest place, possess'd by Me;
Best to be Seen by all, and all O'resee.  50
Which way soe'r I turn my joyful Eye,
Here the Great Court, there the rich Town, I spy;
On either side dwells Safety and Delight;
Wealth on the Left, and Power upon the Right.
T' assure yet my defence, on either hand,
Like mighty Forts, in equal distance stand
Two of the best and stateliest piles, which e're
Man's liberal Piety of old did rear,
Where the two Princes of th' Apostles Band,
My Neighbours and my Guards, watch and command.  60
      My warlike Guard of Ships, which farther lye,
Might be my Object too, were not the Eye
Stopt by the Houses of that wondrous Street
Which rides o're the broad River, like a Fleet.
The Stream's eternal Siege they fixt abide,
And the swoln Stream's Auxiliary Tide,
Though both their ruine with joynt power conspire,
Both to out-brave, they nothing dread but Fire.
And here my Thames, though it more gentle be
Than any Flood, so strength'ned by the Sea,  70
Finding by Art his Natural forces broke,
And bearing, Captive-like, the Arched Yoke,
Do's roar, and foam, and rage at the disgrace,
But recomposes strait and calms his Face,
Is into reverence and submission strook,
As soon as from afar he does but look
Tow'rds the White Palace where that King does reign
Who lays his Laws and Bridges o're the Main.
      Amidst these lowder Honours of my Seat,
And two vast Cities, troublesomly Great,  80
In a large various plain the Country too
Opens her gentler blessings to my View,
In me the Active and the Quiet Mind
By different wayes equal content may find.
If any prouder Vertuoso's sence
At that part of my Prospect take offence,
By which the meaner Cabanes are descri'd,
Of my Imperial River's humbler side,
If they call that a Blemish, let them know,
God, and my God-like Mistress, think not so;  90
For the distrest and the afflicted lye
Most in their Care, and always in their Eye.
      And thou, fair River, who still pay'st to Me
Just Homage, in thy passage to the Sea,
Take here this one Instruction as thou goest;
When thy mixt Waves shall visit every Coast,
When round the world their Voyage they shall make,
And back to Thee some secret Channels take,
Ask them what nobler sight they e're did meet
Except thy mighty Master's Soveraign Fleet,  100
Which now triumphant o're the Main does ride,
The Terror of all Lands, the Ocean's Pride.
      From hence his Kingdom's Happy now at last,
(Happy, if Wise by their Misfortunes past)
From hence may Omens take of that success
Which both their future Wars and Peace shall bless:
The Peaceful Mother on mild Thames does build,
With her Son's Fabricks the rough Sea is fill'd.

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