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ON QUEEN MARY’S BLESSED CHILDBIRTH
While a traditional fast was being observed and pious hunger fed our people, a fifth comely offspring blessed our Mary, and you are nearly here again, December. Go, those of you to whom Bacchus and Ceres supply the entertainment, and whose mirth is aroused by the ruddy tears of the vine. We are happy without the hubbub and commotion of merrymaking, this day knows it is not being cheated. Why should the earth have to resound with much stamping of feet? Or why should the crowd drink the King’s health and ruin its own? Let my prayers for such a great man be sober ones. Trust me, those joys are not true ones which rejoice in their own outward display.
You have won, chaste Mary, at last you have won. Charles has yielded on behalf of his sex. How that great man should rejoice to be bested by you ! It was scarcely so worth his while to conquer his enemies. Now your portrait is more lifelike, it will be second to that of the King, and it will delight you to have given birth according to your scheme. Oh the goodly discordant concord of your marriage! Oh the true love between these contests! Charles’ face, breathing in the clean air, does not please the people so greatly (and it is well known how much it pleases them). For give us for being greedy here. For give us that you cannot satisfy our minds. When you happily mount your car and drive to the stars — oh let it be on a day reserved for our late years! — let your living, gentle image govern us on earth in the faces of your children, no less than in your statues.
ON QUEEN MARY’S MOST BLESSED FERTILITY
Nature’s appearance is yearly renewed, and, wonderfully fertile, it gives birth to itself. Thus too the Queen, Nature’s copy and glory, sees herself made new by childbirth. Being couched so often, you grant a mark of distinction to almost every month, and each one desires to gain a name by your childbirth. Lucina often hears you in labor, with her own sphere she scarce grows great more often. Janus, you will always witness Mary being fruitful, whether you look at her with this face or with that. Learn your duty, subjects: now the Queen herself has paid her husband his annual tribute.
As Charles was returning from his devotions, unwearied, he was met by tidings of the new Prince. Since he exists closest to God, it is no wonder that he obtains his prayers so swiftly. Since he has prayed with such a pious mind, it is no wonder that the reward of his prayers has come so soon. Oh fasting, destined to give us such a long celebration! Oh hunger, destined to give us great banquets! Lo, how people are groaning and weeping rivers of tears. You could think that the throng has had a share in the Queen’s childbirth. You could imagine that the boy has felt the people’s birth-pangs, since he himself has issued such doleful cries.
And so you return, your brow bound with much olive, and the great laurel of captive peace is at hand. Other men have prevailed in wars and in bloody battle, but only you, Charles, are able to conquer war. On her soft pinion gentle Victory attends you, outstripping the wings of the news of her coming. The Orkneys wanted to follow you, wrenched from their waters, but the savage chill kept their feet icebound. They almost saw you being born, oh Apollo greater than this earth, and lamented that more was allowed to Delos. Such miracles befit Charles. Should you return by water, let an island be your ship. If by land, may Bootes’ wain accompany you, but with its wheels slowed by cold, and very sluggish itself. Now let happy Apollo peacefully look down on a settled North and adorn his shaggy horses with new light. Ah, let the Tweed never run red with the blood of civil war, nor let its stained waters seek the astonished sea! The Great Bear should sink into the forbidden water rather than sadly agree to witness such a wrong, knowing that the wild bears have made a compact among themselves, that their disposition towards their own kind is gentler. We are one kind. Let the grammarians be the only ones to fight raucous battles about the words Scotsman and Englishman. Charles places a check on these such familiar combats, and from his mouth issues forth peace for his peoples. This great virtue has snatched away lesser glory and can never look upon wars. Thus his lightning melts swords in their very scabbards, and scarce can outrun its own good result. Thus Phoebus, the wakeful ruler of the eternal sky, carries around the quick-passing day by the route on which he himself goes a-flying: in comparison with him, the host of stars is of no avail, he alone is present to banish the darkness.
A DEDICATORY ELEGY ADDRESSED TO THE VERY ILLUSTRIOUS
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Most wealthy mother, receive this slender pledge a needy son’s great love. Alas, my scanty money-chest prevents my grateful hands from willingly bestowing greater gifts on you. Can you recognize the deformed voice of your son, so different from your own? Can you discern a reflection here of your maternal beauty? You will say, “Thus, treacherous Cowley, after such a long time you return to me, who have been hoping for much from you? What witches, or hobgoblins, or unfriendly goddesses have substituted this man for my child?” But you, my holy mother (but also a cruel one), don’t use a rude hand to poke at your son’s raw wound. Alas, mother, why give your consent to my unfair fate? Let it be my destiny, but don’t you yourself be a stepmother to me. Had I been permitted to grow up in the Muses’ native land and luxuriate in their dear soil, had I been permitted to drink more of their learned water and slake my great thirst, I should not be returning as such a doubtful fellow wearing a base look, you would not be reading my name with a blush. You know full well what public storm snatched me from your bosom, at a time when I was not yet steady on my feet nor sound in my teeth, and with a querulous whine was asking the help of the milk you were refusing me. When the wind wages war across the steep ocean, when savage winter scourges the fruitful autumn, and the unripe fruit is swept from its tree and falls, overcome by force, the fruit falls, and the tree itself groans. Not yet is there any generative moisture in the ancestral soil, not yet is rosy-cheeked Father Sun given back. Oh Granta, a name more pleasant to me than all others! Oh love, wholly taken to heart! Oh fair hall, free of luxury, and happy life, splendid poverty, and honest comeliness! Oh house dearer than all others, worthy of the names of great sovereigns, worthy of the name of the Trinity! Oh fields heaped high with the gifts of Ceres, surpassing the fields she dwells on on the ridges of Enna! Oh sacred fountains! And shades sacred to bards, refreshed by choirs of birds and Muses! Oh Cam, no stream dearer to Phoebus! Poor, but an object of envy to gold-bearing streams! Ah would that God would give me back the goodly joys of your home and grant me to enjoy your learned peace, such as I was, Cam, when you saw me sitting on your bank with a tranquil mind! You heard me charming your streams with my boyish song, which was welcome to you, albeit undeservedly. For I recall that you condescended to reecho my words from both your banks, as did all the glade. Then my life glided on with sunny and quiet days, just as did your bright water. But now my days are muddy, and the turmoil of my existence is troubled by many an obstruction. What need had I for the Seine, the Thames, or the Tiber? Cam, you can quench my thirst. Happy the man who has never seen more than one river, who dwells on a single bank, like a willow tree! Happy the man whom the world has not tempted to dirty his hands, and for whom familiar poverty is a shining thing, a man at no time touched by wretched experience, so that he realizes human affairs are nothing! But Fortune has instructed us by excellent examples and given us more than enough proof, since we have seen a crown wrenched from off a head, a scepter broken, human menaces crushed by menacing chance, the games of the Fates, intransigent destiny, and the world’s wealth toppled. After such things, who would dare to entrust his barque to the sea, notorious for its reefs and its shipwrecks? You too shuddered during this earthquake, University, not without reason, and your Colleges trembled along with you. Those very shrines of peaceful Pallas trembled along with you, and the sacred laurel dreaded new lightning. Ah would that God, albeit angry, would choose to avert this plague, or at least choose for these things not to cost us wars! Let us, your sons perish (and behold, we do perish), let this evil hold full sway over us. Being immutable, you will pour forth an undying breed of short-lived alumni, nor will death itself outlive you. Always possessed of a full womb, from your constant fountain you will send your beautiful waters towards the sea of death. Thus the goddess Venus, once wounded by a human hand (for wars are wont to harm the very gods) begged help of the Olympians and uttered her laments, and her daring blood stained her white limbs. Why complain? Carefree, you can scorn short-lived pains, for no wounds can bring you death.
TO RIGHT FAMOUS TRINITY COLLEGE,
IN THE VERY ILLUSTRIOUS UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Oh nurse always most sacred to me, to whose breasts I now return, nearly an old man, cheerfully accept these small cuttings from my garden, sprung up in the arid soil of a poverty-stricken wit. They should have been more lush, oh my learned cultivator, since the earth was sown by your hand. But in part my sacred labor has been unfruitful, and in part (I regret to say) I have been disowned by you. But if among the thistles, the darnel and the worthless wild oats you find a few worthwhile sprouts, you can call them your own. These seeds I once entrusted to the cultivated earth, the rest it bore of its own will.
HYMN TO LIGHT
First born of Chaos, who so fair didst come
From the old Negro’s darksome womb!
Which when it saw the lovely child,
The melancholly mass put on kind looks and smil’d,
Thou tide of glory which no rest dost know, 5
But ever ebb, and ever flow!
Thou golden shower of a true Jove!
Who does in thee descend, and heav’n to earth make love!
Hail active Natures watchful life and health!
Her joy, her ornament, and wealth! 10
Hail to thy husband heat, and thee!
Thou the worlds beauteous bride, the lusty bridegroom he!
Say from what golden quivers of the sky,
Do all thy winged arrows fly?
Swiftness and power by birth are thine: 15
From thy great Sire they came, thy sire the word divine.
’Tis, I believe, this Archery to show,
That so much cost in colours thou,
And skill in painting dost bestow,
Upon thy ancient arms, the gawdy heav’nly bow. 20
Swift as light thoughts their empty carriere run,
Thy race is finisht, when begun,
Let a post-angel start with thee,
And thou the goal of earth shalt reach as soon as he.
Thou in the moons bright chariot proud and gay, 25
Dost thy bright wood of stars survay;
And all the year lost with thee bring
Of thousand flowry Lights thine own nocturnal spring.
Thou Scythian-like dost round thy lands above
The suns gilt tent for ever move, 30
And still as thou in pomp dost go
The shining pageants of the world attend thy show.
Nor amidst all these triumphs dost thou scorn
The humble glow-worms to adorn,
And with those living spangles gild, 35
(O greatness without pride!) the bushes of the field.
Night and her ugly subjcts thou dost fright,
And sleep, the lazy owl of night.
Asham’d and fearful to appear,
They skreen their horrid shapes with the black hemisphere. 40
With ’em there hasts, and wildly takes the alarm,
Of painted dreams a busie swarm,
At the first opening of thine eye,
The various clusters break, the antick atomes fly.
The guilty serpents, and obscener beasts 45
Creep conscious to their secret rests.
Nature to thee does reverence pay,
Ill omens, and ill sights removes out of thy <way.>
At thy appearance, grief itself is said,
To shake his wings, and rowse his head. 50
And cloudy care has often took
A gentle beamy smile reflected from thy look.
At thy appearance, fear it self grows bold,
Thy Sun-shine melts away his cold.
Encourag’d at the sight of thee, 55
To the cheek colour comes, and firmness to the knee.
Even lust, the master of a hardned face,
Blushes if thou beest in the place.
To darkness’ curtains he retires,
In sympathizing night he rowls his smoaky fires. 60
When, goddess, thou liftst up thy wakened head,
Out of the mornings purple bed,
Thy quire of birds about thee play,
And all the joyful world salutes the rising day. 65
The ghosts and monster spirits that did presume
A bodies priv’lege to assume,
Vanish again invisibly,
And bodies gain again their visibility.
All the worlds bravery that delights our eyes 70
Is but thy sev’ral liveries.
Thou the rich dy on them bestowest,
Thy nimble pencil paints this landskape as thou go’st.
A crimson garment in the rose thou wear’st,
A crown of studded gold thou bear’st, 75
The virgin lillies in their white
Are clad but with the lawn of almost naked light.
The violet, springs little infant, stands,
Girt in thy purplesSwadling-bands.
On the fair tulip thou dost dote, 80
Thou cloath’st it in a gay and party-colour’d coat.
With flame condenst thou dost the jewels fix,
And solid colours in it mix.
Flora herself envyes to see
Flowers fairer then her own, and durable as she. 85
Ah, goddess! would thou could’st thy hand withhold,
And be less liberall to gold.
Didst thou less value to it give,
Of how much care (alas) might’st thou poor Man relieve!
To me the sun is more delightful farr, 85
And all fair dayes much fairer are.
But few, ah wondrous few there be,
Who do not gold preferr, o goddess, ev’n to thee.
Through the soft wayes of heaven, and air, and sea,
Which open all their pores to thee; 90
Like a cleer river thou dost glide,
And with thy living stream through the close channels slide.
But where firm bodies thy free course oppose,
Gently thy source the land oreflowes;
Takes there possession, and does make, 95
Of colours mingled, light, a thick and standing lake.
But the vast ocean of unbounded day
In th’ empyraean heaven does stay.
Thy rivers, lakes, and springs below
From thence took first their rise, thither at last must flow. 100
A. C. SENDS HIS GREETINGS TO CLIFFORD
AFTER RECEIVING HIS PESSIMUS OMNIUM POETA AS A GIFT
Who would imagine this? Is this a friend’s gift that is no gift? Where have faith, piety, and the rules of friendship fled, Clifford, when you can bear to abuse your Cowley in such a screed? Indeed, you false, bad fellow, in commending this present to my judgment you have set a snare, bent on mocking and making sport of your captive. But I, cannier than the Trojans, shall forestall you as you come bearing your Greekish gifts, and I am determined to chuck this unhappy present in the fire, banning it from my library, this book of Friend Sinon. Nemesis (for you delight in punishing villains), recommend a horrible revenge to me, tell me what I should do. “Nobody has ever had a better tit-for-tat at this disposal, so if some rascal should throw a stone at you, I don’t think an avenger of the stone will be far away. When a man attacks you in his verse, remember to expose him in your own. When he commences this more than civil war, let him experience your equal battle-standards and your spears that threaten his own. There are about two hundred wild-minded poets (no need to mention their familiar name, for I, though a goddess, have reverence for the Trojans), and they have numerous admirers, as you know full well. Choose fifty of those you see to be thoroughly and perfectly mad, and dismiss the others with your thanks. And if you add yourself as well, you will have no small measure of vengeance.” The fierce goddess gave me these precepts. So should I hire all those evil poets to gain my revenge? Rather, I should be pious and ready to forgive your wrong. But I’ve not made up my mind to do so. I’ll send him a poem, and the good-for-nothing will be abundantly scourged by my huge missive, so long that it will be written on the back as well as the front, which will outdo Orestes when it comes to Furies. Good! This is subtle. For he will account this a great act of kindness, reading it happily and eagerly. Such things are not wont to make him angry and bilious (as they do me), but strike him as playful and amusing. So our rascal will indulge himself in these poisons and grow fat on them. This is his food.
Once upon a time, while passing by, I heard frogs’ absurd complaints and annoying voices issuing from the marshes and reedy riverbanks, and I said, “Oh, you unfortunate particolored duck, having to live your life amidst these torments to your ears and your eyes!” But the duck, happily clapping its wings and quacking for joy, seemed to make answer, “You have a sorry, gloomy ear, if such music offends it. Feed here as my companion, this sound will grow agreeable.” When I say, “Clifford, take away that silly book, I can’t read it, it nauseates me,” you reply, “You are going to miss out on the great wit, pleasantry and humor, if in your stupidity you don’t know what appeals to the taste of an intelligent man, or the pleasures to be gained from the fancies of morbid bards.” Whew, I envy you! But the Fates have bestowed the happy spleen of a Democritus on only a few men, and those who have gained the approval of heaven. Happy the man thus surrounded with laughter on all sides! Assuredly he will never lack for a comedy.
UPON THE CHAIR MADE OUT OF SIR FRANCIS DRAKES SHIP,
PRESENTED TO THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY IN OXFORD, BY
JOHN DAVIS OF DEPTFORD, ESQUIRE
To this great ship which round the globe has run,
And matcht in race the chariot of the Sun,
This Pythagorean ship (for it may claim
Without presumption so deserv’d a Name,
By knowledge once and transformation now) 5
In her new shape this sacred port allow.
Drake and his ship could not have wish’d from Fate
A more blest station, or more blest estate.
For (lo!) a seat of endless rest is given,
To her in Oxford, and to him in heaven. 10
Hail, old patrician trees,
Hail, ye Plebeian under wood!
Where the poetique birds rejoyce,
And for their quiet nests and plentious food
Pay with their grateful voice. 5
Hail, the poor Muses richest mannor seat!
Ye countrey houses and retreat.
Which all the happy gods so love,
That for you oft they quit their nright and great
Metropolis above. 10
Here Nature does a house for me erect,
Nature the wisest architect,
Who those fond artists does despise
That can the fair and living trees neglect,
Yet the dead timber prize. 15
Here let me careless and unthoughtful lying,
Hear the soft winds above me flying,
With all their wanton boughs dispute,
And the more tuneful birds to both replying,
Nor be myself too mute. 20
A silver stream shall roul his waters neer,
Guilt with the sun-beams here and there
On whose enamel’d bank I’ll walk,
And see how prettily they smile, and hear
How prettily they talk. 25
Ah wretched, and too solitary hee
Who loves not his own company!
He’l feel the weight of’t many a day,
Unless he call in sin or vanity
To help to bear’t away. 30
Oh solitude, first state of human-kind!
Which blest remain’d till Man did find
Even his own helpers company.
As soon as two (alas!) together joyn’d,
The Serpent made up three. 35
Though God Himself, through countless ages thee
His sole Companion chose to be,
Thee, sacred solitude alone,
Before the branchy head of numbers tree
Sprang from the trunk of One. 40
Thou (though men think thine an unactive part)
Dost break and tame th’ unruly heart,
Which else would know no setled pace
Making it move, well mannag’d by thy art
With swiftness and with grace. 45
Thou the faint beams of reasons scatter’d light,
Dost like a burning-glass unite,
Dost multiply the feeble heat,
And fortifie the strength; till thou dost bright
And noble fires beget. 50
Whilst this hard truth I teach, methinks, I see
The Monster London laugh at me,
I should at thee too, foolish city,
If it were fit to laugh at misery,
But thy estate I pity. 55
Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And all the fools that crowd thee so,
Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
A village less than Islington wilt grow,
A solitude almost. 60
Why dost thou heap up wealth, which thou must quit,
Or, what is worse, be left by it?
Why dost thou load thyself, when thou’rt to fly,
Oh man ordained to die?
Why dost thou build up stately rooms on high, 5
Thou who art under ground to lie?
Thou sow’st and plantest, but nofFruit must see;
For Death, alas! is sowing thee.
Suppose thou Fortune could to tameness bring,
And clip or pinion her wing; 10
Suppose thou couldst on Fate so far prevail
As not to cut off thy entail.
Yet Death at all that subtilty will laugh,
Death will your foolish gardner mock
Who does a slight and annual plant engraff, 15
Upon a lasting stock.
Thou dost thyself wise and industrious deem;
A mighty husband thou wouldst seem;
Fond Man! like a bought slave, thou all the while
Dost but for others sweat and toil. 20
Officious fool, that needs must medling be
In business that concerns not thee!
For when to future years thou’extendst thy cares
Thou deal’st in other men’s affairs.
Even aged men, as if they truly were 25
Children again, for age prepare,
Provisions for long travail they design,
In the last point of their short line.
Wisely the ant against poor winter hoords
The stock which summers wealth affords, 30
In grasshoppers that must at autumn die,
How vain were such an industry?
Of power and honour the deceitful Light
Might half excuse our cheated sight,
If it of life the whole small time would stay, 35
And be our sun-shine all the day,
Like lightning that, begot but in a cloud
(Though shining bright, and speaking loud)
Whilst it begins, concludes its violent race,
And where it guilds, it wounds the place. 40
Oh scene of Fortune, which dost fair appear,
Only to men that stand not near!
Proud poverty, that tinsel brav’ry wears,
And like a rainbow, painted tears!
Be prudent, and the shore in prospect keep, 45
In a weak boat trust not the deep.
Placed beneath envy, above envying rise,
Pity great Men, great things despise.
The wise example of the heavenly lark,
Thy fellow-poet, Cowley, mark,50
Above the clouds let thy proud musique sound,
Thy humble nest build on the ground.
THE AUTHOR’S EPITAPH UPON HIMSELF, YET ALIVE,
BUT WITHDRAWN FROM THE BUSIE WORLD TO A
COUNTRY-LIFE, TO BE SUPPOSED WRITTEN ON HIS HOUSE
Here passenger, beneath this shed
Lies Cowley, though entomb’d, not dead,
Yet freed from human toil and strife,
And all th’impertinence of life;
Who in his poverty is neat, 5
And even in retirement, great.
With gold, the people’s idol, he
Holds endless war and enmity.
Can you not say he has resign’d
His breath, to this small cell confin’d? 10
With this small mansion let him have
The rest and silence of the grave.
Strew toses here as on his hearse,
And reckon this his funeral verse:
With wreaths of fragrant herbs adorn 15
The yet surviving poet’s urn.