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ONSIDERING the incredible veneration which the best poets always had for gardens, fields, and woods, insomuch that in all other subjects they seem’d to be banished from the Muses territories, I wondered what evil planet was so malicious to the breed of plants, as to permit none of the inspired tribe to celebrate their beauty and admirable virtues. Certainly a copious field of matter, and what would yield them a plentiful return of fruit, where each particular, besides its pleasant history (the extent whereof everybody, or, to speak more truly, nobody can sufficiently understand), which contains the whole fabrick of humane frame, and a compleat body of physick. From whence I am induced to believe that those great men did not so much think them improper subjects of poetry, as discouraged by the greatness and almost inexplicable variety of the matter, and that they were unwilling to begin a work which they despaired of finishing. I therefore, who am but a Pigmy in learning, and scarce sufficient to express the virtues of the vile seaweed, attempt that work which those giants disclaim’d. Yet wherefore should I not attempt, forasmuch as they disdained to take up with less than comprehending the whole, and I am proud of conquering some part? I shall think it reputation enough for me to have my name carved on the barks of some trees or (what is reckon’d a royal prerogative) inscribed upon a few flowers. You must not therefore expect to find so many herbs collected for this fardle, as sometimes go to the compounding of one single medicine. These two little Books are therefore offer’d as small pills made up of sundry herbs, and gilt with a certain brightness of stile, in the choice whereof I have not much labour’d, but took them as they came to hand, there being none amongst them which contain’d not plenty of juice, as it were drawn out according to art, none so insipid that it would not afford matter for a whole Book, if well extracted. The method which I judged most genuine and proper for this work was not to press out their liquor crude in a simple enumeration, but as it were in a lymbeck [alembic], by the gentle heat of poety, to distil and extract their spirits. Nor have I chosen to put them together which had affinity in nature, that might create a disgust for want of variety; I rather connected those of the most different qualities, that their contrary colours, being mixt, might the better set off each other.
2. I have added short notes, not for ostentation of learning (whereof there is no occasion here offered, for what is more easie than to turn over one or two herbalists?), but because that beside physicians (whom I pretend not to instruct, but to divert), there are few so well vers’d in the history of plants as to be acquainted with the names of them all. It is a part of philosophy that lies out of the common road of learning. To such persons I was to supply the place of a lexicon. But for the sake of the very plants themselves, lest the treating of them in a poetical way might derogate from their real merit, and that should seem not to attribute to them those faculties wherewith Nature has indued them (who studies what is best to be done, not what is most capable of verbal ornaments), but to have feigned thosel qualities which would afford the greatest matter for pomp and empty pleasure. For, because poets are sometimes allowed to make fictions, and some have too excessively abused that liberty, trust is so wholly denied to us that we may not without hesitation be believed when we say,
I was therefore willing to cite proper witnesses, that is, such as writ in loose and free prose, which, compared with verse, bears the authority of an oath. I have yet contented myself with two of these (which is the number required by law). Pliny and Fernel I have chiefly made choice of, the first being an author of unquestion’d Latin, and the latter amongst the moderns of the truest sentiments, and no ill master of expression. If any except against the former as too credulous of the Greekish idle tales, that he may not safely be credited, he will find nothing in this subject mention’d by him which is not represented by all that write of herbs. Nor would I have the reader, because I have made my plants to discourse, forthwith (as if he were in Dodona’s grove) to expect oracles, which, I fear, my verses will only resemble in this, that they are as bad metre as what the gods of old delivered from their temples to those who consulted them.
3. Having given you this account, if any shall light upon this book who have read my former, published not long since by me in English, I fear they may take occasion from thence of reprehending some things, concerning which it will not be impertinent briefly to clear myself before I proceed. In the first place, I foresee that I shall be accused by some of too much delicacy and levity, in that, having undertaken great subjects, and after a day or two’s journey I have stopt, through lazyness and despondency of reaching home, or, possess’d with some new frenzy, have started into some other road, insomuch that not only the half (as they say) but the third part of the task has been greater than my whole performance. “Away,” they cry, “with this desultery writer.” Yet with what spirit, what voice threatning mighty matters, he begins,
Thou sing of wars, thou dastard, who throwest away thy arms to soon, or betakest thyself to the enemy’s camp, a renegade, before the first charge is sounded? Or if at any time thou adventurest to engage, it is like the ancient Gauls, making the onset with more than the courage of a man, and presently retreating with more than that of the coward. Whereas, he that hs once applyed himself to a poem, as if he had married a wife, should stick to it for better or worse, whether the matter be grateful and easie, or harsh and almost intractable, ought neither to quit it for tiresomeness, nor be diverted by new loves, nor think of a divorce, or at any time relinquish til he has brought it to a conclusion, as wedlock terminates with life. This is imputed to me as a fault, and since I cannot deny the charge, whether I am therein to be blamed or not let us examine.
4. In the first place, therefore, that which is most truly asserted of human life is too applicable to my poetry, that it is best never to have been born, or, being born, forthwith to die. And if my essays should be carried on to their omega (to which the works of Homer by a peculaiar felicity were continue’d vigorous), there would be great danger of their falling into dotage before that time. The only thing that can recommend trifles, or make them tolerable, is that they give off seasonably, that is suddenly, for that author goes very much too far who leaves his reader tired behind him. These considerations, if I write ill, will excuse my brevity, though not so easily excuse the undertaking; nor shall my inconstancy in not finishing what I have begun be so much blamed as my constancy in ceasing not continually to begin, and being, like Fortune, constant in levity. But if, reader (as it is my desire), we have furnished you with what is agreeable to your appetite, you ought to take it in good part that we have used such moderation as neither to send you away hungry, nor cloy your stomach with too much satiety. To this you must add that our attempts, such as they are, may excite the industry of others who are enabled by a greater genius and strength to undertake the very same or more noble subjects, as Agesilaus of old, who thought he made no great progress into Asia, yet being the first in that adventure, he opened the way to Alexander for a glorious and entire conquest. Lastly (to confess to thee as a friend, for such I will presume thee), I thus employed myself, not so much out of counsel as the fury of my mind. For I am not able to do nothing, and had no other diversion of my troubles. Therefore, though a wearisomness of humane affairs to these more pleasing solaces of literature (made agreeable to me by custom and nature) my sick mind betakes itself, and not long after, from an irksomness of the selfsame things, it changes its course and turns off to some other theme. But they press more dangerously upon, and, as it were, stab me with my own weapon, who bring those things to my mind which I have declaimed so vehemently against, the use of exolete [obsolete] and interpolated repetitions of old fables in poetry, when truth itself in the sacred Books of God and awful registers of the Church has laid open a new more rich and ample world of poetry for the wits of men to be exercises upon.
5. “When thou thyself (say they) hast thus declared with the approbation of all good men, and given an example in thy Davideis for other to imitate, does thou, like an apostate Jew loathing manna, return to the leeks and garlick of Egypt? After the appearance of Christ Himself in thy verse, and imposing silence on the oracles of demons, shall we again hear the voice of Apollo from thy profane tripod? After the restauration of Sion and the purgation of it from monsters, shall it be again possessed by the drery ghosts of antiquated deities? And what the prophet threatned as the extremity of evils, your Muse in this no less an object of shame and pity than if Magdalen should backslide again to the brothel? Behold how the just punishment does not (as in other offenders) follow your crime, but even accompanies it. The very lowness of your subject has retrenched your wings. You are fastned to the ground with your herbs, and cannot soar as formerly to the clouds, nor can we more admire at your halting than at your fabulous Vulcan, when he had fallen from the skies.”
6. A heavy charge indeed, and terrible at the first sight. But I esteem that which celebrates the wonderful works of Providence not to be far distant from a sacred poem. Nothing can be found more admirable in nature than the virtues of several plants. Therefore, amongst other things of a more noble strain, the divine poet upon that account praises the Deity, Who brings forth grass upon the mountains, and herbs for the use of Man. Nor do I think the liberty immodest, hwere I introduce plants speaking, to whom the sacret Writ itself does speak, as to intelligent beings: bless the Lord, all ye green things upon the earth, praise and exalt him forever. Those fictions are not to be accounted for lies which cannot be believed, nor desire to be so. But that the names of heathen deities and fabulous transformations are sometimes intermixt, the matter itself compell’d me against my will, being no other way capable of embellishment, and it is well if by that means they are so. No painted garb is to be preferred to the native dress and living colours of truth, yet in some persons, and on some occasions, it is more agreeable. there was a time when it did not misbecome a king to dance, yet it had certainly been indecent for him to have danced in his coronation robes. You are not therefore to expect in a work of this nature the majesty of an heroick style (which I never found any plant to speak in), for I propose not here to fly, but only to make some walks in my garden, partly for health’s sake, and partly for recreation.
7. There remains a third difficulty, which will not, perhaps, so easily be solved. I had some time since been resolved in myself to write no more verses, and made thereof such publick and solemn protestation as almost amounts to an oath,
when I behold I have set in anew. Concerning which matter, because I remember myself to have formerly given an account in metre, I am willing (and Martial affirms it to be a poets right) to close my epistle therewith. They were written to a learned and most ingenious friend, who laboured under the very same distemper, though not with the same dangerous symptoms.
“More poetry?” you’ll cry, “Dost thou return,
Fond man, to the disease thou hast forsworn?
T’as reach’d thy marrow, seiz’d thy inmost sense,
And force, not reason, cannot draw it thence.
Think’st thou that heaven thy liberty allows,
And laughs at poets, as at lovers vows?”
Forbear, my friend, to wound with sharp discourse
A wretched man that feels too much remorse.
Fate drags me on against my will, in vain
I struggle, fret, and try to break my chain.
Thrice I took hellebore, and must confess,
Hop’d I was fairly quit of my disease.
But the moons power, to which all herbs must yield,
Bids me be mad again, and gains the field.
At her command for pen and ink I call,
And in one morn three hundred rhymes let fall,
Which in the transport of my frentick fit
I throw like stones at the next man I meet.
E’en thre, my friend, Apollo-like, I wound,
The arrows fly, the string and bow resound.
What methods canst thou study to reclaim,
Whom nor his own nor publick griefs can tame,
Who in all seasons keeps my chirping strein,
A grasshopper that sings in frost and rain.
Like her whom boys and youths and elders knew,
I see the path my judgment shou’d pursue.
But what can naked I ’gainst armed Nature do?
I’m no Tydides, who a power divine
Could overcome, I must, I must resign.
E’en thou, my friend (unless I much mistake),
Whose thundring sermons make the pulpit shake,
Unfold the secrets of the world to come,
And bid the trembling earth expect its doom,
As if Elias were come down in fire,
Yet thou at night doest to thy glass retire,
Like one of us, and (after moderate use
Of th’ Indian fume and European juice)
Sett’st into rhyme, and dost thy Muse caress
In learn’d conceits and harmless wantonness.
’Tis therefore just thou shouldst excuse thy friend,
Who’s none of those that trifle without end.
I can be serious too when business calls,
My frenzy still has lucid intervals.
Lifes lowest, but far greatest, sphere I sing,
Of all things that adorn the gawdy spring,
Such as in deserts live, whom, unconfin’d,
None but the simple laws of Nature bind,
And those who, growing tame by human care, 5
The well-bred citizens of gardens are,
Those that aspire to Sol their sires bright face,
Or stoop into their Mother Earths embrace.
Such as drink streams or wells, or those, dry fed,
Who have Jove only for their Ganymede, 10
And all that Solomon’s lost work of old
(Ah fatal loss!) so wisely did unfold.
Though I the oaks vivacious age shou’d live,
I ne’r to all their names in verse could give.
Yet I the rise of groves will briefly show 15
In verses, like their trees, rang’d all a-row,
To which some one, perhaps, new shades may joyn
Till mine, at last, become a grove divine.
Assist me, Phoebus, wit of heav’n, whose care
So bounteously both plants and poets share. 20
Where e’er thou com’st, hurl light and heat around,
And with new life enamel all the ground,
As when the spring feels thee, with magick light,
Break through the bonds of the dead winters night,
When thee to Colchis the gilt Ram conveys, 25
And the warm’d North rejoyces in thy rays.
Where shall I first begin? For with delight
Each gentle plant me kindly does invite.
Myself to slavish method I’ll not tye,
But, like the bee, where-e’er I please will flie, 30
Where I the glorious hopes of honey see,
Or the free wing of fancy carries me.
Here no fine garden emblems shall reside
In well-made beds to prostitute their pride,
But we rich Nature, who her gifts bestows 35
Unlimited (nor the vast treasure knows),
And various plenty of the pathless woods
Will follow. Poor men only count their goods.
Do thou, bright Phoebus, guide me luckily
To the first plant by some kind augury. 40
The omen’s good, so we may hope the best,
The gods mild looks our grand design have blest.
For thou, kind bet’ny, art the first we see,
And opportunely com’st, dear plant, for me.
For me, because the brain thou dost protect, 45
See, if y’are wise, my brain you don’t neglect,
For it concerns you that in health that be.
I sing thy sisters, betony, and thee.
But who, best plant, can praise thee to thy merit,
Or number the perfections you inherit? 50
The trees, he, in th’ Hercynian woods as well,
Or roses that in Paestum grow may tell.
Musa at large, they say, thy praises writ,
But, I suppose, did part of them omit.
Caesar his triumphs wou’ld recount. Do thou, 55
Greater than he a conquerers, do so now.
To know my virtues briefly, you in vain
Desire, all which this whole book can’t contain.
O’er all the world of men great I preside,
Where-e’er red streams through milky medows glide. 60
O’er all you see throughout the body spread,
Between the distant poles of heel and head.
But in the head my chief dominions are,
The soul commits her palace to my care.
I all the corners purge, refresh, secure, 65
Nor let it be for want of light obscure.
That soul that came from heav’n, which stars adorn,
Her god’s great daughter, by creation born,
Alas! to what a frail apartment now
And ruinated cottage does she bow! 70
Her very mansion to infection turns,
And in the place wherein she lives, she burns.
When falling-sickness thunder-strikes the brain,
Oft men, like victims, fall, as thunder-slain.
Oft does the head with a swift whimsle reel, 75
And the soul’s turned, as on Ixion’s wheel.
Oft pains i’ th’ head an anvil seem to beat,
And, like a forge, the brain-pan burns with heat.
Some parts the palsie oft of sense deprives
And motion (strange effect!), one side survives 80
The other. This Mezentius fury quite
Outdoes. In this disease dead limbs unite
With live ones. Some with lethargy opprest
Under deaths weight seem fatally to rest.
Ah! life, thou are deaths image, but that thee 85
In nought resembles, save thy brevity.
Vain phantoms oft the mind distracted keep,
And roving thoughts possess the place of sleep.
Oft when the nerves for want of juice grow dry
(That heavenly juice, unknown to th’ outward eye), 90
Each feeble limb, as t’were, grows loose and quakes,
Yea, the whole fabrick of the body shakes.
These and and all evils which the brain infest,
For numerous, sawcy griefs that part molest,
Me Phaebus bad by constant war restrain, 95
Saying, “my kingdom (child!) see you maintain.”
And straight he gave me arms well forg’d from heav’n,
Like those t’ Aeneas or Achilles giv’n.
One wondrous leaf he wisely did create
’Gainst all the darts of sickness and of fate, 100
And into that a sovereign mystick juice
With subtile heat from heav’n he did infuse.
’Tis not in vain, bright sire, that you bestowe
Such arms on me, nor shall they rusty grow.
No, from that crime not the just head alone 105
Acquits me, but th’ inferior limbs will own
I’m guiltless. When the lungs with phlegm opprest
Want air to fan the heart and cool the brest,
A fainty cough strives to expel the foe,
But seeks the help of powerful medicines too. 110
It comes to me, I my assistance lend,
Open th’ obstructed pores, and gently send
Refreshment to the heart. Cool gales abate
Th’ internal heat, and it grows temperate.
The quatran ague its dry holes forsakes, 115
As adders do, dropsies like water-snakes,
With liquid aliment no longer fed,
By me are forc’d to fly their wat’ry bed.
I loss of appetite repair, and heat
The stomach to concoct the food men eat. 120
Torturing gripes I in the guts allay,
And send out murmuring blasts the backward way.
I wash the saffron jaundice of the skin,
And ease the kidneys of dire stones within.
Thick blood that stands in womens veins I soon 125
Force to flow down, more powerful than the moon.
But then th’ unnatural floods of whites arise,
Ah me! that common filth will not suffice.
I likewise stop the current, when the blood
Through some new channel seeks a purple flood. 130
I all the tumults of the womb appease,
And to the head, which that disturbs, give ease.
Womans conceptions I corroborate,
And let no births their time anticipate,
But in that sacred time of labor I 135
The careful midwives hands with help supply.
The lazy gout my virtue swiftly shuns,
Whilst from the joynts with nimble heels it runs.
All poysons I expel that men annoy,
And baneful serpents by my power destroy. 140
My pointed odor through its marrow flies,
And of a secret wound the adder dies.
So Phoebus, I suppose, the Python slew,
Ans with my juice his arrows did imbrew.
From every limb all kinds of ach and pain 145
I banish, never to return again.
The wearied clown I with new vigor bless,
And pains as pleasant make as idleness.
Nor do I only lifes fatigue relieve,
But ’tis adorn’d with what I freely give. 150
I make the colour of the blood more bright,
And cloath the skin with a more graceful white.
Spain in her happy woods first gave me birth,
Then kindly banish’d me o’er all the earth,
Nor gain’d she greater honor when she bore 155
Trajan to rule the world, and to restore
Romes joys. ’Tis true, he justly might compare
With my deserts, his virtues equal were.
But a good prince is the short grant of fate,
The world’s soon robb’d of such a vast estate. 160
But of my bounty men for ever taste,
And what he once was, I am like to last.
I being the chief of all the hairy state,
Me they have chosen for their advocate
To speak on their behalf. Now we, you know, 165
Among the other plants make no small show.
And fern too, far and near which does preside
O’er the wild fields, is to our kind ally’d.
Some hairy comets also hence derive,
And marriage of stars with plants contrive. 170
But we such kindred do not care to own:
Rather than rude relations, we’ll have none.
My hair of parentage far better came,
’Tis not for nought it has loves gentle name.
Beauty herself my debtor is, she knows, 175
And of my threads love does his nets compose.
Their thanks to me the beauteous women pay
For wanton curls and shady locks that play
Upon their shoulders. Friend! whoe’er thou art
(If thou’rt in love), to me perform thy part. 180
Keep thy hair florid, and let dangling toils
Around thy head make ladies hearts thy spoils.
For when your head is bald, or hair grows thin,
In vain you boast of treasures lodg’d within.
The women won’t believe you, nor will prize 185
Such wealth, all lovers ought to please the eyes.
So I to Venus my assistance lend
(I’m pleased to be my heavenly name-sakes friend),
Though I am modest, and content to go
In simple weeds that make no gawdy show. 190
For I am cloth’d as when I first was born,
No painted flow’rs my rural head adorn.
But, above all, I’m sober, I ne’er drink
Sweat streams, nor does my thirst make rivers sink.
When Jove to plants begins an health in show’rs, 195
And from the sky large bowls of water pours,
You see the herbs quaff all the liquor up,
When they ought only modestly to sup.
You’d think the German drunkards near the Rine
Were keeping holy-day with them in wine. 200
Meanwhile I blush, shake from my trembling leaves
The drops, and Jove my thanks in drought receives.
But I no topers envy, for my meen
Is always gay, and my complexion green.
Winter itself does not exhaust the juice 205
That makes me look so verdant and so spruce.
Yet the physicians steep me cruelly
In hateful water, which I drink and die.
But I, ev’n dead, on humors operate,
Such force my ashes have beyond my fate. 210
I through the liver, spleen and reins the foe
Pursue, whilst they with speed before me flow.
Then thousand maladies down with ’em they,
Like monsters fell, in bracky waves convey.
For this I might deserve, above the air, 215
An higher place than Berenices hair.
But if into the sea the stars turn round,
Rather than heav’n itself, I’d chuse dry ground.
Sage! who by many virtues gain’st renown,
Sage! whose deserts all happy mortals own. 220
Since, thou, dear sage! preserv’st the memory,
I cannot sure forgetful prove of thee.
Thee, who Mnemosyne dost recreate,
Her daughter Muses ought to celebrate,
Nor shalt thou e’er complain that they’re ingrate. 225
High on a mount the souls firm mansion stands,
And with a view the limbs below commands.
Sure some great Architect this pile design’d,
Where all the world is to a span confin’d.
A might throng of spirits here reside, 230
Which to the soul are very near alli’d.
Here the grand council’s held, hence to and fro
The spirits scout to see what news below.
Busy as bees, through every part they run,
Thick as the rays stream from the glitt’ring sun. 235
Their subtle limbs silk, thin as air, arrays,
And therefore nought their rapid journey stays.
But with much toil they weary grow, at length
Perpetual labour tires the greatest strength.
Oft too, as they in pains bestow their hours, 240
The airy vagrants hostile heat devours.
Oft in venereal raptures they expired,
Or burnt by wine and drown’d in liquid fire.
Then leaden sleep does on the senses seize,
And with dull drowziness the vitals freese. 245
Cold floods of dire distempers swiftly rowl,
For want of dams and fences, o’er the soul.
Then are the nerves dissolv’d, each member quakes,
And the whole ruinated fabrick shakes.
You’d think the hands fear’d poyson in the cup, 250
They tremble so, and cannot lift it up.
Hence, sage! ’tis manifest what thou canst do,
And glorious dangers beg relief from you.
The foe, by cold and humor so inclos’d,
From his chill throne by thy strong heat’s depos’d, 255
And to the spirits thou bring’s t fresh recruits,
When they are wearied in such long disputes.
To life, whose body was almost its urn,
New life (if I may say it) does return.
The members by their nerves are steady ty’d, 260
A pilot, not the waves, the vessel guide.
You all things fix. Who this for truth would take,
That thy weak fibres such strong bonds shou’d make?
Loose teeth thou fasten’st, which, at thy command,
Well riveted in their firm sockets stand. 265
May that fair, useful bulwark ne’er decay,
Nor the mouth’s ivory fences e’er give way!
Conceptions women by thy help retain,
Nor does th’ injected seed flow back again.
Ah death, don’t life itself anticipate, 270
Let a man live before he meets his fate.
Thou’rt too severe, if in the very dock
Our ship, before ’tis built, strikes on a rock.
Of thy perfections this is but a tast,
You bring to view things absent, and what’s past 275
Recal. Such tracts i’ th’ mind of things you make,
None can the well form’d characters mistake.
And lest the colours there shoul’d fade away,
Your oil embalms and keeps ’em from decay.
Hence, cares! My constant, troublesome company, 280
Be gone! Melissa’s come, and smiles on me.
Smiling she comes, and courteously my head
With chaplets binds from every fragrant bed,
Bidding me sing of her, and for my strains
Herself will be the guerdon of my pains. 285
My heat, methinks, is much more lightsome grown,
And I thy influence, kind plant! must own.
Justly thy leaves may represent the heart,
For that, among its wealth, counts thee a part.
As of kings heads guinies th’ impression bear, 290
That princely part you in effigie wear.
All storms and clouds you banish from the mind,
But leave serenity and peace behind.
Bacchus himself no more revives our blood
When he infuses his hot, purple flood, 295
When in full bowls he all our sorrow drowns,
And flattering hopes with short-liv’d riches crowns.
But those enjoyments some disturbance bring,
And such delights flow from a muddy spring.
For Bacchus does not kill, but wounds the foe, 300
Whose rage and strength increases by the blow.
But without force or dregs thy pleasures flow,
Thy joys no after-claps of torments know.
Thy hony, gentle bawm! no pointed strings,
Like bees, thy great admirers, with it brings. 305
Oh heavenly gift to sickly human kind,
All goddess, if from care thou freest the mind!
All plagues annoy, but cares the whole main seise
Whene’er we labor under this disease.
These, though in prosp’rous affluence we live, 310
To all our joys a bitter tincture give.
Frail humane nature its own poyson breeds,
And life itself thy healing virtue needs.
A malady there is, that runs through all
The northern world, which they the scurvy call. 315
Thrice happy Greece, that scorns the barbarous word,
Nor in its tongue a neater does afford!
Destructive monster! God ne’er laid a curse
On Man like this, nor could he send a worse.
A thousand horrid shapes the monster wears, 320
And in as many hands fierce arms it bears.
This water-serpent, in the belly’s bred,
By muddy fens and sulph’rous moistures fed,
Him either sloth or too much labour breeds,
He both from ease and pain itself proceeds. 325
Oft from a dying fever he receives
His birth, and in the ashes of it lives.
Of him just born you easily may dispose,
Then he’s a dwarf, but soon a giant grows.
That a small egg should breed a Crocodile 330
Of such vast bulk and strength, the wondering Nile
Thinks he as much amazed ought to stand
As men, when he o’rflows the drowned land.
With nasty humors and dry salts he’s fed,
By stinking wind and vapours nourished. 335
Even in his cradle he unlucky grows
(Though he be son of sloth, no sloth this shows),
His toils no sooner Hercules began.
Monsters now ape that monster-murdering man.
E’re he’s well born, the limbs he does oppress, 340
And they are tired with very idleness.
They languish and deliberating stand,
Loth to obey the active souls command.
Nor does it to your wildred sense appear (bewildered
Where the pain is, ’cause it is everywhere. 345
When men for want of breath can hardly blow,
Nor purple streams in azure channels flow,
Then the bold enemy shews he’s too night,
One so mischievous cannot hidden lie.
The teeth drop out, and noisome grows the breath, 350
The man not only smells, but looks like death.
Qualms, vomiting, and torturing gripes within,
Besides unseemly spots upon the skin,
His other symptoms are. With clouds the mind
He overcasts, and, fettering the sense, 355
To life itself makes living an offence.
This monster Nature gave me to subdue
(Such feats with herbs t’ accomplish ’tis not new:
So the fierce bull and watchful dragon too
On Colchis shoar the valiant Jason slew, 360
But whether those defeated monsters fell
By virtue of my juice I cannot tell,
But them he conquer’d, and then back he row’d’
O’r the proud waves, nor was it only gold
He got: he brought away a royal maid 365
Beside, may all physicians so be paid!)
The hardness of my task my courage fir’d,
A powerful foe was that I most desir’d.
I love to be commended, I must own,
And that my name in phsyick books be shown. 370
I envy them whom Galen deigns to name,
Or old Hippocrates, great sons of fame.
Achilles Alexander envy’d. Why,
If he complain’d so justly, may not I?
When Grecian names did other plants adorn 375
And were by them as marks of honour born,
I grew inglorious on the British coast
(For Britain then no reason had to boast).
Hapless I on the Gothick shoar did lie,
Nor was the sea-weed less esteem’d than I. 380
Now sure ’tis time those losses were regain’d
Which in my youth and fame so long I have sustain’d.
’Tis time, and so they are. Now I am known,
Through all the universe my name has flown.
Who my deserts denies, when by my hands 385
That tyrant falls that plagues the northern lands?
Sing Io Paean, yea thrice Io sing,
And let the Gothick shoar with triumphs ring.
That wild disease, which such disturbance gave,
Is led before my chariot like a slave. 390
Thou neither leaf, nor stalk, nor root can’st show.
How in this pensile posture dost thou grow?
Thou’rt perfect magick, and I cannot now
Those things you do for miracles allow.
Those wonders, if compar’d to you, are none, 395
Since you yourself are a far greater one.
To make the strength of other herbs thy prey
The huntress thou thyself for nets dost lay.
Live riddle! He that would thy mysteries
Unfold must with some Oedipus advise. 400
No wonder in your arms the plants you hold,
Thou being all arms must them needs so infold.
For thee large threads the fatal Sisters spin,
But to your work nor woof nor web put in.
Hence ’tis that you so intricately twine 405
About that plant flax, which yields so long a line.
Oh spouse most constant to a plant most dear,
Than whom no couple e’r more loving were!
No more let love of wanton ivy boast,
Her kindness is th’ effect of nought but lust. 410
Another she enoys, but that her love
And she are two, many distinctions prove.
Their strength and leaves are different, and her fruit
Puts all the difference beyond dispute.
The likeness to the parent does profess 415
That she in that is no adulteress.
Her root with different juices is supply’d,
And she her maiden name bears, though a bride.
But dodder on her spouse depends alone,
And nothing in herself can call her own. 420
Fed with his juice, she on his stalk is born,
And thinks his leaves her head full well adorn.
Whoer he be, she loves to take his name,
And must with him be every way the same.
Alceste and Evadne thus enflam’d 425
Are with some others, for their passion fam’d.
So, dodder, for thy husband flax thoud’st die,
I guess, but may’st thou speed more luckily.
This is her living passion, but she grows
Still more renown’d for kindness, which she shows 430
To mortal men when sh’as resign’d her breath.
For she of them is mindful even in death,
The liver and the spleen most faithfully
Of all oppressions she does ease and free.
Where has so small a plant such strength and store 435
Of virtues, when her husband’s weak and poor?
Who’d think the liver shou’d assistance need,
A noble part, from such a wretched weed?
Use therefore little things, nor take it ill
That men small things preserve, for less may kill. 440
’Mong children I a baneful weed am thought,
By none but hags or fiends desir’d or sought.
They think a doctor is in jest, or mad,
If he agrees not that my juice is bad.
The women also I offend, I know, 445
Though to my bounteous hands so much they owe.
Few palates do my bitter tast approve,
How few, alas! are well inform’d by Jove!
Sweet things alone they love, but in the end
They find what bitter gusts those sweets attend. (tastes 450
Long nauseousness succeeds their short-liv’d joys,
And that which so much pleas’d the palate cloys.
The palate justly suffers for the wrong
Sh’as done the stomach, into which so long
All tasteful food she cramm’d, till now, quite tir’d, 455
She loaths the dainties she before admir’d.
A grievous stench does from the stomach rise,
And from the mouth Lernaean poison flies.
Then they’re content to drink my harsher juice,
Which for its bitterness they n’er refuse. 460
It does not idle in the stomach lie,
But, like some god, give present remedy
(So the warm sun my vigour does restore,
When he returns and the cold winter’s o’r.)
There I jakes out of a stable throw, 465
And Hercules’s labour undergo.
The stomach eas’d, its office does repeat,
And with new living fire concocts the meat.
The purple tincture soon it does devour,
Nor does that chyle the hungry veins o’rpower. 470
The visage by degrees fresh roses stain,
And the perfumed breath grows sweet again.
The good I do Venus herself will own.
She, though all sweets, yet loves not sweets alone.
She wisely mixes with my juice her joys, 475
And her delights with bitter things allows.
We herbs to different studies are inclin’d,
And every faction does its author find.
Some Epicurus’s sentiments defend,
And follow pleasure as their only end. 480
It is their pride and boast sweet fruits to bear,
And on their heads they flowry chaplets wear,
Whilst others, courting rigid Zeno’s sect,
In virtue fruitful, all things else neglect.
They love not pomp, or what delights the sense, 485
And think all’s well, if they give no offence.
And none a greater Stoick is than I,
The Stoa’s pillars on my stalk rely.
Let others please, to profit is my pleasure,
The love I slowly gain’s a lasting treasuare. 490
In towns debauch’d he’s the best officer
Who most censorious is and most severe.
Such I am, and such you, dear Cato! were.
But I no dire, revengeful passion show.
Our schools in wisemen anger don’t allow. 495
No fault I punish more than that which lies
Within my province. Wherefore from my eyes
Choler with hasty speed before me flies.
Assoon as me it in the stomach spies,
Preparing for a war in martial guise, 500
Not daring in its lurking holes to stay,
It makes a swift escape the backward way.
I follow him at th’ heels, and by the scent
Found out which way the noisom enemy went.
Of water too I drain the flesh and bloud, 505
When winter threatens a devouring flood.
The Dutchmen with less skill their country drain,
And turn the course of waters back again.
Sometimes th’ obstructed reins too narrow grow,
And the salt floods back to their fountains flow. 510
Unhappy state! The neighbouring members quake,
And all th’ adjacent country seems to shake.
Then I begin the waters thus to chide:
“Why, sluggish waters, do you stop your tide?
Glide on with me, I’ll break the rampires down (dams 515
That stop the channel where you once have flown.”
I do so, straight the currents wider grow,
And in their usual banks the waters flow.
This all the members does rejoice and chear,
Who of a dismal deluge stood in fear. 520
Men-eating worms I from the body scare,
And conquering arms against that plague prepare
(Voracious worm1 Thou wilt most certainly
Heir of our bodies be, whene’r we die.
Deferr a while the meal which in the grave 525
Of humane viands thou e’r long must have.)
Those vermine infants bowels make their food,
And love to suck their fill of tender bloud.
They cannot stay till death serves up their feast,
But greedily snatch up the meat undrest. 530
Why shou’d I speak of fleas? Such foes I hate,
So basely born, ev’n to enumerate,
Such dust-born, skipping points of life, I say,
Whose only virtue is to run away.
My triumphs to such numbers do amount 535
That I the graeter ones can hardly count.
To such a bulk the vast account does swell
That I some trophies lose which I should tell.
Oft wandring death is scatter’d through the skies,
And through the elements infection flies. 540
The earth below is sick, the air above,
Slow rivers prove they’re sickly whist they move.
All things deaths arms in cold embraces catch,
Life even the vital air away doth snatch.
To remedy such evils God took care, 545
Nor me at least of med’cines did prepare.
Oft too, they say, I (though no giant neither)
Have born the shock of three strong foes together.
Not without reason therefore, or in vain,
Did conquering Rome my honor so maintain. 550
The conqu’ror a triumphal draught of me
Drank as the guerdon of his victory.
Holding the crowned goblet in his hand,
He cry’d aloud, “This cup can health command.
Nor does it, cause ’tis bitter, please me less. 555
My toils were so, in which I met success.
D’ye slight me, ’cause a bog my belly feeds,
And I am found among a crowd of reeds?
I’m no green vulgar daughter of the earth,
But to the noble waters owe my birth. 560
I was a goddess of no mean degree,
But Love, alas, depos’d my deity.
He bad me love, and straight my kindled heart
In Hercules’s triumphs bore a part.
I with his fame and actions fell in love, 565
And limbs, that might become his father Jove.
And by degrees me a strong impulse hurl’d,
That man t’ enjoy who conquer’d all the world.
To tell you true, that night I most admir’d
When he got fifty sons and was not tir’d. 570
Now blushing, such deeds hate I to profess,
But ’twas a night of noble wickedness.
He (to be short) my honour stain’d, and he
Had the first flow’r of my virginity.
But he, by’s father Jove’s example led, 575
Rambled and cou’d not brook a single bed.
Fierce monstrous beasts and tyrants worse than they
All o’r the world he ran to seek and slay.
But he, te tyrant, for his guerdon still
A maid requires, if he a monster kill. 580
All womankind to me his harlots are,
Ev’n goddesses in my suspicion share.
Perish me, let the sun this water dry,
And may I scorch’d in this burnt puddle die,
If I of Juno were not jealous grown, 585
And thought I shwe’d her hatred in my own,
(“Perhaps,” said I, “my passion he derides,
And I’m the scorn of all his virtuous brides.
Grief, anger, shame and fury vex my mind,
But, maugre all, Loves darts those passions blind.”) (despite 590
If I from tortures of eternal grief
Did not design by death to seek relief.
But goddesses in love can never die,
Hard fate! our punishment’s eternity.
Meantime I’m all in tears both night and day, 595
And as they drop, my tedious hours decay.
Into a lake the standing showers grow,
And o’r my feet th’ united waters flow.
Then (as the dismal boast of misery)
I triumph in my griefs fertility, 600
Till Jove at length, in pity, from above
Said I shou’d never from that fen remove.
His word my body of its form bereft,
And straight all vanish’d that my grief had left.
My knotty root under the earth does sink, 605
And makes me of a club too often think.
My thirsty leaves no liquor can suffice,
My tears are now return’d into my eyes.
My form its ancient whiteness still retains,
And pristine paleness in my cheeks remains. 610
Now in perpetual mirth my days I pass,
We plants, believe me, are an happy race.
We truly feel the suns kind influence,
Cool winds and warmer air refresh our sense.
Nectar in dew does from Aurora rise, 615
And earth ambrosia untill’d supplies.
I pity man, who thousand cares perplex,
And cruel Love, that greatest plague, does vex.
Whilst mindful of the ills I once endur’d,
His flames by me are quench’d, his wounds are cur’d. 620
I triumph, that my victor I o’rthrow,
Such changes tyrants thrones shou’d undergo.
Don’t wonder, Love, that thee thy slave shou’d beat,
Alcides monsters taught me to defeat.
And lest, unhappy boy! thou shou’dst believe 625
All handsom folks they cruel yoke receive,
I have a wash that beautifies the face,
Yet chastly look in my own wat’ry glass.
Diana’s meine and Venus face I lend,
So to both deities I prove a friend. 630
But lest that god shou’d artfully his flame
Conceal, and burn me in anothers name,
All heats in general I resist, nay I
To all that’s hot am a sworn enemy.
Whether distracting flames with fury flie 635
Through the burnt brain, like comets through the skie,
Or whether from the belly they ascend,
And fumes all o’r the body swiftly send.
Whether with sulphurous fire the veins within
They kindle, or just singe the outward skin. 640
Whate’r they are, my awful juice they fly,
When glimmering through the pores they run and die.
Why wink’st thou? Why doest so with half an eye
Look on me? Oh! my sleepy root’s too nigh.
Besides, my tedious discourse might make 645
Any man have but little mind to wake
Without that’s help. Thus then our leaves we take.
Me cruel Nature, when she made me, gave
Nor stalk, nor seed, nor flow’r, as other have.
The sun ne’r warms me, nor will she allow 650
I shou’d in cultivated gardens grow.
And to augment the torment of my years
No lovely colour in my leaves appears.
You’d think me heav’ns aversion, and the earth
Had brought me forth at some chance, spurious birth. 655
Vain outward gaudy shews mankind surprize,
And they resign their reason to their eyes.
To gardens no poor plant admittance gains,
For there, God wot, the painted tulip reigns.
But the wise gods mind no such vanity, 660
Phoebus above all tulips values me.
So does that Coan, old Hippocrates,
Who the next place to Phoebus challenges.
For when the members Nature did divide,
And over such or such bad herbs preside, 665
I of the savage and unruly spleen,
A stubborn province, was created queen.
I that restrain, though it resist my power,
And bring its swelling, rebel humor lower.
The passages with rampires it in vain 670
Obstructs, I quickly break them down again.
All commerce I with speedy force restore,
And the ways open all my kingdom o’r.
If I don’t take that course, it furious grows,
And into every part contagion throws. 675
With poisonous vapours it infects the blood,
And life itself drinks of a venomous flood.
Foul leprosie upon the skin appears,
And the chang’d visage deaths pale colours wears.
Hence watchfulness, distracting care, and tears, 680
And pain proceeds with hasty, killing fears.
Hence halters, cruel love! our necks release
From thy more fatal yoke, and daggers ease
Our souls of life’s incurable disease.
May no such monstrous evils good men hurt, 685
Jove and my virtue all such things avert!
The treasury Trajan rightly to the speen
Compar’d. For when that swells, the body’s lean.
Why do you laugh? Is it because that I
Pretend to know the Roman history? 690
I a dull stick and not a plant shou’d be,
Having so long kept doctors company,
If their discourse shou’d not advantage me.
It has, and I great wonders cou’d relate,
But I’m a plant that ne’r was given to prate. 695
But to return from whence I have digrest,
I many creatures ease by spleen opprest.
Creet, though so used to lye, you may believe,
When for their swine their thanks to me they give.
The wretched ass, whom constant labour tires, 700
Sick of the spleen my speedy aid desires.
Eating my leaves (for I relieve his pain),
He cheerfully resumes his work again.
Now, if you can, vain, painted flow’rs admire,
Delights, scarce sooner born than they expire. 705
They’re fair, ’tis true, thy’re cheerful and they’re green,
But I, though said, procure a gladsom mein.
Some think your commendation you deserve,
’Cause you of old Augustus did preserve.
Why did you still prolong that fatal breath 710
That banish’d Ovid and was Tully’s death?
But I suppose that neither of ’em you,
Nor orator nor poet, ever knew.
Wherefore I wonder not you shou’d comply,
And the worlds tyrant so far gratify. 715
Thou truly to all tyrants art of use,
Their madness flies before thy pow’rful juice.
Their heads with better wreaths I pri’thee crown,
And let the world in them thy kindness own.
At thy command forth from its scorched heart 720
Of tyrants love the greatest does depart.
False Love, *I mean. For thou ne’r try’st t’ expel
True Love, who, like a good king, governs well.
Justly that dog-star, Cupid, thou do’st hate,
Whose fire kills herbs, and monsters does create. 725
Upon the same
Eat me with bread and oil, you’ll ne’r repine,
Or say in summer you want meat to dine.
The worlds first golden age such viands blest,
I was the chief ingredient at a feast.
Large bodies for the demigods my juice 730
And blood proportionable did produce.
Then neither fraud, nor force, nor lust was known,
Such ills their rise from too much heat must own.
Let their vile name religiously be curst,
Who to base glutt’ny gave dominion first. 735
For thence sprang vice, whose train distempers were,
And death did in new, ghastly shapes appear.
Shun cruel tables, that with blood are dy’d,
And banquets by destructive death suppli’d.
Sick, if not well, thou’lt herbs desire, and we 740
Shall prove, if not thy meat, thy remedy.
“Enter, sweet stranger, to my eyes reveal
Thyself, and gratefully thy poet heal.
If I of plants have anything deserv’d,
Or in my verse their honour be preserv’d.” 745
Thus, lying on the grass and said, pray’d I,
While nimbly eye-bright came and stood just by.
I wonder’d that so noble an herb so soon
Rose by my side like a champignon. (mushroom
I saw her not before, nor did sh’ appear, 750
For anything I knew, to be so near.
On a black stalk, nine inches long shew grew,
With leaves all notchd, and of a greenish hue,
While pretty flowers on her top she bore,
With yellow mixt and purple streaks all ore. 755
I knew her straght, her name and visage sute,
And my glad eyes their patroness salute.
Strange news! To me she bow’d with flow’r and stalk,
And thus, in language fit for her, did talk.
’Twas low, for herbs that modest custom love, 760
Hoarse murmurs of the trees they don’t approve.
“Thou only bard,” said she, “o’ th’ verdant race,
Who in thy songs do’st all our virtues trace,
All men are not allow’d our voice to hear,
Though such respect to you, our friend, we bear. 765
We hate the custome, which with men obtains,
To slight a kind, ingenuous poets pains.
I wish my roots cou’d heal you, and, I’m sure,
Our nation all wou’d gladly see the cure.
But if by Natures self it be withstood, 770
The pow’r of herbs, alas! can do no good.
Natures injunctions none of us withstands,
We’re slaves to all Her Ladyships commands.
Let what she gives your appetite suffice,
Nor grumble when she anything denies, 775
For she with sparing hands large gifts supplies.
But if some malady impar the sight,
Or wine, or love, that’s blind and hates the light,
Or surfeits, watchful cares, or putrid air,
Or numerous other things that hurtful are, 780
Then am I useful. If you would engage
To count my conquests, or the wars I wage,
The ev’ning star much sooner wou’d go down,
And all the fields in dewy nectar drown.
Oft a salt flood, which from the head descends, 785
With the eyes fresher streams its current blends.
That pain, which causes many watery eyes,
From its own tears itself does here arise.
Oft times the channels of a paler flood
Are fill’d and swell with strange, unnatural blood, 790
And by a guest, who thither lately came.
The house is set all on a raging flame.
Take care, if your small worlds bright sun appear
Blood-red, or he’ll soon leave your hemisphere.
Oft fumes and wandering flies obscure the eye, 795
And in those clouds strange monsters seem to fly.
Fume, what does they dull, sooty visage here?
I see no fire, that thou should’st be so near.
Or what (with a mischief) means the troublesome fly?
I’d as soon have the god of flies as nigh. 800
Oft times the sight is dark’ned with false snow,
And night itself in blanched robes does go,
Whilst shapes of distant things, that real were,
In different colours, or in none, appear.
Tumours and cankers, pustles, ulcers why 805
Shou’d I recount, those torments of the eye?
Or thousands more which I’m affraid to name,
Lest when I tell them, they my tongue inflame,
Or that which from its hollow length men call
Fistula, a name too musical. 810
All these I tame, the air my vertue clears,
Whilst the clouds vanish and the day appears.
The joyful face smiles with diffused light.
What comeliness is mix’d with that delight!
You know, Arnoldus (if you’ve read him o’r) 815
Did sight by me to men stone-blind restore.
’Tis true, and my known virtue ought to be
The more esteem’d for that strange prodigy.
With my kind leaves he bids you tinge your wines,
And profit with your pleasure wisely joins. 820
Those light will truly give, and sacred bowls,
Bacchus will dwell in your enlarged souls.
Then call thy boy, with a capacious cup,
And with that wine be sure to fill it up,
Till thou hast drunk, for all the amorous dames, 825
An health to ev’ry letter of their names.
Then drink an health to th’eyes, they won’t refuse
(I’m confident) to pledge you in my juice.
But we lose time. Go, carefully rehearse
What I have said in never-dying verse.” 830
She spake, then vanishing away she flew.
I (reader) tell you nothing but what’s true.
When I stand musing (as I often do),
I’m filled with shame, and noble anger too,
To think that all we plants (except some few 835
Whom Phoebus with more vigour did endue)
Cannot away with winters nipping fare,
But more effeminate than mankind are.
From Father Son and Mother Earth in vain
We sprang, they both your figure still retain. 840
To our delights why don’t the seasons yield,
And banish winter from each verdant field?
Why in Elysian gardens don’t we grow,
Where no chill blasts may on our beauties blow?
We’re halcyons forsooth, and can’t with ease 845
Bring force, unless the world be all at peace.
Nor is this softness only to be found
Among small herbs, still creeping on the ground:
Great elms and oaks themselves it does controul,
In their hard bark they wear a tender soul. 850
These huffs effeminacy count no crime,
You’d think in summer they to heav’n would climb.
But if the year its back upon them turn,
Each giant creeps back into th’ earth his urn.
Here lies — you on his bulky trunk may write, 855
For shame! There lie, let not the mold lie light.
But I, who very hardly dare receive
The name of shrub (though Pliny gives me leave),
The dreadful winter to the combat dare.
Though heav’n itself shou’ld fall, I’d take no care. 860
The winter comes, and I’m by storms alarm’d,
She comes with lengions numberless well arm’d.
Then I my fruit produce, and having first
Expos’d them to her cry, “No wdo thy worst.
Pour, pour upon them all the rain i’ th’ skie. 865
It will not wast away their scarlet die.
Pour snow, their purple thence will grow more bright.”
Some red in a white vessel gives delight.
So the red lip the ivory teeth befriends,
And a white skin the rosy cheeks commends. 870
With suchlike rudiments do I inure
My virtue, and the force of it secure.
I, who rebellious sickness must subdue,
And every day fresh victories pursue.
Thus did I learn vast stones to break in twain, 875
And ice, at first, put me to little pain.
For I not onely water do expel
(That other weaker plants can do as well),
But such hard rocks of adamant I break
As Hannibal to pass wou’d prove too weak. 880
Unhappy he, who on this rock is tost,
And shipwrack’d is in his own waters lost!
Even Sisyphus might pity and bemoan
The wretch that’s tortur’d with an inbred stone.
How does he envy, ah how much, the dead, 885
Whose corps with stones are only covered!
Wou’d I not help him? Might the earth divide
And swallow men if I my aid deni’d.
Then I my self child of some rock must own,
And that my roots were veins of hardest stone. 890
But truly I do pity such a man,
And the obdurate matter quickly can
Dissolve. My piercing liquor round it lies,
And straight into a thousand parts it flies.
The long obstructed streams then glide away, 895
And fragments with them of the stone convey.
To say the truth, Nature’s too kind to thee,
For all thy days thou spend’st in luxury.
Thy flowers are silver, and a purple down
Covers thy body like a silken gown. 900
Whilst, to increase thy pomp and pride, each vein
Of thine a golden humour does contain.
Each leaf is hollow made, just like a cup,
Which liquor always to the brim fills up.
The drunken sun cannot exhaust thy bowl, 905
Nor Sirius himself, that thirsty soul.
Full thou survey’st the parched fields around,
And enviously in thy own floods art drown’d.
Drinking, the thirsty months thou laugh’st away,
The Hydra of thy spring’s reviv’d each day. 910
Thy Nile from secret sources moistens thee,
And bids thee merry, though Jove angry be.
Upon the same
Thy conquer’d ivy, Bacchus! now throw down,
And of this herb make a far nobler crown.
This herb with plenty’s bounteous current feeds, 915
Plenty which constantly itself succeeds.
So thy extended guts thy godship swills,
And its own self thy tilted hogshead fills.
So at Joves table gods the goblet drain,
But straight with nectar it grows full again. 920
Nor do the cups the Phrygian stripling need
To fill them, each is his own Ganymede.
So in the heart, that double lusty bowl
(In which the soul itself drinks life and soul),
That heavn’ly bowl, made by an heav’nly hand, 925
With purple nectar always crown’d does stand.
Of what she spends Nature ne’r feels the lack,
What one throws out, another brings it back.
Blest plant, brimful of moisture radical!
No wonder thou the spirits, lest they fall, 930
Support’st, or that consumptive bodies you
And the firm limbs bind with a lasting glue.
Or that lifes lamp, which ready is to die,
With such vivacious oil you can supply.
No wonder to the lungs thou grateful art, 935
Thy constant waters feed that spongy part.
You Venus also loves, for though you’re wet,
Your inside, like your outside’s burnt with heat.
These are lusts elements: of heat she makes
A soul, and moisture for her body takes. 940
The dropping, bloudy nose you gently bind,
But loosen the close hemorrhoids behind.
And ’tis but natur’al that who shuts the fore
Shou’d at the same time open the back door.
Upon the same
See how with pride the groveling pot-herb swells, 945
And sawcily the generous vine repells.
Her that great emperours oft in triumph drew,
A base, unworthy colewort does subdue.
But though o’r that the wretch victorious be,
It cannot stand, puissant plant! near thee. 950
For meat to medicines still must give the place,
That feeds diseases, which away these chase.
You bravely men and other plants outvie,
Who no kind office do, until they die.
Thy virtues thou, let living, do’st impart, 955
And ev’n to thy own garden physick art.
<Upon the same>
Though on me Greece bestow’d a graceful name,
Which well the figure of my leaves became,
Th’ apothecaries have a new one found
(Dull knaves, that hate the very Greek words sound!), 960
And from a nasty sow (whose very name
Stinks on my tongue) have stigmatiz’d my fame.
But I to them more than to swine give bread,
They are the hogs by my large bounty fed.
My virtue dries all ulcerous, running sores, 965
And native softness to the skin restores.
My pow’r hard tumours cannot, if I list,
Either with water or with fire resist.
Of scars by burning caus’d I clear the face,
Nor let small-pox the countenance disgrace. 970
My conquering hand pimpgenets cannot shun,
Nor blackish, yellow spots the face o’r-run.
Morphew departs, and out each freckle flies,
Though from our god himself they had their rise.
Nor leave I ought upon the cheeks of lasses 975
To make ’em shie of looking in their glasses.
Nor doubt I but that sex must thanks will give,
For that the pangs of childbirth I relieve.
Upon the same
In my fire that false gold, the jaundice, I
Consume (true gold scarce does more injury). 980
Black blood, at my command, the back-way flows,
Nasty itself through nasty holes it goes.
Choler and phlegm yellow and white I drain,
They wear th’ dear metals colours both in vain.
All meteors from the eyes I drive away, 985
And whatso’er obscures the small worlds day.
I of the gout removed the very seed,
And all the humours which that torment breed.
Thorns, splinters, nails I draw, who wondering stand
How they could so come forth without an hand. 990
This is the least. All poisons I expel,
And death force thence, where it was like to dwell.
Infants that know not what to live,
Before they’re wretched, from the womb I drive.
“Oh heavens!” says th’ ignorant amazed world, 995
“Is’t a distemper to be born?” Yes, ’tis.
For if we make a true account, ’tis more
Advantage life to hinder than restore.
A lustry frog, a duck swears, is such meat
(Fat’ned by me) as Jove himself may eat. 1000
And if the learn’d Apicius knew that dish,
He’d hungry grow, though dead, and life wou’d wish.
By this our value’s in some measure shewn,
But I’m not born to fatten ducks alone,
Nor o’r green ponds did nature carpets strow 1005
That she to slimy frogs good-will might show.
From me great benefits all the world must own,
Though long time hid, they’re many, yet unknown.
In a small ring the wits of learned men
Run, and the same, confin’d, trace o’r agen. 1010
The plants which Nature through the universe
In various shapes and colours does disperse,
Why shou’d I mention? This their ignorance shews,
That ev’n of me mankind so little knows.
Something they do, and more I wou’d reveal, 1015
Which Phoebus and the Fates bid me conceal.
But this I’ll tell you: dry blew cankers I,
And cholerick fire of hot St. Anthony
I soon extinguish, and all other flames
Whatever are their natures or their names. 1020
My native cold and watery temper show
Who my chill parent is and where I grow.
Thus when the water in the joints inclos’d
Bubbles, by pain and natural heat oppos’d,
The boyling caldron my strong virtue rules, 1025
And sprinkled with my dew the fury cools.
Touching the bite of the tarantula
Daunian Arachne! who spinn’st all the day,
Nor to Minerva will’t ev’n yet give way,
Whilst thy own bowels thou to lawn dost weave, (fine fabric
What pleasure canst thou from such pains receive? 1030
Why thy sad hours in such base deeds doest spill,
Or do things so ridiculously ill?
Why doest thou take delight to stop our breath,
Or act the serious sports of cruel death.
Whom thou scarce touchest straight to rave he’s found, 1035
He raves although he hardly feels thy wound.
One atome of thy poison in the veins
Dominion soon o’r all the body gains.
Within upon the soul herself it preys,
Which it distracts a thousand cruel ways. 1040
One’s silent, whilst another roars aloud;
He’s fearful, t’ other fights with th’ gazing crowd.
This cryes, and this his sides with laughter shakes,
A thousand habits this same fury takes.
But all with love of dancing are possest, 1045
All day and night they dance and never rest.
Assoon as musick from struck strings rebounds,
Or the full pipes breath forth their magick sounds.
The stiff old woman straight begins a round,
And the lethargick sleeper quits the ground. 1050
The poor lame fellow, though he cannot prance
So nimbly as the rest, he hops a dance.
The old man, whom this merry poison fires,
Satyrs themselves with dancing almost tires.
To such a sad, phrenetick dance as this 1055
A Siren, sure, the fittest minstrel is.
Cruel distemper! they wild fury proves
Worst Master of the Revels which it loves.
When this sad Pyrrhick measure they begin,
Ah! what a weight hangs on their hearts within. 1060
Tell me, physicians! which way shall I ease
Poor mortals of this strange, unknown disease?
For me may Phoebus never more protect
(Whose godhead you and I so much respect)
If I know any more (to tell you true) 1065
Whence this dire mischief springs, than one of you.
But to the heart (you know it) and the brain,
Those distant provinces in which I reign
(To you, my friends, I no false stories feign),
Auxiliary troops of spirits I 1070
Send, and the camp with fresh recruits supply.
Many kind plants beside me to the war
Attend, nor blush that under me they soldiers are.
The merry baum, and rue, which serpents kills,
Cent’ry, and saffron from Cilician hills, 1075
And thou, kind birthwort, whose auspicious name
From thy good deeds to teeming women came.
The kind pomegranate also does engage
With her bright arms, and my dear sister sage.
Berries of laurel, myrtle, tamarisk, 1080
Ivy and juniper are very brisk.
Lavender and sweet marjoram march away,
Sothernwood and angelica don’t stay.
Plaintain, the thistle which they blessed call,
And useful wormwood in their order fall. 1085
Then carrot, anise, and white cumin seed,
With gith, that pretty, chast, black rogue, proceed.
Next vipers-grass, a plant but lately known,
And tormentil and roses red, full blown,
To which I garlick may and onions join. 1090
All these to fight I lead. Go, give the sign.
With indignation I am vex’t, and hate
Soft musick that great praise shou’d arrogate.
Poets will say, ’tis true (they’re given to lye)
Willing their mistris so to gratifie. 1095
But food, I say, it does, not physick, prove
To madmen (witness all that are in love!).
She to a short-liv’d folly does supply
Constant additions of new vanity.
And here (to shew her wit and courage too) 1100
Flatters the tyrant, whom she shou’d subdue.
It is the greatest part of the disease
That she does so immoderately please.
’Tis part of the disease, that so they throw
And toss themselves, which does for physick go. 1105
This plague itself is plagu’d so night and day
That tir’d with labour it flies quite away.
I also lend an hand to ease her grief,
When from her own strength Nature seeks relief.
’Tis something that I do, but truly I 1110
Think the disease is its own remedy.
Take my advice, men!, and no riddles use.
Why wo’n’t you rather to speak plainly choose?
If you’re affraid, your secrets shou’d be told,
Your tongues you (that’s the surest way) may hold. 1115
Why shou’d we sense with barbarous cruelty
Put to the rack, to make it tell a lye?
Of this just reason I have to complain:
Old dubious saws long since my fame do stain.
How many ill conjectures grounded are 1120
On this, that I must ne’r be set in war.
The reader of a thing obscure will be
Inclin’d to carp, and to take liberty.
Hence one says, “mint Mars does entirely hate,
And mint to Venus also is ingrate.” 1125
Mars loves as well to get as to destroy
Mankind, the booty of his fierce employ.
Mint from the seed all seminal virtue takes,
And of brisk men dull frigid eunuchs makes.
And then (to make the spreading error creep 1130
Farther and farther still) they hear I keep
Their milk from thickening. But how this I do
I’ll tell you on these terms alone, that you
Shall me before resolve how first you gain
Notions of things then, how you them retain. 1135
This I dare boldly say: the fire of love
With genial heat I gently do improve.
Though constantly the noble, humane seed
That sacred lamp with vital oil does feed.
For what to Venus e’r will faithful seem, 1140
If heat itself an enemy you esteem?
Whether I know her, Proserpine can tell,
I by my punishment am clear’d too well.
Besides, nought more the stomach rectifies,
Or strengthens the digestive faculties. 1145
Such, such a plant that feeds the amorous flame,
If Venus love not, she is much to blame.
And with ingratitude the seed I may
Charge, if to me great thanks it do not play.
But other causes others have assign’d, 1150
Who make the reason, which they cannot find.
They say wounds, if I touch them, bleed anew,
And I wound wounds themselve. ’Tis very true.
For I a dry, astringent pow’r retain,
By which all ulceers of their gore I drain. 1155
I bloody-fluxes stop, my virtue’s sure,
The wounds that Natures self has made to cure.
On bites of serpents and mad dogs I seize
And them (wars hurts are slight) I heal with ease.
I scarce dare mention that from galling I, 1160
If in the hand I’m born, preserve the thigh.
D’ ye laugh? Laugh on, so I with laughter may
Requite the scandals which on me you lay.
Of which some I omit, and the true cause
Of all will tell (and then she made a pause),1165
Though I abhor my sorrows to recal
(And here the tears down her green cheeks did fall).
I did not always in your gardens grow,
But once a comely virgins face cou’d show.
Black though I was (Cocytus was my sire), 1170
Yet beauty had to kindle am’rous fire.
Lest anyone should think this a lye,
Ovid will tell you so as well as I.
My father had a pleasant, shady grove,
Where he perpetually to walk did love. 1175
There mournful yew and funeral cypress grow,
Whose melancholy greens no winter know,
With other trees whose looks their sorrow show.
Here Pluto (Jove of the infernal throne)
Saw me, as I was walking all alone. 1180
He saw me and was pleas’d, for his desire
At any face, or white or black, takes fire.
Ah! if you knew him but so well as I,
He’s an unsatiable deity.
He never stands a tender maid to woe, (woo 1185
But cruelly by violence falls to.
He caught me, though I fled till out of breath
I was. I thought he wou’d ha’ been my death.
What cou’d I do? His strength was far above
Mine, he the strength has of his brother Jove. 1190
In short, me to a secret cave he lead,
And there the ravisher got my maidenhead.
But in all the midst of all whis wickedness
(How it fell out the poets don’t express,
Nor can you think that I, poor creature, well 1195
The cause at such a time as that cou’d tell),
Lo! Proserpine his wife came in, and found
My wretched limbs all prostrate on the ground.
She no excuse wou’d hear, nor me again
Let rise, but said there fix’d I shou’d remain. 1200
She spake, and straight my body I perceiv’d
(Each limb dissolv’d) of all its strength bereav’d.
My veins are all straight rooted in the earth
(From whence my ruddy stalk receives its birth),
A blushing crown of flowers adorns my head, 1205
My leaves are jagged, of a darkish red,
And so a lovely bed of mint I make
In the same posture that she did me take.
But the infernal ravisher my fate
(’Twould move a devil) did commiserate 1210
And, his respect for what I was to show,
Great virtue on my leaves he did bestow.
Rich qualities to humble me he gave,
Of which the fragrant smell’s the least I have.
All this the antients understood was true, 1215
And thence their great religious caution grew.
They thought me sacred to th’ infernal king,
And that ’twas ominous for me to spring
In times of death and danger, nor wou’d let
Me in the midst of war and blood be set. 1220
But they mistaken were, for I take care
That others be not caught in his strong snare,
Nor pass the Stygian lake without gray hair.
Welcome, thrice welcome, sacred Misseltoe!
The greatest gift Teutates does bestow. 1225
With more religion Druid priests invoke
Thee than thy sacred, sturdy sire, the oak.
Raise holy altars from the verdant ground,
And strow your various Flowers all around.
Next lest the priest, when to the gods h’as paid 1230
All due devotion, and his orisons made,
Cloth’d all in white, by the attendants be,
With hands and necks rais’d to the sacred tree.
Where that he may more freely it receive,
Let him first beg the shrubs indulgent leave. 1235
And when h’ as cut it with a golden hook,
Let the expecting crowd, that upward look,
Array’d in white, the falling treasure meet,
And catch it in a pure, clean, snowy sheet.
Then let two spotless bulls before him lie, 1240
And with their grateful bood the altars die.
Which when you’ve done, then feast, and dance, and sing,
And let the wood with their loud voices ring.
Such honour had the misseltoe, which hate
And envy to it did in gods create. 1245
Th’ Egyptian temples do not louder sound,
When there again th’ adored heifer’s found.
Nor did she seem lest majesty to wear
(If any tree there, misseltoe did bear),
When in Dodonas grove upon an oak 1250
She grew, that in its hollow ora’cles spoke.
For this one plant the antients, above all,
Protectress of their life did think and call.
She onely from the earth loaths to be born,
And on the meaner ground to tread thinks scorn. 1260
Nor did she from prolifick matter come,
But, like the world, from nothings fruitful womb.
Others are set and grow by humane care,
Her leaves the product of mere Nature are.
Hence serpents she of their black stings disarms, 1265
And baffles (Mans worse poison) magic charms,
Besides all other kinds of maladies
(Now numberless, alas!) that on us seize.
Nor wonder, that all other ills it beats,
Since the Herculean-sickness it defeats. 1270
Than which none more Chimaera-like appears,
One part o’ nt’ s dead, the other raves and tears.
This monster she subdues. Hence ’twas believ’d
(And truly though ’twas false, it was receiv’d
On no bad grounds) that lesser monsters she 1275
Cou’d make the trophies of her victory.
The antients thought so in the infancy
O’ th’ world, they then knew nought of fallacy.
Nor was she then thought onely to defend
And guard lifes fort, but life itself to lend, 1280
Ev’n the wombs fruitful soil t’ improve and mend.
For what soil barren to that plant can be,
Which without seed has its nativity?
Or what to her close shut and lock’d can seem,
That makes th’ obdurate oaks hard entrails teem? 1285
That from a tree comes forth in pangs and pain,
Like the Athenian goddess from Joves brain.
But if that’s true, which antient bards have writ
(For though they’re antient bards, I question it),
I wonder not that misseltoe’s so kind 1290
To us, since her the ties of Nature bind.
For men of old (if you’ll believe ’twas so),
Born out of oaks, were the first misseltoe.
See how the yellow gall the delug’d eyes,
And saffron jaundice the whole visage dies. 1295
That colour which on gold we think so fair,
That hue which most adorns the tressed hair,
When, like a tyrant, it unjustly gains
Anothers throne, and there usurping reigns.
It frightful grows, and far more beauty lacks 1300
Than, with their saddle-noses, dusky blacks.
So (I suppose) to the gods eyes the soul
O’ th’ miser looks, as yellow and as foul.
For it with gold alone the soul’s inflam’d.
It has the aurigo, from that metal nam’d. 1305
This the almighty gods can onely cure,
And reason, more than herbs, our minds secure.
But th’ outward jaundice does our help impore,
When with gall floods the body’s dy’d all o’re.
I cannot tell what others do, but I 1310
Give to that jaundice present remedy.
Nor do I rashly undertake the cure,
I an assistant have, that makes me sure.
Natures own patent gives me my command.
See, here’s her own sign manual, here’s her hand. (signature 1315
Through leaves and stalk and roots themselves it goes,
They yellow blood through my whole body flows.
Whoever me dissects would’ think, nay swear,
O’rflown with gall I sick o’ th’ jaundice were.
Meantime my skin all o’r is fresh and green, 1320
And colour good, as in an herb you’ve seen.
Ten thousand blessings may the gods bestow
Upon thee, tuneful swallow! and ne’r show
They bear the least resentment of that crime
Which thou hast suffer’d for so long a time. 1325
For that the use of a choice plant thou’st taught,
Which ne’r before blind man had seen or sought.
Of thee large rent now e’ry house receives
For th’ nests which they to thee let under th’ eaves.
The painted springs whole train on thee attend, 1330
Yet nought thou seest which thou cast more commend.
For this it is that makes thee all things see,
This plant a special favour has for thee.
When thou com’st, th’ others come. That won’t suffice,
At thy return away this with thee flies. 1335
Yet we to it must more engagements own.
’Tis a small thing to heal the eyes alone.
Ten thousand torments of our life it cures,
From which good fortune you, blest birds, secures.
The gripes by its approach it mitigates, 1340
And tortures of an aking tooth abates.
The golden jaundice quickly it defeats,
And with gilt arms at his own weapon beats.
Jaundice, which morbus regius they call
From a king, but falsly: ’tis tyrannical. 1345
Foul ulcers too that from the body bud,
This dries and drains of all their putrid blood.
A gaping wounds one lip, like any brother,
Approaches nearer and salutes the other.
Nor to thy shankers now, foul lust! remain, (chancres 1350
But all thy shealing scabs rub off again.
The burning cancer and the tetter fly, (herpes
Whilst all hot, angry, red biles sink and dry.
Diseases paint wears off, and places where
The sun once printed kisses disappear. 1355
Purg’d of all blemishes the smiling face
Is cleaner far, and smoother than its glass.
You who in sacred wedlock coupled are
(Where all joys lawful, all joys seemly are),
Ben’t shie to eat of my leaves heartily, 1360
They do not hunger, onely satisfie.
They’ll be a banquet to you all the night,
On them the body chews with fresh delight.
But you, chast lads, and girls that lie alone,
And none of loves enjoyments yet have known, 1365
Take care and stand aloof, if you are wise.
Toch not this plant, Venus her sacrifice.
I bring a poison for your modesties.
In my grasss, like a snake, blind Cupid lies,
And with my juice his deadly weapons dies. 1370
The god of gardens no herb values more,
Or courts, presents, or does himself devour.
This is the reason, hot Priapus! why
(As I suppose) you itch constantly,
And that your arms still ready are to do 1375
The wicked business that you put ’em to.
Let him who love wou’d shun from me remove,
Says Naso, that Hippocrates in love.
Yet to his table I was duly ser’vd,
Who my choice dainty to himself reserv’d. 1380
Prove that from love he ever wou’d be free,
More chast than lettuce I’ll consent to be.
The praise of chastity let others keep,
And gratifie the widow’d bed with sleep.
Action’s my task, bold lovers to engage, 1385
And to precipitate the sportive rage.
Frankly I own my nature, I delight
In love unmix’t and restless appetite.
From curing maladies I seek no fame
(Though ev’n for that I might put in my claim), 1390
Fuel I bring that pleasure may not cese,
Take that from life, and life is a disease.
If thus you like me, make me your repast,
I wou’d not gratifie a Stoicks tast.
If morals gross and crude be your delight, 1395
Marsh weeds can best oblige your appetite.
Go from my book, foul bawd of pleasure, go
(For what have I, lewd bawd, with thee to do?).
From these chast herbs and their chast poet flee,
Us thou offend’st, and w’ are asham’d of thee. 1400
With such a prostitute to come in view
Chast matrons think a sin, and scandal too.
Blushes pale water-lilies cheeks o’r-spread
To be with thee in the same volumn read.
Who still the sad remembrance does retain 1405
How, when a Nymph, in thee she gorg’d her bane.
That very night t’ Alcides arms betrayd
Through thy deceitful force the yielding maid.
While I but mention thee (who would believe?),
And but thy image in my thoughts conceive, 1410
Through all my bones I felt thy lightning move,
The sure fore-runner of approaching love.
With this of old he us’d t’ attack my sense,
Before the dreadful fight he did commence.
But love and lost I now alike detest, 1415
My Muse and mind with nobler themes possest.
Lascivious plant, some other poet find,
For Ovid’s or Catullus verse design’d.
For thou in mine shalt have no place at all,
Or in the list of pois’nous herbs shalt fall. 1420
The flames of lust of fewel have no need,
His appetite without thy sawce can feed.
Love in our very diet finds his way,
And makes the guards, that should defend, betray.
Our other ills permit our herbs to cure 1425
Venus, who plague enough in thee endure.
Those plants which Nature made of sex devoid
Improperly are in thy work employ’d.
Yet Venus, too much skill’d in impious arts,
These forein aids to her own use converts. 1430
Who’d think green plants, with constant dew supply’d
(Life’s friends design’d), such mortal flame shou’d hide?
What wonder therefore if, when monarchs feast,
Lust is of luxury the constant guest,
When he who with the herd on herbage fed 1435
Cou’d find her lurking in the verdant bed?