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In a deep Vision's intellectual scene,
Beneath a bow'r for sorrow made,
Th' uncomfortable shade
Of the black yew's unlucky green,
Mix'd with the mourning willow's careful gray,
Where rev’rend Cam cuts out his famous way,
The melancholy Cowley lay ;
And, lo! a Muse appear’d to his clos’d sight,
(The Muses oft in lands of vision play)
Body'd, array'd, and seen by an internal light :
A golden harp with silver strings she bore,
A wondrous hieroglyphic robe she wore,
In which all colours and all figures were,
That Nature or that fancy can create,
That Art can never imitate,
And with loose pride it wanton'd in the air.
In such a dress, in such a well-cloth'd dream,
She us'd of old near fair Ismenus' stream,
Pindar, her Theban favourite to meet;
A crown was on her head, and wings were on her feet.
She touch'd him with her harp, and rais'd him from the ground,
The shaken strings melodiously resound.
“ Art thou return'd at last,” said she,
“ To this forsaken place and me?
Thou prodigal ! who didst so loosely waste
Of all thy youthful years the good estate;
Art thou return'd here, to repent too late,
And gather husks of learning up at last,
Now the rich harvest-time of life is past,
And winter marches on so fast ?
But when I meant t'adopt thee for my son,
And did as learn'd a portion assign
As ever any of the mighty Nine
Had to their dearest children done;
When I resolv'd t' exalt thy anointed name,
Among the spiritual lords of peaceful fame;
Thou, changeling! thou, bewitch'd with noise and show,
Would'st into courts and cities from me go;
Would'st see the world abroad, and have a share
In all the follies and the tumults there:
Thou would'st, forsooth, be something in a state,
And business thou would'st find, and would'st create ;
Business! the frivolous pretence
Of human lusts, to shake off innocence;
Business ! the grave impertinence!
Business ! the thing which I of all things hate;
Business ! the contradiction of thy fate.
“Go, renegado ! cast up thy account
And see to what amount
Thy foolish gains by quitting me:
The sale of knowledge, fame, and liberty,
The fruits of thy unlearn'd apostacy.
Thou thought’st, if once the public storm were past,
All thy remaining life should sunshine be;
Behold! the public storm is spent at last,
The Sovereign's tost at sea no more,
And thou, with all the noble company,
Art got at last on shore.
But, whilst thy fellow-voyagers I see
All march'd up to possess the promis'd land,
Thou, still alone, alas ! dost gaping stand
Upon the naked beach, upon the barren sand !
“ As a fair morning of the blessed spring,
After a tedious stormy night,
Such was the glorious entry of our king ;
Enriching moisture dropp'd on every thing :
Plenty he sow'd below, and cast about him light!
But then, alas ! to thee alone
One of old Gideon's miracles was shown;
For every tree and every herb around
With pearly dew was crown'd,
And upon all the quicken'd ground
The fruitful seed of Heaven did brooding lie,
And nothing but the Muse's fleece was dry.
It did all other threats surpass, When God to his own people said, (The men whom through long wanderings he had led)
That he would give them even a heaven of brass ;
They look'd up to that heaven in vain,
That bounteous Heaven, which God did not restrain
Upon the most unjust to shine and rain.
“ The Rachel, for which twice seven years and more
Thou didst with faith and labour serve,
And didst (if faith and labour can) deserve,
Though she contracted was to thee,
Given to another thou didst see,
Given to another, who had store
Of fairer and of richer wives before,
And not a Leah left thy recompense to be !
Go on; twice seven years more thy fortune try;
Twice seven years more God in his bounty may
Give thee, to fling away
Into the Court's deceitful lottery ;
But think how likely 'tis that thou,
With the dull work of thy unwieldy plough,
Should'st in a hard and barren season thrive,
Should'st even able be to live;
Thou to whose share so little bread did fall,
In that miraculous year, when manna rain'd on all."
Thus spake the Muse, and spake it with a smile,
That seem'd at once to pity and revile.
And to her thus, raising his thoughtful head,
The melancholy Cowley said :
“Ah, wanton foe! dost thou upbraid
The ills which thou thyself hast made ?
When in the cradle innocent I lay,
Thou, wicked spirit! stolest me away,
And my abused soul didst bear
Into thy new-found worlds, I know not where,
Thy golden Indies in the air ;
And ever since I strive in vain
My ravish'd freedom to regain ;
Still I rebel, still thou dost reign;
Lo! still in verse against thee I complain.
There is a sort of stubborn weeds,
Which, if the earth but once, it ever, breeds;
No wholesome herb can near it thrive,
No useful plant can keep alive : The foolish sports I did on thee bestow, Make all my art and labour fruitless now ; Where once such fairies dance, no grass doth ever grow.
“ When my new mind had no infusion known, Thou gav'st so deep a tincture of thine own,
That ever since I vainly try
To wash away the inherent dye:
Long work perhaps may spoil thy colours quite;
But never will reduce the native white.
To all the ports of honour and of gain
I often steer my course in vain :
Thy gale comes cross, and drives me back again.
Thou slack’nest all my nerves of industry,
By making them so oft to be
The tinkling strings of thy loose minstrelsy.
Whoever this world's happiness would see,
Must as entirely cast off thee,
As they who only heaven desire
Do from the world retire.
This was my error, this my gross mistake,
Myself a demi-votary to make.
Thus, with Saphira and her husband's fate,
(A fault which I, like them, am taught too late,)
For all that I gave up I nothing gain,
And perish for the part which I retain.
“ Teach me not then, O thou fallacious Muse!
The Court, and better king, t'accuse:
The heaven under which I live is fair,
The fertile soil will a full harvest bear :
Thine, thine is all the barrenness; if thou
Mak’st me sit still and sing, when I should plough.
When I but think how many a tedious year
Our patient sovereign did attend
His long misfortune's fatal end;
How cheerfully, and how exempt from fear,
On the Great Sovereign's will he did depend;
I ought to be accurs’d, if I refuse
To wait on his, O thou fallacious Muse!
Kings have long hands, they say; and though I be
So distant, they may reach at length to me.
However, of all princes, thou
Should'st not reproach rewards for being small or slow;
Thou who rewardest but with popular breath,
And that too after death !"
I WONDER what the grave and wise
Think of all us that love;
Whether our pretty fooleries
Their mirth or anger move;
They understand not breath that words doe want;
Our sighs to them are insignificant.
One of them saw me th' other day,
Touch the dear hand which I admire,
My soul was melting strait away,
And dropt before the fire.
This silly wise man who pretends to know,
Ask’t why I look'd so pale, and trembled so ?
Another from my mistress' dore
Saw me with eyes all watry come,