Diary of the Plague Year: Day 51 5 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Eight Metaphysical Poets Abraham Cowley (1621-1678)


Poet and Saint! to thee alone are given
The two most sacred names of Earth and Heaven,
The hard and rarest Union which can be
Next that of Godhead with Humanitie.
Long did the Muses banisht Slaves abide,
And built vain Pyramids to mortal pride;
Like Moses Thou (though Spells and Charms withstand)
Hast brought them nobly home back to their Holy Land.
       Ah wretched We, Poets of Earth! but Thou
Wert Living the same Poet which thou’rt Now.
Whilst Angels sing to thee their ayres divine,
And joy in an applause so great as thine.
Equal society with them to hold,
Thou need’st not make new Songs, but say the Old.
And they (kind Spirits!) shall all rejoice to see
How little less than They, Exalted Man may be.
Still the old Heathen Gods in Numbers dwell,
The Heav’nliest thing on earth still keeps up Hell.
Nor have we yet quite purg’d the Christian Land;
Still Idols here like Calves at Bethel stand.
And though Pans Death long since all Oracles breaks,
Yet still in Rhyme the Fiend Apollo speaks;
Nay with the worst of Heathen dotage we
(Vain men!) the Monster Woman Deifie;
Find Stars, and tie our Fates there in a Face,
And Paradise in them by whom we lost it, place.
What different faults corrupt our Muses thus
Wanton as Girles, as old Wives, Fabulous!
      Thy spotless Muse, like Mary, did contain
The boundless Godhead; she did well disdain
That her eternal Verse employ’d should be
On a less subject than Eternitie;
And for a sacred Mistress scorn’d to take,
But her whom God himself scorn’d not his Spouse to make.
It (in a kind) her Miracle did do;
A fruitful Mother was, and Virgin too.
     How well (blest Swan) did Fate contrive thy death;
And make thee render up thy tuneful breath
In thy great Mistress arms? thou most divine
And richest Off’ering of Loretto’s shrine!
Where like some holy Sacrifice t’ expire
A Fever burns thee, and Love lights the Fire.
Angels (they say) brought the fam’d Chappel there,
And bore the sacred Load in Triumph through the air.
‘Tis surer much they brought thee there, and They,
And Thou, their charge, went singing all the way.
     Pardon, my Mother Church, if I consent
That Angels led him when from thee he went,
For even in Error sure no Danger is
When joyn’d with so much Piety as His.
Ah, mighty God, with shame I speak’t, and grief,
Ah that our greatest Faults were in Belief!
And our weak Reason were ev’en weaker yet,
Rather than thus our Wills too strong for it.
His Faith perhaps in some nice Tenents might
Be wrong; his Life, I’m sure, was in the right.
And I myself a Catholick will be,
So far at least, great Saint, to Pray to thee.
      Hail, Bard Triumphant! and some care bestow
On us, the Poets Militant Below!
Oppos’ed by our old En’emy, adverse Chance,
Attack’ed by Envy, and by Ignorance,
Enchain’d by Beauty, tortur’d by Desires,
Expos’d by Tyrant-Love to savage Beasts and Fires.
Thou from low earth in nobler Flames didst rise,
And like Elijah, mount Alive the skies.
Elisha-like (but with a wish much less,
More fit thy Greatness, and my Littleness)
Lo here I beg (I whom thou once didst prove
So humble to Esteem, so Good to Love)
Not that thy Spirit might on me Doubled be,
I ask but Half thy mighty Spirit for Me;
And when my Muse soars with so strong a Wing,
‘Twill learn of things Divine, and first of Thee to sing.

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