Diary of the Plague Year: Day 87 10 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: John Wilmot (1647 – 1680)

AGAINST CONSTANCY
 
Tell me no more of constancy,
   The frivolous pretense
Of cold age, narrow jealousy,
  Disease, and want of sense.
 
Let duller fools, on whom kind chance
  Some easy heart has thrown,
Despairing higher to advance,
  Be kind to one alone.
 
Old men and weak, whose idle flame
  Their own defects discovers,
Since changing can but spread their shame,
  Ought to be constant lovers.
 
But we, whose hearts do justly swell
  With not vainglorious pride,
Who know how we in love excel,
  Long to be often tried.
 
Then bring my bath, and strew my bed,
  As each kind night returns,
I’ll change a mistress till I’m dead –
  And fate change me to worms.
 
FROM: 
 
The Oxford Library of English Poetry
Volume II
Sackville to Keats
 
Chosen & edited by John Wain
 

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

ON THE DEATH OF MR CRASHAW

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.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 50 4 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Eight Metaphysical Poets Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

TO HIS COY MISTRESS

  Had we but World enough and Time,
This coyness Lady were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long Love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges side
Should’st Rubies find: I by the Tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood:
And you should if you please refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable Love should grow
Vaster than Empires and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine Eyes, and on thy Forehead Gaze;
Two hundred to adore each Breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest.
An Age at least to every part,
And the last Age should show your Heart.
For Lady you deserve this state;
Nor would I love at lower rate.
  But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged Chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lye
Desarts of vast Eternity.
Thy Beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble Vault, shall sound
My echoing Song; then Worms shall try
That long-preserved Virginity:
And your quaint Honour turn to dust;
And into ashes all my Lust.
The Grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
  Now therefore, while the youthful hew
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing Soul transpires
At every pore with instant Fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our Time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt pow’r.
Let us roll all our Strength and all
Our sweetness, up into one Ball:
And tear our Pleasures with rough strife,
Through the Iron gates of Life:
Thus, though we cannot make our Sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 47 1 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Eight Metaphysical Poets Henry King (1592-1669)

A CONTEMPLATION UPON FLOWERS
 
Brave flowers, that I could gallant it like you
And be as little vaine,
You come abroad, and make a harmelesse shew,
And to your beds of Earthe againe:
You are not proud, you know your birth
For your Embroidered garments are from Earth:
 
You doe obey your months, and times, but I
Would have it ever spring,
My fate would know no winter, never die
Nor thinke of such a thing;
Oh that I could my bed of Earthe but view
And Smile, and looke as Chearefully as you:
 
Oh teach me to see Death, and not to fear
But rather to take truce;
How often have I seen you at a Bier,
And there look fresh and spruce;
You fragrant flowers, then teach me that my breath
Like yours may sweeten, and perfume my Death.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 46 30 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Eight Metaphysical Poets Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

THE MORNING WATCH
 
O joys! Infinite sweetness! With what flowres,
And shoots of glory, my soul breakes, and buds!
                   All the long houres
                   Of night, and Rest
                   Through the still shrouds
                   Of sleep, and Clouds,
             This Dew fell on my Breast;
                   O how it Blouds,
And Spirits all my Earth! heark! In what Rings,
And Hymning Circulations the quick world
                   Awakes, and sings;
                   And rising winds,
                   And failing springs,
                   Birds, beasts, all things
            Adore him in their kinds.
                   Thus all is hurl’d
In sacred Hymnes, and Order, the great Chime
And Symphony of nature. Prayer is
                   The world in tune,
                   A spirit-voyce,
                   And vocall joyes
            Whose Echo is heav’ns blisse.          
                   O let me climbe.
When I lye down! The Pious soul by night
Is like a clouded starre, whose beames though said
                   To shed their light
                   Under some Cloud
                   Yet are above,
                   And shine, and move
            Beyond that mistie shroud.
                   So in my Bed
That Curtain’d grave, though sleep, like ashes, hide
My lamp, and life, both shall in thee abide.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 44 28 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Eight Metaphysical Poets Cont’d Thomas Carew (1594/5-1639/40)

INGRATEFULL BEAUTY THREATENED
 
Know Celia, (since thou art so proud,)
  ‘Twas I that gave thee thy renown:
Thou hadst, in the forgotten crowd
  Of common beauties, liv’d unknown,
Had not my verse exhal’d thy name
And with it impt the wings of fame.
 
That killing power is none of thine,
  I gave it to thy voyce, and eyes:
Thy sweets, thy graces, are all mine:
  Thou are my star, shin’st in my skies;
Then dart not from thy borrowed sphere
Lightning on him that fixt thee there.
 
Tempt me with such affrights no more,
  Lest what I made, I uncreate:
Let fools thy mystique forms adore,
  I’ll know thee in thy mortall state;
Wise Poets that wrapp’d Truth in tales,
Knew her themselves through all her vailes.

An example of 17th century PR.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 43 27 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Eight Metaphysical Poets George Herbert (1593-1633)

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After Donne I decided to read one of the Metaphysical poets each day for the next seven days.  Today’s poet is George Herbert.

PRAYER
 
Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
  Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
  The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
 
Engine against th’Almightie, sinners towre,
  Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
  The six-daies world transposing in an houre,
A kind of tune, which all things heare and fear;
 
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
  Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
  Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
 
  Church-bells beyond the stares heard, the souls blood,
  The land of spices, something understood.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 40 24 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Eight Metaphysical Poets John Donne (1572-1631)

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from the HOLY SONNETS

vii

At the round earths imagin’d corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattered bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never taste deaths woe.
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
‘Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach mee how to repent; for that’s as good
As if thou’hadst seal’d my pardon, with thy blood.

FROM:

Eight Metaphysical Poets

Edited with an Introduction
and Notes by
Jack Dalglish

Poetry Bookshelf
Heinemann
London

 

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