Abraham Cowley

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Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,
But an eternal now does always last.

Abraham Cowley (1618July 28, 1667) was an English metaphysical poet. In his own time he was widely considered the greatest poet of the age.

See also:
Davideis (1656)

Sourced[edit]

The fairest garden in her looks,
And in her mind the wisest books.
What shall I do to be forever known,
And make the age to come my own?
His time is forever, everywhere his place.
  • Fond archer, Hope! who tak'st thy aim so far,
    That still or short, or wide thine arrows are!
  • Why to mute fish should'st thou thyself discover
    And not to me, thy no less silent lover?
  • To be a husbandman, is but a retreat from the city; to be a philosopher, from the world; or rather, a retreat from the world, as it is man's, into the world, as it is God's.
  • What shall I do to be forever known,
    And make the age to come my own?
    • The Motto; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • His time is forever, everywhere his place.
    • Friendship in Absence; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Life is an incurable disease.
    • To Dr. Scarborough; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • We spent them not in toys, in lusts, or wine,
    But search of deep philosophy,
    Wit, eloquence, and poetry;
    Arts which I lov'd, for they, my friend, were thine.
    • On the Death of Mr. William Harvey; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • His faith, perhaps, in some nice tenets might
    Be wrong; his life, I'm sure, was in the right.
    • On the Death of Crashaw; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight, He can't be wrong whose life is in the right", Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, epilogue iii, line 303.
  • The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
    And drinks, and gapes for drink again;
    The plants suck in the earth, and are
    With constant drinking fresh and fair.
    • From Anacreon, ii. Drinking; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Fill all the glasses there, for why
    Should every creature drink but I?
    Why, man of morals, tell me why?
    • From Anacreon, ii. Drinking; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • A mighty pain to love it is,
    And 't is a pain that pain to miss;
    But of all pains, the greatest pain
    It is to love, but love in vain.
    • From Anacreon, vii. Gold; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Hope, of all ills that men endure,
    The only cheap and universal cure.
    • The Mistress. For Hope; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Th' adorning thee with so much art
    Is but a barb'rous skill;
    'T is like the pois'ning of a dart,
    Too apt before to kill.
    • The Waiting Maid; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The monster London laugh at me.
    • Of Solitude, xi; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
    And all the fools that crowd thee so,
    Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
    A village less than Islington wilt grow,
    A solitude almost.
    • Of Solitude, vii; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • I never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life only to the culture of them and the study of nature.
    And there (with no design beyond my wall) whole and entire to lie, In no unactive ease, and no unglorious poverty.
    • The Garden, Preface
  • The fairest garden in her looks,
    And in her mind the wisest books.
    • The Garden, i; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • God the first garden made, and the first city Cain.
    • The Garden, ii; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Hence, ye profane! I hate ye all,
    Both the great vulgar and the small.
    • Horace, book iii, Ode 1; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Charm'd with the foolish whistling of a name.
    • Virgil, Georgics, book ii, line 72; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Ravish'd with the whistling of a name", Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, epistle iv, line 281.
  • Words that weep and tears that speak.
    • The Prophet; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn", Thomas Gray, Progress of Poesy, iii. 3, 4.
  • We griev'd, we sigh'd, we wept; we never blush'd before.
    • Discourse concerning the Government of Oliver Cromwell; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Thus would I double my life's fading space;
    For he that runs it well, runs twice his race.
    • Discourse xi, Of Myself, stanza xi; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "For he lives twice who can at once employ / The present well, and ev'n the past enjoy", Alexander Pope, Imitation of Martial.
  • Awake, awake, my Lyre!
    And tell thy silent master's humble tale
    In sounds that may prevail;
    Sounds that gentle thoughts inspire:
    Though so exalted she
    And I so lowly be
    Tell her, such different notes make all thy harmony.
  • Beauty, thou wild fantastic ape
    Who dost in every country change thy shape!
    • "Beauty," complete poem in The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, Samuel Johnson ed., vol. 7, p. 115.
  • To virgin minds, which yet their native whiteness hold,
    Not yet discoloured with the love of gold
    (That jaundice of the soul,
    Which makes it look so gilded and so foul)
    • “Of Greatness”
  • If of their pleasures and desires no end be found;
    God to their cares and fears will set no bound.
    What would content you? Who can tell?
    Ye fear so much to lose what you have got
    As if ye liked it well.
    Ye strive for more, as if ye liked it not.
    • “Of Greatness”

Davideis (1656)[edit]

Main article: Davideis (Cowley)
  • I sing the Man who Judahs Scepter bore
    In that right hand which held the Crook before;
    Who from best Poet, best of Kings did grow;
    The two chief gifts Heav'n could on Man bestow.
    • Book I, lines 1-4
  • Ev'en Thou my breast with such blest rage inspire,
    As mov'd the tuneful strings of Davids Lyre
    • Book I, lines 25-26
  • Lo, this great work, a Temple to thy praise,
    On polisht Pillars of strong Verse I raise!
    A Temple, where if Thou vouchsafe to dwell,
    It Solomons, and Herods shall excel.
    Too long the Muses-Land have Heathen bin;
    Their Gods too long were Dev'ils, and Vertues Sin;
    But Thou, Eternal Word, hast call'd forth Me
    Th' Apostle, to convert that World to Thee;
    • Book I, lines 33-40
  • Well did he know how Palms by oppression speed,
    Victorious, and the Victors sacred Meed!
    The Burden lifts them higher. Well did he know,
    How a tame stream does wild and dangerous grow
    By unjust force; he now with wanton play,
    Kisses the smiling Banks, and glides
    But his known Channel stopt, begins to roare,
    And swell with rage, and buffet the dull shore.
    His mutinous waters hurry to the War,
    And Troops of Waves come rolling from afar.
    Then scorns he such weak stops to his free source,
    And overruns the neighboring fields with violent course.
    • Book I, lines 49-60
  • Here Lucifer the mighty Captive reigns;
    Proud, 'midst his Woes, and Tyrant in his Chains.
    • Book I, lines 91-92
  • Unable to corrupt, seek to destroy;
    And where their Poysons miss, the Sword employ.
    • Book I, lines 105-106
  • He saw the beauties of his shape and face,
    His female sweetness, and his manly grace
    • Book I, lines 109-110
  • Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,
    But an eternal now does always last.
    • Book I, lines 361-362
    • See also "One of our poets (which is it?) speaks of an everlasting now", Robert Southey, The Doctor, chap. xxv. p. 1
  • Such was Gods Poem, this Worlds new Essay;
    So wild and rude in its first draught it lay;
    Th' ungovern'd parts no Correspondence knew,
    An artless war from thwarting Motions grew;
    Till they to Number and fixt Rules were brought
    By the eternal Minds Poetique Thought.
    Water and Air he for the Tenor chose,
    Earth made the Base, the Treble Flame arose,
    To th' active Moon a quick brisk stroke he gave,
    To Saturns string a touch more soft and grave.
    The motions Strait, and Round, and Swift, and Slow,
    And Short, and Long, were mixt and woven so,
    Did in such artful Figures smoothly fall,
    As made this decent measur'd Dance of All.
    • Book I, lines 451-464
  • When Israel was from bondage led,
    Led by the Almighty's hand
    From out of foreign land,
    The great sea beheld and fled.
    • Book I, lines 483-486
  • An harmless flaming meteor shone for hair,
    And fell adown his shoulders with loose care.
    • Book II, lines 801-802
    • Compare: "Loose his beard and hoary hair / Stream'd like a meteor to the troubled air", Thomas Gray, The Bard, i. 2
  • Thus each extream to equal danger tends,
    Plenty as well as Want can separate Friends;
    • Book III, lines 205-206

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