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Welcome the Mantuan swan, Virgil the wise!
Whose verse walks highest, but not flies ; Who brought green Poesy to her perfect age,
And made that art which was a rage. Tell me, ye mighty Three! what shall I do
To be like one of you?
But you have climb’d the mountain's top, there sit
On the calm flourishing head of it,
And, whilst with wearied steps we upward go,
See us and clouds below.
This only grant me, that my means may lie
Too low for envy, for contempt too high.
Some honour I would have,
Not from great deeds, but good alone;
Th' unknown are better than ill-known :
Rumour can ope the grave.
Acquaintance I would have, but when't depends
Not on the number, but the choice of friends.
Books should, not business, entertain the light,
And sleep, as undisturb'd as death, the night.
My house a cottage more
Than palace; and should fitting be
For all my use, no luxury.
My garden painted o'er
With Nature's hand, not Art's; and pleasures yield,
Horace might envy in his Sabine field.
Thus would I double my life's fading space;
For he that runs it well, twice runs his race.
And in this true delight,
These unbought sports, this happy state,
I would not fear nor wish my fate;
But boldly say each night,
To-morrow let my sun his beams display,
Or in clouds hide them; I have lived to-day.
In a deep vision's intellectual scene,
Beneath a bower for sorrow made,
Th' uncomfortable shade
Of the black yew's unlucky green
Mix'd with the mourning willow's careful gray,
Where reverend Cham cuts out his famous way,
The melancholy Cowley lay :
And lo! a Muse appear'd to's closed sight
(The Muses oft in lands of vision play),
Bodied, 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-clothed dream,
She used 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 raised 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,
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 resolved t exalt thy anointed name,
Among the spiritual lords of peaceful fame;
Thou, changeling! thou, bewitch'd with noise and
Wouldst into courts and cities from me go; [show,
Wouldst see the world abroad, and have a share
In all the follies and the tumults there:
Thou wouldst, forsooth, be something in a state,
And business thou wouldst find and wouldst 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 apostasy.
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 toss'd at sea no more,
And thou, with all the noble company,
Art got at last to shore.
But, whilst thy fellow-voyagers I see
All march'd up to possess the promised 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 everything :
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 ev'n 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 unwieldly plough,
Shouldst in a hard and barren season thrive,
Shouldst 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 ravishd 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 them 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 gavest so deep a tincture of thine own,
That ever since I vainly try
To wash away th’ 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 Sapphira 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, oh 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: