1662 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

Katherine Philips, "Upon Mr. Abraham Cowley's Retirement" Philips, Poems (1664) 237-42.



No, no, unfaithful World, thou hast
Too long my easie Heart betray'd,
And me too long thy Foot-ball made:
But I am wiser grown at last,
And will improve by all that I have past.
I know 'twas just I should be practis'd on;
For I was told before,
And told in sober and instructive lore,
How little all that trusted thee have won:
And yet I would make haste to be undone.
Now by my suff'ring I am better taught,
And shall no more commit that stupid fault.
Go, get some other Fool,
Whom thou mayst next cajole:
On me thy frowns thou dost in vain bestow;
For I know how
To be as coy and as reserv'd as thou.

In my remote and humble seat
Now I'm again possest
Of all that late fugitive, my Breast,
From all thy tumults and from all thy heat
I'le find a quiet and a cool retreat;
And on the Fetters I have worn
Look with experienc'd and revengeful scorn
In this my sov'raign Privacy.
'Tis true I cannot govern thee,
But yet my self I may subdue;
And that's the nobler Empire of the two.
If ev'ry Passion had got leave
Its satisfaction to receive,
Yet I would it a higher pleasure call,
To conquer one, then to indulge them all.

For thy inconstant Sea, no more
I'le leave that safe and solid Shore:
No, though to prosper in the cheat,
Thou shouldst my Destiny defeat,
And make me be Belov'd, or Rich, or Great:
Nor from my self shouldst me reclaim
With all the noise and all the pomp of Fame,
Judiciously I'le thee despise;
Too small the Bargain, and too great the Price,
For them to cozen twice.
At length this secret I have learn'd;
Who will be happy, will be unconcern'd,
Must all their Comfort in their Bosom wear,
And seek their treasure and their power there.

No other Wealth will I aspire,
But of Nature to admire;
Nor envy on a Laurel will bestow,
Whil'st I have any in my Garden grow.
And when I would be Great,
'Tis but ascending to a Seat
Which Nature in a lofty Rock hath built;
A throne as free from trouble as from guilt.
Where when my Soul her wings does raise
Above what Worldlings fear or praise,
With innocence and quiet pride I'le sit,
And see the humble Waves pay tribute to my feet.
O Life Divine, when free from joys diseas'd,
Not always merry, but 'tis always pleas'd!

A Heart, which is too great a thing
To be a Present for a Persian King,
Which God himself would have to be his Court,
Where Angels would officiously resort,
From its own height should much decline,
If this Converse it should resign
(Ill-natur'd World!) for thine.
Thy unwise rigour hath thy Empire lost;
It hath not onely set me free,
But it hath made me see,
They onely can of thy possession boast,
Who do enjoy thee least, and understand thee most.
For lo, the Man whom all Mankind admir'd,
(By ev'ry Grace adorn'd, and ev'ry Muse inspir'd)
Is now triumphantly retir'd.
The mighty Cowley this hath done,
And over thee a Parthian Conquest won:
Which future Ages shall adore,
And which in this subdues thee more
Then either Greek or Roman ever could before.