1658 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

Anonymous, "On the ingenious Poet Mr. Cowley. A Pyndarique Ode" Naps upon Parnassus (1658) sigs E2-E3.



I can't now comprehend unless I'me taught
To write a strein above my self, aloft:
If that my Muse would honour him with a Song,
It must first learn to chat in th' Hebrew tongue.
Stand off thou Poetaster from the Press,
Who pygni'st Martyrs with thy dwarf-like verse
Whose white, long bearded flame of Zeal aspires,
To wrack their Ashes, more than did their Fires.
Confine not this our Poet to thy Black, durty Ink,
Lest thou bespot his name, and make it stink.
Hand then at Quill that's plundred in the sight
Of Mercury, whil'st he beat's by flight.
He muster'd up the Forces of his Armes,
Ordred each Wing for to escape the charms
Of the easie conquer'd Air, and shall not I
Alurum now the Muses Chevalry?
And beat up the Head-quarters of my strength,
Whose power drawn out, may help my soul at length,
To finde his Ambuscado'd Verses out,
Which on all sides besiege me round about.

I here condemn plain Seneca's crumpled style,
And Sentence, Cicero's longer by a mile.
For neither span'd him; none can speak his worth
More fully, then a stiff-neck't Holder forth,
Who draws his mouth at large, spins out his lungs
And ne're is tir'd with tuning Holy Songs,
Whose surly Ela's note he far exceeds,
For body'd Angels cloth'd in Ladies weeds
Can only throat him, whose virtues cannot brook
A spirit's knowledge through a single look.
That vaste Triumvirate's Poetique hand
Which dig'd graves for lost sense in words, is damn'd
By Him, and must at last grant His the better,
Who buries Mysteries in every letter.

Antiquity is fettred in their Verses:
Long hangers on each find the Printer Presse's,
Rais'd on the Publique Faith, for the defence
Of their benighted, and most doubtfull sense:
But stay!
That jolly Trine if any Eye will round,
A flock of Books in sheep's clothes may be found:
But his Muse mounts enrob'd in Noon-day glory,
Candied with light, as if his head were hoary.
First dipped in those sacred streams with thee,
And when grown up coated with purity.
His Fancy in Black-art mourning owns the name
Of a dark lanthorn'd Dungeon to a flame.
Whilest I the letters, and the clear sense finde;
My weaker Eye can't reach the Soul behinde.
So that in reverence my head is bow'd,
Thinking of Juno clothed in a Cloud.
Like that dunc't wit, how does my willing hand
Scribble that out, which I can't understand!
For feigned ill Husbandry let none thee mock,
Who ever heard that Poets e're did smock
Their naked coin in Napkins: frank they be
Both of their Jests, and of their Money free.

That Ethnick Priest which did attire his Pelf
With th' same Trunk-breeches which he wore himself,
Whilst in his wooden Pulpit stuff apparel'd
Did seem a Hogshead in an Hogshead barrel'd:
Had he but known the Grecian would disjoynt,
And burst in two stout Vulcan's Iron point,
Which tied th' luxurious placquet of his Chest
In th' Italian Mode, that deifi'd it might rest
Coop't up t' one master: that subtle Cub
Had strait unbutton'd the Codpiss of his Tub,
And brok up his soon cooled Zeal in haste
To save his Gold from running out in th' waste,
I dare not Poet christen him by birth,
Who Atheist like ador'd that guilded Earth;
This onely common I hold fast with thee,
I scorn such dirt, and worship Poetrie.
A Knocking Poet sure, who joyntly beds
Nine lusty Girles, which bow their Maiden-heads
To Him, and straightway left the Sacred Hill
For to attend upon his sainted Quill,
Could my weak fluttring soul to heaven flie,
Through the shuffled Clouds of Maskt Divinity,
Begot by him; there then my Muses taper
Breathing its last, would from its socket caper;
To see a vision of him in a sound,
Would in deep contemplation my soul drown'd.