1726 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

Aaron Hill, "On Mr. Cowley's introducing Pindaric Verse" Richard Savage, Miscellaneous Poems and Translations (1726) 93-97.



I.
Sacred Soul! harmonious Swan!
Whose sweetest Notes, long before Death, began,
And the long tuneful Race unwearied ran!
Long before Death began the Song; and still the Song improv'd,
And still new Strings, and still new Pleasure mov'd!
How, mighty Muse! didst thou, and thou alone,
(For the gigantic Task was all thy own!)
Find Means to draw such unexhausted Store,
From Springs that were so poor,
From Fountains choak'd with Blood, and made by Dust impure?
How, midst an Iron Age,
Of wild Religion, and fantastick Rage;
The dreadful, and the over-acted Stage,
Where striving Truth, too weak for Fortune, fell,
And all that Learning then cou'd teach, was how to suffer well!
How, in this dark, Enthusiastic Age,
Didst thou, Great Guide! when Arts were overthrown,
And whole Parnassus shaken down,
Stand, and erect a new one of thy own.

II.
Yet, as within the all-enlight'ning Sun,
Some Spots our Glasses find amid the Rays,
Too small, tho' visible, to look on long,
Because surrounded by a Sea of Blaze!
So Thou, Great King of Fancy! led astray,
By thy high-mettled Muse, uncurb'd and gay!
Thou, prancing proudly on o'er Wit's unmeasur'd Way!
Hast err'd in Judgment where thou didst design,
Thy Judgment most shou'd shine;
But all that's Humane in thy Verse is lost in the Divine!
Immortal Man, thou didst too rashly blame
The wastful Spirit of thy gloomy Times;
Even of that Age of Crimes,
Which gave the Fate of suff'ring Charles to Fame!
Thus Man, short-sighted, seldom aiming right,
Tho' Eagle-Ey'd in mortal Sight,
Mistakes for Chance Heav'ns well-resolv'd Decree,
And does against it fight!
That, which Lights to Shadows are,
Or Peace to War,
Such was that Age to Thee!
Such Contraries Almighty Wisdom finds,
And stamps on humane Minds;
That Virtue's Visage shewn more bright,
May, when set opposite to Guilt's black Night,
Strike ev'ry Eye that boldly wakes to see,
And, arm'd with double Force, may doubly charming be.

III.
So fell the Royal Martyr, to convince
The wond'ring Ages since,
What lengthen'd Woes revenge a suff'ring Prince!
Oh, wondrous! mystic! undiscover'd Maze!
What Man can search his God's untrodden Ways?
Hence late we learn lost Worth to idolize!
And hence our late Posterity shall know,
(What Heav'n thence meant to show)
What ardent Curses three pale Nations owe
To Zeal's hot Sons, whose Reason had no Eyes,
And Pride, that saw Truth plain, and seeing, durst despise!
So too, Immortal Subject of my Muse!
The Fav'rite Theme she loves to chuse!
Soo too! the sable Ign'rance of that Age,
Like Foils, which can to Diamonds Lustre give!
Inspir'd thy sacred Verse with that just Rage,
Which greatly swelling into Fame,
Thine, and thy Sov'reign's rescu'd Name,
Shall ev'n thy Pindar's Praise, but in thy Works outlive.