1664 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Katherine Philips

Abraham Cowley, "To the most excellently accomplish'd, Mrs. K. P. upon her Poems" Philips, Poems (1664) sigs A3-A5v.



We allow'd your Beauty, and we did submit
To all the tyrannies of it.
Ah, cruel Sex! will you depose us too in Wit?
Orinda does in that too reign,
Does Man behind her in proud triumph draw,
And cancel great Apollo's Salick Law.
We our old Title plead in vain:
Man may be Head, but Woman's now our Brain.
Worse than Love's fire-arms heretofore:
In Beauty's camp it was not known,
Too many arms, besides the Conquerour, bore,
'Twas the great Cannon we brought down,
T' assault the stubborn Town.
Orinda first did a bold sally make,
Our strongest quarter take,
And so successful prov'd, that she
Turn'd upon Love himself his own Artillery.

Women, as if the Body were the whole
Did that, and not the Soul,
Transmit to their posterity;
If in it something they conceiv'd,
Th' abortive Issue never liv'd.
'Twere shame and pity, Orinda, if in thee
A Sp'rit so rich, so noble, and so high,
Should unmanur'd or barren lie.
But thou industriously hast sow'd and till'd
The fair and fruitful Field:
And 'tis a strange increase that it doth yield.
As when the happy Gods above
Meet altogether at a Feast,
A secret joy unspeakably does move
In their great Mother Semele's contented breast:
With no less pleasure thou methinks shouldst see
Thus thy no less immortal Progeny:
And in their Birth thou no one touch dost find
Of th' ancient Curse to Woman-kind;
Thou bring'st not forth with pain,
It neither travel is nor labour of thy Brain,
So easily they from thee come,
And there is so much room
I' th' unexhausted and unfathom'd womb;
That, like the Holland Countess, thou might'st bear
A Child for ev'ry day of all the fertile year.

Thou dost my wonder, would'st my envy raise,
If to be prais'd I lov'd more then to praise.
Where-e're I see an excellence,
I must admire to see thy well-knit Sense,
Thy Numbers gentle, and thy Passions high;
These as thy Forehead smooth, those sparkling as thy Eye.
'Tis solid and 'tis manly all,
Or rather 'tis Angelicall:
For, as in Angels, we
Do in thy Verses see
Both improv'd Sexes eminently met;
They are then Man more strong, and more then Woman sweet.

They talk of Nine I know not who
Female Chimera's that o're Poets reign;
I ne're could find that Fancy true,
But have invok'd them oft I'me sure in vain.
They talk of Sappho, but, alas! the shame
I' th' manners soil the lustre of her fame.
Orinda's inward Vertue is so bright,
That, like a Lantern's fair enclosed light,
It through the Paper shines where she doth write.
Honour and Friendship, and the gen'rous scorn
Of things for which we were not born,
(Things which of custom by a fond disease,
Like that of Girles, our vicious stomachs please)
Are the instructive subjects of her Pen.
And as the Roman Victory
Taught our rude Land arts and civility,
At once she takes, enslaves, and governs Men.

But Rome with all her arts could ne're inspire
A Female Breast with such a fire.
The warlike Amazonian Train,
Which in Elysium now do peaceful reign,
And Wit's wild Empire before Arms prefer,
Find 'twill be settled in their Sex by her.
Merlin the Prophet (and sure he'l not lie
In such an awful Company)
Does Prophecies of learn'd Orinda show,
What he had darkly spoke so long ago.
Even Boadicla's angry Ghost
Forgets her own misfortune and disgrace,
And to her injur'd Daughters now does boast,
That Rome's o'ercome at last by a Woman of her race.