1763 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

William Thompson, "Garden Inscriptions: In Cowley's Shade" The Poetical Calendar (1763) 8:110-11.



Shall poets dignify my walks and bowers,
Cowley forgot? forbid it, rural powers!
Ye rural powers, your choicest treasures shed,
To form a garland for your Cowley's head:
Collect the radiance of the showery bow,
The rose's scarlet, and the lilly's snow,
To emulate his works, confus'dly bright,
Where glories rise on glories, light on light,
The prism of wit! Apollo, once before,
So gilded Donn, but so could gild no more.
Our moderns flow, 'tis true, in easy rhimes;
But will our moderns flow thro' future times?
Warm distant ages with their glorious fire,
Inspir'd themselves, and potent to inspire?
Cowley, this praise is thine! — an age is past,
Yet still you charm the present and the last:
Your thoughts, your verse, their pristine lustre hold,
Like rows of jewels rang'd on cloth of gold:
Aeneas' passport thus, the golden bough,
Solid and bright at once, resembles you;
Like that, you lead us to Elysium too.
No muddy streams of dull pollution run
In your chaste lines; each wanton hint you shun,
Save when a transient Venus blots the sun.
You sung each flower that spreads the vivid hue,
Each healing plant that sips the silver dew,
Each tree that decks the garden, or the grove;
You sung, but never felt, the fires of Love:
For Love too witty, and from passion free,
You had the mistress, but no lover, she:
Goaded with points, Love never wept so sore,
Tho' wounded by a Muse's bee before.

O master of the many-chorded lyre,
Whom all the Nine, with all their gifts, inspire!
Next Spenser's bower, accept this humble shed,
He charm'd you living, and you join him dead.
But far I place thee from coy Daphne's tree;
The tree that hates Apollo, loves not thee:
Yet had Apollo sung so well, the maid
Had yielded, nor been turn'd into a shade.