William Cowper


[Written 1781(?).  Published 1782. There is an undated MS.
copy is in the British Museum.]

THE nymph must lose her female friend,
     If more admired than she—
But where will fierce contention end
     If flow'rs can disagree?

Within the garden's peaceful scene
     Appear'd two lovely foes,
Aspiring to the rank of queen—
     The Lily and the Rose.

The Rose soon redden'd into rage,
     And, swelling with disdain,
Appeal'd to many a poet's page
     To prove her right to reign.

The Lily's height bespoke command—
     A fair imperial flow'r;
She seem'd designed for Flora's hand,
     The sceptre of her pow'r.

The civil bick'ring and debate
     The goddess chanc'd to hear,
And flew to save, ere yet too late,
     The pride of the parterre.—

Yours is, she said, the nobler hue,
     And yours the statelier mien,
And, till a third surpasses you,
     Let each be deem'd a queen.

Thus, sooth'd and reconcil'd, each seeks
     The fairest British fair;
The seat of empire is her cheeks,
     They reign united there.




The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper.
H. S. Milford, ed.
London: Henry Frowde, 1905. 312-3.


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