Abraham Cowley

from "The Mistress"


The fish around her crowded, as they do
To the false light that treacherous fisher shew,
And all with as much ease might taken be,
      As she at first took me;
      For ne'er did light so clear
      Among the waves appear,
Though every night the sun himself set there.

Why to mute fish shouldst thou thyself discover
And not to me, thy no less silent lover?
As some from men their buried gold commit
      To ghosts, that have no use of it;
      Half their rich treasures so
      Maids bury; and for aught we know,
(Poor ignorants!) They're mermaids all below.

The amorous waves would fain about her stay,
But still new amorous waves drive them away,
And with swift current to those joys they haste
      That do as swiftly waste:
      I laughd the wanton play to view;
      But 't is, alas! at land so too,
And still old lovers yield the place to new.

Kiss her, and as you part, you amorous waves
(My happier rivals, and my fellow-slaves)
Point to your flowery banks, and to her shew
      The good your bounties do;
      Then tell her what your pride doth cost,
      And how your use and beauty's lost,
When rigorous winter binds you up with frost.

Tell her, her beauties and her youth, like thee,
Haste without stop to a devouring sea;
Where they will mix'd and undistinguish'd lie
      With all the meanest things that die;
      As in the ocean thou
      No privilege dost know
Above th' impurest streams that thither flow.

Tell her, kind flood! When this has made her sad,
Tell her there's yet one remedy to be had;
Show her how thou, though long since past, dost find
      Thyself yet still behind:
      Marriage (say to her) will bring
      About the self-same thing.
But she, fond maid, shuts and seals-up the spring.

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Mr. A. Cowley. vol 2.
Richard Hurd, ed.
London: John Sharpe, 1809.  110-111.

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