Abraham Cowley

from Poems, 1656



METHINKS heroick poesy till now,
Like some fantastick fairy-land did show;
Gods, devils, nymphs, witches and giants' race,
And all but man, in man's chief work had place.
Thou, like some worthy knight with sacred arms,
Dost drive the monsters thence, and end the charms:
Instead of those dost men and manners plant,
The things which that rich soil did chiefly want.
Yet ev'n thy Mortals do their Gods excel,
Taught by thy Muse to fight and love so well.
      By fatal hands whilst present empires fall,
Thine from the grave past monarchies recall;
So much more thanks from human-kind does merit
The Poet's fury than the zealot's spirit.
And from the grave thou mak'st this empire rise,
Not like some dreadful ghost t' affright our eyes,
But with more lustre and triumphant state,
Than when it crown'd at proud Verona sate.
So will our God rebuild man's perished frame,
And raise him up much better, yet the same:
So God-like poets do past things rehearse,
Not change, but heighten, Nature by their verse.
      With shame, methinks, great Italy must see
Her conquerors rais'd to life again by thee:
Rais'd by such pow'erful verse, that ancient Rome
May blush no less to see her wit o'ercome.
Some men their fancies like their faith, derive,
And think all ill but that which Rome does give;
The marks of Old and Catholick would find;
To the same chair would truth and fiction bind.
Thou in those beaten paths disdain'st to tread,
And scorn'st to live by robbing of the dead.
Since time does all things change, thou think'st not fit
This latter age should see all new but wit;
Thy fancy, like a flame, its way does make,
And leave bright tracks for following pens to take.
Sure 't was this noble boldness of the Muse
Did thy desire to seek new worlds infuse;
And ne'er did Heaven so much a voyage bless,
If thou canst plant but there with like success.

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Abraham Cowley. Vol 1.
J. Aikin, ed. London: G. Kearsley, 1806.  62-63.

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