Abraham Cowley

Frans Hals. Fete Champetre. 1627. detail
Frans Hals. Fête Champêtre. 1627. [det]
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

from "The Mistress"


FIVE years ago (says Story) I lov'd you,
For which you call me most inconstant now;
Pardon me, Madam! you mistake the man,
For I am not the same that I was then;
No flesh is now the same 'twas then in me;
And that my mind is chang'd, yourself may see.
The same thoughts to retain still, and intents,
Were more inconstant far; for accidents
Must of all things most strangely inconstant prove,
If from one subject they t' another move;
My members then the father-members were
From whence these take their birth which now are here.
If then this body love what th' other did,
'T were incest; which by Nature is forbid.
You might as well this day inconstant name,
Because the weather is not still the same
That it was yesterday — or blame the year,
'Cause the spring flowers, and autumn fruit, does bear.
The world's a scene of changes; and to be
Constant, in Nature were inconstancy;
For 't were to break the laws herself has made:
Our substances themselves do fleet and fade;
The most fix'd being still does move and fly,
Swift as the wings of time 't is measur'd by.
T' imagine then that Love should never cease
(Love, which is but the ornament of these)
Were quite as senseless, as to wonder why
Beauty and colour stay not when we die.

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Mr. A. Cowley. vol 2.
Richard Hurd, ed.
London: John Sharpe, 1809.  14-15.

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