Abraham Cowley

from Poems, 1656




As to a northern people (whom the sun
Uses just as the Romish church has done
Her prophane laity, and does assign
Bread only both to serve for bread and wine)
A rich Canary fleet welcome arrives;
Such comfort to us here your letter gives,
Fraught with brisk racy verses; in which we
The soil from whence they came, taste, smell, and see:
Such is your present to us; for you must know,
Sir, that verse does not in this island grow,
No more than sack; one lately did not fear
(Without the Muses' leave) to plant it here;
But it produc'd such base, rough, crabbed, hedge-
Rhymes, as ev'n set the hearers' ears on edge:
Written by — — Esquire, the
Year of our Lord six hundred thirty-three.
Brave Jersey Muse! and he's for this high style
Call'd to this day the Homer of the Isle.
Alas! to men here no words less hard be
To rhyme with, than * Mount Orgueil is to me;
Mount Orgueil! which, in scorn o' th' Muses' law,
With no yoke-fellow word will deign to draw.
Stubborn Mount Orgueil! 't is a work to make it
Come into rhyme, more hard than 't were to take it.
Alas! to bring your tropes and figures here,
Strange as to bring camels and elephants were;
And metaphor is so unknown a thing,
'T would need the preface of "God save the King."
Yet this I'll say, for th' honour of the place,
That, by God's extraordinary grace
(Which shows the people have judgment, if not wit)
The land is undefil'd with Clinches yet;
Which, in my poor opinion, I confess,
Is a most singular blessing, and no less
Than Ireland's wanting spiders.  And, so far
From th' actual sin of bombast too they are,
(That other crying sin o' th' English Muse)
That even Satan himself can accuse
None here (no not so much as the divines)
For th' motus primò primi to strong lines.
Well, since the soil then does not naturally bear
Verse, who (a devil) should import it here?
For that to me would seem as strange a thing
As who did first wild beasts into islands bring;
Unless you think that it might taken be
As Green did Gondibert, in a prize at sea:
But that's a fortune falls not every day;
'Tis true Green was made by it; for they say
The parliament did a noble bounty do,
And gave him the whole prize, their tenths and fifteens too.

* The name of one of the castles in Jersey. —Aikin.

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Abraham Cowley. Vol 1.
J. Aikin, ed. London: G. Kearsley, 1806.  63-65.

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