Abraham Cowley

The Motto       
Tentanda via est, etc.      

What shall I do to be forever known,
    And make the age to come my own?
I shall like beasts or common people die,
    Unless you write my  elegy;
Whilst others great by being born are grown,
    Their mothers' labor, not their own.
In this scale gold, in th'other fame does lie,
    The  weight of  that mounts this so  high.
These men are fortune's jewels, molded bright,
    Brought forth with their own fire and light;
If I her vulgar stone, for either look,
    Out of  myself it must be strook.
Yet I must on :  what sound is't strikes mine ear?
    Sure I Fame's trumpet hear;
It sounds like the last trumpet, for it can
    Raise up the buried man.
Unpassed Alps stop me, but I'll cut through all,
    And march, the Muses' Hannibal.
Hence, all the flattering vanities that lay
    Nets of  roses in the way;
Hence, the desire of honors or estate
    And all that is not above fate;
Hence, Love himself, the tyrant of my days,
    Which intercepts my coming praise.
Come, my best  friends, my books, and lead me on:
    'Tis time that I were gone.
Welcome, great Stagirite, and teach me now
    All I was born to know;
Thy scholar's vict'ries thou dost far outdo,
    He conquered th'earth, the whole world you.
Welcome, learn'd Cicero, whose blest tongue and wit 
    Preserve Rome's greatness yet:
Thou art the first of orators; only he
    Who best can praise thee, next must be.
Welcome the Mantuan swan, Vergil the wise,
    Whose verse walks highest, but not flies;
Who brought green poesy to her perfect age,
    And made that art which was a rage.
Tell me, ye mighty three, what shall I do
    To be like one of you?
But you have climbed the mountain's top, there sit
    On the calm flour'shing head of it,
And whilst with wearied steps we upward go,
    See us and clouds below. 

Ben Jonson and the Cavalier Poets. Hugh Maclean, Ed.
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1974. 327-328.

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Created by Anniina Jokinen on October 4, 2001. Last updated January 5, 2007.