Abraham Cowley

Rubens. Medusa. The Head of Medusa. c1617.
Rubens. Medusa. The Head of Medusa, c1617.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

from "The Mistress"


'T IS very true, I thought you once as fair
      As women in th' idea are;*
Whatever here seems beauteous, seem'd to be
      But a faint metaphor of thee:
But then, methoughts, there something shin'd within,
      Which casts this lustre o'er thy skin;
Nor could I choose but count it the sun's light,
      Which made this cloud appear so bright.
But, since I knew thy falsehood and thy pride,
      And all thy thousand faults beside,
A very Moor, methinks, plac'd near to thee,
      White as his teeth would seem to be.
So men (they say) by hell's delusions led,
      Have ta'en a succubus to their bed;
Believe it fair, and themselves happy call,
      Till the cleft foot discovers all:
Then they start from 't, half ghosts themselves with fear;
      And devil, as 't is, doth appear.
So, since against my will I found thee foul,
      Deform'd and crooked in thy soul,
My reason straight did to my senses shew,
      That they might be mistaken too:
Nay, when the world but knows how false you are,
      There's not a man will think you fair;
Thy shape will monstrous in their fancies be,
      They'll call their eyes as false as thee.
Be what thou wilt, hate will present thee so,
As Puritans do the Pope, and Papists Luther do.

* Michael Drayton's Idea.

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Mr. A. Cowley. vol 2.
Richard Hurd, ed.
London: John Sharpe, 1809.  15-16.

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