Abraham Cowley

from Poems, 1656



Some blind themselves, 'cause possibly they may
      Be led by others a right way;
They build on sands, which if unmov'd they find,
      'T is but because there was no wind.
Less hard 't is, not to err ourselves, than know
      If our forefathers err'd or no.
When we trust men concerning God, we then
      Trust not God concerning men.

Visions and inspirations some expect
      Their course here to direct;
Like senseless chemists their own wealth destroy,
      Imaginary gold t' enjoy.
So stars appear to drop to us from sky,
      And gild the passage as they fly:
But when they fall, and meet th'opposing ground,
      What but a sordid slime is found?

Sometimes their fancies they 'bove reason set,
      And fast, that they may dream of meat;
Sometimes ill spirits their sickly souls delude,
      And bastard forms obtrude:
So Endor's wretched sorceress, although
      She Saul through his disguise did know,
Yet, when the devil comes up disguis'd, she cries,
      " Behold! the Gods arise."

In vain, alas! these outward hopes are try'd;
      Reason within's our only guide;
Reason, which (God be prais'd!) still walks, for all
      Its old original fall:
And, since itself the boundless Godhead join'd
      With a reasonable mind,
It plainly shows that mysteries divine
      May with our reason join.

The holy book, like the eighth sphere, does shine
      With thousand lights of truth divine:
So numberless the stars, that to the eye
      It makes but all one galaxy.
Yet Reason must assist too; for, in seas
      So vast and dangerous as these,
Our course by stars above we cannot know,
      Without the compass too below.

Though Reason cannot through Faith's mysteries see,
      It sees that there and such they be;
Leads to heaven's door, and there does humbly keep,
      And there through chinks and key-holes peep;
Though it, like Moses, by a sad command,
      Must not come in to th' Holy Land,
Yet thither it infallibly does guide,
      And from afar 't is all descry'd.

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Abraham Cowley. Vol 1.
J. Aikin, ed. London: G. Kearsley, 1806.  67-68.

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