Abraham Cowley

Titian. Adam and Eve. c.1550. The Prado.
Titian. Adam and Eve, c1550. The Prado.

from Poems, 1656



Against the Dogmatists.

THE sacred tree 'midst the fair orchard grew;
       The Phoenix truth did on it rest,
       And built his perfum'd nest;
That right Porphyrian tree which did true Logick shew,
       Each leaf did learned notions give,
       And th' apples were demonstrative;
       So clear their colour and divine,
The very shade they cast did other lights out-shine.

"Taste not," said God; " 't is mine and angels' meat;
       " A certain death doth sit,
       " Like an ill worm, i' th' core of it.
"Ye cannot know and live, nor live or know and eat."
       Thus spoke God, yet man did go
       Ignorantly on to know;
       Grew so more blind, and she
Who tempted him to this, grew yet more blind than he.

The only science man by this did get,
       Was but to know he nothing knew:
       He strait his nakedness did view,
His ignorant poor estate, and was asham'd of it.
       Yet searches probabilities,
       And rhetorick, and fallacies,
       And seeks by useless pride,
With slight and withering leaves that nakedness to hide.

"Henceforth," said God, "the wretched sons of earth
       " Shall sweat for food in vain,
       " That will not long sustain;
"And bring with labour forth each fond abortive birth.
       " That serpent too, their pride,
       " Which aims at things deny'd;
       " That learn'd and eloquent lust;
"Instead of mounting high, shall creep upon the dust.".

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Abraham Cowley. Vol 1.
J. Aikin, ed. London: G. Kearsley, 1806.  65-66.

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