Abraham Cowley

Gerrit van Honthorst. The Prodigal Son. 1622.
Gerrit van Honthorst. The Prodigal Son, 1622.
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

from "The Mistress"


Go, let the fatted calf be kill'd;
      My prodigal's come home at last,
With noble resolutions fill'd,
      And fill'd with sorrow for the past:
      No more will burn with love or wine;
But quite has left his women and his swine.

Welcome, ah! welcome, my poor heart!
      Welcome! I little thought, I'll swear
('T is now so long since we did part),
      Ever again to see thee here:
      Dear wanderer! Since from me you fled,
How often have I heard that thou wert dead!

Hast thou not found each woman's breast
      (The lands where thou hast travelled)
Either by savages possest,
      Or wild and uninhabited?
      What joy couldst take, or what repose,
In countries so unciviliz'd as those?

Lust, the scorching dog-star, here
      Rages with immoderate heat;
Whilst pride, the rugged Northern bear,
      In others makes the cold too great:
      And, where these are temperate known,
The soil's all barren sand or rocky stone.

When once or twice you chanc'd to view
      A rich, well-govern'd heart,
Like China, it admitted you
      But to the frontier-part.
      From Paradise shut for evermore,
What good is 't that an angel kept the door?

Well fare the pride, and the disdain,
      And vanities, with beauty join'd;
I ne'er had seen this heart again,
      If any fair-one had been kind:
      My dove, but once let loose, I doubt
Would ne'er return, had not the flood been out.

Cowley, Abraham. The Works of Mr. A. Cowley. vol 2.
Richard Hurd, ed.
London: John Sharpe, 1809.  52-53.

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