Last modified on 16 April 2014, at 22:03

Abraham Cowley

Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,
But an eternal now does always last.

Abraham Cowley (1618July 28, 1667) was an English metaphysical poet. In his own time he was widely considered the greatest poet of the age.

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What shall I do to be forever known,
And make the age to come my own?
His time is forever, everywhere his place.
  • Fond archer, Hope! who tak'st thy aim so far,
    That still or short, or wide thine arrows are!
  • Why to mute fish should'st thou thyself discover
    And not to me, thy no less silent lover?
  • To be a husbandman, is but a retreat from the city; to be a philosopher, from the world; or rather, a retreat from the world, as it is man's, into the world, as it is God's.
  • What shall I do to be forever known,
    And make the age to come my own?
    • The Motto; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • His time is forever, everywhere his place.
    • Friendship in Absence; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Life is an incurable disease.
    • To Dr. Scarborough; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • We spent them not in toys, in lusts, or wine,
    But search of deep philosophy,
    Wit, eloquence, and poetry;
    Arts which I lov'd, for they, my friend, were thine.
    • On the Death of Mr. William Harvey; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • His faith, perhaps, in some nice tenets might
    Be wrong; his life, I 'm sure, was in the right.
    • On the Death of Crashaw; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight, He can't be wrong whose life is in the right", Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, epilogue iii, line 303.
  • The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
    And drinks, and gapes for drink again;
    The plants suck in the earth, and are
    With constant drinking fresh and fair.
    • From Anacreon, ii. Drinking; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Fill all the glasses there, for why
    Should every creature drink but I?
    Why, man of morals, tell me why?
    • From Anacreon, ii. Drinking; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • A mighty pain to love it is,
    And 't is a pain that pain to miss;
    But of all pains, the greatest pain
    It is to love, but love in vain.
    • From Anacreon, vii. Gold; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Hope, of all ills that men endure,
    The only cheap and universal cure.
    • The Mistress. For Hope; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Th' adorning thee with so much art
    Is but a barb'rous skill;
    'T is like the pois'ning of a dart,
    Too apt before to kill.
    • The Waiting Maid; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,
    But an eternal now does always last.
    • Davideis, book i, line 25; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). See also "One of our poets (which is it?) speaks of an everlasting now", Robert Southey, The Doctor, chap. xxv. p. 1.
  • When Israel was from bondage led,
    Led by the Almighty's hand
    From out of foreign land,
    The great sea beheld and fled.
    • Davideis, book i, line 41; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • An harmless flaming meteor shone for hair,
    And fell adown his shoulders with loose care.
    • Davideis, book ii, line 95. Compare: "Loose his beard and hoary hair / Stream'd like a meteor to the troubled air", Thomas Gray, The Bard, i. 2.
  • The monster London laugh at me.
    • Of Solitude, xi; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
    And all the fools that crowd thee so,
    Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
    A village less than Islington wilt grow,
    A solitude almost.
    • Of Solitude, vii; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The fairest garden in her looks,
    And in her mind the wisest books.
    • The Garden, i; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • God the first garden made, and the first city Cain.
    • The Garden, ii; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Hence, ye profane! I hate ye all,
    Both the great vulgar and the small.
    • Horace, book iii, Ode 1; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Charm'd with the foolish whistling of a name.
    • Virgil, Georgics, book ii, line 72; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Ravish'd with the whistling of a name", Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, epistle iv, line 281.
  • Words that weep and tears that speak.
    • The Prophet; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn", Thomas Gray, Progress of Poesy, iii. 3, 4.
  • We griev'd, we sigh'd, we wept; we never blush'd before.
    • Discourse concerning the Government of Oliver Cromwell; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Thus would I double my life's fading space;
    For he that runs it well, runs twice his race.
    • Discourse xi, Of Myself, stanza xi; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "For he lives twice who can at once employ / The present well, and ev'n the past enjoy", Alexander Pope, Imitation of Martial.
  • Awake, awake, my Lyre!
    And tell thy silent master's humble tale
    In sounds that may prevail;
    Sounds that gentle thoughts inspire:
    Though so exalted she
    And I so lowly be
    Tell her, such different notes make all thy harmony.
  • Beauty, thou wild fantastic ape
    Who dost in every country change thy shape!
    • "Beauty," complete poem in The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, Samuel Johnson ed., vol. 7, p. 115.
  • To virgin minds, which yet their native whiteness hold,
    Not yet discoloured with the love of gold
    (That jaundice of the soul,
    Which makes it look so gilded and so foul)
    • “Of Greatness”
  • If of their pleasures and desires no end be found;
    God to their cares and fears will set no bound.
    What would content you? Who can tell?
    Ye fear so much to lose what you have got
    As if ye liked it well.
    Ye strive for more, as if ye liked it not.
    • “Of Greatness”

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