Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
A Small Thing, but Mine Own
By Abraham Cowley (16181667)
From the Essay The Garden
I NEVER had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life only to the culture of them, and study of nature.
And there (with no design beyond my wall), whole and entire to lie,
In no inactive ease, and no unglorious poverty.
Or, as Virgil has said, shorter and better for me, that I might there studiis florere ignobilis otî1 (though I could wish, that he had rather said, nobilis otî, when he spoke of his own). But several accidents of my ill fortune have disappointed me hitherto, and do still, of that felicity; for though I have made the first and hardest step to it, by abandoning all ambitions and hopes in this world, and by retiring from the noise of all business and almost company, yet I stick still in the inn of a hired house and garden, among weeds and rubbish; and without that pleasantest work of human industry, the improvement of something which we call (not very properly, but yet we call) our own. I am gone out from Sodom, but I am not yet arrived at my little Zoar. O let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. I do not look back yet; but I have been forced to stop, and make too many halts. You may wonder, sir (for this seems a little too extravagant and Pindarical for prose), what I mean by all this preface; it is to let you know, that though I have missed, like a chemist, my great end, yet I account my affections and endeavours well rewarded by something that I have met with by the by: which is, that they have procured to me some part in your kindness and esteem.