Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Extracts from Verses Written on Several Occasions: Extract from The Ode to the Royal Society
By Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)
 
FROM words, which are but pictures of the thought,
(Though we our thoughts from them perversely drew)
To things, the mind’s right object, he 1 it brought.
Like foolish birds to painted grapes we flew;
He sought and gather’d for our use the true;        5
And when on heaps the chosen bunches lay,
He prest them wisely the mechanic way,
Till all their juice did in one vessel join,
Ferment into a nourishment divine,
  The thirsty soul’s refreshing wine.        10
Who to the life an exact piece would make,
Must not from others’ work a copy take;
  No, not from Rubens or Vandyke;
Much less content himself to make it like
Th’ ideas and the images which lie        15
In his own fancy, or his memory.
  No, he before his sight must place
  The natural and living face;
  The real object must command
Each judgment of his eye, and motion of his hand.        20
 
From these and all long errors of the way,
In which our wandering predecessors went,
And like th’ old Hebrews many years did stray
  In deserts but of small extent,
Bacon, like Moses, led us forth at last.        25
  The barren wilderness he past,
  Did on the very border stand
  Of the blest promis’d land,
And from the mountain’s top of his exalted wit,
  Saw it himself, and shew’d us it.        30
But life did never to one man allow
Time to discover worlds, and conquer too;
Nor can so short a line sufficient be
To fathom the vast depths of nature’s sea:
  The work he did we ought t’ admire,        35
And were unjust if we should more require
From his few years, divided ’twixt th’ excess
Of low affliction and high happiness.
For who on things remote can fix his sight,
That ’s always in a triumph, or a fight?        40
 
Note 1. Lord Bacon. [back]
 
 
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