Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
On the Death of Mr. William Hervey
By Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)
IT was a dismal, and a fearful night,
Scarce could the Morn drive on th’ unwilling Light,
When Sleep, Death’s image, left my troubled breast,
        By something liker Death possest.
My eyes with tears did uncommanded flow,        5
        And on my soul hung the dull weight
        Of some intolerable fate.
What bell was that? Ah me! Too much I know.
My sweet companion, and my gentle peer,
Why hast thou left me thus unkindly here,        10
Thy end for ever, and my life, to moan?
        O, thou hast left me all alone!
Thy soul and body when death’s agony
        Besieged around thy noble heart,
        Did not with more reluctance part        15
Than I, my dearest Friend! do part from thee.
My dearest Friend, would I had died for thee!
Life and this world henceforth will tedious be:
Nor shall I know hereafter what to do
        If once my griefs prove tedious too.        20
Silent and sad I walk about all day,
        As sullen ghosts stalk speechless by
        Where their hid treasures lie;
Alas, my treasures gone! why do I stay?
He was my Friend, the truest Friend on earth;        25
A strong and mighty influence joined our birth;
Nor did we envy the most sounding name
        By friendship giv’n of old to fame.
None but his brethern he and sisters knew,
        Whom the kind youth preferr’d to me;        30
        And ev’n in that we did agree,
For much above myself I lov’d them too.
Say, for you saw us, ye immortal lights,
How oft unwearied have we spent the nights?
Till the Ledऐan stars so famed for love,        35
        Wonder’d at us from above.
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.        40
Ye fields of Cambridge, our dear Cambridge, say,
Have ye not seen us walking every day?
Was there a tree about which did not know
        The love betwixt us two?
Henceforth, ye gentle trees, for ever fade;        45
        Or your sad branches thicker join,
        And into darksome shades combine,
Dark as the grave wherein my Friend is laid.
Henceforth, no learned youths beneath you sing,
Till all the tuneful birds t’ your boughs they bring;        50
No tuneful birds play with their wonted cheer,
        And call the learned youths to hear;
No whistling winds through the glad branches fly,
        But all, with sad solemnity,
        Mute and unmoved be,        55
Mute as the grave wherein my Friend does lie.
To him my Muse made haste with every strain
Whilst it was new, and warm yet from the brain.
He lov’d my worthless rhymes, and like a friend
        Would find out something to commend.        60
Hence now, my Muse, thou canst not me delight;
        Be this my latest verse,
        With which I now adorn his hearse;
And this my grief, without thy help, shall write.
Had I a wreath of bays about my brow        65
I should contemn that flourishing honour now,
Condemn it to the fire, and joy to hear
        It rage and cackle there.
Instead of bays, crown with sad cypress me;
        Cypress which tombs does beautify;        70
        Not Phœbus griev’d so much as I,
For him who first was made that mournful tree.
Large was his soul; as large a soul as e’er
Submitted to inform a body here.
High as the place ’twas shortly in Heav’n to have,        75
        But low and humble as his grave.
So high that all the virtues there did come
        As to their chiefest seat
        Conspicuous, and great;
So low that for me too it made a room.        80
He scorn’d this busy world below, and all
That we, mistaken mortals, pleasure call;
Was filled with innocent gallantry and truth,
        Triumphant o’er the sins of youth.
He, like the stars, to which he now is gone,        85
        That shine with beams like flame,
        Yet burn not with the same,
Had all the light of youth, of the fire none.
Knowledge he only sought, and so soon caught,
As if for him knowledge had rather sought:        90
Nor did more learning ever crowded lie
        In such a short mortality.
Whene’er the skilful youth discoursed or writ,
        Still did the notions throng
        About his eloquent tongue,        95
Nor could his ink flow faster than his wit.
So strong a wit did nature to him frame,
As all things but his judgment overcame;
His judgment like the heav’nly moon did show,
        Temp’ring that mighty sea below.        100
Oh had he lived in learning’s world, what bound
        Would have been able to controul
        His over-powering soul!
We have lost in him arts that not yet are found.
His mirth was the pure spirits of various wit,        105
Yet never did his God or friends forget;
And when deep talk and wisdom came in view,
        Retir’d, and gave to them their due.
For the rich help of books he always took,
        Though his own searching mind before        110
        Was so with notions written o’er
As if wise Nature had made that her book.
So many virtues join’d in him, as we
Can scarce pick here and there in history,
More than old writers’ practice e’er could reach,        115
        As much as they could ever teach.
These did religion, queen of virtues sway,
        And all their sacred motions steer,
        Just like the first and highest sphere
Which wheels about, and turns all heav’n one way.        120
With as much zeal, devotion, piety,
He always liv’d, as other saints do die.
Still with his soul severe account he kept,
        Weeping all debts out ere he slept.
Then down in peace and innocence he lay,        125
        Like the Sun’s laborious light,
        Which still in water sets at night,
Unsullied with his journey of the day.
Wondrous young man, why wert thou made so good,
To be snatch’d hence ere better understood?        130
Snatch’d before half of thee enough was seen!
        Thou ripe, and yet thy life but green!
Nor could thy friends take their last sad farewell,
        But danger and infectious death
        Maliciously seiz’d on that breath        135
Where life, spirit, pleasure, always us’d to dwell.
But happy Thou, ta’en from this frantic age,
Where ignorance and hypocrisy does rage!
A fitter time for Heaven no soul e’er chose,
        The place now only free from those.        140
There ’mong the blest thou dost for ever shine,
        And, wheresoe’er thou casts thy view
        Upon that white and radiant crew,
Seest not a soul clothed with more light than thine.
And, if the glorious saints cease not to know        145
Their wretched friends who fight with life below,
Thy flame to me does still the same abide,
        Only more pure and rarefied.
There, whilst immortal hymns thou dost rehearse,
        Thou dost with holy pity see        150
        Our dull and earthly poesie,
Where grief and misery can be join’d with verse.

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