Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
Hymn: To Light
By Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)
FIRST born of chaos, who so fair didst come
    From the old Negro’s darksome womb!
    Which when it saw the lovely child,
The melancholy mass put on kind looks and smil’d.
Thou tide of glory which no rest dost know,        5
    But ever ebb, and ever flow;
    Thou golden shower of a true Jove,
Who does in thee descend, and Heav’n to earth make Love!
Hail active nature’s watchful life and health!
    Her joy, her ornament, and wealth!        10
    Hail to thy husband heat, and thee!
Thou the world’s beauteous bride, the lusty bridegroom he!
Say from what golden quivers of the sky,
    Do all thy wingèd arrows fly?
    Swiftness and power by birth are thine:        15
From thy great sire they came, thy sire the word divine.
’Tis, I believe, this archery to show,
    That so much cost in colours thou,
    And skill in painting dost bestow,
Upon thy ancient arms, the gaudy heavenly bow.        20
Swift as light thoughts their empty career run,
    Thy race is finished, when begun,
    Let a post-angel start with thee,
And thou the goal of earth shalt reach as soon as he:
Thou in the moon’s bright chariot proud and gay,        25
    Dost thy bright wood of stars survey;
    And all the year dost with thee bring
Of thousand flow’ry lights thine own nocturnal spring.
Thou Scythian-like dost round thy lands above
    The sun’s gilt tent for ever move,        30
    And still as thou in pomp dost go
The shining pageants of the world attend thy show.
Nor amidst all these triumphs dost thou scorn
    The humble glow-worms to adorn,
    And with those living spangles gild,        35
(O greatness without pride!) the bushes of the field.
Night, and her ugly subjects thou dost fright,
    And sleep, the lazy owl of night;
    Asham’d and fearful to appear
They screen their horrid shapes with the black hemisphere.        40
With them there hastes, and wildly takes the alarm,
    Of painted dreams, a busy swarm,
    At the first opening of thine eye,
The various clusters break, the antic atoms fly.
The guilty serpents, and obscener beasts        45
    Creep conscious to their secret rests:
    Nature to thee does reverence pay,
Ill omens, and ill sights removes out of thy way.
At thy appearance, grief itself is said,
    To shake his wings, and rouse his head.        50
    And cloudy care has often took
A gentle beamy smile reflected from thy look.
At thy appearance, fear itself grows bold;
    Thy sunshine melts away his cold.
    Encourag’d at the sight of thee,        55
To the cheek colour comes, and firmness to the knee.
Even lust the master of a hardened face,
    Blushes if thou beest in the place,
    To darkness’ curtains he retires,
In sympathising night he rolls his smoky fires.        60
When, Goddess, thou liftest up thy wakened head,
    Out of the morning’s purple bed,
    Thy choir of birds about thee play,
And all the joyful world salutes the rising day.
The ghosts, and monster spirits, that did presume        65
    A body’s priv’lege to assume,
    Vanish again invisibly,
And bodies gain agen their visibility.
All the world’s bravery that delights our eyes
    Is but thy sev’ral liveries,        70
    Thou the rich dye on them bestow’st,
Thy nimble pencil paints this landscape as thou go’st.
A crimson garment in the rose thou wear’st;
    A crown of studded gold thou bear’st,
    The virgin lilies in their white,        75
Are clad but with the lawn of almost naked light.
The violet, spring’s little infant, stands,
    Girt in thy purple swadling-bands:
    On the fair tulip them dost dote;
Thou cloth’st it in a gay and party-colour’d coat.        80
With flame condensed thou dost the jewels fix,
    And solid colours in it mix:
    Flora herself envies to see
Flowers fairer than her own, and durable as she.
Ah, Goddess! would thou could’st thy hand withhold,        85
    And be less liberal to gold;
    Didst thou less value to it give,
Of how much care, alas, might’st thou poor man relieve!
To me the sun is more delightful far,
    And all fair days much fairer are.        90
    But few, ah wondrous few there be,
Who do not gold prefer, O Goddess, ev’n to thee.
Through the soft ways of heaven, and air, and sea,
    Which open all their pores to thee;
    Like a clear river thou dost glide,        95
And with thy living stream through the close channels slide.
But where firm bodies thy free course oppose,
    Gently thy source the land o’erflows;
    Takes there possession, and does make,
Of colours mingled, light, a thick and standing lake.        100
But the vast ocean of unbounded day
    In th’ empyrean heaven does stay.
    Thy rivers, lakes, and springs below
From thence took first their rise, thither at last must flow.

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