Abraham Cowley

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Abraham Cowley (16181667-07-28) was an English metaphysical poet. In his own time he was widely considered the greatest poet of the age.


  • 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, they no less silent lover?
  • To be a husbandman, is but a retreat from the city; to be a philosopher, from the world
  • What shall I do to be forever known,
    And make the age to come my own?
    • The Motto.
  • His time is forever, everywhere his place.
    • Friendship in Absence.
  • Life is an incurable disease.
    • To Dr. Scarborough.
  • 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.
  • His faith, perhaps, in some nice tenets might
    Be wrong; his life, I 'm sure, was in the right.
    • On the Death of Crashaw. 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.
  • Fill all the glasses there, for why
    Should every creature drink but I?
    Why, man of morals, tell me why?
    • From Anacreon, ii. Drinking.
  • 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.
  • Hope, of all ills that men endure,
    The only cheap and universal cure.
    • The Mistress. For Hope.
  • 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.
  • Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,
    But an eternal now does always last.
    • Davideis, book i, line 25. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The fairest garden in her looks,
    And in her mind the wisest books.
    • The Garden, i.
  • God the first garden made, and the first city Cain.
    • The Garden, ii.
  • Hence, ye profane! I hate ye all,
    Both the great vulgar and the small.
    • Horace, book iii. Ode 1.
  • Charm'd with the foolish whistling of a name.
    • Virgil, Georgics, book ii, line 72. 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. 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.
  • 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. 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.


  • Build yourself a book-nest to forget the world without.
  • Beauty, thou wild fantastic ape
    Who dost in every country change thy shape!

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