On the Death of Mr. Crashaw

Abraham Cowley 1618 (London) – 1667 (London)

Poet and Saint! to thee alone are given
  The two most sacred names of earth and heaven,
  The hard and rarest union which can be
  Next that of godhead with humanity.
  Long did the Muses banish'd slaves abide,
  And built vain pyramids to mortal pride;
  Like Moses thou (though spells and charms withstand)
  Hast brought them nobly home back to their Holy Land.

  Ah wretched we, poets of earth! but thou
  Wert living the same poet which thou'rt now.
  Whilst angels sing to thee their airs divine,
  And joy in an applause so great as thine,
  Equal society with them to hold,
  Thou need'st not make new songs, but say the old.
  And they (kind spirits!) shall all rejoice to see
  How little less than they exalted man may be.
  Still the old heathen gods in numbers dwell,
  The heavenliest thing on earth still keeps up Hell.
  Nor have we yet quite purg'd the Christian land;
  Still idols here like calves at Bethel stand.
  And though Pan's death long since all oracles broke,
  Yet still in rhyme the fiend Apollo spoke:
  Nay with the worst of heathen dotage we
  (Vain men!) the monster Woman deify;
  Find stars, and tie our fates there in a face,
  And Paradise in them by whom we lost it, place.
  What different faults corrupt our Muses thus
  Wanton as girls, as old wives fabulous!

  Thy spotless Muse, like Mary, did contain
  The boundless Godhead; she did well disdain
  That her eternal verse employ'd should be
  On a less subject than eternity;
  And for a sacred mistress scorn'd to take
  But her whom God himself scorn'd not his spouse to make.
  It (in a kind) her miracle did do;
  A fruitful mother was, and virgin too.

  How well, blest swan, did fate contrive thy death;
  And make thee render up thy tuneful breath
  In thy great mistress' arms! thou most divine
  And richest offering of Loretto's shrine!
  Where like some holy sacrifice t' expire
  A fever burns thee, and Love lights the fire.
  Angels (they say) brought the fam'd chapel there,
  And bore the sacred load in triumph through the air.
  'Tis surer much they brought thee there, and they,
  And thou, their charge, went singing all the way.

  Pardon, my Mother Church, if I consent
  That angels led him when from thee he went,
  For even in error sure no danger is
  When join'd with so much piety as his.
  Ah, mighty God, with shame I speak't, and grief,
  Ah that our greatest faults were in belief!
  And our weak reason were even weaker yet,
  Rather than thus our wills too strong for it.
  His faith perhaps in some nice tenents might
  Be wrong; his life, I'm sure, was in the right.
  And I myself a Catholic will be,
  So far at least, great saint, to pray to thee.

  Hail, bard triumphant! and some care bestow
  On us, the poets militant below!
  Oppos'd by our old enemy, adverse chance,
  Attack'd by envy, and by ignorance,
  Enchain'd by beauty, tortured by desires,
  Expos'd by tyrant Love to savage beasts and fires.
  Thou from low earth in nobler flames didst rise,
  And like Elijah, mount alive the skies.
  Elisha-like (but with a wish much less,
  More fit thy greatness, and my littleness)
  Lo here I beg (I whom thou once didst prove
  So humble to esteem, so good to love)
  Not that thy spirit might on me doubled be,
  I ask but half thy mighty spirit for me;
  And when my Muse soars with so strong a wing,
  'Twill learn of things divine, and first of thee to sing.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Abraham Cowley

Abraham Cowley was an English poet born in the City of London late in 1618. He was one of the leading English poets of the 17th century, with 14 printings of his Works published between 1668 and 1721. more…

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