Written in Juice of Lemon

Abraham Cowley
Whilst what I write I do not see,
      I dare thus, ev'n to you, write poetry.
Ah, foolish Muse! which dost so high aspire,
      And know'st her judgment well,
      How much it does thy power excel,
Yet dar'st be read by, thy just doom, the fire.

      Alas! thou think'st thyself secure,
      Because thy form is innocent and pure:
Like hypocrites, which seem unspotted here;
      But, when they sadly come to die,
      And the last fire their truth must try,
Scrawled o'er like thee, and blotted, they appear.

      Go then, but reverently go,
      And, since thou needs must sin, confess it too:
Confess 't, and with humility clothe thy shame;
      For thou, who else must burned be
      An heretick, if she pardon thee,
Mayst like a martyr then enjoy the flame.

      But, if her wisdom grow severe,
      And suffer not her goodness to be there;
If her large mercies cruelly it restrain;
      Be not discourag'd, but require
      A more gentle ordeal fire,
And bid her by love's flames read it again.

      Strange power of heat! thou yet dost show
      Like winter-earth, naked, or cloth'd with snow:
But as, the quickening sun approaching near,
      The plants arise up by degrees;
      A sudden paint adorns the trees,
And all kind Nature's characters appear.

      So, nothing yet in thee is seen;
      But, when a genial heat warms thee within,
A new-born wood of various lines there grows;
      Here buds an A, and there a B,
      Here sprouts a V, and there a T,
And all the flourishing letters stand in rows.

      Still, silly paper! thou wilt think
      That all this might as well be writ with ink:
Oh, no; there's sense in this, and mystery—
      Thou now mayst change thy author's name,
      And to her hand lay noble claim;
For, as she reads, she makes, the words in thee.

      Yet — if thine own unworthiness
      Will still that thou art mine, not hers confess—
Consume thy self with fire before her eyes,
      And so her grace or pity move:
      The gods, though beasts they do not love,
Yet like them when they 're burnt in sacrifice.

More by Abraham Cowley

Water-Lily

D'ye slight me, 'cause a bog my Belly feeds, 
And I am found among a crowd of Reeds 
I'm no green vulgar Daughter of the Earth, 
But to the noble Waters owe my birth.
I was a Goddess of no mean degree;
But Love alas! deposed my Deity. 
He bad me love, and straight my kindled heart 
In Hercules's triumphs bore a part. 
I with his Fame, and actions fell in love, 
And Limbs, that might become his Father Jove. 
And by degrees Me a strong impulse hurl'd, 
That Man t'enjoy, who conquer'd all the World. 
To tell you true, that Night I most admir'd, 
When he got fifty Sons and was not tir'd. 
Now, blushing, such deeds hate I, to profess; 
But 'twas a Night of noble wickedness. 
He (to be short) my honour stain'd, and he 
Had the first flow'r of my Virginity. 
But He by 's Father Jove's example led 
Rambled and cou'd not brook a single bed. 
Fierce monstrous Beasts and Tyrants, worse than they, 
All o'r the World he ran to seek and slay. 
But He, the Tyrant, for his Guerdon still 
A Maid requires, if he a Monster kill.
All Womankind to me his Harlots are, 
Ev'n Goddesses in my suspicion share. 
Perish me; let the Sun this Water dry, 
And may I scorch'd in this burnt puddle die; 
If I of Juno were not jealous grown, 
And thought I shew'd her hatred in my own. 
(Perhaps, said I, my passion he derides, 
And I'm the scorn of all his virtuous Brides. 
Grief, anger, shame and fury vex my mind, 
But, maugre all, Loves darts those passions blind.) 
If I from tortures of eternal grief 
Did not design by Death to seek relief. 
But Goddesses in Love can never die, 
Hard Fate! our punishment's Eternity. 
Mean time I'm all in tears both night and day, 
And as they drop, my tedious hours decay. 
Into a Lake the standing showers grow, 
And o'r my feet th'united Waters flow: 
Then (as the dismal boast of misery) 
I triumph in my griefs fertility.
Till Jove at length, in pity, from above, 
Said, I shou'd never from that Fen remove. 
His Word my body of its form bereft, 
And straight all vanish'd, that my grief had left. 
My knotty root under the Earth does sink,
And makes me of a Club too often think. 
My thirsty leaves no liquor can suffice; 
My tears are now return'd into my eyes. 
My form its ancient Whiteness still retains,
And pristine paleness in my Cheeks remains. 
Now in perpetual mirth my days I pass, 
We Plants, believe me, are an happy Race. 
We truly feel the Suns kind influence, 
Cool winds and warmer Air refresh our sense, 
Nectar in dew does from Aurora rise, 
And Earth Ambrosia untill'd supplies. 
I pity Man, whom thousand cares perplex, 
And cruel Love, that greatest plague, does vex; 
Whilst mindful of the ills I once endur'd 
His flames by me are quench'd, his wounds are cur'd.
I triumph, that my Victor I o'rthrow, 
Such changes Tyrants Thrones shou'd undergo. 
Don't wonder, Love, that Thee thy Slave shou'd beat, 
Alcides Monsters taught me to defeat. 
And lest, unhappy Boy! thou shou'dst believe, 
All handsom folks thy cruel Yoke receive; 
I have a Wash that beautifies the Face,
Yet chastly look in my own wat'ry Glass. 
Diana's meine, and Venus face I lend, 
So to both Deities I prove a friend. 
But lest that God shou'd artfully his Flame 
Conceal, and burn me in anothers Name; 
All Heats in general I resist, nay I
To all that's Hot am a sworn Enemy. 
Whether distracting flames with fury flie, 
Through the burnt brain, like Comets through the skie, 
Or whether from the Belly they ascend, 
And fumes all o'r the Body swiftly send, 
Whether with sulphurous fire the veins within 
They kindle, or just singe the outward skin.
Whate'r they are, my awful juice they fly; 
When glimmering through the pores they run and die. 
Why wink'st thou? why doest so with half an eye 
Look on me? Oh — my sleepy root's too nigh. 
Besides my tedious Discourse might make 
Any Man have but little mind to wake, 
Without that's help; Thus then our leaves we take.

Lettuce

Some think your commendation you deserve,
'Cause you of old Augustus did preserve.
Why did you still prolong that fatal breath, 
That banish'd Ovid, and was Tully's death? 
But I suppose that neither of 'em you, 
Nor Orator nor Poet ever knew; 
Wherefore I wonder not, you shou'd comply, 
And the Worlds Tyrant so far gratify. 
Thou truly to all Tyrants art of use, 
Their madness flies before thy pow'rful juice. 
Their heads with better wreaths, I pri'thee, crown, 
And let the World in them thy kindness own. 
At thy command forth from its scorched Heart,
Of Tyrants Love the greatest does depart. 
False Love, I mean; for thou ne'r try'st t'expel 
True Love, who, like a good King, governs well. 
Justly that Dog star, Cupid, thou do'st hate, 
Whose fire kills Herbs, and Monsters does create. 

The Request

I've often wish'd to love; what shall I do?
      Me still the cruel boy does spare;
      And I a double task must bear,
First to woo him, and then a mistress too.
      Come at last and strike, for shame,
If thou art any thing besides a name;
      I'll think thee else no God to be,
But poets rather Gods, who first created thee.

I ask not one in whom all beauties grow;
      Let me but love, whate'er she be,
      She cannot seem deform'd to me;
And I would have her seem to others so.
      Desire takes wings and straight does fly,
It stays not dully to inquire the Why.
      That happy thing, a lover, grown,
I shall not see with others' eyes, scarce with mine own.

If she be coy, and scorn my noble fire;
      If her chill heart I cannot move;
      Why I'll enjoy the very love,
And make a mistress of my own desire.
      Flames their most vigorous heat do hold,
And purest light, if compass'd round with cold:
      So, when sharp winter means most harm,
The springing plants are by the snow itself kept warm.

But do not touch my heart, and so be gone;
      Strike deep thy burning arrows in!
      Lukewarmness I account a sin,
As great in love as in religion.
      Come arm'd with flames; for I would prove
All the extremities of mighty Love.
      Th' excess of heat is but a fable;
We know the torrid zone is now found habitable.

Among the woods and forests thou art found,
      There boars and lions thou dost tame;
      Is not my heart a nobler game?
Let Venus, men; and beasts, Diana, wound!
      Thou dost the birds thy subjects make;
Thy nimble feathers do their wings o'ertake:
      Thou all the spring their songs dost hear;
Make me love too, I'll sing to' thee all the year!

What service can mute fishes do to thee?
      Yet against them thy dart prevails,
      Piercing the armour of their scales;
And still thy sea-born mother lives i'th' sea.
      Dost thou deny only to me
The no-great privilege of captivity?
      I beg or challenge here thy bow;
Either thy pity to me, or else thine anger, show.

Come! or I 'll teach the world to scorn that bow:
      I'll teach them thousand wholesome arts
      Both to resist and cure thy darts,
More than thy skilful Ovid e'er did know.
      Musick of sighs thou shalt not hear,
Nor drink one wretched lover's tasteful tear:
      Nay, unless soon thou woundest me,
My verses shall not only wound, but murder, thee.