Cookie Consent

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cooper's Hill

With a tip of the petasus to the University of Toronto (

Sure we have poets that did never dream
Upon Parnassus, nor did taste the stream
Of Helicon, and therefore I suppose
Those made not poets, but the poets those.
And as Courts make not Kings, but Kings the Court,
So where the Muses and their troops resort,
Parnassus stands, if I can be to thee
A poet, thou Parnassus art to me.
Nor wonder, if (advantag'd in my flight
By taking wing from thy auspicious height)
Through untrac'd ways and airy paths I fly,
More boundless in my fancy than my eye.
Exalted to this height, I first look down
On Paul's, as men from thence upon the town
Paul's, the late theme of such a muse whose flight
Has bravely reach'd and soar'd above thy height:
Now shalt thou stand, through time, or sword, or fire,
Or zeal (more fierce than they) thy fall conspire,
Secure, whilst thee the best of poets sings,
Preserv'd from ruin by the best of kings.
As those who rais'd in body, or in thought
Above the earth, or in the air's middle vault,
Behold how winds, and storms and meteors grow,
How clouds condense to rain, congeal to snow,
And see the thunder form'd, before it tear
The air, secure from danger and from fear,
So rais'd above the tumult and the crowd
I see the city, in a thicker cloud
Of business, than of smoke, where men like ants
Toil to prevent imaginary wants;
Yet all in vain, increasing with their store,
Their vast desires, but make their wants the more.
As food to unsound bodies, though it please
The appetite, feeds only the disease.
Where, with like haste, though several ways they run,
Some to undo, and some to be undone;
While luxury, and wealth, like war and peace,
Are each the other's ruin, and increase;
As rivers lost in seas, some secret vein
Thence reconveys, there to be lost again.
Some study plots, and some those plots t' undo,
Others to make 'em, and undo 'em too,
False to their hopes, afraid to be secure,
Those mischiefs only which they make, endure,
Blinded with light, and sick of being well,
In tumults seek their peace, their Heaven in Hell.
Oh happiness of sweet retir'd content!
To be at once secure, and innocent.
Windsor the next (where Mars with Venus dwells,
Beauty with strength) above the valley swells
Into my eye, as the late married dame
(Who proud, yet seems to make that pride her shame)
When nature quickens in her pregnant womb
Her wishes past, and now her hopes to come;
With such an easy, and unforc'd ascent,
Windsor her gentle bosom doth present;
Where no stupendious cliff, no threat'ning heights
Access deny, no horrid steep affrights,
But such a rise, as doth at once invite
A pleasure, and a reverence from the sight.
Thy master's emblem, in whose face I saw
A friend-like sweetness, and a king-like awe,
Where majesty, and love so mix'd appear,
Both gently kind, both royally severe.
So Windsor, humble in itself, seems proud,
To be the base of that majestic load,
Than which no hill a nobler burden bears,
But Atlas only, that supports the spheres.
Nature this mount so fitly did advance,
We might conclude, that nothing is by chance
So plac'd, as if she did on purpose raise
The hill, to rob the builder of his praise.
For none commends his judgment, that doth choose
That which a blind man only could refuse;
Such are the towers which th' hoary temples grac'd
Of Cybele, when all her heavenly race
Do homage to her, yet she cannot boast
Amongst that numerous, and celestial host
More heroes than can Windsor, nor doth fame's
Immortal book record more noble names.
Nor to look back so far, to whom this isle
Must owe the glory of so brave a pile,
Whether to Caesar, Albanact, or Brute,
The British Arthur, or the Danish Knute,
(Though this of old no less contest did move,
Than when for Homer's birth seven cities strove)
(Like him in birth, thou shoulds't be like in fame,
As thine his fate, if mine had been his flame)
But whosoever it was, nature design'd
First a brave place, and then as brave a mind.
No to recount those several kings, to whom
It gave a cradle, or to whom a tomb,
But thee (great Edward) and thy greater son,
He that the lillies wore, and he that won,
And thy Bellons who deserves her share
In all thy glories, of that royal pair
Which waited on thy triumph, she brought one.
Thy son the other brought, and she that son
Nor of less hopes could her great off-spring prove;
A royal eagle cannot breed a dove.
Then didst thou found that order, whether love
Or victory thy royal thoughts did move,
Each was a noble cause, nor was it less
I' th' institution, than the great success
Whilst every part conspires to give it grace,
The King, the cause, the patron, and the place,
Which foreign kings, and emperors esteem
The second honour to their diadem.
Had thy great destiny but giv'n thee skill,
To know as well, as power to act her will,
That from those kings, who then thy captives were,
In after-times should spring a royal pair
Who should possess all that thy mighty power,
Or thy desires more mighty, did devour;
To whom their better fate reserves whate'er
The victor hopes for, or the vanquish'd fear;
That blood, which thou and thy great grandsire shed,
And all that since these sister nations bled,
Had been unspilt, had happy Edward known
That all the blood he spill'd, had been his own,
Thine, and the Christian name, and made them blest
To serve thee, while that loss this gain would bring,
Christ for their God, and Edward for their king;
When thou that saint thy patron didst design,
In whom the martyr and the soldier join;
And when thou didst with the azure round,
(Who evil thinks may evil him confound)
The English arms encircle, thou didst seem
But to foretell, and prophesy of him
Who has within that azure round confin'd
These realms, which nature for their bound design'd,
That bound, which to the world's extremest ends,
Endless herself, her liquid arms extends;
In whose heroic face I see the saint
Better express'd than in the liveliest paint,
That fortitude, which made him famous here,
That heavenly piety, which saints him there.
Who when this order he forsakes, may he
Companion of that sacred order be.
Here could I fix my wonder, but our eyes,
Nice as our tastes, affect varieties;
And though one please him most, the hungry guest
Tastes every dish, and runs through all the feast;
So having tasted Windsor, casting round
My wandering eye, an emulous hill doth bound
My more contracted sight, whose top of late
A chapel crown'd, till in the common fate,
Th' adjoining abbey fell:  (may no such storm
Fall on our times, where ruin must reform)
Tell me, (my muse) what monstrous dire offense,
What crime could any Christian king incense
To such a rage?  Was't luxury, or lust?
Was he so temperate, so chaste, so just?
Where these their crimes?  they were his own, much more;
But they (alas) were rich, and he was poor;
And having spent the treasures of his crowns,
Condemns their luxury to feed his own;
And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shame
Of sacrilege, must bear devotion's name.
And he might think it just, the cause and time
Considered well, for none commits a crime
Appearing such, but as 'tis understood,
A real, or at least a seeming good.
While for the Church his learned pen disputes
His much more learned sword his pen confutes,
Thus to the ages past he makes amends,
Their charity destroys, their faith defends.
Then did religion in a lazy cell,
In empty, airy contemplation dwell;
And like the block unmoved lay:  but ours,
As much too active like the stock devours.
Is there no temperate region can be known.
Betwixt their frigid, and our torrid zone?
Could we not wake from that lethargic dream,
But to be restless in a worse extreme?
And for that lethargy was there no cure,
But to be cast into a calenture?
Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance
So far, to make us wish for ignorance?
And rather in the dark to grope our way,
Than led by a false guide to err by day?
Parting from thence 'twixt anger, shame and fear,
Those for what's past, and this for what's too near:
My eye descending from the hill, surveys
Where Thames among the wanton valleys strays.
Thames, the most lov'd of all the ocean's sons,
By his old sire to his embraces runs,
Hasting to pay his tribute to the sea,
Like mortal life to meet eternity.
Though with such streams he no resemblance hold,
Whose foam is amber, and their gravel gold;
His genuine, and less guilty wealth t' explore,
Search not his bottom, but survey his shore;
O'er which he kindly spreads his spacious wing,
And hatches plenty for th' ensuing spring.
Nor with a sudden and impetuous wave,
Like profuse kings, resumes the wealth he gave.
No unexpected inundations spoil
The mower's hopes, nor mock the ploughman's toil:
But God-like his unwearied bounty flows;
First loves to do, then loves the good he does.
Nor are his blessings to his banks confin'd,
But free, and common, as the sea or wind;
When he to boast, or to disperse his stores
Full of the tributes of his grateful shores,
Visits the world, and in his flying towers
Brings home to us, and makes both Indies ours;
Finds wealth where 'tis, bestows it where it wants,
Cities in deserts, woods in cities plants.
So that to us no thing, no place is strange,
While his fair bosom is the world's exchange.
O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,
Strong without rage, without o'er flowing full.
Heaven her Eridanus no more shall boast,
Whose fame in thine, like lesser currents lost,
Thy nobler streams shall visit Jove's abodes,
To shine amongst the stars, and bathe the gods.
Here nature, whether more intent to please
Us or herself, with strange varieties,
(For things of wonder give no less delight
To the wise maker's, than beholders' sight.
Though these delights from several causes move,
For so our children, thus our friends we love)
Wisely she knew, the harmony of things,
As well as that of sounds, from discords springs.
Such was the discord, which did first disperse
Form, order, beauty through the universe;
While dryness moisture, coldness heat resists,
All that we have, and that we are, subsists.
While the steep horrid roughness of the wood
Strives with the gentle calmness of the wood
Such huge extremes when Nature doth unite,
Wonder from thence results, from thence delight.
The stream is so transparent, pure, and clear,
That had the self-enamour'd youth gaz'd here,
So fatally deceiv'd he had not been,
While he the bottom, not his face had seen.
But his proud head the airy mountain hides
Among the clouds;  his shoulders, and his sides
A shady mantle clothes;  his curled brows
Frown on the gentle stream, which calmly flows,
While winds and storms his lofty forehead beat:
The common fate of all that's high or great.
Low at his foot a spacious plain is plac'd,
Between the mountain and the stream embrac'd:
Which shade and shelter from the hill derives,
While the kind river wealth and beauty gives;
And in the mixture of all these appears
Variety, which all the rest endears.
This scene had some bold Greek, or British bard
Beheld of old, what stories had we heard,
Of fairies, satyrs, and the nymphs their dames,
Their feats, their revels, and their amorous flames?
'Tis still the same, although their airy shape
All but a quick poetic sight escape.
There Faunus and Silvanus keep their courts,
And thither all the horned host resorts
To graze the ranker mead, that noble herd,
On whose sublime and shady fronts is rear'd
Nature's great master-piece;  to show how soon
Great things are made, but sooner are undone.
Here have I seen the King, when great affairs
Give leave to slacken, and unbend his cares,
Attended to the chase by all the flower
Of youth, whose hopes a nobler prey devour:
Pleasure with praise, and danger, they would buy,
And with a foe that would not only fly.
The stag now conscious of his fatal growth,
At once indulgent to his fear and sloth,
To some dark covert his retreat had made,
Where nor man's eye, nor Heaven's should invade
His soft repose;  when th' illusions of his fear
Had given this false alarm, but straight his view
Confirms, that more than all he fears is true.
Betray'd in all his strengths, the wood beset,
All instruments, all arts of ruin met;
He calls to mind his strength, and then his speed,
His winged heels, and then his armed head;
With these t' avoid, with that his fate to meet:
But fear prevails, and bids him trust his feet.
So fast he flies, that his reviewing eye
Has lost the chasers, and his ear the cry;
Exulting, till he finds, their nobler sense
Their disproportion'd speed does recompense.
Then curses his conspiring feet, whose scent
Betrays that safety which their swiftness lent.
Then tries his friends, among the baser herd,
Where he so lately was obey'd, and fear'd,
His safety seeks:  the herd, unkindly wise,
Or chases him from thence, or from him flies.
Like a declining statesman, left forlorn
To his friends' pity, and pursuers' scorn,
With shame remembers, while himself was one
Of the same herd, himself the same had done.
Thence to the coverts, and the conscious groves,
The scenes of his past triumphs, and his loves;
Sadly surveying where he rang'd alone
Prince of the soil, and all the herd his own;
And like a bold knight errant did proclaim
Combat to all, and bore away the dame;
And taught the woods to echo to the stream
His dreadful challenge, and his clashing beam.
Yet faintly now declines the fatal strife;
So much his love was dearer than his life.
Now every leaf, and every moving breath
Presents a foe, and every foe a death.
Wearied, forsaken, and pursu'd, at last
All safety in despair of safety plac'd,
Courage he thence resumes, resolv'd to bear
All their assaults, since it was vain to fear.
And now too late he wishes for the fight
That strength he wasted in ignoble flight:
But when he sees the eager chase renew'd,
Himself by dogs, the dogs by men pursu'd:
He straight revokes his bold resolve, and more
Repents his courage, then his fear before; 
Finds that uncertain ways unsafest are,
And doubt a greater mischief than despair.
Then to the stream, when neither friends, nor force,
Nor speed, nor art avail, he shapes his course;
Thinks not their rage so desperate t' assay
An element more merciless than they.
But fearless they pursue, nor can the flood
Quench their dire thirst; alas, they thirst for blood.
So towards a ship the oarfinn'd galleys ply,
Which wanting sea to ride, or wind to fly,
Stands but to fall reveng'd on those that dare
Tempt the last fury of extreme despair.
So fares the stag among th' enraged hounds,
Repels their force, and wounded returns for wounds.
And as a hero, whom his baser foes
In troops surround, now these assails, now those,
Though prodigal of life, disdains to die
By common hands;  but if he can descry
Some nobler foe's approach, to him he calls,
And begs his fate, and then contented falls.
So when the King a mortal shaft lets fly
From his unerring hand, then glad to die,
Proud of the wound, to it resigns his blood,
And stains the crystal with a purple flood.
This a more innocent, and happy chase,
Than when of old, but in the selfsame place,
Fair liberty pursu'd, and meant a prey
To lawless power, here turn'd, and stood at bay.
When in that remedy all hope was plac'd
Which was, or should have been at least, the last.
Here was that charter seal'd, wherein the Crown
All marks of arbitrary power lays down:
Tyrant and slave, those names of hate and fear,
The happier style of king and subject bear:
Happy, when both to the same centre move,
When kings give liberty, and subjects love.
Therefore not long in force this charter stood;
Wanting that seal, it must be seal'd in blood.
The subjects arm'd, the more their princes gave,
Th' advantage only took the more to crave:
Till kings by giving, give themselves away.
And even that power, that should deny, betray.
"Who gives constrain'd, but his own fear reviles
Not thank'd, but scorn'd;  nor are they gifts, but spoils. . . ."
Thus kings, by grasping more than they could hold,
First made, their subjects by oppression bold:
And popular sway, by forcing kings to give
More than was fit for subjects to recieve,
Ran to the same extremes;  and one excess
Made both, by striving to be greater, less.
When a calm river rais'd with sudden rains,
Or snows dissolv'd, o'erflows the adjoining plains,
The husbandman with high-raised banks secure
Their greedy hopes, and this he can endure.
But if with buys and dams they strive to force
His channel to a new, or narrow course;
No longer then within his banks he dwells,
First to a torrent, then a deluge swells:
Stronger, and fiercer by restraint he roars,
And knows no bound, but makes power his shores.

by Sir John Denham


No comments: