Cooper's Hill (1642)

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Sure we have poets that did never dreamUpon Parnassus, nor did taste the streamOf Helicon, and therefore I supposeThose 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 theeA 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 downOn Paul's, as men from thence upon the town.Paul's, the late theme of such a muse whose flightHas bravely reach'd and soar'd above thy height:Now shalt thou stand, though 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 thoughtAbove the earth, or 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 tearThe air, secure from danger and from fear,So rais'd above the tumult and the crowdI see the city, in a thicker cloudOf business, than of smoke, where men like antsToil 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 pleaseThe 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 veinThence 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 swellsInto my eye, as the late married dame(Who proud, yet seems to make that pride her shame)When nature quickens in her pregnant wombHer 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 heightsAccess deny, no horrid steep affrights,But such a rise, as doth at once inviteA pleasure, and a reverence from the sight.Thy master's emblem, in whose face I sawA 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 chanceSo plac'd, as if she did on purpose raiseThe hill, to rob the builder of his praise.For none commends his judgment, that doth chooseThat which a blind man only could refuse;Such are the towers which th' hoary temples grac'dOf Cybele, when all her heavenly raceDo homage to her, yet she cannot boastAmongst that numerous, and celestial hostMore heroes than can Windsor, nor doth fame'sImmortal book record more noble names.Nor to look back so far, to whom this isleMust 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 should'st be like in fame,As thine his fate, if mine had been his flame)But whosoe'er it was, nature design'dFirst a brave place, and then as brave a mind.No to recount those several kings, to whomIt gave a cradle, or to whom a tomb,But thee (great Edward) and thy greater son,He that the lilies wore, and he that won,And thy Bellona who deserves her shareIn all thy glories, of that royal pairWhich waited on thy triumph, she brought one.Thy son the other brought, and she that sonNor of less hopes could her great off-spring prove;A royal eagle cannot breed a dove.

Then didst thou found that order, whether loveOr victory thy royal thoughts did move,Each was a noble cause, nor was it lessI' th' institution, than the great successWhilst every part conspires to give it grace,The King, the cause, the patron, and the place,Which foreign kings, and emperors esteemThe 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 pairWho should possess all that thy mighty power,Or thy desires more mighty, did devour;To whom their better fate reserves whate'erThe 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 knownThat all the blood he spill'd, had been his own,Thou hadst extended through the conquer'd East,Thine, and the Christian name, and made them blestTo 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 seemBut to foretell, and prophesy of himWho has within that azure round confin'dThese 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 saintBetter 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 heCompanion 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 guestTastes every dish, and runs through all the feast;

So having tasted Windsor, casting roundMy wandering eye, an emulous hill doth boundMy more contracted sight, whose top of lateA chapel crown'd, till in the common fate,Th'adjoining abbey fell: (may no such stormFall on our times, where ruin must reform)Tell me, (my muse) what monstrous dire offence,What crime could any Christian king incenseTo such a rage? Was 't luxury, or lust?Was he so temperate, so chaste, so just?Were 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 crown,Condemns their luxury to feed his own;And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shameOf sacrilege, must bear devotion's name.And he might think it just, the cause and timeConsidered well, for none commits a crimeAppearing such, but as 'tis understood,A real, or at least a seeming good.While for the Church his learned pen disputesHis 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 stork 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 advanceSo 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, surveysWhere 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.And though his clearer sand, no golden veins,Like Tagus and Pactolus streams, containsHis genuine, and less guilty wealth t' explore,Search not his bottom, but survey his shore;O'er which he kindly spreads his spacious wingAnd hatches plenty for th' ensuing spring.Nor with a furious, and unruly wave,Like profuse kings, resumes the wealth he gave,No unexpected inundations spoilThe mower's hopes, nor mock the ploughman's toil;Then like a lover he forsakes his shores,Whose stay with jealous eyes his spouse implores;Till with a parting kiss he saves her tears,And promising return, secures her fears;As a wise king first settles fruitful peaceIn his own realms, and with their rich increase,Seeks wars abroad, and in triumph bringsThe spoils of kingdoms, and the crowns of kings.So Thames to London doth at first presentThose tributes, which neighbouring counties sent,But as his second visit from the east,Spices he brings, and treasures from the west.Finds wealth where 'tis, bestows it where it wants,Cities in deserts, woods in cities plants.Rounds the whole globe, and with his flying towersBrings home to us, and makes both Indies ours;So that to us no thing, no place is strangeWhile thy fair bosom is the world's exchange:O could my verse freely and smoothly flow,As thy pure flood, Heaven should no longer knowHer old Eridanus; thy purer streamShould bathe the gods and be the poets' theme.

Here nature, whether more intent to pleaseUs or herself, with strange varieties,(For things of wonder more, no less delightTo 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 disperseForm, 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 woodStrives with the gentle calmness of the flood.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.And such the roughness of the hill, on whichDiana her toils, and Mars his tents might pitchAnd as our surly supercilious lords,Big in their frowns, and haughty in their words,Look down on those, whose humble fruitful painTheir proud, and barren greatness must sustain:So looks the hill upon the stream; betweenThere lies a spacious, and a fertile green,Where from the woods, the Dryades oft meetThy Nyades, and with their nimble feet,Soft dances lead, although their airy shapeAll but a quick poetic sight escape.There Faunus and Silvanus keep their courts;And thither all the horrid host resorts(When like the elixir, with his evening beams,The sun has turn'd to gold the silver streams)To graze the ranker mead, that noble herd,On whose sublime and shady fronts is rear'dNature's great master-piece; to show how soonGreat things are made, but sooner much undone.Here have I seen our Charles, when great affairsGive leave to slacken, and unbend his cares,Chasing the royal stag, the gallant beast,Rous'd with the noise, 'twist hope and fear distress'd,Resolves 'tis better to avoid, than meetHis danger, trusting to his winged feet:But when he sees the dogs, now by the view,Now by the scent, his speed with speed pursue,He tries his friends, amongst the lesser herd,Where he but lately was obey'd, and fear'd,Safety he seeks: the herd, unkindly wise,Or chases him from thence, or from him flies.Like a declining statesman, left forlornTo his friends' pity, and pursuers' scorn.

Wearied, forsaken, and pursu'd, at lastAll safety in despair of safety plac'd,Courage he thence assumes, resolv'd to bearAll their assaults, since 'tis in vain to fear.But when he sees the eager chase renew'd,Himself by dogs, the dogs by men pursu'd.When neither speed, nor art, nor friends, nor forceCould help him towards the stream he bends his courseHoping those lesser beasts would not assayAn element more merciless than they.But fearless they pursue, nor can the floodQuench their dire thirst (alas) they thirst for blood.As some brave hero, whom his baser foesIn troops surround, now these assail, now those,Though prodigal of life, disdains to dieBy vulgar hands; but if he can descrySome nobler foes approach, to him he callsAnd begs his fate, and then contented falls:So the tall stag amidst the lesser hounds,Repels their force, and wounds returns for wounds.Till Charles from his unerring hand lets flyA mortal shaft, then glad, and proud to dieBy such a wound he falls, the crystal floodDying he dies, and purples with his blood.

This a more innocent, and happy chase,Than when of old, but in the selfsame place,Fair liberty pursu'd, and meant a preyTo tyranny, here turn'd, and stood at bay.When in that remedy all hope was plac'dWhich was, or should have been at least the last;For armed subjects can have no pretenceAgainst their princes, but their just defence,And whether then, or no, I leave to themTo justify, who else themselves condemn:Yet might the fact be just, if we may guessThe justness of an action from success.

Here was that charter seal'd, wherein the CrownAll 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,But this advantage 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 revilesNor thank'd, but scorn'd; nor are they gifts, but spoils.."And they, whom no denial can withstand,Seem but to ask, while thy indeed command.Thus all to limit royalty conspire,While each forgets to limit his desireTill kings like old Antaeus by their fall,Being forc'd, their courage from despair recall.

When a calm river rais'd with sudden rains,Or snows dissolv'd o'erflows the' adjoining plains,The husbandmen with high-rais'd banks secureTheir greedy hopes, and this he can endure.But if with bays and dams they strive to forceHis channel to a new, or narrow courseNo 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 his power his shores.Thus kings by grasping more than they can hold,First made their subjects by oppressions bold,And popular sway by forcing kings to giveMore, than was fit for subjects to receive,Ran to the same extreme, and one excessMade both by striving to be greater, less.Nor any way, but seeking to have moreMakes either lose what each possess'd before.Therefore their boundless power till princes drawWithin the channel, and the shores of law,And may the law, which teaches kings to swayTheir sceptres, teach their subjects to obey.

© Sir John Denham