Cooper's Hill (1655)

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Sure there are poets which did never dreamUpon Parnassus, nor did taste the streamOf Helicon, we therefore may supposeThose made not poets, but the poets those.And as Courts make not the Kings, but Kings the Court,So where the Muses and their train 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:My eye, which swift as thought contracts the spaceThat lies between, and first salutes the placeCrown'd with that sacred pile, so vast, so high,That whether 'tis a part of earth, or sky,Uncertain seems, and may be thought a proudAspiring mountain, or descending cloud,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 sword, or time, 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.Under his proud survey the city lies,And like a mist beneath a hill doth rise;Whose state and wealth, the business and the crowd,Seems at this distance but a darker cloud:And is to him who rightly things esteems,No other in effect than what it seems:Where, with like haste, though several ways, they runSome 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,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, and doth itself presentWith such an easy and unforc'd ascent,That no stupendious precipice deniesAccess, no horror turns away our eyes:But such a rise, as doth at once inviteA pleasure, and a reverence from the sight.Thy mighty master's emblem, in whose faceSate meekness, heighten'd with majestic grace,Such seems thy gentle height, made only proudTo be the basis of that pompous load,Than which, a nobler weight no mountain bears,But Atlas only that supports the spheres.When Nature's hand this ground did thus advance,'Twas guided by a wiser power than chance;Mark'd out for such an use, as if 'twere meantT' invite the builder and his choice prevent.Nor can we call it choice, when what we choose,Folly, or blindness only could refuse.A crown of such majestic tow'rs doth graceThe gods' great mother, when her heavenly raceDo homage to her, yet she cannot boastAmongst that numerous, and celestial host,More heroes than can Windsor, nor doth fame'sImmortal book record more noble names.Not to look back so far, to whom this isleOwes the first 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.Not to recount those several kings, to whomIt gave a cradle, or to whom a tomb,But thee (great Edward) and thy greater son,(The lilies which his father wore, he won)And thy Bellona, who the consort cameNot only to thy bed, but to thy fame,She to thy triumph led one captive king,And brought that son, which did the second bring.Then didst thou found that order (whither loveOr victory thy royal thoughts did move)Each was a noble cause, and nothing lessThan the design, has been the great success:Which foreign kings, and emperors esteemThe second honour to their diadem.Had thy great destiny but given 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.When he that patron chose, in whom are join'dSoldier and martyr, and his arms confin'dWithin the azure circle, he did seemBut to foretell, and prophesy of him,Who to his realms that azure round hath join'd,Which nature for their bound at first design'd.That bound, which to the world's extremest ends,Endless itself, its liquid arms extends;Nor doth he need those emblems which we paint,But is himself the soldier and the saint.

Here should my wonder dwell, and here my praise,But my fix'd thoughts my wand'ring eye betraysViewing a neighbouring hill, whose top of lateA chapel crown'd, till in the common fate,The 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 wealth is crime enough to him that's poor,Who having spent the treasures of the crown,Condemns their luxury to feed his own.And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shameOf sacrilege, must bear devotion's name.No crime so bold, but would be understoodA real, or at least a seeming good.Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the name,And free from conscience, is a slave to fame.Thus he the church at once protects, and spoils:But princes' swords are sharper than their styles.And thus to th' ages past he makes amends,Their charity destroys, their faith defends.Then did religion in a lazy cell,In empty, airy contemplations 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, as 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?Who sees these dismal heaps, but would demandWhat barbarous invader sack'd the land?But when he hears, no Goth, no Turk did bringThis desolation, but a Christian king;When nothing but the name of zeal appears'Twixt our best actions and the worst of theirs,What does he think our sacrilege would spare,When such th' effects of our devotions are?

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 amongst 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 then destroys it with too fond a stay,Like mothers which their infants overlay.Nor with a sudden and impetuous wave,Like profuse kings, resumes the wealth he gave.No unexpected inundations spoilThe 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 storesFull of the tributes of his grateful shores,Visits the world, and in his flying towersBrings 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 streamMy 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 pleaseUs or herself, with strange varieties,(For things of wonder give 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.But his proud head the airy mountain hidesAmong the clouds; his shoulders, and his sidesA shady mantle clothes; his curled browsFrown 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 appearsVariety, which all the rest endears.This scene had some bold Greek, or British bardBeheld of old, what stories had we heard,Of fairies, satyrs, and the nymphs their dames,Their feasts, their revels, and their amorous flames?'Tis still the same, although their airy shapeAll but a quick poetic sight escape.There Faunus and Silvanus keep their courts,And thither all the horned host resortsTo 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 are undone.Here have I seen the King, when great affairsGive leave to slacken, and unbend his cares,Attended to the chase by all the flowerOf 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 invadeHis soft repose; when th' unexpected soundOf dogs, and men, his wakeful ear doth wound:Rous'd with the noise, he scarce believes his ear,Willing to think th' illusions of his fearHad given this false alarm, but straight his viewConfirms, 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 eyeHas lost the chasers, and his ear the cry;Exulting, till he finds, their nobler senseTheir disproportion'd speed does recompense.Then curses his conspiring feet, whose scentBetrays 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 forlornTo his friends' pity, and pursuers' scorn,With shame remembers, while himself was oneOf 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 alonePrince of the soil, and all the herd his own;And like a bold knight errant did proclaimCombat to all, and bore away the dame;And taught the woods to echo to the streamHis 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 breathPresents a foe, and every foe a death.Wearied, forsaken, and pursu'd, at lastAll safety in despair of safety plac'd,Courage he thence resumes, resolv'd to bearAll their assaults, since it was vain to fear.And now too late he wishes for the fightThat 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 moreRepents his courage, than 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' assayAn element more merciless than they.But fearless they pursue, nor can the floodQuench 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 dareTempt the last fury of extreme despair.So fares the stag among th' enraged hounds,Repels their force, and wounds returns for wounds.And as a hero, whom his baser foesIn troops surround, now these assails, now those,Though prodigal of life, disdains to dieBy common hands; but if he can descrySome nobler foe's approach, to him he calls,And begs his fate, and then contented falls.So when the King a mortal shaft lets flyFrom 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 preyTo lawless power, 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.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,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 revilesNot 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 giveMore than was fit for subjects to receive,Ran to the same extremes; and one excessMade 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 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 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 his power his shores.

© Sir John Denham