Abraham Cowley (1618-1667)
A Sacred Poem Of The Troubles Of David
1.1I sing the man who Judah's sceptre bore
1.2In that right hand which held the crook before;
1.3Who from best poet, best of kings did grow;
1.4The two chief gifts Heav'n could on man bestow.
1.5Much danger first, much toil did he sustain,
1.6Whilst Saul and Hell cross'd his strong fate in vain.
1.7Nor did his crown less painful work afford;
1.8Less exercise his patience, or his sword;
1.9So long her conqueror fortunes spite pursued;
1.10Till with unwearied virtue he subdued
1.11All homebred malice, and all foreign boasts;
1.12Their strength was armies, his the Lord of Hosts.
1.13 Thou, who didst David's royal stem adorn,
1.14And gav'st him birth from whom thy self wast born;
1.15Who didst in triumph at death's court appear,
1.16And slew'st him with thy nails, thy cross and spear,
1.17Whilst Hell's black tyrant trembled to behold,
1.18The glorious light he forfeited of old;
1.19Who Heav'ns glad burden now, and justest pride,
1.20Sit'st high enthron'd next thy great Father's side,
1.21(Where hallowed flames help to adorn that head
1.22Which once the blushing thorns environed,
1.23Till crimson drops of precious blood hung down
1.24Like rubies to enrich thine humble crown.)
1.25Even thou my breast with such blest rage inspire,
1.26As mov'd the tuneful strings of David's lyre,
1.27Guide my bold steps with thine old travelling flame,
1.28In these untrodden paths to sacred fame;
1.29Lo, with pure hands thy heav'enly fires to take,
1.30My well-chang'd Muse I a chaste vestal make!
1.31From earth's vain joys, and love's soft witchcraft free,
1.32I consecrate my Magdalene to thee!
1.33Lo, this great work, a temple to thy praise,
1.34On polish'd pillars of strong verse I raise!
1.35A temple, where if thou vouchsafe to dwell,
1.36It Solomon's, and Herod's shall excel.
1.37Too long the Muses-land have heathen bin;
1.38Their gods too long were devils, and vertues sin;
1.39But thou, Eternal Word, has call'd forth me
1.40Th' apostle, to convert that world to thee;
1.41T' unbind the charms that in slight fables lie,
1.42And teach that truth is purest poesy.
1.1] Begun about 1638, the greater part of the epic was finished while the poet was still a young student at Cambridge. Cowley planned to extend the poem to twelve books, upon the model of Virgil, but succeeded in completing only four, one of which was written in both English and Latin.
Judah's sceptre: David, on the death of Saul, became king of Judah, the most powerful of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Abraham Cowley, Poems (London: H. Moseley, 1656). E-10 2928 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto) pt. 1-4. Facs. edn. (Menston: Scolar, 1971). PR 3370 A1 1656A Robarts Library
First publication date:
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP 1.454
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/10
Form: Heroic Couplets
Other poems by Abraham Cowley