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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

On the Death of Crashaw

By Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)

POET and Saint! to thee alone are given

The two most sacred names of earth and heaven;

The hard and rarest union which can be,

Next that of Godhead with humanity.

Long did the Muses banished slaves abide,

And build vain pyramids to mortal pride;

Like Moses, thou (though spells and charms withstand)

Hast brought them nobly home back to their holy land.

Ah, wretched we, poets of earth! but thou

Wert, living, the same poet which thou’rt now;

Whilst angels sing to thee their airs divine,

And joy in an applause so great as thine.

Equal society with them to hold,

Thou need’st not make new songs, but say the old;

And they, kind spirits! shall all rejoice, to see

How little less than they exalted man may be.

Still the old heathen gods in numbers dwell;

The heavenliest thing on earth still keeps up hell;

Nor have we yet quite purged the Christian land;

Still idols here, like calves at Bethel, stand.

And though Pan’s death long since all oracles broke,

Yet still in rhyme the fiend Apollo spoke:

Nay, with the worst of heathen dotage, we

Vain men! the monster woman deify;

Find stars, and tie our fates there in a face,

And paradise in them, by whom we lost it, place.

What different faults corrupt our Muses thus?

Wanton as girls, as old wives fabulous!

Thy spotless Muse, like Mary, did contain

The boundless Godhead; she did well disdain

That her eternal verse employed should be

On a less subject than eternity;

And for a sacred mistress scorned to take

But her, whom God himself scorned not his spouse to make.

It (in a kind) her miracle did do;

A fruitful mother was, and virgin too.

How well, blest swan, did Fate contrive thy death,

And make thee render up thy tuneful breath

In thy great mistress’s arms, thou most divine

And richest offering of Loretto’s shrine!

Where, like some holy sacrifice t’ expire,

A fever burns thee, and Love lights the fire.

Angels, they say, brought the famed Chapel there,

And bore the sacred load in triumph through the air:

’Tis surer much they brought thee there; and they,

And thou their charge, went singing all the way.

Pardon, my Mother-Church, if I consent

That angels led him when from thee he went;

For ev’n in error seen no danger is,

When joined with so much piety as his.

Ah, mighty God! with shame I speak’t, and grief;

Ah, that our greatest faults were in belief!

And our weak reason were ev’n weaker yet,

Rather than thus our wills too strong for it.

His faith, perhaps, in some nice tenets might

Be wrong; his life, I’m sure, was in the right;

And I myself a Catholic will be,

So far at least, great Saint, to pray to thee.

Hail, bard triumphant, and some care bestow

On us, the poets militant below!

Oppressed by our old enemy, adverse chance,

Attacked by envy and by ignorance;

Enchained by beauty, tortured by desires,

Exposed by tyrant Love to savage beasts and fires.

Thou from low earth in nobler flames didst rise,

And like Elijah, mount alive the skies.

Elisha-like, but with a wish much less,

More fit thy greatness and my littleness,

Lo! here I beg—I, whom thou once didst prove

So humble to esteem, so good to love—

Not that thy spirit might on me doubled be,

I ask but half thy mighty spirit for me:

And when my muse soars with so strong a wing,

’Twill learn of things divine, and first of thee, to sing.