L. C. Martin (ed.), Abraham Cowley: Poetry & Prose: With Thomas Sprat's Life and Observations by Dryden, Addison, Johnson and others

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A Description of Heaven.

  • 1  Above the subtle foldings of the Sky,
  • 2Above the well-set Orbs soft Harmony,
  • 3Above those petty Lamps that guild the Night ;
  • 4There is a place o'reflown with hallowed Light;
  • 5Where Heaven, as if it left it self behind,
  • 6Is stretcht out far, nor its own bounds can find:
  • 7Here peaceful Flames swell up the sacred place,
  • Editor’s Note8Nor can the glory contain it self in th'endless space.
  • 9For there no twilight of the Suns dull ray
  • 10Glimmers upon the pure and native day.
  • 11No pale-fac'd Moon does in stoln beams appear,
  • 12Or with dim Taper scatters darkness there.
  • 13On no smooth Sphear the restless seasons slide,
  • 14No circling Motion doth swift Time divide;
  • pg 3615Nothing is there To come, and nothing Past,
  • 16But an Eternal Now does always last.
  • 17There sits th' Almighty, First of all, and End;
  • 18Whom nothing but Himself can comprehend.
  • 19Who with his Word commanded All to Be,
  • 20And All obey'd him, for that Word was He.
  • 21Only he spoke, and every thing that Is
  • 22From out the womb of fertile Nothing ris.
  • 23Oh who shall tell, who shall describe thy throne,
  • 24Thou great Three-One?
  • 25There Thou thy self do'st in full presence show,
  • 26Not absent from these meaner Worlds below;
  • 27No, if thou wert, the Elements League would cease,
  • 28And all thy Creatures break thy Natures peace.
  • 29The Sun would stop his course, or gallop back,
  • 30The Stars drop out, the Poles themselves would crack:
  • 31Earths strong foundations would be torn in twain,
  • 32And this vast work all ravel out again
  • 33To its first Nothing; For his spirit contains
  • 34The well-knit Mass, from him each Creature gains
  • 35Being and Motion, which he still bestows;
  • 36From him th'effect of our weak Action flows.
  • 37Round him vast Armies of swift Angels stand,
  • Editor’s Note38Which seven triumphant Generals command,
  • 39They sing loud anthems of his endless praise,
  • 40And with fixt eyes drink in immortal rayes.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
Page 35. A Description of Heaven. l. 2. Orbs soft Harmony. Cowley's rational conscience leads him to observe in a note: 'In this, and some like places, I would not have the Reader judge of my opinion by what I say; no more than before in divers expressions about Hell, the Devil, and Envy' (whom he has personified). 'It is enough that the doctrine of the Orbs, and the Musick made by their motion had been received very anciently.' He gives instances of such poetic deviations from fact in the Bible, Virgil, and Statius. This leads on to Dryden's remarks in his Essay Of Heroic Plays (1672) to the effect that 'an heroic poet is not tied to a bare representation of what is true, or exceeding probable. … Neither am I much concerned at Mr. Cowley's verses before Gondibert (though his authority is almost sacred to me): 'tis true, he has resembled the epic poetry to a fantastic fairy-land: but he has contradicted himself by his own example. For he has himself made use of angels and visions in his Davideis' (Essays, ed. Ker, i, 153–4). See also 'A Digression concerning Music', ll. 12–28 (p. 37), and notes.
Editor’s Note
l. 8. Cowley justifies his use of Alexandrine verses here and elsewhere: 'it is not by negligence that this verse is so loose, long, and as it were, Vast; it is to paint in the number the nature of the thing which it describes.'
Editor’s Note
l. 38. seven triumphant Generals. Cowley refers in a note to the tradition from Tobit xii. 15: 'I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels', &c.
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