Abraham Cowley

(1618 – 28 July 1667 / London)

Hymn To Light


First-born of Chaos, who so fair didst come
From the old Negro's darksome womb!
Which, when it saw the lovely child,
The melancholy mass put on kind looks and smiled,

Thou tide of glory which no rest dost know,
But ever ebb and ever flow!
Thou golden shower of a true Jove,
Who does in thee descend, and heaven to earth make love!

Hail, active nature's watchful life and health,
Her joy, her ornament and wealth!
Hail to thy husband Heat, and thee!
Thou the world's beauteous bride, the lusty bridegroom he!

Say, from what golden quivers of the sky
Do all thy winged arrows fly?
Swiftness and power by birth are thine:
From thy great Sire they came, thy Sire the Word divine.

'Tis, I believe, this archery to show,
That so much cost in colors thou,
And skill in painting, dost bestow
Upon thy ancient arms, the gaudy heavenly bow.

Swift as light thoughts their empty career run,
Thy race is finished when begun;
Let a post-angel start with thee,
And thou the goal of earth shalt teach as soon as he.

Thou in the moon's bright chariot, proud and gay,
Dost thy bright wood of stars survey,
And all the year dost with thee bring,
Of thousand flowery lights, thine own nocturnal spring.

Thou Scythian-like dost round thy lands, above
The sun's gilt tent, forever move,
And still, as thou in pomp dost go,
The shining pageants of the world attend thy show.

Nor amidst all these triumphs dost thou scorn
The humble glowworms to adorn,
And with those living spangles gild -
O greatness without pride! - the bushes of the field.

Night and her ugly subjects thou dost fright,
And sleep, the lazy owl of night;
Ashamed and fearful to appear,
They screen their horrid shapes with the black hemisphere.

With 'em there hastes, and wildly takes the alarm,
Of painted dreams, a busy swarm;
At the first openings of thine eye,
The various clusters break, the antic atoms fly.

The guilty serpents and obscener beasts
Creep conscious to their secret rests;
Nature to thee does reverence pay;
Ill omens and ill sights removes out of thy way.

At thy appearance, Grief itself is said
To shake his wings and rouse his head.
And cloudy Care has often took
A gentle beamy smile reflected from thy look.

At thy appearance, Fear itself grows bold;
Thy sunshine melts away his cold.
Encouraged at the sight of thee,
To the cheek color comes, and firmness to the knee.

Even Lust, the master of a hardened face,
Blushes if thou beest in the place,
To darkness' curtains he retires;
In sympathizing night he rolls his smoky fires.

When, goddess, thou list'st up thy wakened head
Out of the morning's purple bed,
Thy quire of birds about thee play,
And all the joyful world salutes the rising day.

The ghosts and monster spirits that did presume
A body's privilege to assume
Vanish again invisibly,
And bodies gain again their visibility.

All the world's bravery that delights our eyes
Is but thy several liveries;
Thou the rich dye on them bestow'st;
Thy nimble pencil paints this landscape as thou go'st.

A crimson garment in the rose thou wear'st;
A crown of studded gold thou bear'st;
The virgin blies in their white
Are clad but with the lawn of almost naked light.

The violet, spring's little infant, stands
Girt in thy purple swaddling-bands;
On the fair tulip thou dost dote;
Thou cloth'st it in a gay and parti-colored coat.

With flame condensed thou dost the jewels fix,
And solid colors in it mix;
Flora herself envies to see
Flowers fairer than her own, and durable as she.

Ah, goddess! would thou couldst thy hand withhold
And be less liberal to gold;
Didst thou less value to it give,
Of how much care, alas! mightst thou poor man relieve!

To me the sun is more delightful far,
And all fair days much fairer are,
But few, ah wondrous few, there be
Who do not gold prefer, O goddess, even to thee.

Through the soft ways of heaven, and air, and sea,
Which open all their pores to thee,
Like a clear river thou dost glide,
And with thy living stream through the close channels slide.

But where firm bodies thy free course oppose,
Gently thy source the land o'erflows,
Takes there possession, and does make
Of colors mingled, light, a thick and standing lake.

But the vast ocean of unbounded day
In the empyrean heaven does stay.
Thy rivers, lakes, and springs below
From thence took first their rise, thither at last must flow.

Submitted: Monday, April 19, 2010
Edited: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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