Of Solitude

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Of Solitude
by Abraham Cowley
From Cowley's essay, Of Solitude.

Of Solitude

I.

Hail, old patrician trees, so great and good!
   Hail, ye plebeian underwood!
   Where the poetic birds rejoice,
And for their quiet nests and plenteous food
   Pay with their grateful voice.

II.

Hail, the poor Muses' richest manor seat!
   Ye country houses and retreat
   Which all the happy gods so love,
That for you oft they quit their bright and great
   Metropolis above.

III.

Here Nature does a house for me erect,
   Nature the wisest architect,
   Who those fond artists does despise
That can the fair and living trees neglect,
   Yet the dead timber prize.

IV.

Here let me, careless and unthoughtful lying,
   Hear the soft winds, above me flying,
   With all their wanton boughs dispute,
And the more tuneful birds to both replying,
   Nor be myself too mute.

V.

A silver stream shall roll his waters near,
   Gilt with the sunbeams here and there,
   On whose enamelled bank I'll walk,
And see how prettily they smile, and hear
   How prettily they talk.

VI.

Ah wretched, and too solitary he
   Who loves not his own company!
   He'll feel the weight of't many a day,
Unless he call in sin or vanity
   To help to bear't away.

VII.

Oh solitude, first state of human-kind!
   Which blest remained till man did find
   Even his own helper's company.
As soon as two, alas, together joined,
   The serpent made up three.

VIII.

Though God himself, through countless ages, thee
   His sole companion chose to be,
   Thee, sacred Solitude alone;
Before the branchy head of numbers Three
   Sprang from the trunk of One.

IX.

Thou (though men think thine an unactive part)
   Dost break and tame th' unruly heart,
   Which else would know no settled pace,
Making it move, well managed by thy art
   With swiftness and with grace.

X.

Thou the faint beams of Reason's scattered light
   Dost like a burning glass unite;
   Dost multiply the feeble heat,
And fortify the strength, till thou dost bright
   And noble fires beget.

XI.

Whilst this hard truth I teach, methinks, I see
   The monster London laugh at me;
   I should at thee too, foolish city,
If it were fit to laugh at misery.
   But thy estate, I pity.

XII.

Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
   And the fools that crowd thee so, -
   Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
A village less than Islington wilt grow,
   A solitude almost.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.