Bathing in the River

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Bathing in the River
by Abraham Cowley

The fish around her crowded, as they do
To the false light that treacherous fisher shew,1
And all with as much ease might taken be,
     As she at first took me;
     For ne’er did light so clear
     Among the waves appear,
Though every night the sun himself set there.

Why to mute fish should'st thou thyself discover
And not to me, they no less silent lover?
As some from men their buried gold commit
     To ghosts, that have no use of it;
     Half their rich treasures so
     Maids bury; and for aught we know,
(Poor ignorants!) They’re mermaids all below.

The amorous waves would fain about her stay,
But still new amorous waves drive them away
And with swift current to those joys they haste,
     That do as swiftly waste:
     I laugh’d the wanton play to view;
     But ‘tis, alas! at land so too,
And still old lovers yield the place to new.

Kiss her, and as you part, you amorous waves
(My happier rivals, and my fellow-slaves)
Point to your flowery banks, and to her shew
     The good your bounties do;
     Then tell her what your pride doth cost,
     And how your use and beauty’s lost,
When rigorous winter binds you up with frost.

Tell her, her beauties and her youth, like thee,
Haste without stop to a devouring sea;
Where they will mix’d and undistinguish’d lie
     With all the meanest things that die;
     As in the ocean thou
     No privilege dost know
Above the’ impurest streams that thither flow.

Tell her, kind flood! When this has made her sad,
Tell her there’s yet one remedy to be had:
Show her how thou, though long since past, dost find
     Thyself yet still behind:
     Marriage (say to her) will bring
     About the self-same thing.
But she, fond maid, shuts and seals-up the spring.


[1] Night fishermen used lights to lure fish to the surface.