William Cowper

(26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire)

That Nature Is Not Subject To Decay (Translated From Milton) - Poem by William Cowper

Ah, how the Human Mind wearies herself
With her own wand'rings, and, involved in gloom
Impenetrable, speculates amiss!
Measuring, in her folly, things divine
By human, laws inscrib'd on adamant
By laws of Man's device, and counsels fix'd
For ever, by the hours, that pass, and die.
How?--shall the face of Nature then be plow'd
Into deep wrinkles, and shall years at last
On the great Parent fix a sterile curse?
Shall even she confess old age, and halt
And, palsy-smitten, shake her starry brows?
Shall foul Antiquity with rust and drought
And famine vex the radiant worlds above?
Shall Time's unsated maw crave and engulf
The very heav'ns that regulate his flight?
And was the Sire of all able to fence
His works, and to uphold the circling worlds,
But through improvident and heedless haste
Let slip th'occasion?--So then--All is lost--
And in some future evil hour, yon arch
Shall crumble and come thund'ring down, the poles
Jar in collision, the Olympian King
Fall with his throne, and Pallas, holding forth
The terrors of her Gorgon shield in vain,
Shall rush to the abyss, like Vulcan hurl'd
Down into Lemnos through the gate of heav'n.
Thou also, with precipitated wheels
Phoebus! thy own son's fall shalt imitate,
With hideous ruin shalt impress the Deep
Suddenly, and the flood shall reek and hiss
At the extinction of the Lamp of Day.
Then too, shall Haemus cloven to his base
Be shattered, and the huge Ceraunian hills,
Once weapons of Tartarean Dis, immersed
In Erebus, shall fill Himself with fear.
No. The Almighty Father surer lay'd
His deep foundations, and providing well
For the event of all, the scales of Fate
Suspended, in just equipoise, and bade
His universal works from age to age
One tenour hold, perpetual, undisturb'd.
Hence the Prime Mover wheels itself about
Continual, day by day, and with it bears
In social measure swift the heav'ns around.
Not tardier now is Saturn than of old,
Nor radiant less the burning casque of Mars.
Phoebus, his vigour unimpair'd, still shows
Th'effulgence of his youth, nor needs the God
A downward course that he may warm the vales;
But, ever rich in influence, runs his road,
Sign after sign, through all the heav'nly zone.
Beautiful as at first ascends the star
From odorif'rous Ind, whose office is
To gather home betimes th'ethereal flock,
To pour them o'er the skies again at Eve,
And to discriminate the Night and Day.
Still Cynthia's changeful horn waxes and wanes
Alternate, and with arms extended still
She welcomes to her breast her brother's beams.
Nor have the elements deserted yet
Their functions, thunder with as loud a stroke
As erst, smites through the rocks and scatters them,
The East still howls, still the relentless North
Invades the shudd'ring Scythian, still he breathes
The Winter, and still rolls the storms along.
The King of Ocean with his wonted force
Beats on Pelorus, o'er the Deep is heard
The hoarse alarm of Triton's sounding shell,
Nor swim the monsters of th'Aegean sea
In shallows, or beneath diminish'd waves.
Thou too, thy antient vegetative pow'r
Enjoy'st, O Earth! Narcissus still is sweet,
And, Phoebus! still thy Favourite, and still
Thy Fav'rite, Cytherea! both retain
Their beauty, nor the mountains, ore-enrich'd
For punishment of Man, with purer gold
Teem'd ever, or with brighter gems the Deep.
Thus, in unbroken series all proceeds
And shall, till, wide involving either pole,
And the immensity of yonder heav'n,
The final flames of destiny absorb
The world, consum'd in one enormous pyre!


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010



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