Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, POVERTY; PINDARIC ODE, by CHARLES COTTON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

POVERTY; PINDARIC ODE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thou greatest plague that mortals know!
Last Line: And that, alas, is all for which I humbly sue.
Subject(s): Poverty


THOU greatest Plague that Mortals know!
Thou greatest Punishment!
That Heav'n has sent
To quell and humble us below!
Thou worst of all diseases and all pains
By so much harder to endure,
By how much thou art hard to cure,
Who having robb'd physicians of their brains,
As well as of their gain
A chronical disease doth still remain!
What epithet can fit thee, or what words thy ills explain!


This puzzles quite the AEsculapian tribe
Who, where there are no fees, can have no wit
And makes them helpless med'cines still provide,
Both for the sick, and poor alike unfit.
For inward griefs all that they do prepare
Nothing but crumbs, and fragments are,
And outwardly apply no more
But sordid rags unto the sore.
Thus Poverty is dressed, and dose't
With little art, and little cost,
As if poor rem'dies for the poor were fit
When Poverty in such a place doth sit,
That 'tis the grand Projection only that must conquer it.


Yet Poverty, as I do take it,
Is not so epidemical
As many in the world would make it,
Who all that want their wishes Poor do call;
For if who is not with his divident
Amply content,
Within that acceptation fall,
Most would be poor, and peradventure all.
This would the wretched with the rich confound:
But I not call him poor does not abound,
But him who snar'd in bonds, and endless strife,
The comforts wants more than supports of life;
Him whose whole age is measur'd out by fears,
And though he has wherewith to eat,
His bread does yet
Taste of affliction, and his cares
His purest wine mix and allay with tears.


'Tis in this sense that I am poor,
And I'm afraid shall be so still;
Obstrep'rous creditors besiege my door,
And my whole house clamourous echoes fill;
From these there can be no retirement free,
From room to room, they hunt, and follow me;
They will not let me eat, nor sleep, nor pray,
But persecute me night and day,
Torment my body, and my mind,
Nay, if I take my heels, and fly,
They follow me with open cry,
At home no rest, abroad no refuge can I find.


Thou worst of Ills! what have I done,
That Heav'n should punish me with thee?
From insolence, fraud, and oppression,
I ever have been innocent and free.
Thou wer't intended (Poverty)
A scourge for pride, and avarice,
I ne'er was tainted yet with either vice;
I never in prosperity,
Nor in the height of all my happiness,
Scorn'd, or neglected any in distress,
My hand, my heart, my door
Were ever open'd to the poor;
And I to others in their need have granted,
E'er they could ask, the thing they wanted,
Whereas I now, although I humbly crave it,
Do only beg for peace, and cannot have it.


Give me but that, ye bloody Persecutors,
(Who formerly have been my suitors)
And I'll surrender all the rest
For which you so contest.
For Heav'n's sake, let me but be quiet,
I'll not repine at clothes, nor diet,
Any habit ne'er so mean,
Let it but be whole, and clean,
Such as nakedness will hide,
Will amply satisfy my pride;
And for meat
Husks, and acorns I will eat,
And for better never wish;
But when you will me better treat,
A turnip is a princely dish:
Since then I thus far am subdu'd,
And so humbly do submit,
Faith, be no more so monstrous rude,
But some repose at least permit;
Sleep is to life, and human nature due,
And that, alas, is all for which I humbly sue.

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