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



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WOMAN; PINDARIC ODE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What a bold theme have I in hand
Last Line: Else what a case were his, and thine, and mine?
Subject(s): Women


I

WHAT a bold theme have I in hand,
What fury has possessed my muse,
That could no other subject choose,
But that which none can understand!
Woman, what tongue, or pen is able
To determine what thou art,
A thing so moving, and unstable,
So sea-like, so investigable,
That no land map, nor seaman's chart,
Though they shew us snowy mountains,
Chalky cliffs, and crystal fountains,
Sable thickets, golden groves,
All that man admires and loves,
Can direct us to thy heart!
Which, though we seek it night and day
Through vast regions ages stray,
And over seas with canvas wings make way;
That heart the whiles,
Like to the floating isles,
Our compass evermore beguiles,
And still, still, still remains Terra Incognita.

II

Woman! the fairest sweetest flow'r
That in happy Eden grew,
Whose sweets and graces had the pow'r
The world's sole Monarch to subdue,
What pity 'tis thou wer't not true.
But there, even there, thy frailty brought in sin,
Sin that has cost so many sighs and tears,
Enough to ruin all succeeding heirs,
To Beauty's Temple let the Devil in.
And though (because there was no more)
It in one single story did begin;
Yet from the seeds shed from that fruitful core,
Have sprung up volumes infinite, and great,
With which th' o'ercharged world doth sweat,
Of women false, proud, cruel, insolent;
And what could else befall,
Since she herself was president
Who was the Mother of them all?
And who, altho' mankind indeed was scant,
To shew her malice, rather than her want,
Would make a loathsome Serpent her gallant.

III

O Mother Eve, sure 'twas a fault
So wild a rule to give,
E'er there were any to be taught,
Or any to deceive.
'Twas ill to ruin all thy offspring so,
E'er they were yet in embryo,
Great mischiefs did attend thy easy will,
For all thy sons (which usually are
The Mother's care)
For ever lost, and ruin'd were,
By thy instructing thy fair daughters ill.
What's he that dares his own fond choice approve
Or be secure his spouse is chaste;
Or if she be, that it will last?
Yet all must love.
Oh cruel Nature that does force our wills
T' embrace those necessary ills!
Oh negligent, and treacherous eyes,
Given to man for true and faithful spies;
How oft do you betray your trust,
And join'd confederate with our lust,
Tell us that Beauty is, which is but flesh, that flesh but dust.

IV

Heaven, if it be thy undisputed will
That still
This charming sex we must adore,
Let us love less, or they love more;
For so the ills that we endure,
Will find some ease, if not a cure:
Or if their hearts from the first gangrene be
Infected to that desperate degree
As will no surgery admit;
Out of thy love to men at least forbear
To make their faces so subduing fair,
And if thou wilt give Beauty, limit it:
For moderate Beauty, though it bear no price,
Is yet a mighty enemy to vice,
And who has virtue once, can never see
Anything of deformity,
Let her complexion swart, or tawny be,
A twilight olive, or a midnight ebony.

V

She that is chaste, is always fair,
No matter for her hue,
And though for form she were a star,
She's ugly if untrue:
True Beauty always lies within,
Much deeper, than the outer skin,
So deep, that in a Woman's mind,
It will be hard, I doubt, to find;
Or if it be, she's so deriv'd,
And with so many doors contriv'd,
Harder by much to keep it in.
For virtue in a Woman's breast
Seldom by title is possest,
And is no tenant, but a wand'ring guest.

VI

But all this while I've soundly slept,
And rav'd as dreamers use:
Fie! what a coil my brains have kept
T' instruct a saucy muse
Her own fair sex t' abuse.
'Tis nothing but an ill digestion
Has thus brought Women's fame in question.
Which have been, and still will be what they are,
That is, as chaste, as they are sweet and fair;
And all that has been said
Nothing but ravings of an idle head,
Troubled with fumes of wine;
For now, that I am broad awake,
I find 'tis all a gross mistake,
Else what a case were his, and thine, and mine?





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