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Poem by John Oldham


Some Verses on Presenting a Book to Cosmelia


GO, humble gift, go to that matchless saint,
Of whom thou only wast a copy meant:
And all that's read in thee, more richly find
Comprised in the fair "volume of her mind;
That living system, where are fully writ
All those high morals, which in books we meet:
Easy, as in soft air, there writ they are,
Yet firm, as if in brass they graven were.
Nor is her talent lazily to know,
As dull divines, and holy canters do;
She acts what they only in pulpits prate,
And theory to practice does translate:
Not her own actions more obey her will,
Than that obeys strict virtue's dictates still:
Yet does not virtue from her duty flow,
But she is good, because she will be so:
Her virtue scorns at a low pitch to fly,
'Tis all free choice, nought of necessity:
By such soft rules are saints above confined.
Such is the tie, which them to good does bind.

The scattered glories of her happy sex
In her bright soul as in their centre mix:
And all that they possess but by retail,
She hers by just monopoly can call;
Whose sole example does more virtues shew,
Than schoolmen ever taught, or ever knew.
No act did e'er within her practice fall,
Which for the atonement of a blush could call:
'No word of hers e'er greeted any ear,
But what a saint at her last gasp might hear:
Scarcely her thoughts have ever sullied been
With the least print or stain of native sin:
Devout she is, as holy hermits are,
Who share their time 'twixt ecstasy and prayer;
Modest, as infant roses in their bloom,
Who in a blush their fragrant lives consume:
So chaste, the dead themselves are only more,
Who lie divorced from objects, and from power;
So pure, could virtue in a shape appear,
'Twould choose to have no other form, but her;
So much a saint, I scarce dare call her so,
For fear to wrong her with a name too low:
Such the seraphic brightness of her mind,
I hardly can believe her womankind:
But think some nobler being does appear,
Which, to instruct the world, has left the sphere,
And condescends to wear a body here;
Or, if she mortal be, and meant to show
The greater art, by being formed below;
Sure Heaven preserved her, by the fall uncurst,
To tell how good the sex was made at first.

September, 1676

John Oldham


John Oldham's other poems:
  1. A Dithyrambic
  2. David's Lamentation for the Death of Saul and Jonathan, Paraphrased
  3. Upon the Works of Ben Jonson
  4. To the Memory of My Dear Friend, Mr. Charles Morwent
  5. Promising a Visit


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