Horace’s Odi Profanum Vulgus

(“Rudely Imitated” by Abraham Cowley, 1656)


Hence, ye Profane; I hate ye all;
Both the Great Vulgar, and the small.
To Virgin Minds, which yet their Native whiteness hold,
Not yet Discolour’d with the Love of Gold
(That Jaundice of the Soul,
Which makes it look so Gilded and so Foul),
To you, ye very Few, these truths I tell;
The Muse inspires my Song, Hark, and observe it well.


We look on Men, and wonder at such odds
‘Twixt things that were the same by Birth;
We look on Kings as Giants of the Earth,
These Giants are but Pigmeys to the Gods.
The humblest Bush and proudest Oak
Are but of equal proof against the Thunder-stroke.
Beauty and Strength, and Wit, and Wealth, and Power
Have their short flourishing hour,
And love to see themselves, and smile,
And joy in their Preeminence a while;
Even so in the same Land,
Poor Weeds, rich Corn, gay Flowers together stand;
Alas, Death Mowes down all with an impartial Hand.


And all you Men, whom Greatness does so please,
Ye feast, I fear, like Damocles.
If you your eyes could upwards move,
(But you, I fear, think nothing is above)
You would perceive by what a little thread
The Sword still hangs over your head.
No Tide of Wine would drown your cares,
No Mirth or Musick over-noise your fears;
The fear of Death would you so watchful keep,
As not t’ admit the Image of it, sleep.


Sleep is a God too proud to wait in Palaces;
And yet so humble, too, as not to scorn
The meanest Country Cottages;
His Poppey grows among the Corn.
The Halcyon sleep will never build his nest
In any stormy breast.
’Tis not enough that he does find
Clouds and Darkness in their mind;
Darkness but half his work will do,
’Tis not enough; he must find Quiet too.


The man who, in all wishes he does make,
Does only Nature’s Counsel take,
That wise and happy man will never fear
The evil Aspects of the Year,
Nor tremble, though two Comets should appear.
He does not look in Almanacks to see,
Whether he Fortunate shall be;
Let Mars and Saturn in th’ Heavens conjoin,
And what they please against the World design,
So Jupiter within him shine.


If of their pleasures and desires no end be found;
God to their Cares and Fears will set no bound.
What would content you? Who can tell?
Ye fear so much to lose what you have got
As if ye lik’d it well.
Ye strive for more, as if ye lik’d it not.
Go, level Hills, and fill up Seas,
Spare nought that may your wanton Fancy please;
But trust Me, when you ‘have done all this,
Much will be Missing still, and much will be Amiss.