The foure ages of England, or, The iron age with other select poems / written by Mr. A. Cowley.

The foure Ages
The Iron Age.
With other select POEMS.
Written by Mr. A. Cowley.
Cantabit vacuus, &c.
Qui legis ista, tuam reprehendo, si mea laudas
Omnia, stultitiam; si nibil, invidiam.

Owen Ep. pag. 1.

Printed in the Yeere 1648.


1. The Brazen Age.

THen men so vile did grow, so prone to sin,
The bonds of Law no more could keep them in;
They striv'd t' imbark themselves for hell; then shame
And modesty were banish'd, and the name
Of faith and truth grew odious, in whose roome
Fraud, coz'nage, force and trechery did come,
Boldly outstaring vertue; and that vice
Of sword, plague, famine, spawning avarice,
Teeming with Legions of sins; with these
Men did commit Adultery, to increase
Their Progeny, and thus at length did raise
As many newborn sins i'th year, as daies.
[Page 7]
So pride and avarice became the twins
Of generall mischiefs, Colonells of sins.
Ease taught men sloth, sloth usher'd in excesse,
Excesse nurs'd pride; pride, lust; lust, wantonnesse;
That rapes; rapes, incest; incest, Sodomy;
This brings unnat'rall bestiality.
And thus our sacred bodies, that should be
Gods holy temples, built of puritie,
Are now prophan'd by sacrilegious sin,
And become dens for theeves t'inhabit in.
Yea Garrisons of Rebells, and by these
Men so abus'd that crowne of blessings, peace;
That it was so corrupt, so full of sin,
It must be lanc'd; thus did our woe begin.
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2. The Iron Age

THe cup of trembling, which so oft has bin
Quaft round about us, is at last stept in,
And we must drink the dregs on't; we that be
Sever'd from other Nations by the Sea,
And from our selves divided by our sin,
Need now no forraign foes, wee've foes within.
What need an enemy the walls to beat,
When the defendents sins doe ope the gate?
God, who at first, did man to man unite,
Sets man 'gainst man, in a Cadmean fight:
Limb jarrs with limb, and every member tries
To be above's superiour Arteries;
The Elements and humours, that before
Made up a compound body, now no more
Kisse in an even tempr'ature, but try
T' unmake themselves, by their Antipathy.
And 'cause divided Kingdomes cannot stand,
Our Land will be the ruine of our Land.
The State's now quite unhing'd; the Ingineers,
That have been ham'ring it these many yeers,
Now ply it home, striking while th' iron's hot,
And make our jarrs th' ingredients of their plot.
Which b'ing contriv'd by some, whom Schism and pride
Had long ago inflam'd; now when they spi'd,
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The peoples minds inclining to their will,
Set on their work, and more, and more instill
Sedition, by themselves, and instruments,
To fill the peoples minds with discontents;
But privately at first, untill, at length,
They had increas'd their number, pow'r, and strength.

3. The Iron Age.

THen first a Meteor with a Sword breaks forth
Into this Island, from the boist'rous North;
Darting ill influences on our State;
And though we knew not what they aimed at,
They went to make us Denizons o'th' Tombs,
While they religiously possesse our roomes:
These, from the entrailes of a barren soile,
On an imagin'd wrong invade our Isle,
Upon pretence of Liberty, to bring
Slav'ry to us, and ruine to our King:
Whose yelling throats b'ing choakt, at last, with that
Which cures all, Gold; they aimed at
A private project, to ingage the rout
Of English Scots, to bring their ends about,
And spoile the Crown: so what they could not do,
By force; by fraud, they slily work us to.
They came to help us, that themselves might get,
And are deare Brethren; but we pay for it.
Hence, hence our tears, hence all our sorrow springs:
The curse of Kingdomes, and the Bane of Kings!
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4. The Iron Age.

THen they in publique meet, and 'cause they knew,
All their successe upon the people grew,
They feel their pulses, and their cures applie,
Be't good or bad, still to their phantasie;
What e're they love to praise, and what they hate,
In every act to give a jerk at that.
What e're they would have done, must not b'impos'd
By humane Law, but with Religion gloz'd;
And when Lawes penall are too weak to do it,
Then their LayLevites presse the Conscience to it;
Who are maintained to preach, and pray, and pray,
As if they had Commissions of Array,
From Heav'n, to make men fight; they cry,Armes, armes,
What e're's the Text, the Uses are alarmes;
Though they seem pale, like Envy, to our view,
Their very pray'rs are of a sanguine hue.
And though they've Jacobs Voice, yet we do find
They've Esaus hands (nay more) they 've Esaus mind.
Their empty heads are Drums, their noses are
In sound, and fashion, Trumpets to the warre:
These dangerous firebrands, of curst sedition,
Are Emissaries, to increase division:
These make Gods Word their pander, to attain
The fond devices of their factious Brain:
Like Beacons, being set themselves on fire,
In peoples minds, they uproares straight inspire.
Or, like the Devill, who, since from heav'n he fell,
Labors to pull mankind, with him, to hell:
In this beyond the Devill himself they go,
He sow'd by night, they in the daytime sow.
[Page 30]
He while the Servants slept, did sow his tares,
They boldly in Gods Pastors sight sow theirs.
They've tongueti'd Truth, Scripture they've made a glasse,
Where each new Heresie may see his face.
THey make long speeches, and large promises,
And giving hopes of plenty, and increase;
Cherish all discontented men at hand,
To help all grievances; they crouch, and stand
Congying to all, and granting every Suit,
Approve all Causes, Factions; and impute
All scandalls to the Court, that they're unjust,
And negligent, giv'n to delight and lust;
And what's done there (to give the more offence)
They still interpret in the worser sense.
In all they make great showes of what they'l do,
They'l hear the poor, and help the needy too:
For in all civill Discords, those that are
Disturbers, alwaies counterfeit the care
Of Publike good; pretending, they will be
Protectors of the Peoples Libertie;
The Priviledge o'th' State, the good o'th' King,
The true Religion; yet all's but to bring
Their owne designes about: they'l ruine all,
That they may rise, though the whole Kingdome fall.
By these delusions, us'd with dext'rous Art,
They drew all factious spirits to their part:
The childish People gazing at what's gay,
Flock to these showes, as to a PuppetPlay;
Like drunken men, they this way, that way reele,
And turne their minds, as Fortune does her wheele.
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They long for noveltie, are pleas'd with showes,
And few truth, from truth-seeming Error knowes.
Their love (like French-mens courage) does begin
Like powder, and goes out, as soon 's 'tis in.
The thing or person, whom they dearly love,
Within a moment hate, and disapprove:
They measure every Action by th' event,
And if they're crost by some ill accident;
Whoever serves them, nere shall recompence,
With all his vertuous deeds, one slight offence.
So wretched is that Prince, that Church, that State,
That rests upon their love, or on their hate.
They'l all be Kings, and Priests, to teach and sway
Their Brethren, but they can't indure t' obey,
Nor rule themselves; and that's the only cause,
Why they've pluck'd down Religion, and the Lawes,
And yet will settle neither; that they might
Have faire pretences to make people fight:
For, by this cunning, every factious mind
Hopes to find that, to which he's most inclin'd;
They like Miscellionists, of all minds bee,
Yet in no one opinion can agree;
Their Planetheads they in Conjunction draw,
As empty Skulls meet in a Golgotha.
Each head his severall sence, though senslesse all,
And though their humors by the eares do fall,
In this they jump, to disobey and hate
What ere's injoyn'd them by the Church or State:
And all strive to be Reformationmen;
Yet putting out one evill, bring in ten.
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5. The Iron Age.

GReat men, that would be little Kings, did come:
Some led by discontent, b' ambition some:
Others of ruin'd fortunes, but a mind
To pomp, to sloth, and luxury inclin'd;
Who long'd for civill warres, that they might be
Instal'd in wealth, or we in miserie:
These bobtail'd Beares, would faine like Lyons raign,
And Clownes would drive, or ride in Charles his Wain.
These, by their greatnesse, were the heads of Faction:
The Commons must be hands, and feet of Action,
That must by force defend, if they had need,
Their grand design; Thus on their plots succeed.
All humours stir'd, none cur'd; jarr, yet conspire,
To be all fuell, to begin the fire;
Some go in wantonnesse to see, and some
Must go, because they cannot stay at home;
Villaines, that from just death could not be free,
But by the Realms publique calamitie;
They 're like the Milt, which never can increase,
But by the bodies ruine or disease;
That with our money must recruit their chests,
And only in our trouble, have their rests;
Such as in luxury, in lust, in play,
Have prodigally thrown their states away;
Convicted persons, Bankerupt Citizens,
That spend their own, and long for other mens:
Servants, which from their Masters hither flee,
And change their bondage for this libertie:
Men of high thoughts, and of a desp'rate mind,
Wild Gallants, whose vast thoughts were not confin'd
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To'th' Circle of the Lawes; and all, whom want
Or guilty Conscience made extravagant,
Flock'd in to make up this new Colonie,
Where hainous Crimes had got a Jubilee:
And as in this, so 'tis in every state,
Men of low fortunes envy still and hate
The good, extoll the bad, they disapprove
All ancient Lawes, and novelties do love:
Disdaine their own estates, and envy those,
Whose wealth above their ruin'd fortune goes.
These are secure from troubles, for they're poore,
And, come what can, they can't be made much more.
Nor was't a small incentive, to behold
How the poor Skowndrells wallowed in Gold;
How Kingly in their diet and array,
And how they do their betters daunt and sway,
To whom they had been vassalls heretofore,
And been perhaps relieved from their doore.
This made the Peasant, who did work for's hire,
Or beg, or steal, leave ploughing, and aspire
To imitate the rest as well's he can,
First steales a horse, and then's a Gentleman.
A young Phisitian well may guesse th' events,
Of medicines, made of such ingredients;
For how unlikely is't, things should go right,
When th' Devills Souldiers for Gods cause do fight.
'Mongst these they stole the hearts of some that be
True meaning men, of zeale and piety,
Though ignorantly zealous, still possest
By their strange Doctrine, that none could be blest
That were not Actors, who did neuters stand,
God would spue out; Opposers out of hand
Should be cut off; No mercy, they decreed,
To th' Enemy, though Christ should intercede:
This is the full version of the original text


body, plague, religion, sin

Source text

Title: The foure ages of England, or, The iron age with other select poems / written by Mr. A. Cowley.

Author: Abraham Cowley

Publication date: 1648

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: Wing / C6671 Physical description: [6], 70 p. Copy from: Bodleian Library Reel position: Wing / 935:17

Digital edition

Original author(s): Abraham Cowley

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, Brazen age, ch.1, Iron Age, whole.


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > poetry

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.