Archive for January 19th, 2014

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ode IV. The Owl by Richard Brathwait

I a King’s daughter, see what pride may do,
In fatal yew takes up my forlorn seat,
The cause whereof was this, if you would know,
I would have better bread then grew on wheat,
Though now a mouse be all the food I eat,
And glad I am when I can feed of it.

Ruff-curled neck, see I reserve some show
Of what I was, though far from her I was,
Wherein my boundless pride so far did grow,
That as in place I did the rest surpass,
So in the purest beauty of my face,
Courting myself in Fancy’s looking-glass.

Milk-bathed skin, see, wantons, what I us’d,
To make my skin more supple, smooth, and sleek,
Wherein my native hue my art abus’d,
I lay a new complexion on my cheek,
Sending my eyes abroad suitors to seek,
And vying fashions with each day i’ th’ week.

Nought I affected more than what was rare;
“Best things (if common) I did disesteem;”
Seld was I breath’d on by the public air;
“For those are most admir’d are seldom seen;”
Which is, and hath a custom ever been;
”Such as come oft abroad, we vulgar deem.”

Thus self-admir’d I liv’d, till thus transform’d,
I got a feature fitting with my pride:
For I that scorned others, now am scorn’d,
Had in disgrace, and in pursuit beside:
May the like fate like spirits aye betide;
So worthless honour shall be soon descried.

For ruff thick-set, a curl-wreathed plume,
Round ‘boot my neck I wear, for tires of gold,
A downy tuft of feathers is my crown;
For fan in hand my claws a perch do hold:
And for those cates and dainties manifold,
“A mouse I wish, but wants her when I would.”

Be well advis’d then. Minions, what you do,
“Pourtray my feature, and make use of it,”
What fell to me may likewise fall to you,
And then how daring-high soe’er you sit,
Nought but dishonour shall your pride beget,
“Dead to report of Virtue as is fit.”

From: Brathwait, Richard, Brathwayte’s Odes; or Philomel’s Tears. Edited by Sir Egerton Brydges, Bart, 1815, Johnson and Warwick: Kent, pp. 12-14.

Date: 1621

By: Richard Brathwait (1588-1673)