by Abraham Cowley (1618 - 1667)

The inconstant
Language: English 
  I never yet could see that face
    Which had no dart for me;
  From fifteen years, to fifty's space,
    They all victorious be.
Love, thou'rt a devil, if I may call thee one,
For sure in me thy name is Legion.

  Colour, or shape, good limbs, or face,
    Goodness, or wit, in all I find;
  In motion or in speech a grace;
    If all fail, yet 't is woman-kind;
And I'm so weak, the pistol need not be
Double or treble charg'd to murder me.

  If tall, the name of proper slays;
    If fair, she's pleasant as the light;
  If low, her prettiness does please;
    If black, what lover loves not night?
If yellow-hair'd, I love, lest it should be
Th' excuse to others for not loving me.

  The fat, like plenty, fills my heart; 
    The lean, with love makes me too so:
  If straight, her body 's Cupid's dart 
    To me ; if cropked, 't is his bow : 
Nay, age itself does me to rage incline,
And strength to women gives, as well as wine. 

  Just half as large as Charity 
    My richly-landed Love 's become ; 
  And, judg'd aright, is Constancy,
    Though it take up a larger room : 
Him, who loves always one, why should they call 
More constant than the man loves always all? 

  Thus with unwearied wings I flee
    Through all love's gardens and his fields; 
  And, like the wise, industrious bee 
    No weed but honey to me yields! 
Honey still spent this diligence still supplies, 
Though I return not home with laden thighs. 

  My soul at first indeed did prove 
    Of pretty strength against a dart, 
  Till I this habit got of love; 
    But my consum'd and wasted heart, 
Once burnt to tinder with a strong desire,
Since that, by every spark is set on fire. 

Confirmed with Abraham Cowley, The Works of Mr. A. Cowley: In Prose and Verse, London: John Sharpe, Volume 2, 1809, pages 88-90.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

    [ None yet in the database ]

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

  • Also set in German (Deutsch), a translation by Josef Franz von Ratschky (1757 - 1810) , "Der Weiberfreund", subtitle: "Nach dem Englischen des Cowley", written 1794, first published 1795 [an adaptation] CAT DUT FRE ITA ; composed by Franz Peter Schubert.

Other available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • GER German (Deutsch) (Josef Franz von Ratschky) , "Der Weiberfreund", subtitle: "Nach dem Englischen des Cowley. Wien im April 1794", written 1794 [an adaptation]

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2003-11-05
Line count: 42
Word count: 304