Nature most pleasure doth to poets give,
If pleasure1 in variety doth2 live.
Each sense of theirs3 by fancy new is fed,
Which fancy in a torrent brain is bred.
Contrary ’tis4 to all that’s born on Earth, 5
For fancy is delighted most at’s birth.
Whatever else5 is born with pain comes forth,6
Hath neither beauty, strength, nor perfect growth.7
But fancy needs not time to make it grow;8
The brain’s9 like gods, from whence all things do flow. 10
A garden they’ve, which10 Paradise we call,11
Forbidden fruits, which tempt young lovers all,
Grow on the trees,12 which in the midst doth stand,13
Beauty on one, desire on th’other hand.14
The devil,15 self conceit, full16 craftily 15
Doth17 take the serpent’s shape of flattery,
For to deceive the female sex thereby,
Which made is18 only of inconstancy.
The male, high credence, to the female sex19
Yields fondly anything which they do20 ask. 20
Two rivers round this garden run about;
The one is confidence, the other doubt.
Every21 bank is set with fancy’s flowers;
Wit raines upon them fine refreshing showers.
Truth is the lord and owner22 of this place, 25
But ignorance this garden out will23 raze.
Then, from this garden,24 to a forest goes,25
Where many cedars of high knowledge grow,26
Oaks of strong judgment, hazel wits27—which tree
Bears nuts full of conceits, when cracked they be— 30
And smooth-tongued beech; kind-hearted willow28 bows
And yields to all that honesty allows.
Here29 birds of eloquence do sit and sing,
Build nests of logic, reasons forth to bring.30
Some birds of sophistry till hatched there lie; 35
Winged with false principles, away they fly.
Here doth31 the poet hawk, hunt, run32 a race,
Until he weary grows, then leaves this place.
Then33 goes a-fishing to a river’s side,
Whose water clear doth flow with fancy’s tide;34 40
Angles with wit to catch the fish of fame,
To feed his mem’ry35 and preserve his name.
Ships of ambition he builds,36 swift and strong;
Sails of imaginations drive ’em along,37
With winds of several praises fills them38 full, 45
Swims39 on the salt sea brain,40 round the world’s skull.
The thoughts are mariners which, that they may41
’Scape shipwrecks of dislike, work night and day.42
Some43 ships are cast44 upon the sands of spite,
And rocks of malice sometimes split them quite. 50
But merchant poets, whose shipmaster’s45 mind,
Do compass take some unknown land to find.
- pleasure] Pleasures 1653
- doth] do 1653
- Each sense of theirs] There every Sense 1653
- ’tis] is 1653
- Whatever else] What else 1664, 1668
- pain comes forth,] Pain’s accompanied, 1664; Pain’s accompani’d, 1668
- Hath neither beauty, strength, nor perfect growth.] But Fancy needs not time to make it grow, 1653 [lines 8 and 9 are in the opposite order in 1653; we have switched them to maintain the rhyme scheme used otherwise in this and other poems]; Has neither Beauty, Strength, nor Growth beside; 1664; Has neither Beauty, Strength, nor Growth beside. 1668
- But fancy needs not time to make it grow;] Hath neither Beauty, Strength, nor perfect Growth. 1653 [lines 8 and 9 are in the opposite order in 1653; we have switched them to maintain the rhyme scheme used otherwise in this and other poems]; But Fancies need no time to make them Grow, 1664; But, Fancies need no time to make them grow; 1668
- The brain’s] Those Braine 1653
- A garden they’ve, which] Where Gardens are, them 1653
- A marginal note in Cavendish’s 1653 text reads, “The poet’s recreation.” This note does not appear in 1664 or 1668.
- the trees,] a Tree, 1664, 1668
- doth stand,] is plac’d 1653
- one, desire on th’other hand.] the other Desire vast. 1653
- devil,] Devil’s 1664; Devil’s 1668
- full] who 1664, 1668
- Doth] Did 1653
- is] was 1653
- to the female sex] which doth relaxe 1653
- Yields fondly anything which they do] To any thing, the Female Sex will 1653
- Every] And every 1664, 1668
- is the lord and owner] was the Owner 1653
- will] did 1653
- garden,] place they 1664, 1668
- goes,] go, 1664, 1668
- grow,] growes; 1653
- hazel wits] Hasle-Wit, 1664; Hasle-Wit, 1668
- willow] Willows 1668
- Here] There 1664, 1668
- of logic, reasons forth to bring.] Logick to lay Reasons in. 1653
- Here doth] And here 1664, 1668
- hawk, hunt, run] Hawks, Hunts, runs 1664; Hawks, Hunts, Runs 1668
- Then] And 1664, 1668
- water clear doth flow with fancy’s tide;] Water’s cleare, where Fancy flowes high Tide: 1653
- mem’ry] Memory, 1653
- Ships of ambition he builds,] And of Ambition builds Ships 1653
- ’em along,] her on. 1653
- fills them] they fill’d 1664, 1668
- Swims] Swim 1664, 1668
- sea brain,] Brain’s Sea 1664; Brain’s Sea, 1668
- The thoughts are mariners which, that they may] Mariners Thoughts labour both day, and night, 1653
- ’Scape shipwrecks of dislike, work night and day.] For to avoid a Ship-wrack of dislike. 1653
- Some] These 1653
- cast] often cast 1653
- whose shipmaster’s] and Ship-Master 1653