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A poem by Richard Lovelace

The Ant

Title:     The Ant
Author: Richard Lovelace [More Titles by Lovelace]



Forbear, thou great good husband, little ant;
A little respite from thy flood of sweat!
Thou, thine own horse and cart under this plant,
Thy spacious tent, fan thy prodigious heat;
Down with thy double load of that one grain!
It is a granarie for all thy train.


Cease, large example of wise thrift, awhile
(For thy example is become our law),
And teach thy frowns a seasonable smile:
So Cato sometimes the nak'd Florals saw.<67.2>
And thou, almighty foe, lay by thy sting,
Whilst thy unpay'd musicians, crickets, sing.


LUCASTA, she that holy makes the day,
And 'stills new life in fields of fueillemort,<67.3>
Hath back restor'd their verdure with one ray,
And with her eye bid all to play and sport,
Ant, to work still! age will thee truant call;
And to save now, th'art worse than prodigal.


Austere and cynick! not one hour t' allow,
To lose with pleasure, what thou gotst with pain;
But drive on sacred festivals thy plow,
Tearing high-ways with thy ore-charged wain.
Not all thy life-time one poor minute live,
And thy ore-labour'd bulk with mirth relieve?


Look up then, miserable ant, and spie
Thy fatal foes, for breaking of their<67.4> law,
Hov'ring above thee: Madam MARGARET PIE:
And her fierce servant, meagre Sir JOHN DAW:
Thy self and storehouse now they do store up,
And thy whole harvest too within their crop.


Thus we unt[h]rifty thrive within earth's tomb
For some more rav'nous and ambitious jaw:
The grain in th' ant's, the ant<67.5> in the pie's womb,
The pie in th' hawk's, the hawk<67.6> ith' eagle's maw.
So scattering to hord 'gainst a long day,
Thinking to save all, we cast all away.



<1> A writer in CENSURA LITERARIA, x. 292 (first edit.)--the late E. V. Utterson, Esq.--highly praises this little poem, and says that it is not unworthy of Cowper. I think it highly probable that the translation from Martial (lib. vi. Ep. 15), at the end of the present volume, was executed prior to the composition of these lines; and that the latter were suggested by the former. Compare the beautiful description of the ant in the PROVERBS OF SOLOMON:--"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.--PROVERBS, vi. 6-8.

In the poems of John Cleveland, 1669, is a piece entitled "Fuscara, or the Bee Errant," which is of a somewhat similar character, and is by no means a contemptible production, though spoiled by that LUES ALCHYMISTICA which disfigures so much of the poetry of Cleveland's time. The abilities of Cleveland as a writer seem to have been underrated by posterity, in proportion to the undue praise lavished upon him by his contemporaries.

<2> The Floralia, games antiently celebrated at Rome in honour of Flora.

<3> Here used for DEAD OR FADED VEGETATION, but strictly it means DEAD OR FADED LEAF. FILEMORT is another form of the same word.

<4> Original has HER.

<5> Original reads ANTS.

<6> Original reads HAWKS.

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Richard Lovelace's poem: Ant