Written in the yeare 1640.

Now printed from a perfect Copy; And
A Corrected Impression

By John Denham, Esq.

Printed for Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at his shop at the Signe of the Princes Arms in St Pauls Church-yard. 1655.


Coopers Hill.1 [1655]

IF there be Poets, which did never dreame
Upon Parnassus,2 nor did tast the streame
Of Helicon,3 we justly may suppose,
Those made not Poets, but the Poets those.
5And as Courts make not Kings, but Kings the Court,4
So where the Muses and their traine resort,
Parnassus stands; if I can be to thee
A Poet, thou Parnassus art to mee.
Nor wonder, if (advantag'd in my flight,
10By taking wing from thy auspicious height)
Through untrac't waies, and ayrie paths I flye,
More boundlesse in my Fancy, then my eye:
My eye, which swift as thought contracts the space
That lyes between, and first salutes the place
15Crown'd with that sacred pile, so vast, so high,
That whether 'tis a part of Earth, or sky,
Uncertaine seemes, and may be thought a proud
Aspiring mountain, or a falling cloud,
Pauls,5 the late theme of such a Muse whose flight Master Waler6
20Has bravely reach't and soar'd above thy height:
Now shalt thou stand, though sword, or time,or fire,
Or zeale7 more fierce then they, thy fall conspire,
Secure, whilst thee the best of Poets sings,
Preserv'd from ruine by the best of Kings.8
25Vunder his proud survay the Citty lyes,
And like a mist beneath a hill doth rise;
Whose state and wealth, the busines and the crowd,
Seems at this distance but a darker cloud:
And is to him, who rightly things esteems,
30No other in effect then what it seems:
Where with like hast, through several waies, they run,
Some to undo, and some to be undone;
While luxury, and wealth, like war and peace,
Are each the others ruine, and increase;
35As Rivers lost in Seas some secret veine
Thence reconveighs, there to be lost again.
Oh happinesse of sweet retir'd content!
To be at once secure,and innocent.
Windsor the next (where Mars with Venus dwells,9 Windsor.
40Beauty with strength) above the valley swells
Into my eye, and doth it self present
With such an easie and unforc't ascent,
That no stupendious precipice denyes
Accesse, no horror turnes away our eyes:
45But such a Rise, as doth at once invite
A pleasure, and a reverence from the sight.
Thy mighty Masters Embleme,10 in whose face
Sate meeknesse, heightned with Majestick Grace.
Such seems thy gentle height, made onely proud
50To be the basis of that pompous load,
Then which, a Nobler weight not Mountain Bears,
But Atlas11 only that supports the Sphears.
When Natures hand this ground did thus advance,
'Twas guided by a wiser power then Chance;
55Mark't out for such a use, as if 'twere meant
T'invite the builder, and his choice prevent.
Nor can we call it choice, when what we chuse,
Folly, or blindnes only could refuse.
A Crown of such Majestick towrs doth Grace
60The Gods great Mother,12 when her heavenly race
Doe homage to her, yet she cannot boast
Amongst that numerous, and Celestiall hoast,
More Hero's than can VVindsor, nor doth Fames
Immortall booke record more noble names.
65Not to look back so far, to whom this Ile
Owes the first Glory so brave a pile,
Whether to Caesar,13 Albanact,14 or Brute,15
The Brittish Arthur,16 or the Danish Knute,17
(Though this of old no lesse contest did move,
70Then when for Homers birth seven Cities strove18)
(Like him in birth, thou should'st be like in Fame,
As thine his fate, if mine had been his Flame)
But whosoere it was, Nature design'd
First a brave place, and then as brave a minde.
75Not to recount those severall Kings, to whom
It gave a Cradle, or to whom a Tombe,
But thee (great Edward) and thy greater sonne,19 Edward the 3. and the black prince.
(The lillies 20 which his Father wore, he wonne)
And thy Bellona,21 who the Consort came
80Not onely to thy bed, but to thy Fame, Queene Philip.22
She to thy Triumph led one Captive King, The Kings of France & Scotland.
And brought that sonne, which did the second bring.23
Then didst thou found that Order 24(whither love,
Or victory thy Royall thoughts did move)
85Each was a noble cause, and nothing lesse,
Then the designe, has been the great successe:
Which forraigne Kings, and Emperors esteeme
The second Honour to their Diadem.25
Had thy great destiny but given thee skill,
90To know as well, as power to act her will,
That from those Kings, who then thy captives were,
In after-times should spring a Royall paire,26
Who should possesse all that thy mighty power,
Or thy desires more mighty, did devoure;
95To whom their better Fate reserves what ere
The Victor hopes for, or the Vanquisht feare;
That blood, which thou and thy great Grandsire shed,
And all that since these sister Nations bled,
Had bin unspilt, had happy Edward known
100That all the blood he spilt, had been his own.
When he that Patron27 chose, in whom are joyn'd
Souldier and Martyr, and his arms confin'd
Within the Azure Circle, he did seem
But to foretel, and prophecie of him,
105Who to his Realms that Azure round hath joyn'd,
Which Nature for their bound at first design'd.
That bound, which to the Worlds extreamest ends,
Endlesse it selfe, its liquid arms extends;
He, who not needs that Embleme which we paint,
110But is himself the Souldier and the Saint.28
Here should my wonder dwell, and here my praise,
But my fixt thoughts my wandring eye betrays,
Viewing a neighboring hill,29 whose top of late
A Chappel crown'd, till in the Common Fate,
115The adjoyning Abby30 fell:31 (may no such storme
Fall on our times, where ruine must reform.)
Tell me (my Muse) what monstrous dire Offence,
What crime could any Christian incense
To such a rage? was't Luxury? or lust?
120Was he so temperate, so chast, so just?
Were these their crimes? they were his own much more:
But wealth is Crime enough to him that's poor,
Who having spent the Treasures of his Crown,
Condemns their Luxury to feed his own.
125And yet this Act, to varnish o're the shame
Of sacriledge, must bear devotions name.
No Crime so bold, but would be understood
A reall, or at least a seeming good.
Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the Name,
130And free from Conscience, is a slave to Fame.
Thus he the Church at once protects, and spoyles:
But Princes swords are sharper then their styles.
And thus to th'ages past he makes amends,
Their Charity destroyes, their Faith defends.32
135Then did Religion in a lazie Cell ,
In emptie, airie contemplations dwell;
And like the block, unmoved lay: but ours,
As much too active, like the storke devours.
Is there no temperate Region can be knowne,
140Betwixt their Frigid, and our Torrid Zone?
Could we not wake from that Lethargicke Dreame,
But to be restlesse in a worse extreame?
And for that Lethargy was there no cure,
But to be cast into a Calenture?33
145Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance
So farre, to make us wish for ignorance?
And rather in the darke to grope our way,
Then led by a false guide to erre by day?
Who sees these dismall heaps, but would demand,
150What barbarous Invader sackt the land?
But when he heares, no Goth,34 no Turk35 did bring
This desolation, but a Christian King;
When nothing, but the Name of Zeale, appeares
'Twixt our best actions and the worst of theirs,
155What does he think our Sacriledge would spare,
When such th'effects of our devotions are?
Parting from thence 'twixt anger, shame, and feare,
Those for what's past, and this for what's too neare:
My eye descending from the Hill, survaies
160Where Thames amongst the wanton vallies strayes.
Thames, the most lov'd of all the Oceans sonnes, Thames.
By his old Sire, to his imbraces runnes,
Hasting to pay his tribute to the Sea,
Like mortall life to meet Eternity.
165Though with those streames he no resemblance hold,
Whose foame is Amber, and their Gravell Gold;
His genuine, and lesse guilty wealth t'explore,
Search not his bottom, but survey his shore;
Ore which he kindly spreads his spacious wing,
170And hatches plenty for th'ensuing Spring.
Nor then destroyes it with too fond a stay,
Like Mothers which their Infats overlay.
Nor with a suddain and impetuous wave,
Like profuse Kings, resumes the wealth he gave.
175No unexpected inundations spoyle
The mowers hopes, nor mock the plowmans toyle:
But Godlike his unwearied Bounty flows;
First loves to do, then loves the Good he does.
Nor are his Blessings to his banks confin'd,
180But free, and common, as the Sea or Wind;
When he to boast, or to disperse his stores
Full of the tributes of his gratefull shores,
Visits the World, and in his flying towers
Brings home to us, and makes both Indies ours;36
185Finds wealth where 'tis, bestows it where it wants,
Citties in deserts, woods in Cities plants.
So that to us no thing, no place is strange,
While his fayre bosome is the worlds exchange.37
O could I flow like thee, and make thy streame
190My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet cleare, though Gentle, yet not dull,
Strong without rage, without 'ore-flowing full.
Here Nature, whether more intent to please The Forrest.
Us, or her selfe, with strange varieties,
195(For things of wonder give no lesse delight
To the wise Maker's, then beholder's sight.
Though these delights from severall causes move,
For so our children, thus our friends we love)
Wisely she knew, the harmony of things,
200As well as that of sounds, from discords springs.
Such was the discord, which did first disperse
Forme, order, beauty through the Universe;
While drynesse moysture, coldnesse heat resists,38
All that we have, and that we are, subsists.
205While the steepe horrid roughnesse of the Wood
Strives with the gentle calmenesse of the flood.
Such huge extreames when Nature doth unite,
Wonder from thence results, from thence delight.
The streame is so transparent, pure, and cleare,
210That had the selfe-enamour'd youth gaz'd here, Narcissus.39
So fatally deceiv'd he had not been,
While he the bottome, not his face had seene.
But his proud head the ayery Mountaine hides
Among the Clouds; his shoulders, and his sides
215A shady mantle cloaths; his curled brows
Frowne on the Gentle streame, which calmly flows,
While winds and stormes his lofty forhead beat:
The common fate of all that's high, or great.
Low at his foot a spacious plaine is plac't,
220Between the mountaine and the streame imbrac't:
Which shade and shelter from the Hill derives,
While the kind river wealth and beauty gives;
And in the mixture of all these appeares
Variety, which all the rest indears.
225This scene had some bold Greek, or Brittish Bard40
Beheld of old, what stories had we heard,
Of Faries, Satyrs, and the Nymphs their Dames,
Their feasts, their revells, and their amorous flames!
'Tis still the same, although their ayery shape
230All but a quick Poetick sight escape.
There Faunus41 and Sylvanus42 keepe their Courts,
And thither all the horned hoast resorts,
To graze the rancker meade, that noble heard,
On whose sublime and shady fronts is reard
235Natures great Masterpeece; to shew how soone
Great things are made, but sooner are undone.
Here have I seene the King,43 when great affaires
Give leave to slacken, and unbend his cares,
Attended to the Chase by all the flower
240Of youth, whose hopes a Nobler prey devoure:
Pleasure with Praise, and danger, they would buy,
And with a foe that would not only fly.
The stagg44 now conscious of his fatall Growth,
At once indulgent to his feare and sloth,
245To some darke covert his retreat had made,
Where nor mans eye, nor heavens should invade
His soft repose; when th'unexpected sound
Of doggs, and men, his wakefull eare doth wound.
Rouz'd with the noyse, he scarse believes his eare,
250Willing to think th'illusions of his feare
Had given this false Alar'm, but straight his view
Confirmes, that more than all he feares is true.
Betray'd in all his strengths, the wood beset,
All instruments, all Arts of ruine met;
255He calls to mind his strength, and then his speed,
His winged heeles, and then his armed head;
With these t'avoyd, with that his Fate to meet:
But feare prevails, and bids him trust his feet.
So fast he flyes, that his reviewing eye
260Has lost the chasers, their Nobler sense
Their disproportion'd speed does recompense.
Then curses his conspiring feet, whose scent
Betrayes that safety which their swiftnesse lent.
Then tryes his friends, among the baser heard,
265Where he so lately was obey'd, and fear'd,
His safety seeks: the heard, unkindly wise,45
Or chases him from thence, or from him flyes.
Like a declining Statesman, left forlorne
To his friends pitty, and pursuers scorne,
270With shame remembers, while himsefe was one
Of the same heard, himselfe the same had done.
Thence to the coverts, and the conscious Groves,
The scenes of his past triumphs, and his loves;
Sadly surveying where he rang'd alone
275Prince of the soyle, and all the heard his owne;
And like a bold Knight Errant did proclaime
Combat to all, and bore away the Dame;
And taught the woods to eccho to the streame
His dreadfull challenge, and his clashing beame.
280Yet faintly now declines the fatall strife;
So much his love was dearer then his life.
Now every lease, and every moving breath
Presents a foe, and every foe a death.
Wearied, forsaken, and pursu'd, at last
285All safety in despaire of safety plac'd,
Courage he thence resumes, resolv'd to beare
All their assaults, since 'tis in vaine to feare.
And now too late he wishes for the fight
That strength he wasted in Ignoble flight:
290But when he sees the eager chase renew'd,
Himselfe by doggs, the doggs by men pursu'd:
He straight revokes his bold resolve, and more
Repents his courage, then his feare before;
Finds that uncertaine waies unsafest are,
295And Doubt a greater mischief then Despaire.
Then to the streame, when neither friends, nor force,
Nor speed, nor Art availe, he shapes his course;
Thinks not their rage so desperate t' assay,
An Element, more mercilesse then they.
300But feareless they pursue, nor can the flood
Quench their dire thirst; alas, they thirst for blood.
So towards a Ship the oarefin'd Gallyes ply,
Which wanting Sea to ride, or wind to fly,
Stands but to fall reveng'd on those that dare
305Tempt the last fury of extreame despayre.
So fares the Stagg among th'inraged hounds,
Repells their force, and wounds returns for wounds.
And as a Hero, whom his baser foes
In troops surround, now these assailes, now those,
310Though prodigall of life, disdaines to dy
By common hands; but if he can descry
Some nobler foes approach, to him he calls,
And beggs his Fate, and then contented falls.
So when the King a mortall shaft lets fly
315From his unerring hand, then glad to dy,
Proud of the wound, to it resigns his blood,
And staines the Christall with a Purple46 flood.
This a more Innocent, and happy chase,
Then when of old, but in the selfe-same place, Runny Mead where the great Charter47 was first sealed.
320Faire liberty pursu'd, and meant a Prey
To lawless power, here turn'd, and stood at bay.
When in that remedy all hope was plac't
Which was, or should have been at least, the last.
Here was that Charter seal'd, wherein the Crowne Magna Carta.
325All markes of Arbitrary power layes downe:
Tyrant and slave, those names of hate and feare,
The happier stile of King and Subject beare:
Happy, when both to the same Center move,
When Kings give liberty, and Subjects love.
330Therefore not long in force this Charter stood;
Wanting that seale, it must be seal'd in blood.
The Subjects arm'd, the more their Princes gave,
Th'advantage only took more to crave:
Till Kings by giving, give themselves away,
335And even that power, that should deny, betray.
"Who gives constraiu'd, but his owne feare reviles,
"Not thank't, but scorn'd; nor are they gifts, but spoyles.
Thus Kings, by grasping more then they could, hold,
First made their Subjects by oppression bold:
340And popular sway, by forcing Kings to give
More then was fit for Subjects to receive,
Ran to the same extreames; and one excesse,
Made both, by striving to be greater, lesse.
When a calme River rais'd with sudden raines,
345Or Snowes dissolv'd, o're flowes th'adjoyning Plaines,
The Husbandmen48 with high-rais'd banks secure
They greedy hopes, and this he can endure.
But if with bayes, and Dammes they strive to force
His channell to a new, or narrow course;
350No longer then within his banks he dwels,
First to a Torrent, then a Deluge swels:
Stronger, and fiercer by restraint he roares,
And knows no bound,but makes his power his shores.


  1. A small hill (c. 220 ft) in Egham, near Windsor. Coopers Hill overlooks Runnymeade, Windsor and the River Thames. Although relatively close to central London and across the river from Heathrow Airport, it is unlikely (though not entirely impossible) that any observer could actually spot the spire of St. Paul's Cathedral, as Denham claims.
  2. Back

  3. Mount Parnassus, in Greece, the home of the Muses.
  4. Back

  5. Mount Helicon, in Greece, where two springs sacred to the Muses were located, the Aganippe and the Hippocrene. The waters of the Hippocrene were supposed to bring poetic inspiration.
  6. Back

  7. Possibly a topical allusion to the High Court of Parliament, though more likely simply alluding to the royal court, i.e., the extended household of the monarch.
  8. Back

  9. Old St. Paul's Cathedral, that burned down in the Great Fire of London (1666).
  10. Back

  11. Cf. Edmund Waller's 'Upon His Majesties repairing of Pauls'.
  12. Back

  13. Specifically Puritan zeal, that rebelled against the trappings of old religion.
  14. Back

  15. Charles I.
  16. Back

  17. Partly symbols of strength and beauty, as Windsor castle, partly symbols for Charles I and Henrietta Maria, his queen consort. It was common to represent reigning monarchs and their consorts as Mars and Venus in Renaissance painting.
  18. Back

  19. The master is Charles I, the castle his emblem.
  20. Back

  21. In Greek mythology Atlas was a Titan condenmned to hold the heavens for eternity.
  22. Back

  23. The goddess Cybele, Phrygian mother of the gods, later adopted into Greek mythology.
  24. Back

  25. Julius Caesar, who first invaded Britain.
  26. Back

  27. Albanactus, mythical founding king of the kingdom of Albania, roughly modern-day Scotland
  28. Back

  29. Brutus of Troy, the legendary founder and first king of Britain.
  30. Back

  31. King Arthur, legendary Celtic king who fought against the Saxon invasion of Britain; central character in the medieval romances that make up the Matter of Britain.
  32. Back

  33. King Canute, Danish king of Denmark, England and Norway (the North Sea Empire). Famously portrayed in an anecdote in which he demonstrates the futility of 'trying to stop the tide.'
  34. Back

  35. Homer's birthplace (if one is to accept that Homer ever existed as a single person) is uncertain and, from antiquity, seven cities have claimed to be Homer's birthplace.
  36. Back

  37. Edward the Black Prince had a famous victory at Poitiers in 1356 in which he captured his father's rival, King John of France.
  38. Back

  39. The fleurs-de-lis, that is, the French crown. Edward III was the first English king to claim the French throne.
  40. Back

  41. Roman goddess of war
  42. Back

  43. Phillipa of Hainault, Queen consort of Edward III.
  44. Back

  45. At one time, Edward III held captive the kings of France and Scotland simultaneously.
  46. Back

  47. The Order of the Garter, founded by Edward III in 1349.
  48. Back

  49. Foreign kings and princes, particularly those who were connected to the English royal family through marriage or alliance, were often made knights of the Garter.
  50. Back

  51. Charles I, descendent of the Scottish Stuarts, and Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henri IV of France.
  52. Back

  53. St. George is the Patron Saint of the Order.
  54. Back

  55. Charles I. Charles shown himself to be a soldier during the civil war and became a royalist martyr (and later a Saint in the Anglican faith), at his execution in 1649.
  56. Back

  57. St. Anne's Hill in Chertsey.
  58. Back

  59. Chertsey Abbey.
  60. Back

  61. The dissolution of the monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII.
  62. Back

  63. Allusion to Henry's title as 'Defender of the Faith.'
  64. Back

  65. Feverish delirium.
  66. Back

  67. The Goths were a germanic people that played an important part in the fall of the Western Roman Empire at the start of the medieval period.
  68. Back

  69. The Ottoman empire was the principal opponent of the Christian Kings and Empires in the early modern period.
  70. Back

  71. The 'west indies' (America) and India proper.
  72. Back

  73. As in 'Royal Exchange,' i.e., a place of trade and wealth.
  74. Back

  75. Dryness, Moisture, Coldness and Heat are the four 'roots' of all things according to Empedocles. The four elements (fire, water, air, and earth) are formed of pairs of these root qualities.
  76. Back

  77. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was famed for his beauty and his disdain for those who loved him. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Echo, a nymph, falls in love with him. Narcissus shuns her love and for that is punished by Aphrodite, who makes him fall in love with his own reflection and transforms him into a flower.
  78. Back

  79. There seems to be no clear referent for these bards.
  80. Back

  81. Roman god of animals.
  82. Back

  83. Roman god of woodlands.
  84. Back

  85. In 1655 when this poem is published there is no king: Charles I had been executed in 1649 and his son, the future Charles II, is in exile. Britain is a commonwealth, rulled by a council of state and a Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell.
  86. Back

  87. Stags were amongst the most prized and most noble game.
  88. Back

  89. Wise beyond their kind (i.e., against their nature), or possibly wise in an unkind manner.
  90. Back

  91. The colour purple has long been associated with royalty. During the early modern period, sumptuory laws forbade the use of purple by anyone but the highest members of the aristocracy (the monarch, their immediate family, and Dukes).
  92. Back

  93. Magna Carta, signed at Runny Meade.
  94. Back

  95. Farmers.
  96. Back

This edition of John Denham's Coopers Hill was prepared for SEL2218: Research Project in English and History by Dr. Tiago Sousa Garcia. It does not constitute a critical edition but rather an enhanced transcript. The notes are partly derived from Brendan O Hehir's Expans'd hieroglyphicks: a critical edition of Sir John Denham's Coopers Hill (Berkeley, University of California Press: 1969). The text was encoded in TEI-XML and transformed into HTML using an XSLT transformation (ask Tiago if you want to know more). You can find the source TEI files here and the XSLT transformation here.

Laste update: Wednesday, 22nd January 2020