An Interpretation of Abraham Cowley’s “The Prophet

Abraham Cowley’s “The Prophet” mainly talks about love. The poem consists of three stanzas and starts with the sentences “Teach me to love? Go teach thy self more wit; I chief Professor am of it.” It sounds as if the poet is having a conversation with someone around him, and the whole poem has a conversational tone.

In the first stanza, the poet says that he is “the chief Professor” of love. He gives many examples and shows that it is needless for him to be taught about love. We can see that idea in expressions like, “Teach fire to burn and winds to blow” (l. 7) and “Teach restless fountains how to flow” (l. 8). In the second stanza, he says, “The God of Love, if such thing there be, / May learn to love from me…” (ll. 14-15) This means the author thinks that he knows more about love than the god of love does and he can even teach the god about love. We can see this man’s confidence as a chief professor of love in expressions like, “I’ll teach him things he never knew before” (l. 19), but in the last stanza the man’s confidence starts to disappear gradually:

But, ah, what’s that, if she refuse,
To hear the whole doctrines of my Muse?
If to my share the Prophet’s fate must come;
Hereafter fame, here Matrydome.       (ll. 34-37)

The last four lines are very important because “the chief Professor of love” notices that when it comes to his own love, he is afraid that his beloved will refuse him. This gives the reader the impression that no matter how much confidence a person seems to have about something, we cannot always see their actual feelings.

The title “The Prophet” means a person sent by God to teach the people and give them messages from God. This is directly related to the contents of the poem. A prophet just tells something to people and cannot do anything by him- or herself. The man in this story is just the same as a prophet because he keeps on saying that he knows everything about love, but when it comes to his own love, he cannot be confident. This poem has an interesting contrast between the author’s confidence as a lover and the foolishness of a man asking him about love. TEACHER'S COMMENT

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