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marriage brought upon him so much disquiet, as for a time disordered his understanding; and Butler lampoon'd him for his lunacy. I know not whether the malignant lines were then made publick, nor what provocation incited Butler to do that which no provocation can excuse.
His frenzy lasted not long; and he seems to have 2 regained hiş full force of mind; for he wrote after, wards his excellent poem upon the death of Cowley, whom he was not long to survive ; for on the 19th of March, 1688, he was buried by his side.
DENHAM iş deservedly considered as one of the fathers of English poetry.
“ Denham and Waller," says Prior, “ improved our versification, and Dryden “perfected it.” He has given specimens of various composition, descriptive, ludicrous, didactick, and sublime,
He appears to have had, in common with alınost all mankind, the ambition of being upon proper occafion's a merry fellow, and in common with most of them to have been by nature, or by early habits, debarred from it. Nothing is less exhilarating than the ludicrouifa ness of Denham: He does not fail for want of efforts : he is familiar, he is gross; but he is ' never merry, unless the “ Speech against peace in the close “ Committee" be excepted. For grave burlesque, however, his imitation of Davenant fhew's him to have been well qualified. Of his more elevated occasional
poems there is
per. haps none that does not deserve commendation. In the verses to Fletcher, we have an image that has since been adopted :
$* But whither am I stray'd ? I need not raise
Trophies to thee from other mens dispraise ;
“ Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred Nain." 74 After Denham, Orrery, in one of his prologues,
“ Poets are sultans, if they liad their will ;
“ For every author would his brother kill." And Pope,
“ Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
“ Bear like the Turk no brother near the throne.” 25
But this is not the best of his little pieces : it is excelled by his poem to Fanshaw, and his elegy on Cowley.
His praise of Fanshaw's version of Guarini, contains a very spritely and judicious character of a good translator :
“ That servile path thou nobly doft decline,
“ True to his sense, but truer to his fame.”
His poem on the death of Cowley was his last, and, among his fhorter works, his best performance: the numbers are mulical, and the thoughts are just
« Cooper's Hill” is the work that confers upon him 27 the rank and dignity of an original author. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landschape, to be poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation.
To trace a new scheme of poetry has in itself a very high claim to praise, and its praise is yet more when it is apparently copied by Garth and Pope * ; after whose names little will be gained by an enumeration of smaller poets, that have left scarce a corner of the island not dignified either by rhyme, or blank verse.
“ Cooper's Hill,” if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and the sentiments sometimes such as will not bear a rigorous enquiry
The four verses, which, since Dryden has commended them, almost every writer for a century paft has imitated, áré generally known :
" O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
“ Strong without rage, without o cr-flowing full.” The lines are in themselves not perfect; for most of the words, thus artfully opposed, are to be understood simply on one side of the comparison, and metaphorically on the other; and if there be any language
* By Garth, in his “ Poem on Claremont," and by Pope, in his " Windsor Forest.”.
which does not express intellectual operations by mäterial images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much meaning is comprized in so few words; the particulars of resemblance are so perspicaciously collected, and every mode of excellence separated from its adjacent fault by so nice a line of limitation; the different parts of the sentence are so accurately adjusted ; and the flow of the last couplet is so smooth and sweet ; that the passage, however celebrated, has not been praised above its merit. It has beauty peculiar to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities which cannot be produced at will by wit and labour, but must arise unexpectedly in some hour propitious to poetry.
He appears to have been one of the first that understood the necessity of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting lines and interpreting single words. How much this servile practice obscured the clearest and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors, may be discovered by a perusal of our earlier versions ; some of them the works of men well qualified, not only by critical knowledge, but by poetical genius, who yet, by a mistaken ambition of ex: actness, degraded at once their originals and themselves.
Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success. His versions of Virgil are not pleasing; but they taught Dryden to please better. His poetical imitation of Tully on “Old Age” has neither the clearness of prose, nor the spriteliness of poetry
The“ strength of Denham,” which Pope so eniphatically mentions, is to be found in many lines and
couplets, which convey much meaning in few words,
On the Thames.
“ Their garb, but not their cloaths, did wear."