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prevailed about half a century; but at last died er of human genius to dignify. The miracle gradually away, and other imitations supply its of creation, however it may teem with images, place.
is best described with little diffusion of language; The Pindaric Odes have so long enjoyed the “ He spake the word, and they were made.” highest degree of poetical reputation, that I am We are told that Saul was troubled with an not willing to dismiss them with unabated cen- evil spirit; from this, Cowley takes an oportusure ; and surely, though the mode of their vity of describing hell, and telling the history of composition be erroneous, yet many parts de- Lucifer, who was, he says, serve at least that admiration which is due to great comprehension of knowledge, and great, Once general of a gilded host of sprites, fertility of fancy. The thoughts are often Like Hesper leading forth the spangled nights; new, and often striking ; but the greatness of
But down like lightning, wbich him struck, ho
came, one part is disgraced by the littleness of another;
And roard at his first plunge into the flame. and total negligence of language gives the noblest conceptions the appearance of a fabric august in the plan, bat mean in the materials. Lucifer makes a speech to the inferior agents Yet surely those verses are not without a just of mischief, in which there is something of heathclaim to praise ; of which it may be said with enism, and therefore of impropriety; and, to truth, no man but Cowley could have written give efficacy to his words, concludes by lashing them.
his breast with his long tail. Envy, after a The Davideis now remains to be considered; pause, steps out, and among other declarations a poem which the author designed to have ex- of her zeal utters these lines. tended to twelve books, merely, as he makes no scruple of declaring, because the Æneid had
Do thou but threat, loud storms shall make reply, that number: but he had leisure or perseverance And thunder echo to the trembling sky: only to write the third part. Epic poems have
Whilst raging seas 'swell to so bold an height, been left unfinished by Virgil, Statius, Spenser,
As ghall the fire's proud element afright. and Cowley. That we have not the whole Da
TH' old drudging sun, from his long beaten way
Shall at thy voice start, and misguide the day. videis is, however, not much to be regretted; for
The jocund orbs shall break their measured pace, in this undertaking, Cowley is, tacitly at least,
And stubborn poles change their allotted place. confessed to have miscarried." There are not
Heaven's gilded troeps shall flutter here and there, many examples of so great a work, produced by Leaving their boasting songs tuned to a sphere. an author generally read, and generally praised, that has crept through a century with so little Every reader feels himself weary with this regard. Whatever is said of Cowley, is meant useless talk of an allegorical being. of his other works. Of the Davideis, no men It is not only when the events are confessedtion is made; it never appears in books, nor ly miraculous, that fancy and fiction lose their emerges in conversation. By the Spectator it effect; the whole system of life, while the theohas been once quoted; by Rymer it has once cracy was yet visible, has an appearance so di. been praised ;'and by Dryden, in “ Mack Fleck- ferent from all other scenes of human action, noe,” it has once been imitated; nor do I recol. that the reader of the Sacred Volume habitually lect much other notice from its publication till considers it as the peculiar mode of existence of now in the whole succession of English litera- a distinct spocies of mankind, that lived and acture.
ted with manners uncommunicable ; so that it is Of this silence and neglect, if the reason be difficult even for imagination to place us in the inquired, it will be found partly in the choice of state of them whose story is related, and by the subject, and partly in the performance of the consequence their joys and griefs are not easily work.
adopted, por can the attention be often interestSacred History has been always read with ed in any thing that befalls them. submissive reverence, and an imagination over To the subject thus originally indisposed to awed and controlled. We have been accus the reception of poetical embellishments, the tomed to acquiesce in the nakedness and sim- writer brought little that could reconcile impaplicity of the authentic narrative, and to repose tience, or attract curiosity. Nothing can be on its veracity with such humble confidence as more disgusting than a narrative spangled with suppresses curiosity. We go with the historian conceits; and conceits are all that the Davideis as he goes, and stop with him when he stops. supplies. All amplification is frivolous and vain : all ad One of the great sources of poetical delight is dition to that which is already sufficient for the description,* or the power of presenting pictures purposes of religion, seems not only useless but in some degree profane.
# Dr. Warton discovers some contrariety of opinSuch esents as were produced by the visible ion between this and what is said of description in interposition of Divine power are above the pow. p. 14.-C.
to the mind. Cowley gives inferences instead of In a simile descriptive of the Morning :
As glimmering stars just at th' approach of day,
Cashier'd by troops, at last all drop away. might have suggested. When Virgil describes the stone which Turnus lifted against Æneas, The dress of Gabriel deserves attention: he fixes the attention on its bulk and weight:
He took for skin a cloud most soft and bright, Saxum circumspicit ingens,
That e'er the mid-day sun pierc'd through with Saxum antiquum, ingens, campo quod forte jacebat
light; Limes agro positus, litem ut discerneret arvis.
Upon his cheeks a lively blush he spread,
Wash'd from the morning beautier deepest red; Cowley says of the stone with which Cain An harmless flatt'ring meteor shone for hair, slew his brother,
And fell adown his shoulders with loose care ;
He cuts out a silk mantle from the skies, I saw him fling the stové, as if he meant
Where the most sprightly azure pleas'd the eyes A: ouce his inurther and his monument.
This he with starry vapours sprinkles all,
Took in their prime ere they grow ripe and fall; Of the sword taken from Goliah, he says, Of a new rainbow ere it fret or fade,
The choicest piece cut out, a scarf is made. A sword so great, that it was only fit To cnt off his great head that came with it. This is a just specimen of Cowley's imagery: Other poets des death by some of its com
what might in general expressions be great and mon appearances.
Cowley says, with a learned forcible, he weakens and makes ridiculous by allusion to sepulchral lamps, real or fabulous,
branching it into small parts. That Gabri-l
was invested with the softest or brightest colours 'Twixt his right ribs deep pierc'd the furious blade, of the sky, we might have been told, and been And open'd wide those secret vessels where dismissed to improve the idea in our different Life's light goes out, when first they let in air.
proportions of conception ; but Cowley could
not let us go till he had related where Gabriel But he has allusions vulgar as well as learned.
got first his skin, and then his mantle, then his In a visionary succession of kings,
lace, and then his scarf, and related it in the Joas at first does bright and glorious show,
terms of the mercer and tailor. In life's fresh morn his fame does early crow. Sometimes he indulges himself in a digression,
always conceived with his natural exuberance, Describing an undisciplined army, after hav- and commonly, even where it is not long, coning said with elegance,
tinued till it is tedious: His forces seem'd no army, but a crowd
['th' library a few choice authors stood, Heartless, unarm'd, disorderly, and loud
Yet 'twas well stor'd, for that small store was good: he gives them a fit of the ague.
Writing, man's spiritual physic, was not then
Itself, as now, grown a disease of men. The allusions, however, are not always to Learning (young virgin) but few suitors knew;
The common prostitute she lately grew, vulgar things; he offends by exaggeration as
And with the spurious brood loads now the press; much as by diminution :
Laborious effects of idleness. The king was plac'd alone, and o'er his head
As the Davideis affords only four books, A well-wrought heaven of silk and gold was spread. though intended to consist of twelve, there is no
Whatever he writes is always polluted with opportunity for such criticism as epic poems comsome conceit:
monly supply. The plan of the whole work is
very imperfectly shown by the third part. The Where the sun's fruitful beams give metals birth, duration of an unfinished action cannot be Where he the growth of fatal gold does see, known. Of characters either not yet introduced, Guld, which alone more influence has than he. or shown but upon few occasions, the full ex
tent and the nice discriminations cannot be asIn one passage he starts a sudden question to the confusion of philosophy:
certained. The fable is plainly implex, formed
rather from the Odyssey than the Iliad : and Ye learned heads, whoin ivy garlands grace, many artifices of diversification are employed, Why does that twining plant the nak embrace : with the skill of a man acquainted with the best The oak for courtship most of all unfit,
models. The past is recalled by narration, and And rough as are the winds that fight with it?
the future anticipated by vision : but he has His expressions have sometimes a degree of been so lavish of his poetical art, that it is diffimeanness that surpasses expectation:
cult to imagine how he could fill eight books
more without practising again the same modes Nay, gentle guests, he cries, since now you're iu,
of disposing his matter: and perhaps the perThe story of your gallant friend begin.
ception of this growing incumbrance inclined
him to stop. By this abruption, posterity lost much thought, but with little imagery; that he more instruction than delight. If the continu- is never pathetic, and rarely sublime; but ada ation of the Davideis can be missed, it is for the ways either ingenious or learned, either acute or learning that had been diffused over it, and the profound. notes in which it had been explained.
It is said by Denham in his elegy, Had not his characters been depraved like
To him no author was unkuown, every other part by improper decorations, they
Yet what he writ was all his own. would have deserved uncommon praise. He gives Saul both the body and mind of a hero :
This wide position requires less limitation, when His way once chose, he forward thrust outright,
it is affirmed of Cowley, than perhaps of any Nor tura'd aside for danger or delight.
other poet. - He read much, and yet borrowed
little. And the different beauties of the lofty Merah His character of writing was indeed not his and the gentle Michol are very justly conceived own: he, unhappily adopted that which was and strongly painted.
predominant. He saw a certain way to present Rymer has declared the Davideis superior to praise; and, not sufficiently inquiring by what the Jerusalem of Tasso, “which," says he, “the means the ancients have continued to delight poet, with all his care, has not totally purged through all the changes of human manners, he from pedantry.” If by pedantry is meant that contented himself with a deciduous laurel, of minute knowledge which is derived from parti- which the verdure in its spring was bright and cular sciences and studies, in opposition to the gay, but which time has been continually stealgeneral notions supplied by a wide survey of life ing from his brows. and nature, Cowley certainly errs, by introducing He was in his own time considered as of unpedantry far more frequently than Tasso. I know rivalled excellence. Clarendon represents him not, indeed, why they should be compared; for the as having taken a flight beyond all that went resemblance of Cowley's work to Tasso's is only before him; and Milton is said to have declared, that they both exhibit the agency of celestial and that the three greatest English poets were Speninfernal spirits, in which however they differ ser, Shakspeare, and Cowley. widely; for Cowley supposes them commonly His manner he had in common with others; to operate upon the mind by suggestion ; Tasso but his sentiments were his own. Upon every represents them as promoting or obstructing subject he thought for himself; and such was events by external agency.
his copiousness of knowledge, that something at Ot particular passages that can be properly once remote and applicable rushed into his compared, I remember only the description of mind; yet it is not likely that he always rejectheaven, in which the different manner of the ed a commodious idea merely because another two writers is sufficiently discernible. Cow- had used it: his known wealth was so great ley's is scarcely description, unless it be possible that he might have borrowed without loss of to describe by negatives : for he tells us only credit. what there is not in heaven. Tasso endeavours
In his elegy on Sir Henry Wotton, the last to represent the splendours and pleasures of the lines have such resemblance to the noble epigram regions of happiness. Tasso affords images, and of Grotius on the death of Scaliger, that I canCowley sentiments. It happens, however, that not but think them copied from it, though they Tasso's description affords some reason for Ry- are copied by no servile hand. mer's censure. He says of the Supreme Being, One passage in his Mistress is so apparently
borrowed from Donne, that he probably would Hà sotto i piedi fato e la natura
not have written it, had it not mingled with his Ministri lumili, e'l nioto, e ch'il misura.
own thoughts, so as that he did not perceive
himself taking it from another: The second line has in it more of pedantry than perhaps oan be found in any other stan za
Although I think thou never found wilt be
Yet I'm resolv'd to search for thee; In the perusal of the Davideis, as of all Cow. The search itself rewards the pains. ley's works, we find wit and learning unprofit So, though the chymic his great secret miss ably squandered. Attention has no relief; the (For neither it in art or nature is,)
Yet things well worth his toil he gains : affections are never moved; we are sometimes
And does his charge and labour pay Burprised, but never delighted, and find much
With good unsought experiments by the way. admire, but little to approve. Still however it is the work of Cowley, of a mind capacious by nature, and replenished by study.
Some that have deeper digg'd Love's mine than I, In the general review of Cowley's poetry, it Say, where his centric happiness doth lie: will be found that he wrote with abundant fer I have lov'd, and got, and told; tility, but negligent or unskilful selection; with But should I love, get, tell, till I were old,
of the poem.
I should not find that hidden mystery ;
if the first appearance offends, a further know. Oh, 'tis imposture all !
lege is not often sought. Whatever professes to And as no chymic yet th'elixir got,
benefit by pleasing, must please at once. The But glorifies his pregnant pot,
pleasures of the mind imply something sudden If by the way to him befal Some odoriferous thing, or medicinal,
and unexpected; that which elevates must alSo lovers dream a rich and long delight, ways surprise. What is perceived by slow deBut get a winter-seeming summer's night. grees may gratify us with consciousness of im
provement, but will never strike with the sense Jonson and Donne, as Dr. Hurd remarks, of pleasure. were then in the highest esteem.
Of all this Cowley appears to have been It is related by Clarendon that Cowley always without knowledge, or without care. He acknowledges his obligation to the learning and makes no selection of words, nor seeks any industry of Jonson ; but I have found no traces neatness of phrase: he has no elegances, of Jonson in his works: to emulate Donne ap- either lucky or elaborate: as his endeavours pears to have been his purpose ; and from Donne were rather to impress sentences upon the unbe may have learned that familiarity with reli- derstanding than images on the fancy; he has gious images, and that light allusion to sacred few epithets, and those scattered without pecuthings, by which readers far short of sanctity liar propriety of nice adaptation. It seems to are frequently offended ; and which would not follow from the necessity of the subject, rather be borne in the present age, when devotion, per- than the care of the writer, that the diction of haps not more fervent, is more delicate.
his heroic poem is less familiar than that of his Having produced one passage taken by Cow slightest writings. He has given not the same ley from Donne, I will recompense him by an- numbers, but the same diction, to the gentle other which Milton seems to have borrowed Anacreon and the tempestuous Pindar. from him. He says of Goliah,
His versification seems to have had very little
of his care; and if what he thinks be true, that His spear, the trunk was of a lofty tree, Which nature meant some tall ship's mast should be. his numbers are unmusical only when they are
ill-read, the art of reading them is at present Milton of Satan :
lost; for they are commonly harsh to modern
He has indeed many noble lines, such as His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
the feeble care of Waller never could produce. Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast The bulk of his thoughts sometimes swelled his Of some great admiral, were but a wand, verse to unexpected and inevitable grandeur; He walked with.
but his excellence of this kind is merely fortui
tous : he sinks willingly down to his general His diction was in his own time censured as carelessness, and avoids with very little care negligent. He seems not to have known, or not either meanness or asperity. to have considered, that words being arbitrary His contractions are often rugged and harsh : must owe their power to association, and have the influence, and that only, which custom has
One flings a mountain, and its rivers too
Torn up with't, given them. Language is the dress of thought: and as the noblest mien, or most graceful action, His rhymes are very often made by pronouns, would be degraded and obscured by a garb ap- or particles, or the like 'unimportant words, propriated to the gross employments of rustics which disappoint the ear, and destroy the or mechanics; so the most heroic sentiments energy of the line. will lose their efficacy, and the most splendid His combination of different measures is ideas drop their magnificence, if they are con- sometimes dissonant and unpleasing ; he joins veyed by words used commonly upon low and verses together, of which the former does not trivial occasions, debased by vulgar mouths, and slide easily into the latter. contaminated by inelegant applications.
The words do and did, which so much degrade Truth indeed is always truth, and reason is in present estimation the line that admits them, always reason; they have an intrinsic and unal- were, in the time of Cowley, little censured or terable value, and constitute that intellectual avoided : how often he used them, and with gold which defies destruction; but gold may be how bad an effect, at least to our ears, will apso concealed in baser matter, that only a chymist pear by a passage in which every reader will can recover it; sense may be so hidden in unre- lament to see just and noble thoughts defrauded fined and plebeian words, that none but philoso- of their praise by inelegance of language: phers can distinguish it; and both may be so buried in impurities, as not to pay the cost of Where honour or where consience does not bind,
No other law shall shackle me; their extraction.
Slave to myself I ne'er will be; The diction, being the vehicle of the thoughts, Nor shall my future actions be confiu'd first presents itself to the intellectual eye: and
By my own present mind.
Before it falls into his hand;
of real it is necessary to admonish the den borrowed the practice, whether ornamental in this
complete them included, because his trunca
28 Toneous, • And many more: buenough to instance great happiness.
Wbo by resolves and vows engaged does stand,
neither have our English poets observed it, for For days that yet belong to fate,
aught I can find. The Latins (qui. Musas coluni an
severiorés) sometimes did it; and their prince, 03: The bondman of the cloister so,
Virgil, always : in whom the examples are in1 All that he does receive does always owe. '
numerable, and taken notice of by all judicious 1. And still as time comes in, it goes away,
men, so that it is superfluous to collect them." bu Not to eujoy but debts to pay!
I know not whether he has, in many of these Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell!
instances, attained the representation or resemWhich his hour's work as well as hours does tell :
blance that he purposes. Verse can imitate only Unhappy till the last, the kind releasing knell.
sound and motion. A boundless verse, a headun His heroic lines are often formed of mono- long verse, and a verse of brass or of strong brass, syllables; but yet they are sometimes sweet and
seem to comprise very incongruous and unsocisonorous. 9119 28 Arr!!18. . 15;
able ideas. What there is peculiar in the sound He says of the Messiah,tepa..!!*8140 of the line expressing loose care, I cannot disRound the whole earth his dreaded name shall
cover ; nor why the prine is taller in an Alexansound,
drine than in ten syllables. And reach to worlds that must not yet be found. But, not to defraud him of his due praise, he In another place, of David,
has given one example of representative versifi
cation, which perhaps no other English line can Yet bid him go securely when he sends ;
equal : 'Tis Saul that is his foe, and we his friends of The man who has his God, no aid can lack; Begio, be bold, and venture to be wise: And we who bid him go, will bring him back. He, wbo defers this work from day to day, Yet amidst his negligence he sometimes at
Does on a river's bank expecting stay tempted an improved and scientific versifica Till the whole stream that stopp'd him shall be gone,
Which runs, and as it runs, for ever shall run on. s account subjoined to this line:
Cowley was, I believe, the first
poet -ukot oan the glory contain itself in the endless space. mingled Alexandrines at pleasure with the com
mon heroic of ten syllables; and from “I most
that it is not by negligence or licentious. He considered the verse of twelve verse is so loose, long, and as it were,
' syllables as elevated and majestic, and has theree have observed in divers other
poses the voice heard of the Supreme Being.
er places of this zeem. that else will pass poem,
The author of the Davideis is commended by for very careless verses:
Dryden for having written it in couplets, beas before, qu2 311
cause he discovered that any staff was too lyrical over-runs the neighbouring fields with violent for an heroic poem ; but this seems to have been 031781791 114 11 16
known before by May and Sandys, the translators In the second book; u 110 90
of the Pharsalia and the Metamorphoses.
In the Davideis are some hemistichs, or verses ai Down a precipice deep, down he casts them all, dorty, potsylate) (I£ iti trpia tena?! wit,
left imperfect by the author, in imitation of Virwit907 au bsd V1929, ou bid aku b.vo!
gil, whom he supposes not to have intended to • And fell adown his shoulders with laosc care is
this opinion is Itu In the third, is: 190 11 rupis daw sil
tion is imitated by no subsequent Roman poet : Brass was his helmet, his boots brass, and @er" because Virgil himself filled up -9 His breast a thick plate of strong brass he wore
one broken line
in the heat of recitation ; ! banebia 901 lolar suw brutzorden
because in one « In the fourth,
sense is now unfinished ; and because all that lo Like some falf" Pine det lobking all the ignobler can be done by a
a , a
equally effect. -29 29 wooab 71119 dsisin yd Is
..Of triplets in his Davideis he makes no use, -994 tock* EAT 25W T j A bri And, it will be
and perhaps did not at first think them allowDataSome from the rocks cast themselves down head. his mind, for, in the verses on the government
able ; but he appears afterwards to have changed 0116 rulong.'to poch A divull?, V.
of Cromwell, he inserts them liberally with ** 'in fewThe thing is,
disposition of After so much criticism on his Poems, the words and numbers should be such, as that, but Essays which accompany them must not be forof the order and sound of them, the things them- gotten. What is said by Sprat of his conversaselves may be represented.
This the Greeks. tion, that no man could draw from it any suswere not so accurate as to bind themselves to :" picion of his excellence in poetry, may be applied V