Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Think, when 'twas grown to moft, 'twas a poor inn,
A province pack'd up in two yards of skin,
And that usurp’d, or threaten'd with a rage
Of ficknesses, or their true mother, age.
But think that death hath now enfranchis'd thee;
Thou hast thy expansion now, and liberty;
Think, that a rusty piece discharg'd is flown.
In pieces, and the bullet is his own,
And freely flies: this to thy soul allow,
Think thy shell broke, think thy soul hatch'd but now.

THEY were sometimes indelicate and disgusting. Cowley thus apostrophises beauty :

Thou tyrant which leav'st no man free! Thou subtle thief, from whom nought safe can be ! Thou murtherer, which haft kill'd; and devil, which

would'st damn me !

Thus he addresses his Mistress:

Thou who, in many a propriety,
So truly art the sun to me,
Add one more likeness, which I'm sure you can,
And let me and my fun beget a man.

Thus he represents the meditations of a Lover:

[ocr errors]

Though in thy thoughts scarce any tracts have been
So much as of original fin,
Such charms tliy beauty wears, as might
Desires in dying confest faints excite.

Thou with strange adultery
Dost in each breast a brothel keep;

Awake all men do luft for thee,
And some enjoy thee when they sleep

[blocks in formation]

The true taste of Tears.

Hither with crystal vials, lovers, come,

And take my tears, which are love's wine,
And try your mistress' tears at home;
For all are false, that taste not just like mine.

DONNE.

This is yet more indelicate:
As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
As that which from chaf'd mulk-cat's pores doth trill,
As the almighty balm of th’ early East;
Such are the sweet drops of my mistress' breast.
And on her neck her skin such lustre sets,
They seem no sweat drops, but pearl coronets:
Rank, sweaty froth thy iniitress' brow defiles.

Donne :

THEIR expressions sometimes raise horror, when they intend perhaps to be pathetick:

As men in hell are from diseases free,

So from all other ills am I,

Free from their known formality :
But all pains eminently lie in thee.

CowleX

THEY were not always strictly curious, whether the opinions from which they drew their illustrations were true; it was enough that they were popular. Bacon remarks, that some falsehoods are continued by tradition, because they supply commodious allusions.

It gave a piteous groan, and so it broke:
In vain it fomething would have spoke;

The

The love within too strong for 't was,
Like poison put into a Venice-glass.

Cowley.

IN forming descriptions, they looked out not for images, but for conceits. Night has been a common subject, which poets have contended to adorn. Dryden's Night is well known ; Donne's is as follows: Thou seest me here at midnight, now all rest: Time's dead low-water; when all minds divest To-morrow's business ; when the labourers have Such rest in bed, that their last church-yard grave, Subject to change, will scarce be a type of this; , Now when the client, whose last hearing is To-morrow, seeps ; when the condemned man, Who, when he opes his eyes, muft shut them then Again by death, although fad watch he keep, Doth practise dying by a little sleep; Thou at this midnight feest me.

IT must be however confessed of these writers, that if they are upon common subjects often unnecessarily and unpoetically subtle ; yet, where scholaltick speculation can be properly admitted, their copiousness and acuteness may juftly be admired. What Cowley has written upon Hope Mews an unequalled fertility of invention :

Hope, whose weak being ruin'd is,

Alike if it succeed and if it miss ;
Whom good or ill does equally confound,
And both the horns of Fate's dilemına wound;

Vain Thadow! which doft vanish quite,
Both at full noon and perfe&t night!

D 3

Tlie

The stars have not a possibility
Of blessing thee;
If things then from their end we happy call,
'Tis Hope is the most hopeless thing of all.

Hope, thou bold taster of delight,
Who, whilst thou should'st but taste, devour'st it quite!
Thou bring'it us an estate, yet leav'st us poor,
By clogging it with legacies before !
The joys which we entire should wed,

Come deflower'd virgins to our bed;
Good fortunes without gain inported be,

Such mighty cuftoin's paid to thee :
For joy, like wine kept close, does better taste;
If it take air before its fpirits waste.

To the following comparison of a man that travels and his wife that stays at home, with a pair of compasses, it may be doubted whether absurdity or ingenuity has better claim :

Our two souls, therefore, which are one,

Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,

Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show

To move, but doth if th’ other do.
And though it in the centre sit,

Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,

And grows erect as that comes home,
Such wilt thou be to me, who must

Like th' other foot obliquely run.
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

DONNE.

In all these examples it is apparent, that whatever is improper or vitious is produced by a voluntary deviation from nature in pursuit of something new and strange ; and that the writers fail to give delight by their desire of exciting admiration.

CO

HAVING thus endeavoured to exhibit a general representation of the style and sentiments of the me. taphysical poets, it is now proper to examine parti. cularly the works of Cowley, who was almost the v last of that race, and undoubtedly the best.

His Miscellanies contain a collection of short compositions, written fome as they were dictated by a mind at leisure, and some as they were called forth by different occasions; with great variety of style and sentiment, from burlesque levity to awful grandeur. Such an assemblage of diversified excellence no other poet has hitherto afforded. To choose the best, among many good, is one of the most hazardous attempts of criticism. I know not whether Sca. liger himself has persuaded many readers to join with him in his preference of the two favourite odes, which he estimates in his raptures at the value of ą, kingdom. I will, however, venture to recommend Cowley's first piece, which ought to be inscribed To my Muse, for want of which the second couplet is without reference. When the title is added, there will still remain a defect; for every piece ought to contain in itself whatever is necessary to make it intelligible. Pope has some epitaphs without names; which are therefore epitaphs to be lett, occupied indeed for the present, but hardly appropriated.

The ode on Wit is almost without a rival. It was about the time of Cowley that Wit, which had been

« VorigeDoorgaan »