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disappoint the ear, and destroy the energy of the line.
His combination of different measures is sometimes dissonant and unpleasing ; he joins verses together, of which the former does not slide easily into the latter.
The words do and did, which so much degrade in present estimation the line that admits them, were in the time of Cowley little censured or avoided ; how often he used them, and with how bad an effect, at least to our ears, will appear by a passage, in which every reader will lament to see just and noble thoughts defrauded of their praise by inelegance of language : Where honour or where conscience does not bind,
No other law shall shackle me;
Slave to myself I ne'er will be ;
By my own present mind.
For days, that yet belong to fate,
Before it falls into his hand;
'The bondman of the cloister so, All that he does receive does always owe. And sill as Time comes in, it goes away,
Not to enjoy, but debts to pay!
Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell!
His heroic lines are often formed of mono. syllables ; but yet they are sometimes sweet and sonorous,
of the Messiah,
Round the whole earth his dreaded name shall sound,
Yet bid him go securely when he sends;
And we who bid bim go, will bring bim back. Yet amidst this negligence he sometimes attempted an improved and scientifick versification ; of which it will be best to give his own account subjoined to this line :
Nor can the glory contain itself in th' endless space.
“ I am sorry that it is necessary to admonish “ the most part of readers, that it is not by negli
gence that this verse is so loose, long, and, as it
were, vast; it is to paint in the number the na“ ture of the thing which it describes, which I “ would have observed in divers other places of " this poem, that else will pass for
very careless verses : as before, And over-runs the neighb'ring fields with violent course.
“ In the second book ;
Down i precipice, deep, down be casts them all..
And fell a-down lis shoulders with loose care.
• In the third,
“ In the fourth,
Like some fair pine o'er-locking all th' ignobler wood.
Some from the rocks cast themselves down beadlorg.
“ And many more: but it is enough to instance “ in a few. The thing is, that the disposition of “ words and numbers should be such, as that, out “ of the order and sound of them, the things " themselves may be represented. This the Greeks “ were not so accurate as to bind themselves to ; “ neither have our English poets observed it, for “aught I can find. The Latins (qui Musas col“ unt severiors) sometimes did it; and their prince, “ Virgil, always : in whom the examples are in“ numerable, and taken notice of by all judici. “ous men, so that it is superfluous to collect them.”
I know not wether he has, in many of these instances, attained the representation or resemblance that he purposes.
Verse can imitate, only sound and motion. A boundless verse, a headlong verse, and a verse of brass or of strong brass, seem to comprise very incongruous and unsociable ideas. What there is peculiar in the sound of the line expressing loose care, I cannot discover ;"nor why the pine is taller in an Alexandrive than in ten syllables.
But, not to defraud him of his due praise, he has given one example of representative versifi, cation, which perhaps no other English line can equal :
Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise :
Wbich runs, and, as it runs, for ever sball run on. Cowley was, I believe, the first poet that mingled Alexandrines at pleasure with the common heroick of ten syllables; and from him Dryden borrowed the practice, whether ornamental or licentious. He considered the verse of twelve syllables as elevated and majestick, and has therefore deviated into that measure when he supposes the voice heard of the Supreme Being.
The author of the Davideis is commended by Dryden for having written it in couplets, because he discovered that any staff was too lyrical for an heroick poem; but this seems to have been known before by May and Sandys, the translators of the Pharsalia and the Metamorphoses.
In the Davideis are some hemistichs, or verses left imperfect by the author, in imitation of Virgil, whom he supposes not to have intended to complete them; that this opinion is erroneous, may be probably concluded, because this truncation is imitated by no subsequent Roman poet; because Virgil himself filled up one broken line in the heat of recitation; because in one the sense is now unfinished; and because all that can be done by a broken verse, a line intersected by a cæsura, and a full stop, will equally effect
Of triplets in his Davideis he makes no use, and perhaps did not at first think them allowable; but he appears afterwards to have changed his mind, for in the verses on the government of Cromwell he inserts them liberally with great happiness.
After so much criticism on his Poems, the Essays which accompany them must not be forgotten. What is said by Sprat of his conversation, that no man could draw from it any suspicion of his excela lence in poetry, may be applied to these compositions. No author ever kept his verse and his prose at a greater distance from each other. His thoughts are natural, and his style has a smooth and placid equability, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far-sought, or hardlaboured; but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness.
It has been observed by Felton, in his Essay on the Classicks, that Cowley was beloved by every Muse that he courted; and that he has rivalled the Ancients in every kind of poetry but tragedy. It
may be affirmed, without any encomiastick fervour, that he brought to his poetick labours a mind replete with learning, and that his pages are embellished with all the ornaments which books could supply; that he was the first who imparted to English numbers the enthusiasm of the greater ode, and the gaiety of the less; that he was equally qualified for spritely sallies, and for lofty flights; that he was among those who freed translation from servility, and, instead of following his author at a distance, walked by his side; and that, if he left versification yet improveable, he left likewise from time to time such specimens of excellence as enabled fucceeding poets to improve it.