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till then used for Intellection, in contradistinction to Ilill, took the meaning, whatever it be, which it now bears.
Of all the passages in which poets have exemplified their own precepts, none will easily be found of greater excellence than that in which Cowley condemns exuberance of wit :
Yet ’ris not to adorn and gild each part,
That shews more coft than art.
Rather than all things wit, let none be there,
If there be nothing else between.
In his verses to Lord Falkland, whom every man of his time was proud to praise, there are, as there must be in all Cowley's compositions, some striking thoughts, but they are not well wrought. His elegy on Sir Henry Wotton is vigorous and happy; the Series of thoughts is easy and natural; and the conclusion, though a little weakened by the intrusion of Alexander, is elegant and forcible.
It may be remarked, that in this Elegy, and in most of his encomiaftick poems, he has forgotten or neglected to naine his heroes.
In his poem on the death of Hervey, there is much praise, but little passion; a very just and ample delineation of such virtues as a studious privacy admits, and such intellectual excellence as a mind not yet called forth to action can display. He knew how to distinguish, and low to commend, the quali
ties of his conipanion; but, when he wishes to make us weep, he forgets to weep himself, and diverts his sorrow by imagining how his crown of bays, if he had it, would crackle in the fire. It is the odd fate of this thought to be the worse for being true. The bay-leaf crackles remarkably as it burns; as therefore this property was not assigned it by chance, the mind must be thought sufficiently at ease that could attend to such minuteness of physiology. But the power of Cowley is not so much to move the affece ; tions, as to exercise the understanding.
The Chronicle is a composition unrivalled and alone: such gaiety of fancy, such facility of expression, such varied fimilitude, such a succession of images, and such a dance of words, it is in vain to expect except from Cowley. His strength always appears in his agility ; his volatility is not the flutter of a light, but the bound of an elastick mind. His levity never leaves his learning behind it; the mosalift, the politician, and the critick, mingle their influence even in this airy frolick of genius. To such a performance Suckling could have brought the gaiety, but not the knowledge ; Dryden could have fupplied the knowledge, but not the gaiety.
The verses to Davenant, which are vigorously begun, and happily concluded, contain some hints of criticism very justly conceived and happily expressed. Cowley's critical abilities have not been sufficiently observed : the few decisions and remarks, which his prefaces and his notes on the Davideis fupply, were at that time accessions to English literature, and thew such skill as raises our wish for more examples.
The lines from Jersey are a very curious and pleasing specimen of the familiar descending to the burlesque.
His two metrical disquisitions for and against Reafon are no mean specimens of metaphysical poetry. The stanzas against knowledge produce little conviction. In thofe which are intended to exalt the human faculties, Reason has its proper task assigned it; that of judging, not of things revealed, but of the reality of revelation. In the verses for Reason is a partige which Bentley, in the only English verses which he is known to have written, seems to have copied, though with the inferiority of an imitator,
The Holy Book like the eighth sphere doth shine
With thousand lights of truth divine,
It makes all but one galaxy.
So vast and dangerous as these,
Without the compass too below.
After this fay Bentley * :
Who travels in religious jars,
Truth mix'd with error, Thade with rays,
In occean wide or links or strays.
Cowley seems to have had what Milton is believed to have wanted, the skill to rate his own performances by their just value, and has therefore
* Dodíley's Collection of Poems, Vol. V. R.
closed his Miscellanies with the verses upon CraThaw, which apparently excel all that have gone before them, and in which there are beauties' which Çommon authors may justly think not only above their attainment, but above their ambition.
To the Miscellanies succeed the Anacreontiques, or paraphraftical translations of fonie little poems, which pafs, however justly, under the name of Anacreon. Of those fongs dedicated to festivity and gaiety, in which even the morality is voluptuous, and which teach nothing but the enjoyment of the pre• fent day, he has given rather a pleasing than a faith
ful representation, having retained their spriteliness, but lost their fimplicity. The Anacreon of Cowley, like the Homer of Pope, has admitted the decoration of some modern graces, by which he is undoubtedly more amiable to common readers, and perhaps, if they would honestly declare their own perceptions, to far the greater part of those whom courtesy and ignorance are content to style the Learned.
These little pieces will be found more finished in their kind than any other of Cowley's works. The diction fhews nothing of the mould of time, and the sentiments are at no great distance from our present habitudes of thought. Real mirth must always be natural, and nature is uniform. Men have been wise in, very different modes; but they have always laughed the same way.
Levity of thought naturally produced familiarity of language, and the familiar part of language continues long the same; the dialogue of comedy, when it is transcribed from popular inanners and real life, is read from age to age with equal pleasure. The
artifices artifices of inversion, by which the established order of words is changed, or of innovation, by which new words or meanings of words are introduced, is practiled, not by thole who talk to be underltood, but by those who write to be adınired.
The Anacreontiques therefore of Cowley give now all the pleasure which they ever gave. If he was formed by nature for one kind of writing more than for another, his power seems to have been greatest in the familiar and the festive.
The next class of his poems is called The Mistress, of which it is not necessary to select any particular pieces for praise or censure. They have all the same beauties and faults, and nearly in the same proportion. They are written with exuberance of wit, and with copiousness of learning; and it is truly asserted by Sprat, that the plenitude of the writer's knowledge flows in upon his page, so that the reader is commonly surprized into some improvement. But, confidered as the verses of a lorer, no man that has erer loved will niuch comniend them. They are neither courtly nor patheticks have neither gallantry nor fondness. His praises are too far fought, and too hyperbolical, either to express love, or to excite it; every stanza is crowded with darts and flames, with wounds and death, with mingled souls and with broken hearts.
The principal artifice by which The Mistress is filled with conceits is very copiously displayed by Addison. Love is by Cowley, as by other poets, expressed metaphorically by flame and fire; and that which is true of real fire is laid of love, or figurative fire, the same word in the same sentence retaining