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mity of sentiment, which enables us to conceive and to excite the pains and the pleasure of other minds; they never enquired what, on any occasion, they should have said or done; but wrote rather as beholders than partakers of human nature, as bem ngs looking upon good and evil, impassive and at leisure, as Epicurean deities, making remarks on the actions of men, and the vicissitudes of life, without interest and without emotion. Their courtship was void of fondness, and their lamentation of sorrow. Their wish was only to say what they hoped had never been said before.

Nor was the sublime more within their reach than the pathetic; for they never attempted that comprehension and expanse of thought, which at once fills the whole mind, and of which the first effect is sudden astonishment, and the second rational admiration. Sublimity is produced by aggregation, and littleness by dispersion. Great thoughts are always general, and consist in positions not limited by exceptions, and in descriptions not descending to minuteness.' It is with great propriety that subtlety, which in its original import means exility of particles, is taken in its metaphorical meaning for nicety of distinction. Those writers, who lay on the watch for novelty, could have little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former observation. Their attempts were always analytic; they broke every image into fragments, and could no more represent, by their slender conceits and Jaboured particularities, the prospects of nature, or the scenes of life, than he, who dissects a sun-beam with a prism, can exhibit the wide effulgence of a summer noon.

What they wanted however of the sublime, they endeavoured to supply by hy, perbole; their amplification had no limits; they left not only reason but fancy be. • hind them, and produced combinations of confused magnificence, that not only could not be credited, but could not be imagined.

Yet great labour, directed by great abilities, is never wholly lost: if they fre. quently threw away their wit upon false conceits, they likewise sometimes struck out unexpected truth: if their conceits were far-fetched, they were often worth the carriage. To write on their plan it was at least necessary to read and think. No man could be born a metaphysical poet, nor assume the dignity of a writer, by de. scriptions copied from descriptions, by imitations borrowed from imitations, by traditional imagery, and hereditary similes, by readiness of rhyme, and volubility of syllables.

In perusing the works of this race of authors, the mind is exercised either by re. collection or inquiry: either something already learned is to be retrieved, or something new is to be examined. If their greatness seldom elevates, their acuteness often surprises; if the imagination is not always gratified, at least the powers of reflection and comparison are employed; and in the mass of materials which ingenious absurdity has thrown together, genuine wit and useful knowledge may be sometimes found buried perhaps in grossness of expression, but useful to those who know their value, and such as, when they are expanded to perspicuity, and polished to ele. gance, may give lustre to works, which have more propriety, though less copiousness, of sentiment.

This kind of writing, which was, I believe, borrowed from Marino and his fol. lowers, had been recommended by the example of Donne, a man of very extensive and various knowledge; and by Jonson, whose manner resembled that of Donne more in the ruggedness of his lines, than in the cast of his sentiments.

When their reputation was high, they had undoubtedly more imitators than time has left behind. Their immediate successors, of whom any remembrance can be said to remain, were Suckling, Waller, Denham, Cowley, Cleiveland, and Milton. Denham and Waller sought another way to fame, by improving the harmony of our numbers. Milton tried the metaphysic style only in his lines upon Hobson the carrier. Cowley adopted it, and excelled his predecessors, having as much sentiment and more music. Suckling neither improved versification, nor abounded in conceits. The fashionable style remained chiefly with Cowley ; Suckling could not reach it, and Milton disdained it.

CRITICAL remarks are not easily understood without examples; and I hare therefore collected instances of the modes of writing by which this species of pocts (for poets they were called by themselves and their admirers) was eminently distinguished.

As the authors of this race were perhaps more desirous of being admired than understood, they sometimes drew their conceits from recesses of learning not very much frequented by common readers of poetry. Thus Cowley on Knowledge.

The sacred tree 'midst the fair orchard grew,

The phænix Truth did on it rest,

And built his perfum'd nest :
That right Porphyrian tree, which did true logic shew.

Each leaf did learned notions give,

And th' apples were demonstrative:
So clear their colour and divine,
The very shade they cast did other lights outshine.

On Anacreon continuing a lover in his old age.

Love was with thy life entwin'd,
Close as heat with fire is join'd;
A pow'rful brand prescrib'd the date
Of thine, like Meleager's fate.
Th’ antiperistasis of age
More enflam'd thy amorous rage.

In the following verses we have an allusion to a rabbinical opinion concerning


Variety I ask not: give me one
To live perpetually upon.
The person, Love does to us fit,
Like manna, has the taste of all in it.

Thus Donne shows his medicinal knowledge in some encomiastic verses.

In every thing there naturally grows
A balsamum, to keep it fresh and new,

If 'twere not injur'd by extrinsique blows
Your youth and beauty are this balm in you.

But you, of learning and religion,
And virtue and such engredients, have made

A mithridate, whose operation
Keeps off, or cures what can be done or said.

Though the following lines of Donne, on the last night of the year, have something in them too scholastic, they are not inelegant.

This twilight of two years, not past nor next,

Some emblem is of me, or I of this,
Who, meteor-like, of stuff and form perplext,

Whose what and where in disputation is,

If I should call me any thing, should miss.
I sum the years and me, and find me not

Debtor to th' old, nor creditor to th' new.
That cannot say, my thanks I have forgot,

Nor trust I this witla 110pes; and yet scarce true
This bravery is, since these times show'd me you.

Yet more abstruse and profound is Donne's reflection upon man as a microcosm.

If men be worlds, there is in every one
Something to answer in some proportion
All the world's riches : and in good men, this
Virtue, our form's form, and our soul's soul, is.

Of thoughts so far-fetched, as to be not only unexpected, but unnatural, all their books are full.

To a Lady who made Posies for Rings.
They, who above do various circles find,
Say, like a th' equator Heaven does bind.
When Heaven shall be adorn’d by thee,
(Which then more Heaven than 'tis will be)
'Tis thou must write the posy there,

For it wanteth one as yet,
Though the Sun pass through't twice a year,
The Sun which is esteem'd the god of wit.


The difficulties, which have been raised about identity in philosophy, are by Cowley with still more perplexity applied to love.

Five years ago (says Story) I lov'd you,
For which you call me most inconstant now.
Pardon me, madam, you mistake the man,
For I am not the same that I was then;
No flesh is now the same 'twas then in me,
And that my mind is chang'd yourself may see.
The same thoughts to retain still, and intents,
Were more inconstant far: for accidents
Must of all things most strangely inconstant prove,
If from one subject they t'another move;
My members then the father members were,
From whence these take their birth which now are here.
If then this body love what th’other did,
'Twere incest, which by Nature is forbid.

The love of different women is, in geographical poetry, compared to travels through different countries,

Hast thou not found each woman's breast
(The land where thou hast travelled)
Either by savages possest,

Or wild, and uninhabited ?
What joy could'st take, or what repose,
In countries so unciviliz'd as those ?
Lust, the scorching dog-star, here

Rages with immoderate heat;
Whilst Pride, the rugged northern bear,

In others makes the cold too great.
And where these are temperste known,
The soil's all barren sand, or rocky stouo.


A lover, burnt up by his affection, is compared to Egypt.

The fate of Egypt I sustain,

And never feel the dew of rain
From clouds which in the head appear ;

But all my too much moisture owe
To overflowings of the heart below.


The lover supposes his lady acquainted with the ancient laws of augury and rites of sacrifice.

And yet this death of mine, I fear,
Will ominous to her appear:
When, sound in every other part,
Her sacrifice is found without an heart.
For the last tempest of my death
Shall sigh out that too, with my breath.

That the chaos was harmonised, has been recited of old; but whence the different sounds arose remained for a modern to discover.

Th' ungovern'd parts no correspondence knew,
An artless war from thwarting motions grew,
Till they to number and fixt rules were brought.
Water and air he for the tenor chose,
Earth made the base, the treble flame arose.


The tears of lovers are always of great poetical account; but Donne has es. tended them into worlds. If the lines are not easily understood, they may be read again.

On a round ball
A workman, that hath copies by, can lay

An Europe, Afric, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, all:

So doth each tear,

Which thee doth wear,
A globe, yea world, by that impression grow,
Till thy tears, mixt with mine, do overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee my heaven dissolved so,

On reading the following lines, the reader may perhaps cry out-Confusion worse confounded.

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Who but Donne would have thought, that a good man is a telescope ?

Though God be our true glass, through which we see
All, since the being of all things is he ;
Yet are the trunks, which do to us derive
Things in proportion, fit by perspective,
Deeds of good men ; for by their living here,
Virtues, indeed remote, seem to be near.

Who would imagine it possible, that in a very few lines so many remote ideas could be brought together?

Since 'tis my doom, Love's undershrieve,

Why this reprieve?
Why doth my she Advowson fly

To sell thyself dost thou intend

By candle's end,
And hold the contrast thuis in doubt,

Life's taper out?
Think but how soon the market fails,
Your sex lives faster than the males ;
And if to measure age's span,
The sober Julian were th' account of man,
Whilst you live by the fleet Gregorian.


Of enormous and disgusting hyperboles, these may be examples :

By every wind that comes this way,

Send me at least a sigh or two,
Such and so many I'll repay
As shall themselves make winds to get to you.


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