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Upon a paper written with the juice of lemon, and read by the fire :
Nothing yet in thee is seen,
But when a genial heat warms thee within,
A new-born wood of various lines there grows;
Here buds an L, and there a B,
Here spouts a V, and there a T,
And all the flourishing letters stand in rows.
As they sought only for novelty, they did not much inquire whether their allusions were to things high or low, elegant or gross; whether they compared the little to the great, or the great to the little.
Physic and Chirurgery for a Lover.
Gently, ah gently, madam, touch
The wound, which you yourself have made;
That pain must needs be very much,
Which makes me of your hand afraid,
Cordials of pity give me now,
For I too weak of purgings grow.
The World and a Clock.
Mahol th' inferior world's fantastic face
Through all the turns of matter's maze did trace;
Great Nature's well-set clock in pieces took ;
On all the springs and smallest wheels did look
Of life and motion, and with equal art
Made up the whole again of every part.
A coal-pit has not often found its poet: but, that it may not want its due honour,
Cleiveland has paralleled it with the Sun :
The moderate value of our guiltless ore
Makes no man atheist, and no woman whore;
Yet why should hallow'd vestal's sacred shrine
Deserve more honour than a flaming mine?
These pregnant wombs of heat would fitter be,
Than a few embers, for a deity.
Had he our pits, the Persian would admire
No sun, but warm's devotion at our fire:
He'd leave the trotting whipster, and prefer
Our profound Vulcan 'bove that waggoner. ,
For wants he heat, or light? or would have store,
Or both? 'tis here: and what can suns give more?
Nay, what's the Sun, but, in a different name,
A coal-pit rampant, or a mine on flame!
Then let this truth reciprocally run,
The Sun's Heaven's coalery, and coals our sun.
Death, a Voyage:
E’er rigg'd a soul for Heaven's discovery,
With whom more venturers might boldly dare
Venture their stakes, with him in joy to share.
Their thoughts and expressions were sometimes grossly absurd, and such as no figure or licence can reconcile to the understanding.
A Lover neither dead nor alive :
Then down I laid my head
Down on cold earth; and for a while was dead,
And my freed soul to a strange somewhere fled;
Ah, sottish soul, said I,
When back to its cage again I saw it Ay;
Fool to resume her broken chain,
And row her galley here again!
Fool, to that body to return
Where it c yndemn'd and de tin'd is to burn!
The poetical propagation of Light:
The prince's favour is diffus'd o'er all,
From which all fortunes, names, and natures fall :
Then from those wombs of stars, the bride's bright eyes,
At every glance a constellation flies,
And sowes the court with stars, and doth prevent,
In light and power, the all-ey'd firmament :
First her eye kindles other ladies' eyes,
Then from their beams their jewels lustres rise :
And from their jewels torches do take fire,
And all is warmth, and light, and good desire.
They were in
very little care to clothe their notions with elegance of dress, and therefore miss the notice and the praise which are often gained by those who think less, but are more diligent to adorn their thoughts.
That a Mistress beloved is fairer in idea than in reality, is by Cowley thus expressed :
Thou in my fancy dost much higher stand,
Than woman can be plac'd by Nature's hand;
And I must needs, I'm sure, a loser be,
To change thee as thou’rt there, for very thee.
That prayer and labour should co-operate, are thus taught by Donne:
In none but us are such mix'd engines found,
As hands of double office; for the ground
We till with them; and them to Heaven we raise; .
Who prayerless labours, or, without this, prays,
Doth but one half, that's none.
By the same author, a common topic, the danger of procrastination, is thus illustrated:
That which I should have begun
In my youth's morning, now late must be done ;
And I, as giddy travellers must do,
Which stray or sleep all day, and having lost
Light and strength, dark and tir'd, must then ride post
All that man has to do is to live and die ; the sum of humanity is comprehended by Donne in the following lines:
Think in how poor a prison thou didst lie ;
After, enabled but to suck and cry.
Think, when 'twas grown to most, '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 sicknesses, or their true mother, age.
But think that death hath now en franchis'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 lear'st no man free!
Thou subtle thief, from whom nought safe can be!
Thou murtherer, which hast 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 am sure you can,
And let me and my Sun beget a man.
Thus he represents the meditations of a Lover:
Though in thy thoughts scarce any tracts have been
So much as of original sin,
Such charms thy beauty wears, as might
Desires in dying confest saints excite.
Thou with strange adultery
Dost in each breast a brothel keep;
Awake, all men do lust for thee,
And some enjoy thee when they sleep.
This is yet more indelicate :
As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
As that which from chafd musk-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 sweet drops, but pearl coronets:
Rank, sweaty froth thy mistress' brow defiles.
Their expressions sometimes raise horrour, when they intend perhaps to be pathetic.
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.
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 something would have spoke;
The love within too strong for 't was,
Like poison put into a Venice-glass.
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, sleeps; when the condemned man,
Who, when he opes his eyes, must shut them then
Again by death, although sad watch he keep,
Doth practise dying by a little sleep;
'Thou at this midnight seest me. It must be however confessed of these writers, that if they are upon common subjects often unnecessarily and unpoetically subtle; yet, where scholastic speculation can be properly admitted, their copiousness and acuteness may justly be admired. What Cowley has written upon Hope shows 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 dilemma wound;
Vain shadow! which dost vanish quite,
Both at full noon and perfect night!
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'st us an estate, yet leav'st us poor,
By clogging it with legacies before !