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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,
Not to enjoy, but debts to pay!
Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell!
Unhappy till the last, the kind releasing knell. His heroic lines are often formed of monosyllables ; but yet they are sumcímics sweet and sonorous,
He says of the Messiah,
Round the whole Earth his dreaded name shall sound,
In another place, of David,
Yet bid him go securcly, when he sends;
Yet amidst his negligence he sometimes attempted an improred and scientific reso sification; of which will be best to give his own account subjoined to this dine:
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 negligence that this verse is so loose, long, and, as it were, vast; it is to paint in the number the nature of the thing wirich it describes, which I would have observed in divers other places of this poem, that clse will pass for very careles, verses: as before,
« In the third,
Brass was his helmet, his boots brass, and o'er
« In the fourth,
Like some fair pine o'er-looking all th' ignobler wood.
Some from the rocks cast themselves doren headlong.
And many more: but it is enough to instance in a few. The thing is, that the dis. position 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 colunt severiores) sometimes did it; and their prince, Virgil, always: in whom the examples are innumerable, and taken Botice of by all judicious man, so that it is superfluous to collect them.”
I know not whether 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 í an alexandrine than in ten syllables.
But, not to defraud him of his dwe praise, he has given one example of repre. sentative versification, which perhaps no other English line can equal:
Begin, be bold, and venturç to be wise:
Cowley was, I believe, the first poet that mingled alexandrines at pleasure with the common heroic of ten syllables; and from him Dryden borrowed the practice, whether ornamental or licentious. Jle considered the verse of twelve syllables as elevated and majestic, 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 coul. plets, because he discovered that any staff was too lyrical for an heroic 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 be.
cause all that can be done by a broken verse, a line intersected by a cæsura, and a full stop, will equally effect.
Oftriplets 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 excellence 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 equa. bility, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far-sought, or hard-laboured: but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness.
It has been observed by Felton, in his Essay on the Classics, 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 aflirmed, without any encomiastic fervour, that he brought to his po. etic 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 Jeft likewise from time to time such specimens of excellence, as enabled succeeding poets to improve it.
HC tibi de nato, ditissima mater, egeno Detque Deus doctâ posse quiete frui !
Exiguum immensi pignus amoris habe. Qualis eram, cum me tranquilla inente sedentein Hey, meliora tibi depromere dona volentes
Vidisti in ripa, Came serene, tuâ; Astringit gratas parcior arca manus.
Mulcentem audisti puerili flumina cantu; Túce tui poteris vocem bic agnoscere nati
Hie quidem immerito, sed tibi gratus erat.
Dignatum est totum verba referre nemus.
Sic mihi speranti, per fide, inulta redis? At nunc cenosæ luces, atque obice multo
Quid mihi Sequanå opus, Tamesisve aut Thybridis
Felix, qui nunquam plus uno viderit amne!
Quique eadem Salicis littora more colit! Sit sors, scl non sis, ipsa, noverca mihi. Felix, qui non tentatus sordescere mundus, Si mihi natali Musarum adolescere in arvo,
Et cui pauperies nota nitere potest; Si benè dilecto luxuria e solo,
Tempore cui nullo misera experientia constat. Si mibi de doctâ licuisset pleniùs unda
Ut res humanas sentiat esse nihil! Haurire, ingentein si satiare sitim,
At nos exemplis fortuna instruxit opimis, Non eso degeneri dubitabilis ure redirem,
Et documentorum satque supérque dedit. Verhyeres nomen fusa rubre meum.
Cum capite avulsum diaderna, intractaque scept:a, Sess benè, scis quæ me tempestas publica mundi Contusásque hominum sorte minante ninas, Raptatrix vestro sustulit e gremio,
Parcarum lulos, & non tractabile fatum, See pede adhuc firmo per firino dente, negati Et versas fundo vidimus orbis opes.
Poscentein querulo nurmure lactis opem. Quis poterit fragilem post talia credere puppim
Cain gravidum autumnnm srva flagellat hyems, Tu quoque in hoc terræ tremuisti, Academia, motu,
(Nec frustrà) atque ædes contremuêre tuæ : Et vi yicta cadunt; arbur & ipsa gemit. Contremuêre ipsæ pacatæ Palladis arces ; Yoplum succus inest terræ generosus avitæ,
Et timuit fulmen laurea sancta novum.
Ah quanquam iratum, pestem hanc avertere numen,
Nos, tua progenies, pereamus ; & ecce, perimus!
In nos jus habeat : jus habet omne malum. Splendida paupertas, ingenuusque decor ! Tu stabilis brevium genus immortale nepotum O chara ante alias, magnorum noinine regum Fundes; nec tibi mors ipsa superstes erit : Digna domus ! Trini nomine digna Dei !
Semper plena manens uteri de fonte perenni O nimium Cereris cum lati munere campi,
Formosas mittes ad mare mortis aquas. Posthabkis Enne quos colit illa jugis !
Sic Venus humanâ quondam, Dea saucia dextra, O sacri fontes! & sacra vatibus umbræ,
(Namque solent ipsis bella nocere Deis) Quas recreant avium Pieridúmque chori! Imploravit opem superûm, questúsque cierit, O Camus ! Phæbo mullus quo gratior amnis! Tinxit adorandas candida inembra cruor. Amnibus auriferis invidiosus inops !
Quid quereris? contemne breves secura dulores: A5 nili si vestræ reddat buna gaudia sedis, Nam tibi ferre necein vulnera nulla valent.
TO IIS EDITION IN FOL10,
At my return lately into England", I met bự great accident (for such I account it to be, that any copy of it should be extant any where so long, unless at his house who printed it) a book entituled The Iron Age, and published under my name, during the time of my absence. I wondered very much how one who could be so foolish to write so ill verses, should yet be so wise to set them forth as another man's rather than his own; though perhaps he might have made a better choice, and not fathered the bastard upon such a person, whose stock of reputation is, I fear, little enough for maintenance of his own numerous legitimate offspring of that kind. It would have been much less injurious, if it had pleased the author to put forth some of my writings under his own name, rather than his own under mine: he had been in that a more pardonable plagiary, and had done less wrong by robbery, than he docs by such a bounty; for nobody can be justified by the imputation even of another's merit; and our own coarse clothes are like to become us better than those of another man, though never so rich : but these, to say the truth, were so beggarly, that I myself was ashamed to wear them. It was in vain for me, that I avoided censure hy the concealment of my own writings, if m; reputa ion could be thus cxecuted in efigie; and impossible it is for any good name to be in safety, if the malice of witches have the power to consume and destroy it in an image of their own making. This indeed was so ill made, and so unlike, that I hope the charm took no effect. So that I esteem my e f less prejudiced by it, than by that which has been done to me since, almost in the same kind; which is, the publication of some thiygs of mine without my consent or knowledge, and those so mangled and imperfect, that I could neither with honour acknowledge, nor with honesty quite disavow them.
Of which sort, was a comedy called The Guardian, printed in the year 1650 ; but made and acted before the prince, in his passage through Cambridge towards York, at the beginning of the late unhappy war; or rather neither made nor acted, but rough-drawn only, and repeated ; for the haste was so great, that it could neither be revised or perfected by the author, nor learned without book by the actors, nor set forth in any measure tolerably by the officers of the college. After the representation (which, I confess, was somewhat of the latest) I began to look it over, and changed it very much, striking out some whole parts, as that of the poet and the soldier ; but I have lost the copy, and dare not think it deserves the pains to write it again, which makes me omit it in this publication, though there be some things in it which I am not ashamed of, taking the excuse of my age and small experience in human conversation when I made it. But, as it is, it is only the nasty first-sitting of a picture, and therefore like to resemble mc accordingly.
From this which has happened to myself, I began to reflect on the fortune of almost all writers, and especially poets, whose works (commonly printed after their deaths) we find stuffed out, either with punaterfeit pieces, like false money put in to fill up the bag, though it add nothing to the sum ; or wit