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It is related by Clarendon, that Cowley always acknowledged his obligation to the learning and industry of Jonson, but I have found no traces of Jonson in his works; to emulate Donne appears to have been his purpose; and from Donne he may have learned that familiarity with religious images, and that light allusion to sacred things, by which readers far short of sanctity are frequently offended; and which would not be borne in the present age, when devotion, perhaps not more fervent, is more delicate.
Having produced one passage taken by Cowley from Donne, I will recompense him by another which Milton
seems to have borrowed from him. He, fays of Goliah, His spear, the trunk was of a lofty tree,. Which Nature meant some tall ship's
mast should be.
Milton of Satan,
His diction was in his own time censured as negligent. He seems not to have known, or not to have considered, that words being arbitrary must owe their power to association, and have the influence, and that only, which custom has given them. Language is the dress of thought; and as the noblest mien, or most graceful action, would be degraded and obscured by a garb appropriated to the gross employments of rusticks or mechanicks, so the most heroick sentiments will lose their efficacy, and the most splendid ideas drop their magnificence, if they are conveyed by words used commonly upon low and trivial occasions, debased loy vulgar mouths, and contaminated by inelegant applications. - Truth indeed is always truth, and reason is always reason; they have an intrinfick and unalterable value, and constitute that intellectual gold which defies destruction : but gold may be fo
concealed in baser. matter that only a chymist can recover it, sense may be fo hidden in unrefined and plebeian words that none but philosophers can distinguish it; and both may be so buried in impurities, as not to pay the cost of their extraction.
The diction being the vehicle of the thoughts, first presents itself to the in- -tellectual eye; and if the first ap- pearance offends, a further knowledge is not often fought. Whatever professes. to benefit by pleasing, must please at once. - The pleasures of reason imply something sudden and unexpected; that which elevates must always surprise. What is perceived by flow degrees may gratify us with the consciousness
of improvement, but will never strike with the sense of pleasure. . Of all this, Cowley seems to have been without knowledge, or without care. He makes no selection of words, nor seeks any neatness of phrase: he has no elegancies either lucky or elaborate; as his endeavours were rather to impress sentences upon the understanding than images on the fancy, he has few epithets, and those scattered without peculiar propriety or nice adaptation. It seems to follow from the necessity of the subject, rather than the care of the writer, that the diction of his heroick poem is less familiar than that of his Nightest writings. He has given not the same numbers, but the same diction to