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expressions, and to leave curiosity ofteit unsatisfied. What he did not tell, cannot however now be known. I must therefore recommend the perusal of his work, to which my narration can be considered only as a slender fupplement.
COWLEY, like other poets who have written with narrow views, and instead of tracing intellectual pleasure to its natural sources in the mind of inan, paid their court to temporary prejudices, has been at one time too much praised, and too much neglected at another.
Wit, like all other things fubje& by their nature to the choice of man, has its changes and fashions, and at different times takes different forms. About the beginning of the seventeenth century appeared a race of writers that may be. termed the metaphysical poets; of whom, in a criticism on the works of Cowley, the last of the race, it is not improper to give some account. i
The metaphysical poets were men of learning, and to thew their learning was their whole endeavour ; but, une luckily resolving to shew it in rhyme, instead of writing poetry, they only: wrote verses, and very often such verses, as stood the trial of the finger better , than of the ear; for the modulation
was fo imperfect, that they were only found to be verses by counting the fyl.. tables.
If the father of criticism has right-. Iy denominated poetry réxim respunteering
an imitative art, these writers will, without great wrong, lose their right to the name of poets; for they cannot be said to have imitated any thing; they neither copied nature nor life; neither painted the forms of matter, nor represented the operations of intela. lect. . . . * Those however who deny them to be poets, allow them to be wits. Dryden confeffes of himself and his contemporaries, that they fall below Donne
in wit,, but maintains that they surpass him in poetry.
If Wit be well described by Pope, as being “ that which has been often “ thought, but was never before so well • expressed,” they certainly never attained, nor ever fought it; for they endeavoured to be fingular in their thoughts, and were careless of their diction. But Pope's account of wit is undoubtedly erroneous: he depresses it below its natural dignity, and rea. duces it from strength of thought to happiness of language.
If by a more noble, and more adeo quate conception that be considered as Wit, which is at once natural and new, that which, though not obvious, is,
upon its first production, acknowledged to be just; if it be that, which he that never found it, wonders how he missed; to wit of this kind the metaphysical poets have seldom risen. Their thoughts are often new, but seldorn natural; they are not obvious, but neither are they just; and the reader, far from wondering that he missed them, wonders more frequently by what perverseness of industry they were ever found. · But Wit, abstracted from its effects upon the hearer, may be more rigorously and philosophically considered as a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike. Of wit, thus defined, they have