ePub 版
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

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 notice of by all judicious mun, so that it is superfluous to collect them.”

I know not whether he has, in many of these instances, attained the representa, tion 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 in an alexandrine than in ten syllables.

But, not to defraud him of his due praise, he has given one example of repre.. sentative versification, which perhaps no other English line can equal :

Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise:
He, who defers this work from day to day,
Does on a river's bank expecting stay
Till the whole streain that stopp'd him shall be gone,
Which runs, and, as it runs, for ever shall run on.

Cowley was, I believe, the first poet 'that mingled alexandrines at pleasure with the common heroic of ten syllables; and from himn Dryden borrowed the practice, whether ornamental or licentious. He 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 cou. 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 because 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 affirmed, 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.

[ocr errors]






HOC tibi de nato, ditissima mater, egeno Detque Deus doctå posse quiete frui !

Exiguum iminensi pignus amoris habe. Qualis erain, cum me tranquillâ mente sedentem Heu, mcliora tibi depromere dona volentes

Vidisti in ripa, Came serene, tua ; Astringit gratas parcior arca manus.

Mulcentem audisti puerili flumina cantu ; Túne tui poteris vocem hic agnoscere nati

Ille quidem immerito, sed tibi gratus erat. Tam malè formatam, dissimilemque tuæ ? Nam, memini ripä сum tu dignatus utrâque, Túne hìc materni vestigia sacra decoris,

Dignatum est totuin verba referre nemus. Tu speculum poteris hic reperire tuum?

Tunc liquidis tacitisque simul mea vita diebus, Post longuun, dices, Coulëi, sic mihi tempus ? Et similis vestræ candida fluxit aquæ.

Sic mihi speranti, pertide, multa redis? At nunc cænosæ luces, atque obice multo Quæ, dices, Saga Lemurésque Deeque, nocentes, Ruinpitur ætatis turbidus ordo meæ. [unda ? Hunc mihi in infantis supposuêre loco ?

Quid mihi Sequanâ opus, Tamesisve ant Thybridis At tu, sancta parens, crudelis tu quoque, nati Tu potis es nostram tollere, Came, sitim. Ne tractes dextrâ vulnera cruda rudi.

Pelix, qui nunquam plus uno viderit amne! Hei mihi, quid fato genetrix accedis iniquo

Quique eadem Salicis littora more colit! Sit sors, sed non sis, ipsa, noverca mihi. Felix, qui non tentatus sordescere inundus, Si mihi natali Musarum adolescere in arvo,

Et cui pauperies nota nitere potest ; Si benè dilecto luxuriare solo,

Tempore cui nullo misera experientia constat. Si mihi de doctâ licuisset pleniùs undâ

Ut res humanas sentiat esse nihil! Haurire, ingentem si satiare sitim,

At nos exemplis fortuna instruxit opimis, Non ego degeneri dubitabilis ore redirein,

Et documentorum satque supérque dedit. Nec legeres nomen fusa rubore memn.

Cum capite avulsum diadema, infractáque sceptra. Scis benè, scis quæ me tempestas publica mundi Contusásque hominum sorte minante minas, Raptatrix vestro sustulit è gremio,

Parcarum ludos, & non tractabile fatum, Nec pede adhuc firmo, nec firmo dente, negati Et versas fundo vidimus orbis opes,

Poscentein querulo murinu e lactis opein. Quis poterit fragilem post talia credere puppim Sic quondam, aëriun vento bellante per equor, Infami scopulis naufragiisque mari ?

Cum gravidum autumnum sæva flagellat hyems, Tu quoque in hoc terræ tremuisti, Academia, motu, Immatura suâ velluntur ab arbore poma,

(Nec frustrà) atque ædes contremuêre tuæ : Et vi victa cadunt; arbor & ipsa geinit.

Contremuere ipsæ pacatæ Palladis arces; Nonlum succus inest terræ generosus avitæ,

Et timuit fulmen laurea sancta novum. Nondum Sol roseo redditur ore Pater.

Ah quanquam iratum, pestein hanc averterenumen, O mihi jucundum Grantæ super omnia nomen! Nec saltem bellis ista licere, velit ! O penitùs toto corde receptus ainor!

Nos, tua progenies, percamus ; & ecce, perimus ! O pulchræ sine luxu xedes, vitæque beatæ,

In nos jus habeat : jus habet omne malum. Splendida paupertas, ingenuùsque decor ! Tu stabilis brevium genus immortale nepotum O chara ante alias, magnorum noinine reguin Fundes; nec tibi mors ipsa superstes erit : Digna domnus! Trini nomine digna Dei !

Semper plena manens uteri de fonte perenni O nimium Cereris cumulati munere campi,

Formosas mittes ad mare mortis aquas. Posthabitis Ennæ quos colit illa jugis !

Sic Venus humanâ quondam, Dea saucia dextrâ, O sacri fontes ! & sacræ vatibus umbræ,

(Namque solent ipsis bella nocere Deis) Quas recreant avium Pieridúmque chori! Imploravitopem superûm, questúsque cievit, O Camus! Phoebo nullus quo gratior amnis! Tinxit adorandus candida membra croor. Amnibns atriferis invidiosus inops !

Quid quereris ? conteinne breves secura dolores : Ah mibi si vestræ reddat bona gaudia sedis, Nam tibi ferre necem vulnera nulla valent.

[blocks in formation]

At my return lately into England", I met by 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 does 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 thum. It was in vain for me, that I avoided censure hy the concealment of my own writings, if my reputa i n could be thus executed in effigie; and impossible it is for any good name to be in safety, fihe 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 things 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 puet 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 hasty first-sitting of a picture, and therefore like to resemble me 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 counterfeit pieces, like false money put in to fill up the bag, though it add nothing to the sum ; or wit

! In 1656.

guch, which, though of their own coin, they would have called in themselves, for the baseness of the allay: whether this proceed from the indiscretion of their friends, who think a vast heap of stones or rubbish a better monument than a little tomb of marble ; or by the unworthy avarice of some stationers, who are content to diminish the valne of the author, so they may increase the price of the book ; and, like vintners, with sophisticate mixtures, spoil the whole vessel of wine, to make it yield more profit. This has been the case with Shakespeare, Fletcher, Jonson, and many others; part of whose poems I should take the boldness to prune and lop away, if the care of replanting them in print did belong to me: neither would I make any scruple to cut oli from some the unnecessary young suckers, and from others the old withered branches ; for a great wit is no more tied to live in a vast volume, than in a gigantic body ; on the contrary, it is commonly more vigorous, the less space it animates. And, as Statius says of little 'Tydeus”,

-Totos infusa per artus
Major in exiguo regnabat corpore virtus.

I am not ignorant, that by saying this of others, I expose myself to some raillery, for not using the same severe dis 'retion in my own case, where it concerns ine nearer : but though I publish here more than in strict wisdom I ought to have done, yet I have supprest and cast away more than I publish; and, for the ease of myself and others, have lost, I believe too, more than both. And upon these considerations I have been persuaded to overcome all the just repugnancies of my own modesty, and to produce these poems to the light and view of the world; not as a thing that I approved of in itself, but as a less evil, which I chose rather than to stay till it were done for me by some body else, either surreptitiously before, or avowedly after, my death: and this will be the more excusable, when the reader shall know in what respects he may look upon me as a dead, or at least a dying person, and upon my muse in this action, as appearing, like the emperor Charles the Fifth, and assisting at her own funeral.

For, to make myself absolutely dead in a poetical capacity, my resolution at present is, never to exercise any more that faculty. It is, I confess, but seldom seen, that the poet dies before the man; for, when we once fall in love with that bewitching art, we do not use to court it as a mistress, but marry it as a wife, and take it for better or worse, as an inseparable companion of our whole life. But, as the marriages of infants do but rarely prosper, so no man ought to wonder at the diminution or decay of my affection to poesy; to which I had contracted myself so much under age, and so much to my own prejudice in regard of those more profitable matches, which I might have made among the richer sciences. As for the portion which this brings of fame, it is an estate (if it be any, for men are not oftener deceived in their hopes of widows, than in th« ir opinion of exegi monumentum ære perennius) that hardly ever comes in whilst we are living to enjoy it, but is a fantastical kind of reversion to our own-selves: neither ought any man to envy poets this posthumous and imaginary happiness, since they find commonly so little in present, that it may be truly applied to them, which St. Paul speaks of the first Christians, “ If their reward be in this life, they are of all men the most miserable.”

And, if in quiet and Aourishing times they meet with so small encouragement, what are they to expect in rough and troubled ones? If wit be such a plant, that it scarce receives heat enough to preserve it alive even in the summer of our cold climate, how can it choose but witherin a long and a sharp winter? A war, like, various, and a tragical age is best to write of, but worst to write in. And I may, though in a very unequal proportion, assume that to myself, which was spoken by Tully to a much better person, upon occasion of the civil wars and revolutions in his time: Sed in te intuens, Brute, doleo: cujus in adolescentiam, per medias laudes, quasi quadrigis vehentem, transversa incurrit misera fortuna reipublicæ.3

Neither is the present constitution of my mind more proper than that of the times for this exercise, or rather divertisement. There is nothing that requires so much serenity and chearfulness of spirit; it must not be either overwhelmed with the cares of life, or overcast with the clouds of melancholy and sorrow, or shaken and disturbed by the storms of injurious fortune; it must, like the halcyon, have fair weather to breed in. The soul must be filled with bright and delightful ideas, when it undertakes to communicate delight to others; which is the main end of poesy. One may see through the style of Ovid

[blocks in formation]
« 上一頁繼續 »