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That prayer and labour should co-operate, is thus laught by Donne:
In none but us are such nix'd engines four.d,
By the same author, a common topic, the danger of procrastination, is thus illustrated :
That which I should have begun
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 imes:
Think, in how poor a prison thou didst lie;
Think thy shell broke, think thy soul hatch'd but now. They were sometimes indelicate and disgusting. Cowley thus apostrophises beauty :
Thou tyrant, which leav'st no man free!
Thou who, in many a propriety,
Thus he represents the meditations of a lover:
Though, in thy thoughts, scarce any tracts have been
Thou, with strange adultery,
Awake, all men do lust for thee,
The true taste of tears.
And take my tears, which are love's wine,
This is yet more indelicate:
As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
Their expressions sometimes raise horror, 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 :
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:
The love within too strong for't was,
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 ;
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 shews an unequalled fertility of invention :
Hope, whose weak being ruin'd is,
Alike if it succeed and if it miss ;
Vain shadow! which dost vanish quite,
The stars have not a possibility
Of blessing thee:
Hope, thou bold taster of delight,
Good fortunes without gain imported be,
To the following comparison, of a man that travels and his wife that stays at home, with a pair of compasses,
it may be doubted whether absurdity or ingenuity has better claim:
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
As stiff twin compasses are two;
To move, but doth if th’ other do.
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
And grows erect as that comes home.
Like th' other foot obliquely run.
In all these examples it is apparent, that whatever is improper or vicious is produced by a voluntary deviation from nature in pursuit of something new and strange; and that the writers fail to give delight by their desire of exciting admiration.
Having thus endeavoured to exhibit a general represen, tation of the style and sentiments of the metaphysical poet!, it is now proper to examine particularly the works of Cowley, who was almost the last of that race, and undoubtedly the best.
His Miscellanies contain a collection of short compositions, some written as they were dictated by a mind at leie sure, and some as they were called forth by different occasions ; -with great variety of style and sentiment, from burlesque levity to awful grandeur. Such an assemblage of diversified excellence no other poet has hitherto afforded. To choose the best, among many good, is one of the most hazardous attempts of criticism. know not whether Scaliger himself has persuaded many readers to join with him in his preference of the two favourite odes, which he estimates, in his raptures, at the value of a kingdom. I will, however, venture to recommend Cowley's first piece, which ought to be inscribed To my Muse, for want of which the second couplet is without reference. When the title is added, there will still remain a defect; for every piece ought to contain in itself whatever is necessary to make it intelligible. Pope has some epitaphs without names; which
efore epitaphs to be let, occupied indeed for the present, but hardly appropriated.
The ode on wit is almost without a rival. It was about the time of Cowley that wit, which had been till then used for intellection, in contradistinction to will, took the meaning, whatever it be, which it now bears.
Of all the passages in which poets have exemplified their own precepts, none will easily be found of greater excellence than that in which Cowley condemns exuberance of wit:
Yet 'tis not to adorn and gild cach part;
That shews more cost than art.
If there he nothing else between.
In his verses to lord Falkland, whom every man of his time was proud to praise, there are, as there must be in all Cowley's compositions, some striking thoughts, but they are not well wrought. His elegy on sir Henry Wotton is vigorous and happy; the series of thoughts is easy and