« AnteriorContinuar »
baptize it in Jordan, for it will never become clean by bathing in the water of Da. mascus. There wants (methinks, but the conversion of that, and the Jews, for the accomplishment of the kingdom of Christ. And as men, before their receiving of the faith, do not without some carnal reluctancies apprehend the bonds and fetters of it, but find it afterwards to be the trueft and greatest liberty: it will fare no otherwise with this art, after the regeneration of it; it will meet with wonderful variety of new, more beautiful, and more delightful objects; neither will it want room, by being confined to heaven.
There is not fo great a lye to be found in any poet, as the vulgar conceit of men, that lying is essential to good poetry. Were there never so wholesome nourishment to be had.(but ala's ! it breeds nothing but diseases) out of these boasted feasts of love and fables; yet, methinks, the unalterable continuance of the diet should make us nauseate it: for it is almost impossible to serve up any new dish of that kind. They are all but the cold-meats of the ancients, new-heated, and new set forth. I do not at all wonder that the old poets made some rich crops out of these grounds; the heart of the soil was not then wrought out with continual tillage: but what can we expect now, who come a gleaning, not after the first reapers, but after the very beggars ? Besides, though those mad stories of the gods and heroes seem in themselves so ridiculous ; yet they were then the whole body (or rather chaos) of the theology of those times. They were believed by all, but a few philosophers, and perhaps fome atheists; and served to good purpose among the vulgar (as pitiful things as they are), in strengthening the authority of law with the terrors of conscience, and expectation of certain rewards and unavoidable punishments. There was no other religion; and therefore that was better than none at all. But to us, who have no need of them; to us, who deride their folly, and are wcaried with their impertinencies; they ought to appear no better, arguments for verse, than those of their worthy fucceffors, the knights-errant. What can we imagine more proper for the ornaments of wit or learning in the story of Deucalion than in that of Noah? Why will not the actions of Sampson afford as plentiful matter as the labours of Hercules? Why is not Jeptha's daughter as good a woman as Iphigenia ? and the friendship of David and Jonathan more worthy celebration than that of Theseus and Pirithous? Does not the passage of Moses and the Israelites into the Holy Land yield incomparably more poetical varicty than the voyages of Ulyffes or Æneas? Are the obsolete thread-bare tales of Thebes and Troy half so stored with great, heroical, and supernatural actions (fince verse will needs find or make such), as the wars of Joshua, of the Judges, of David, and divers others? Can all the transformations of the gods give such copious hints to fourish and expatiate on, as the true miracles of Christ, or of his prophets and apostles? What do I initance in these few particulars ? All the books of the Bible are either already most admirable and exalted pieces of poesy, or are the best materials in the world for it.
Yet, though they be in themselves so proper to be made use of for this purpose ; none but a good artist will know how to do it: neither must we think to cut and polish diamonds with so little pains and skill as we do marble. For, if any man design to compose a sacred poem, by only turning a story of the Scripture, like Mr. Quarles's, or some other godly matter, like Mr. Heywood of angels, into rhyme; he is so far from elevating of poesy, that he only abases divinity. In brief, he who can write a prophane poem well, may write a divine one better ; but he who can do that but ill, will do this much worse. The same fertility of invention; the same wisdom of disposition ; the same judgment in observance of decencies; the same lustre and vigour of elocution ; the fame modesty and majesty of number ; briefly, the same kind of habit, is required to both : only this latter allows better stuff; and therefore would look more deformedly, ill drest in it. I am far from assuming to myself to have fulfilled the duty of this weighty undertaking: but sure I am, there is nothing yet in our language (nor perhaps in any ) that is in any degree answerable to the idea that I conceive of it. And I shall be am. bitious of no other fruit from this weak and imperfe& attempt of mine, but the opening of a way to the courage and industry of some other persons, who may be better able to perform it thoroughly and successfully.
THE BOOKSELLERS ADVERTISEMENT
THE EDITION OF 1674.
HE following Poems of Mr. Cowley being much enquired after, and very scarce
(the Town hardly affording one Book, though it hath been four times printed) we thought this fifth edition could not fail of being well received by the world. We presume one reason why they were omitted in the last collection, was, because the propriety of this copy belonged not to the same person that published those : but the reception they had found appears by the several impressions through which they had passed. We dare not say they are equally perfect with those written by the Au. thur in his riper years, yet certainly they are such as deserve not to be buried in obscurity We presume the Author's judgment of them is most reasonable to appeal to ; and you will find him (allowing grains of modesty) give them no small character. His words are in his Preface before his former published Poems*.
You find our excellent Author likewise mentioning and reciting part of these Poems in his “ Several Discourses by way, of Essays in Verse and Profe, in the 11th Discourse “ treating of himself.” These we suppose a sufficient authority for our reviving them; and sure there is no ingenuous Reader to whom the smallest remains of Mr. Cowley, will be unwelcome. His Poems are every where the copy of his mind; so that by this supplement to his other volume you have the pictụre of that so deservedly eminent man from almost his childhood to his latest years, the bud and bloom of his Spring; the warmth of his Summer; the richness and perfection of his Autumn. But, for the Reader's further curiosity, we refer him to the Author's, following Preface to them, published by himself.
• See Author's Preface above, p. vii.
LORD BISHOP OF LINCOLN, AND DEAN OF WESTMINSTER.
MIGHT well fear, left these my rude and unpolished lines should offend your committed by a Child, than cenfure them. Howsoever I desire your Lordship’s pardon, for presenting things so unworthy to your view; and to accept the good-will of him, who in all duty is bound to be
most humble servant,
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE
JUVENILE POEM S.
EADER (I know not yet whether gentle or no) fome, I know, have been
angry (I dare not assume the honour of their envy) at my poetical boldness, and blamed in mine, what commends other fruits, earliness: others, who are either of a weak faith, or strong malice, have thought me like a pipe, which nevers founds but when it is blowed in, od read me, not as Abraham Cowley, but Authorem Anonymum. To the first I answer, that it is an envious froft which nips the blossoms, because they appear quickly: to the latter that he is the worst homicide who strives to murder another's fame: 'to both, that it is a ridiculous folly to condemn or laugh at the stars, because the moon and sun shine brighter. The small fire I have is rather blown than extin. guished by this wind. For the itch of Poesy, by being angered, increaseth; by rubbing, spreads farther; which appears in that I have ventured upon this Third Edition. What though it be neglected ? It is not, I am sure, the first book which hath lighted tobacco, or been employed by cooks and grocers. If in all men's judgment it suffer fhipwreck, it shall something content me, that it hath pleased myself and the Book. seller. In it you shall find one argument (and I hope I shall need no more) to confute unbelievers : which is, that as mine age, and consequently experience (which is yet but little) hath increased, so they have not left my Poesy flagging behind them. I should not be angry to see any one burn my Piramus and Thisbe, nay, I would do it myself, but that I hope a pardon may easily be gotten for the errors of ten years age. My Constantius and Philetus confesseth me two years older when I writ it.
The rest were made fince, upon several occasions, and perhaps do not belye the time of their birth. Such as they are, they were created by me: but their fate lies in your hands; it is only you can effect, that neither the Bookfeller repent himself of his charge in printing them, nor I of my labour in compofing them. Farewel.