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Physic and Chirurgery for a Lover.
That pain must needs be very much,
Cordials of pity give me now,
The moderate value of our guiltless ore
Their thoughts and expressions were sometimes grossly absurd, and such as no figure or licence can reconcile to the understanding.
A Lover neither dead nor alive: .
The poetical propagation of Light:
At every glance a constellation flies,
In light and power, the all-ey'd firmament:
Then from their beams their jewels lustres rise :
They were in very little care to clothe their notions with elegance of dress, and therefore miss the notice and the praise which are often gained by those who think less, but are more diligent to adorn their thoughts.
That a Mistress beloved is fairer in idea than in reality, is by Cowley thus ex. pressed:
Thou in my fancy dost much higher stand,
That prayer and labour should co-operate, are thus taught by Donne:
In none but us are such mix'd engines found,
By the same author, a common topic, the danger of procrastination, is thus illustrated :
That which I should have begun
All that man has to do is to live and die; the sum of humanity is comprehended by Donnc in the following lines:
Think in how poor a prison thou didst lie;
They were sometimes indelicate and disgusting. Cowley thus apostrophises beauty:
- Thou tyrant, which lear’st no man free!
Thus he addresses his Mistress :
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,
For all are false, that taste not just like mine.
This is yet more indelicate :
As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
Their expressions sometimes raise horrour, when they intend perhaps to be pa: thetic.
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 com. modious allusions.
It gave a piteous groan, and so it broke:
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 ailmitted, their copiousness and acuteness may justly be admired. What Cowley has written upon Hope shows 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,
Of blessing thee;
Hope, thou bold taster of delight,
The joys which we entire should wed,
Come deflower'd virgins to our bed;
Such mighty custom's paid to thee:
If it take air before its spirits waste. 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 bas better claim :
Our two souls, therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
As stiil'twin compasses are two;
To move, but doth if the other do.
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
And grows erect as that comes bome.
Like th’ other foot obliquely run.
And makes me end where I begun. DONNE In all these examples it is apparent, that whatever is improper or vitious is pro. duced 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 representation of the style and sentiments of the metaphysical poets, 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, written some as they were dictated by a mind at leisure, 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 poct has hitherto afforded. To choose the best, anong many good, is one of the most hazardous attempts of criticism. I know not whether Scaliger himself has persuaded many readers to join with him in his preference of the two favourite odes, which he esti. mates in his raptures at the value of a kingdom. I will, however, venture to recommend Cowley's first piece, wich 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 name; which are therefore 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 beart.