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another, his power seems to have been greatest in the familiar and in the festive. The next class of his poems is called The Mistress, of which it is not necessary to select any particular pieces for praise or censure. They have all the same beauties and faults, and nearly in the same proportion. They are written with exuberance of wit, and with copiousness of learning: and it is truly asserted by Sprat, that the plenitude of the writer's knowledge flows in upon his page, so that the reader is commonly surprised into some improvement. But considered as the verses of a lover, no man that has ever loved will much commend them. They are neither courtly nor pathetick, have neither gallantry nor fondness. His praises are too far sought, and too hyperbolical, either to express love or to excite it; every stanza is crowded with darts and flames, with wounds and death, with mingled souls and with broken hearts. The principal artifice by which The Mistress is filled with conceits is very copiously displayed by Addison. Love is by Cowley, as by other poets, expressed metaphorically by flame and fire; and that which is true of real fire is said of love, for figurative fire, the same word in the same sentence retaining both significations. Thus, “observing the cold regard of his mistress’s eyes, and at the same time their power of producing love in him, he considers them as burning-glasses made of ice. Finding himself able to live in the greatest extremities, of love, he concludes the torrid zone to be habitable. Upon the dying of a tree on which he had cut his loves, he observes that his flames had burnt up and withered the tree.” These conceits Addison calls mixed wit; that is, wit which consists of thoughts true in one sense of the
expression, and false in the other. Addison's representation is sufficiently indulgent: that confusion of images may entertain for a moment; but, being unnatural, it soon grows wearisome. Cowley delighted in it, as much as if he had invented it; but, not to mention the antients, he might have found it full-blown in modern Italy. Thus Sannazaro : Aspice quam variis distringar Lesbia curis! Uror, etheu! nostro manat ab igne liquor: Sum Nilus, sumque AEtna simul; restringite flammas O lacrimie, aut lacrimas ebibe fiamma meas. One of the severe theologians of that time censured him as having published a book of firofane and lascivious verses. From the charge of profaneness, the constant tenor of his life, which seems to have been eminently virtuous, and the general tendency of his opinions, which discovers no irreverence of religion, must defend him; but that the accusation of lasciviousness is unjust, the perusal of his work will sufficiently evince. Cowley’s Mistress has no power of seduction: she “ plays round the head, but reaches not the heart.” Her beauty and absence, her kindness and cruelty, her disdain and inconstancy, produce no correspondence of emotion. His poetical account of the virtues of plants, and colours of flowers, is not perused with more sluggish frigidity. The compositions are such as might have been written for penance by a hermit, or for hire by a philosophical rhymer who had only heard of another sex; for they turn the mind only on the writer, whom, without thinking on a woman but as the subject of his task, we sometimes esteem as learned, and sometimes despise as trifling, always admire as ingenious, and always condemn as unnatural. The Pindarique Odes are now to be considered ; a
species of composition, which Cowley thinks Panciro. lus might have counted in his list of the lost inventions of antiquity, and which he has made a bold and vigorous attempt to recover. The purpose with which he has paraphrased an Olympick and Nemaean ode is by himself sufficiently explained. His endeavour was not to show frecisely what Pindar shoke, but his manner of sheaking. He was therefore not at all restrained to his expressions, nor much to his sentiments; nothing was required of him, but not to write as Pindar would not have written. Of the Olympick ode, the beginning is, I think, above the original in elegance, and the conclusion below it in strength. The connexion is supplied with great perspicuity; and thoughts, which to a reader of less skill seem thrown together by chance, are concatenated without any abruption. Though the English mode cannot be called a translation, it may be very properly consulted as a commentary. The spirit of Pindar is indeed not every where equally preserved. The following pretty lines are not such as his deef mouth was used to pour : Great lthea's son, If in Olympus top, where thou Sitt'st to behold thy sacred show If in Alpheus' silver flight, If in my verse thou take delight. My verse, great it hea's son, which is, Lofty as that and smooth as this. In the Nemzan ode the reader must, in mere justice to Pindar, observe that whatever is said of the original new moon, her tender forehead and her horns, is superadded by his paraphrast, who has many other plays of words and fancy unsuitable to the original : as, The tale, free for ev'ry guest,
No doubt will thee admit,
He sometimes extends his author’s thoughts withbut improving them. In the Olympionick an oath is mentioned in a single word, and Cowley spends three lines in swearing by the Castalian Stream. We are told of Theron's bounty, with a hint that he had enemies, which Cowley thus enlarges in rhyming prose :
But in this thankless world the giver
It is hard to conceive that a man of the first rank in learning and wit, when he was dealing out such minute morality in such feeble diction, could imagine, either waking or dreaming, that he imitated Pindar. In the following odes, where Cowley chooses his own subjects, he sometimes rises to dignity truly Pindarick; and if some deficiencies of language be forgiven, his strains are such as those of the Theban bard were to his contemporaries: Begin the song, and strike the living lyre : Lo how the years to come, a numerous and well-fitted quire All hand in hand do decently advance, And to my song with smooth and equal measure dance; While the dance lasts, how long soe'er it be, My musick’s voice shall bear it company: Till all gentle notes be drown'd In the last trumpet’s dreadful sound. After such enthusiasm, who will not lament to find the poet conclude with lines like these : .
But stop, my muse—
The fault of Cowley, and perhaps all the writers of the metaphysical race, is that of pursuing his thoughts to the last ramifications, by which he loses the grandeur of generality; for of the greatest things the parts are little ; what is little can be but pretty, and by claiming dignity becomes ridiculous. Thus all the power of description is destroyed by a scrupulous enumeration; and the force of metaphors is lost when the mind by the mention of particulars is turned more upon the original than the secondary sense, more upon that from which the illustration is drawn than that to which it is applied. .*
Of this we have a very eminent example in the ode intituled The Muse, who goes to take the air in an intellectual chariot, to which he harnesses fancy and judgment, wit and eloquence, memory and invention. How he distinguished wit from fancy, or how memory eould properly contribute to motion, he has not explained: we are however content to suppose that he could have justified his own fiction, and wish to see the muse begin her career; but there is yet more to be done.
Let the postillion Nature mount, and let
Every mind is now disgusted with this cumber of magnificence; yet I cannot refuse myself the four next lines:
Mount glorious queen, thy travelling throne,