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mer observation. Their attempts were always analy-
What they wanted however of the sublime, they en. (9 deavoured to supply by hyperbole; their amplification had no limits; they left not only reason but fancy behind them; and produced combinations of confused magnificence, that not only could not be credited, but could not be imagined.
Yet great labour, directed by great abilities, is never wholly lost: if they frequently threw away their wit upon false conceits, they likewise sometimes struck out unexpected truth: if their conceits were far-fetched, they were often worth the carriage. To write on their plan, it was at least necessary to read and think. No man could be born a metaphysical poet, nor assume the dignity of a writer, by descriptions copied from descriptións, by imitations borrowed from imitations, by traditional imagery, and hereditary similies, by readiness of rhyme, and volubility of syllables.
In perusing the works of this race of authors, the mind is exercised either by recollection or inquiry; either something already learned is to be retrieved, or something new is to be examined. If their greatness seldom elevates, their acuteness often surprises; if the imagination is not always gratified, at least the powers of reflection and comparison are employed; and in the mass of materials which ingenious absurdity has thrown together, genuine wit and ufeful knowledge may be fometimes found, buried perhaps in grossness of expression,
but useful to those who know their value; and such as, when they are expanded to perfpicuity, and polished to elegance, may give lustre to works which have more propriety though less copiousness of sentiment.
This kind of writing, which was, I believe, borrowed from Marino and his followers, had been recommended by the example of Donne, a man of a very extensive and various knowledge; and by Jonson, whose manner resembled that of Donne more in the ruggedness of his lines than in the cast of his fentiments.
When their reputation was high, they had undoubtedly more imitators, than time has left behind. Their immediate successors, of whom any remembrance can be faid to remain, were Suckling, Waller, Denham, Cowley, Cleiveland, and Milton. Denham and Waller fought another way to fame, by improving the harmony of our numbers. Milton tried the metaphysick style only in his lines upon Hobson the Carrier. Cowley adopted it, and excelled his predecessors, having as much sentiment, and more musick. Suckling neither improved versification, nor abounded in conceits. The fashionable style remained chiefly with Cowley; Suckling could not reach it, and Milton disdained it.
- CRITICAL REMARKS are not easily understood without examples; and I have therefore collected instances of the modes of writing by which this species of poets, for poets they were called by themselves and their admirers, was eminently distinguished.
A S the authors of this race were perhaps more desi. rous of being admired than understood, they sometimes drew their conceits from recesses of learning not
very much frequented by common readers of poetry,
The phønix Truth did on it reft,
So clear their colour and divine,
Love was with thy life entwin'd,
More enflam'd thy amorous rage. In the following verses we have an allusion to a Rabok binical opinion concerning Manna :
Variety I ask not: give me one
Like manna, has the taste of all in it.
In every thing there naturally grows
If ’twere not injur'd by extrinsique blows ;
But you, of learning and religion,
A mithridate, whose operation
Though the following lines of Donne, on the last night of the year, have something in them too scholastic, they are not inelegant: .
This twilight of two years, not past nor next,
Some emblem' is of me, or I of this,
If I should call me any thing, should miss.
Debtor to th' old, nor creditor to th' new,
Donne, Yet more abstruse and profound is Donne's reflection upon Man as a Microcosm :
If men be worlds, there is in every one
of thoughts fo far fetched, as to be not only una cxpected, but unnatural, all their books are full.
To a Lady, who wrote poesies for rings,
oth one as
gu't twice of wit.
The difficulties which have been raised about iden- 73 tity in philosophy, are by Cowley with ftill more perplexity applied to Love:
Five years ago (fays story) I lov'd you,
Pardon me, madam, "you mistake the man;
My members then, the father members were
'Twere incest, which by nature is forbid. The love of different women is, in geographical po: 7. etry, compared to travels through different countries :
Haft thou not found, each woman's breast
(The land where thou haft travelled)
Or wild, and uninhabited ?
Rages with immoderate heat ;
In others makes the cold too great.