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But in the author's own honest relation, the marvel vanishes: he was, he says, such“ an
enemy to all constraint, that his master “ never could prevail on him to learn the " rules without book.” He does not tell that he could not learn the rules, but that, being able to perform his exercises without them, and being an
enemy to constraint,” he fpared himself the labour.
Among the English poets, Cowley, Milton, and Pope, might be said to lisp in numbers;" and have given such early proofs, not only of powers of language, but of comprehension of things, as to more tardy minds feems scarcely credible. But of the learned puerilities of Cowley there is no doubt, since a volume of his poems was not only written but printed in his thirteenth year; containing, with other poetical compositions, “ The “ tragical History of Pyramus and Thisbe," written when he was ten years old; and “ Constantia and Philetus," written two years after.
While he was yet at school he produced a comedy called “ Love's Riddle,” though
it was not published till he had been some time at Cambridge. This comedy is of the pastoral kind, which requires no acquaintance with the living world, and therefore the time at which it was composed adds little to the wonders of Cowley's minority.
In 1636, he was removed to Cambridge, where he continued his studies with great intensenefs; for he is said to have written, while he was yet a young student, the greater part of his Davideis; a work of which the materials could not have been collected without the study of many years, but by a mind of the greatest vigour and activity,
Two years after his settlement at Cambridge he published « Love's Riddle,” with a poetical dedication to Sir Kenelm Digby ; of whose acquaintance all his contemporaries seem to have been ambitiousand “ Nau“ fragium Joculare;” a comedy written in Latin, but without due attention to the ancient models; for it is not loose verse, but mere prose. It was printed, with a dedication in verse to Dr. Comber, master of the college ; but having neither the facility of a
popular nor the accuracy of a learned work, it seems to be now universally neglected.
At the beginning of the civil war, as the Prince passed through Cambridge in his way to York, he was entertained with the reprefentation of the 66 Guardian,” a comedy, which Cowley fays was neither written nor acted, but rough-drawn by him, and repeated by the scholars. That this comedy was printed during his absence from his country, he appears to have confidered as injurious to his reputation ; though, during the suppression of the theatres, it was sometimes privately acted with sufficient approbation.
In 1643, being now master of arts, he was, by the prevalence of the parliament, ejected from Cambridge, and sheltered himself at St. John's College in Oxford; where, as is said by Wood, he published a satire called “ The Puritan and Papist,” which was only inserted in the last collection of his works; and so distinguished himself by the warmth of his loyalty, and the elegance of his conversation, that he gained the kindness and confidence of those who attended the King,
and amongst others of Lord Faikland, whose notice cast a luftre on all to whom it was extended.
About the time when Oxford was fura rendered to the parliament, he followed the Queen to Paris, where he became fecretary to the Lord Jerinin, afterwards Earl of St. Albans, and was employed in such correspondence as the royal cause required, and particularly in cyphering and decyphering the Ictters that pafled between the King and Queen; an employment of the highest confidence and honour. So wide was his province of intelligence, that, for several years, it filled all his days and two or three nights in the week.
In the year 1647, his “ Mistress” was published; for he imagined, as he declared in his preface to a subsequent edition, that
poets' are scarce thought freemen of their company without paying tome duties, or obliging themselves to be true to Love."
This obligation to amorous ditties owes, I believe, its original to the fame of Petrarch,
who, in an age rude and uncultivated, by his tuneful homage to his Laura, refined the manners of the lettered world, and filled Europe with love and poetry. But the basis of all excellence is truth: he that professes love ought to feel its power.
power. Petrarch was a real lover, and Laura doubtless deserved his tenderness. Of Cowley, we are told by Barnes, who had means enough of information, that, whatever he may talk of his own inflammability, and the variety of characters by which his heart was divided, he in reality was in love but once, and then never had refolution to tell his passion.
This consideration cannot but abate, in some measure, the reader's esteem for the work and the author. To love excellence, is natural; it is natural likewise for the lover to solicit reciprocal regard by an elaborate display of his own qualifications. The desire of pleasing has in different men produced actions of heroism, and effusions of wit; but it seems as reasonable to appear the champion as the poet of an “ airy nothing," and to quarrel as to write for what Cowley