« ZurückWeiter »
One of the great sources of poetical delight is This ne with starry vapoars sprinkles all,
Took in their prime ere they grow ripe and falı description,* or the power of presenting pictures
of a new rainbow ere it frei or fade, to the mind. Cowley gives inferences instead
The choicest piece cut out, a scarf is made. of images, and shows not what may be supposed to have been seen, but what thoughts the sight what might in general expressions he great and
This is a just specimen of Cowley's imagery might have suggested. When Virgil describes the stone which Turnus lifted against Æneas, he forcible, he weakens and makes ridiculous by fixes the attention on its bulk and weight:
branching it into small parts. That Gabriel
was invested with the softest or brightest coSaxum circumspicit ingens, lours of the sky, we might have been told, and Saxum antiquum, ingens, campo quod forte jacebat
been dismissed to improve the idea in our difLimes agro positus, litem ut discerneret arvis.
ferent proportions of conception; but Cowley Cowley says of the stone with which Cain could not let us go till he had related where Gaslew his brother,
briel got first his skin, and then his mantle, then I saw him fling the stone, as if he meant
his lace, and then his scarf, and related it in the At once his murther and liis monumeni.
terms of the mercer and tailor. Of the sword taken from Goliah, he says,
Sometimes he indulges himself in a digres
sion, always conceived with his natural exubeA sword so great, that it was only fit To cut off his great head that came with it. rance, and commonly, even where it is not long,
continued till it is tedious. Other poets describe death by some of its common appearances. Cowley says, with a learned I'th' library a few choice authors stood, allusion to sepulchral lamps, real or fabulous,
Yet 'twas well stor’d, for that small store was good.
Writing, man's spiritual physic, was not then
Learning, (young virgin,) but few suitors knew
The common prostitute she lately grew,
And with the spurious brood loads now the press; But he has allusions vulgar as well as learned.
Laborious effects of idleness, In a visionary succession of kings,
Astbe Davideis affords only four books, though
intended to consist of twelve, there is no opporJoas at first does bright and glorious show, In life's fresh inorn his same does early crow.
tunity for such criticisms as epic poenis com
monly supply. The plan of the whole work is Describing an undisciplined army, after hav
very imperfectly shown by the third part. The ing said with elegance,
duration of an unfinished action cannot be His forces seem'd no army, but a crowd,
known. Of characters either not yet introduHeartless, unarm’d, disorderly, and loud;
ced, or shewn but upon few occasions, the full he gives them a fit of the ague.
extent and the nice discriminations cannot be The allusions however are not always to vul- ascertained. The fable is plainly implex, formgar things ; he offends by exaggeration as much ed rather from the Odyssey than the Iliad: and as by diminution:
many artifices of diversification are employed, The king was plac'd alone, and o'er his head
with the skill of a man acquainted with the best A well-wrought heaven of silk and gold was spread
models. The past is recalled by narration, and Whatever he writes is always polluted with the future anticipated by vision : but he has been
so lavish of his poetical art, that it is difficult to some conceit:
imagine how he could fill eight books more withWhere the sun's fruitful beams give metals birth, out practising again the same modes of disposing Where he the growth of fatal gold does see,
of his matter: and perhaps the perception of this Gold, which alone more influence las than be.
growing incumbrance inclined him to stop. By In one passage he starts a sudden question, to this abruption posterity lost more instruction the confusion of philosophy:
than delight. If the continuation of the Davideis Ye learned heads, whom ivy garlands grace,
can be missed it is for the learning that had been Why does that twining plant the oak embrace ; diffused over it, and the notes in which it had The oak for courtship most of all unfit,
been explained. And rough as are the winds that fight with it?
Had not his characters been depraved, like His expressions have sometimes a degree of every other part, by improper decorations, they meanness that surpasses expectation :
would have deserved uncommon praise. He Nay, gentle guests, he cries, since now you're in, gives Saul both the body and mind of a hero : The story of your gallant friend begin.
His way once chose, he forward thrust outright, In a simile descriptive of the morning:
Nor turn'd aside for danger or delight. As glimmering stars just at th' approach or day, And the different beauties of the lofty Merah and Cashier'd by troops, at last all drop away
the gentle Michol are very justly conceived and The dress of Gabriel deserves attention: strongly painted.
Rymer has declared the Davideis superior to He took for skin a cloud most soft and bright,
the Jerusalem of Tasso, " which,” says he, “the That e'er the mid-day sun pierc'd through with light; Upon his cheeks a lively blush he spreall,
poet, with all his care, has not totally purged Wash'd from the morning beauties? deepest red : from pedantry.” If by pedantry is meant that An harmles: flatt'ring meteor shone for hair, minute knowledge which is derived from partiAnd fell adown his shoulders with loose care ; He cuts out a silk mantle from the skies,
cular sciences and studies, in opposition to the Where the most sprightly azure pleas'd the eyes ;
general notions supplied by a wide survey of life
and nature, Cowley certainly errs, by introdu• Dr. Warton discovers some contrariety of opinion cing pedantry, far more frequently than Tasso. retween this, and what is said of description in p. 12 & I know not, indeed, why they should be com13.-C.
pared; for the resemblance of Cowley's work to Tasso's is only that they both exhibit the lines have such resemblance to the noble epiagency of celestial and infernal spirits, in which gram of Grotius on the death of Scaliger, that I however they differ widely ; for Cowley suppo- cannot but think them copied from it, though ses them commonly to operate upon the mind by they are copied by no servile hand. suggestion ; Tasso represents them as promo- One passage in bis Mistress is so apparently ling or obstrueting events by external agency. borrowed from Donne, that he probably would
Of rarticular pages tnat can be properly com- not have written it, had it not mingled with his pared, I remember only the description of Hea- own thoughts, so as that he did not perceive himven, in which the difierent manner of the two self taking it from another : writers is sufficiently discemible. Cowley's is
Although I think thou never found will be, scarcely description, uniess it be possible to de- Yet I'm resolved to search for thee; scribe by negatives; for he tells us only what The search itself rewards the pains. there is not in Heaven. Tasso endeavours to
So, though the chymic his great secret miss,
(For neither it in Art or Nature is,) represent the splendours and pleasures of the Yet things well worth his toil he gains : regions of happiness. Tasso affords images, And does his charge and labour pay. and Cowley sentiments. It happens, however, With good unsoughi experiments by the way. that Tasso's descriptions afford some reason for
Cowley. Rhymer's censure. He says of the Supreme
Some that hnve deeper digg'd Love's mine than 1, Being,
Say, where his centric happiness doth lie :
I have lov'd and got, and told; Hà souo i piedi e fato e la natura
But should I love, ger, tell, till I were old, Ministri humili, e'l moto, e ch'il misura.
I should not find that hidden mystery; The second line has in it more of pedantry
Oh, 'ris imposture all !
And as no chymic yet th' elixir got, than perhaps can be found in any other stanza But glorifies his pregnant pot, of the poem.
If hy the way to him befali In the perusal of the Davideis, as of all Cow
Some oxloriferous thing, or medicinal,
1 So lovers dream a rich and long delight, ley's works, we find wit and learning unprofita
But get a winter-seeming summer's night. bly squandered. Attention has no relief; the affections are never moved; we are sometimes
Jonson and Donne, as Dr. Hurd remarks, surprised, but never delighted, and find much to
were then in the highest esteem. admire, but little to approve. Still however it acknowledges his obligation to the learning and
It is related by Clarendon that Cowley always is the work of Cowley, of a mind capacious by industry of Jonson ; but I have found no traces nature, and replenished by
In the general review of Cowley's poetry it of Jonson in his works: to emulate Donne apwill be found that he wrote with abundant fertil- | pears to have been his purpose; and from Donne ity, but with negligent or unskilful selection: with he may have learned that familiarity with relimuch thought, but with little imagery; that he gious images, and that light allusion to sacred either ingenious or learned, either acute or pro- be borne in the present age, when devotion, peris never pathetic, and rarely sublime;
but always things, by which
readers far short of sanctity
are frequently offended; and which would not found. It is said by Denham in his clegy,
haps not more fervent, is more delicate.
Having produced one passage taken by Cow. T him no author was unknown,
ley from Donne, I will recompense him by anoYet what he writ was all his own. This wide position requires less limitation, ther which Milton seems to have borrowed from when it is affirned of Cowley, than perhaps of him. He says of Goliah, any other poet.- He read much, and yet bor- His spear, the trunk was of a lofty tree, rowed little.
Which Nature meant some tall ship’s mast should be. His character of writing was indeed not his Milton of Satan: own: he unhappily adopted that which was pre
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine dominant. He saw a certain way to present Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast praise ; and, not sufficiently inquiring by what Of some great admiral, were but a wand, means the ancients have continued to delight through all the changes of human manners, he
His diction was in his own time censured as contented himself with a deciduous laurel, of negligent. He seems not to have known, or not which the verdure in its spring was bright and to have considered, that words being arbitrary gay, but which time has been continually steal- must owe their power to association, and have ing from his brows.
the influence, and that only, which custom has He was in his own time considered as of un- given them. Language is the dress of thought: rivalled excellence. Clarendon represents him and as the noblest mien, or most graceful action, as having taken a flight beyond all that went would be degraded and obscured by a garb apbefore him; and Milton is said to have declared, propriated to the gross employments of rustics that the three greatest English poets were Spen- or mechanics : so the most heroic sentiments will ser, Shakspeare, and Cowley.
lose their efficacy, and the most splendid ideas His manner he had in common with others ; drop their magnificence, if they are conveyed by but his sentiments were his own. Upon every words used commonly upon low and trivial ocsubject he thought for himself; and such was casions, debased by vulgar mouths, and conhis copiousness of knowledge, that something taminated by inelegant applications. at once remote and applicable rushed into his Truth indeed is always truth, and reason is mind ; yet it is not likely that he always rejected always reason; they have an intrinsic and unala commodious idea merely because another had terable value, and constitute that intellectua! used it: his known wealth was so great that he gold which defies destruction; but gold may be might have borrowed without loss of credit. so concealed in baser matter, that only a chyIn his elegy on Sir Henry Wotton, the last mist can recover it; sense may be so hidden in
He walked with.
unrefined and plebeian words that none but phi
And still as time comes in, it goes away,
Not to enjoy, but debts to pay ! losophers can distinguish i, and both may be
Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell! so buried in impurities, as not to pay the cost of Which his hour's work as well as hours does tell. their extraction.
Unhappy till the last, the kind releasing knell. The diction, being the vehicle of the thoughts,
His heroic lines are often formed of monosy first presents itself to the intellectual eye; and it the first appearance offends, a further know- lables ; but yet they are sometimes sweet and ledge is not often sought. Whatever professes to benefit by pleasing, must please at once. The
He says of the Messiah, pleasures of the mind imply something sudden Round the whole earth his dreaded name shall sound, and unexpected; that which elevates must al
And reach to worlds that must not yet be found. ways surprise. What is perceived by slow de- In another place, of David, grees may gratify us with consciousness of im
Yet bid him go securely, when he sends; provement, but will never strike with the sense 'Tis Saul that is his foe, and we his friends. of pleasure.
The man who has his God, no aid can lack ; Of all this, Cowley appears to have been with- And we who bid him go, will bring him back out knowledge, or without care. He makes no Yet amidst his negligence he sometimes atselection of words, nor seeks any neatness of tempts an improved and scientific versification; phrase; he has no elegances either lucky or of which it will be best to give his own account elaborate; as his endeavours were rather to im- subjoined to this line: press sentences upon the understanding than
Nor can the glory contain itself in th’endless space images upon the fancy; he has few epithets, and those scattered without peculiar propriety or “I am sorry that it is necessary to admonish nice adaptation. It seems to follow from the the most part of readers, that it is not by necessity of the subject, rather than the care of negligence that this verse is so loose, long, and, the writer, that the diction of his heroic poem is as it were, vast; it is to paint in the number less familiar than that of his slightest writings. the nature of the thing which it describes, which He has given not the same numbers, but the I would have observed in divers other places of same diction, to the gentle Anacreon and the this poem, that else will pass for very careless tempestuous Pindar.
verses: as before, His versification seems to have had
little of his care; and if what he thinks be true, that
And orer-runs the neighb'ring fields with violent his numbers are unmusical only when they are ill-read, the art of reading them is at present in the second book ; lost; for they are commonly harsh to inodern Down a precipice deep, down he casts them all
He has indeed many noble lines, such as And, the feeble care of Waller never could produce. The bulk of his thoughts sometimes swelled his
And fell a-down his shoulders with loose care verse to unexpected and inevitable grandeur ; In the third, but his excellence of this kind is merely fortui- Brass iras his helmet, his boots brass, and o'er tous : he sinks willingly down to his general His breast a thick plate of strong brass he wore carelessness, and avoids with very little care in the fourth, either meanness or asperity. His contractions are rugged and harsh : Like some fair pine o'erlooking all the ignobler icoon.
Some from the rocks cast themselres down headlong His rhymes are very often made by pronouns, And many more: but it is enough to instance or particles, or the like unimportant words, in a few. The thing is, that the disposition of which disappoint the ear, and destroy the energy words and numbers should be such, as that, out of the line.
of the order and sound of them, the things themHis combination of different measures is some- selves may be represented. This the Greeks times dissonant and unpleasing; he joins verses were not so accurate as to bind themselves to: together, of which the former does not slide neither have our English poets observed it, for easily into the latter.
aught I can find. The Latins (qui Musas colunt The words do and did, which so much degrade severiores) sometimes did it; and their prince, in present estimation the line that admits them, Virgil, always : in whom the examples are in were, in the time of Cowley, little censured or numerable, and taken notice of by all judi avoided : how often he used them, and with cious men, so that it is superfluous to collect how bad an effect, at least to our ears, will ap- them.” pear by a passage, in which every reader will I know not whether he has, in many of these lament to see just and noble thoughts defrauded instances, attained the representation or resem of their praise by inelegance of language : blance that he purposes. Verse can imitate only Where honour or where conscience does not bind,
sound and motion. A boundless verse, a headNo other law shall shackle me;
long verse, and a verse of brass or of strong Slave to myself I ne'er will be;
brass, seem to comprise very incongruous and Nor shall my future actions be confin'd By my own present mind.
unsociable ideas. What there is peculiar in the Who by resolves and vows engag'd does stand, sound of the line expressing loose care, I cannot For days that yet belong to late,
discover ; nor why the pine is taller in an AlexDoes like an unthrift, mortgage his estate Before it falls into his hand;
andrine than in ten syllables. The bondman of the cloister so,
But, not to defraud him of his due praise, he All that he does receive does always owo. has given one example of representative versisi
cation, which perhaps no other English line can his mind, for, in the verses on the government equal.
of Cromwell he inserts theml iberally with great Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise :
happiness. He who defers this work from day to day,
After so much criticism on his poems, the Does on a river's bank expecting stay
essays which accompany them must not be forTill the whole stream that stopp'd him shall be gone, gotten. What is said by Sprat of his conversaWhich runs, and as it runs, for ever shall run on.
tion, that no man could draw from it any suspiCowley was, I believe, the first poet that cion of his excellence in poetry, may be applied mingled Alexandrines at pleasure with the com- to these compositions. No author ever kept his mon heroic of ten syllables; and from him Dry, verse and his prose at a greater distance from den borrowed the practice, whether ornamental each other. His thoughts are natural, and his or licentious. He considered the verse of twelve style has a smooth and placid equability, which syllables as elevated and majestic, and has there has never yet obtained its due commendation. före deviated into that measure when he sup- Nothing is far-sought, or hard-laboured; but all poses the voice had heard of the Supreme Being. is easy without feebleness, and familiar without
The author of the Davideis is commended by grossness. Dryden for having written it in couplets, be- It has been observed by Felton, in his Essay cause he discovered that any staff was too lyrical on the Classics, that Cowley was beloved by for an heroic poem; but this seems to have been every muse that he courted; and that he has known before by May and Sandys, the trans- rivalled the ancients in every kind of poetry but lators of the Pharsalia and the Metamorphoses. tragedy.
In the Davideis are some hemistichs, or verses It may be affirmed, without any encomiastic left imperfect by the author, in imitation of Vir- fervour, that he brought to his poetic labours a gil, whom he supposes not to have intended to mind replete with learning, and that his pages complete them: that this opinion is erroneous, are embellished with all the ornaments which may be probably concluded, because this trun- books could supply; that he was the first who cation is imitated by no subsequent Roman imparted to English numbers the enthusiasm of poet; because Virgil himself filled up one the greater ode, and the gayety of the less; that broken line in the heat of recitation ; because he was equally qualified for sprightly sallies, and in one the sense is now unfinished; and be- for lofty flights; that he was among those who cause all that can be done by a broken verse, a freed translation from servility, and, instead of uine intersected by a cæsura, and a full stop, will following his author at a distance, walked by equally effect.
his side; and that, if he left versification yet imof triplets in his Davideis he makes no use, provable, he left likewise from time to time such and perhaps did not at first think them allowa- specimens of excellence as enabled succeeding ble; 'but he appears afterwards to have changed | poets to improve it.
DEN HA M.
OF SIR JOAN DENHAM very little is known fore gave no prognostics of his future eminence; but what is related of him by Wood, or by him- nor was suspected to conceal, under sluggishness self.
and laxity, a genius born to improve the literaHe was born at Dublin in 1615 ;* the only ture of his country. son of Sir John Denham, of Little Horseley, in When he was, three years afterwards, reEssex, then chief baron of the Exchequer in Ire- moved to Lincoln's Inn, he prosecuted the comland, and of Eleanor, daughter of Sir Garret mon law with sufficient appearance of applicaMore, baron of Mellefont.
tion; yet did not lose his propensity to cards and Two years afterwards, his father, being made dice; but was very often plundered by gameone of the barons of the Exchequer in England, sters. orought him away from his native country, and Being severely reproved for this folly, he proeducated him in London.
fessed, and perhaps believed, himself reclaimed; In 1631 he was sent to Oxford, where he was and, to testify the sincerity of his repentance, considered “as a dreaming young man, given wrote and published “An Essay upon Gammore to dice and cards than study:" and there-ling."
He seems to have divided his studies between In Hamilton's Memoirs of Count Grammont, Sir law and poetry : for, in 1636, he translated the John Denham is said to have been 79 when he married second book of the Éneid. Miss Brook, about the year 1664 : according to which
Two years after, his father died; and then, statement he was born in 1583. But Dr. Johnson, who has followed Wood, is right. He entered Trinity Col. notwithstanding his resolutions and professions, lege, Oxford, at the age of 16, in 1631, as appears by he returned again to the vice of gaming, and lost the following entry, which I copied from the matri- several thousand pounds that had been left him. Trin. Coll. “ 1631. Nov. 18. Johannes Denham, E9.
In 1642, he published “The Sophy.” This gex, filius J. Denham, de Horseley parve in seems to have given him his first hold of the predict militis annos natus 16."- Malone public attention; for Waller remarked, “That
sulation book :
the art of concluding their sense in couplets ;
-Troy confounded falls which has perhaps been with rather too much
From all her glories : if it might have stood
By any power, by this right hand it should. constancy pursued.
- And though iny outward state misfortune hath This passage exhibits one of those triplets Deprest thus low, it cannot reach my faith. which are not unfrequent in this first essay; but --Thus, by his fraud and our own faith o'ercome, which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment
A feigned tear destroys us, against whom
Tydides nor Achilles could prevail, disapproved, since in his latter works he has
Nor ten years conflict, nor a thousand sail totally forborne them.
His rhymes are such as seem found without He is not very careful to vary the ends of his difficulty, by following the sense; and are for verses; in one passage the word die rhymes the most part as exact at least as those of other three couplets in six. poets, though now and then the reader is shifted Most of these petty faults are in his first prooff with what he can get :
ductions, where he was less skilful, or at least O how transform'd !
less dexterous in the use of words; and though How much unlike that Hector, who return'd they had been more frequent, they could only Clad in Achilles' spoils !
have lessened the grace, not the strength, of his And again :
composition. He is one of the writers that imFrom thence a thousand lesser poets sprung proved our taste, and advanced our language; Like peuy princes from the fall of Rome.
and whom we ought therefore to read with graSometimes the weight of rhyme is laid upon a titude, though, having done much, he left much word too feeble to sustain it.
The lite of Milton has been already written in Philips, who came from Shrewsbury, and rose 80 many forms, and with such minute inquiry, in the Crown-office to be secondary: by him, that I might perhaps more properly have con- she had two sons, John and Edward, who were tented myself with the addition of a few notes on educated by the poet, and from whom is derived Mr. Fenton's elegant Abridgment, but that a the only authentic account of his domestic mannew narrative was thought necessary to the uni- ners. formity of this edition.
John, the poet, was born in his father's house, John Milton was by birth a gentleman, de- at the Spread Eagle, in Bread-street, Dec. 9, scended from the proprietors of Milton, near 1608, between six and seven in the morning. Thame, in Oxfordshire, one of whom forfeited His father appears to have been very solicitous his estate in the times of York and Lancaster. about his education; for he was instructed at Which side he took I know not ; his descend- first by private tuition, under the care of Tho ant inherited no veneration for the White Rose. mas Young, who was afterwards chaplain to the
His grandfather, John, was keeper of the English merchants at Hamburg, and of whom forest of Shotover, a zealous papist, who disin- we have reason to think well, since his scholar herited his son because he had forsaken the re-considered him as worthy of an epistolary elegy. ligion of his ancestors.
He was then sent to St. Paul's School, under His father, John, who was the son disinherit- the care of Mr. Gill; and removed, in the beginod, had recourse for his support to the profession ning of his sixteenth year, to Christ's College, in of a scrivener. He was a man eminent for his Cambridge, where he entered a sizar,* Feb. 12, skill in music, many of his compositions being 1624. still to be found; and his reputation in his pro- He was at this time eminently skilled in the fession was such, that he grew rich, and retired Latin tongue; and he himself, by annexing the to an estate. He had probably more than com- dates to his first compositions, a boast of which mon literature, as his son addresses him in one the learned Politian had given him an example, of his most elaborate Latin poems. He married seems to commend the carliness of his own proa gentlewoman of the name of Caston, a Welsh ficiency to the notice of posterity. But the profamily, by whom he had two sons, John, the ducts of his vernal fertility have been surpassed poet, and Christopher, who studied the law, and by many, and particularly by his contemporary adhered, as the law taught him, to the King's Cowley. Of the powers of the mind it is difficult party, for which he was a while persecuted; but to form an estimate: many have excelled Milton having, by his brother's interest, obtained per- in their first essays, who never rose to works like mission to live in quiet, he supported himself so Paradise Lost. honourably by chamber-practice, that, soon after the accession of King James, he was
* In this assertion Dr. Johnson was mistaken. Milton knighted, and made a judge ; but, his constitu
was admitted a pensioner, and not a sizar, as will appear tion being too weak for business, he retired be- by the following extract from the College Resistor, fore any disreputable compliances became ne- * Johannes Milton Londinensis, filius Johannis, institu cessary.
tus fuit in literarum elementis sub Mag'ro Gill Gymnasii He had likewise a daughter, Anne, whom he Feb. 12%, *1624, sub M'ro Chappell, solvitq. pro Inor
Paulini, pra fecio ; admissus est Pensionarius Minor married with considerable fortune to Edward 01. 108. Ód."-R