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and to have given some credit to the answer of his
Oppress'd with numbers in th' unequal field,
DRYDEN. Lord FALKLAND's:
Non hæc, O Palla, dederas promissa parenti,
Æneid, book XI. line 152.
DRYDEN. Hoffman, in his Lexicon, gives a very satifatory account of this practice of seeking fates in books : and says, that it was used by the Pagans, the Jewish Rabbins, and even the early Christians; the latter taking the New Testament for their oracle. H.
· Some years afterwards, “ business,” says Sprat, s passed of course into other hands;" and Cowley, being no longer useful ar Paris, was in 1656 sent back into England, that, “ under pretence of privacy “ and retirement, he might take occafion of giving " notice of the posture of things in this nation."
Soon after his return to London, he was seized by fome messengers of the usurping powers, who were sent out in quest of another man; and being examin. ed, was put into confinement, from which he was not dismissed without the security of a thousand pounds given by Dr. Scarborough.
This year he published his poems, with a preface, in which he seems to have inserted something, suppressed in subsequent editions, which was interpreted to denote some relaxation of his loyalty. In this preface he declares, that “ his defire had been for « some days past, and did still very vehemently con“ tinue, to retire himself to some of the American “ plantations, and to forsake this world for ever."
From the obloquy which the appearance of sub. niission to the usurpers brought upon him, his biographer has been very diligent to clear him, and indced it does not seem to have leliened his reputation. His wish for retirement we can easily believe to be undiffembled, a man harraffed in one kingdom, and persecuted in another, who, after a course of bufiness that employed all his days and half his nights in cyphering and decyphering, comes to his own country and steps into a prison, will be willing enough to retire to fome place of quiet and of safety. Yet let neither our reverence for a ge. nius, nor our pity for a sufferer, dispose us to forget
that, if his activity was virtue, his retreat was cowardice.
He then took upon himself the character of Phyfician, ftill, according to Sprat, with intention, “ to “ dissemble the main design of his coming over;" and, as Mr. Wood relates, “ complying with the 6 nien then in power (which was much taken notice 6 of by the royal party), he obtained an order to be os created Doctor of Physick, which being done to
his mind (whereby he gained the ill-will of some 66 of his friends), he went into France again, having os made a copy of verses on Cliver's death.”
This is no favourable representation, yet even in this not much wrong can be discovered. How far he complied with the men in power, is to be enquired before he can be blamed. It is not said that he told them any secrets, or assisted them by intelligence, or any other act. If he only promised to be quiet, that they in whose hands he was might free him from confinement, he did what no law of society prohibits.
The man whose miscarriage in a just cause has put him in the power of his enemy rnay, without any violation of his integrity, regain his liberty, or preserve his life, by a promise of neutrality: for the ftipulation gives the enemy nothing which he had not before; the neutrality of a captive may be always secured by his imprisonment or death. He that is at the disposal of another may not promise to aid him in any injurious act, because no power can compel active obedience. He may engage to do nothing, but not to do ill.
There is reason to think that Cowley promised little. It does not appear that his compliance gained him confidence enough to be trusted without fecurity, for the bond of his bail was never cancelled; nor that it made him think himself secure, for at that diffolution of government, which followed the death of Oliver, he returned into France, where he re. sumed his former station, and staid till the Restoration.
“ He continued,” says his biographer, “ under of these bonds till the general deliverance;" it is therefore to be supposed, that he did not go to France, and act again for the King, without the consent of his bondsman; that he did not shew his loyalty at the hazard of his friend, but by his friend's permission.
Of the verses on Oliver's death, in which Wood's narrative seems to imply something encomiaftick, there has been no appearance. There is a discourse concerning his government, indeed, with verses intermixed, but such as certainly gained its author no friends anjong the abettors of usurpation.
A doctor of phyfick however he was made at Oxford in December, 1657; and in the commencement of the Royal Society, of which an account has been given by Dr. Birch, he appears busy among the experimental philofophers with the title of Dr. Cowley.
There is no reason for suppofing that he ever attempted practice; but his preparatory studies have contributed something to the honour of his country. Considering Botany as necessary to a physician, he retired into Kent to gather plants: and as the predo
minance of a favourite study affects all subordinate operations of the intellect, Botany in the mind of Cowley turned into Poetry. He composed in Latin several books on Plants, of which the first and fe. cond display the qualities of Herbs, in elegiac verse; the third and fourth, the beauties of Flowers in various measures ; and in the fifth and fixth, the use of Trees, in heroick numbers.
At the same time were produced, from the fanie university, the two great Poets, Cowley and Milton, of diffimilar genius, of opposite principles; but concurring in the cultivation of Latin Poetry, in which the English, till their works and May's poem appeared *, seemed unable to contest the palm with any other of the lettered nations.
If the Latin performances of Cowley and Milton be compared (for May I hold to be superior to both), the advantage seems to lie on the side of Cowley. Milton is generally content to express the thoughts of the ancients in their language; Cowley, without much loss of purity or elegance, accommodates the diction of Rome to his own conceptions.
At the Restoration, after all the diligence of his long service, and with consciousness not only of the merit of fidelity, but of the dignity of great abilities, he naturally expected ample preferments; and, that he might not be forgotren by his own fault, wrote a Song of Triumph. But this was a time of such
* By May's Poem, we are to understand a continuation of Lucan's Pharsalia to the death of Julius Cæfar, by Thomas May, an eminent poet and historian, who flourished in the reigns of James and Charles I. and of whom a life is given in the Biographia Britannica. H.