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One of the severe theologians of that time censured him as having published a book of profane 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 discover 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 for his task, we sometimes esteem as learned, and sometimes despise as trifling, always admire as ingenious, and always condemn as unnatural.

The Pindaric Odes are now to be considered; a species of composition, which Cowley thinks Pancirolus 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 Olympic and Nemean Ode is by himself sufficiently explained. His endeavour was, not to shew precisely what Pindar spoke, but his manner of speaking. 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 Olympic 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 Ode 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 deep mouth was used to pour.

Great Rhea'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 Rhea's son, which is,
Lofty as that and smooth as this.

In the Nemean 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 table, free for ev'ry guest,

No doubt will thee admit,

And feast more upon thee, than thou on it.

He sometimes extends his author's thoughts without improving them. In the Olympionic, 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

Is envied even by the receiver;

"Tis now the cheap and frugal fashion
Rather to hide than own the obligation;

Nay, 'tis much worse than so;

It now an artifice does grow

Wrongs and injuries to do,

Lest men should think we owe.

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 Pindaric; 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 music'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:

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'Tis an unruly and a hard-mouth'd horse "Twill no unskilful touch endure,

But flings writer and reader too that sits not sure.

The fault of Cowley, and perhaps of 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, entitled 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 could 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

The coachman Art be set;

And let the airy footmen, running all beside,
Make a long row of goodly pride;

Figures, conceits, raptures, and sentences,

In a well-worded dress,

And innocent loves, and pleasant truths, and useful lies,

In all their gaudy liveries.

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,

And bid it to put on;

For long though cheerful is the way,

And life, alas! allows but one ill winter's day.

In the same ode, celebrating the power of the Muse, he gives her prescience, or, in poetical language, the foresight

of events hatching in futurity; but, having once an egg in his mind, he cannot forbear to shew us that he knows what an egg

contains.

Thou into the close nests of Time dost peep,

And there with piercing eye

Through the firm shell and the thick white dost spy

Years to come a-forming lie,

Close in their sacred secundine asleep.

The same thought is more generally, and therefore more poetically expressed by Casimir, a writer who has many of the beauties and faults of Cowley:

Omnibus Mundi Dominator horis
Aptat urgendas per inane pennas,
Pars adhuc nido latet, et futuros
Crescit in annos.

Cowley, whatever was his subject, seems to have been carried, by a kind of destiny, to the light and the familiar, or to conceits which require still more ignoble epithets. A slaughter in the Red Sea new dies the water's name; and England, during the civil war, was Albion no more, nor to be named from white. It is surely by some fascination not easily surmounted, that a writer, professing to revive the noblest and highest writing in verse, makes this address to the new year:

Nay, if thou lov'st me, gentle year,

Let not so much as love be there,

Vain, fruitless love I mean; for, gentle year,
Although I fear

There's of this caution little need,

Yet, gentle year, take heed

How thou dost make

Such a mistake;

Such love I mean alone

As by thy cruel predecessors has been shewn;
For, though I have too much cause to doubt it,

I fain would try for once, if life can live without it.

The reader of this will be inclined to cry out with Prior,

Ye critics, say,

How poor to this was Pindar's style!

Even those who cannot perhaps find in the Isthmian or Nemean songs what antiquity has disposed them to expect,

Johnson's Lives. 1.

3

will at least see that they are ill-represented by such puny poetry; and all will determine that if this be the old Theban strain, it is not worthy of revival.

To the disproportion and incongruity of Cowley's sentiments must be added the uncertainty and looseness of his measures. He takes the liberty of using in any place a verse of any length, from two syllables to twelve. The verses of Pindar have, as he observes, very little harmony to a modern ear; yet, by examining the syllables, we perceive them to be regular, and have reason enough for supposing that the ancient audiences were delighted with the sound. The imitator ought therefore to have adopted what he found, and to have added what was wanting; to have preserved a constant return of the same numbers, and to have supplied smoothness of transition and continuity of thought.

It is urged by Dr. Sprat, that the irregularity of numbers is the very thing which makes that kind of pocsy fit for all manner of subjects. But he should have remembered, that what is fit for every thing can fit nothing well. The great pleasure of verse arises from the known measure of the lines, and uniform structure of the stanzas, by which the voice is regulated, and the memory relieved.

If the Pindaric style be, what Cowley thinks it, the highest and noblest kind of writing in verse, it can be adapted only to high and noble subjects; and it will not be easy to reconcile the poet with the critic, or to conceive how that can be the highest kind of writing in verse, which, according to Sprat, is chiefly to be preferred for its near affinity to prose.

This lax and lawless versification so much concealed the deficiencies of the barren, and flattered the laziness of the idle, that it immediately overspread our books of poetry; all the boys and girls caught the pleasing fashion, and they that could do nothing else, could write like Pindar. The rights of antiquity were invaded, and disorder tried to break into the Latin; a poem on the Sheldonian Theatre, in which all kinds of verse are shaken together, is unhappily inserted in the Musa Anglicana. Pindarism prevailed about half a century; but at last died gradually away, and other imitations supply its place.

The Pindaric Odes have so long enjoyed the highest degree of poetical reputation, that I am not willing to dismiss them with unabated censure; and surely, though the mode of

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