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written, seems to have copied, though with the inferiority of an imitator.
The holy Book like the eighth sphere doth shine
With thousand lights of truth divine,
It makes all but one galaxy :
So vast and dangerous as these,
Without the compass too below.
After this says Bentley *.
Who travels in religious jars,
Cowley seems to have had, what Milton is believed to have wanted, the skill to rate his own performances by their just value, and has therefore closed his Miscellanies with the verses upon Crashaw, which apparently excel all that have gone before them, and in which there are beauties which common authors
Dodsley's Collection of Poems, vol. V. R.
may juftly think not only above their attainment, but above their ambition.
To the Miscellanies succeed the Anacreontiques, or paraphrastical translations of some little poems, which pass, however justly, under the name of Anacreon. Of those songs dedicated to festivity and gaiety, in which even the morality is voluptuous, and which teach nothing but the enjoyment of the present day, he has given rather a pleasing than a faithful representation, having retained their spriteliness, but lost their fimplicity. The Anacreon of Cowley, like the Homer of Pope, has admitted the decoration of some modern graçes, by which he is undoubtedly more amiable to common readers, and perhaps, if they would honestly declare their own preceptions, to far the greater part of those whom courtesy and ignorance are content to style the Learned.
These little pieces will be found more finished in their kind than any other of Cowley's works. The diction Thews nothing of the mould of time, and the sentments are at no great distance from our prefent habitudes
of thought. Real mirth must be always natural, and nature is uniform. Men have been wise in
different modes; but they have always laughed the same way.
Levity of thought naturally produced familiarity of language, and the familiar part of language continues long the same; the dialogue of comedy, when it is transcribed from popular manners and real life, is read from age to age with equal pleasure. The artifices of inversion, by which the established order of words is changed, or of innovation, by which new words or meanings of words are introduced, is practised, not by those who talk to be understood, but by those who write to be admired.
The Anacreontiques therefore of Cowley give now all the pleasure which they ever gave. If he was formed by nature for one kind of writing more than for another, his power seems to have been greatest in the familiar and the festive.
The next class of his poems is called The Mistress, of which it is not necessary to select
any particular pieces for praise or censure. They have all the same beauties and faults, and nearly in the same proportion. They are written with exuberance of wit, and with copiousness of learning; and it is truly asserted by Sprat, that the plenitude of the writer's knowledge flows in upon his
so that the reader is commonly surprised into some improvement. But, considered as the verses of a lover, no man that has ever loved will much commend them. They are neither courtly nor pathetick, have neither gallantry nor fondness. His praises are too far sought, and too hyperbolical, either to express love, or to excite it ; every stanza is crowded with darts and flames, with wounds and death, with mingled souls, and with broken hearts.
The principal artifice by which The Miftress is filled with conceits is very copiously difplayed by Addison. Love is by Cowley, as by other poets, expressed metaphorically by flame and fire ; and that which is true of real fire is said of love, or figurative fire, the same word in the same sentence retaining both fignifications. Thus, “ observing the cold re“ gard of his mistress's eyes, and at the same
greatest extremities of love, he concludes
These conceits Addison calls mixed wit; that is, wit which consists of thoughts true in one sense of the expression, and false in the other. Addison's representation is sufficiently indulgent. That confusion of images may entertain for a moment; but being unnatural, it soon grows wearisome. Cowley delighted in it, as inuch as if he had invented it ; but, not to mention the ancients, he might have found it full-blown in modern Italy. Thus Sannazaro:
Aspice quam variis distringar Lesbia curis !
Uror, & heu! noftro inanat ab igne liquor;