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v ^ / is read from age to age with equal pleasure. The
\ / \ artifices of inversion, by which the establishedjorder
T* ,^Vy of words is changed, or of innovation, by which new
V words or meanings of words are introduced, is prac
"Vtised, not by those who talk to be understood, but by
V 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 Jestive.
^"TTie^iielrrcTaisoFhis 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_Qfwitt_and with copiousness of learning; and it is truly asserted by Sprat, that the plenitude of the writer's knowledge flows in upon his page, so that the reader is commonly surprized into some improvement. But, considered as the verses _oX_aJjaver^jno-. 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 Mistress is filled with conceits is very copiously displayed by Addison. Love is by Cowley, as by other poets, t\ :expressed metaphorically by flame and fire; and that which is true of real fire is saicTof love, or figurative fire£jthe same word in the same sentence retaining
both significations. Thus, "observing the cold regard of his Mistress's eyes, and at the same time "their power of producing love in him, he considers "them as burning-glasses made of ice. Finding himself able to live in the greatest extremities of love, he concludes the torrid zone to be habitable^Upon the dying of a tree on which he had cut his loves, he observes that his flames had burnt "up and withered the tree."
These conceits Addison calk-Tnixpijjwit; that is, wit which consists of thoughts true in one sense of \J \*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 much as if he had invented it; but, not to mention the antients, he might have found it full-blown in modern Italy. Thus Sannazaro:
Aspice quam variis distringar Lesbia curis!Uror, et heu! nostro manat ab igne liquor:
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 tenour 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 thejiead, but reacnesnot 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 "v »f mip^L_onlyon 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^on-demn as unnatural. /^
The Pindarique 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 Olympick and Nemaean Ode is by himself sufficiently explained. His endeavour was, not to shewprecisely 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 Olympick Ode, the beginning is, I think, above the original in elegance, and the conclusion below it in strength. The connection is supplied with great perspicuity; and the 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 maybe 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,
In the Nemaean 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,
He sometimes extends his author's thoughts with- iout improving them. In the Olympionick 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
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, eithg gftkJBg M dreaming. that he imitated Pindar.
In the following odes, where Cowley chooses his own subjects, he sometimes rises to dignity truly Pindarick; and, if some deficiencies of language b<? forgiven, his strains are such as those of the Theban Bard were to his contemporaries:
Begin the song, and strike the living lyre:
All hand in hand do decently advance,
Till all gentle notes be drown'd
After such enthusiasm, who will not lament to find the poet conclude with lines like these:
But stop, my Muse—