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He repaid the Protector for his favours (1654) by the famous panegyrick, which has been always confidered as the first of his poetical productions. His choice of encomiaftick topicks is very judicious; for he considers Cromwell in his exaltation, without enquiring how he attained it; there is consequently no mention of the rebel or the regicide. All the former part of his hero's life is veiled with Shades; and nothing is brought to view but the chief, the governor, the defender of England's honour, and the enlarger of her dominion. The act of violence by which he obtained the supreme power is lightly treated, and decently justified. It was certainly to be desired that the detestable band should be dissolved, which had destroyed the church, murdered the King, and filled the nation with tumult and oppression; yet Cromwell had not the right of diffolving them, for all that he had before done could be justified only by supposing them invested with lawful authority. But combinations of wickedness would overwhelm the world by the advantage which licentious principles afford, did not those, whọ have long practised perfidy, grow faithless to each other.
In the poem on the war with Spain are some passages at least equal to the best parts of the panegyrick; and, in the conclusion, the poet ventures yet a higher flight of flattery, by recommending royalty to Cromwell and the nation. Cromwell was very delirous, as appears from his conversation, related by Whitlock, of adding the title to the power of monarchy, and is supposed to have been with-held from it partly by fear of the army, and partly by fear of the laws, which, when he should govern by the name of King, would have restrained R 3
his authority. When therefore a deputation was folemnly sent to invite him to the Crown, he, after a long conference, refused it; but is said to have fainted in his coach, when he parted from them.
The poem on the death of the Protector seems to have been dictated by real veneration for his memory. Dryden and Sprat wrote on the same occasion; but they were young men, struggling into notice, and hoping for some favour from the ruling party. Waller had little to expect : he had received nothing but his pardon from Cromwell, and was not likely to ask any thing from those who should fucceed him.
Soon afterwards the Restauration supplied him with another subject; and he exerted his imagination, his elegance, and his melody, with equal alacrity, for Charles the Second. It is not possible to read, without fomne contempt and indignation, poems of the same author, ascribing the highest degree of power and piety to Charles the First, then transferring the same power and piety to Oliver Cromwell, now inviting Oliver to take the Crown, and then congratulating Charles the Second on his recovered right. Neither Cromwell nor Charles could value his testimony as the effect of conviction, or receive his praises as effufions of reverence; they could consider thein but as the labour of invention, and the tribute of dependence.
Poers, indeed, profess fiction; but the legitimate end of fiction is the conveyance of truth'; and he that has flattery ready for all whom the vicissitudes of the world happen to exalt, must be fcorned as a prostituted mind, that may retain the glitter of wit, but has lost the dignity of virtue,
The Congratulation was considered as inferior in poetical merit to the Panegyrick; and it is reported, that, when the king told Waller of the disparity, he answered, “ Poets, Sir, succeed better in fiction than “ in truth."
The Congratulation is indeed not inferior to the Panegyrick, either by decay of genius, or for want of diligence; but because Cromwell had done much, and Charles had done little. Cromwell wanted nothing to raise him to heroick excellence but virtue; and virtue his poet thought himself at liberty to supply. Charles had yet only the merit of struggling without success, and suffering without despair. A life of escapes and indigence could supply poetry with no splendid images.
In the first parliament summoned by Charles the Second (March 8, 1661), Waller sat for Hastings in Sussex, and served for different places in all the parliaments of that reign. In a time when fancy and gaiety were the most powerful recommendations to regard, it is not likely that Waller was forgotten. Hé passed his time in the company that was highest, both in rank and wit, from which even his obstinate fobriety did not exclude him. Though he drank water, he was enabled by his fertility of mind to heighten the mirth of Bacchanalian assemblies; and Mr. Saville faid, that “ no man in England should keep him company
without drinking but Ned Waller." The praise given him by St. Evremond is à proof of his reputation; for it was only by his reputation that he could be known, as a writer, to a man who, though he lived a great part of a long life upon an English pension, never condescended to understand the language of the nation that maintained hiin.
In the parliament, “ he was,” says Burnet, the de“ light of the house, and though old said the liveliest “ things of any among them." This, however, is faid in his account of the year seventy-five, when Wala ler was only seventy. His name as a speaker occurs often in Grey's Collections; but I have found no extracts that can be more quoted as exhibiting fallies of
argument, He was of such consideration, that his remarks were circulated and recorded. When the duke of York's influence was high, both in Scotland and England, it drew, says Burner, a lively reflection from Waller the celebrated wit. " He said, the house of commons “ had resolved that the duke should not reign after the
king's death; but the king, in opposition to them, “ had resolved that he should reign even in his life." If there appear no extraordinary liveliness in this res mark, yet its reception proves the speaker to have been a celebrated wit, to have had a namę which the men of wit were proud of mentioning,
He did not suffer his reputation to die gradually away, which may easily happen in a long life, but renewed his claim to poetical distinction from time to time, as occasions were offered, either by publick events or private incidents; and, contenting himself with the influence of his muse, or loving quiet better than influence, he never accepted any office of magistracy.
He was not, however, without fome attention to his fortune; for he asked from the King (in 1665) the propostship of Eaton College, and obtained it; buç Clarendon refused to put the seal to the grant, alleging that it could be held only by a clergyman. "It iş
known that Sir Henty Wotton qualified himself for it by Deacon's orders.
To this oppofition, the Biographia imputes the violence and acrimony with which Waller joined Buckingham's faction in the prosecution of Clarendon. The motive was illiberal and dishonest, and shewed that more than fixty years had not been able to teach him morality. His accusation is such as conscience can hardly be supposed to dičtate without the help of malice. " We were to be governed by janizaries 4 instead of parliaments, and are in danger from a “ worse plot than that of the fifth of November; then, $ if the Lords and commons had been destroyed, there “ had been a fuccefsion; but here both had been de“stroyed for ever.” This is the language of a man who is glad of an opportunity to rail, and ready to facrifice truth to interest at one time, and to anger at another.
A year after the Chancellor's banishment, another vacancy gave him encouragement for another petition which the King referred to the council, who, afterhearing the question argued by lawyers for three days, determined that the office could be held only by a clergyman, according to the act of uniformity, since the provosts had always received institution, as for a parsonage, from the bishops of Lincoln. The King then said, he could not break the Law which he had made; and Dr. Zachary Cradock, famous for a single sermon, at most for two sermons, was chosen by the Fellows.
That he asked any thing more is not known; it is cewain that he obtained nothing, though he con