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struction: but gold may be fo concealed in báfer matter, that only a chymist can recover it; sense may
be to hidden in unrefined and plebeian words, that none but philosophers can distinguish it; and both may be so buried in impurities, as not to pay the cost of their extraction.
The di&ion, being the vehicle of ihe thoughts, firit presents itself to the intellectual eye: and if the first appearance offends; a further knowledge is not often fought. Whatever profelles to benefit by pleasing, must please at once. The pleasures of the mind imply something sudden and unexpected; that ühich elevates must always surprise. What is perceived by flow degrees may gratify us with consciousness of improvement, but will never strike with the sense of pleasure.
Of all this, Cowley appears to have been without knowledge, or without care. He makes no selection of words, nor seeks any neatness of phrase: he has no elegances either lucky or elaborate; as his endeavours were rather to impress sentences upon the understanding than images on the fancy, he has few epithets, and those scattered without peculiar propriety of nice adaptation. It seems to follow from the necessity of the subject, rather than the care of the writer, that the diction of his heroick poem is less familiar than that of his slightest writings. He has given not the same numbers, but the fame diction, to the gentle Anacreon and the tempestuous Pindar:
His versification seems to liave had very little of his care; and if what he thinks be true, that his numbers are unmusical only when they are ill read, the art of reading thein is at present loit; for they are corrmonly VOL. II.
harsh to modern ears. He has indeed many noble lines, such as the feeble care of Waller never could produce. The bulk of his thoughts sometimes swelled his verse to unexpected and inevitable grandeur; but his excellence of this kind is merely fortuitous: he sinks willingly down to his general carelessness, and avoids with very little care either meanness or afperity. His contractions are often rugged and barsh:
One flings a mountain, and its rivers too
Torn up with't. . His rhymes are very often made by pronouns or particles, or the like unimportant words, which disappoint the ear, and destroy the energy of the line.
His combination of different measures is fometimes diffonate and unpleasing; he joins verses together, of which the former does not slide easily into the latter.
The words do and did, which fo much degrade in present estimation the line that admits them, were in the time of Cowley little censured or avoided; how often he used them, and with how bad an effect, at least to our ears, will appear by a passage, in which every reader will lament to see just and noble thoughts defrauded of their praise by inelegance of language: Where honour or where conscieirce does not blind,
No other law shall Thackle me;
Slave to myfclf I ne'er will be ;
By my own present mind.
For days, that yet belong to fate,
Before it falls into his hand,
The bondman of the cloister so,
Not to enjoy, but debts to pay !
His heroick lines are often formed of monosyllables ; but
yet they are sometimes sweet and sonorous.
Yet bid him go securely, when he fends;
And we who bid him go, will bring him back.
Nor can the glory contain itself in th’ endless space. “I am sorry that it is necessary to admonish the most
part of readers, that it is not by negligence that this - verse is so loose, long, and, as is were, vast; it is to “ paint in the number the nature of the thing which it “ describes, which I would have observed in divers “ other places of this poem, that else will pass for very I carless verses: as before,
And over-runs the neighböring fields quith violent course.
« In the second book;
Down a precipice deep, down he casts them all.
And fell a-down his shoulders with loose care. - In the third,
Brass was his helmet, his boots brass, and o'er
His breast a thick plate of frong brass he wore. " In the fourth,
Like some fair pine-o'er-looking all th’ignebler wood. And,
Some from the rocks cast themselves down beadlong. “ And many more: but it is enough to instance in a few. “ The thing is, that the disposition of words and num“bers should be such, as that, out of the order and sound “ of them, the things themselves may be represented. “ This the Greeks were not so accurate as to bind them“ selves to; neither have our English poets observed it,
for aught I can find. The Latins (qui mujas colunt severiores) sometimes did it, and their prince, Virgil, “ always: in whom the examples are innumerable, and “ taken notice of by all judicious men, so that it is super« fluous to collect them."
I know not whether he has, in many of these instances, attained the representation or resemblance that he purposes. Verse can imitate only sound and motion. A boundless verse, a headlong verse, and a verse of brass or of strong brass, seem to comprise very incongruous and unfociable ideas. What there is peculiar in the sound of the line expressing loose care, I cannot difcover; nor why the pine is taller in an Alexandrine than in ten syllables.
But, not to defraud him of his due praise, he has given one example of representative versification, which perhaps no other English line can equal :
Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise,
Which runs, and as it runs, for ever shall run on, Cowley. was, I believe, the first poet that mingled Alexandrines at pleasure with the common heroick of ten fyllables, and from him Dryden borrowed the practice, whether ornamental or licentious. He considered the verse of twelve syllables as elevated and majestick, and has therefore deviated into that measure when he supposes the voice heard of the Supreme Being.
The Author of the Davideis is commended by Dryden for having written it in couplets, because he discovered that any staff was too lyrical for an heroick poem; but this seems to have been known before by May and Sandys, the translators of the Pharsalia and the Metamorphoses.
In the Davideis are some hemistichs, or verses left im, perfect by the author, in imitation of Virgil, whom he supposes not to have intended to complete them: that this opinion is erroneous, may be probably concluded, because this truncation is imitated by no subsequent Roman poet; because Virgil himself filled up one broken line in the heat of recitation; because in one the sense is now unfinished; and becaufe all that can be done by a broken verse, a line interfected by a casura and a full stop will equally effect.
Of triplets in his Davideis he makes no use, and perhaps did not at first think them allowable; but lie ap