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ABRAHAM COWLEY, a poet of considerable dis- virtue of a degree which he obtained, by mandamus, tinction, was born at London, in 1618. His from Oxford, in December, 1657. father, who was a grocer by trade, died before his | After the death of Cromwell, Cowley returned birth; but his mother, through the interest of her to France, and resumed his station as an agent in friends, procured his admission into Westminster the royal cause, the hopes of which now began to school, as a king's scholar. He has represented revive. The Restoration reinstated him, with other himself as so deficient in memory, as to have been royalists, in his own country; and he naturally unable to retain the common rules of grammar: it expected a reward for his long services. He had is, however, certain that, by some process, he be- been promised, both by Charles I. and Charles II., came an elegant and correct classical scholar. He the Mastership of the Savoy, but was unsuccessful in early imbibed a taste for poetry; and so soon did it both his applications. He had also the misfortune germinate in his youthful mind, that, while yet at of displeasing his party, by his revived comedy of school, in his fifteenth or sixteenth year, he pub-" The Cutter of Coleman-street,” which was conlished a collection of verses, under the appropriate strued as a satire on the cavaliers. At length, title of Poetical Blossoms.
through the interest of the Duke of Buckingham In 1636 he was elected a scholar of Trinity col- and the Earl of St. Alban's, he obtained a lease of lege, Cambridge. In this favourable situation he ob a farm at Chertsey, held under the queen, by which tained much praise for his academical exercises ; his income was raised to about 300l. per annum. and he again appeared as an author, in a pastoral From early youth a country retirement had been comedy, called Love's Riddle, and a Latin comedy, a real or imaginary object of his wishes; and, entitled, Naufragium Joculare ; the last of which though a late eminent critic and moralist, who had was acted before the university, by the members of himself no sensibility to rural pleasures, treats this
Trinity college. He continued to reside at Cam- taste with severity and ridicule, there seems little bridge till 1643, and was a Master of Arts reason to decry a propensity, nourished by the when he was ejected from the university by the pu- favourite strains of poets, and natural to a mind ritanical visiters. He thence removed to Oxford, long tossed by the anxieties of business, and the and fixed himself in St. John's college. It was vicissitudes of an unsettled condition. here that he engaged actively in the royal cause, Cowley took up his abode first at Barn-elms, on and was present in several of the king's journeys and the banks of the Thames; but this place not agreeexpeditions, but in what quality, does not appear. ing with his health, he removed to Chertsey. Here He ingratiated himself, however, with the principal his life was soon brought to a close. According to persons about the court, and was particularly his biographer, Dr. Sprat, the fatal disease was an honoured with the friendship of Lord Falkland. affection of the lungs, the consequence of staying
When the events of the war obliged the queen- too late in the fields among his labourers. Dr. mother to quit the kingdom, Cowley accompanied Warton, however, from the authority of Mr. Spence, her to France, and obtained a settlement at Paris, gives a different account of the matter. He says, in the family of the Earl of St. Alban's. During that Cowley, with his friend Sprat, paid a visit on an absence of nearly ten years from his native | foot to a gentleman in the neighbourhood of Chertcountry, he took various journeys into Jersey, Scot sey, which they prolonged, in free conviviality, till land, Holland, and Flanders; and it was princi midnight ; and that missing their way on their repally through his instrumentality that a corre turn, they were obliged to pass the night under a spondence was maintained between the king and his hedge, which gave to the poet a severe cold and consort. The business of cyphering and decypher fever, which terminated in his death. He died on ing their letters was entrusted to his care, and often July 28. 1667, and was interred, with a most hooccupied his nights, as well as his days. It is no nourable attendance of persons of distinction, in wonder that, after the Restoration, he long com Westminster-abbey, near the remains of Chaucer plained of the neglect with which he was treated. and Spenser. King Charles II. pronounced his In 1656, having no longer any affairs to transact eulogy, by declaring, “ that Mr. Cowley had not abroad, he returned to England; still, it is sup left a better man behind him in England.” posed, engaged in the service of his party, as a me At the time of his death, Cowley certainly ranked dium of secret intelligence. Soon after his arrival, as the first poet in England; for Milton lay under he published an edition of his poems, containing a cloud, nor was the age qualified to taste him. most of those which now appear in his works. In And although a large portion of Cowley's celea search for another person, he was apprehended by brity has since vanished, there still remains enough the messengers of the ruling powers, and committed to raise him to a considerable rank among the to custody, from which he was liberated, by that British poets. It may be proper here to add, that generous and learned physician, Dr. Scarborough, as a prose-writer, particularly in the department who bailed him in the sum of a thousand pounds. of essays, there are few who can compare with This, however, was possibly the sum at which he him in elegant simplicity. pas rated as a physician, a character he assumed by
Noisy nothing! stalking shade!
By what witchcraft wert thou made ?
Empty cause of solid harms !
But I shall find out counter-charms And make the age to come my own ?
Thy airy devilship to remove
From this circle here of love.
Sure I shall rid myself of thee
By the night's obscurity, In this scale gold, in th' other fame does lie,
And obscurer secrecy!
Unlike to every other sprite,
Brought forth with their own fire and light : Nor appear'st but in the light.
Out of myself it must be strook.
This only grant me, that my means may lie Raise up the buried man.
Too low for envy, for contempt too high. Unpast Alps stop me; but I'll cut them all,
Some honour I would have, And march, the Muses' Hannibal.
Not from great deeds, but good alone; Hence, all the flattering vanities that lay
Th' unknown are better than ill known :
Rumour can ope the grave.
Acquaintance I would have, but when't depends Hence, Love himself, that tyrant of my days !
Not on the number, but the choice, of friends, Which intercepts my coming praise.
Books should, not business, entertain the light, Come, my best friends, my books and lead me on; And sleep, as undisturb'd as death, the night. 'Tis time that I were gone.
My house a cottage more Welcome, great Stagyrite! and teach me now
Than palace; and should fitting be All I was born to know :
For all my use, no luxury. Thy scholar's victories thou dost far out-do;
My garden painted o'er He conquer'd th' earth, the whole world you.
With Nature's hand, not Art's; and pleasures yield, Welcome, learn'd Cicero! whose blest tongue and
Horace might envy in his Sabin field. wit Preserves Rome's greatness yet :
Thus would I double my life's fading space ; Thou art the first of orators; only he
For he, that runs it well, twice runs his race.
And in this true delight,
Whose verse walks highest, but not flies; I would not fear, nor wish, my fate ;
But boldly say each night, And made that art which was a rage.
To-morrow let my sun his beams display,
Or in clouds hide them ; I have liv'd to-day.
On the calm flourishing head of it,
If I remember well, my breast,
Margarita first of all;
But when awhile the wanton maid
With my restless heart had play'd,
Martha took the flying ball.
Martha soon did it resign
To the beauteous Catharine. lö, triumphe ! enter in.
Beauteous Catharine gave place
(Though loth and angry she to part What's this, ye gods! what can it be?
With the possession of my heart)
To Eliza's conquering face.
Eliza till this hour might reign,
Had she not evil counsels ta'en. And shall this phantom me oppose ?
Fundamental laws she broke,
And still new favourites she chose,
(Chiefly if I like them should tell Till up in arms my passions rose,
All change of weathers that befell.)
Than Holinshed or Stow.
But I will briefer with them be, .
Since few of them were long with me.
An higher and a nobler strain And sometimes Mary was the fair,
My present emperess does claim,
Heleonora, first o' th' name;
Whom God grant long to reign !
Another Mary then arose,
And did rigorous laws impose;
A mighty tyrant she ! Long, alas ! should I have been Under that iron-scepter'd queen,
Had not Rebecca set me free.
When fair Rebecca set me free,
'Twas then a golden time with me :
But soon those pleasures fed ;
And Judith reigned in her stead.
One month, three days, and half an hour,
Judith held the sovereign power :
Wondrous beautiful her face!
And so Susanna took her place.
But when Isabella came,
Arm'd with a resistless flame,
And th' artillery of her eye; Whilst she proudly march'd about, Greater conquests to find out,
She beat out Susan by the by.
But in her place I then obey'd
Black-ey'd Bess, her viceroy-imaid;
To whom ensued a vacancy: Thousand worse passions then possest The interregnum of my breast;
Bless me from such an anarchy!
Gentle Henrietta then,
And a third Mary, next began;
Then Joan, and Jane, and Audria;
And then a long et cætera.
But should I now to you relate
The strength and riches of their state;
The powder, patches, and the pins,
That make up all their magazines ;
If I should tell the politic arts
To take and keep men's hearts ; .
The letters, embassies, and spies, The frowns, and smiles, and Aatteries The quarrels, tears, and perjuries,
(Numberless, nameless, mysteries !)
Some with hard hoofs or forked claws,
And all the little lime-twigs laid,
By Machiavel the waiting maid;
And some with scales, and some with wings,
UNDERNEATH this myrtle shade, Wisdom for shield, and wit for sword.
On flowery beds supinely laid, What to beauteous womankind,
With odorous oils my head o'er-flowing, What arms, what armour, has sh' assign'd?
And around it roses growing, Beauty is both; for with the fair
What should I do but drink away What arms, what armour, can compare ?
The heat and troubles of the day? What steel, what gold, or diamond,
In this more than kingly state More impassible is found ?
Love himself shall on me wait. And yet what flame, what lightning, e'er
Fill to me, Love; nay fill it up; So great an active force did bear ?
And mingled cast into the cup They are all weapon, and they dart
Wit, and mirth, and noble fires, Like porcupines from every part.
Vigorous health and gay desires. Who can, alas! their strength express,
The wheel of life no less will stay Arm'd, when they themselves undress,
In a smooth than rugged way: Cap-a-pie with nakedness ?
Since it equally doth flee,
Let the motion pleasant be.
Why do we precious ointments show'r ?
Nobler wines why do we pour ? Poor Anacreon! thou grow'st old :
Beauteous flowers why do we spread, Look how thy hairs are falling all ;
Upon the monuments of the dead? Poor Anacreon, how they fall !
Nothing they but dust can show, Whether I grow old or no,
Or bones that hasten to be so. By th' effects, I do not know;
Crown me with roses whilst I live, This, I know, without being told,
Now your wines and ointments give ; 'Tis time to live, if I grow old;
After death I nothing crave, 'Tis time short pleasures now to take,
Let me alive my pleasures have, Of little life the best to make,
All are Stoics in the grave.
X. THE GRASSHOPPER.
Happy Insect! what can be
In happiness compar'd to thee ? And 'tis a pain that pain to miss ;
Fed with nourishment divine, But, of all pains, the greatest pain
The dewy Morning's gentle wine ! It is to love, but love in vain.
Nature waits upon thee still, Virtue now, nor noble blood,
And thy verdant cup does fill; Nor wit by love is understood;
'Tis fill'd wherever thou dost tread, Gold alone does passion move,
Nature's self's thy Ganymede. Gold monopolizes love,
Thou dost drink, and dance, and sing; A curse on her, and on the man
Happier than the happiest king ! Who this traffic first began !
All the fields which thou dost see, A curse on him who found the ore !
All the plants, belong to thee; A curse on him who digg'd the store !
All that summer-hours produce, A curse on him who did refine it!
Fertile made with early juice. A curse on him who first did coin it!
Man for thee does sow and plow; A curse, all curses else above,
Farmer he, and landlord thou ! On him who us'd it first in love!
Thou dost innocently joy ; Gold begets in brethren hate ;
Nor does thy luxury destroy ; Gold in families debate;
The shepherd gladly heareth thee, Gold does friendships separate;
More harmonious than he. Gold does civil wars create.
Thee country hinds with gladness hear, These the smallest harins of it!
Prophet of the ripen'd year! Gold, alas ! does love beget.
Thee Phæbus loves, and does inspire;
Phæbus is himself thy sire.
To thee, of all things upon earth,
Life is no longer than thy mirth. Around our temples roses twine !
Happy insect, happy thou ! And let us cheerfully awhile,
Dost neither age nor winter know; Like the wine and roses, smile.
But, when thou'st drunk, and danc'd, and sung Crown'd with roses, we contemn
Thy fill, the flow'ry leaves among, Gyges' wealthy diadem.
(Voluptuous, and wise withal, To day is ours, what do we fear ?
Epicurean animal !) To day is ours; we have it here :
Sated with thy summer feast,
Thou retir'st to endless rest.
XI. THE SWALLON.
Foolish Prater, what dost thou