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ABRAHAM COWLET, 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 pridge 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 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. 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 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. was 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 : Nets of roses in the way!
Rumour can ope the grave. Hence, the desire of honours or estate,
Acquaintance I would have, but when't depends And all that is not above Fate !
Not on the number, but the choice, of friends. Hence, Love himself, that tyrant of my days ! 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,
To be like one of you ?
On the calm flourishing head of it,
MARGARITA first possest,
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 fled ;
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.
I'll sing of heroes and of kings,
But when Isabella came,
Arm'd with a resistless fame,
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-maid;
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.
The strength and riches of their state;
The powder, patches, and the pins,
That make up all their magazines ;
The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
If I should tell the politic arts
To take and keep men's hearts; ,
The letters, embassies, and spies, The frowns, and smiles, and flatteries The quarrels, tears, and perjuries,
(Numberless, nameless, mysteries !) And all the little lime-twigs laid,
By Machiavel the waiting maid ;
LIBERAL Nature did dispense
And some with scales, and some with wings,
UNDERNEATH this myrtle shade, On flowery beds supinely laid, With odorous oils my head o'er-flowing, And around it roses growing, What should I do but drink away The heat and troubles of the day? In this more than kingly state Love himself shall on me wait. Fill to me, Love; nay fill it up; And mingled cast into the cup Wit, and mirth, and noble fires, Vigorous health and gay desires. The wheel of life no less will stay In a smooth than rugged way: Since it equally doth flee, Let the motion pleasant be. Why do we precious ointments show'r ? Nobler wines why do we pour ? Beauteous flowers why do we spread, Upon the monuments of the dead ? Nothing they but dust can show, Or bones that hasten to be so. Crown me with roses whilst I live, Now your wines and ointments give; After death I nothing crave, Let me alive my pleasures have, All are Stoics in the grave.
Oft am I by the women told,
A MIGHTY pain to love it is,
X. THE GRASSHOPPER. Happy Insect! what can be In happiness compar'd to thee? Fed with nourishment divine, The dewy Morning's gentle wine ! Nature waits upon thee still, And thy verdant cup does fill; 'Tis fill'd wherever thou dost tread, Nature's self's thy Ganymede. Thou dost drink, and dance, and sing; Happier than the happiest king! All the fields which thou dost see, All the plants, belong to thee; All that summer-hours produce, Fertile made with early juice. Man for thee does sow and plow; Farmer he, and landlord thou ! Thou dost innocently joy ; Nor does thy luxury destroy ; The shepherd gladly heareth thee, More harmonious than he. Thee country hinds with gladness hear, Prophet of the ripen'd year! 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. Happy insect, happy thou ! Dost neither age nor winter know; But, when thou'st drunk, and danc'd, and sung TI
fill, the flow'ry leaves among, (Voluptuous, and wise withal, Epicurean animal !) Sated with thy summer feast, Thou retir'st to endless rest.
VIII. THE EPICURE, Fill the bowl with rosy wine ! Around our temples roses twine ! And let us cheerfully awhile, Like the wine and roses, smile. Crown'd with roses, we contemn Gyges' wealthy diadem. To day is ours, what do we fear? To day is ours; we have it here : Let's treat it kindly, that it may Wish at least, with us to stay. Let's banish business, banish sorrow; To the gods belongs to-morrow.
XI. THE SWALLOW. Foolisu Prater, what dost thou So carly at my window do,