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ABRAHAM COWLEY, a poet of considerable dis- virtue of a degree which he obtained, by Inandamus tinction, was born at London, in 1618. His father, trom Oxford, in December, 1657. who was a grocer by trade, died before his birth; After the death of Cromwell, Cowley returned but his mother, through the interest of her friends, to France, and resumed his station as an agent in procured his admission into Westminster school, the royal cause, the hopes of which now began to as a king's scholar. He has represented himself as revive. The Restoration reinstated him, with other so deficient in memory, as to have been unable to royalists, in his own country; and he naturally ex retain the common rules of grammar: it is, how- pected a reward for his long services. He had ever, certain that, by some process, he became an been promised, both by Charles I. and Charles II., elegant and correct classical scholar. He early the Mastership of the Savoy, but was unsuccessful imbibed a taste for poetry; and so soon did it germi- in both his applications. He had also the misfortune nate in his youthful mind, that, while yet at school, of displeasing his party, by his revived comedy of in his fifteenth or sixteenth year, he published a "The Cutter of Coleman-street," which was concollection of verses, under the appropriate title of strued as a satire on the cavaliers. At length 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 favorable 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 himself no sensibility to rural pleasures, treats this of Trinity college. He continued to reside at Cam- taste with severity and ridicule, thore seems little bridge till 1643, and was a Master of Arts when reason to decry a propensity, nourished by the fahe was ejected from the university by the puritani- vorite strains of poets, and natural to a mind long cal visitors. He thence removed to Oxford, and tossed by the anxieties of business, and the vicissi. fixed himself in St. John's college. It was here tudes of an unsettled condition. that he engaged actively in the royal cause, and Cowley took up his abode first at Barn-elms, on was present in several of the king's journeys and the banks of the Thames; but this place not agree. expeditions, but in what quality, does not appear. ing with his health, he removed to Chertsey. Here lle ingratiated himself, however, with the principal his life was soon brought to a close. According to persons about the court, and was particularly hon- his biographer, Dr. Sprat, the fatal disease was an ored 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 laborers. 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 an that Cowley, with his friend Sprat, paid a visit on absence of nearly ten years from his native coun- foot to a gentleman in the neighborhood of Cherttry, he took various journeys into Jersey, Scotland, sey, which they prolonged, in free conviviality, till Holland, and Flanders; and it was principally midnight; and that missing their way on their rethrough his instrumentality that a correspondence turn, they were obliged to pass the night under a was maintained between the king and his consort. hedge, which gave to the poet a severe cold and The business of ciphering and deciphering their fever, which terminated in his death. He died on letters, was intrusted to his care, and often occu- July 28, 1667, and was interred, with a most honpied his nights, as well as his days. It is no won-orable attendance of persons of distinction, in Westder that, after the Restoration, he long complained minster-abbey, near the remains of Chaucer and of the neglect with which he was treated. In Spenser. King Charles II. pronounced his eulogy, 1656, having no longer any affairs 10 transact by declaring, “that Mr. Cowley had not left a abroad, he returned to England ; still, it is sup- 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. rnost of those which now appear in his works. In And although a large. portion of Cowley's celebrity a search for another person, he was apprehended by has since vanished, there still remains enough to the messengers of the ruling powers, and committed raise him to a considerable rank among the British to custody; from which he was liberated, by that poets. It may be proper here to add, that as a generous and learned physician, Dr. Scarborough, prose writer, particularly in the department of who bailed him in the sum of a thousand pounds. essays, there are few who can compare with him This, however, was possibly the sum at which he in elegant simplicity. wox 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.
By the night's obscurity,
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 myseli it must be strook.
Too low for envy, for contempt too high.
Some honor 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!
Rumor can ope the grave. Hence, the desire of honors 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 outdo;
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 Sabine 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 Who best can praise thee, next must be.
And in this true delight,
These unbought sports, this happy state,
But boldly say each night,
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 Aying ball.
Martha soon did it resign
To the beauteous Catharine. lo, 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
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.
1. LOVE. I'LL sing of' heroes and of kings, In mighty numbers, mighty things. Begin, my Muse! but lo! the strings To my great song rebellious prove; The strings will sound of nought but love I broke them all, and put on new; "Tis this or nothing sure will do. These, sure, (said I) will me obey; These, sure, heroic notes will play. Straight I began with thundering Jove, And all th' immortal powers; but Love, Love smil'd, and from m'enfeebled lyre Came gentle airs, such as inspire Melting love and soft desire. Farewell, then, heroes! farewell, kings And mighty numbers, mighty things! Love tunes my heart just to my strings
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-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 pretty Thomasine, And then another Catharine,
And then a long et cætera.
II. DRINKING. The thirsty earth soaks up the rain, And drinks, and gapes for drink again, The plants suck-in the earth, and are With constant drinking fresh and fair; The sea itself (which one would think Should have but little need of drink) Drinks twice ten thousand rivers up, So fill'd that they o'erflow the cup. The busy Sun (and one would guess By's drunken fiery face no less) Drinks up the sea, and, when he 'as done The Moon and Stars drink up the Sun: They drink and dance by their own light, They drink and revel all the night. Nothing in nature's sober found, But an eternal health goes round. Fill up the bowl, then, fill it high, Fill all the glasses there; for why Should every creature drink but I? Why, man of morals, tell me why?
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 flatteries, The quarrels, tears, and perjuries,
(Numberless, nameless, mysteries !)
III. BEAUTY. LIBERAL Nature did dispense To all things arms for their defence; And some she arms with sinewy force, And some with swiftness in the course ; Some with hard hoofs or forked claws, And some with horns or tusked jaws :
And all the little lime-twigs laid,
By Machiavel the waiting-maid ;
And some with scales, and some with wings,
1X. ANOTHER. UNDERNEATH this myrtle shade, On flowery beds supinely laid, With odorous oils my head o'erflowing, 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.
V. AGE. Ort am I by the women told, Poor Anacreon! thou grow'st old : Look how thy hairs are falling all; Poor Anacreon, how they fall! Whether I grow old or no, By th' effects, I do not know; This I know. without being told 'Tis ome to live, if I grow old; "Tis time short pleasures now to take Of little life the best to make, And manage wisely the last stake.
VII. GOLD. A MIGHTY pain to love it is, And 'tis a pain that pain to miss But, of all pains, the greatest pair It is to love, but love in vain. Virtue now, nor noble blood, Nor wit, by love is understood Gold alone does passion move Gold monopolizes love. A curse on her, and on the man Who this traffic first began! A curse on him who found the ore ! A curse on him who digg'd the store ! A curse on him who did refine it! A curse on him who first did coin it! A curse, all curses else above, On him who us'd it first in love! Gold begets in brethren hate; Gold in families debate; Gold does friendships separate; Gold does civil wars create.
These the smallest harms of it! Gold, alas! does love beget.
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. The country hinds with gladness hear, Prophet of the ripen'd year! Thee Phæbus loves, and does inspire, Phæbus is hiinself 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 Thy fill, the flow'ry leaves among. (Voluptuous, and wise withal, Epicurean animal!) Sated with thy summer feast, Thou retir'st lo 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. Today is ours, what do we fear? Today 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-me-row
XI. THE SWALLOW. Foolish Prater, what dost thou So early at my window do,
With thy tuneless serenade!
ELEGY UPON ANACREON; WHO WAS CHOKED BY A GRAPE STONE.
SPOKEN BY THE GOD OF LOVE.
How shall I lament thine end, My best servant and my friend ? Nay, and, if from a deity So much deified as I, It sound not too profane and odd, Oh, my master and my god! For 'tis true, most mighty poet! (Though I like not men should know it) I am in naked Nature less, Less by much, than in thy dress. All thy verse is softer far Than the downy feathers are Of my wings, or of my arrows, Of my mother's doves or sparrows, Sweet as lovers' freshest kisses, Or their riper following blisses; Graceful, cleanly, smooth, and round, All with Venus' girdle bound; And thy life was all the while Kind and gentle as thy style, The smooth-pac'd hours of every day Glided numerously away. Like thy verse each hour did pass ; Sweet and short, like that, it was.
Some do but their youth allow me, Just what they by Nature owe me, The time that's mine, and not their own, The certain tribute of my crown: When they grow old, they grow to be Too busy, or too wise, for me. Thou wert wiser, and didst know None too wise for love can grow; Love was with thy life entwin'd, Close as heat with fire is join'd; A powerful brand prescrib'd the date Of thine, like Meleager's fate. Th' antiperistasis of age More inflam'd thy amorous rage; Thy silver hairs yielded me more Than even golden curls before.
Had I the power of creation,
Till my Anacreon by thee fell,
It grieves me when I see what fate