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SPECIMENS OF MILTON'S VERSE.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
(PARADISE LOST, BOOK III.)
SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT, born in 1605 at Oxford, where his father kept a tavern, became laureate on the death of Ben Jonson. He was a keen Royalist, and in the Civil War suffered many changes of fortune. While an exile in France he wrote part of the tedious heroic poem Gondibert, which is the chief work now associated with his name. During the Commonwealth, while on board a ship bound for Virginia, he was arrested by the sailors of the Parliament, and confined at Cowes and in the Tower. Milton is thought to have aided in obtaining his release; and Davenant, we are told, repaid the kindness, when the Restoration changed the fortunes of the poets. Resuming his old occupation, the management of a theatre, Davenant spent his last years in peace, and died in 1668.
EDMUND WALLER, born in 1605, is one of the brilliant, courtly, superficial poets, who flourished under the rule of our two Kings Charles. The rich and well-born youth was a member of Parliament at eighteen. At first he took the popular side, but in the Civil War, being detected in a Royalist plot, he suffered imprisonment and fine. After a sojourn in France, he came home to celebrate in verse the glory of Cromwell; and not long afterwards, in a poem of inferior merit, to welcome the returning Stuart king. He then sat for Hastings, for various other places in successive parliaments, and at eighty years of age for a Cornish borough. He died and was buried in 1687 at Beaconsfield, where, little
Lore face and cooler
more than a century later, the body of the great Edmund Burke was laid in the grave. Waller's verses are smooth, elegant, and polished; but they are little more. His speeches in Parliament were, in general, excellent and telling.
HENRY VAUGHAN, born in Brecknockshire in 1614, was first a lawyer and then a physician. His chief merit lies in his Sacred Poetry. But, with much deep feeling, it has all the faults of the Metaphysical school, many of them in an exaggerated form.
SIR JOHN DENHAM, the author of Cooper's Hill, was born in 1615 at Dublin, the son of the Chief Baron of Exchequer in Ireland. At Oxford he became acquainted with the most brilliant and dissolute of the young Cavaliers, and with these he afterwards gambled away the fortune left him by his father. “Cooper's Hill” is a descriptive poem, varied by the thoughts suggested by such striking objects in the landscape as the Thames, Windsor Forest, and the flats of Runnymede. It is a good specimen of local poetry. Like all the Royalist party, he rose in fortune and favour at the Restoration, becoming then a surveyor of royal buildings and a Knight of the Bath. He died in 1668. A poor tragedy, the Sophy, founded on incidents in Turkish life, was also written by him.
RICHARD LOVELACE, born in a knightly mansion in 1618, was the most unhappy of the Cavalier poets. For his gallant struggles in the cause of his king, he suffered imprisonment, during which he collected and published his Odes and Songs. The marriage of his sweetheart with another,--she thought that he had died of his wounds in France,-broke his hopes and his heart; and through the years of the Commonwealth he continued to sink, until in 1658 he died, a ragged and consumptive beggar, in an alley near Shoe Lane. His poetry resembles Herrick’s, but with less sparkle and more conceit.
ABRAHAM COWLEY, born in London in 1618, was the son of a stationer in Cheapside. He became a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Like Pope, he wrote poems in early boyhood, and published a volume when only thirteen. His Royalist principles caused him to be expelled from Cambridge; and, after some time
THE “EIKON BASILIKE."
at Oxford, he went with Queen Henrietta to France, where he lived for twelve years. Disappointed after the Restoration in his hopes of preferment, he retired to Chertsey by the Thames, where his old timbered house is still pointed out. There he lived, in studious quiet but not content, for seven years, when in 1667 a neglected cold killed him after a fortnight's illness. He wrote Miscellanies, the Mistress or Love Verses, Pindaric Odes, and the Davideis, an heroic poem upon David. His light sparkling renderings of Horace and Anacreon are his happiest efforts. In many of his works there is a constant straining after effect, which has been well named wit-writing. His prose is simple, pure, and animated. No poet of his day was more popular than Cowley, who is now but little read.
WILLIAM CHAMBERLAYNE, of Shaftesbury in Dorset, born in 1619, wrote two long poems, which Campbell rescued from obscurity. They are Love's Victory, a tragi-comedy; and Pharonnida, an heroic poem. The latter, especially, contains some fine and varied scenes. Chamberlayne died in 1689. A country doctor practising at Shaftesbury, he associated little with the great men of his day.
CHARLES COTTON, the witty poet-friend of Walton, was Derbyshire man, born there in 1630. His father, Sir George, left him the encumbered estate of Ashbourne. Cotton was always in money difficulties; but his light, easy nature enabled him to pass through life unsoured. The Dove, a noted trout-stream of his native shire, was the great resort of Cotton and his old friend Izaak, to whom many of his poems were addressed. The poet died in 1687.
JOHN GAUDEN was born in 1605, at Mayfield in Essex, and was educated at St. John's, Cambridge. He is considered, upon satisfactory evidence, to have written the celebrated work, Eikon Basiliké,* or the Portraiture of His Most Sacred Majesty (Charles I.) in his Solitude and Sufferings, which came out some days after
* The Royal Image.
BROWNE, CUDwor.TH, AND EVELYN. 215
the king's death. Some still think that Charles wrote the book himself: it was published under the royal name. But Gauden's complaining letters to Clarendon, coupled with other evidence, seem to prove that this Royalist clergyman was the author of the “Eikon.” Fifty editions were sold in one year. Milton, in his Eikonoklastes (Image-breaker), smote the “Eikon” with his weighty pen: but it bravely stood the blow. Gauden, who was made, under Charles IL, Bishop of Exeter, and afterwards Bishop of Worcester, died in 1662. SIR THOMAS BROWNE, born in London in 1605, was a physician in practice at Norwich. His works—Religio Medici, or the Religion of a Physician (1642), Pseudodoria Epidemica, or Vulgar Errors (1646), and Hydriotaphia, a treatise on the Sepulchral Urns of Norfolk (1658)—display, perhaps, the most extreme specimens our literature affords of that style, loaded with heavy Latin words, which was so dear to Dr. Johnson's pen. Coleridge, with whom Browne was a favourite author, praises the enthusiasm and entireness with which the eccentric doctor handles every subject he takes up. Browne died in 1682. RALPH. CUDworTH, born in 1617, was Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge. He published in 1678 a great work, entitled The True Intellectual System of the Universe; in which he maintains that there is an Almighty, All-wise God, that there is an everlasting distinction between justice and injustice,—and that the human will is free. This work was intended to combat widespread atheistic doctrines. A treatise on Eternal and Immutable Morality, also from Cudworth's pen, appeared after his death; and many of his manuscript works are preserved in the British Museum. He died in 1688. JoHN EvELYN, born in 1620 to the enjoyment of a good fortune, spent his abundant leisure in popularizing science. The Sylva, which contains an account of forest trees and their uses, proved the means of stirring up proprietors to plant oak-trees largely over the country, for use in ship-building. Terra, a work on agriculture, appeared in 1675. But the most interesting of Evelyn's works is bis Diary, which presents us with a clear view of English life,