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fended; and which would not be borne in the present age, when devotion, perhaps not more fervent, is more delicate.
Having produced one passage taken by Cowley from Donne, I will recompense him by another which Milton seems to have borrowed from him. He says of Goliah,
His spear, the trunk was of a lofty tree,
Which Nature meant some tall ship's mast should be.
Milton of Satan:
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
His diction was in his own time censured as negligent. He seems not to have known, or not to have considered, that words being arbitrary must owe their power to association, and have the influence, and that only, which custom has given them. Language is the dress of thought: and as the nonblest mien, or most graceful action, would be degraded and obscured by a garb appropriated to the gross employments of rusticks or mechanicks; so the most heroick sentiments will lose their efficacy, and thgjnost splendid, ideas drop their magnificence, jf they__are conveyed by words usecTjcommonlv upon low and trivial occasions, debased by vulgar mouths. and contaminated by inelegant applications.
Truth indeed is always truth, and reason is always reason; they have an intrinsic and unalterable value, and constitute that intellectual gold which defies destruction; but gold may beso concealed in baser matter, that only a chymist can recover it; sense may be so 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 dictioiU-being the- vehicle of the thoughts, first presents itself to the intellectual eye: and if the first appearance offends, a further knowledge is not often sought. Whatever professes to benefit by pleasing, must please at once. The pleasures of the mind imply something sudden and unexpected: ; . that which elevates must always surprise. What is j (Jff^.J^perceived by slow degfgtjg. may gratify us with ,thp At*
consciousness of improvement, but will never strike
Of alT^sJ_Cowley appears to have been without knowledge, or without careT HeTnakesTio ^eleetioa-. ""oFwords, nor seeks any neatness of phrase: he has no elegancies either lucky or elaborate: as his endeavours were rather to impress sentences upon the understanding than images on the fancy; he has few epithets, ancTthose scattered without peculiar propriety or nice adaptation. It seems to follow from the necessity of the subject, rather than the care of the writer, that the diction of his heroic poem is less familiar than that of his slightest writings. He has given not the same numbers, but the same diction, tq,the gentle Anacreon and the tempestuous Pindar.
His versification seems to have 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 artjQl reading them is at present lost; for they are commonly 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 asperity.
VOL. VI. F
His contractions are often rugged and harsh:
v. J One flings a mountain, and its rivers too
vr Torn up with't.
His rhymes are very often made by pronouns, or vj/ particles!, or the like unimportant words, whicli_4lisr
appointive ear, and destroy the energy of the line.
His combination of different measures is sometimes dissonanfapd unpTeasing; he joins verses together, of which the former does not slide easily into the latter.
The wordsjfo and did, which so 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 conscience does not bind, No other law shall shackle me;Slave to myself I ne'er will be;
By my own present mind.
Who by resolves and vows engag'd does stand
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!
Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell!
His heroic lines are often formed of monosyllables; but yet tTiey M^-Sometimes sweet and sonorous.
He says of the Messiah,
Round the whole earth his dreaded name shall sound,
In another place, of David,
Yet bid him go securely, when he sends;
Yet amidst his negligence he sometimes attempted an improved and scientific versification; of which it will be best to give his own account subjoined to this line:
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 it 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 careless verses: as "before,
And over-runs the neighb"ring fields with violent course."In the second book;
Brass was his helmet, his hoots b?'ass, and c?er
"In the fourth,
"And many more: but it is enough to instance in "a few. The thing is, that the disposition of words "and numbers 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 themselves to; neither have "our English poets observed it, for aught I can find. The Latins (qui Musas colunt severiores) sometimes did it; and their prince, Virgil, always: in whom the examples are innumerable,and taken