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notice of by all judicious men, so that it is superfluous to collect them." tc~£&fc*'
I know not whether he has, in many of these instances, attained the representation or resemblance that he purposes. Verse can imitate only sound and motion A boundless verse, a headlong verse, and a verse of brass or of strong brass, seem to comprise very incongruous and unsociable ideas. What there is peculiar in the sound of the line expressing loose care, I cannot discover; nor why the pine is taller in an Alexandrine than in ten syllables.
But, not to defraud him of his due praise, he has given one example of representative versification, which perhaps no other English line can equal.
Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise:
He, who defers this work from day to day,
Does on a river's bank expecting stay
Till the whole stream that stopp'd him shall be gone,
Which runs, and, as it runs, for ever shall run on.
Cowley was, 1 believe, the first poet that mingled Alexandrines at pleasure with the common heroick of ten syllables; and from him jpryden borrowed the practice, whether ornamental or licentious. He considered the verse of twelve syllables as elevated and maiestick. and has therefore deviated into that measure when he supposes the voice heard of the Supreme Beinff.
The author of the Davideis is commended by Dryden for having written it in couplets, because he discovered that any staff was too lyrical for an heroick poem; but this seems to have been known before by Maj and Sandys, the translators of the Pharsalia and the Metamorphoses.
In theDavideis are some hemistichs, or verses left imperfect by the author, in imitation of Virgil, whom he supposes not to have intended to complete them: that this opinion is erroneous, may be probably concluded, because this truncation is imitated by no subsequent Roman poet; because Virgil himself filled np mip token line in the heat of recitation; because in one the sense is now unfinished; and because all that can be done by a broken verse, a line intersected-by a ccesura, and a full stop, will equally effect.
Of triplets in his Davideis he makes no use, and perhaps did not at first think them allowable; but he appears afterwards to have changed his mind, for in the verses on the government of Cromwell he inserts them liberally with great happiness.
After so much criticism on his Poems, the Essays which accompany them must not be forgotten. What is said by Sprat of his conversation, that no man could draw from it any suspicion of his excellence in poetry, may be applied to these compositions. No author ever kept his verse and his prose at a greater distance from each other. His thoughts are natural, and his style has a smooth and placid
\nk £r equability, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far sought, or hardlaboured; but all is easy without feebleness, aud familiar without grossness.
"It has been observed by Felton, in his Essay on the Classicks, that Cowley was beloved by every Muse that he courted; and that he has rivalled the Antients in every kind of poetry biit_tragedy.
It maybe affirmed, without any encomiastick fervour, that he brought to his poetick labours a mind replete with learning, and that his pages are embellisliejL with all the ornaments which books could supply; that he was the first who imparted to English numbers the enthusiasm of the greater ode, and the gaiety of the less; that he was equally qualified for spritely sallies, and for lofty flights; that he was among those who freed translation from servility, and, instead of following his author at a distance, walked by his side; and that if he left versification yet improveable, he left likewise from time to time such specimens of excellence as enabled succeeding poets to improve it. M t
Of Sir John Denham very little is known but what is related of him by Wood, or by himself.
He was born at Dublin 1615*; the only son of Sir John Denham, of Little Horsely in Essex, then chief baron of the Exchequer in Ireland, and of Eleanor, daughter of Sir Garret More, baron of Mellefont.
Two years afterwards, his father, being made one of the barons of the Exchequer in England, brought him away from his native country, and educated him in London.
In 1631 he was sent to Oxford, where he was considered "as a dreaming young man, given more to dice and cards than study:" and therefore gave no prognosticks of his future eminence; nor was suspected to conceal, under sluggishness and laxity, a genius born to improve the literature of his country.
* In Hamilton's Memoirs of Count Grammont, Sir John Denham is said to have been 79 when he married Miss Brook about the year 1664; according to which statement he was born in 1585. But Dr. Johnson, who has followed Wood, is right. He entered Trinity College, Oxford, at the age of 16 in 1631, as appears by the following entry which I copied from the Matriculation Book.
" 1631. Nov. 18. Johannes Denham, Essex, filius J. Denham de Horsley Parva in com. prsedict. militis, annos natus 16."
When he was, three years afterwards, removed to Lincoln's Inn, he prosecuted the common law with sufficient appearance of application; yet did not lose his propensity to cards and dice; but was very often plundered by gamesters.
Being severely reproved for this folly, he professed, and perhaps believed, himself reclaimed; and, to testify the sincerity of his repentance, wrote and published" An Essay upon Gaming."
He seems to have divided his studies between law and poetry; for, in 1636, he translated the second book of the iEneid.
Two years after, his father died; and then, notwithstanding his resolutions and professions, he returned again to the vice of gaming, and lost several thousand pounds that had been left him.
In 1641, he published "The Sophy." This seems to have given him his first hold of the publick attention; for Waller remarked, "that he broke out like the Irish rebellion, three-score thousand strong, "when nobody was aware, or in the least suspected it;" an observation which could have had no propriety, had his poetical abilities been known before.
He was after that pricked for sheriff of Surrey, and made governor of Farnham Castle for the king; but he soon resigned that charge, and retreated to Oxford, where, in 1643, he published "Cooper's Hill."