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A mighty pain to love it is,
In happiness compared to thee?
Fertile made with early juice.
Farmer he, and landlord thou!
Nor does thy luxury destroy.
Thee Phæbus loves, and does inspire; HiPhæbus is himself thy sire. on line Life is no longer than thy mirth.
To thee, of all things upon earth, Erwad o eldia Happy insect! happy thou,
Dost neither age nor winter know ;
But when thou'st drunk, and danced, and sung
owing are four stanzas of one of his best pieces, entitled
HYMN TO LIGHT.
Hail! active Nature's watchful life and health!
The shining pageants of the world attend thy show. Cowley's prose essays are much better than his poetry. Dr. Johnson, in speaking of them, says, “ His thoughts are natural, and his style has a smooth and placid equability, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far-sought or hard-labored; but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness:" and Dr. Drake, one of the most judicious of modern critics, rernarks, that “to Cowley we may justly ascribe the formation of a basis on which has since been constructed the present correct and admirable fabric of our language. His words are pure and well chosen, the collocation simple and perspicuous, and the members of his sentences distinct and harmonious."
It is a hard and nice subject for a man to write of himself; it grates his own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him. There is no danger from me of offending him in this kind ; neither my mind, nor my body, nor my fortune, allow me any materials for that vanity. It is sufficient, for my own contentment, that they have preserved me from being scandalous, or remarkable on the defective side. As far as my memory can return back into my past life, before I knew or was capable of guessing what the world, or glories, or business of it were, the natural affections of my soul gave a secret bent of aversion from them, as some plants are said to turn away from others, by an antipathy imperceptible to them. selves, and inscrutable to man's understanding. Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running about on holidays, and playing with my fellows, I was wont to steal from them, and walk into the fields, either alone with a book or with some one companion, if I could find any of the same temper. That I was then of the same mind as I am now, (which, I confess, I won. der at myself,) may appear at the latter end of an ode which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and which was then printed, with many other verses. The beginning of it is boyish; but of this part which I here set down, (if a very little were corrected) I should hardly now be much ashamed.
This only grant me, that my means may lie
Some honor I would have,
Rumor can ope the grave:
My house a cottage, more
My garden painted o’er
And in this true delight,
But boldly say each night,
Or in clouds hide them; I have lived to-day. You may see by it I was even then acquainted with the poets, (for the conclusion is taken out of Horace ;) and perhaps it was ihe immature and immoderate love of them which stamped first, or rather engraved, the characters in me. They were like letters cut in the bark of a young tree, which, with the tree, still grow proportionably. But how this love came to be produced in me so early, is a hard question : I believe I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such chimes of verse as have never since left ringing there : for I remember when I began to read, and take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour, (I know not by what accident, for she herself never in her life read any book but of devotion;) but there was wont to lie Spenser's works; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave houses, which I found everywhere there, (though my understanding had little to do with all this ;) and by degrees, with the tinkling of the rhyme, and dance of the numbers; so that I think I had read him all over before I was twelve years old. With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the university ; but was soon torn from thence by that public violent storm, which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted up every plant, even from the princely cedars to me, the hyssop. Yet I had as good fortune as could have befallen me in such a tempest; for I was cast by it into the family of one of the best persons, and into the court of one of the best princesses in the world. Now, though I was here engaged in ways most contrary to the original design of my life ; that is, into much company, and no small business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both militant and triumphant, (for that was the state then of the English and the French courts ;) yet all this was so far from altering my opinion, that it only added the confirmation of reason to that which was before but natural inclination. I saw plainly all the paint of that kind of life, the nearer I came to it; and that beauty which I did not fall in love with, when, for aught I knew, it was real, was not like to bewitch or entice me when I saw it was adulterate. I met with several great persons whom I liked very well, but could not perceive that any part of their greatness was to be liked or desired, no more than I would be glad or content to be in a storm, though I saw many ships which rid safely and bravely in it. A storm would not agree with my stomach, if it did with my courage; though I was in a crowd of as good company as could be found anywhere, though I was in business of great and honorable trust, though I eat at the best table, and enjoyed the best conveniences for present subsistence that ought to be desired by a man of my condition, in banishment and public distresses; yet I could not abstain from renewing my old schoolboy's wish, in a copy of verses to the same effect :
Well, then, I now do plainly see
This busy world and I shall ne'er agree, &c. And I never then proposed to myself any other advantage from his majesty's happy restoration, but the getting into some moderately convenient retreat in the country, which I thought in that case I might easily have compassed, as well as some others, who, with no greater probabilities or pretences, have arrived to extraordinary fortunes.
THE PLEASURES OF A COUNTRY LIFE.
The first wish of Virgil was, to be a good philosopher; the second, a good husbandman; and God (whom he seemed to understand better than most of the most learned heathens) dealt with him just as he did with Solomon; because he prayed for wisdom in the first place, he added all things else which were subordinately to be desired. He made him one of the best philosophers and best husbandmen; and to adorn both those faculties, the best poet: he made him, besides all this, a rich man, and a man who desired to be no richer. To be a husbandman is but a retreat from the city; to be a philosopher, from the world ; or rather, a retreat from the world as it is man's, into the world as it is God's. But since nature denies to most men the capacity or appetite, and fortune allows but to a very few the opportunities or possibility of applying themselves wholly to philosophy, the best mixture of human affairs that we can make are the employments of a country life.
We are here among the vast and noble scenes of nature ; we are there (alluding to courts and cities) among the pitiful shifts of policy: we walk here in the light and open ways of the divine bounty; we grope there in the dark and confused labyrinths of human malice : our senses are here feasted with the clear and genuine taste of their objects, which are all sophisticated there, and for the most part overwhelmed with their contraries. Here pleasure looks (methinks) like a beautiful, constant, and modest wife ; it is there an impudent, fickle, and painted harlot. Here is harmless and cheap plenty, there guilty and expenseful luxury:
I shall only instance in one delight more, the most natural and best natured of all others, a perpetual companion of the husbandman; and that is, the satisfaction of looking round about him, and seeing nothing but the effects and improvements of his own art and diligence : to be always gathering of some fruits of it, and at the same time to behold others ripening, and others budding; to see all his fields and gardens covered with the beauteous creations of his own industry; and to see, like God, that all his works are good.
CHARACTER OF CROMWELL." What can be more extraordinary than that a person of mean birth, no fortune, no eminent qualities of body, which have sometimes, or of mind, which have often, raised men to the highest dig. nities, should have the courage to attempt, and the happiness to succeed in, so improbable a design as the destruction of one of the most ancient and most solidly-founded monarchies upon the earth? That he should have the power or boldness to put his prince and master to an open and infamous death; to banish that numerous
1 “Cowley's character of Oliver Cromwell, which is intended as satire, (though it certainly produces a very different impression on the mind,) may vie for truth of outline and force of coloring with the master-pieces of the Greek and Latin historians."--Hazlitt.