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COWL E Y.
IN the imitation of Cowley, in two pieces, on a Garden, and on Weeping, Pope has properly enough, in conformity to his original, extorted fome moral, or darted forth fome witticism on every object he mentions. It is not enough to say, that the laurels fheltered the fountain from the heat of the day; but this idea must be accompanied with a conceit :
Daphne, now a tree, as once a maid,
The flowers that grow on the water-fide could not be fufficiently defcribed without faying, that
"The pale Narciffus on the bank, in vain
In the lines on a Lady Weeping, you might expect a touching picture of beauty in diftrefs; you will be disappointed. Wit, on the prefent occafion, is to be preferred to tenderness; the babe in her eye is faid to resemble Phaeton so much,
"That heav'n the threat'ned world to spare,
To fet, like him, the world on fire."
Let not this ftrained affectation of ftriving to be witty upon all occafions be thought exaggerated, or a caricature of Cowley. It is painful to cenfure a writer of fo amiable a mind, fuch integrity of manners, and fuch a sweetness of temper. His fancy was brilliant, ftrong, and sprightly; but his tafte falfe and unclaffical, even though he had much learning. In his Latin compofitions, his fix books on plants, where the subject might have led him to a contrary practice, he imitates Martial rather than Virgil, and has given us more epigrams than defcriptions. I do not remember to
have seen it enough obferved, that Cowley had a most happy talent of imitating the easy manner of Horace's epiftolary writings; I muft therefore insert a specimen of this his excellence :
"Ergo iterum verfus ? dices. O Vane! quid ergo
There is another epiftle alfo, well worthy perufal, to his friend Mat. Clifford, at the end of the fame volume. Pope, in one of his imitations of Horace, has exhibited the real character of Cowley with delicacy and candour:
"Who now reads Cowley? If he pleases yet,
But ftill I love the language of his heart."
His profe works give us the most amiable idea both of his abilities and his heart. His Pindaric odes cannot be perused with common patience by a lover of antiquity. He that would fee Pindar's manner truly imitated, may read Mafters's noble and pathetic Ode on the Crucifixon; and he that wants to be convinced that these reflections on Cowley are not too fevere, may read also his epigrammatic verfion of it:
Η εκ οραας ὁλοπόρφυρον
Σιδονίης αλος, αλ
"Doft thou not fee thy prince in purple clad all o'er,
But made at home with richer
" Avory avorys
"Open, oh! open wide the fountains of thine eyes,
Their stock of moisture forth where e'er it lies,
'Twould all, alas! too little be,
Though thy falt tears came from a fea."
Cowley being early difgufted with the perplexities and vanities of a court life, had a ftrong defire to enjoy the milder pleasures of folitude and retirement; he therefore escaped from the tumults of London to a little house at Wandfworth; but finding that place too near the metropolis, he left it for Richmond, and at laft fettled at Chertfey. He feems to have thought that the swains of Surry had the innocence of thofe of Sydney's Arcadia; but the perverfeness and debauchery of his own workmen foon undeceived him, with whom, it is faid, he was fometimes fo provoked, as even to be betrayed into an oath. His income was about three hundred pounds a year. Towards the latter part of his life he fhewed an averfion to the company of women, and would often leave the room if any happened to enter it whilft he was prefent, but still retained a fincere affection for Leonora. His death was occafioned by a fingular accident; he paid a vifit on foot with his friend Sprat to a gentleman in the neighbourhood of Chertsey, which they prolonged, and feafted too much, till midnight. On their return home they mistook their way, and were obliged to pass the whole night exposed under a hedge, where Cowley caught a fevere cold, attended with a fever, that terminated in his death. All these particulars were communicated to me by Mr. Spence from his Anecdotes, who affured me he received them from Mr. Pope's own mouth.
Where Daphne, now a tree as once a maid,
Still from Apollo vindicates her fhade,
The stream at once preferves her virgin leaves,