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ABRAHAM COWLEY, a poet of considerable dis- virtue of a degree which he obtained, by mandamus, tinction, was born at London, in 1618. His father, from Oxford, in December, 1657.
who was a grocer by trade, died before his birth; After the death of Cromwell, Cowley returned but his mother, through the interest of her friends, to France, and resumed his station as an agent in procured his admission into Westminster school, the royal cause, the hopes of which now began to as a king's scholar. He has represented himself as revive. The Restoration reinstated him, with other so deficient in memory, as to have been unable to royalists, in his own country; and he naturally exretain the common rules of grammar: it is, how-pected a reward for his long services. He had ever, certain that, by some process, he became an been promised, both by Charles I. and Charles II., elegant and correct classical scholar. He early the Mastership of the Savoy, but was unsuccessful imbibed a taste for poetry; and so soon did it germi- in both his applications. He had also the misfortune nate in his youthful mind, that, while yet at school, of displeasing his party, by his revived comedy of in his fifteenth or sixteenth year, he published a collection of verses, under the appropriate title of Poetical Blossoms.
"The Cutter of Coleman-street," which was construed as a satire on the cavaliers. At length, through the interest of the Duke of Buckingham In 1636 he was elected a scholar of Trinity col- and the Earl of St. Alban's, he obtained a lease of lege, Cambridge. In this favorable situation he ob- a farm at Chertsey, held under the queen, by which tained much praise for his academical exercises; his income was raised to about 3001. per annum. and he again appeared as an author, in a pastoral From early youth a country retirement had been comedy, called Love's Riddle, and a Latin comedy, a real or imaginary object of his wishes; and, entitled, Naufragium Joculare; the last of which though a late eminent critic and moralist, who had was acted before the university, by the members himself no sensibility to rural pleasures, treats this of Trinity college. He continued to reside at Cam- taste with severity and ridicule, there seems little bridge till 1643, and was a Master of Arts when reason to decry a propensity, nourished by the fahe was ejected from the university by the puritani-vorite strains of poets, and natural to a mind long cal visitors. He thence removed to Oxford, and tossed by the anxieties of business, and the vicissifixed himself in St. John's college. It was here tudes of an unsettled condition. that he engaged actively in the royal cause, and was present in several of the king's journeys and expeditions, but in what quality, does not appear. He ingratiated himself, however, with the principal persons about the court, and was particularly honored with the friendship of Lord Falkland.
Cowley took up his abode first at Barn-elms, on the banks of the Thames; but this place not agreeing with his health, he removed to Chertsey. Here his life was soon brought to a close. According to his biographer, Dr. Sprat, the fatal disease was an affection of the lungs, the consequence of staying When the events of the war obliged the queen-too late in the fields among his laborers. Dr. mother to quit the kingdom, Cowley accompanied Warton, however, from the authority of Mr. Spence, her to France, and obtained a settlement at Paris, gives a different account of the matter. He says, in the family of the earl of St. Alban's. During an that Cowley, with his friend Sprat, paid a visit on absence of nearly ten years from his native coun- foot to a gentleman in the neighborhood of Cherttry, he took various journeys into Jersey, Scotland, sey, which they prolonged, in free conviviality, till Holland, and Flanders; and it was principally midnight; and that missing their way on their rethrough his instrumentality that a correspondence turn, they were obliged to pass the night under a was maintained between the king and his consort. hedge, which gave to the poet a severe cold and The business of ciphering and deciphering their fever, which terminated in his death. He died on letters, was intrusted to his care, and often occu- July 28, 1667, and was interred, with a most honpied his nights, as well as his days. It is no won-orable attendance of persons of distinction, in Westder that, after the Restoration, he long complained minster-abbey, near the remains of Chaucer and of the neglect with which he was treated. In Spenser. King Charles II. pronounced his eulogy, 1656, having no longer any affairs to transact by declaring, "that Mr. Cowley had not left a abroad, he returned to England; still, it is sup-better man behind him in England." posed, engaged in the service of his party, as a me- At the time of his death, Cowley certainly ranked dium of secret intelligence. Soon after his arrival, as the first poet in England; for Milton lay under he published an edition of his poems, containing a cloud, nor was the age qualified to taste him. most of those which now appear in his works. In And although a large portion of Cowley's celebrity a search for another person, he was apprehended by has since vanished, there still remains enough to the messengers of the ruling powers, and committed raise him to a considerable rank among the British to custody; from which he was liberated, by that poets. It may be proper here to add, that as a generous and learned physician, Dr. Scarborough, prose writer, particularly in the department of who bailed him in the sum of a thousand pounds. essays, there are few who can compare with him This, however, was possibly the sum at which he in elegant simplicity.
was rated as a physician, a character he assumed by
TENTANDA VIA EST, &c.
WHAT shall I do to be for ever known,
And make the age to come my own
Whilst others great, by being born, are grown ;
In this scale gold, in th' other fame does lie,
The weight of that mounts this so high. These men are Fortune's jewels, moulded bright; Brought forth with their own fire and light: If I, her vulgar stone, for either look,
Out of myself it must be strook.
Yet I must on. What sound is't strikes mine ear?
It sounds like the last trumpet; for it can
Unpast Alps stop me; but I'll cut them all,
And march, the Muses' Hannibal. Hence, all the flattering vanities that lay Nets of roses in the way!
Hence, the desire of honors or estate,
And all that is not above Fate!
Hence, Love himself, that tyrant of my days!
Welcome, great Stagyrite! and teach me now
Thy scholar's victories thou dost far outdo;
He conquer'd th' earth, the whole world you. Welcome, learn'd Cicero! whose blest tongue and wit
Preserves Rome's greatness yet: Thou art the first of orators; only he
Who best can praise thee, next must be. Welcome the Mantuan swan, Virgil the wise!
Whose verse walks highest, but not flies; Who brought green Poesy to her perfect age, And made that art which was a rage. Tell me, ye mighty Three! what shall I do To be like one of you?
But you have climb'd the mountain's top, there sit On the calm flourishing head of it,
And, whilst with wearied steps we upwards go, See us, and clouds, below
SHE loves, and she confesses too;
What's this, ye gods! what can it be?
Have I o'ercome all real foes,
And shall this phantom me oppose?
(Chiefly if I like them should tell All change of weathers that befell,) Than Holingshed or Stow.
But I will briefer with them be,
Since few of them were long with me.
My present emperess does claim,
Whom God grant long to reign!
SOME COPIES OF VERSES, Translated paraphrastically out of Anacreon.
I'LL sing of heroes and of kings,
THE thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
LIBERAL Nature did dispense
And some with scales, and some with wings,
Wisdom for shield, and wit for sword.
What arms, what armor, has sh' assign'd?
And yet what flame, what lightning, e'er
OFT am I by the women told,
A MIGHTY pain to love it is,
And 'tis a pain that pain to miss;
A curse on her, and on the man
A curse on him who found the ore!
A curse, all curses else above,
VIII. THE EPICURE.
FILL the bowl with rosy wine!
Let's banish business, banish sorrow;
UNDERNEATH this myrtle shade,
Or bones that hasten to be so.
Let me alive my pleasures have,
X. THE GRASSHOPPER.
HAPPY Insect! what can be
Thou dost drink, and dance, and sing;
Dost neither age nor winter know;
Sated with thy summer feast,
XI. THE SWALLOW.
FOOLISH Prater, what dost thou So early at my window do,
With thy tuneless serenade?
Thou dost all the winter rest,
ELEGY UPON ANACREON;
WHO WAS CHOKED BY A GRAPE-STONE. SPOKEN BY THE GOD OF LOVE.
How shall I lament thine end,
So much deified as I,
It sound not too profane and odd,
For 'tis true, most mighty poet!
(Though I like not men should know it) I am in naked Nature less,
Less by much, than in thy dress.
Like thy verse each hour did pass;
Some do but their youth allow me,
Had I the power of creation,
And cannot work plate out of clay,
Other wealth they should not know,
Their cheerful heads should always wear
They should always laugh, and sing,
And dance, and strike th' harmonious string,
As swiftly answering their command,
Till my Anacreon by thee fell,
It grieves me when I see what fate Does on the best of mankind wait. Poets or lovers let them be,
"Tis neither love nor poesy
Can arm, against Death's smallest dart,