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for the stipulation gives the enemy nothing which he had not before ; the neutrality of a captive may be always secured by his imprisonment or death. He that is at the disposal of another may not promise to aid him in any injurious act, because no power can compel active obedience, He toy engage to do nothing, but not to do ill.
There is reason to think that Cowley promised little. It does not appear that his compliance gained him confidence enough to be trusted without security, for the bond of his bail was never cancelled ; nor that it made him think himself secure, for at that dissolution of government which followed the death of Oliver he returned into France, where he resumed his former station, and staid till the Restoration.
“He continued,” says his biographer, “under “ these bonds till the general deliverance " it is therefore to be supposed, that he did not go to France, and act again for the king, without the consent of his bondsman; that he did not shew his loyalty at the hazard of his friend, but by his
Of the verses on Oliver's death, in which Wood's narrative seems to imply something encomiastick, there has been no appearance. There is a discourse concerning his government, indeed, with verses intermixed, but such as certainly gained its author no friends among the abettors of usurpation. *
A doctor of physick however he was made at Oxford, in December, 1657; and in the commencement of the Royal Society, of which an account has been given by Dr. Birch, he appears busy among the experimental philosophers with the title of Dr. Cowley.
There is no reason for supposing that he ever attempted practice; but his preparatory studies have contributed something to the honour of his country. Considering botany as necessary to a physician, he retired into Kent to gather plants; and as the predominance of a favourite study affects all subordinate operations of the intellect, botany in the mind of Cowley turned into poetry. He composed in Latin several books on plants, of which the first and second display the qualities of herbs, in elegiac verse; the third and fourth, the beauties of flowers, in various measures; and in the fifth and sixth, the uses of trees, in heroick numbers.
At the same time were produced from the same university the two great poets Cowley and Milton, of dissimilar genius, of opposite principles; but concurring in the cultivation of Latin poetry, in which the English, till their works and May's poem appeared", seemed unable to contest the palm with any other of the lettered nations.
If the Latin performances of Cowley and Milton be compared (for May I hold to be superior to both), the advantage seems to lie on the side of Cowley. Milton is generally content to express the thoughts of the ancients in their language; Cowley, without much loss of purity or elegance, accommodates the diction of Rome to his own conceptions.
* Lucan's Pharsalia to the death of Julius Caesar, by Thomas May, an eminent poet and historian, who flourished in the reigns of James and Charles I.
At the Restoration, after all the diligence of his long service, and with consciousness not only of the merit of fidelity, but of the dignity of great abilities, he naturally expected ample preferments; and, that he might not be forgotten by his own fault, wrote a Song of Triumph. But this was a time of such general hope, that great numbers were inevitably disappointed; and Cowley found his reward very tediously delayed. He had been promised by both Charles the First and Second the mastership of the Savoy; “but “he lost it,” says Wood, “ by certain persons, “enemies to the Muses.”
The neglect of the court was not his only mortification. Having, by such alteration as he thought proper, fitted his old comedy of “The Guardian” for the stage, he produced it under the title of “The Cutter of Coleman-street.” It was treated on the stage with great severity, and was afterwards censured as a satire on the king's party.
Mr. Dryden, who went with Mr. Sprat to the first exhibition, related to Mr. Dennis, “ that “when they told Cowley, how little favour had “ been shewn him, he received the news of his “ ill success, not with so much firmness as might “ have been expected from so great a man.”
What firmness they expected, or what weakness Cowley discovered, cannot be known. He that misses his end will never be as much pleased as he that attains it, even when he can impute no part of his failure to himself; and when the end is to please the multitude, no man, perhaps, has a right, in things admitting of gradation and comparison, to throw the whole blame upon his judges, and totally to exclude diffidence and shame by a haughty consciousness of his own excellence.
For the rejection of this play it is difficult now to find the reason: it certainly has, in a very great degree, the power of fixing attention and exciting merriment. From the charge of disaffection he exculpates himself in his preface, by observing how unlikely it is that, having followed the royal family through all their distresses, “he
“ should chuse the time of their restoration to
“begin a quarrel with them.” It appears, however, from the Theatrical Register of Downes the