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on the contrary qualities of cold and heat, taken sometimes in the literal sense, and sometimes in the metaphorical, the poet has kept clear, in a good degree, of that mirt wit (as Mr. Addison calls it,) in which he so much excelled and delighted. The fire of Hobbes' genius, breaking out under the snow of his gray hairs, might have been set in so many dif. ferent lights by our ingenious author, and have been worked up by him into such a variety of amusing contrasts, that the temperate use of his darling faculty, in this instance, deserves our commendation.
Here hoary frosts, and by them breaks out fire. The description of the neighbourhood of fire and snow, upon AEtna (but not the application of it) is imitated out of Claud. l. i. de Raptu Pros. “Sed quamvis mimio fervens exuberet aestu, “Scit nivibus servare fidem, pariterque favillis “Durescit glacies, tanti secura vaporis, “Arcano defensa gelu, fumoque fideli “Lambit contiguas innoxia flamma pruinas.” Where, methinks, is somewhat of that which Seneca objects to Ovid. Nescirit quod bene cessit relinquere. When he met with a fancy that pleased him, he could not find in his heart to quit, or ever to have done with it. Tacitus has the like expression of Mount Libanus, Praecipuum montium Libanum, mirun dictu, tantos inter ardores opacum fidumque nivibus; shady among such great heats, and faithful to the snow; which is too poetical for the prose even of a romance, much more of an historian. Sil. Ital. of HEtna, l. xiv. “Summo cana jugo cohibet (mirabile dictu) “Vicinam flammis glaciem, aeternoque rigore “Ardentes horrent scopuli, stat vertice celsi “Collis hyems, calidaque niven tegitatra favilla.” See likewise Seneca, Epist, 79. CowLEY.
The subject of this ode seems to have been chosen by the poet, for the sake of venting his indigmation against Cromwell.—It has been generally supposed, that Mr. Cowley had no ear for harmony, and even no taste of elegant expression. And one should be apt to think so, from his untuned verse and rugged style: but the case was only this: Donne and Jonson were the favourite poets of the time, and therefore the models, on which our poet was ambitious to form himself. But unhappily these poets affected harsh numbers and uncouth expression; and what they affected, easily came to be looked upon as beauties. Even Milton himself, in his younger days, fell into this delusion. [See his poem on Shakspeare.] But the vigour of his genius, or, perhaps, his course of life, which led him out of the high road of fashion, enabled him, in good time, to break through the snare of exemplar vitiis imitabile. The court, which had worse things to answer for, kept poor Cowley eternally in it. He forsook the conversation (says Dr. Sprat, who designed him a compliment in the observation,) but never THE LANGUAGE OF THE COURT.
Pleas'd with the strength and beauty of the ravisher. This is well put. But piety to the mother must not extinguish all regard for the mother's sons. Nothing contributed so much, as the assassination of the first Caesar, to bring on all those tragedies, with which the gloomy and unappeasable jealousy of his successors, afterwards, filled the Roman annals. The question is not, what Caesar deserved, but what the true interest of the Roman people required. For in these cases, as Macbeth well observes,
“we but teach “Bloody instructions, which being taught, return “To plague th’ inventor”— Act I. Sc. viii.
PAGE 153. Come marching up the eastern hill afar. “Till down the eastern cliffs afar, “Hyperion's march they spy, and glittoring shafts of “ War.” Gray.
LIFE AND FAME.-PAGE 158. Oh life, thou nothing's younger brother. Because nothing preceded it, as privation does all being; which, perhaps, is the sense of the distinction of days in the story of the creation: night signifying the privation, and day, the subsequent being, from whence the evening is placed first. Gen. i. 5. “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” CowLEY.
Oh life, thou nothing's younger brother /
So like, that one might take one for the other / i.e. life is less than nothing, but, as being come of nothing, is very like it. Mr. Cowley's poetry (as here) is often much disfigured by the double affectation of wit and familiarity. He would say an out-of-the way thing, in a trivial manner. —But such was the court-idea, in his time, of writing, like a gentleman.
In all the cobwebs of the schoolmen's trade. The distinctions of the schoolmen may be likened to cobwebs (I mean many of them, for some are better woven ;) either because of the too much fineness of the work, which makes it slight, and able to catch only little creatures; or, because they take not the materials from nature, but spin it out of themselves. CowLEY.
Dream of a shadow ! a reflection, made. Justly admired
by Plutarch, as a most ingenious and expressive hyperbole. Vol. ii. p. 104. ed. Xyland. Par. 1624.
From the false glories of the gay reflected bow. The rainbow is in itself of no colour; those that appear are but reflections of the sun's light received differently— “Mille trahit varios adverso sole colores:” as is evident by artificial rainbows; and yet this shadow, this almost nothing, makes sometimes another rainbow (but not so distinct or beautiful) by reflection. CowLEY.
Vuin weak-built isthmus. Isthmus is a neck of land that divides a peninsula from the continent, and is betwixt two seas, To &op1%xacao. In which manner this narrow passage of life divides the past time from the future, and is at last swallowed up into eternity. Cowley. Isthmus, betwixt two etermities. A sublime idea, which lay unnoticed in this ode, till Mr. Pope produced it into observation— “Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, “A being darkly wise, and rudely great.” Ess. on Man, ep. ii. 3. Not but our philosophical poet had his eye, also on M. Pascal—“qu’est-ce que l'homme dans la nature? Un meant “à l'égard de l'infini, un tout à l'égard du meant, un milieu “entre rien et tout. Il est infiniment éloigné des deux ex
So he, who on th' Egyptian shore. Pompey the Great. Cowley.
Oh life, that Epicures envy to hear. An irony; that is, “Oh life, which Epicures laugh at and contemn !” CowLEY.
His father-in-law. Caesar, whose daughter Julia was married to Pompey; an alliance fatal to the commonwealth; which, as Tully says, ought never to have been made, or mever ended. CowLEY.
His father-in-law. This, again, is in the familiar style. He might have said, more suitably to the style of an ode— “Great Caesar’s self”—
In the seraphic entity of fame. Supernatural, intellectual, unintelligible being. Cowley.
He, since that toy, his death. Called a toy, because the plaything of every declaimer, from that time to this, and, by passing through so many hands, more instrumental to the propagation of Caesar's fame, than all the glories of his life.
'Tis true, the two immortal syllables remain. This lively ridicule, on posthumous fame, is well enough placed in a poem, or declamation: but we are a little surprized to find so grave a writer, as Mr. Wollaston, diverting himself with it. “In reality,” says he, “the man is not known ever the “ more to posterity, because his name is transmitted to “ them: he doth not live, because his name does. When “ it is said, J. Caesar subdued Gaul, beat Pompey, “ changed the Roman commonwealth,” &c.—Rel. of Nat. Sect. v.–The sophistry is apparent. Put Cato in the place of Caesar; and then see whether that great man do not live in his name, substantially, that is, to good purpose, if the impression, which those two immortal syllubles make on the mind, be of use in exciting posterity, or any one man, to the love and imitation of Cato's virtue.
END OF THE SECOND VOLUME,
-C. Whittingham, Goswell-Street.