1776 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

John Nichols, Note in Original Works of William King (1776) 3:180-81n.



Mr. Abraham Cowley was born in 1618; and died July 28, 1667. His "Poetical Blossoms," which are an abundant proof of his talent for poetry, were generally regarded as an earnest of that fame to which he afterwards rose, and which, in the opinion of some of his contemporaries, eclipsed that of every other English poet. — Cowley, who helped to corrupt the taste of the age in which he lived, and had himself been corrupted by it, was a remarkable instance of true genius, seduced and perverted by false wit. But this wit, false as it was, raised his reputation to a much higher pitch than that of Milton. There is a want of elegance in his words, and of harmony in his versification; but this was more than atoned for by, his greatest fault, the redundancy of his fancy. His Latin poems, which are esteemed the best of his works, are written in the various measures of the ancients, and have much of their unaffected beauty. He was more successful in imitating the ease and gaiety of Anacreon, than the bold and lofty flights of Pindar. His metaphors, which are not only beyond, but contrary to nature, were generally admired in the reign of Charles II. To the merit of a good poet, may be added that of his being an admirable prose writer; and his "Cutter of Coleman Street," a comedy which might even have claimed a place in the late judicious selection of his writings, where it is commended and the Preface to it preserved, is a striking instance of dramatic merit. See Granger.