1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

Samuel Cobb, in Poetae Britannici (1700) 12-13.



Nature work'd Wonders then; when Shakespear dy'd
Her dearest Cowley rose, drest in her gaudy Pride.
So from great Ruines a new Life she calls,
And Builds an Ovid, when a Tully falls.

With what delight he tunes his Silver strings,
And David's Toils, in David's numbers sings.
Hark! how he Murmurs to the Fields and Groves
Her Rural Pleasures, and his Various Loves.
Yet every Line so innocent and clear,
Hermits may read them to a Virgin's Ear.
The radiant Godhead in the Bush he found:
Fearless he saw, and trod the hallow'd Ground.
Then her soft Lute Converted Clio strung,
While modestly the mingled Graces sung.
Unstol'n Promethean Fire informs his Song;
Rich is his Fancy, his Invention strong.
His Wit, unfathom'd, has a fresh supply,
Is always flowing out, but never Dry.
Sure the profuseness of a boundless Thought,
And lavish'd Wit was ne'er allow'd a Fault.
A Spirit, that is unconfin'd and free,
Should hurry forward, like the Wind or Sea,
Which laughs at Laws and Shackles, when a vain
Presuming Xerxes shall pretend to Reign,
And on the fliting Air impose his pond'rous Chain.

If you who read him well, should chance to find
His Phrase too mean t' express his lofty mind,
His Turns too numerous, or too harsh his Rhyme,
Impute it to his Years, and Fortune's Crime.
He stood afar, and view'd the Promis'd Land;
But perish'd e'er he touch'd the Sacred Strand.
Thro' what Tempestuous Fortunes was he hurl'd!
What Troubles, which alarm'd all the World,
Frighted the Muses! nor was he inclin'd
To throw important Minutes to the Wind.
There let such Drudges study, who are paid,
Verse was his Recreation, not his Trade.
Immortal Cowley! who alone could dare
With Wings well balanc'd tempt th' unbounded Air.
Who to his Lyre Pindarick Strains could call,
Nor fear'd the danger of a threatned Fall.
O had He liv'd to Waller's Reverend Age,
Better'd his Measures, and Reform'd his Page!
Then Britain's Isle might raise her Trophies high,
And solid Rome, or witty Greece out-vy.
The Rhine, the Tyber, and Parisian Seyne,
When e'er they pay their Tribute to the Main
Should no kind Name more gratefully rehearse,
Than lofty Cowley's never dying Verse.
The Thames should sweep his Briny Way before,
And with his Fame salute each distant Shore.