1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

John Aikin, in Letters to a Young Lady (1806) 234-35.



Probably the greatest effort of Cowley in his own estimation was his Pindarique Odes, a species of composition for which, according to his own idea of it, he might seem well fitted, from the unrestrained variety of his conceptions. He made his first essays in a free version of some of Pindar's odes, which I will not desire you to peruse; for what amusement are you likely to find in the obscure tales of ancient mythology, and the adulation of forgotten horse-racers? His own Pindarics are more worthy objects of curiosity, though it is allowed that he mistook his genius in aiming at the sublime, which in him soon loses itself in extravagance, or sinks into familiar trifling. His thoughts and measures are equally without purpose or object. There are, however, some fine strains of both which will repay the search; and one advantage to be derived from all Cowley's productions is, that they cannot be hurried over in a negligent perusal, but require attention to discover and taste their beauties. But that you may not waste this attention unprofitably, I will mention as the odes most likely to entertain you, The Resurrection, The Muse, and Life and Fame.