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subject, rather than the care of the writer, that the diction of his heroic poem is less familiar than that of his slightest writings. He has given not the same numbers, but the same diction, to the gentle Anacreon and the tempestuous Pindar.
" His versification seems to have had very little of his care; and, if what he thinks be true, that his numbers are unmusical only when they are ill read, the art of reading them is, at present, lost; for they are cominionly harsh to modern ears. He has, indeed, many noble lines, such as the feeble care of Waller never could produce. The bulk of his thoughts sometimes swelled his verse to unexpected and inevitable grandeur; but his excellence of this kind is merely fortuitous : he sinks willingly down to his general carelessness, and avoids with very little care either meanness or asperity. “ His contractions are often rugged and harsh;
One flings a mountain, and its river too
Torn up with't“ His rhymes are very often made by pronouns or particles, or the like unimportant words which disappoint the ear, and destroy the energy of the
..“ His combination of different measures is some,-times dissonant and unpleasing; he joins verses
together of which the former does not slide easily into the latter.
“ The words do and did, which so much degrade in present estimation the line that admits ihem, were in the time of Cowley little censured or avoided ; how often he used them, and with how bad an effect, at least to our ears, will appear by.a passage in which every reader will lament to see just and noble thoughts defrauded of their praise by inelegance of language." I
The acute Critic produces the passage alluded to, of which, however, it may be sufficient to say, that it consists of sixteen lines, and that the word does occurs no less than six times in the awkward manner on which the doctor has so justly bestowed censure.
“ His heroic lines,” he goes on to say, “ are often formed of monosyllables, but yet they are sometimes sweet and sonorous.
“ He says of the Messiah,
And reach to worlds that must not yet be found.
The Critic remarks on Cowley's own account of his attempts to paint in the number the nature of the thing which it describes, and thus proceeds: · « Cowley was, I believe, the first poet that min
gled Alexandrines at pleasure with the common heroic of ten syllabes, and from him Dryden borrowed the practice whether ornamental or licencious. He considered the verse of twelve syllables
as elevated and majestic, and has therefore deviated into that measure when he supposes the voice heard of the Supreme Being."
He then makes some observations on the poem of the “ Davideis,” and concludes his criticisms on Cowley as follows;
- After so much criticism on his Poems, the Essays which accompany them must not be forgotten. What is said by Sprat of his conversation, that no man could draw from it any suspicion of his excellence in poetry, may be applied to these compositions. No author ever kept his verse and his prose at a greater distance from each other. His thoughts are natural, and his style has a smooth and placid equability, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far sought, or hard laboured, but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness.
“ It has been observed by Felton, in his " Essay on the Classics,” that Cowley was beloved by every muse that he courted, and that he has rivalled the ancients in every kind of poetry but tragedy.
“ It may be affirmed, without any encomiastic fervour, that he brought to his poetic labours a mind replete with learning, and that his pages are embellished with all the ornaments which books could supply; that he was the first who imparted - to English numbers the enthusiasm of the greater ode, and the gaiety of the less; that he was equally qualified for sprightly sallies and for lofty flights; that he was among those who freed translation from servility, and, instead of following his author at a distance, walked by his side; and that if he left versification yet improveable, he left likewise, from time to time, such specimens of excellence as enabled succeeding poets to improve it."
EDMUND WALLER was born on the 3d of March, 1605, at Colshill, in Hertfordshire. His father was Robert Waller, Esq. of Agmondesham, in Buckinghamshire, whose family was originally a branch of the Kentish Wallers, and his mother was the daughter of John Hampden of Hampden in the same county, and sister to the celebrated Hampden.
His father died while he was an infant, but left him an “early” income of three thousand five hung dred pounds which may be reckoned more than equi? valent to ten thousand of the present time.
He was educated, by the care of his mother, at Eton, and removed afterwards to King's College in Cambridge. He was sent to parliament in his eighteenth, if not in his sixteenth year, and often frequented the court of James the First. His political and poetical life began nearly together. In his eighteenth year he wrote the poem that appears first in his works on “ The Prince's Escape at St. Andero,” a piece in which his versification was such as it appears in his last performances.
His next poen is supposed to be “ The Address to the Queen,” written in his twentieth year, and we have no date of any other poetical production before that which the murder of the Duke of Buckingham occasioned.
Waller, although rich by inheritance, took care early to grow richer by marrying Mrs. Banks a great heiress in the City. Having brought him a son who died young, and a daughter who was afterwards married to Mr. Dormer of Oxfordshire, she died in child-bed, and left him a widower of about five and twenty. -Being too young to resist beauty, he found himself captivated by the Lady Dorothea Sydney, eldest daughter of the Earl of Leicester, whom he courted by all the poetry in which Sacharissa is celebrated. She, however, rejected his addresses, it is said, with disdain, and married in 1636 the Earl of Sunderland who died at Newberry in the King's cause. In her old age, meeting with Waller, she asked him when he would again write such verses upon her! “ when you are as young, madam,” said he," and as handsome as you were then.”
It is collected from the verses written at Penshurst that he diverted his disappointment by a voyage; but Johnson appears to think it more likely ~ that he amused himself with forming an imaginary scene, than that so important an incident, as a visit to America, should have been left floating in conjectural probability.”
From his twenty-eighth to his thirty-fifth year he wrote his pieces on the Reduction of Sallee;