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ABRAHAM COWLEY was born in London, in 1618, and died in 1667. His poetical works are divided into four parts—the Miscellaneous, the Love Verses, the Pindaric Odes, and the Davideis. The last was an Epic, of considerable length, on the troubles of David. He was the most popular English poet of his times, and on his death was interred with great pomp in Westminster Abbey. Posterity, however, have not confirmed the opinion of his contemporaries. He was undoubtedly a man of learning, and some genius, but was under the influence of bad taste. The following are among the most favourable specimens which his poems afford.
Sleep on! Rest, quiet as thy conscience, take,
For though thou sleepest thyself, thy God's awake.
Above the subtle foldings of the sky,
Above the well-set orbs' soft harmony;
Above those petty lamps that gild the night,
There is a place o'erflown with hallowed light;
Where Heaven, as if it left itself behind,
Is stretched out far, nor its own bounds can find :
Here peaceful flames swell up the sacred place,
Nor can the glory contain itself in th' endless space.
For there no twilight of the sun's dull ray
Glimmers upon the pure and native day.
No pale-faced moon does in stolen beanis appear,
Or with dim tapers scatter darkness there.
On no smooth sphere the restless seasons slide,
No circling motion doth swift time divide;
Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,
But an eternal now does always last.
Happy insect, what can be
In happiness compared to thee?
Fed with nourishment divine,
The dewy morning's gentle wine!
Nature waits upon thee still,
And thy verdant cup does fill:
'T is filled wherever thou dost tread,
Nature self's thy Ganymede.
Thou dost drink, and dance, and sing,
Happier than the happiest king !
All the fields which thou dost see,
All the plants belong to thee;
All that summer hours produce,
Fertile made with early juice.
Man for thee does sow and plough;
Farmer he, and landlord thou !
Thou dost innocently enjoy ;
Nor does thy luxury destroy.
The shepherd gladly heareth thee,
More harmonious than he.
Thee country hinds with gladness hear,
Prophet of the ripened year!
Thee Phæbus loves, and does inspire;
Phæbus is himself thy sire.
To thee, of all things upon earth,
Life is no longer than thy mirth.
Happy insect! happy thou,
Dost neither age nor winter know.
But when thou 'st drunk, and danced, and sung
Thy fill, the flowery leaves amongs
(Voluptuous and wise withal,
Satiated with thy summer feast,
Thou retirest to endless rest.
EDMUND WALLER (1605–1687) was a poet of very much the same character as his contemporary Cowley, and both have experienced nearly the same fate. In his old age, he wrote an extended poem of a religious character, entitled Divine Love. He succeeded with this, however, no better than Cowley with his Davideis. His best pieces are those of a light and playful nature, suited to the cast of his mind. Three short specimens are given.
Go, lovely rose!
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
Tell her, that's
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
Small is the worth
Of Beauty from the light retired ;
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
Then die! that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee,
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair !
That which her slender waist confined
Shall now my joyful temples bind :
It was my heaven's extremest sphere,
The pale which held that lovely deer;
My joy, my grief, my hope, my love,
Did all within this circle move !
A narrow compass ! and yet there
Dwelt all that's good, and all that 's fair.
Give me but what this ribbon bound,
Take all the rest the sun goes round.
The seas are quiet when the winds give o'er, So calm are we when passions are no more. For then we know how yain it was to boast Of fleeting things, too certain to be lost.