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when they walked invisibly about the fields and streets of Carthage, Venus herself having thickened the air on purpose for their concealment."
Much as may be said against this position, far be it from me to take away from him who is disposed really to enjoy what Cowley so strongly fancied, the pleasure, if he find it such, of the
“Secretum iter, et fallentis semita vitæ."> Nor would I dissuade any one who courted independence, from the pleasing elucidation of it to be found in this amiable poet's essays in verse and prose, in which the lover of romance and a life free from restraint may lose himself with much enjoyment. Let him particularly look into the essay upon Liberty, in which the poet's favourite maxim is supported with a great deal of agreeable argument as well as learning. The picture of the slavery of those Romans whose ambition made them candidates for popular honours is forcibly given; and the apophthegm of Seneca, that “a great fortune is a great servitude,” well illustrated. The impression, however, that Cowley exaggerated, if he did not coin, his own fancies in favour of retirement, as he did in his “Mistress” in favour of his
supposed attachments, weakens the force of this otherwisc plcasing rhapsody. Yet, so smoothly do his beguiling numbers flow on the all-attracting subject,
* Not easily translated, from the ambiguity of the word “ fallentis." The best version of it is, perhaps,
“ The secret path of life, led, as it were, by stealth ;" in other words, “ in obscurity."
that many a young mind has, like his, renounced ambition to cultivate the muse. I am not sure that some of the lines in the “Complaint,” perhaps the most pathetic of his strains, had not their effect in turning me into a dreamer in early life, and making me remain so ever since, instead of the man of business which I at least intended to be.
What youth of the least sensibility could resist the fond reproaches of his Muse, who appeared to the bard in a vision, after he had broken the fetters which bound him to the court ?
“ Art thou return'd at last (said she)
To this forsaken place and me?
And Winter marches on so fast ?
Had to their dearest children done;
Business, the frivolous pretence
In another poem, less dignified, perhaps, in imagery, but more home to the feeling, he thus begins the praises of a country life:
“ Blest be the man (and blest he is) whome'er,
By fools desir'd, by wicked men possest.”
" Retired leisure, That in trim gardens takes its pleasure.” No doubt the author was sincere in all the sentiments that pervade them; and if the leisure he recommends, and a retirement from struggle, do not make men mere idle dreamers; if they use this leisure and independence to master science, and perfect themselves in that innocency of life which temptation and the world oppose, we should toto corde agree with him. 'Tis therefore, if only for the chance of it, that we give these pleasing pictures of the mind of a man well versed in courts, and for years active in their business, without being corrupted by their vices. That he was not allowed to profit long by the tardy justice done him, when he at last reaped the reward of his service, must not make us question his sincerity, or repine at his fate. To death, it belongs to man only to submit; we must not, and we dare not, canvass the circumstances, or the justice, that attend his visitation.
SIR JOHN HARINGTON.
“ 'Tis an unseason'd courtier. Good, my lord,
SHAKSPEARE: All's Well that Ends Well.
From the "melancholy Cowley," discussed in the last Number, we cheerfully turn to a different
person; an actor on life's theatre, whose independence being seemingly founded more in his constitutional feelings, though by no means devoid of the supports of a wise and observing mind, was, perhaps, less questionable than Cowley's. Yet he also was a poet, and, therefore, given to fiction. He, too, had seen courts, wherein he sought fortune and missed it; but he did not on that account, like Swift, though he retired, retire in a pet. I mean the gay, joyous, spirited, and natural Sir John Harington, to whose cultivation, though born a country gentleman, his translation of Ariosto bears testimony; and who to courts was so far not averse, that he consented to seek fortune in them, but, failing of success, left them without remorse, and returned to the peace of private life unchanged and unscathed.
He had been induced, by the hope of success, to seek the service of Queen Elizabeth, who was his godmother, and not indisposed towards him. Nevertheless, whether from philosophy, or a sturdy indifference of nature, he was too little disposed to go through the necessary dependence upon the great, , with even the queen at their head; that is, to waste his time, his spirits, and his means,
“ In awe of such a thing as he himself.” Though by no means above the care of his fortune, he had not a inind that could submit “in suing long to bide.” He had, in fact, “ a hollow tree;" and to this he gladly returned, the uncorrupted, though unsuccessful, adventurer, who had left it with hope, and returned to it with equanimity.
'Tis thus he writes: and what a contrast does it form to the heroes we have been describing; and who, as fortunate adventurers, might, in the eyes of the world, have been supposed his superiors !
“ Who liveth in courts, must mark what they say;
Who liveth for ease, had better be away."
"I talked much to the Treasurer on sundrie matters latelie.”
The Treasurer, however, does not appear to have satisfied the country mouse.
He goes on: “In August I was much troubled at sundrie grievances from diuers menne in high states; but envie doth haunte manie, and breede jealousie.
“I will bid adieu to good companie*, and leave suing and seeking at courte; for if I have no more friends nor better at Heaven's courte than at this, I shall begin to thinke somewhat of briefe damnation.”† This,
* Quære, meaning what is called “good companie.” † Nug. Antiq. i. 168.