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Thy sheep was stray'd, and Thou wouldst be Even lost thyself in seeking me.
Shall all that labour, all that cost
And this loved soul, judged worth no less
Just Mercy, then, thy reckoning be
Mercy, my Judge, mercy I cry
O let Thine own soft bowels pay
Those mercies which Thy Mary found, Or who Thy cross confess'd and crown'd, Hope tells my heart, the same loves be Still alive and still for me.
Though both my pray'rs and tears combine,
Both worthless are; for they are mine:
But Thou Thy bounteous self still be,
O, when Thy last frown shall proclaim
When the dread "Ite" shall divide Those limbs of death from Thy left side, Let those life-speaking lips command That I inherit Thy right hand.
Oh, hear a suppliant heart, all crush'd
My hope, my fear! my Judge, my Friend!
The style of which Crashaw and Herbert are examples, culminated in Abraham Cowley.* Like the old fashion of gilding green leaves, it must be lamented that the most versatile poet in the seventeenth century wasted on ephemeral themes so much of the fine gold of his genius; and it is equally lamentable that, in his graver efforts, "never pathetic, and rarely sublime, but always either ingenious or learned, either acute or profound," the taste of his readers is constantly offended by extravagance, and their patience tried by pedantry. Still, it must be admitted, in the words of the great critic, 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; and that he was among those who freed translation from servility, and, instead of following his author at a distance, walked by his side." +
The first of the following specimens is from "Davideis," an epic poem on the Triumphs of David, of which only the first four books were written :
Thus dress'd, the joyful Gabriel posts away,
*Born 1618; died May 2, 1667.
+ Johnson's Lives of the Poets.
Through the thick woods; the gloomy shades awhile
All earth-born fears and sorrows take their flight.
In rushes joy divine, and hope, and rest;
A sacred calm shines through his peaceful breast.
The things thou sawest are full of truth and light,
Thy fate's all white; from thy blest seed shalt spring
I leave mortality, and things below;
For I am call'd to go.
A whirlwind bears up my dull feet,
The officious clouds beneath them meet,
And lo! I mount, and lo!
How small the biggest parts of earth's proud tittle show!
Where shall I find the noble British land?
Which in the sea does lie,
And seems a grain o' th' sand!
And is it this, alas! which we,
Oh, irony of words! do call Great Britannie?
I pass'd by th' arched magazines, which hold
Nor shake with fear, or cold.
Without affright or wonder
I meet clouds charged with thunder,
And lightnings in my way
Like harmless lambent fires about my temples play.
Now into a gentle sea of rolling flame
I'm plunged, and still mount higher there,
So perfect, yet so tame,
So great, so pure, so bright a fire
Was that unfortunate desire,
My faithful breast did cover,
Then, when I was of late a wretched mortal lover.
Through several orbs which one fair planet bear,
The hints of Galileo's glass,
I touch at last the spangled sphere.
Here all the extended sky
Is but one galaxy,
'Tis all so bright and gay,
And the joint eyes of night make up a perfect day.
Where am I now? angels and God is here:
Swallows my senses quite,
And drowns all what, or how, or where.
Not Paul, who first did thither pass,
And this great world's Columbus was,
The tyrannous pleasure could express;
Oh, 'tis too much for man! but let it ne'er be less.
The mighty Elijah mounted so on high,
That second man, who leap'd the ditch where all