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to steal from them, and walk into the fields, either alone with a book, or with some one companion, if I could find


of the same temper. I was then, too, so much an enemy to all constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any persuasions or encouragements, to learn without book the common rules of grammar; in which they dispensed with me alone, because they found I made a shift to do the usual exercise out of my own reading and observation. That I was then of the same mind as I am now (which, I confess, I wonder at myself) may appear by the latter end of an ode, which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and which was then printed with many

other verses.

The beginning of it is boyish ; but of this part, which I here set down (if a very little were corrected), I should hardly now be much ashamed.

This only grant me,

my means may

lie Too low for envy, for contempt too high.

Some honour I would have,
Not from great deeds, but good alone;
Th' unknown are better than ill known :
Rumour can ope


grave. Acquaintance I would have, but when 't depends Not on the number, but the choice, of friends.

Books should, not business, entertain the light,
And sleep, as undisturb'd as death, the night.

My house a cottage more Than palace; and should fitting be For all my use, no luxury.

My garden painted o'er With Nature's hand, not Art's; and pleasures yield, Horace might envy in his Sabin field.

Thus would I double my life's fading space;
For he, that runs it well, twice runs his race.

And in this true delight,
These unbought sports, this happy state,
I would not fear, nor wish, my fate;

But boldly say each night,
To-morrow let my sun his beams display,
Or in clouds hide them ; I have liv'd to-day.

You may see by it, I was even then acquainted with the poets (for the conclusion is taken out of Horace*); and perhaps it was the immature and immoderate love of them, which stamped first, or rather engraved, these characters in me: they were like letters cut into the bark of a young tree, which with the tree still grow proportionably. But, how this love came to be produced in me so early, is a hard question : I believe I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such chimes of verse, as have never since left ringing there : for I remember, when I began to read, and to take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour (I know not by what accident, for she herself never in her life read

* 3 Od. xxix. 41.


book but of devotion)—but there was wont to lie Spenser's works; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave houses, which I found every-where there (though my understanding had little to do with all this); and, by degrees, with the tinkling of the rhyme and dance of the numbers; so that, I think, I had read him all over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet as immediately as a child is made an eunuch.

With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the university ; but was soon torn from thence by that violent publick storm, which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted up every plant, even from the princely cedars to me the hyssop. Yet, I had as good fortune as could have befallen me in such a tempest;

for I was cast by it into the family of one of the best persons, and into the court of one of the best princesses, of the world. Now, though I was here engaged in ways most contrary to the original design of my life, that is, into much company, and no small business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both militant and triumphant (for that was the state then of the English and French courts); yet all this was so far from altering my opinion,

that it only added the confirmation of reason to that which was before but natural inclination. I saw plainly all the paint of that kind of life, the nearer I came to it; and that beauty, which I did not fall in love with, when, for aught I knew, it was real, was not like to bewitch or entice me, when I saw that it was adulterate. I met with several great persons, whom I liked very well; but could not perceive that any part of their greatness was to be liked or desired, no more than I would be glad or content to be in a storm, though I saw many ships which rid safely and bravely in it: a storm would not agree with my stomach, if it did with my courage. Though I was in a crowd of as good company as could be found any-where; though I was in business of great and honourable trust; though I ate at the best table, and enjoyed the best conveniencies for present subsistence that ought to be desired by a man of my condition in banishment and publick distresses ; yet I could not abstain from renewing my old school-boy's wish, in a copy of verses to the same effect:

Well then* ; I now do plainly see
This busy world and I shall ne'er agree,


And I never then proposed to myself any other advantage from his majesty's happy restoration, but the getting into some moderately convenient retreat in the country; which I thought in that case I might easily have compassed, as well as some others, with no greater probabilities or pretences, have arrived to extraordinary fortunes: but I had before written a shrewd prophecy against myself; and I think Apollo inspired me in the truth, though not in the elegance of it: .

* We have these verses, under the name of The Wish, in The MISTRESS, vol. viii. p. 29.

• Thou neither great at court, nor in the war, “ Nor at th' exchange, shalt be, nor at the wrangling

66 bar.

“ Content thyself with the small barren praise,

" Which neglected verse does raise.” She spake; and all my years to come

Took their unlucky doom.
Their several ways of life let others chuse,

Their several pleasures let them use;
But I was born for Love, and for a Muse.


With Fate what boots it to contend ?
Such I began, such am, and so must end.

The star, that did my being frame,
Was but a lambent flame,
And some small light it did dispense,

But neither heat nor influence.
No matter, Cowley; let proud Fortune see,
That thou canst her despise, no less than she does


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