Cowley, Abraham

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Cowley, Abraham

Abraham Cowley (kōō´lē, kou´–), 1618–67, one of the English metaphysical poets. He published his first volume of verse, Poetical Blossoms (1633), when he was 15. While a student at Cambridge, Cowley wrote three plays and began the scriptural epic Davideis (1656), in which he developed the use of the couplet as a vehicle for narrative verse. As a result of the Puritan uprising he left Cambridge and in 1656 went to France, where he served as secretary and royalist agent for Queen Henrietta Maria. Cowley's principal works include The Mistress (1647), a love cycle written in the manner of John Donne; Poems (1656), including the Pindaric odes and the elegies on Richard Crashaw and William Hervey; and Verses on Several Occasions (1663), including "To the Royal Society," an ode recalling his earlier prose tract Proposition for the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy (1661).

See Samuel Johnson's essay in Lives of the English Poets (1778); biographies by A. H. Nethercot (1931, repr. 1967) and J. G. Taaffe (1972); studies by R. B. Hinman (1960) and D. Trotter (1979).

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