NO TWO POETS Of the 1640's wrote alike. Out of most of the same main words, main motifs, and meters, each man made up his special brand. Of some of these many brands one may profitably be reminded, to hear again the intonations, with and against the main tune, of Cowley or Quarles, Lovelace or Sandys. A beginning in the middle, with Cowley and his colleagues, Shirley and Carew and Herrick, sets the main tune going-the middle of greatest agreement, its variety, force, and direction. Then one may turn, surer of the norm, to some petty and some mighty opposites.
Abraham Cowley was not petty or mighty. He was the poet of his day. The Mistress, or, Several Copies of Love-Verses begins with a seven-stanzaed situation entitled The Request a situation in which the speaker complains of the need for a double wooing: of Love himself, the cruel Boy, as well as of a Mistress.
I'have often wisht to love; what shall I do?
Me still the cruel Boy does spare;
And I a double taske must bear,
First to woo him, and then a Mistress too.
Come at last and strike for shame;
If thou art anything besides a name;
I'll think Thee else no God to be;
But Poets rather Gods, who first created Thee.
The speaker is self-conscious as poet as well as lover: he makes the situation not only double, but quadruple: he informs the audience of the ambiguity of his search, and then informs the object of his search of its own ambiguity, putting the whole in the lap of fancy, at the outset.
The stanza form provides the same double play in accent and rhyme, in the first four lines rhyming five-accent lines with five-accent and fours with fours, then shifting to alternates in couplet rhyme, with a final extra accent at the end, suggesting in