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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37

Town and Country

Town and Country.

About the year 1650 Cowley wrote:—

"Let cities boast that they provide
For life the ornament of pride;
But 'tis the country and the field
That furnish it with staff and shield."

Again he says:—

"God the first garden made, and the first city Cain."

Thus forestalling Cowper in his oft quoted line—

"God made the country, and man made the town."

Cowley's aversion to cities is thus expressed in prose:—"What should a man of truth and honesty do at Rome? He can neither understand nor speak the language of the place. A naked man may swim in the sea, hut it is not the page 11 ray to catch fish there; they are likelier to devour him than he them, if he bring no nets and use no deceits." He raided at Chertsey in Surrey, and thus gives his experience, after his "meadwos were eaten up every night by cattle put a by his neighbors:"—

"I thought when I went first to dwell in the country that without doubt I should have met there with the simplicity of the old poetical age; I thought to have found no inhabitants there but such as the shepherds of Sir Philip Sydney in Arcadia, or of Monsieur d'Urfe on the banks of Lignon; and began to consider with my myself which way I might recommend no less to posterity the happiness and innocence of the men of Chertsey; but to confess the truth I perceived quickly by infallible demonstrations that I was still in Old England, and not in Arcadia or La Forèt; that if I could not content myself with anything less than exact fidelity in human conversation, I had almost as good go back and seek for it in the Court, or the Exchange, or Westminister Hall."

Cowley's love of solitude shows itself on every occasion; in his Advancement of Experimental Philosophy he says:—"They shall not unite above two at a time at one table, nothing being more vain and unprofitable than numerous meetings of acquaintances."