chapter  6
30 Pages

Abraham Cowley’s 1656 Poems

Form and Context
WithVictoria Moul

Among the most glaring Cowley critical lacunae is his Latin writing. Victoria Moul, in this chapter, helps to remedy this by locating Cowley’s Latin literary output within its context. Her focus is on the ways in which the Latin poems printed in the Poems of 1656, not least the dedicatory poem preceding the preface, respond to the wider literary and political culture of the times. A disjunction between Cowley’s Latin poetic and English prose voices is established from the outset, which in turn informs discussion of the genuineness of Cowley’s assertions, throughout the volume, of formal originality. Commentators have assumed the validity of these claims; Moul on the other hand argues that they are, at least in part, ‘artful misdirections’ inviting the reader to discern poetic models of the past as much as innovation. In the process, she traces important links between Cowley’s Latin work and influential (though in many cases now barely known) contemporary or recent Latin authors, both from England, such as Milton, Marvell, Fisher and du Moulin, and elsewhere in Europe, such as Sarbiewski.