Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

pageants for the court, but retired, with apparent mortification, before the ascendant favour of Jonson*.

While composing his dramas he lived in Old street, St. Luke's, which was at that time thought

RICHARD THE SECOND, THE MORNING BEFORE HIS MURDER IN POMFRET CASTLE.

DANIEL'S CIVIL WARS, ST. 62, 69.

WHETHER the soul receives intelligence,
By her near genius, of the body's end,
And so imparts a sadness to the sense,
Foregoing ruin, whereto it doth tend;
Or whether nature else hath conference
With profound sleep, and so doth warning send,
By prophetizing dreams, what hurt is near,
And gives the heavy careful heart to fear :-

However, so it is, the now sad king,
Toss'd here and there his quiet to confound,
Feels a strange weight of sorrows gathering
Upon his trembling heart, and sees no ground;
Feels sudden terror bring cold shivering;
Lists not to eat, still muses, sleeps unsound;
His senses droop, his steady eyes unquick,
And much he ails, and yet he is not sick.

The morning of that day which was his last,
After a weary rest, rising to pain,
Out at a little grate his eyes he cast
Upon those bordering hills and open plain,

*The latest editor of Jonson affirms the whole conduct of that great poet towards Daniel to have been perfectly honourable. Some small exception to this must be made, when we turn to the derision of Daniel's verses, which is pointed out by the editor himself, in Cynthia's Revels. This was unworthy of Jonson, as the verses of Daniel at which he sneers are not contemptible, and as Daniel was confessedly an amiable man, who died "beloved, honoured, and lamented."— E.

retirement from London; but at times he frequented the city, and had the honour of ranking Shakspeare and Selden among his friends. In his old age he turned husbandman, and closed his days at a farm in Somersetshire.

THE affinity and genius of these two poets naturally associate their names. They were the cousins of Fletcher the dramatist, and the sons of a Doctor Giles Fletcher, who, among several important missions in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, negotiated a commercial treaty with Russia greatly to the advantage of England, in spite of many obstacles that were presented by a capricious czar and a barbarous court. His remarks on Russia were suppressed on their first appearance, but were afterwards republished in 1643, and incorporated with Hakluyt's Voyages.

Mr. A. Chalmers, in his British Poets, mentions

Where others' liberty makes him complain
The more his own, and grieves his soul the more,
Conferring captive crowns with freedom poor.

O happy man, saith he, that lo I see,
Grazing his cattle in those pleasant fields,
If he but knew his good. How blessed he
That feels not what affliction greatness yields !
Other than what he is he would not be,
Nor change his state with him that sceptre wields.
Thine, thine is that true life: that is to live,
To rest secure, and not rise up to grieve.

Thou sitt'st at home safe by thy quiet fire,
And hear'st of others' harms, but fearest none :
And there thou tell'st of kings, and who aspire,
Who fall, who rise, who triumph, who do moan.
Perhaps thou talk'st of me, and dost enquire
Of my restraint, why here I live alone,
And pitiest this my miserable fall;
For pity must have part-envy not all.

Thrice happy you that look as from the shore, And have no venture in the wreck you see; No interest, no occasion to deplore

Other men's travels, while yourselves sit free.
How much doth your sweet rest make us the more
To see our misery and what we be :
Whose blinded greatness, ever in turmoil,
Still seeking happy life, makes life a toil.

GILES AND PHINEAS FLETCHER.

[Giles Fletcher died, 1623.]

Giles as the elder son of this Dr. Fletcher, evidently by mistake, as Giles, in his poetry, speaks of his own 66 green muse hiding her younger head," with reference to his senior brother. Giles was bred at Cambridge, and died at his living of Alderston, in Suffolk, in 1623. Phineas was educated at the same university, and wrote an account of its founders and learned men. He was also a clergyman, and held the living of Hilgay in Norfolk, for twenty-nine years. They were both the disciples of Spenser, and, with his diction gently modernised, retained much of his melody and luxuriant expression. Giles, inferior

as he is to Spenser and Milton, might be figured, in his happiest moments, as a link of connexion in our poetry between those congenial spirits, for he reminds us of both, and evidently gave hints to the latter in a poem on the same subject with Paradise Regained.

Giles's "Temptation and Victory of Christ" has a tone of enthusiasm peculiarly solemn. Phineas, with a livelier fancy, had a worse taste. He lavished on a bad subject the graces and ingenuity that would have made a fine poem on a good design. Through five cantos of his "Purple Island," he tries to sweeten the language of anatomy by the flowers of poetry, and to support the wings of allegory by bodily instead of spiritual phenomena. Unfortunately in the remaining cantos he only quits the dissecting-table to launch into the subtlety of the schools, and describes Intellect, the Prince of the Isle of Man, with his eight counsellors, Fancy, Memory, the Common Sense, and the five external Senses, as holding out in the Human Fortress against the Evil Powers that besiege it. Here he strongly resembles the old Scottish poet Gawain Douglas, in his poem of King Heart. But he outstrips all allegorists in conceit, when he exhibits Voletta, or the Will, the wife of Intellect, propped in her fainting-fits by Repentance, who administers restorative waters to the Queen, made with lip's confession and with "pickled sighs," stilled in the alembic of a broken spirit. At the approach of the combat between the good and evil powers, the interest of the narration is somewhat quickened, and the parting of the sovereign and the queen, with their champions, is not unfeelingly portrayed.

BUT Justice had no sooner Mercy seen
Smoothing the wrinkles of her father's brow,
But up she starts, and throws herself between :
As when a vapour from a moory slough,
Meeting with fresh Eous, that but now
Open'd the world, which all in darkness lay,
Doth heaven's bright face of his rays disarray,
And sads the smiling orient of the springing
day.

She was a virgin of austere regard:
Not as the world esteems her, deaf and blind ;
But as the eagle, that hath oft compared
Hereye with heaven's, so, and more brightly shined
Her lamping sight: for she the same could wind
Into the solid heart, and, with her ears,

Long at the gate the thoughtful Intellect
Stay'd with his fearful queen and daughter fair;
But when the knights were past their dim aspect,
They follow them with vows and many a prayer.
At last they climb up to the castle's height,
From which they view'd the deeds of every knight,
And mark'd the doubtful end of this intestine fight.

The silence of the thought loud speaking hears, And in one hand a pair of even scales she wears.

As when a youth bound for the Belgic war, Takes leave of friends upon the Kentish shore, Now are they parted; and he sail'd so far, They see not now, and now are seen no more; Yet, far off, viewing the white trembling sails, The tender mother soon plucks off her vails,

And, shaking them aloft, unto her son she hails.

MERCY DWELLING IN HEAVEN AND PLEADING FOR THE GUILTY, WITH JUSTICE

DESCRIBED BY HER QUALITIES.

FROM GILES FLETCHER'S "CHRIST'S VICTORY IN HEAVEN"

But the conclusion of the Purple Island sinks into such absurdity and adulation, that we could gladly wish the poet back again to allegorising the bladder and kidneys. In a contest about the eternal salvation of the human soul, the event is decided by King James the First (at that time a sinner upon earth) descending from heaven with his treatise on the Revelation under his arm, in the form of an angel, and preceding the Omnipotent, who puts the forces of the dragon

to the rout.

These incongruous conceptions are clothed in harmony, and interspersed with beautiful thoughts: but natural sentiments and agreeable imagery will not incorporate with the shapeless features of such a design; they stand apart from it like things of a different element, and, when they occur, only expose its deformity. On the contrary, in the brother's poem of Christ's Triumph, its main effect, though somewhat sombrous, is not marred by such repulsive contrasts; its beauties, therefore, all tell in relieving tedium, and reconciling us to defects.

No riot of affection revel kept
Within her breast, but a still apathy
Possessed all her soul, which softly slept
Securely without tempest ; no sad cry
Awakes her pity, but wrong'd Poverty,
Sending his eyes to heav'n swimming in tears,
With hideous clamours ever struck her ears,
Whetting the blazing sword that in her hand she
bears.

The winged lightning is her Mercury,
And round about her mighty thunders sound:
Impatient of himself lies pining by

Pale Sickness, with his kercher'd head upwound,
And thousand noisome plagues attend her round.
But if her cloudy brow but once grow foul,
The flints do melt, and rocks to water roll,
And airy mountains shake, and frighted shadows
howl.

Famine, and bloodless Care, and bloody War;
Want, and the want of knowledge how to use
Abundance; Age, and Fear, that runs afar
Before his fellow Grief, that aye pursues
His winged steps; for who would not refuse
Grief's company, a dull and raw-boned spright,
That lanks the cheeks, and pales the freshest sight,
Unbosoming the cheerful breast of all delight?

JUSTICE ADDRESSING THE CREATOR.

UPON two stony tables, spread before her,
She leant her bosom, more than stony hard;
There slept th' impartial judge and strict restorer
Of wrong or right, with pain or with reward;
There hung the score of all our debts-the card
Where good, and bad, and life, and death, were
painted :

Was never heart of mortal so untainted,
But, when that scroll was read, with thousand
terrors fainted.

Witness the thunder that Mount Sinai heard,
When all the hill with fiery clouds did flame,
And wand'ring Israel, with the sight afear'd,
Blinded with seeing, durst not touch the same,
But like a wood of shaking leaves became.
On this dead Justice, she, the living law,
Bowing herself with a majestic awe, [draw.
All heaven, to hear her speech, did into silence

*

*

*

*

*

MERCY BRIGHTENING THE RAINBOW.

HIGH in the airy element there hung
Another cloudy sea, that did disdain,
As though his purer waves from heaven sprung,
To crawl on earth, as doth the sluggish main !
But it the earth would water with his rain,
That ebb'd and flow'd as wind and season would ;
And oft the sun would cleave the limber mould
To alabaster rocks, that in the liquid roll'd.

Beneath those sunny banks a darker cloud,
Dropping with thicker dew, did melt apace,
And bent itself into a hollow shroud,
On which, if Mercy did but cast her face,
A thousand colours did the bow enchase,
That wonder was to see the silk distain'd
With the resplendence from her beauty gain'd,
And Iris paint her locks with beams so lively feign'd.

About her head a cypress heav'n she wore,
Spread like a veil upheld with silver wire,
In which the stars so burnt in golden ore,
As seem'd the azure web was all on fire:
But hastily, to quench their sparkling ire,
A flood of milk came rolling up the shore,
That on his curded wave swift Argus wore,
And the immortal swan, that did her life deplore.

Yet strange it was so many stars to see,
Without a sun to give their tapers light:
Yet strange it was not that it so should be;
For, where the sun centres himself by right,
Her face and locks did flame, that at the sight
The heavenly veil, that else should nimbly move,
Forgot his flight, and all incensed with love,
With wonder, and amazement, did her beauty prove.

Over her hung a canopy of state,
Not of rich tissue, nor of spangled gold,
But of a substance, though not animate,
Yet of a heavenly and spiritual mould,
That only eyes of spirits might behold:
Such light as from main rocks of diamond,
Shooting their sparks at Phoebus, would rebound,
And little angels, holding hands, danced all around.

THE PALACE OF PRESUMPTION.

HERE did Presumption her pavilion spread
Over the temple, the bright stars among,
(Ah that her foot should trample on the head
Of that most reverend place !) and a lewd throng
Of wanton boys sung her a pleasant song
Of love, long life, of mercy, and of grace,
And every one her dearly did embrace,
And she herself enamour'd was of her own face.

A painted face, belied with vermeil store,
Which light Euëlpis every day did trim,
That in one hand a gilded anchor wore,
Not fixed on the rock, but on the brim
Of the wide air, she let it loosely swim!
Her other hand a sprinkle carried,
And ever when her lady wavered,
Court-holy water all upon her sprinkled.

Her tent with sunny clouds was ciel'd aloft,
And so exceeding shone with a false light,
That Heav'n itself to her it seemed oft,
Heaven without clouds to her deluded sight;
But clouds withouten Heaven it was aright:
And as her house was built so did her brain
Build castles in the air, with idle pain,
But heart she never had in all her body vain.

Like as a ship, in which no balance lies,
Without a pilot on the sleeping waves,
Fairly along with wind and water flies,
And painted masts with silken sails embraves,
That Neptune's self the bragging vessel saves,
To laugh awhile at her so proud array;
Her waving streamers loosely she lets play,
And flagging colours shine as bright as smiling day.
But all so soon as Heav'n his brows doth bend,
She veils her banners, and pulls in her beams,
The empty bark the raging billows send
Up to the Olympic waves, and Argus seems
Again to ride upon our lower streams :
Right so Presumption did herself behave,
Tossed about with every stormy wave,
And in white lawn she went, most like an angel brave.

[ocr errors]

1

All suddenly the hill his snow devours,
In lieu whereof a goodly garden grew,
As if the snow had melted into flow'rs,
Which their sweet breath in subtle vapours threw, And them in willing bondage fettered :

That all about perfumed spirits flew.
For whatsoever might aggrate the sense,
In all the world, or please the appetence,
Here it was poured out in lavish affluence.

The garden like a lady fair was cut,
That lay as if she slumber'd in delight,
And to the open skies her eyes did shut;
The azure fields of Heav'n were 'sembled right
In a large round, set with the flow'rs of light:
The flowers-de-luce, and the round sparks of dew
That hung upon their azure leaves, did shew
Like twinkling stars, that sparkle in the evening
blue.

Upon a hilly bank her head she cast,
On which the bower of Vain-delight was built.
White and red roses for her face were placed,
And for her tresses marigolds were spilt;
Them broadly she display'd, like flaming gilt,
Till in the ocean the glad day were drown'd:
Then up again her yellow locks she wound,
And with green fillets in their pretty cauls them
bound.

Over the edge depends the graping elm,
Whose greener head, empurpuled in wine,
Seemed to wonder at his bloody helm,
And half suspect the bunches of the vine,
Lest they, perhaps, his wit should undermine,
For well he knew such fruit he never bore:
But her weak arms embraced him the more,
And her with ruby grapes laugh'd at her paramour.

Under the shadow of these drunken elms A fountain rose,

The font of silver was, and so his showers
In silver fell, only the gilded bowls,
(Like to a furnace, that the min'ral powers)
Seem'd to have molt it in their shining holes :
And on the water, like to burning coals,
On liquid silver leaves of roses lay:
But when Panglory here did list to play,
Rose-water then it ran, and milk it rain'd they say.

The roof thick clouds did paint, from which three boys

Three gaping mermaids with their ewers did feed, Whose breasts let fall the streams, with sleepy noise,

To lions' mouths, from whence it leapt with speed,
And in the rosy laver seem'd to bleed;
The naked boys unto the waters fall,
Their stony nightingales had taught to call,
When zephyrs breathed into their watʼry interail.

And all about, embayed in soft sleep,

A herd of charmed beasts aground were spread, Which the fair witch in golden chains did keep,

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
« PředchozíPokračovat »