Page images



BENJAMIN Joxson, (or Johnson,) a poet, who, gives a particular examination of his “Silent Wo during lile, attained a distinguished character, was man,” as a model of perfection. He afterwards the posthumous son of a clergyman in Westminster, however, seems to make large deductions from this where he was born in 1574, about a month after his commendation. “You seldom (says Dryden) find father's decease. His family was originally from him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavor. Scotland, whence his grandfather removed to Car- ing to move the passions ; his genius was too sullen hisle, in the reign of Henry VIII.

and saturnine to do it gracefully. Humor was his Benjamin received his education under the learned proper sphere; and in that he delighted most to Camden, at Westminster school; and had made represent mechanics.” Besides his comedies, Jonson extraordinary progress in his studies, whon his mo- composed two tragedies, Sejanus and Catiline, both ther, who had married a bricklayer for her second formed upon arcient models, and full of transhusband, took him away to work under his step-lations; and neither of them successful. His draather. From this humble employment he escaped, matic compositions, however, do not come within hy enlisting as a soldier in the army, then serving in the scope of the present publication. the Netherlands against the Spaniards. An exploit In 1616, he published a folio volume of his works, which he here performed, of killing an enemy in which procured for him a grant from his majesty of single combat, gave him room to boast ever after of the salary of poet-laureate for life, though he did not a degree of courage which has not often been found take possession of the post till three years after. in alliance with poetical distinction. '

With high intellectual endowments, he had many On his return, Jonson entered himself at St. unamiable traits in his character, having a high deJohn's College, Cambridge, which he was shortly gree of pride and self-conceit, with a disposition to obliged to quit from the scanty state of his finances. abuse and disparage every one who incurred his He then turned his thoughts to the stage, and jealousy or displeasure. Jonson was reduced applied for employment at the theatres; but his to necessitous circumstances in the latter part of talents

, as an actor, could only procure for him his life, though he obtained from Charles I. an adadınission at an obscure playhouse in the suburbs. vance of his salary as laureate. He died in 1637, at Here he had the misfortune to kill a fellow-actor the age of 63, being at that time considered as at the in a duel, for which he was thrown into prison. head of English poetry. He was interred in WestThe state of mind to which he was here brought, minster Abbey, where an inscription was placed over gave the advantage to a Popish priest in converting his grave, familiarly expressive of the reputation him to the Catholic faith, under which religion he he had acquired among his countrymen: it was, continued for twelve years.

“O rare Ben Jonson.” Six months after his death, After his liberation from prison, he married, and a collection of poems to his honor, by a number applied in earnest to writing for the stage, in which of the most eminent writers and scholars in the nahe appears to have already made several attempts. tion, was published, with the title of " Jonsonius His comedy of “Every Man in his Humor,” the Virbius; or the memory of Ben Jonson, revived by first of his acknowledged pieces, was performed with the Friends of the Muses." applause in 1596; and henceforth he continued to Although, as a general poet, Jonson for the most furnish a play yearly, till his time was occupied by part merits the character of harsh, frigid, and tedious; the composition of the masques and other enter- there are, however, some strains in which he appears tainments, by which the accession of James was with singular elegance, and may be placed in comcelebrated. Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic petition with some of the most favored writers of Poetry, speaks of him as the “most learned and that class. judicious writer which any theatre ever had," and




2. I have been gathering wolves' hairs,

The mad-dogs' foam, and the adders' ears ; CAMDEN, most reverend head, to whom I owe

The spurgings or a dead-man's eyes,
All that I am in arts, all that I know-

And all since the evening-star did rise.
(How nothing's that!) to whom my country owes
The great renown, and name wherewith she goes.
Than thee the age sees not that thing more grave, 3. I, last night, lay all alone
More high, more holy, that she more would crave.

O' the ground, to hear the mandrake groan; What name, what skill, what faith hast thou in And pluck'd him up, though he grew full low; things!

And, as I had done, the cock did crow.
What sight in searching the most antique springs !
What weight, and what authority in thy speech! 4. And I ha' been choosing out this skull,
Man scarce can make that doubt, but thou canst From charnel-houses, that were full;

From private grots, and public pits,
Pardon free truth, and let thy modesty,

And frighted a sexton out of his wits.
Which conquers all, be once o'ercome by thee.
Many of thine this better could, than I,

5. Under a cradle I did creep, But for their powers, accept my piety.

By day; and, when the child was asleep,

At night, I suck'd the breath; and rose,
And pluck'd the nodding nurse by the nose.


QUEEN and huntress, chaste and fair,

Now the sun is laid to sleep;
Seated in thy silver chair,

State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus intreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.

7. A murderer, yonder, was hung in chains,
The sun and the wind had shrunk his veins;
I bit off a sinew, I clipp'd his hair,
I brought off his rags, that danc'd i’ the air.

8. The screech-owl's eggs, and the feathers black.
The blood of the frog, and the bone in his lack,
I have been getting; and made of his skin
A purset, to keep Sir Cranion in.

Earth, let not thy envious shade

Dare itself to interpose ;
Cynthia's shining orb was made

Heaven to clear, when day did close;
Bless us then with wished sight,
Goddess excellently bright.

9. And I ha' been plucking (plants among)
Hemlock, henbane, adder's tongue,
Night-shade, moon-wort, libbard's bane;
And twice by the dogs was like to be ta'en.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,

And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying heart

Space to breathe, how short soever :
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.

10. I, from the jaws of a gardener's bitch,
Did snatch these bones, and then leap'd the ditch,
Yet went I back to the house again,
Kill'd the black cat, and here's the brain.


STILL to be neat, still to be drest,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powder'd, still perfum'd:
Lady, it is to be presum'd,
Though art's hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace ;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me,
Than all th' adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.

11. I went to the road breeds under the wall
I charm'd him out, and he came at my call;
I scratch'd out the eyes of the owl before,
I tore the bat's wing: what would you have more !

Yes, I have brought (to help our vowe)
Horned poppy, cypress boughs,
The fig-tree wild, that grows on tombs,

And juice, that from the larch-tree comes,
The pasilisk's blood, and the viper's skin:
And, now, our orgies let's begin.

1. I HAVE been, all day, looking after
A raven, feeding upon a quarter ;
And, soon as she turn'd her beak to the south,
I snatch'd this morsel out of her mouth.


UNDERNEATH this marble herse
Lies the subject of all verse,
Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother;
Death, ere thou hast slain another,
Learn'd, and fair, and good as she,
Time shall throw his dart at thee.



Thus, thus, begin: the yearly rites
Are due to Pan on these bright nights;
His morn now riseth, and invites
To sports, to dances, and delights:

All envious and profane, away,
This is the shepherd's holiday.

ON LUCY, COUNTESS OF BEDFORD. T'nis morning, timely rapt with holy fire,

I thought to form unto my zealous Muse,
What kind of creature I could most desire,

To honor, serve, and love; as poets use.
I meant to make her fair, and free, and wise,

Of greatest blood, and yet more good than great; I meant the day-star should not brighter rise,

Nor lend like influence from his lucent seat. I meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet,

Hating that solemn vice of greatness, pride; I meant each softest virtue there should meet,

Fit in that softer bosom to reside. Oniy a learned, and a manly soul

I purpos d her; that should, with even pow'rs, The rock, the spindle, and the shears control

Of Destiny, and spin her own free hours. Such when I meant to feign, and wish'd to see,

My Muse bade, Bedford write, and that was she.


Strew, strew, the glad and smiling ground,
With every flower, yet not confound
The primrose drop, the spring's own spouse
Bright daisies, and the lips of cows,

The garden-star, the queen of May,
The rose, to crown the holiday.



Drop, drop, you violets, change your hues,
Now red, now pale, as lovers use,
And in your death go out as well
As when you lived unto the smell :

That from your odor all may say
This is the shepherd's holiday





Kiss me, sweet: the wary lover Can your favors keep, and cover, When the common courting jay All your bounties will betray. Kiss again: no creature comes. Kiss, and score up wealthy sums On my lips, thus hardly sund'red, While you breathe. First give a hundred, Then a thousand, then another Hundred, then unto the tother Add a thousand, and so more: Till you equal with the sture, All the grass that Romney yields, Or the sands in Chelsea fields, Or the drops in silver Thames, Or the stars, that gild his streams, In the silent summer nights, When youths ply their stol'n delights "That the curious may not know How to tell 'em as they flow, And the envious, when they find What their number is, be pin’d.

FIRST GRACE. BEAUTIES, have ye seen this toy, Called Love, a little boy, Almost naked, wanton, blind, Cruel now; and then as kind ? If he be amongst ye, say ; He is Venus' run-away.

SECOND GRACE. She, that will but now discover Where the winged wag doth hover, Shall, to-night, receive a kiss, How, or where herself would wish : But, who brings him to his mother, Shall have that kiss, and another.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


ABRAHAM Cowley, a poet of considerable dis- virtue of a degree which he obtained, by mandamus tinction, was born at London, in 1618. His father, from Oxford, in December, 1657. who was a grocer by trade, died before his birth ; After the death of Cromwell, Cowley returned but his mother, through the interest of her frierds, to France, and resumed his station as an agent in procured his admission into Westminster school, the royal cause, the hopes of which now began to as a king's scholar. He has represented himself as revive. The Restoration reinstated him, with other so deficient in memory, as to have been unable to royalists, in his own country; and he naturally ex retain the common rules of grammar: it is, huw- pected a reward for his long services. He had ever, certain that, by some process, he became an been promised, both by Charles I. and Charles II., elegant and correct classical scholar. Ile early the Mastership of the Savoy, but was unsuccessful iinbibed a taste for poetry; and so soon did it germi- in both his applications. He had also the misfortune nate in his youthful mind, that, while yet at school, of displeasing his party, by his revived comedy of in his fifteenth or sixteenth year, he published a “The Cutter of Coleman-street," which was concollection of verses, under the appropriate title of strued as a satire on the cavaliers. At length Poctical Blossoms.

through the interest of the Duke of Buckingham In 1636 he was elected a scholar of Trinity col- and the Earl of St. Alban's, he obtained a lease of lege, Cambridge. In this favorable situation he ob- a farm at Chertsey, held under the queen, by which tained much praise for his academical exercises ; his income was raised to about 3001. per annum. and he again appeared as an author, in a pastoral From early youth a country retirement had been comedy, called Love's Riddle, and a Latin comedy, a real or imaginary object of his wishes; and. entitled, Naufragium Joculare ; the last of which though a late eminent critic and moralist, who had was acted before the university, by the members himself no sensibility to rural pleasures, treats this of Trinity college. He continued to reside at Cam- taste with severity and ridicule, there seems little bridge till 1643, and was a Master of Arts when reason to decry a propensity, nourished by the sahe was ejected from the university by the puritani- vorite strains of poets, and natural to a mind long cal visitors. He thence removed to Oxford, and tossed by the anxieties of business, and the vicissifired himself in St. John's college. It was here tudes of an unsettled condition. that he engaged actively in the royal cause, and Cowley took up his abode first at Barn-elms, on was present in several of the king's journeys and the banks of the Thames; but this place not agreeexpeditions, but in what quality, does not appear. ing with his health, he removed to Chertsey. Here He ingratiated himself, however, with the principal his life was soon brought to a close. According to persons about the court, and was particularly hon- his biographer, Dr. Sprat, the fatal disease was an ored with the friendship of Lord Falkland. affection of the lungs, the consequence of staying

When the events of the war obliged the queen- too late in the fields among his laborers. Dr mother to quit the kingdom, Cowley accompanied Warton, however, from the authority of Mr. Spence. her to France, and obtained a settlement at Paris, gives a different account of the matter. He says, in the family of the earl of St. Alban's. During an that Cowley, with his friend Sprat, paid a visit on absence of nearly ten years from his native coun- foot to a gentleman in the neighborhood of Cherttry, he took various journeys into Jersey, Scotland, sey, which they prolonged, in free conviviality, till Holland, and Flanders; and it was principally midnight; and that missing their way on their rethrough his instrumentality that a correspondence turn, they were obliged to pass the night under a was maintained between the king and his consort. hedge, which gave to the poet a severe cold and The business of ciphering and deciphering their fever, which terminated in his death. He died on letters, was intrusted to his care, and often occu- July 28, 1667, and was interred, with a most honpied his nights, as well as his days. It is no won-orable attendance of persons of distinction, in Westder that, after the Restoration, he long complained minster-abbey, near the remains of Chaucer and of the neglect with which he was treated. In Spenser. King Charles II. pronounced his eulogy, 1656, having no longer any affairs to transact by declaring, “that Mr. Cowley had not left a abroad, he returned to England; still, it is sup- better man behind him in England.” posed, engaged in the service of his party, as a me- At the time of his death, Cowley certainly ranked dium of secret intelligence. Soon after his arrival, as the first poet in England; for Milton lay under he published an edition of his poems, containing a cloud, nor was the age qualified to taste him. most of those which now appear in his works. In And although a large portion of Cowley's celebrity a search for another person, he was apprehended by has since vanished, there still remains enough to the messengers of the ruling powers, and committed raise him to a considerable rank among the British to custody; from which he was liberated, by that poets. It may be proper here to add, that as a generous and learned physician, Dr. Scarborough, prose writer, particularly in the department of who bailed him in the sum of a thousand pounds. essays, there are few who can compare with him This, however, was possibly the sum at which he in elegant simplicity. was rated as a physician, a character he assumed by!


« PreviousContinue »