Page images

Thus sought the dire enchantress in his mind
Her guileful bait to have embosomed :
But he her charms dispersed into wind,
And her of insolence admonished,
And all her optic glasses shattered.

So with her sire to hell she took her flight
(The starting air flew from the damned sprite),
Where deeply both aggriev'd plunged themselves in early productions, written before he had imbibed the

Wither's fame as a poet is derived chiefly from his

The birds' sweet notes, to sonnet out their joys,
Attemper'd to the lays angelical;

And to the birds the winds attune their noise;
And to the winds the waters hoarsely call,
And echo back again revoiced all;
That the whole valley rung with victory.
But now our Lord to rest doth homewards fly:
See how the night comes stealing from the mountains



But to their Lord, now musing in his thought,
A heavenly volley of light angels flew,
And from his father him a banquet brought
Through the fine element, for well they knew,
After his Lenten fast, he hungry grew:
And as he fed, the holy choirs combine
To sing a hymn of the celestial Trine;

sectarian gloom of the Puritans, or become em-
broiled in the struggles of the civil war. A col-
lection of his poems was published by himself in
1622, with the title, Mistress of Philarete; his Shep-
herds' Hunting, being certain Eclogues written
during the time of the author's imprisonment in the
Marshalsea, appeared in 1633. His Collection of
Emblems, ancient and modern, Quickened with Me-


All thought to pass, and each was past all thought trical Illustrations, made their appearance in 1635. His satirical and controversial works were numerous, but are now forgotten. Some authors of our own day (Mr Southey in particular) have helped to popularise Wither, by frequent quotation and eulogy; but Mr Ellis, in his Specimens of Early English Poets, was the first to point out that playful fancy, pure taste, and artless delicacy of sentiment, which distinguish the poetry of his early youth.' His poem on Christmas affords a lively picture of the manners of the times. His Address to Poetry, the sole yet cheering companion of his prison solitude, is worthy of the theme, and superior to most of the effusions of that period. The pleasure with which he recounts the various charms and the divine skill' of his Muse, that had derived nourishment and delight from the meanest objects' of external nature-a daisy, a bush, or a tree; and which, when these picturesque and beloved scenes of the country were denied him, could gladden even the vaults and shades of a prison, is one of the richest offerings that has yet been made to the pure and hallowed shrine of poesy. The superiority of intellectual pursuits over the gratifications of sense, and all the malice of fortune, has never been more touchingly or finely illustrated.


George Wither (1588—1667) was a voluminous author, in the midst of disasters and sufferings that would have damped the spirit of any but the most adventurous and untiring enthusiast. Some of his happiest strains were composed in prison: his limbs were incarcerated within stone walls and iron bars, but his fancy was among the hills and plains, with shepherds hunting, or loitering with Poesy, by rustling boughs and murmuring springs. "There is a freshness and natural vivacity in the poetry of Wither, that render his early works a 'perpetual feast.' We cannot say that it is a feast where no crude surfeit reigns,' for he is often harsh, obscure, and affected; but he has an endless diversity of style and subjects, and true poetical feeling and expression. Wither was a native of Hampshire, and received his education at Magdalen College, Oxford. He first appeared as an author in the year 1613, when he published a satire, entitled Abuses Stript and Whipt. For this he was thrown into the Marshalsea, where he composed his fine poem, The Shepherds' Hunting. When the abuses satirised by the poet had accumulated and brought on the civil war, Wither took the popular side, and sold his paternal estate to raise a troop of horse for the parliament. He rose to the rank of a major, and in 1642 was made governor of Farnham Castle, afterwards held by Denham. Wither was accused of deserting his appointment, and the castle was ceded the same year to Sir William Waller. During the struggles of that period, the poet was made prisoner by the royalists, and stood in danger of capital punishment, when Denham interfered for his brother bard, alleging, that as long as Wither lived, he (Denham) would not be considered the worst poet in England. The joke was a good one, if it saved Wither's life; but George was not frightened from the perilous contentions of the times. He was afterwards one of Cromwell's majors general, and kept watch and ward over the royalists of Surrey. From the sequestrated estates of these gentlemen, Wither obtained a considerable fortune; but the Restoration came, and he was stript of all his possessions. He remonstrated loudly and angrily; his remonstrances were voted libels, and the unlucky poet was again

thrown into prison. He published various treatises, satires, and poems, during this period, though he was treated with great rigour. He was released, under bond for good behaviour, in 1663, and survived nearly four years afterwards, dying in London on the 2d of May 1667.

[The Companionship of the Muse.]

[From the Shepherds' Hunting.]

See'st thou not, in clearest days,
Oft thick fogs cloud heaven's rays,
And the vapours that do breathe
From the earth's gross womb beneath,
Seem they not with their black steams
To pollute the sun's bright beams,
And yet vanish into air,
Leaving it, unblemish'd, fair?
So, my Willy, shall it be
With Detraction's breath and thee
It shall never rise so high,
As to stain thy poesy.

As that sun doth oft exhale
Vapours from each rotten vale;
Poesy so sometime drains
Gross conceits from muddy brains,
Mists of envy, fogs of spite,

"Twixt men's judgments and her light:
But so much her power may do,
That she can dissolve them too.
If thy verse do bravely tower,
As she makes wing she gets power;
Yet the higher she doth soar,
She's affronted still the more:
Till she to the high'st hath past,
Then she rests with fame at last:
Let nought therefore thee affright,
But make forward in thy flight;

For, if I could match thy rhyme,
To the very stars I'd climb;
There begin again, and fly
Till I reach'd eternity.
But, alas! my muse is slow;
For thy page she flags too low:
Yea, the more's her hapless fate,
Her short wings were clipt of late:
And poor I, her fortune rueing,
Am myself put up a mewing:
But if I my cage can rid,
I'll fly where I never did:
And though for her sake I'm crost,
Though my best hopes I have lost,
And knew she would make my trouble
Ten times more than ten times double:
I should love and keep her too,
Spite of all the world could do.
For, though banish'd from my flocks,
And confin'd within these rocks,
Here I waste away the light,
And consume the sullen night,
She doth for my comfort stay,
And keeps many cares away.
Though I miss the flowery fields,
With those sweets the springtide yields,
Though I may not see those groves,
Where the shepherds chant their loves,
And the lasses more excel
Than the sweet-voiced Philomel.

Though of all those pleasures past,
Nothing now remains at last,
But Remembrance, poor relief,
That more makes than mends my grief:
She's my mind's companion still,
Maugre Envy's evil will.
(Whence she would be driven, too,
Were't in mortal's power to do.)
She doth tell me where to borrow
Comfort in the midst of sorrow:
Makes the desolatest place
To her presence be a grace;
And the blackest discontents
Be her fairest ornaments.
In my former days of bliss,
Her divine skill taught me this,
That from everything I saw,
I could some invention draw:
And raise pleasure to her height,
Through the meanest object's sight,
By the murmur of a spring,
Or the least bough's rustling.
By a daisy, whose leaves spread,
Shut when Titan goes to bed;
Or a shady bush or tree,
She could more infuse in me,
Than all Nature's beauties can

In some other wiser man.
By her help I also now

Make this churlish place allow
Some things that may sweeten gladness,
In the very gall of sadness.

The dull loneness, the black shade,
That these hanging vaults have made;
The strange music of the waves,
Beating on these hollow caves;
This black den which rocks emboss,
Overgrown with eldest moss:
The rude portals that give light
More to terror than delight:
This my chamber of neglect,
Wall'd about with disrespect.
From all these, and this dull air,
A fit object for despair,

She hath taught me by her might
To draw comfort and delight.

Therefore, thou best earthly bliss,
I will cherish thee for this.
Poesy, thou sweet'st content
That e'er heaven to mortals lent:
Though they as a trifle leave thee,
Whose dull thoughts cannot conceive thee,

Though thou be to them a scorn,
That to nought but earth are born,
Let my life no longer be
Than I am in love with thee,

Though our wise ones call thee madness,
Let me never taste of gladness,
If I love not thy madd'st fits
Above all their greatest wits.
And though some, too seeming holy,
Do account thy raptures folly,
Thou dost teach me to contemn
What make knaves and fools of them.

Sonnet upon a Stolen Kiss.

Now gentle sleep hath closed up those eyes
Which, waking, kept my boldest thoughts in awe ;
And free access unto that sweet lip lies,
From whence I long the rosy breath to draw.
Methinks no wrong it were, if I should steal
From those two melting rubies, one poor kiss;
None sees the theft that would the theft reveal,
Nor rob I her of ought what she can miss:
Nay should I twenty kisses take away,
There would be little sign I would do so;
Why then should I this robbery delay?
Oh! she may wake, and therewith angry grow!
Well, if she do, I'll back restore that one,
And twenty hundred thousand more for loan.

The Stedfast Shepherd.

Hence away, thou Syren, leave me,

Pish! unclasp these wanton arins; Sugar'd words can ne'er deceive ine, (Though thou prove a thousand charms).

Fie, fie, forbear;
No common snare

Can ever my affection chain:

Thy painted baits,
And poor deceits,
Are all bestowed on me in vain.
I'm no slave to such as you be;

Neither shall that snowy breast,
Rolling eye, and lip of ruby,
Ever rob me of my rest;
Go, go, display
Thy beauty's ray

To some more-soon enamour'd swain:
Those common wiles,

Of sighs and smiles,
Are all bestowed on me in vain.
I have elsewhere vow'd a duty;

Turn away thy tempting eye:
Show not me a painted beauty,
These impostures I defy :
My spirit loathes
Where gaudy clothes

And feigned oaths may love obtain:
I love her so

Whose look swears no,
That all your labours will be vain.
Can he prize the tainted posies,

Which on every breast are worn; That may pluck the virgin roses From their never-touched thorn ? I can go rest

On her sweet breast,

That is the pride of Cynthia's train;
Then stay thy tongue;
Thy mermaid song

Is all bestow'd on me in vain.

He's a fool, that basely dallies,

Where each peasant mates with him :
Shall I haunt the thronged valleys,
Whilst there's noble hills to climb ?
No, no, though clowns
Are scar'd with frowns,

I know the best can but disdain :
And those I'll prove,
So will thy love

Be all bestow'd on me in vain.

I do scorn to vow a duty,

Where each lustful lad may woo; Give me her, whose sun-like beauty, Buzzards dare not soar unto : She, she, it is

Affords that bliss,

For which I would refuse no pain;
But such as you,
Fond fools, adieu,

You seek to captive me in vain.
Leave me, then, thou Syren, leave me;
Seek no more to work my harms;
Crafty wiles cannot deceive me,
Who am proof against your charms:
You labour may

To lead astray

The heart, that constant shall remain ; And I the while

Will sit and smile

To see you spend your time in vain.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Good farmers in the country nurse

The poor, that else were undone ; Some landlords spend their money worse, On lust and pride at London. There the roysters they do play, Drab and dice their lands away, Which may be ours another day,

And therefore let's be merry. The client now his suit forbears,

The prisoner's heart is eased; The debtor drinks away his cares,

And for the time is pleased. Though others' purses be more fat, Why should we pine, or grieve at that? Hang sorrow! care will kill a cat, And therefore let's be merry.

Hark! now the wags abroad do call,

Each other forth to rambling; Anon you'll see them in the hall,

For nuts and apples scrambling. Hark! how the roofs with laughter sound, Anon they'll think the house goes round, For they the cellar's depth have found, And there they will be merry.

The wenches with their wassail bowls
About the streets are singing;
The boys are come to catch the owls,
The wild mare in is bringing.
Our kitchen boy hath broke his box,
And to the dealing of the ox,
Our honest neighbours come by flocks,
And here they will be merry.

Now kings and queens poor sheepcotes have,
And mate with every body;

The honest now may play the knave,
And wise men play the noddy.
Some youths will now a mumining go,
Some others play at Rowland-bo,
And twenty other game boys mo,
Because they will be merry.

Then, wherefore, in these merry days,
Should we, I pray, be duller?
No, let us sing some roundelays,

To make our mirth the fuller: And, while we thus inspired sing, Let all the streets with echoes ring; Woods and hills, and everything, Bear witness we are merry.


WILLIAM BROWNE (1590-1645) was a pastoral and descriptive poet, who, like Phineas and Giles Fletcher, adopted Spenser for his model. He was a native of Tavistoc in Devonshire, and the beautiful scenery of his native county seems to have inspired his early strains. His descriptions are vivid and true to nature. Browne was tutor to the Earl of Carnarvon, and on the death of the latter at the battle of Newbury in 1643, he received the patronage and lived in the family of the Earl of Pembroke. In this situation he realised a competency, and, according to Wood, purchased an estate. He died at Ottery-St-Mary (the birth-place of Coleridge) in 1645. Browne's works consist of Britannia's Pastorals, the first part of which was published in 1613, the second part in 1616. He wrote, also, a pastoral poem of inferior merit, entitled, The Shepherd's Pipe. In 1620, a masque by Browne was produced at court, called The Inner Temple Masque; but it was not printed till a hundred and twenty years after the author's death, transcribed from a manuscript in the Bodleian Library. As all the poems of Browne were produced before he was thirty years of age, and the best when he was little more than twenty, we need not be surprised at their containing marks of juvenility, and frequent traces of resemblance to previous poets, especially Spenser, whom he warmly admired. His pastorals obtained the approbation of Selden, Drayton, Wither, and Ben Jonson. Britannia's Pastorals are written in the heroic couplet, and contain much beautiful descriptive poetry. Browne had great facility of expression, and an intimate acquaintance with the phenomena of inanimate nature, and the characteristic features of the English landscape. Why he has failed in maintaining his ground among his contemporaries, must be attributed to the want of vigour and condensation in his works, and the almost total absence of human interest. His shepherds and shepherdesses have nearly as little character as the silly sheep' they tend; whilst pure description, that 'takes the place of sense,' can never permanently interest any large number of readers. So completely had some of the poems of Browne vanished from the public view and recollection, that, had it not been for a single copy of them possessed by the Rev. Thomas Warton, and which that poetical student and quary lent to be transcribed, it is supposed there would have remained little of those works which their author fondly hoped would

Keep his name enroll'd past his that shines
In gilded marble, or in brazen leaves.

Warton cites the following lines of Browne, as containing an assemblage of the same images as the morning picture in the L'Allegro of Milton :

name of Philarete in a pastoral poem; and Milton is supposed to have copied his plan in Lycidas. There is also a faint similarity in some of the sentiments and images. Browne has a very fine illustration of a


By this had chanticleer, the village cock,
Bidden the goodwife for her maids to knock ;
And the swart ploughman for his breakfast stayed,
That he might till those lands were fallow laid;
The hills and valleys here and there resound
With the re-echoes of the deep-mouth'd hound;
Each shepherd's daughter with her cleanly pail
Was come a-field to milk the morning's meal;
And ere the sun had climb'd the eastern hills,
To gild the muttering bourns and pretty rills,
Before the labouring bee had left the hive,
And nimble fishes, which in rivers dive,
Began to leap and catch the drowned fly,
I rose from rest, not infelicity.

Look, as a sweet rose fairly budding forth

Betrays her beauties to th' enamour'd morn,
Until some keen blast from the envious north
Kills the sweet bud that was but newly born;
Or else her rarest smells, delighting,
Make herself betray

[A Descriptive Sketch.]

O what a rapture have I gotten now!
That age of gold, this of the lovely brow,
Have drawn me from my song! I onward run
Clean from the end to which I first begun),
In whom the virtues and the graces rest,
But ye, the heavenly creatures of the West,
Pardon ! that I have run astray so long,
And grow so tedious in so rude a song.
If you yourselves should come to add one grace
Unto a pleasant grove or such like place,
Where, here, the curious cutting of a hedge,
There in a pond, the trimming of the sedge;
Here the fine setting of well-shaded trees,
The walks there mounting up by small degrees,
The gravel and the green so equal lie,
It, with the rest, draws on your ling'ring eye:
Here the sweet smells that do perfume the air,
Arising from the infinite repair
Of odoriferous buds, and herbs of price,
(As if it were another paradise),
So please the smelling sense, that you are fain
Where last you walk'd to turn and walk again.
There the small birds with their harmonious notes
Sing to a spring that smileth as she floats:
For in her face a many dimples show,
And often skips as it did dancing go:
Here further down an over-arched alley
That from a hill goes winding in a valley,
You spy at end thereof a standing lake,
Where some ingenious artist strives to make
The water (brought in turning pipes of lead
anti-Through birds of earth most lively fashioned)
To counterfeit and mock the sylvans all
In singing well their own set madrigal.
This with no small delight retains your ear,
And makes you think none blest but who live there.
Then in another place the fruits that be
In gallant clusters decking each good tree,
Invite your hand to crop them from the stem,
And liking one, taste every sort of them :
Then to the arbours walk, then to the bowers,
Thence to the walks again, thence to the flowers,
Then to the birds, and to the clear spring thence,
Now pleasing one, and then another sense :
Here one walks oft, and yet anew begin'th,
As if it were some hidden labyrinth.

Some white and curious hand, inviting
To pluck her thence away.


As in an evening, when the gentle air
Breathes to the sullen night a soft repair,
I oft have sat on Thames' sweet bank, to hear
My friend with his sweet touch to charm mine ear:
When he hath play'd (as well he can) some strain,
That likes me, straight I ask the same again,
And he, as gladly granting, strikes it o'er

Browne celebrated the death of a friend under the With some sweet relish was forgot before:

I would have been content if he would play,
In that one strain, to pass the night away;
But, fearing much to do his patience wrong,
Unwillingly have ask'd some other song:
So, in this diff'ring key, though I could well
A many hours, but as few minutes tell,
Yet, lest mine own delight might injure you,
(Though loath so soon) I take my song anew.


The writings of FRANCIS QUARLES (1592-1644) are more like those of a divine, or contemplative recluse, than of a busy man of the world, who held various public situations, and died at the age of fifty-two. Quarles was a native of Essex, educated at Cambridge, and afterwards a student of Lincoln's Inn. He was successively cup-bearer to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, secretary to Archbishop Usher, and chronologer to the city of London. He espoused the cause of Charles I., and was so harassed by the opposite party, who injured his property, and plundered him of his books and rare manuscripts, that his death was attributed to the affliction and ill health caused by these disasters. Notwithstanding his loyalty, the works of Quarles have a tinge of Puritanism and ascetic piety that might have molsist of various pieces-Job Militant, Sion's Elegies, lified the rage of his persecutors. His poems conThe History of Queen Esther, Argalus and Parthenia, The Morning Muse, The Feast of Worms, and The Divine Emblems. The latter were published in 1645, and were so popular, that Phillips, Milton's nephew, styles Quarles the darling of our plebeian judgments.' The eulogium still holds good to some extent, for the Divine Emblems, with their quaint and grotesque illustrations, are still found in the cottages of our peasants. After the Restoration, when everything sacred and serious was either neglected or made the subject of ribald jests, Quarles seems to have been entirely lost to the public. Even Pope, who, had he read him, must have relished his lively fancy and poetical expression, notices only his bathos and absurdity. The better and more tolerant taste of modern times has admitted the divine emblemist into the 'laurelled fraternity of poets,' where,

[Pastoral Employments.]

But since her stay was long: for fear the sun
Should find them idle, some of them begun
To leap and wrestle, others threw the bar,
Some from the company removed are
To meditate the songs they meant to play,
Or make a new round for next holiday;
Some, tales of love their love-sick fellows told;
Others were seeking stakes to pitch their fold.
This, all alone, was mending of his pipe;

That, for his lass, sought fruits, most sweet, most ripe. if he does not occupy a conspicuous place, he is at
Here (from the rest), a lovely shepherd's boy
Sits piping on a hill, as if his joy
Would still endure, or else that age's frost
Should never make him think what he had lost,
Yonder a shepherdess knits by the springs,
Her hands still keeping time to what she sings;
Or seeming, by her song, those fairest hands
Were comforted in working. Near the sands
Of some sweet river, sits a musing lad,
That moans the loss of what he sometime had,
His love by death bereft: when fast by him
An aged swain takes place, as near the brim
Of's grave as of the river.

least sure of his due measure of homage and atten-
tion. Emblems, or the union of the graphic and
poetic arts, to inculcate lessons of morality and re-
ligion, had been tried with success by Peacham and
Wither. Quarles, however, made Herman Hugo, a
Jesuit, his model, and from the 'Pia Desideria' of this
author, copied a great part of his prints and mottoes.
His style is that of his age-studded with conceits,
often extravagant in conception, and presenting the
most outré and ridiculous combinations. There is
strength, however, amidst his contortions, and true
wit mixed up with the false. His epigrammatic
point, uniting wit and devotion, has been considered
the precursor of Young's Night Thoughts.


The sable mantle of the silent night
Shut from the world the ever-joysome light.
Care fled away, and softest slumbers please
To leave the court for lowly cottages.
Wild beasts forsook their dens on woody hills,
And sleightful otters left the purling rills;
Rooks to their nests in high woods now were flung,
And with their spread wings shield their naked young.
When thieves from thickets to the cross-ways stir,
And terror frights the lonely passenger;
When nought was heard but now and then the howl
Of some vile cur, or whooping of the owl.

[blocks in formation]


As when a lady, walking Flora's bower,
Picks here a pink, and there a gilly-flower,
Now plucks a violet from her purple bed,
And then a primrose, the year's maidenhead,
There nips the brier, here the lover's pansy,
Shifting her dainty pleasures with her fancy,
This on her arms, and that she lists to wear
Upon the borders of her curious hair;
At length a rose-bud (passing all the rest)
She plucks, and bosoms in her lily breast.

The Shortness of Life.

And what's a life-a weary pilgrimage,
Whose glory in one day doth fill the stage
With childhood, manhood, and decrepit age.
And what's a life?—the flourishing array
Of the proud summer meadow, which to-day
Wears her green plush, and is to-morrow hay.

« PreviousContinue »