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•' God, who hath hitherto provided for me in such a manner as best befitted my temporal and spirit mil condition, will, I know, continue his provident care of me, while I can have grace to be thankful, and retain the resolution to do my lawful endeavour."
As to the execution of this work, "I have," says the Poet, "as well in that which is of my own invention, as in the Translations, used that simplicity of speech, which being commendable in other things, would have obscured the majesty of those inventions."—" If those indifferent men, who know the poesy and power of the English tongue, may be my judges, they will censure my expressions to be such, as shall neither be obscure to the meanest capacities, nor contemptible to the best judgments, but, observing a middle way, best becoming that purpose for which they were intended."
In recurring to his motives, he says, "if I have laboured in making use with modesty of those gifts which were bestowed on me to that purpose, what blame-worthy have I done?" "If I could have believed that for me to enter into Orders would have made me either the profitable instrument of God's glory, or caused my labours to have been the more holy, or the more edifying, what had letted me to procure that advantage ?" &c. "But my mind persuades me that God hath appointed me to serve him in some other course. There are divers gifts, and diversities of callings."
"Let all my writings, privately or publicly dispersed, from the first Epigram that ever I composed, until the publishing of these Hymns now traduced by my adversaries; and if there can be found one line savouring of such a mind as may give cause to suspect I undertook that task without that true Christian aim, which I ought to have had j or if the performance itself shall make it appear that I proceeded without that due preparation ; or if you can have any probable testimony, that through the course of my life, or by any ouc scandalous act, I have given that cause of offence, as may disparage my studies, or trouble their devotions to whose use my.Hymns are tendered, let these things be laid to my charge, uutil I find means to disprove and wash away imputations."
"The principal reward which I seek is that which every eye seeth not; and that, which judge my affections b,y their own, think me to have least thought on. As for that outward benefit, which the necessities of this life, and my frailties, urge me somewhat to look after, it is that little profit only, which my work naturally brings with itself: nor shall I he long discontented, if that also be taken from me."—" Let them allot me what they please; and balance my talent as they list: God will provide sufficient for me, to whose pleasure I refer the success."
"When those friends, who are engaged for me, are satisfied, to which purpose there is yet, I praise God, sufficient set apart; I vow, in the faith of an honest man, that there will not be left me in all the world, to defend me against my adversaries, and supply the common necessities of nature, so much as will feed me for one week, unless I labour for it: which my enemies are partly informed of, and do thereupon triumph. But not to my discontentment; for I do comfort myself to think how sweet it will be to sit hereafter at some honest labour, and sing these Hymns an.4 Stings to the praise of God, for which the world hath taken from me her favours. Nor doth it trouble me to publish thus much of my poverty, though 1 know it will sound disgracefully in the ears of most men. For I mean to procure no man to hazard his estate for me, by pretending better possibilities to secure him than I have, as others usually do: nor value I the reputation which comes by wealth, or such like things, as maybe lost through the malice of others, because I know I shall be the better esteemed of for those toys bv none but fools, or such idiots as will sooner blush to be found poor than dishonest. Yea, I am assured that among good and wise men, it will be no more shame unto me to be made poor by such means as I have been, titan it is to be made sick by the hand of God: nor can I think it will he more my disgrace to have wasted my estate through my studies, than it is to some other students to have thereby impaired their healths."
The selection here compressed together from the copious extracts which form the Editor's Preface, will
prove prove the youthful mind of Wither to have been exalted by no ordinary feelings. There is a purity and flow in the language of his prose, which could only spring from the heart. Let the Reader compare it with the fashionable style of the day in which it-was written; and remark how little it partakes of the general quaintness and pedantry of the age! Wither's merit is facility: his fault, excessive want of compression. His copiousness too often makes him tedious; and sometimes disgusting. These deformities are more abhorrent to such as have been taught mechanically the arts of composition, than to those who prefer thought to diction. There is more depth, originality, and ingenious labour in Donne; but more nature and interest in Wither. Many passages of Wither's Shepherd's Hunting *, and Fair Virtue t, rise to the tones of enchanting poetry: less vigorous, and less picturesque than the early poems of Milton; but not less pure: and far excelling almost all contemporary authors in the lighter sort of lyrick.
The Hymns and Songs were a more perilous task. Johnson has fully explained the difficulty of attempting Sacred Poetry. But Wither's performance in this way is of singular curiosity, for the illustration of the progress of our poetry as well as of our language. I will give a specimen of the Songs, accompanied by the prose introduction.
"the Seventh Canticle. "Here is allegorically expressed the majesty, power, and excellency of Christ; and is the effect of that which was evangelically sung of him after his Resurrection and Ascension. First, the Bride is introduced, adjuring the faithful Israelites, that when they have attained the knowledge of Christ her spouse, they should profess and teach him to the rest of their members. Secondly, those who long to find him, desire again of the Church to know the excellencies of that beloved of hers; and, by doubling the question, seem to imply a two-fold excellency. Thirdly, the Churelrspeedily answers those that inquire after her Spouse; and, by describing his excel
lency in his ten principal members, mystically notifieth his tenfold spiritual perfection, whereupon to insist were not here convenient. Lastly, the faithful crave theChurch's direction to help them to find him out; and receive her gracious answer to that purpose.
Oh! if him you happen on,
Daughters of Jerusalem, ,
Sick am grown of love for him!
More than other lovers do:
That thou dost adjure us so?
Of ten thousand chief is he:
And a raven-black they be. Like the milky doves that bide By the rivers, he is eyed;
Full and fitly set they are . Cheeks like spicy beds hath he; Or like flowers that fairest be:
Lips like lilies dropping myrrh.
Bellied like white ivory,
Set on golden bases be.
Sweetness breathing out of him:
Daughters of Jerusalem.
Thy beloved turned be?
That we seek him may with thee?
Where he feeds, and lilies'gets:
Who among the lilies eats.
In the present age, in which the sacred writings are studied with so
* Reprinted 1814, by Sir Egerton Brydges, in 12mo, for Longman and Co. (100 copies only).
f Nearly ready for publication in the same form. — Fidelia, another poem of Witber's, has been also reprinted. J A line seems omitted in this stanza. ■
much enthusiasm, the revival of a volume so interesting and instructive in its matter, as well as curious to critical Antiquaries and Philologers, will scarcely be deemed an ungrateful labour. To modern readers the ugly type and dingy paper of too many old books adds to the repulsiveness of the style and versification: and an old composition appears comparatively attractive, when decorated by the improved press of the present day. This new Edition of The Hymns forms au elegant little volume.
Old Town, Stratfordupon-Avon. IT was observed by Mr. Malone, in a note to his extracts of the Shakspeare Family from the Registers of Stratford-upon-Avon (edit.1790), that "au inaccurate and very imperfect list of the Baptisms, &c, of Shakspeare's Family was transmitted by Mr. West, about eighteen years ago, to Mr. Steevens. The list now printed (continues Mr. Malone) I have extracted with great care from the Registers of Stratford; and I trust it will be found correct." Mr. Malone, however, for whatever reason, made numerous errors in his list, besides omitting many very material entries; he should not, therefore, have complained of that which Mr. Slcevens appears to have published, when his own, which be proclaims to have extracted with great care, and trusted would be found correct, is so extremely inaccurate and imperfect. This Commentator, who is, indeed, highly deserving of public thanks for investigating the personal history of our great Dramatic Bard, is less excusable than his predecessor, because it appears that Mr. Steevens was obliged to trust to the transcript made by Mr. West, who might not have had leisure, inclination, or patience, to examine a bulky register; for Mr. Malone was in possession of
"Baptiss(es, Anno Dom. 1558.
Septe'ber 15 Jone Shakspere daughter to John Shakspere.
*1562, December %. .. Margaretajilia Johannis Shakspere.
1564, April 20'. Gulielnms lilies Jot] lines Slmk-pere.
1566, May 9 Johanna filia Kiehardi Hathaway al's Gardner de Shotrey.
1566, October 13 Gilbertus filius Johannes Shakspere.
1569, April 15 Jane the daughter of John Shakspere.
1571, Septe'b' 28 Anna filia Magistri Shakspere [Mr. John Shakspere. Malone.]
1 r>73[l 573-4],Marclil l.Kichard sonne to Mr. John Shakspeer. [Shakspere. Malone?]
1580, May 3 Edmund sonne to Mr, John Shakspere.
our venerable and highly-valuable Register from May 5th to June 26th, 1788; and consequently had sufficient time for the most careful examination. According to Mr. Gibbon, in his "Introduclio ad Latin am Blazoniam," Church Registers were kept no earlier than the 30th Henry VIII. 1540. Jacob,however, in his La« Dictionary, says, that the " Regislrum Eccleeiw parochialis" was instituted by Lord Cromwell 13 H. VIII. , while he was Vicar General to that King. The Parish Register of Stratfordupon-Avon commences 25th March, 1553, and to the year 1600 appears to have been kept by or under the direction of Mr. Richard Bifield, Minister as he describes himself, but for several years vicar of this place. The remarkably neat manner in which the entries were made in his lime, was but ill imitated by succeeding Vicars in the following century, some of whom seem to have deputed the most illiterate scribes to,the office of Registrar. Independently of their great local use, our Registers are highly interesting, as containing authentic memorials of the Shakspeare Family; but, as such memorials have never been transcribed so as to preserve the fidelity of the Register, it may amuse some of your Readers, and I doubt not also of its real utility, if you, Mr. Urban, would dedicate a page or two of your widely-disseminated Magazine to the preservation of the Shakspeare Family and connexions, exactly as they are entered. Those names which have been hitherto totally omitted, I have printed in Italics, and marked with au asterisk; but the whole of the extracts are copied with their original abbreviations and corruptions. Within the brackets are several errors as well as corrections made by Mr. Malone, as I find them in Reed's 1813 edition It should also be noticed that Mr. Malone, as well as his predecessors, put the whole list into modern English.