Page images



CHRISTOPHER Marlow, so highly eminent as a dramatic writer, would probably have been overlooked in the department of miscellaneous poetry, but for his beautiful piece, rendered familiar by its being transferred into Walton's · Angler'--The Passionate Shepherd to his Love. Joshua SYLVESTER, who died in 1618, at the age of 55, and who was the author of a large volume of poems of very unequal merit, clainis notice as the now generally receired author of an impressive piece, long ascribed to Raleigh- The Soul's Errand. Another fugitive poem of great beauty, but in a different style, and which has often been attributed to Shakspeare, is now given to RicharÐ BARNFIELD, author of several poetical volumes published between 1594 and 1598. These three remarkable poems are here subjoined :

Now next, my gallant youths, farewell;

My lads that oft have cheered my heart ! My grief of mind no tongue can tell,

To think that I must from you part.
I now must leave you all, alas,
And live with some old lobcock ass !
And now farewell thou gallant lute,

With instruments of music's sounds!
Recorder, citern, harp, and fute,

And heavenly descants on sweet grounds. I now must leave you all, indeed, And make some music on a reed ! And now, you stately stamping steeds,

And gallant geldings fair, adieu !
My heavy heart for sorrow bleeds,

To think that I must part with you:
And on a strawen pannel sit,
And ride some country carting tit!
And now farewell both spear and shield,

Caliver pistol, arquebuss,
See, see, what sighs my heart doth yield

To think that I must leave you thus ;
And lay aside my rapier blade,
And take in hand a ditching spade !
And you farewell, all gallant games,

Primero, and Imperial,
Wherewith I us’d, with courtly dames,

To pass away the time withal:
I now must learn some country plays
For ale and cakes on holidays !
And now farewell each dainty dish,

With sundry sorts of sugar'd wine !
Farewell, I say, fine flesh and fish,

To please this dainty mouth of mine ! I now, alas, must leave all these, And make good cheer with bread and cheese ! And now, all orders due, farewell !

My table laid when it was noon;
My heavy heart it irks to tell

My dainty dinners all are done:
With leeks and onions, whig and whey,
I must content me as I may.
And farewell all gay garments now,

With jewels rich, of rare device !
Like Robin Hood, I wot not how,

I must go range in woodman's wise ;
Clad in a coat of green, or grey,
And glad to get it if I may.
What shall I say, but bid adicu

To every dream of sweet delight,
In place where pleasure never grew,

In dungeon deep of foul despite, I must, ah me! wretch as I may, Go sing the song of welaway!

The Passionate Shepherd to his Love. Come live with me, and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That vallies, groves, and hills and fields, Woods or steepy mountains yields. And we will sit upon the rocks, Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks, By shallow rivers, to whose falls Melodious birds sing madrigals. And I will make thee beds of roses, And a thousand fragrant posies ; A cap of flowers and a kirtle, Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle : A gown made of the finest wool, Which from our pretty lambs we pull ; Fair lined slippers for the cold, With buckles of the purest gold : A belt of straw and ivy buds, With coral clasps and amber studs ; And if these pleasures may thee move, Come live with me, and be my love. The shepherd swains shall dance and sing, For thy delight, cach May-morning : If these delights thy mind may more Then live with me, and be my love.

[merged small][ocr errors]

[Sonnet by Constable.]

(From his · Diana:' 1594.] To live in hell, and heaven to behold, To welcome life, and die a living death, To sweat with heat, and yet be freezing cold, To grasp at stars, and lie the earth beneath, To tread a maze that never shall have end, To burn in sighs, and starve in daily tears, To climb a hill, and never to descend, Giants to kill, and quake at childish fears, To pine for food, and watch th' Hesperian tree, To thirst for drink, and nectar still to draw, To live accurs’d, whom men hold blest to be, And weep those wrongs, which never creature saw ; If this be love, if love in these be founded, My heart is love, for these in it are grounded.

[The Nymph's Reply to the Passionate Shepherd

By Raleigh.]
If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee, and be thy love.
Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold ;
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complain of cares to come.
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields ;
A honey tongue-a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs ;
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Tell faith it's fled the city,

Tell how the country erreth, Tell, manhood shakes off pity, Tell, virtue least preferreth.

And if they do reply,

Spare not to give the lie. So when thou hast, as I

Commanded thee, done blabbing:
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing;

Yet stab at thee who will,
No stab the soul can kill.

The Soul's Errand. Go, soul, the body's guest,

Upon a thankless errand ! Fear not to touch the best, The truth shall be thy warrant;

Go, since I needs must die,

And give the world the lie. Go, tell the court it glows,

And shines like rotten wood; Go, tell the church it shows What's good, and doth no good:

If church and court reply,

Then give them both the lie. Tell potentates, they live

Acting by others actions, Not lor'd unless they give, Not strong but by their factions.

If potentates reply,

Give potentates the lie. Tell men of high condition

That rule affairs of state, Their purpose is ambition, Their practice only hate.

And if they once reply,

Then give them all the lie. Tell them that brave it most,

They beg for more by spending, Who in their greatest cost, Seek nothing but commending.

And if they make reply,

Then give them all the lie. Tell zeal it lacks devotion,

Tell love it is but lust, Tell time it is but motion, Tell flesh it is but dust;

And wish them not reply,

For thou must give the lie. Tell age it daily wasteth,

Tell honour how it alters, Tell beauty how she blasteth, Tell favour how she falters.

And as they shall reply,

Give every one the lie. Tell wit how much it wrangles

In tickle points of niceness : Tell wisdom she entangles Herself in over-wiseness.

And when they do reply,

Straight give them both the lie. Tell physic of her boldness,

Tell skill it is pretension, Tell charity of coldness, Tell law it is contention.

And as they do reply,

So give them still the lie.
Tell fortune of her blindness,

Tell nature of decay,
Tell friendship of unkindness,
Tell justice of delay.

And if they will reply,

Then give them all the lie. Tell arts they have no soundness,

But vary by esteeming,
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming.

If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

[Address to the Nightingale.] As it fell upon a day, In the merry month of May, Sitting in a pleasant shade Which a grove of myrtles made; Beasts did leap, and birds did sing, Trees did grow, and plants did spring i Everything did banish moan, Save the nightingale alone. She, poor bird, as all forlorn, Lean'd her breast up-till a thorn ; And there sung the dolefull'st ditty, That to hear it was great pity. Fie, fie, fie, now would she cry; Teru, teru, by and by; That, to hear her so complain, Scarce I could from tears refrain ; For her griefs, so lively shown, Made me think upon mine own. Ah! (thought I) thou mourn’st in vain ; None takes pity on thy pain : Senseless trees, they cannot hear thee, Ruthless bears they will not cheer thee: King Pandion he is dead; All thy friends are lapp'd in lead; All thy fellow-birds do sing, Careless of thy sorrowing ! Whilst as fickle Fortune smil'd, Thou and I were both beguild. Every one that flatters thee Is no friend in misery. Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find. Every man will be thy friend Whilst thou hast wherewith to spead : But, if store of crowns be scant, No man will supply thy want. If that one be prodigal, Bountiful they will him call; And with such-like flattering, Pity but he were a king.' If he be addict to vice, Quickly him they will entice; But if fortune once do frown, Then farewell his great renown : They that fawn'd on him before Use his company no more. He that is thy friend indeed, He will help thee in thy need ; If thou sorrow, he will weep, If thou wake he cannot sleep: Thus, of every grief in heart He with thee doth bear a part. These are certain signs to know Faithful friend from flattering foe.


These writers bring us to EDMOND SPENSER, whose genius is one of the peculiar glories of the romantic reign of Elizabeth. It is easy,' says



[ocr errors]

Pope,“ to mark out the general course of our poetry; deformed by a number of obsolete uncouth phrases Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, and Dryden, are the great (the Chaucerisms of Spenser, as Dryden designated landmarks for it. We can now add Cowper and them), yet containing traces of a superior original Wordsworth ; but, in Pope's generation, the list he genius. The fable of the Oak and Briar is finely has given was accurate and complete. Spenser was, told; and in verses like the following, we see the like Chaucer, a native of London, and like him, also, germs of that tuneful harmony and pensive reflection he has recorded the circumstance in his poetry :- in which Spenser excelled :Merry London, my most kindly nurse,

You naked buds, whose shady leaves are lost, That to me gare this life's first native source, Wherein the birds were wont to build their bower, Though from another place I take my name, And now are clothed with moss and hoary frost, An house of ancient fame.

Instead of blossoms wherewith your buds did flower : Prothalamion.

I see your tears that from your boughs do rain,
He was born at East Smithfield, near the Tower, Whose drops in dreary icicles remain.

All so my lustful life is dry and sere,
My timely buds with wailing all are wasted;
The blossom which my branch of youth did bear,
With breathed sighs is blown away and blasted,
And from mine eyes the drizzling tears descend,
As on your boughs the icicles depend.

These lines form part of the first eclogue, in which the shepherd boy (Colin Clout) laments the issue of his love for a country lass,' named Rosalinda happy female name, which Thomas Lodge, and, following him, Shakspeare, subsequently connected with love and poetry. Spenser is here supposed to have depicted a real passion of his own for a lady in the north, who at last preferred a rival, though, as Gabriel Harvey says, 'the gentle Mistress Rosalind' once reported the rejected suitor to have all the intelligences at command, and another time christened him Signior Pegaso.' Spenser makes his shepherds discourse of polemics as well as love, and they draw characters of good and bad pastors, and institute comparisons between Popery and Protestantism. Some allusions to Archbishop Grindal (* Algrind' in the poem) and Bishop Aylmer are

said to have given offence to Lord Burleigh ; but the Edmund Spenser.

patronage of Leicester and Essex must have made about the year 1553. The rank of his parents, or Burleigh look with distaste on the new poet. For the degree of his affinity with the ancient house of ten years we hear little of Spenser. He is found Spenser, is not known. Gibbon says truly, that the corresponding with Harvey on a literary innovation noble family of Spenser should consider the Faery contemplated by that learned person, and even by Queen as the most precious jewel in their coronet.* Sir Philip Sidney. This was no less than banishing The poet was entered a sizer (one of the humblest rhymes and introducing the Latin prosody into class of students) of Pembroke College, Cambridge, English verse. Spenser seems to have assented to in May 1569, and continued to attend college for it, fondly overcome with Sidney's charm;' he susseven years, taking his degree of M.A. in June pended the Faery Queen, which he had then begun, 1576. "While Spenser was at Pembroke, Gabriel and tried English hexameters, forgetting, to use the Harvey, the future astrologer, was at Christ's Cold witty words of Nash, that the hexameter, though lege, and an intimacy was formed between them, a gentleman of an ancient house, was not likely to which lasted during the poet's life. Harvey was thrive in this clime of ours, the soil being too craggy learned and pedantic, full of assumption and con- for him to set his plough in.' Fortunately, he did ceit, and in his “Venetian velvet and pantofles of not persevere in the conceit; he could not have pride,' formed a peculiarly happy subject for the gained over his contemporaries to it (for there were satire of Nash, who assailed him with every species then too many poets, and too much real poetry in of coarse and contemptuous ridicule. Harvey, how the land), and if he had made the attempt, Shakever, was of service to Spenser. The latter, on re- speare would soon have blown the whole away. As tiring from the University, lived with some friends a dependent on Leicester, and a suitor for court in the north of England; probably those Spensers favour, Spenser is supposed to have experienced of Hurstwood, to whose family he is said to have many reverses. The following lines in Mother Hubbelonged. Harvey induced the poet to repair to bard's Tale, though not printed till 1581, seem to London, and there he introduced him to Sir Philip belong to this period of his life:Sidney, one of the very diamonds of her majesty's

Full little knowest thou that hast not tried, court.' In 1579, the poet published his Shepherd's

What hell it is in suing long to bide ; Calendar, dedicated to Sidney, who afterwards pa

To lose good days that might be better spent; tronised him, and recommended him to his uncle, the powerful Earl of Leicester. The Shepherd's

To waste long nights in pensive discontent; Calendar is a pastoral poem, in twelve eclogues,

To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow; one for each month, but without strict keeping

To feed on hope, to pine with fear and sorrow;

To have thy prince's grace, yet want her peers'; as to natural description or rustic character, and

To have thy asking, yet wait many years ; * It was lately announced, that the family to which the poet's

To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares ; father belonged has been ascertained as one settled at Hurst. To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs; wood, near Burnley, in Lancashire, where it flourished till To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,

To spend, to give, to wait, to be undone !


[ocr errors]



and story' had probably, as Mr Campbell conjec- | 16th January 1599. He was buried near the tomb tures, made him lean towards words of the olden of Chaucer in Westminster Abbey, the Earl of time,' and his antiquated expression, as the same Essex defraying the expense of the funeral, and his critic finely remarks, 'is beautiful in its antiquity, hearse attended (as Camden relates) by his brother and, like the moss and ivy on some majestic build- poets, who threw 'mournful elegies' into his grave. ing, covers the fabric of his language with romantic A monument was erected over his remains thirty and venerable associations.' The Faery Queen was years afterwards by Anne, countess of Dorset. His enthusiastically received. It could scarcely, indeed, widow, the fair Elizabeth, whose bridal bower at be otherwise, considering how well it was adapted Kılcolman he had decked with such 'gay garlands' to the court and times of the Virgin Queen, where of song, probably remained in Ireland, where two gallantry and chivalry were so strangely mingled sons of the unfortunate poet long resided. with the religious gravity and earnestness induced Spenser is the most luxuriant and melodious of by the Reformation, and considering the intrinsic all our descriptive poets. His creation of scenes beauty and excellence of the poem. The few first and objects is infinite, and in free and sonorous stanzas, descriptive of Una, were of themselves suf- versification he has not yet been surpassed. His ficient to place Spenser above the whole hundred lofty rhyme' has a swell and cadence, and a conpoets that then offered incense to Elizabeth.

tinuous sweetness, that we can find nowhere else. The queen settled a pension of £50 per annum on In richness of fancy and invention he can scarcely Spenser, and he returned to Ireland. His smaller be ranked below Shakspeare, and he is fully as oripoems were next published— The Tears of the Muses, ginal. His obligations to the Italian poets (Ariosto Mother Hubbard, &c., in 1591; Daphnaida, 1592; and supplying a wild Gothic and chivalrous model for Amoretti and the Epithalamium (relating his court- the Faery Queen, and Tasso furnishing the texture ship and marriage) in 1595. His Elegy of Astrophel, of some of its most delicious embellishments) still on the death of the lamented Sidney, appeared leave him the merit of his great moral design-the about this time. In 1596, Spenser was again in conception of his allegorical characters-his exubeLondon to publish the fourth, fifth, and sixth books rance of language and illustration-and that original of the Faery Queen. These contain the legend of structure of verse, powerful and harmonious, which Cambel and Triamond, or Friendship; Artegal, or he was the first to adopt, and which must ever bear Justice; and Sir Caledore, or Courtesy. The double his name. His faults arose out of the fulness of his allegory is continued in these cantos as in the pre- riches. His inexhaustible powers of circumstantial vious ones: Artegal is the poet's friend and patron, description betrayed him into a tedious minuteness, Lord Grey; and various historical events are re- which sometimes, in the delineation of his personified lated in the knight's adventures. Half of the ori- passions, becomes repulsive, and in the painting of ginal design was thus finished; six of the twelve natural objects led him to group together trees and adventures and moral virtues were produced; but plants, and assemble sounds and instruments, which unfortunately the world saw only some fragments were never seen or heard in unison out of Faery more of the work. It has been said that the remain- Land. The ingenuity and subtlety of his intellect ing half was lost, through the disorder and abuse' tempted him to sow dark meanings and obscure of a servant sent forward with it to England. This allusions across the bright and obvious path of his is highly improbable. Spenser, who came to London allegory. This peculiarity of his genius was early himself with each of the former portions, would not displayed in his Shepherd's Calendar; and if Bur. have ventured the largest part with a careless ser- leigh's displeasure could have cured the poet of the vant. But he had not time to complete his poetical habit, the statesman might be half forgiven his illiand moral gallery. There was an interval of six berality. His command of musical language led years between his two publications, and he lived him to protract his narrative to too great a length, only three years after the second. During that till the attention becomes exhausted, even with its period, too, Ireland was convulsed with rebellion. very melody, and indifference succeeds to languor. The English settlers, or undertakers,' of the crown Had Spenser lived to finish his poem, it is doubtful lands, were unpopular with the conquered natives whether he would not have diminished the number of Ireland. They were often harsh and oppressive; of his readers. His own fancy had evidently begun and even Spenser is accused, on the authority of to give way, for the last three books have not the existing legal documents, of having sought unjustly same rich unity of design, or plenitude of imaginato add to his possessions. He was also in office over tion, which fills the earlier cantos with so many inthe Irish (clerk of the council of Munster); he had teresting, lofty, and ethereal conceptions, and steeps been recommended by the queen (1598) for the them in such a flood of ideal and poetical beauty. office of sheriff of Cork; and he was a strenuous The two first books (of Holiness and Temperance) advocate for arbitrary power, as is proved by a poli-are, like the two first of Paradise Lost, works of contical treatise on the state of Ireland, written by him summate taste and genius, and superior to all the in 1596 for the government of Elizabeth, but not others. We agree with Mr Hazlitt, that the alleprinted till the reign of Charles I. The poet was, gory of Spenser is in reality no bar to the enjoyinent therefore, a conspicuous object for the fury of the of the poem. The reader may safely disregard the irritated and barbarous natives, with whom . revenge symbolical applications. We may allow the poet, was virtue.' The storm soon burst forth. In Oc- like his own Archimago, to divide his characters tober 1598, an insurrection was organised in Mun into double parts,' while one only is visible at a ster, following Tyrone's rebellion, which had raged time. While we see Una, with her heavenly looks, for some years in the province of Ulster. The in

That made a sunshine in the shady place, surgents attacked Kilcolman, and having robbed and plundered, set fire to the castle. Spenser and his or Belphæbe flying through the woods, or Britomart wife escaped ; but either in the confusion incidental seated amidst the young warriors, we need not stop to such a calamity, or from inability to render as- to recollect that the first is designed to represent the sistance, an infant child of the poet ('new-born,' | true church, the second Queen Elizabeth, or the third according to Ben Jonson) was left behind, and an abstract personification of Chastity. They are experished in the flames. The poet, impoverished and quisite representations of female loveliness and truth, broken-hearted, reached London, and died in about unmatched save in the dramas of Shakspearc. The three months, in King Street, Westminster, on the allegory of Spenser leaves his wild enchantments,

« PreviousContinue »