« PreviousContinue »
Thus sing away the morn, until the mounting sun,
THE RIVER TRENT.
But, Muse, return at last, attend the princely Trent,
First Erwash, and then Lyne, sweet Sherwood sends her in;
'What should I care at all, from what my name I take,
To me this name of Trent, did from that number give?
And for the second place, proud Severn that doth strive,
As of that princely maid, whose name she boasts to bear,
And on her spacious breast (with heaths that doth abound)
And of the British floods, though but the third I be,
For that I am the mere of England, that divides
EDWARD FAIRFAX, the celebrated translator of Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, lived at this period before us, though of the history of his life we have very little knowledge. He was the natural son of Sir Thomas Fairfax, but neither the date of his birth, nor that of his death, has been preserved. That he flourished during the age of Elizabeth is entirely evident, for his great literary performance is dedicated to that princess; and it also appears that he was living in 1631; but nothing farther of him is certainly known, only that he spent his life at Fuystone, in the forest of Knaresborough, in the enjoyment of many blessings which rarely fall to the poetical race -competence, ease, rural scenes, and in ample command of the means of study. The poetical beauty and freedom of Fairfax's version of Tasso has been the theme of almost universal praise. Dryden ranked him with Spenser as a master of the English language, and Waller declared that he derived from him the harmony of his numbers. Collins too has finely alluded to his poetical and imaginative genius in the following lines :
Prevailing poet, whose undoubting mind
Believed the magic wonders which he sung.
Besides the translation of the Jerusalem Delivered, Fairfax wrote some minor poems, and also a work on Demonology, in the preface to which he remarks that in religion I am neither a fanatic Puritan, nor superstitious Papist; but so settled in conscience, that I have the sure ground of God's word to warrant all I believe, and the commendable ordinances of our English church to approve all I practice: in which course I live a faithful Christian, and an obedient subject, and so teach my family.'
As Fairfax's original poems are comparatively little known, we shall pass them over, and take the following passage from the eighteenth book of the 'Jerusalem,' commencing with the twelfth stanza :
RINALDI AT MOUNT OLIVET AND THE ENCHANTED WOOD.
It was the time, when 'gainst the breaking day,
And yet some lamps in Jove's high palace shined,
When to Mount Olivet he took his way,
And saw, as round about his eyes he twined,
Night's shadows hence, from thence the morning's shine, This bright, that dark; that earthly, this divine.
Thus to himself he thought: how many bright
And 'splendent lamps shine in heaven's temple high! Day hath his golden sun, her moon the night,
Her fix'd and wand'ring stars the azure sky;
So framed all by their Creator's might,
That still they live and shine, and ne'er will die,
Thus as he mused, to the top he went,
And there kneel'd down with reverence and fear;
Thus prayed he; with purple wings up-flew,
The heavenly dew was on his garments spread,
So cheered are the flowers, late withered,
With the sweet comfort of the morning beams;
And so return'd to youth, a serpent old
Adorns herself in new and native gold.
The lovely whiteness of his changed weed
Resolv'd, as such adventures great required:
Of that strange desert's sight, the first retired;
But not to him fearful or loathsome made
That forest was, but sweet with pleasant shade.
Forward he pass'd, and in the grove before,
He heard a sound, that strange, sweet, pleasing was;
There sigh'd the winds, as through the leaves they pass;
A dreadful thunder-clap at last he heard,
The aged trees and plants well nigh, that rent,
On the green banks, which that fair stream inbound,
Which reaching out his stretched arms around,
All the large desert in his bosom held,
And through the grove one channel passage found;
This in the wood, that in the forest dwell'd:
Trees clad the streams, streams green those trees aye made,
And so exchang'd their moisture and their shade.
SIR JOHN HARRINGTON, the first translator of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso into English, though a writer of greatly inferior genius to Fairfax, deserves to be noticed in connection with him. He was the son of that John Harrington who was imprisoned in the Tower by Mary, and was born at Kelston, near Bath, in 1561. He prepared for college at Eton Grammar School, and thence removed to the university of Cambridge, where he remained until he had taken his master's degree. Harrington was knighted by James the First, and after having passed a number of years as a successful courtier, he died in 1612, in his fifty-second year.
The translation of the 'Orlando Furioso' was an early performance, having been published before the author was thirty years of age. As a version of the original, the work is literally correct, but as a poetical performance, it is cold and prosaic. Besides the translation of the Orlando Furioso, Harrington published a volume of Epigrams, many of which, such as the following, exhibit much talent for that department of writing :
OF A PRECISE TAILOR.
A tailor, thought a man of upright dealing-
He walked mannerly, he talked meekly,
He heard three lectures and two sermons weekly;
And in his speech he used no oath but truly;
And zealously to keep the Sabbath's rest,
A captain of a ship came three days after,
And brought three yards of velvet and three quarters,
SIR HENRY WOTTON, the miscellaneous poet who follows Fairfax and Harrington, was born at Bocton Hall, in Kent, on the thirtieth of March, 1568. His early education was conducted by private tutors at home, after which he was sent to Winchester school, whence he passed, in 1584, to New College, Oxford. He did not, however, long remain there, but soon entered Queen's College, where he became well versed in logic and rhetoric; and being also distinguished for various other learning, and for his wit, he was selected to write a tragedy for the private use of his college. The name of the tragedy was Tancredo, and Walton, Sir Henry's biographer, remarks that it was interwoven with sentences, and for the method and exact personating those humors, passions, and dispositions, which he proposed to represent, so performed, that the gravest of the society declared, he had in a slight employment, given an early and solid testimony of his future abilities.'
Wotton having, in the twentieth year of his age, taken his master's degree, left the university, and after travelling a number of years on the continent, returned to England, and attached himself to the service of the Earl of Essex, the chief favorite of Queen Elizabeth. Having afterward gained the friendship of king James, by communicating the secret of a conspiracy formed against him, while yet only king of Scotland, he was employed by that monarch, when he ascended the English throne, as ambassador to Venice. A versatile and lively disposition qualified Sir Henry, in an eminent degree, for this situation, of the duties of which we have his own idea on the wellknown punning expression, in which he defines an ambassador to be an honest gentleman, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.' Late in life Wotton took orders to qualify himself to be provost of Eton, and in