Page images
PDF
EPUB

and placed her, in all their songs of glee and gladness, invariably below the bottle. She was held out in terrorem to all happiness and joy, and to fly from her was the burden of every song.” He, on the contrary, wrote “to discipline anew the social bands of convivial life, to blend the sympathies of fellow hearts, and wreathe a sweeter and gayer garland for the brow of festivity from the divine plants of concord, gratitude, friendship, and love." His genius, however, was not equal to his good intentions; and, of the many hundred

songs which he wrote, not one is worth remembering, except as a slight improvement upon the verses of Pope's “Lady of Quality,”—that mythological person who is supposed to have been the parent of all the love-songs of the eighteenth century.

The return to the simplicity of nature, as the only source of poetic beauty, which signalised the revival of English literature at the commencement of the present century, had, of course, an effect upon the public taste as regarded songs; and a song-writer appeared whose fame eclipsed that of all other competitors, Thomas Moore, whose Irish Melodies-Irish by their music, and by their nationality of sentiment-may be claimed for England as well as for the country of his birth;—and the example of heart united with intellect, of vigour combined with elegance, and of philosophy with fancy, which he set to his contemporary writers of verse, will long exercise a genial influence upon

the literature of song.

While English songs that are written to be read have gradually attained the highest beauty, English songs intended to be sung have not reached the same perfection. In this respect the fault lies with the musical composers, who seem to love the “Lady of Quality" and her smooth“nonsense verses” far better than they love poetry, and to fail in adapting to music the higher flights of fancy or imagination, and the tenderer bursts of natural feeling. Without their aid, the song writer cannot win his way to the popular heart; and poets, disgusted with musicians, will neglect this fascinating branch of the poetic art, and direct the energies of their minds to more elaborate composition.

[graphic]

MY SWEET SWEETING.

From a MS, temp. Henry VIII.*
Au, my sweet sweeting,

My little pretty sweeting,
My sweeting will I love wherever I go;

She is so proper and pure, Full steadfast, stable, and demure, There is none such, you may be sure,

As my sweet sweeting.

In all this world as thinketh me,
Is none so pleasant to my e'e,
That I am glad so oft to see,

As my sweet sweeting.

* This is a small oblong paper volume, known to be of this early date by the badges on the binding, and the names on the fly-leaf. It passed through the hands of Thomas Mulliner, Thomas Heywood, and Churchyard the poet. It was in the library of Sir John Hawkins, the musical historian, and afterwards in that of J. S, Smith, the author of “Musica Antiqua," and is now in the possession of Dr. Rimbault.

When I behold my sweeting sweet,
Her face, her hands, her minion feet,
They seem to me there is none so mete

As my sweet sweeting:

Above all other praise must I
And love my pretty pygsnye*
For none I find so womanly

As my sweet sweeting.

TIIE LOYAL LOVER.

From the same MS. as the preceding.
As I lie sleeping,
In dreams fleeting,
Ever my sweeting
Is in
my

mind.
She is so goodly,
With looks so lovely,
That no man truly

Such one can find.

Her beauty so pure,
It doth under lure
My poor heart full sure

In governance.
Therefore now will I
Unto her apply,
And ever will cry

For remembrance.

Iler fair eye piercing
My poor heart bleeding,
And I abiding

In hope of mede; * A term of endearment, used by Chaucer, Skelton, &c., probably the origin of the modern word “pickaninny.” It is spelt piggesnie in Tyrwhitt's edition of Chaucer. The poet, describing the carpenter's wife in the Miller's Tale, says, “She was a primesoleà piggesnie:" primesole signifies a primrose. “The Romans," says Tyrwhitt, "used oculus as a term of endearment; and perhaps piggesnie, in vulgar language, only means ocellus, the eyes of that animal being remarkably small.”—Note on Chaucer's Cant. Tales, v. 3268. Todd (Johnson's Dict. in v. Pigsney) has shown that the word was occasionally written pigs eie. The derivation, however, seems more likely to be from the old Saxon word piga, a girl.

But thus have I long,
Entuning this song,
With pains full strong,

And cannot speed.

Alas! will not she
Now shew her pity,
But this will take me

In such disdain?
Methinketh I was
Unkind that she is,
That bindeth me thus

In such hard pain.

Though she me bind,
Yet shall she not find
My poor heart unkind,

Do what she can;
For I will her pray,
While I live a day,
Me to take for aye

For her own man.

THE SORROWS OF TRUE LOVERS' PARTING.

Sir THOMAS WYATT, born 1503, died 1554.
THERE was never nothing more me pain'd,

Nor more my pity mov'd,
As when my sweetheart her complain'd
That ever she me lov'd;

Alas, the while !

With piteous look, she said, and sigh’d,

Alas what aileth me,
To love and set my wealth so light
On him that loveth not me?

Alas, the while !

Was I not well void of all pain,

When that nothing me griev'd ?
And now with sorrows I must complain,
And cannot be reliev'd:

Alas, the while !

My restful nights and joyful days,

Since. I began to love,
Be take from me; all thing decays,
Yet can I not remove :

Alas, the while !"
She wept and wrung her hands withal,

The tears fell on my neck;
She turn’d her face, and let them fall,
And scarce therewith could speak:

Alas, the while !
Her pains tormented me so sore,

That comfort I had none;
But curs'd

my

fortune more and more, To see her sob and groan :

Alas, the while !

TIIE DECEIVED LOVER SUETH ONLY FOR LIBERTY.

Sir THOMAS WYATT,
If chance assign'd
Were to

my

mind

By every kind

Of destiny;
Yet would I crave
Nought else to have

But (dearest) life and liberty.*

Then were I sure
I might endure
The displeasure

Of cruelty;
Where now I plain,
Alas, in vain!

Lacking my life for liberty.

For without th' one
The other is gone,
And there can none

It remedy; * In the ordinary version this line is printed “but life and liberty." As, however, the line is thus two syllables shorter than the corresponding lines of the other stanzas, the word “dearest" is suggested as the proper word to supply the omission,

« PreviousContinue »