Page images
PDF
EPUB

in his lesser, and Homer in his greater sphere, are just as illustrious since Spenser appeared as before.

P. 24, No. xxi.—I have marked this poem as anonymous, the evidence which ascribes it to Sir Walter Raleigh being insufficient to prove him the author of it.

It first appeared in England's Helicon, 1600. In all known copies of this edition · Ignoto' has been pasted over W. R., the original signature which the poem bore. This may have arisen from a discovery on the part of the editor that the poem was not Raleigh's; but also may be explained by his unwillingness to have his authorship of it declared ; so that there is here nothing decisive one way or the other. Other external evidence bearing on the question I believe there is none, except Izaak Walton's assertion fifty-three years later (Complete Angler, 1653, p. 64) that it was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days.'

No doubt then there was a tradition to this effect; though younger' must not be pushed too far, as Raleigh was ten years older than Marlowe, to whose poem this is a reply. All that we can say is that there is no name in English literature so great, but that the authorship of these lines, this could be ascertained, would be an additional honour to it.—1. 21-24: In the second edition of Walton's Complete Angler, 1655, this stanza appears—I should say, for the first time, were not this fact brought into question by its nearly contemporaneous appearance in a broad-sheet (see Roxburgh Ballads, vol. i. p. 205) which seems by its type to belong, as those expert in such matters affirm, to the date 1650–55. The stanza there runs,

What should you talk of dainties then!
Of better meat then serveth men ?
All that is vain ; this only good,

Which God doth bless and send for food.' While Walton may have made, it is also possible that he may have found ready made to his hand, this beautiful addition to the poem.

P. 25, No. xxii. -A poem which reminds one of Tennyson, and which Tennyson might have owned.

P. 25, No. xxiii.-Of this poem Dr. Guest (History of English Rhythms, vol. ii. p. 273) has said, "It appears to me extremely beautiful,' a judgment from which none who are capable of recognizing poetry when they see it will dissent. It is found in Campion's Observations on the Art of English Poesy, London, 1602. The purpose of the book is mainly to prove that rhyme is altogether an unnecessary appendage to English verse; that this does not require, and indeed is better without it. Had he offered to his readers many lyrics like this, he might have done much more than by all his arguments he has done to bring them to his opinion. As it is, the main value which the Observations possess consists in this

"With rosy

exquisite lyric, and, mediately, in the admirable Apology for Rhyme on Daniel's part which they called out.

Pp. 28, 29, Nos. xxvi. xxvii.—Sir Philip Sidney's sonnets may be 'vain and amatorious,' as Milton has called his prose romance of The Arcadia; but they possess grace, fancy, and a passion which makes itself felt even under the artificial forms of a Platonic philosophy. They are addressed to one who, if the course of true love had run smooth, should have been his wife. When, however, through the misunderstanding of parents, or through some other cause, she had become the wife of another, Platonic as they are, they would far better have remained unwritten.

P. 36, No. xlii.—Pope somewhere speaks of "a very mediocre poet, one Drayton,' and it will be remembered that when Goldsmith visited Poets' Corner, seeing his monument he exclaimed, ‘Drayton, Í never heard of him before.' It must be confessed that Drayton, who wrote far too much, wrote often below himself, and has left not a little to justify the censure of the one, and to excuse the ignorance of the other. At the same time only a poet could yield a line like this, which describes the sun at his rising,

robes and crown of flaming gold;' and this heroic ballad has a very genuine and martial tone about it. It is true that every celebration of Agincourt must show pale and faint beside Shakespeare's epic drama, Henry the Fifth, and this will as little endure as any other to be brought even into remote comparison with that; but for all this it ought not to be forgotten.

P. 40, No. xliii. l. 9: Clarius,' a surname of Apollo, derived from his famous temple at Claros, in Asia Minor.–1. 27–30: Prometheus was “Japhet's line,' being the son of Iapetus, whom Jonson has not resisted the temptation of identifying, as others have done, with Japhet the son of Noah, and calling by his name. Ac. cording to one legend it was by the assistance of Minerva, the issue of Jove's brain,' that Prometheus ascended to heaven, and there stole from the chariot of the Sun the fire which he brought down to earth; to all which there is reference here.

P. 41, No. xliv.-It would be difficult not to think that we had here the undeveloped germ of Il Penseroso of Milton, if this were not shown to be impossible by the fact that Milton's poem was published two years previously to this; this in 1647, Il Penseroso in 1645.

P. 42, No. xlv.-Hallam thinks that Southwell has been of late praised at least as much as he deserves. This may be so, yet taking into account the finished beauty of such poems as this and No. li. of this collection, poems which, as far as they go, leave nothing to be desired, he has scarcely been praised more than he deserves. How in earlier times he was rated, the fact that there were twenty-four editions of his poems will sufficiently testify ; though possibly the creed which he professed, and the death which he died, may have had something to do with this. Robert Southwell was a seminary priest, and was executed at Tyburn in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, under a law, which even the persistent plottings of too many of these at once against the life of the Sovereign and the life of the State must altogether fail to justify or excuse.

P. 45, No. xlvii.—The judgment of one great poet on another his contemporary, must always have a real interest for us, and it was with serious regret that I omitted Ben Jonson's ever-memorable lines on Shakespeare. Many things a contemporary sees, as none who belong to a later time can see them; knows, as none other can know; and even where he does not tell us much which we greatly care to learn about the other, he is sure to tell us something, whether he means it or not, about himself and about his age. English literature possesses many judgments of this kind. What Ben Jonson did for Shakespeare, Cartwright, a strong-thoughted writer if not an eminent poet, and more briefly Cleveland here, have done in turn for Jonson ; Denham for Cowley; Cowley for Crashaw; Carew for Donne; Marvell for Milton; Dryden for Oldham. There is not one of these which may not be read with profit by the careful student of English literature; and certainly Cleveland must be allowed very happily to have seized here some of the main excellences of Jonson.

P. 46, No. xlviii.--Another poem on the same subject, in Byrd's Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs, is as a whole inferior to this, but yields one stanza which is equal in merit to any here:

"I wish but what I have at will;

I wander not to seek for more ;
I like the plain ; I climb no hill ;

In greatest storms I sit on shore ;
And laugh at them that toil in vain
To get what must be lost again.'

P. 47, No. xlix.-Shakespeare's Sonnets are so heavily laden with meaning, so double-shotted, if one may so speak, with thought, so penetrated and pervaded with a repressed passion, that, packed as all this is into narrowest limits, it sometimes imparts no little obscurity to them; and they often require to be heard or read not once but many times, in fact to be studied, before they reveal to us all the treasures of thought and feeling which they contain. It is eminently so with this one. The subject, the bitter delusion of all

sinful pleasures, the reaction of a swift remorse which inevitably dogs them, Shakespeare must have most deeply felt, as he has expressed himself upon it most profoundly. I know no picture of this at all so terrible in its truth as in The Rape of Lucrece the description of Tarquin after he has successfully wrought his deed of shame. But this sonnet on the same theme is worthy to stand by its side.

P. 49, No. liii.—These lines are appended to the second edition of Wastell's Microbiblion, 1629; they are not found in the first

, published under another title in 1623. I have not disturbed the ascription of them to him, although, considering the general worthlessness of the book, it must be considered very doubtful indeed. On the question of the authorship of these lines see Hannah, Poems and Psalms of Henry King, 1843, p. cxviii.

P. 55, No. lx.—Chidiock Tychborn shared in Babington's conspiracy, and was executed with him in 1586. For more about him, see an article in D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature. P. 60, No. lxv.—

There are at least half-a-dozen texts of this poem with an infinite variety of readings, these being particularly numerous in the third stanza, which I must needs think corrupt as it now stands. The Reliquiæ Wottoniana, in which it was first published, appeared in 1651, some twelve years after Wotton's death ; but much earlier MS. copies are in existence ; thus one in the handwriting of Edward Alleyn, apparently of date 1616. Ben Jonson visited Drummond of Hawthornden two or three years later, and is reported by him to have had these lines by heart.

P. 61, No. lxvi. — This poem Bishop Percy believes to have been first printed in a volume of Miscellaneous Poems by different hands

, published by David Lewis, 1726. The date and authorship is discussed on several occasions in Notes and Queries, vol. iii. (ist Series

) pp. 27, 108, 155, but without much light being thrown upon

P. 63, No. lxviii.-Carew is commonly grouped with Waller, and subordinated to him. He is indeed immensely his superior. Waller never wrote a love-song in grace and fancy to compare with this; while in many of Carew's lighter pieces there is an underlying vein of earnestness, which is wholly wanting in the other.

P. 65, No. lxxi.-Waller's fame has sadly, but not undeservedly, declined since the time when it used to be taken for granted that he had virtually invented English poetry, or, one might almost say, the English language ; since an editor of his poems (1690) could write that his was a name that carries everything in it that is either great or graceful in poetry. He was indeed the parent of English verse, and the first that showed us our tongue had beauty and

either.

numbers in it. The tongue came into his hands like a rough diamond; he polished it first, and to that degree that all artists since him have admired the workmanship without pretending to mend it.' Compare the twenty-two lines devoted to him in Addison's Account of the greatest English Poets, which includes Congreve, but not Shakespeare! For myself, I confess that I did not find it very easy to select from the whole range of his poems one which I much cared to quote. He appears in this to have had in his eye the graceful epigram of Rufinus beginning,

Πέμπω σοι, Ροδόκλεια, τόδε στέφος, and ending with these lines,

ταύτα στεψαμένη, λήξον μεγάλουχος εούσα,

ανθείς και λήγεις και συ και ο στέφανος. P. 66, No. Ixxiii.—Castara, to whom these beautiful lines are addressed, was a daughter of William Herbert, first Lord Percy, and either was already, or afterwards became, the wife of the poet. There are no purer and few more graceful records of a noble attachment than that which is contained in the poems to which Habington has given the name of the lady of his happy love. Phillips, writing in 1675, says, “His poems are now almost forgotten.' How little they deserved this, how finished at times his versification was, lines such as the following—they are the first stanza of a poem for which I could not find room—will abundantly prove. It is headed, Against them who lay Unchastity to the sex of Women.

"They met with but unwholesome springs,

And summers which infectious are,
They hear but when the mermaid sings,
And only see the falling star,

Who ever dare
Affirm no woman chaste and fair.'

P. 79, No. Ixxxi.—Milton's English Sonnets are only seventeen in all, soul-animating strains, alas ! too few.' They are so far beyond all question the noblest in the language that it is a matter of curious interest to note the utter incapacity of Johnson to recognize any greatness in them at all. The utmost which he will allow is that 'three of them are not bad ;' and he and Hannah More once set themselves to investigate the causes of their badness, the badness itself being taken for granted. Johnson's explanation of this contains a lively illustration : "Why, Madam,' he said, “Milton's was a genius that could hew a Colossus out of a rock, but could not carve heads on cherry-stones.”

P. 79, No. lxxxii.- I have obtained room for these lines by excluding another very beautiful poem by the same author, his Song

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »