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'Thus Harvey sought for truth in Truth's own book,
Methinks in art's great circle others stand,
The same bare path they tread,
And dance like fairies a fantastic round,
But neither change their motion nor their ground.'
The same thought reappears, and again remarkably expressed, although under quite different images, in his Ode to Mr. Hobbs. These are a few lines:
Dryden in some remarkable lines addressed to Dr. Charleton expresses the same sense of the freedom with which Bacon had set free the study of nature, and the bondage from which he had delivered it :
'The longest tyranny that ever swayed,
1. 53: Two lines which follow here, containing a coarse allusion to the Lampsacene god, are omitted.-1. 164-182: This poem appeared first prefixed to Sprat's History of the Royal Society of London, London, 1667. Though not published till the year 1667, the year of Cowley's death, the book had in great part been printed, as Sprat informs us, two years before, which exactly agrees with Cowley's statement here. The position which the poem thus occupied ought not to be forgotten; otherwise the encomium on Sprat's History might seem dragged in with no sufficient motive, and merely out of motives of private friendship. Nor is the praise at all so exaggerated as those who know Addison's 'tuneful prelate' only by his verse might suppose. The book has considerable merits, and Johnson speaks of it as in his day still keeping its place, and being read with pleasure.-I. 144-146: These lines, which I now restore, by a
strange heedlessness have dropt out, so far as I know, from this poem in all editions subsequent to the first.
P. 132, No. cxiii.-This chorus, or fragment of a chorus, from the Thyestes of Seneca, beginning
'Me dulcis saturet quies,'
and ending with these remarkable lines,
'Illi mors gravis incubat,
seems to have had much attraction for moralists and poets in the seventeenth century. Beside this paraphrase of it by Sir Matthew Hale, prefixed to one of his Contemplations, there is a translation by Cowley, and a third, the best of all, by Marvell, of which these are the concluding lines:
'Who exposed to others' eyes,
P. 133, No. cxiv.-I have detached these two stanzas from a longer poem of which they constitute the only valuable portion. George Wither (a most profuse pourer forth of English rhyme ' Phillips calls him) was indeed so intolerable a proser in verse, so overlaid his good with indifferent or bad, that one may easily forget how real a gift he possessed, and from time to time showed that he possessed.
P. 133, No. cxv.-When Phillips, writing in 1675, styles Quarles 'the darling of our plebeian judgments,' he intimates the circle in which his popularity was highest, and helps us to understand the extreme contempt into which he afterwards fell, so that he who had a little earlier been hailed as 'that sweet seraph of our nation, Quarles,' became a byword for all that was absurdest and worst in poetry. The re-acquaintance which I have made with his verse, while looking for some specimen of it worthy to be cited here, has convinced me that his admirers, though they may have admired a good deal too much, were far more in the right than his despisers.-1. 25: 'To vie' is to put down a certain sum upon a card; 'to revie' is to cover this with a larger, by which the challenger becomes in turn the challenged.
P. 135, No. cxvi.-John Oldham died in 1683, at the age of thirty. There is a certain rough energy and original vigour about his satires which go far to justify the praise which Dryden has given him here; their occasional coarseness would have constituted no
objection to him. Hallam places Oldham as next to Dryden
among the satirists of his age. A serviceable edition of his works was published by the late Robert Bell, London, 1854.-Milton's lines on Shakespeare cannot properly be counted an epitaph. But setting those aside, as not fairly coming into competition, this is, in my judgment, the finest and most affecting epitaph in the English language. Of Pope's there is not one which deserves to be compared with it. His are of art, artful, which this is no less, but this also of nature and natural. With all this it has grievous shortcomings. Death and eternity raise other issues concerning the departed besides those which are dealt with here.-This epitaph contains two fine allusions to Virgil's Æneid, with which Dryden was of necessity so familiar. The first, that of 1. 7-10 to book v. l. 327-338. At the games with which Æneas celebrates his father's funeral, Nisus and his younger friend Euryalus are among the competitors in the foot-race; Nisus, who is winning, slips, and Euryalus arrives the first at the goal, and carries off the prize. In the four concluding lines there is a beautiful allusion to the well-known passage, book vi. 1. 860-886, in which the poet deplores the early death of that young Marcellus, with which so many fair expectations of the imperial family and of the Roman people perished.
P. 136, No. cxviii.-Elizabeth, wife of Henry Hastings, fifth Earl of Huntingdon, is the lady commemorated in this fine epitaph, 'by him who says what he saw '-for this is the attestation to the truth of all that it asserts, which Lord Falkland, mindful of the ordinary untruthfulness of epitaphs, thinks it good to subscribe.
P. 138, No. cxxiii.-The writer of these lines commanded a vessel sent out in 1631 by some Bristol merchants for the discovery of the North-West passage. Frozen up in the ice, he passed a winter of frightful suffering on those inhospitable shores; many of his company sinking beneath the hardships of the time. The simple and noble manner in which these sufferings were borne he has himself left on record (Harris's Voyages, vol. i. pp. 600-606); how too, when at length the day of deliverance dawned, and the last evening which they should spend on that cruel coast had arrived-but he shall speak his own words:-' and now the sun was set, and the boat came ashore for us, whereupon after evening prayer we assembled and went up to take a last view of our dead; where, leaning upon my arm on one of their tombs, I uttered these lines; which, though perhaps they may procure laughter in the wiser sort, they yet moved my young and tender-hearted companions at that time to some compassion.' To me they seem to have the pathos, better than any other, of truth.
P. 140, No. cxxv.-A few lines from this exquisite monody have found their way, but even these rarely, into some modern selections.
The whole poem, inexpressibly tender and beautiful as it is, is included in Headley's Select Beauties, 1810, but in no other that I know. Henry King, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, married Anne, the eldest daughter of Robert Berkeley; she probably died in 1624, and, as we learn from the poem itself (see ver. 28, 29), in or about her twenty-fourth year. It would be interesting to know whether this was the lady, all hope to whose hand he at one time supposed he must for ever renounce, and did renounce in those other lines, hardly less beautiful, which he has called The Surrender, and which will be found at p. 68 of this volume. Henry King's Poems have been carefully edited by the Rev. T. Hannah, London, 1843.
P. 144, No. cxxvi.-A rough rugged piece of verse, as indeed almost all Donne's poetry is imperfect in form and workmanship; but it is the genuine cry of one engaged in that most terrible of all struggles, wherein, as we are winners or losers, we have won all or lost all. There is indeed much in Donne, in the unfolding of his moral and spiritual life, which often reminds us of St. Augustine. I do not mean that, noteworthy as on many accounts he was, and in the language of Carew, one of his contemporaries,
'a king who ruled as he thought fit The universal monarchy of wit,'
he at all approached in intellectual or spiritual stature to the great Doctor of the Western Church. But still there was in Donne the same tumultuous youth, the same entanglement in youthful lusts, the same conflict with these, and the same final deliverance from them; and then the same passionate and personal grasp of the central truths of Christianity, linking itself as this did with all that he had suffered, and all that he had sinned, and all through which by God's grace he had victoriously struggled.
P. 145, No. cxxix.-There is a certain residue of truth in Johnson's complaint of the blending of incongruous theologies, or rather of a mythology and a theology, in this poem-Neptune and Phoebus and Panope and the Fury mixed up with St. Peter and a greater than St. Peter, and a fierce assault on the Clergy of the English Church. At the same time there is a fusing power in the imagination, when it is in its highest exercise, which can combine and even chemically unite materials the most heterogeneous; and the fault of Johnson's criticism is that he has no eye for the mighty force of this which in Lycidas is displayed, and which has blended all or nearly all of its strange assemblage of materials into harmonious unity--and even where this is not so, hardly allows us to remember the fact, so wondrous is the beauty and splendour of the whole.
But in weaker hands than his the bringing together of all which is here brought together, and the attempt to combine it all in one poem, would have inevitably issued in failure the most ridiculous.Î. 32-49: This with more than one other allusion in this poem implies that King wrote verses, and of an idyllic character, as would seem. In his brother's Elegy, contained in the same volume in which Lycidas first appeared, as much, and indeed a good deal more is said:
'He dressed the Muses in the brav'st attire
If he wrote English verse, and it is difficult to give any other meaning to these lines, none of it has reached us. A few pieces of Latin poetry bearing his name are scattered through the volumes of encomiastic verse which were issued from Cambridge during the time that he, as Fellow and Tutor of Christ's, was connected with it. They are only of average merit.—1. 50: A glorious appropriation of Virgil, Buc. x. 9, 10,
'Quæ nemora aut qui vos saltus habuere, puellæ
1. 132: Observe the exquisite art with which Milton manages the transition from the Christian to the heathen. He assumes that Alpheus and the Sicilian Muse had shrunk away ashamed while St. Peter was speaking. In bidding them now to return, he implies that he is coming down from the spiritual heights to which for a while he had been lifted up, and entering the region of pastoral poetry once more.-1. 159-164: These lines were for a long time very obscure. Dr. Todd in his learned notes, to which I must refer the student, has done much to dissipate the obscurity, though I cannot think all is clear even now.
P. 150, No. cxxx.-These lines are the short answer to a very long question, or series of questions, which Davenant has called The Philosopher's Disquisition directed to the dying Christian. This poem, than which I know few weightier with thought, unfortunately extends to nearly four hundred lines-its length, and the fact that it appeals but to a limited circle of readers, precluding me from finding room for more than a brief extract from it, and that in this note; but it literally abounds with lines notable as the following:
'Tradition, Time's suspected register,
That wears out Truth's best stories into tales.'
I am well aware of the evil report under which Davenant labours, and there are passages in his poems which seem to bear it out, as for