Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

WIIAT DID DENHAM AND WALLER EFFECT FOR ENGLISH

VERSIFICATION ?

[ocr errors]

were

As every poet distinguished for his cultivation that unless Waller had written, no one could have of our couplet numbers that has touched

upon

the written in the age in which he wrote with anyArt of Poetry, or made selections from our poets, thing like success, when the surpassing glory of has spoken of our heroics with rhyme as our only Dryden's age was a poem setting at defiance, in true poetic measure, indeed as if we had no other, its preface and its numbers, the very principle of and made Denham and Waller the fathers of our versification that Denham and Waller adopted, versification, a refutation of an absurdity perhaps and Dryden sanctioned and improved. unparalleled in the whole history of English litera Well-placing of words for the sweetness of ture will not be without its use. Anassertion trace pronunciation was not known,” says Dryden,“ till able in fifty places to Dryden, sanctioned in some

Mr. Waller introduced it.”_" The excellence and way by Prior*, and confirmed by the whole scope dignity of rhyme were never fully known till and tendency of Dr. Johnson's writings : but not, Mr. Waller taught it in lyric and Sir John Denit is right to add, without its other assistances ; ham in epic poesy.”_“Our numbers,” he says, for when Goldsmith published his Select Beauties in another place and at a later period of life, of British Poetry, he found no poet to cull a in their nonage till Waller and Denham appeared,” single flower from before Wallera more con

and that “the sweetness of English verse was tracted taste, or a slighter knowlege of the art he never understood or practised by our fathers." himself excelled in, it is impossible to imagine. But Dryden's criticisms are a series of contradic

To say that Waller and Denham are the fathers tions : " Blank verse," he says," is acknowledged of English versification is absurd-unless all ver to be too low for a poem, nay more, for a paper of sification is confined to the couplet. Who has verses ;" yet he is an admirer of Paradise Lost :improved, let us ask,on the versification of Spenser, Denham and Waller did everything for English or of any of the stanza measures of the reign of versification-yet “ Spenser and Fairfax were Elizabeth—has Prior, or has Thomson, or has great masters of our language, and saw much Beattie, or has Burns ? Who has improved upon farther into the beauties of our numbers than the dramatic blank verse of Shakspeare, of those who immediately followed them;"and “Many Fletcher, or of Jonson-has Otway, has Southerne, besides himself had heard our famous Waller own or has Rowe? Has Jonson or Carew been ex that he derived the harmony of his numbers from celled in lyrical ease by Waller or Lord Lans the Godfrey of Bulloigne, which was turned into downe ? The Gondibert of Davenant or the Annus | English by Mr. Fairfax.” He is now for the new Mirabilis of Dryden or the Elegy of Gray are not way of writing scenes in rhyme, now without, now more musical in their numbers than the quatrains for couplets, and now for quatrains ; whatever of Davies, who never leaves the ear, as Johnson he had in hand was best; rhyme invigorated says, ungratified.

thought and now constrained it-suggested or What did the blank verse of Milton gain in its cramped ideas as his fancy found it, when writing most mellifluous passages from the rhymes of to exhibit his present performance to the greatest Denham or of Waller ? Nothing ! Yet Dryden can advantage. be found to assert, with all the confidence of truth, Our ten-syllable rhymed verse, or heroic with

* Prior says that Davenant and Waller improved our rhyme, was used by Chaucer in his Palamon and versification--not, as he is made to say by Johnson and

Arcite, by Douglas in his translation of Virgil, Davenant's measure was

and by Spenser in the tale of Mother Hubbard. the heroic with alternate rhyme.

Donne, Hall, and Marston used it in their Satires;

others, Denham and Waller.

Ben Jonson occasionally in his Epigrams or Com Give me the number'd verse that Virgil sung, mendatory Poems; Beaumont in his Bosworth And Virgil's self ehall speak the English tongue :

“ Manhood and garboils shall he chant," with changad feet Field; Drummond in his Poem on Prince Henry,

And head-strong dactyls making music meet; and his Forth Feasting; and Golding, Sandys, and

The nimble dactyl striving to out go, May in their translations from Ovid, Virgil, and

The drawling spondees pacing it below; Lucan. Denham's first publication was in 1642,

The lingering spondees labouring to delay, and Waller’s Poems were not collectively in print The breathless dactyls with a sudden stay. before 1645. The following extracts are brought

Satires, B, i. Sat. vi. together to show by examples in what state, when they began to write, the reputed fathers of

“ Hall's versification,” says Warton," is equally English verse found the cultivation of our couplet energetic and elegant ; and the fabric of the coameasure; how little they did ; and how much they plets approaches to modern standard.” left to Dryden, to Prior, and Pope to do. “By Great is the folly of a feeble brain, knowing the state," says Johnson, “in which Waller O'erruled with love, and tyrannous disdain : found our poetry, the reader may judge how much

For love, however in the basest breast he improved it."

It breeds high thoughts that feed the fancy best,

Yet is he blind, and leads poor fools awry, Donne is always a rugged versifier, He has the

While they hang gazing on their mistress' eye. restraint of rhyme without its emphasis ; and the

The lovesick poet, whose importune prayer fetters which others wear like bracelets are on

Repulsed is with resolute despair, him inconvenient chains and incumbrances. The

Hopeth to conquer his disdainful dame, lines which follow are in his most melodious flow.

With public plaints of his conceived flame. When I behold a stream, which from the spring

Then pours he forth in patched sonnettings, Doth, with doubtful melodious murmuring,

His love, his lust, and loathsome flatterings: Or in a speechless slumber, calmly ride

As though the starving world bang'd on his sleere, Her wedded channel's bosom, and there chide,

When once he smiles to laugh, and when he sighs to grete And bend her brows, and swell, if any bough

Careth the world, thou love, thou live or die? Do but stoop down to kiss her utmost brow :

Careth the world how fair thy fair one be ? Yet if her often-gnawing kisses win

Fond wit-wal, that wouldst load thy witless head The traitorous banks to gape and let her in,

With timely horns, before thy bridal bed. She rusheth violently and doth divorce

Then can he term his dirty ill-faced bride Her from her native and her long-kept course,

Lady, and queen, and virgin deified: And roars and braves it, and in gallant scorn,

Be she all sooty black, or berry brown, In flattering eddies promising return,

She's white as morrow's milk, or flakes new blown She fouts her channel, which thenceforth is dry; And though she be some dunghill drudge at home, Then say I, “ that is she, and this am I."- Elegy, vi. Yet can he her resign some refuse room

Amidst the well-known stars : or is not there, Hall had a better ear than Donne-his words Sure will he saint her in his calendar. are better placed, and his pauses infinitely more

Satires, B. i. Sat. vi. select. What follows was printed in 1597.

Marston is below Hall, and scarcely above Dope Time was, and that was term'd the time of gold,

Ben Jonson, however, is vigorous at times, 20: When world and time were young that now are old

though too frequently found carrying the sense a (When quiet Saturn sway'd the mace of lead,

an ungraceful way from one verse into another, And pride was yet unborn, and yet unbred).

is musical after a kind.
Time was, that whiles the autumn-fall did last,
Our hungry sires gaped for the falling mast

TO WILLIAM CAMDEN.
Of the Dodonian oaks.

Camden! most reverend head, to whom I owe
Could no unhusked acorn leave the tree,
But there was challenge made whose it might be.

All that I am in arts, all that I know;
Their royal plate was clay, or wood, or stone;

(How nothing's that!) to whom my country oves The vulgar, save his hand, else he had none.

The great renown, and name wherewith she ges! Their only cellar was the neighbour brook;

Than thee the age sees not that thing more grave, None did for better care, for better look.

More high, more holy, that she more would crave. The king's pavilion was the grassy green

What name, what skill, what faith hast thou in tine Under safe shelter of the shady treen.

What sight in searching the most antique spring!

What weight and what authority in thy speech! Under each bank men laid their limbs along, Not wishing any case, not fearing wrong:

Men scarce can make that doubt, but thou canst teszt

Pardon free truth, and let thy modesty,
Clad with their own, as they were made of old,
Not fearing shame, not feeling any cold.

Which conquers all, be once o'ercome by thee.

Many of thine, this better could, than I;
Satires, B. iii. Sat. i.

But for their powers, accept my piety.
In the point, volubility, and vigour of Hall's
numbers, says Mr. Campbell, we might frequently
imagine ourselves perusing Dryden.

TO HEAVEN. Another scorns the home-spun thread of rhymes,

Good and great God! can I not think of Thee Match'd with the lofty feet of elder times:

But it must straight my melancholy be?

Is it interpreted in me disease,

Many passages in his unequal poem are hardly Tbat, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?

excelled by the Fables of Dryden." But DrumO be Thou witness, that the reins dost know

mond of Hawthornden is by far his superior. His And hearts of all, if I be sad for show,

Forth Feasting, saysthe same competent authority, And judge me after: if I dare pretend

“is perfectly harmonious ; and what is very reTo aught but grace, or aim at other end.

markable in that age, he concludes the verse at
As Thou art all, so be Thou all to me,
First, Midst, and Last, converted One, and Three ! every couplet with the regularity of Pope.The
My Faith, my Hope, my Love; and in this state, Forth is made to congratulate King James.
My Judge, my Witness, and my Advocate.

To virgins, flowers-to sun-burnt earth the rain-
Where have I been this while exiled from Thee,

To mariners, fair winds amidst the main,
And whither rapt, now Thou but stoop'st to me? Cool shades to pilgrims, which hot glances burn,
Dwell, dwell here still! Oh, being everywhere,

Are not so pleasing as thy blest return.
How can I doubt to find thee ever here?

That day, dear prince, which robb'd us of thy sight
I know my state both full of shame and scorn,

(Day? No, but darkness and a dusky night), Conceived in sin, and unto labour born,

Did fill our breasts with sighs, our eyes with tears, Standing with fear, and must with horror fall,

Turn minutes to sad months, sad months to years : And destined unto judgment after all.

Trees left to flourish, meadows to bear flowers, I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground,

Brooks hid their heads within their sedgy bowers ; Upon my flesh t' inflict another wound;

Fair Ceres cursed our trees with barren frost, Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death,

As if again she had her daughter lost : With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath

The Muses left our groves, and for sweet songs Of discontent; or that these prayers be

Sate sadly silent, or did weep their wrongs: For weariness of life, not love of Thee.

O virtue's pattern! glory of our times ! In the evenness, sweetness, and flow of his Sent of past days to expiate the crimes; numbers, Sir John Beaumont is very excellent. Great king, but better far than thou art great,

Whom state not honours, but who honours state ; Why should vain sorrow follow him with tears,

By wonder borne, by wonder first installid; Who shakes off burdens of declining years?

By wonder after to new kingdoms call'd; Whose thread exceeds the usual bounds of life,

Young, kept by wonder from home-bred alarms, And feels no stroke of any fatal knife ?

Old, saved by wonder from pale traitors' harms; The Destinies enjoin their wheels to run,

To be for this thy reign, which wonders brings, Until the length of his whole course be spun:

A king of wonder, wonder unto kings. No envious cloud obscures his struggling light,

If Pict, Dane, Norman, thy smooth yoke had seen, Which sets contented at the point of night:

Pict, Dane, and Norman had thy subjects been: Yet this large time no greater profit brings,

If Brutus knew the bliss thy rule doth give, Than every little moment whence it springs,

Ev'n Brutus joy would under thee to live : Unless employ'd in works deserving praise ;

For thou thy people dost so dearly love, Most wear out many years and live few days.

That they a father, more than prince, thee prove. * His memory hath a surer ground than theirs,

Ah! why should Isis only see thee shine?
Who trust in stately tombs, or wealthy heirs.

Is not thy Forth, as well as Isis, thine?
To the Memory of FERDINANDO Pulton, Eso. Though Isis vaunt she hath more wealth in store,

Let it suffice thy Forth doth love thee more :
The following lines are far from halting, and Though she for beauty may compare with Seine,
the couplet restricts the sense after the epigram-

For swans and sea-nymphs with imperial Rheine ; matic fashion of Pope and Darwin.

Yet, for the title may be claim'd in thee,

Nor she, nor all the world, can match with me. He makes sweet music, who in serious lines

Now, when, by honour drawn, thou shalt away Light dancing tunes, and heavy prose declines.

To her, already jealous of thy stay ; When verses like a milky torrent flow,

When in her amorous arms she doth thee fold, They equal temper in the poet show.

And dries thy dewy hairs with hers of gold, He paints true forms, who with a modest heart

Much asking of thy fare, much of thy sport, Gives lustre to his work, yet covers art.

Much of thine absence, long, howe'er so short, Uneven swelling is no way to fame,

And chides, perhaps, thy coming to the North, But solid joining of the perfect frame:

Loath not to think on thy much-loving Forth: So that no curious finger there can find,

Oh! love these bounds, where of thy royal stem, The former chinks, or nails that fastly bind.

More than an hundred wore a diadem. Yet most would have the knots of stitches seen,

So ever gold and bays thy brows adorn, And holes where men may thrust their hands between. So never time may see thy race outworn; On balting feet the ragged poem goes,

So of thine own still mayst thou be desired, With accents neither fitting verse or prose.

Of strangers fear'd, redoubted, and admired; The style mine ear with more contentment fills

So memory thee praise, so precious hours
In lawyers' pleadings or physicians' bills, &c.

May character thy name in starry flowers;
TO JAMES I. concerning the true form of So may thy high exploits at last make even
English Poetry.

With earth thy empire, glory with the heaven' “ William Browne," says Hallam, " is an early There is not much melody in May-he is more model of ease and variety in the regular couplet. ( vigorous than musical, and writes as if anxious

*

*

[ocr errors]

rather for the strength of his thoughts than the been printed in the poet's fortieth year,) is not flow of his numbers. But Sandys is called by found in the only printed poem of his before the Dryden “ the best versifier of the former age*." famous 45 ; for his verses “Upon Ben Jonson," Waller when he condescended to acknowledge written and printed in 1637-8, are wanting in all Fairfax for his model, might have owned his his after excellences. What follows is inferior obligations to the Ovid of Sandys.

to what had been done before him :And now the work is ended, which, Jove's rage,

Mirror of poets ! mirror of our age! Nor fire, nor sword, shall raze, nor eating age.

Which her whole face beholding on thy stage, Come when it will my death's uncertain hour,

Pleased and displeased with her own faults, endures Which of this body only hath the power,

A remedy like those whom music cures Yet shall my better part transcend the sky,

Thou not alone those various inclinations And my immortal name shall never die.

Which Nature gives to ages, sexes, nations, For wheresoe'er the Roman Eagles spread

Hast traced with thy all-resembling pen, Their conquering wings, I shall of all be read :

But all that custom hath imposed on men, And, if we Poets true presages give,

Or ill-got habits, which distort them so,
I in my Fame eternally shall live.

That scarce the brother can the brother know,
Ovid. B. xv, fol. Oxfd. 1632.

Is represented to the wondering eyes

Of all that see or read thy comedies. Deep in a bay, an isle with stretch'd-out sides,

Whoever in those glasses looks, may find A harbour makes, and breaks the justling tides:

The spots return'd, or graces, of his mind; The parting floods into a land-lock'd sound

And, by the help of so divine an art, Their streams discharge, with rocks inviron'd round: At leisure view and dress his nobler part. Whereof two, equal lofty, threat the skies,

Narcissus, cozen'd by that flattering well, Under whose lee the safe sea silent lies:

Which nothing could but of his beauty tell, Their brows with dark and trembling woods array'd, Had here, discovering the deform'd estate Whose spreading branches cast a dreadful shade.

Of his fond mind, preserved himself with hate. Within the hanging rock a cave well known

But virtue too, as well as vice, is clad To sacred sea-nymphs, bench'd with living stone,

In flesh and blood so well, that Plato had In fountains fruitful. Here no hawser bound

Beheld, what his high fancy once embraced
The shaken ships, nor anchor broke the ground.

Virtue with colours, speech, and motion graced.
Hither Æneas, &c.
Virgil. B. i. Ed. 1632.

Jonsonnes Virbins. 164

as

was

Fenton, anxious to exalt his favourite Waller,

This is not above the level of other poems in and make good the praise he had awarded him the same collection ; yet the man who could write

this way in 1638, is supposed to have written ; Maker and model of melodious verse

fifteen years before with a melody which he never

afterwards surpassed. would seem to have assigned to some of the poems The early translations of Denham have all the of Waller too early a date ; dates, which their faults of youth and all the faults of the age in titles rather than their contents would justify him which they were written. His Cooper's Hu! in assigning. Johnson has noticed this, and very an immense stride, in language and in properly. “ Neither of these pieces t,” he says, numbers, though the first edition of 1612 wants | " that seem to carry their own dates, could have much of the after sweetness infused into it. This been the sudden effusion of fancy. In the verses is not superior to Sandys (we quote from the on the Prince's escape, the prediction of his first edition). marriage with the Princess of France must have been written after the event ; in the other, the

As those who raised in body, or in thought promises of the king's kindness to the descendants

Above the earth, or the air's middle vault, of Buckingham, which could not be properly

Behold how winds and storms, and meteors grow,

How clouds condense to rain, congeal to know, praised till it had appeared by its effects, show

And see the thunder form'd, before it tear that time was taken for revision and improve

The air, secure from danger and from fear; ment. It is not known that they were published

So raised above the tumult and the crowd till they appeared long afterwards with other

I see the city in a thicker cloud poems.'

Of business, than of smoke, where men like ants This is as curious as it is convincing. Nor is it Toil to prevent imaginary wants ; less so, that the flow of Waller was the result Yet all in vain, increasing with their store of labour, not an inherent melody-for the feli

Their vast desires, but make their wants the more : city of numbers so much dwelt upon in his mis

As food to unsound bodies, though it please called early productions (first known to have

The appetite feeds only the disease.

Nor is “ The Flight of the Stag," from the same * Malone, vol. iv. 588.

poem, much superior :+ " Of the danger Ilis Majesty (being Prince) escaped in the road at St. Andero,” and “on His Majesty's receiving Wearied, forsaken and pursued at last, the news of the Duke of Buckingham's death."

All safety in despair of safety placed,

Courage he thence assumes, resolved to bear
All their assaults, since 'tis in vain to fear.
But when he sees the eager chase renew'd,
Hinself by dogs, the dogs by men pursued,
When neither speed, nor art, nor friends, or force
Could help him, towards the stream he bends course;
Hoping these lesser beasts would not essay
An element more merciless than they :-
But fearless they pursue, nor can the flood
Quench their dire thirst, alas! they thirst for blood!

There are many harmonious passages in Quarles'
Emblemes, first printed it is said in 1635, though
the edition here quoted is the Cambridge copy
of 1643.
Not eat! Not taste? Not touch ? Not cast an eye
Upon the fruit of this fair Tree? And why?
Why eat'st thou not what Heaven ordain'd for food ?
Or canst thou think that bad which Heaven call'd good ?
Why was it made, if not to be enjoy'd ?
Neglect of favours makes a favour void.
What sullen star ruled my untimely birth,
That would not lend my days one hour of mirth!
How oft have these bare knees been bent, to gain
The slender alms of one poor smile, in vain !
How often, tired with the fastidious light,
Have my faint lips implored the shades of night?
How often have my mighty torments pray'd
For lingering twilight, glutted with the shade?

Day worse than night, night worse than day appears ;
In fears I spend my nights, my days in tears:
I moan unpitied, groan without relief;
There is nor end, nor measure of my grief,
The smiling flower salutes the day; it grows
Untouch'd with care; it neither spins nor SOWS.
O that my tedious life were like this flower,
Or freed from grief, or finish'd with an hour !
Why was I born? Why was I born a man?
And why proportion'd by so large a span ?
Or why suspended by the common lot,
And being born to die, why die I not?
Ah me! why is my sorrow-wasted breath
Denied the easy privilege of death?
The branded slave, that tugs the weary oar,
Obtains the Sabbath of a welcome shore.

Here let us stop. That Denham and Waller improved this kind of versification, and that Dryden perfected it, there is no one to doubt or deny. But the debt that is due to Denham and Waller has been strangely overrated; they were not the fathers of this kind of verse, but the successful cultivators, and so far were they from improving our versification generally, that every kind of metre, the couplet excepted, was written with greater harmony and excellence before they wrote, than it was in their age or has since been.

B.

ON THE SALE OF “PARADISE LOST."

“The slow sale,” says Johnson," and tardy re ment ; neither traders nor often gentlemen thought putation of Paradise Lost have been always men themselves disgraced by ignorance. The women tioned as evidences of neglected merit, and of the had not then aspired to literature, nor was every uncertainty of literary fame ; and inquiries have house supplied with a closet of knowledge. Those been made, and conjectures offered, about the indeed who professed learning were not less causes of its long obscurity and late reception. learned than at any other time; but of that middle But has the case been truly stated ? Have not race of students who read for pleasure or accomlamentation and wonder been lavished on an evil plishment, and who buy the numerous products of that was never felt ?

modern typography, the number was then com* That in the reigns of Charles and James the paratively small. To prove the paucity of readers, * Paradise Lost' received no public acclamations, it may be sufficient to remark, that the nation had is readily confessed. Wit and Literature were on been satisfied from 1623 to 1664, that is forty-one the side of the Court: and who that solicited | years, with only two editions of the works of favour or fashion would venture to praise the Shakspeare, which probably did not together make defender of the regicides ? All that he himself one thousand copies. could think his due, from evil tongues in evil days, “ The sale,” he adds, “ of thirteen hundred was that reverential silence which was generously copies in two years, in opposition to so much preserved. But it cannot be inferred, that his recent enmity, and to a style of versification new Poem was not read, or not, however unwillingly, to all, and disgusting to many, was an uncommon admired.”

example of the prevalence of genius. The de“ The sale," he goes on to say," if it be con mand did not immediately increase ; for many sidered, will justify the public. Those who have more readers than were supplied at first the no power to judge of past times but by their own, nation did not afford. Only three thousand were should always doubt their conclusions. The call sold in eleven years : for it forced its way without for books was not in Milton's age what it is in the assistance ; its admirers did not dare to publish present. To read was not then a general amuse their opinion; and the opportunities now given of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »