« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
example this very significant stanza, which appears to call into question the resurrection :
But ask not bodies doomed to die,
At the same time the Philosopher' here does not so much deny that there is any truth for man as that he has any organ whereby, of himself, he may attain this truth. The poem-it is the dying Christian who is addressed-opens thus :
'Before by death you nearer knowledge gain,
Is not the learning which we knowledge call,
And though a bad, yet 'tis a froward guide,
A guide, who every step proceeds with doubt,
It is a plummet to so short a line,
As sounds no deeper than the sounder's eyes;
This spy from Schools gets ill intelligence,
She doth, like India's last discoverers, boast
Of this forbidden fruit since we but gain
P. 153, No. cxxxii.—This poem, apart from its proper beauty, has a deeper interest, as containing in the germ Wordsworth's still higher strain, namely his. Ode on Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood. I proceeded in my first edition to say, 'I do not mean that Wordsworth had ever seen this poem when he wrote his. The coincidences are so remarkable that it is certainly difficult to esteem them accidental; but Wordsworth was so little a reader of anything out of the way, and at the time when his Ode was composed, the Silex Scintillans was altogether out of the way, a book of such excessive rarity, that an explanation of the points of contact between the poems must be sought for elsewhere.' That this was too rashly spoken I have since had proof. A correspondent, with date July 13, 1869, has written to me, 'I have a copy of the first edition of the Silex, incomplete and very much damp-stained, which I bought in a lot with several other books at the poet Wordsworth's sale. The entire forgetfulness into which poetry, which, though not of the very highest order of all, is yet of a very high one, may fall, is strikingly exemplified in the fact that as nearly as possible two centuries intervened between the first and second editions
of Vaughan's poems. The first edition of the first part of the Silex Scintillans appeared in 1650, the second edition of the book in 1847. That which is sometimes referred to as a second edition, bearing date 1655, is indeed only the first, with a new title-page and preface, and some eighty-four pages of additional matter. Oblivion overtook him from the first. Phillips in his Theatrum Poetarum, 1675, just mentions him and no more; and knows him only by his Olor Iscanus, a juvenile production, of comparatively little worth; which yet, seeing that it yields such lines as the following-they form part of a poem addressed to the unfortunate Elizabeth of Bohemia, daughter of our first James-cannot be affirmed to be of
'Thou seem'st a rosebud born in snow;
And yet as balm-trees gently spend
As a theologian Vaughan may be inferior, but as a poet he is certainly superior, to Herbert, who never wrote anything so purely poetical as The Retreat. Still Vaughan would probably never have written as he has, if Herbert, whom he gratefully owns as his master, had not shown him the way.
P. 154, No. cxxxiii.-If the poem which has just gone before contains, at least in part, the undeveloped germ of Wordsworth's greatest Ode, this exquisite poem has also some prophecy of the same. Here too, as there, the poet dwells with a thankful gladness on
those recollections of former heights which prompt the soul to an earnest effort to make those heights its own once more.
P. 155, No. cxxxiv.-Till within a year or two since this poem lay perdu, known probably to less than a dozen students; being written in a blank page of a copy of Milton's English and Latin Poems, published in 1645, and now in the British Museum. We have to thank Mr. Henry Morley for first drawing it from its hidingplace, and making it the common property of all lovers of English verse. In his delightful little volume, The King and the Commons, it has been very carefully edited, and the question of its authorship thoroughly discussed. This he ascribes to Milton, and marshals well all the evidence which can be adduced in favour of this ascription, while at the same time he does the best to weaken the arguments which may be urged against it. Behind the unsolved mystery, for such I must still regard it, of the authorship, there is also another of the poet or musician--for it must needs have been one or other of these for whom the epitaph was intended; and for the solution of this mystery, bound up in the main with the other, it appears to me that nothing has yet been accomplished.
P. 160, No. cxxxviii.-This poem, so little known, though the work of one so well known, opens very solemnly and grandly, but does not maintain itself altogether at the same height to the end. Even as I have given it, the two concluding strophes are inferior to the others; and this declension would be felt by the reader still more strongly, if I had not at once lightened the poem, and brought it within reasonable compass, by the omission of no less than six strophes which immediately precede these. It bears date January 14, 168; and was written at a season of great weakness and intense bodily suffering (see his Life edited by Sylvester, Part III. p. 192); but the actual life of the great non-conformist divine was prolonged for some eight or nine years more.
P. 169, No. cxliv.-I have gladly found room in this volume, as often as I fairly could, for poems written by those who, strictly speaking, were not poets; or who, if poets, have only rarely penned their inspiration, and, either wanting the accomplishment of verse, or not caring to use it, have preferred to embody thoughts which might have claimed a metrical garb in other than metrical forms. Poems from such authors must always have a special interest for us. To the former of these classes the author of these manly and highhearted lines belongs, and another whose epitaph on his companions left behind in the Arctic regions is earlier given (see No. cxxiii.). Bacon (for who can deny to him a poet's gifts?) and, before all others as a poet in prose, Jeremy Taylor belong to the second. It would be more difficult to affirm of Bishop Berkeley (see No. cxliii.), and of
Sir Thomas Browne (see No. cxxxvii.), to which of these classes they ought to be assigned.
P. 172, No. cxlv.-These lines, in their wit worthy of Lucian, and with a moral purpose which oftentimes Lucian is wholly without, are called A Fable, but manifestly have no right to the name. have omitted from this, as being a Household Book, six lines, but with reluctance, being, as in fact they are, among the most moral lines in the whole poem.
P. 174, No. cxlvi. - This is a party ballad, and, rightly to understand it, we must understand the circumstances of which it assumes on our part a knowledge. In 1727 Admiral Hosier blockaded PortoBello with twenty ships; but was not allowed to attack it, war not having actually broken out with Spain, and, a peace being patched up, his squadron was withdrawn. In 1740 Admiral Vernon took Porto-Bello with six ships. It was apparently a very creditable exploit; but Vernon being an enemy of Walpole's, and a member of the Opposition, it was glorified by them beyond its merits. When they boasted that he with six ships had effected what Hosier had not been allowed to attempt with twenty, the statement was a perfectly true one, but in nothing dishonourable to him or to his employers. Glover is here the mouthpiece of the Opposition, who, while they exalted Vernon, affected to pity Hosier, who had died, as they declared, of a broken heart; and of whose losses by disease during the blockade they did not fail to make the most. It is a fine ballad, and will do for Glover what his Leonidas would altogether have failed to do. This we may confidently affirm, whether we quite agree with Lord Stanhope or not, that it is the noblest song perhaps ever called forth by any British victory, except Mr. Campbell's Battle of the Baltic.'
P. 177, No. cxlvii.-This poem was for a while supposed to be old, and an old line has been worked up into it. This was probably the refrain of an older as it is of the more modern poem, which has Miss Elliott (1727-1805), an accomplished lady of the Minto family, for its author.-1. 1: 'lilting,' singing cheerfully.-1. 3: 'loaning,' broad lane.-1. 5: 'scorning,' rallying.-1. 6: 'dowie,' dreary. 1. 8: 'leglin,' milkpail. 1. 9: 'shearing,' reaping.-1. 10: 'bandsters,' sheaf-binders.-'lyart,' inclining to gray.-'runkled,' wrinkled.-1. 11: 'fleeching,' coaxing.-1. 14: 'bogle,' ghost.
P. 181, No. cli.-This poem was a favourite with Wordsworth, and one who listens very attentively may catch in it a faint prelude of his immortal Ode addressed to the same bird. I ascribed this poem in my first edition to John Logan; but there cannot, I think, be any reasonable doubt that not he, but Michael Bruce, is their rightful owner; and that Logan, into whose hands Bruce's papers
had fallen, very dishonourably plundered the dead, appropriating to himself and publishing in his own name verses which were not his own.
P. 182, No. clii.-There can scarcely be a severer trial of the poet's power of musical expression, of his command of the arts by which melody is produced, than the unrhymed lyric, which very seldom perfectly satisfies the ear. That Collins has so completely succeeded here is itself a sufficient answer to Gray's assertion that he 'had a bad ear,' to Johnson's complaint, his lines commonly are of slow motion; clogged and impeded with a cluster of consonants.' Collins, in whom those mournful lines of Wordsworth found only too literal a fulfilment,
'We poets do begin our lives in gladness,
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness,'
has falsified the prediction of Gray. Writing of him and of Warton, who both had lately died, Gray passes this judgment upon them, 'They both deserve to live some years, but will not.' Half of this prophecy has come true; and Warton cannot be said to have lasted to our time; but Collins has now won a position so assured that, instead of the 'some years' which were all that Gray would have allotted to him, we may confidently affirm that he will live as long as any love for English poetry survives.
P. 183, No. cliii.-'Of his Odes nothing favourable can be said -this is Johnson's censure of Akenside's Odes; hardly too severe, if applied to the others; but this, introductory to the rest, though wanting altogether in the passion of the higher lyrics, has real merit, and a certain subdued grace and finish of its own.
P. 187, No. clv.-This and the following poem are of the court, courtly. At the same time a truly poetical treatment may raise vers de société, such as these are, into a higher sphere than their own; and if I do not mistake, it has done so here; and may justly claim for these poems that they be drawn from the absolute oblivion into which they have fallen. Ambrose Philips, it is true, has a niche in Johnson's Poets; but so much which is stupid, and so much which is worse than stupid, finds its place there, that for a minor poet, for all except those mighty ones to whom admission or exclusion is a matter of no importance, who are strong enough to burst any cerements, that collection is rather a mausoleum of the dead than a temple of the living. These poems with two or three others of like kind—a singularly beautiful one is quoted in Palgrave's Golden Treasury-earned for Philips the title of Namby Pamby, so little were his contemporaries able to appreciate even the partial return to