« PreviousContinue »
FROM LORD BROOKE'S CAELICA.
MERLIN, they say, an English prophet born, When he was young, and govern'd by his mother, Took great delight to laugh such fools to scorn, As thought by nature we might know a brother.
His mother chid him oft, till on a day
They stood and saw a corpse to burial carried:
The father tears his beard, doth weep and pray,
The mother was the woman he had married.
Merlin laughs out aloud, instead of crying;
His mother chides him for that childish fashion,
Says men must mourn the dead, themselves are
Good manners doth make answer unto passion.
The child (for children see what should be
Replies unto his mother by and by : [hidden)
Mother, if you did know, and were forbidden,
Yet you would laugh as heartily as I.
This man no part hath in the child he sorrows,
His father was the monk, that sings before him :
See then how nature of adoption borrows,
Truth covets in me that I should restore him.
[Born, 1582. Died, 1628.]
SIR JOHN BEAUMONT, brother of the celebrated dramatic poet, was born at Grace Dieu, the seat of the family in Leicestershire. He studied at Oxford, and at the inns of court; but, forsaking the law, married and retired to his native seat. Two years before his death he was knighted by Charles the First.
He wrote the Crown of Thorns, a poem, of
which no copy is known to be extant; Bosworth Field; and a variety of small original and translated pieces. Bosworth Field may be compared with Addison's Campaign, without a high compliment to either. Sir John has no fancy, but there is force and dignity in some of his passages; and he deserves notice as one of the earliest polishers of what is called the heroic couplet*.
RICHARD BEFORE THE BATTLE OF BOSWORTH.
THE duke's stout presence, and courageous looks,
Were to the king as falls of sliding brooks;
Which bring a gentle and delightful rest
To weary eyes, with grievous care opprest.
He bids that Norfolk, and his hopeful son,
Whose rising fame in arms this day begun,
Should lead the vanguard-for so great command
He dares not trust in any other hand-
The rest he to his own advice refers,
And as the spirit in that body stirs.
Then, putting on his crown, a fatal sign!
So offer'd beasts near death in garlands shine-
He rides about the ranks, and strives t' inspire
Each breast with part of his unwearied fire.
"My fellow soldiers! though your
Are sharp, and need not whetting by my words,
Yet call to mind the many glorious days
In which we treasured up immortal praise.
If, when I served, I ever fled from foe,
Fly ye from mine-let me be punish'd so!
But if my father, when at first he tried
How all his sons could shining blades abide,
Found me an eagle whose undazzled eyes
Affront the beams that from the steel arise,
And if I now in action teach the same,
Know then, ye have but changed your general's
Be still yourselves! Ye fight against the dross
Of those who oft have run from you with loss.
How many Somersets (dissension's brands)
Have felt the force of our revengeful hands ?—
From whom this youth, as from a princely flood,
Derives his best, but not untainted blood-
Have our assaults made Lancaster to droop?
And shall this Welshman, with his ragged troop,
Subdue the Norman and the Saxon line,
That only Merlin may be thought divine ?--
See what a guide these fugitives have chose !
Who, bred among the French, our ancient foes,
Forgets the English language and the ground,
And knows not what our drums and trumpets
[* "The commendation of improving the rhythm of the couplet is due also to Sir John Beaumont, author of a short poem on the Battle of Bosworth Field. In other respects it has no pretensions to a high rank."-HALLAM S Lit. Hist., vol. iii. p. 499.
The poem, though a posthumous publication, was not without its prefatory commendations:
This book will live; it hath a genius; this
Above his reader, or his praiser, is.-BEN JONSON.]
[Born, 1570? Died, 1631.]
MICHAEL DRAYTON was born in the parish of Atherston, in Warwickshire. His family was ancient, but it is not probable that his parents were opulent, for he was educated chiefly at the expense of Sir Godfrey Godere. In his childhood, which displayed remarkable proficiency, he was anxious to know what strange kind of beings poets were, and on his coming to college he importuned his tutor, if possible, to make him a poet. Either from this ambition, or from necessity, he seems to have adopted no profession, and to have generally owed his subsistence to the munificence of friends.
he makes, in the poem of "Moses's Birth and Miracles," to the destruction of the Spanish Armada, has been continually alleged as a ground for supposing that he witnessed that spectacle in a military capacity; but the lines, in fact, are far from proving that he witnessed it at all. On the accession of King James the First, he paid his court to the new sovereign, with all that a poet could offer, his congratulatory verses. James, however, received him but coldly, and though he was patronised by Lord Buckhurst and the Earl of Dorset *, he obtained no situation of independence, but continued to publish his voluminous poetry amidst severe irritations with his booksellers t. Popular as Drayton once was in comparison of the present neglect of him, it is difficult to conceive that his works were ever so profitable as to allow the bookseller much room for peculation. He was known as a poet many years before the death of Queen Elizabeth. His Poly-olbion, which the learned Selden honoured with notes, did not appear till 1613. In 1626 we find him styled poet laureate; but the title at that time was often a mere compliment, and implied neither royal appointment nor butt of canary. The Countess of Bedford supported him for many years. At the close of his life we find him in the family of the Earl of Dorset, to whose magnanimous countess the Aubrey MSS. ascribe the poet's monument over his grave in Westminster Abbey.
The language of Drayton is free and perspi
With less depth of feeling than that which occasionally bursts from Cowley, he is a less excruciating hunter of conceits, and in harmony of expression is quite a contrast to Donne. A tinge of grace and romance pervades much of his poetry and even his pastorals, which [* Lord Buckhurst and the Earl of Dorset,-the poet and lord high treasurer,-are one and the same person.]
[ He received a yearly pension of ten pounds from Prince Henry, to whom he dedicated his Poly-olbion.]
exhibit the most fantastic views of nature, sparkle
with elegant imagery. The Nymphidia is in his
happiest characteristic manner of airy and spor-
tive pageantry. In some historic sketches of
the Barons' Wars he reaches a manner beyond
himself the pictures of Mortimer and the
Queen, and of Edward's entrance to the castle.
are splendid and spirited. In his Poly-olbion, or
description of Great Britain, he has treated the
subject with such topographical and minute
detail as to chain his poetry to the map; and he
has unfortunately chosen a form of verse which,
though agreeable when interspersed with other
measures, is fatiguing in long continuance by
itself: still it is impossible to read the poem
without admiring the richness of his local asso-
ciations, and the beauty and variety of the fabu-
lous allusions which he scatters around him.
Such indeed is the profusion of romantic recol-
lections in the Poly-olbion, that a poet of taste
and selection might there find subjects of happy
description, to which the author who suggested
them had not the power of doing justice; for
Drayton started so many remembrances, that he
lost his inspiration in the effort of memory.
the Barons' Wars, excepting the passages already
noticed, where the
Purpureus latè qui splendeat unus et alter,
we unhappily exchange only the geographer for the chronicler. On a general survey, the mass of his poetry has no strength or sustaining spirit adequate to its bulk. There is a perpetual play of fancy on its surface; but the impulses of passion, and the guidance of judgment, give it no strong movements nor consistent course. scenery or in history he cannot command selected views, but meets them by chance as he travels over the track of detail. His great subjects have no interesting centre, no shade for uninteresting things. Not to speak of his dull passages, his description is generally lost in a flutter of whimsical touches. His muse had certainly no strength for extensive flights, though she sports in happy moments on a brilliant and graceful wing*.
["Drayton's Poly-olbion is a poem of about 30,000 lines in length, written in Alexandrine couplets, a measure, from its monotony, and perhaps from its frequency in doggrel ballads, not at all pleasing to the ear. It contains a topographical description of England, illustrated with a prodigality of historical and legendary erudition. Such a poem is essentially designed to instruct, and speaks to the understanding more than to the fancy. The powers displayed in it are, however, of a high cast. Yet perhaps no English poem, known as well by name, is so little known beyond its name."-HALLAM, Lit. Hist., vol. iii. p. 496-7.
MORTIMER, EARL OF MARCH, AND THE QUEEN, SURPRISED BY EDWARD III. IN NOTTINGHAM CASTLE.
FROM "THE BARONS' WARS," BOOK VI.
WITHIN the castle hath the queen devised
A chamber with choice rarities so fraught,
As in the same she had imparadised
Almost what man by industry hath sought;
| Where with the curious pencil was comprised
What could with colours by the art be wrought,
In the most sure place of the castle there,
Which she had named the Tower of Mortimer.
An orbal form with pillars small composed,
Which to the top like parallels do bear,
Arching the compass where they were inclosed,
Fashioning the fair roof like the hemisphere,
In whose partitions by the lines disposed,
All the clear northern asterisms were
In their corporeal shapes with stars inchased,
As by th' old poets they in heaven were placed.
About which lodgings, tow'rds the upper face,
Ran a fine bordure circularly led,
As equal 'twixt the high'st point and the base,
That as a zone the waist ingirdled,
That lends the sight a breathing, or a space,
"Twixt things near view and those far over head,
Under the which the painter's curious skill
In lively forms the goodly room did fill.
Here Phoebus clipping Hyacinthus stood,
Whose life's last drops his snowy breast imbrue,
The one's tears mixed with the other's blood,
That should't be blood or tears no sight could
So mix'd together in a little flood;
Yet here and there they sev'rally withdrew,
The pretty wood-nymphs chafing him with balm,
To bring the sweet boy from his deadly qualm.
With the god's lyre, his quiver, and his bow,
His golden mantle cast upon the ground,
T express whose grief Art ev'n her best did show,
The sledge so shadow'd still seem'd to rebound,
To counterfeit the vigour of the blow,
As still to give new anguish to the wound;
The purple flower sprung from the blood that run,
That op'neth since and closeth with the sun.
By which the heifer Io, Jove's fair rape,
Gazing her new-ta'en figure in a brook,
The water shadow'd to observe the shape
In the same form that she on it doth look.
So cunningly to cloud the wanton 'scape,
That gazing eyes the portraiture mistook,
By perspective devised beholding now,
This way a maiden, that way 't seem'd a cow.
Swift Mercury, like to a shepherd's boy,
Sporting with Hebe by a fountain brim,
With many a sweet glance, many an am'rous toy,
He sprinkling drops at her, and she at him;
Wherein the painter so explain'd their joy,
As though his skill the perfect life could limn,
Upon whose brows the water hung so clear,
As through the drops the fair skin might appear.
And ciffy Cynthus with a thousand birds,
Whose freckled plumes adorn his bushy crown,
Under whose shadow graze the straggling herds,
Out of whose top the fresh springs trembling down,
Dropping like fine pearl through his shaggy beards,
With moss and climbing ivy over-grown ;
The rock so lively done in every part,
As Nature could be patterned by Art.
The naked nymphs, some up and down descending,
Small scatt'ring flowers at one another flung,
With nimble turns their limber bodies bending,
Cropping the blooming branches lately sprung,
(Upon the briars their colour'd mantles rending)
Which on the rocks grew here and there among;
Some comb their hair, some making garlands by,
As with delight might satisfy the eye.
There comes proud Phaeton tumbling through the clouds,
Cast by his palfreys that their reins had broke,
And setting fire upon the welked shrouds,
Now through the heaven run madding from the yoke,
The elements together thrust in crowds,
Both land and sea hid in a reeking smoke ;
Drawn with such life, as some did much desire
To warm themselves, some frighted with the fire.
The river Po, that him receiving burn'd,
His seven sisters standing in degrees,
Trees into women seeming to be turn'd,
As the gods turn'd the women into trees,
Both which at once so mutually that mourn'd,
Drops from their boughs, or tears fell from their
The fire seem'd to be water, water flame, [eyes;
Such excellence in showing of the same.
And to this lodging did the light invent,
That it should first a lateral course reflect,
Through a short room into the window sent,
Whence it should come expressively direct,
Holding just distance to the lineament,
And should the beams proportionably project,
And being thereby condensated and grave,
To every figure a sure colour gave.
Where her fair breasts at liberty were let, Whose violet veins in branched riverets flow, And Venus' swans and milky doves were set Upon those swelling mounts of driven snow; Whereon whilst Love to sport himself doth get, He lost his way, nor back again could go,
But with those banks of beauty set about,
He wander'd still, yet never could get out.
Her loose hair look'd like gold (O word too base !
Nay, more than sin, but so to name her hair)
Declining, as to kiss her fairer face,
No word is fair enough for thing so fair,
Nor ever was there epithet could grace
That, by much praising which we much impair ;
And where the pen fails, pencils cannot show it,
Only the soul may be supposed to know it.
She laid her fingers on his manly cheek,
The Gods' pure sceptres and the darts of Love,
That with their touch might make a tiger meek,
Or might great Atlas from his seat remove;
So white, so soft, so delicate, so sleek,
As she had worn a lily for a glove;
As might beget life where was never none,
And put a spirit into the hardest stone.
When, by that time, into the castle-hall
Was rudely enter'd that well-armed rout,
And they within suspecting nought at all,
Had then no guard to watch for them without.
See how mischances suddenly do fall,
And steal upon us, being farth'st from doubt!
Our life's uncertain, and our death is sure,
And tow'rds most peril man is most secure.
Whilst youthful Nevil and brave Turrington,
To the bright queen that ever waited near,
Two with great March much credit that had won,
That in the lobby with the ladies were,
Staying delight, whilst time away did run,
With such discourse as women love to hear;
Charged on the sudden by the armed train,
Were at their entrance miserably slain.
When, as from snow-crown'd Skidow's lofty cliffs,
Some fleet-wing'd haggard, tow'rds herpreying hour,
Amongst the teal and moor-bred mallard drives,
And th' air of all her feather'd flock doth scow'r,
Whilst to regain her former height she strives,
The fearful fowl all prostrate to her power:
Such a sharp shriek did ring throughout the vault,
Made by the women at the fierce assault.
NYMPHIDIA, THE COURT OF FAIRY.
OLD Chaucer doth of Topas tell,
Mad Rab'lais of Pantagruel,
A later third of Dowsabel,
With such poor trifles playing:
Others the like have labour'd at,
Some of this thing, and some of that,
And many of they know not what,
But that they must be saying.
Another sort there be, that will
Be talking of the Fairies still,
Nor never can they have their fill,
As they were wedded to them :
No tales of them their thirst can slake,
So much delight therein they take,
And some strange thing they fain would make,
Knew they the way to do them.
Then since no muse hath been so bold,
Or of the later or the old,
Those elvish secrets to unfold,
Which lie from others' reading;
My active muse to light shall bring
The court of that proud Fairy King,
And tell there of the revelling:
Jove prosper my proceeding.
And thou Nymphidia, gentle Fay,
Which meeting me upon the way,
These secrets didst to me bewray,
Which now I am in telling:
My pretty light fantastic maid,
I here invoke thee to my aid,
That I may speak what thou hast said,
In numbers smoothly swelling.