Page images


[Born, 1560? Died about 1600-4.]

THOMAS NASH was born at Lowestoft in Suffolk, was bred at Cambridge, and closed a calamitous life of authorship at the age, it is said, of forty-two. Dr. Beloe has given a list of his works, and Mr. Disraeli + an account of his shifts and miseries. Adversity seems to have whetted his genius, as his most tolerable verses are those which describe his own despair; and in the midst of his woes, he exposed to just derision the profound fooleries of the astrologer Harvey, who, in the year 1582, had thrown the whole kingdom into consternation by his predictions of the probable effects of the junction of

Jupiter and Saturn. Drayton, in his Epistle of
Poets and Poesy, says of him—

Sharply satyric was he, and that way
He went, since that his being to this day,
Few have attempted, and I surely think,
These words shall hardly be set down with ink,
Shall blast and scorch so as his could.

From the allusion which he makes in the follow

ing quotation to Sir P. Sydney's compassion, before the introduction of the following lines, it bounty of that noble character. may be conjectured that he had experienced the


WHY is't damnation to despair and die,
When life is my true happiness' disease?
My soul, my soul, thy safety makes me fly
The faulty means that might my pain appease:
Divines and dying men may talk of hell,
But in my heart her several torments dwell.

Ah, worthless wit! to train me to this woe:
Deceitful arts! that nourish discontent :
Ill thrive the folly that bewitch'd me so!
Vain thoughts, adieu! for now I will repent,—
And yet my wants persuade me to proceed,
For none take pity of a scholar's need.

* Anecdotes of Scarce Books. † Calamities of Authors.

Forgive me, God, although I curse my birth,
And ban the air wherein I breathe a wretch,
Since misery hath daunted all my mirth,
And I am quite undone through promise breach;
Ah friends!—no friends that then ungentle frown,
When changing fortune casts us headlong down.

Without redress complains my careless verse,
And Midas' ears relent not at my moan;
In some far land will I my griefs rehearse,
'Mongst them that will be moved when I shall

England, adieu! the soil that brought me forth, Adieu! unkind, where skill is nothing worth.


[Born, 1534. Died, 1604.]

THIS nobleman sat as Great Chamberlain of England upon the trial of Mary Queen of Scots. In the year of the Armada, he distinguished his public spirit by fitting out some ships at his private cost. He had travelled in Italy in his youth, and is said to have returned the most accomplished coxcomb of his age. The story of his quarrel with Sir Philip Sydney, as it is related by Collins, gives us a most unfavourable idea of his manners and temper, and shows to what a height the claims of aristocratical privilege were at that time carried. Some still more discredit

The Earl of Oxford being one day in the tennis-court with Sir Philip Sydney, on some offence which he had

able traits of his character are to be found in the history of his life§.

taken, ordered him to leave the room, and, on his refusal, gave him the epithet of a puppy. Sir Philip retorted the lie on his lordship, and left the place, expecting to be followed by the peer. But Lord Oxford neither followed him nor noticed his quarrel, till her majesty's council had time to command the peace. The queen interfered, reminding Sir Philip of the difference between "earls and gentlemen," and of the respect which inferiors owed their superiors. Sydney, boldly but respectfully, stated to her majesty, that rank among freemen could claim no other homage than precedency, and did not obey her commands to make submission to Oxford. For a fuller statement of this anecdote, vide the quotation from Collins, in the British Bibliographer, vol. i. p. 83. § By Mr. Park, in the Cat. of Royal and Noble Authors.

[ocr errors]



WHEN Wert thou born, Desire? In pride and pomp of May.

By whom, sweet boy, wert thou begot? By fond conceit, men say.

Tell me who was thy nurse? Fresh Youth, in sugar'd joy.

What was thy meat and daily food? Sad sighs with great annoy.

What hadst thou then to drink? Unsavoury lovers' tears.

What cradle wert thou rock'd in? In hope devoid of fears.

What lull'd thee, then, asleep? Sweet sleep, which likes me best.

Tell me where is thy dwelling-place? In gentle hearts I rest.

What thing doth please thee most? To gaze on beauty still.

What dost thou think to be thy foe? Disdain of my good-will.

Doth company displease? Yes, surely, many


Where doth Desire delight to live? He loves to live alone.

Doth either Time or Age bring him into decay? No, no, Desire both lives and dies a thousand times a day.

Then, fond Desire, farewell! thou art no mate for me:

I should, methinks, be loth to dwell with such a one as thee.



IF women could be fair, and yet not fond,
Or that their love were firm, not fickle still,
I would not marvel that they make me bond,
By service long, to purchase their good-will;
But when I see how frail those creatures are,
I muse that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,
How oft from Phoebus they do flee to Pan;
Unsettled still, like haggards wild they range,
These gentle birds that fly from man to man ;
Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist,
And let them fly, fair fools, where'er they list?

Yet, for disport, we fawn and flatter both,
To pass the time when nothing else can please,
And train them to our lure with subtil oath,
Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;
And then we say, when we their fancy try,
To play with fools, oh, what a fool was I !

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

BISHOP HALL, who for his ethical eloquence has been sometimes denominated the Christian Seneca, was also the first who gave our language an example of epistolary composition in prose. He wrote besides a satirical fiction, entitled Mundus alter et idem, in which, under pretence of describing the Terra Australis Incognita, he reversed the plan of Sir Thomas More's Utopia, and characterized the vices of existing nations. Of our satirical poetry, taking satire in its moral and dignified sense, he claims, and may be allowed, to be the founder: for the ribaldry of Skelton, and the crude essays of the graver Wyat, hardly entitle them to that appellation. Though he lived till beyond the middle of the seventeenth century, his satires were written before, and his Mundus alter et idem about, the year 1600 so that his antiquity, no less than his strength, gives him an important place in the formation of our literature.

In his Satires, which were published at the age of twenty-three, he discovered not only the early vigour of his own genius, but the powers and pliability of his native tongue. Unfortunately, perhaps unconsciously, he caught, from studying Juvenal and Persius as his models, an ellip[* Donne appears to have been the first in order of composition-though Hall and Marston made their appearance in print before him.]

+ His name is therefore placed in these Specimens with a variation from the general order, not according to the date of his death, but about the time of his appearance as a poet.

tical manner and an antique allusion, which cast obscurity over his otherwise spirited and amusing traits of English manners; though the satirist himself was so far from anticipating this objection, that he formally apologises for "too much stooping to the low reach of the vulgar." But in many instances he redeems the antiquity of his allusions by their ingenious adaptation to modern manners; and this is but a small part of his praise; for in the point, and volubility, and vigour of Hall's numbers, we might frequently imagine ourselves perusing Dryden‡. This may be exemplified in the harmony and picturesqueness of the following description of a magnificent rural mansion, which the traveller approaches in the hopes of reaching the seat of ancient hospitality, but finds it deserted by its selfish owner.

Beat the broad gates, a goodly hollow sound,
With double echoes, doth again rebound;

The satire which I think contains the most vigorous and musical couplets of this old poet, is the first of Book 3rd, beginning,

Time was, and that was term'd the time of gold, When world and time were young, that now are old. I preferred, however, the insertion of others as examples of his poetry, as they are more descriptive of English manners than the fanciful praises of the golden age which that satire contains. It is flowing and fanciful, but conveys only the insipid moral of men decaying by the progress of civilisation; a doctrine not unlike that which Gulliver found in the book of the old woman of Brobdignag, whose author lamented the tiny size of the modern Brobdignagdians compared with that of their


[blocks in formation]

Look to the towered chimneys, which should be
The wind-pipes of good hospitality,

Through which it breatheth to the open air,
Betokening life and liberal welfare,

Lo, there th' unthankful swallow takes her rest
And fills the tunnel with her circled nest.

His satires are neither cramped by personal hostility, nor spun out to vague declamations on vice, but give us the form and pressure of the times exhibited in the faults of coeval literature, and in the foppery or sordid traits of prevailing manners. The age was undoubtedly fertile in eccentricity. His picture of its literature may at first view appear to be overcharged with severity, accustomed as we are to associate a general idea of excellence with the period of

Elizabeth; but when Hall wrote there was not a great poet firmly established in the language except Spenser, and on him he has bestowed ample applause. With regard to Shakspeare, the reader will observe a passage in the first satire, where the poet speaks of resigning the honours of heroic and tragic poetry to more inspired geniuses; and it is possible that the great dramatist may be here alluded to, as well as Spenser. But the allusion is indistinct, and not necessarily applicable to the bard of Avon. Shakspeare's Romeo and Juliet, Richard II. and III. have been traced in print to no earlier date than the year 1597, in which Hall's first series of satires appeared; and we have no sufficient proof of his previous fame as a dramatist having been so great as to leave Hall without excuse for omitting to pay him homage. But the sunrise of the drama with Shakspeare was not without abundance of attendant mists in the contemporary fustian of inferior playmakers, who are severely ridiculed by our satirist. In addition to this, our poetry was still haunted by the whining ghosts of the Mirror for Magistrates, while obscenity walked in barbarous nakedness, and the very genius of the language was threatened by revolutionary prosodists.

From the literature of the age Hall proceeds to its manners and prejudices, and among the latter derides the prevalent confidence in alchymy and astrology. To us this ridicule appears an ordinary effort of reason; but it was in him a common sense above the level of the times. If any proof were required to illustrate the slow departure of prejudices, it would be found in the fact of an astrologer being patronised, half a century afterwards, by the government of England*.

*William Lilly received a pension from the council of state, in 1648. He was, besides, consulted by Charles;

During his youth and education he had to struggle with poverty; and in his old age he was one of those sufferers in the cause of episcopacy whose virtues shed a lustre on its fall. He was born in the parish of Ashby de la Zouche, in Liecestershire, studied and took orders at Cambridge, and was for some time master of the school of Tiverton, in Devonshire. An accidental opportunity which he had of preaching before Prince Henry seems to have given the first impulse to his preferment, till by gradual promotion

he rose to be bishop of Exeter, having previously accompanied King James, as one of his chaplains, to Scotland, and attended the Synod of Dort at As bishop of Exeter he was so mild in his conduct a convocation of the protestant divines. towards the puritans, that he, who was one of the last broken pillars of the church, was nearly persecuted for favouring them. Had such conduct been, at this critical period, pursued by the high churchmen in general, the history of a bloody age might have been changed into that of peace; but the violence of Laud prevailed over the milder counsels of a Hall, an Usher, and a Corbet. When the dangers of the church grew more instant, Hall became its champion, and was met in the field of controversy by Milton, whose respect for the bishop's learning is ill concealed under the attempt to cover it with derision.

By the little power that was still left to the sovereign in 1641, Hall was created bishop of Norwich; but having joined, almost immediately after, in the protest of the twelve prelates against the validity of laws that should be passed in their compelled absence, he was committed to the Tower, and, in the sequel, marked out for sequestration. After suffering extreme hardships, he was allowed to retire, on a small pittance, to Higham, near Norwich, where he continued, in comparative obscurity, but with indefatigable zeal and intrepidity, to exercise the duties of a pastor, till he closed his days at the venerable age of eighty-two.

and during the siege of Colchester, was sent for by the heads of the parliamentary army, to encourage the soldiers, by assuring them that the town would be taken. Fairfax told the seer, that he did not understand his art, but hoped it was lawful, and agreeable to God's word. Butler alludes to this when he says,

Do not our great Reformers use
This Sidrophel to forebode news;
To write of victories next year,
And castles taken yet i' th' air?

[blocks in formation]


NOR ladies' wanton love, nor wand'ring knight,
Legend I out in rhymes all richly dight.
Nor fright the reader with the Pagan vaunt
Of mighty Mahound, and great Termagaunt.
Nor list I sonnet of my mistress' face,
To paint some Blowesse with a borrowed grace;
Nor can I bide to pen some hungry scene
For thick-skin ears, and undiscerning eyne.
Nor ever could my scornful muse abide
With tragic shoes her ancles for to hide.
Nor can I crouch, and writhe my fawning tail
To some great patron, for my best avail.
Such hunger starven trencher poetry,
Or let it never live, or timely die :
Nor under every bank and every tree,
Speak rhymes unto my oaten minstrelsy:
Nor carol out so pleasing lively lays,

As might the Graces move my mirth to praise*.
Trumpet, and reeds, and socks, and buskins fine,
I them bequeath: whose statues wand'ring twine
Of ivy mix'd with bays, circling around
Their living temples likewise laurel-bound.
Rather had I, albe in careless rhymes,
Check the mis-order'd world, and lawless times.
Nor need I crave the muse's midwifery,
To bring to light so worthless poetry :
Or if we list, what baser muse can bide,
To sit and sing by Granta's naked side?
They haunt the tided Thames and salt Medway,
E'er since the fame of their late bridal day.
Nought have we here but willow-shaded shore,
To tell our Grant his banks are left forlore.


WITH Some pot fury, ravish'd from their wit,
They sit and muse on some no-vulgar writ:
As frozen dunghills in a winter's morn,
That void of vapours seemed all beforn,
Soon as the sun sends out his piercing beams,
Exhale out filthy smoke and stinking steams.
So doth the base, and the sore-barren brain,
Soon as the raging wine begins to reign.
One higher pitch'd doth set his soaring thought
On crowned kings, that fortune hath low brought:

* In this satire, which is not perfectly intelligible at the first glance, the author, after deriding the romantic and pastoral vein of affected or mercenary poetasters, proceeds to declare, that for his own part he resigns the higher walks of genuine poetry to others; that he need not crave the "Muse's midwifery," since not even a baser muse would now haunt the shore of Granta (the Cam), which they have left deserted, and crowned with willows, the types of desertion ever since Spenser celebrated the marriage of the Medway and the Thames.-E.

+ This satire is levelled at the intemperance and bombastic fury of his contemporary dramatists, with an evident allusion to Marlowe; and in the conclusion he attacks the buffoonery that disgraced the stage.-E.

Or some upreared, high-aspiring swain,
As it might be the Turkish Tamberlain :
Then weeneth he his base drink-drowned spright,
Rapt to the threefold loft of heaven height,
When he conceives upon his feigned stage
The stalking steps of his great personage,
Graced with huff-cap terms and thund'ring threats,
That his poor hearer's hair quite upright sets.
Such soon as some brave-minded hungry youth
Sees fitly frame to his wide-strained mouth,
He vaunts his voice upon an hired stage,
With high-set steps, and princely carriage;
Now sweeping in side robes of royalty,
That erst did scrub in lousy brokery,
There if he can with terms Italianate
Big sounding sentences, and words of state,
Fair patch me up his pure iambic verse,
He ravishes the gazing scaffolders:
Then certes was the famous Corduban,
Never but half so high tragedian.

Now, lest such frightful shows of fortune's fall,
And bloody tyrant's rage, should chance appal
The dead-struck audience, 'midst the silent rout,
Comes leaping in a self-misformed lout,
And laughs, and grins, and frames his mimic face,
And justles straight into the prince's place;
Then doth the theatre echo all aloud,
With gladsome noise of that applauding crowd.
A goodly hotch-potch! when vile russetings
Are match'd with monarchs, and with mighty kings.
A goodly grace to sober tragic muse,

When each base clown his clumsy fist doth bruise,
And show his teeth in double rotten row,
For laughter at his self-resembled show.
Meanwhile our poets in high parliament
Sit watching every word and gesturement,
Like curious censors of some doughty gear,
Whispering their verdict in their fellow's ear.
Woe to the word whose margent in their scroll
Is noted with a black condemning coal.
But if each period might the synod please,
Ho-bring the ivy boughs, and bands of bays.
Now when they part and leave the naked stage,
'Gins the bare hearer, in a guilty rage,
To curse and ban, and blame his likerous eye,
That thus hath lavish'd his late halfpenny.
Shame that the muses should be bought and sold
For every peasant's brass, on each scaffold,


FIE on all courtesy and unruly winds,
Two only foes that fair disguisement finds.
Strange curse! but fit for such a fickle age,
When scalps are subject to such vassalage.
Late travelling along in London way,
Me met, as seem'd by his disguised array,
A lusty courtier, whose curled head
With auburn locks was fairly furnished.
I him saluted in our lavish wise :
He answers my untimely courtesies.

« PreviousContinue »