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Whose thread exceeds the usual bounds of life,
The shortest space, which we so lightly prize
On my dear Son, Gervase Beaumont. Can I, who have for others oft compiled The songs of death, forget my sweetest child, Which like a flow'r crush'd with a blast, is dead, And ere full time hangs down his smiling head, Expecting with clear hope to live anew, Among the angels fed with heavenly dew? We have this sign of joy, that many days, While on the earth his struggling spirit stays, The name of Jesus in his mouth contains His only food, his sleep, his ease from pains. O may that sound be rooted in my mind, Of which in him such strong effect I find! Dear Lord, receive my son, whose winning love To me was like a friendship, far above The course of nature, or his tender age; Whose looks could all my bitter griefs assuage: Let his pure soul-ordain'd seven years to be In that frail body, which was part of meRemain my pledge in heaven, as sent to show How to this port at every step I go.
Dr Henry King, who was chaplain to James I., and did honour to the church preferment which was bestowed upon him, was best known as a religious poet. His language and imagery are chaste and refined. Of his lighter verse, the following song may suffice:
Dry those fair, those crystal eyes,
To drown their banks: grief's sullen brooks
Like to the falling of a star,
The wind blows out, the bubble dies; The spring entomb'd in autumn lies; The dew dries up, the star is shot; The flight is past—and man forgot.
What is the existence of man's life,
Till Death's cold hand signs his release!
It is a flower-which buds, and grows,
It is a weary interlude
Which doth short joys, long woes, include;
FRANCIS BEAUMONT (1585-1616), whose name is most conspicuous as a dramatist, in union with that of Fletcher, wrote a small number of miscellaneous pieces, which his brother published after his death. Some of these youthful effusions are witty and amusing; others possess a lyrical sweetness; and a few are grave and moralising. The most celebrated is the letter to Ben Jonson, which was originally published at the end of the play Nice Valour,' with the following title: Mr Francis Beaumont's letter to Ben Jonson, written before he and Master Fletcher came to London, with two of the precedent comedies then not finished, which deferred their merry meetings at the Mermaid.' Notwithstanding the admiration of Beaumont for 'Rare Ben,' he copied Shakspeare in the style of his dramas. Fletcher, however, was still more Shakspearian than his associate. Hazlitt says finely of the premature death of Beaumont and his more poetical friend'The bees were said to have come and built their hive in the mouth of Plato when a child; and the fable might be transferred to the sweeter accents of Beaumont and Fletcher. Beaumont died at the age of five-and-twenty [thirty]. One of these writers makes Bellario, the page, say to Philaster, who threatens to take his life
"Tis not a life,
"Tis but a piece of childhood thrown away.
But here was youth, genius, aspiring hope, growing reputation, cut off like a flower in its summer pride, of like "the lily on its stalk green," which makes us
repine at fortune, and almost at nature, that seem to set so little store by their greatest favourites. The life of poets is, or ought to be (judging of it from the light it lends to ours), a golden dream, full of brightness and sweetness, lapt in Elysium; and it gives one a reluctant pang to see the splendid vision, by which they are attended in their path of glory, fade like a vapour, and their sacred heads laid low in ashes, before the sand of common mortals has run out. Fletcher, too, was prematurely cut off by the plague."*
[Letter to Ben Jonson.]
The sun (which doth the greatest comfort bring
Lie where he will, and make him write worse yet;
It is a potion sent us down to drink,
Makes us not laugh when we make legs to knights. 'Tis this that keeps our minds fit for our states,
A medicine to obey our magistrates:
Of land that God gives men here is their wit,
And gravest men will with his main house-jest
*Lectures on the Age of Elizabeth, &c., p. 227.
Scarce please you; we want subtilty to do
Held up at tennis, which men do the best,
With the best gamesters: what things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid; heard words that have been So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life: then when there had been thrown
Wit able enough to justify the town
For three days past; wit that might warrant be
For the whole city to talk foolishly
Till that were cancelled; and when that was gone,
We left an air behind us, which alone
Was able to make the two next companies
Right witty; though but downright fools were wise. When I remember this, *
I needs must cry;
I see my days of ballading grow nigh;
On the Tombs in Westminster.
Mortality, behold and fear,
Who now want strength to stir their hands;
With the richest, royal'st seed,
Since the first man died for sin :
Here the bones of birth have cried,
Unless for war, in charity
From lawless fire remain'd as free
As now from heat her ashes be:
Keep well this pawn, thou marble chest ;
THOMAS CAREW (1589-1639) was the precursor and representative of a numerous class of poetscourtiers of a gay and gallant school, who to personal accomplishments, rank, and education, united a taste and talent for the conventional poetry then most popular and cultivated. Their influence may be seen even in Cowley and Dryden: Carew and Waller were perhaps the best of the class: Rochester was undoubtedly the most debased. Their visions of fame were in general bounded by the circle of the court and the nobility. To live in future generations, or to sound the depths of the human heart, seems not to have entered into their contemplations. A loyal panegyric was the epic strain of their ambition; a rosy cheek or coral lip' formed their ordinary theme. The court applauded; the lady was flattered or appeased by the compliment; and the poet was praised for his wit and gallantry; while all the time the heart had as little to do with the poetical homage thus tendered and accepted, as with the cold abstractions and rare poesies' on wax or ivory. A foul taint of immorality and irreligion often lurked under the flowery surface, and insidiously made itself known and felt. Carew sometimes went beyond this strain of heartless frivolity, and is graceful in sentiment as well as style-piling up stones of lustre from the brook;' but he was capable of far higher things; and in him, as in Suckling and Sedley, we see only glimpses of a genius which might have been ripened into permanent and beneficial excellence. Carew was descended from an ancient Gloucestershire family. He was educated at Oxford, then travelled abroad, and on his return, obtained the notice and patronage of Charles I. He was appointed gentleman of the privy chamber, and sewer in ordinary to the king. His after life was that of a courtierwitty, affable, and accomplished-without reflection; and in a strain of loose revelry which, according to Clarendon, the poet deeply repented in his latter days. He died,' says the state historian, with the greatest remorse for that license, and with the greatest manifestation of Christianity, that his best friends could desire.'
The poems of Carew are short and occasional. His longest is a masque, written by command of the king, entitled Calum Britannicum. It is partly in prose; and the lyrical pieces were set to music by Dr Henry Lawes, the poetical musician of that age.* The short amatory pieces and songs of Carew were exceedingly popular, and are now the only productions of his which are read. They are often indelicate, but rich in expression. Thirty or forty years later, he would have fallen into the frigid style of the court poets after the Restoration; but at the time he wrote, the passionate and imaginative vein of the Elizabethan period was not wholly exhausted. The 'genial and warm tints' of the elder muse still coloured the landscape, and were reflected back in some measure by Carew. He abounded, however,
*Of the peculiar composition called the masque, an account is given in the sequel.
in tasteless conceits, even on grave elegiac subjects. In his epitaph on the daughter of Sir Thomas Wentworth, he says
And here the precious dust is laid,
Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
Ask me no more whither do stray
Ask me no more whither doth haste
I do not love thee for that fair
I do not love thee for those flowers
I do not love thee for those soft
I do not love thee, oh! my fairest,
Would you know what's soft? I dare
Nor, if you would music hear,
Or on food were your thoughts plac'd,
A Pastoral Dialogue. Shepherd, Nymph, Chorus.
Shep. This mossy bank they press'd. Nymph. That aged oak
Did canopy the happy pair
All night from the damp air.
Cho. Here let us sit and sing the words they spoke,
I' th' cowslip's bell, and rose's ear:
Nymph. Those streaks of doubtful light usher not day,
The yellow planets, and the gray
Shep. If thine eyes gild my paths, they may forbear
Shep. Those drops will make their beams more clear, Love's flames will shine in ev'ry tear.
Cho. They kiss'd and wept ; and from their lips and eyes, In a mix'd dew of briny sweet,
Their joys and sorrows meet;
But she cries out. Nymph. Shepherd, arise,
Cho. The winged hours fly fast, whilst we embrace;
Nymph. Then let us pinion time, and chase
Shep. Hark! Nymph. Ay, me, stay! Shep. For ever.
We must be gone. Shep. My nest of spice.
Cho. Neither could say farewell, but through their eyes
Mediocrity in Love Rejected.
Give me more love, or more disdain ;
The temperate affords me none;
Give me a storm; if it be love,
Like Danae in that golden shower, I swim in pleasure; if it prove
Disdain, that torrent will devour My vulture hopes; and he's possess'd Of heaven that's but from hell releas'd; Then crown my joys or cure my pain; Give me more love or more disdain.
Persuasions to Love.
Think not, 'cause men flatt'ring say,
Most fleeting when it is most dear;
And yellow spread where red once shin'd;
O love me then, and now begin it,
He that loves a rosy cheek,
But a smooth and steadfast mind,
No tears, Celia, now shall win
I have search'd thy soul within,
[Approach of Spring.]
Now that the winter's gone, the earth hath lost
But the warm sun thaws the benumb'd earth,
PHINEAS AND GILES FLETCHER.
These brother poets were sons of Dr Giles Fletcher, and cousins of Fletcher the dramatist; both were clergymen, whose lives afforded but little variety of incident. Phineas was born in 1584, educated at Eton and Cambridge, and became rector of Hilgay, in Norfolk, where he died in 1650. Giles was younger than his brother, but the date of his birth has not been ascertained. He was rector of Alderton, in Suffolk, where he died, it is supposed, some years before his brother.
deserving of much praise; they were endowed with minds eminently poetical, and not inferior in imagination to any of their contemporaries. But an injudicious taste, and an excessive fondness for a style which the public was rapidly abandoning, that of allegorical personification, prevented their powers from being effectively displayed.' Mr Campbell remarks, They were both the disciples of Spenser, and, with his diction gently modernised, retained much of his melody and luxuriant expression. Giles, inferior as he is to Spenser and Milton, might be figured, in his happiest moments, as a link of connexion in our poetry between these congenial spirits, for he reminds us of both, and evidently gave hints to the latter in a poem on the same subject with Paradise Regained." These hints are indeed very plain and obvious. The appearance of Satan as an aged sire slowly footing' in the silent wilderness, the temptation of our Saviour in the 'goodly garden,' and in the Bower of Vain Delight, are outlines which Milton adopted and filled up in his second epic, with a classic grace and force of style unknown to the Fletchers. To the latter, however, belong the merit of original invention, copiousness of fancy, melodious numbers, and language at times rich, ornate, and highly poetical. If Spenser had not previously written his Bower of Bliss, Giles Fletcher's Bower of Vain Delight would have been unequalled in the poetry of that day; but probably, like his master Spenser, he copied from Tasso.
Happiness of the Shepherd's Life.
[From the Purple Island.]
The works of PHINEAS FLETCHER consist of the Purple Island, or the Isle of Man, Piscatory Eclogues, and miscellaneous poems. The Purple Island was published in 1633, but written much earlier, as appears from some allusions in it to the Earl of Essex. The name of the poem conjures up images of poetical and romantic beauty, such as we may suppose a youthful admirer and follower of Spenser to have drawn. A perusal of the work, however, dispels this illusion. The Purple Island of Fletcher is no sunny spot amid the melancholy main,' but is an elaborate and anatomical description of the body and mind of man. He begins with the veins, arteries, bones, and muscles of the human frame, picturing them as hills, dales, streams, and rivers, and describing with great minuteness their different meanderings, elevations, and appearances. It is admitted that the poet was well skilled in anatomy, and the first part of his work is a sort of lecture fitted for the dissecting room. Having in five cantos exhausted his physical phenomena, Fletcher proceeds No Syrian worms he knows, that with their thread to describe the complex nature and operations of the Draw out their silken lives: nor silken pride: mind. Intellect is the prince of the Isle of Man, and His lambs' warm fleece well fits his little need, he is furnished with eight counsellors, Fancy, Me-Not in that proud Sidonian tincture dyed: mory, the Common Sense, and five external senses. The Human Fortress, thus garrisoned, is assailed by the Vices, and a fierce contest ensues for the possession of the human soul. At length an angel interposes, and insures victory to the Virtues, the angel being King James I., on whom the poet condescended to heap this fulsome adulation. From this sketch of Fletcher's poem, it will be apparent that its worth must rest, not upon plot, but upon isolated passages and particular descriptions. Some of his stanzas have all the easy flow and mellifluous sweetness of Spenser's Faery Queen; but others are marred by affectation and quaintness, and by the tediousness inseparable from long-protracted allegory. His fancy was luxuriant, and, if better disciplined by taste and judgment, might have rivalled the softer scenes of Spenser.
Thrice, oh thrice happy, shepherd's life and state!
GILES FLETCHER published only one poetical production of any length-a sacred poem, entitled Christ's Victory and Triumph. It appeared at Cambridge in 1610, and met with such indifferent success, that a second edition was not called for till twenty years afterwards. There is a massive grandeur and earnestness about 'Christ's Victory' which strikes the imagination. The materials of the poem are better fused together, and more harmoniously linked in connexion, than those of the Purple Island. Both of these brothers,' says Mr Hallam, are
No empty hopes, no courtly fears him fright;
Of troublous world, nor lost in slothful ease:
His bed of wool yields safe and quiet sleeps,