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Cowley or Sir Philip Sidney. Here is one that is worth a million of such quaint devices:

"To the Nightingale.

Dear chorister, who from these shadows sends*,
Ere that the blushing morn dare show her light,
Such sad lamenting strains, that night attends
(Become all eart) stars stay to hear thy plight.
If one whose grief even reach of thought transcends,
Who ne'er (not in a dream) did taste delight,
May thee importune who like case pretends,
And seem'st to joy in woe, in woe's despite:
Tell me (so may thou milder fortune try,

And long, long sing!) for what thou thus complains,*
Since winter's gone, and sun in dappled sky
Enamour'd smiles on woods and flow'ry plains?

The bird, as if my questions did her move,

With trembling wings sigh'd forth, ‘I love, I love.' ”

Or if a mixture of the Della Cruscan style be allowed to enshrine the true spirit of love and poetry, we have it in the following address to the river Forth, on which his mistress had embarked:

"Slide soft, fair Forth, and make a crystal plain,

Cut your white locks, and on your foamy face

Let not a wrinkle be, when you embrace

The boat that earth's perfection doth contain.

Winds wonder, and through wondering hold your peace,
Or if that you your hearts cannot restrain
From sending sighs, feeling a lover's case,
Sigh, and in her fair hair yourselves enchain.
Or take these sighs, which absence makes arise
From my oppressed breast, and fill the sails.
Or some sweet breath new brought from Paradise.
The floods do smile, love o'er the winds prevails,
And yet huge waves arise; the cause is this,

The ocean strives with Forth the boat to kiss."

This to the English reader will express the very soul of Petrarch, the molten breath of sentiment converted into the glassy essence of a set of glittering but still graceful conceits.

"The fly that sips treacle is lost in the sweets," and the critic

* Scotch for send'st; for complain'st, &c.
+ "I was all ear;" see Milton's 'Comus.'

that tastes poetry "ruin meets." His feet are clogged with its honey, and his eyes blinded with its beauties; and he forgets his proper vocation, which is to buzz and sting. I am afraid of losing my way in Drummond's "sugar'd sonnetting:" and have determined more than once to break off abruptly; but another and another tempts the rash hand and curious eye, which I am loth not to give, and I give it accordingly: for if I did not write these Lectures to please myself, I am at least sure I should please nobody else. In fact, I conceive that what I have undertaken to do in this and former cases, is merely to read over a set of authors with the audience, as I would do with a friend, to point out a favourite passage, to explain an objection; or if a remark or a theory occurs, to state it in illustration of the subject, but neither to tire him nor puzzle myself with pedantic rules and pragmatical formulas of criticism that can do no good to any body. I do not come to the task with a pair of compasses or a ruler in my pocket, to see whether a poem is round or square, or to measure its mechanical dimensions, like a metre and alnager of poetry it is not in my bond to look after exciseable articles or contraband wares, or to exact severe penalties and forfeitures for trifling oversights, or to give formal notice of violent breaches of the three unities, of geography and chronology; or to distribute printed stamps and poetical licences (with blanks to be filled up) on Mount Parnassus. I do not come armed from top to toe with colons and semi-colons, with glossaries and indexes, to adjust the spelling or reform the metre, or to prove by everlasting contradiction and querulous impatience, that former commentators did not know the meaning of their author, any more than I do, who am angry at them, only because I am out of humour with myself -as if the genius of poetry lay buried under the rubbish of the press; and the critic was the dwarf-enchanter who was to release its airy form from being stuck through with blundering points and misplaced commas; or to prevent its vital powers from being worm-eaten and consumed, letter by letter, in musty manuscripts and black-letter print. I do not think that is the way to learn "the gentle craft" of poesy, or to teach it to others :-to imbibe or to communicate its spirit; which, if it does not disentangle itself and soar above the obscure and trivial re

searches of antiquarianism, is no longer itself, "a phoenix gazed by all." At least, so it appeared to me; it is for others to judge whether I was right or wrong. In a word, I have endeavoured to feel what was good, and to "give a reason for the faith that was in me," when necessary, and when in my power. This is what I have done, and what I must continue to do.

To return to Drummond.—I cannot but think that his sonnets come as near as almost any others to the perfection of this kind of writing, which should embody a sentiment, and every shade of a sentiment, as it varies with time and place and humour, with the extravagance or lightness of a momentary impression, and should, when lengthened out into a series, form a history of the wayward moods of the poet's mind, the turns of his fate; and imprint the smile or frown of his mistress in indelible characters on the scat. tered leaves. I will give the two following, and have done with this author:

"In vain I haunt the cold and silver springs,

To quench the fever burning in my veins;

In vain (love's pilgrim) mountains, dales, and plains

I over-run; vain help long absence brings.

In vain, my friends, your counsel me constrains

To fly, and place my thoughts on other things.

Ah, like the bird that fired hath her wings,
The more I move the greater are my pains.
Desire, alas! desire a Zeuxis new,

From th' orient borrowing gold, from western skies
Heavenly cinnabar, sets before my eyes

In every place her hair, sweet look and hue;

That fly, run, rest I, all doth prove but vain ;

My life lies in those eyes which have me slain."

The other is a direct imitation of Petrarch's description of the bower where he first saw Laura:

"Alexis, here she stay'd among these pines,

Sweet hermitress, she did alone repair:

Here did she spread the treasure of her hair,

More rich than that brought from the Colchian mines;

Here sat she by these musked eglantines;

The happy flowers seem yet the print to bear:
Her voice did sweeten here thy sugar'd lines,

To which winds, trees, beasts, birds, did lend an ear.
She here me first perceiv'd, and here a morn

Of bright carnations did o'erspread her face:

Here did she sigh, here first my hopes were born,
Here first I got a pledge of promised grace;

But ah! what serves to have been made happy so,
Sith past pleasures double but new woe!"

I should, on the whole, prefer Drummond's sonnets to Spenser's; and they leave Sydney's, picking their way through verbal intricacies and "thorny queaches,"* at an immeasurable distance behind. Drummond's other poems have great though not equal merit; and he may be fairly set down as one of our old English classics.

Ben Jonson's detached poetry I like much, as indeed I do all about him, except when he degraded himself by "the laborious foolery" of some of his farcical characters, which he could not deal with sportively, and only made stupid and pedantic. I have been blamed for what I have said, more than once, in disparagement of Ben Jonson's comic humour; but I think he was himself aware of his infirmity, and has (not improbably) alluded to it in the following speech of Crites in Cynthia's Revels :'

"Oh, how despised and base a thing is man,
If he not strive to erect his groveling thoughts
Above the strain of flesh! But how more cheap,
When even his best and understanding part
(The crown and strength of all his faculties)
Floats like a dead-drown'd body, on the stream
Of vulgar humour, mix'd with common'st dregs:
I suffer for their guilt now; and my soul
(Like one that looks on ill-affected eyes)

Is hurt with mere intention on their follies.

Why will I view them then? my sense might ask me:

Or is't a rarity or some new object

That strains my strict observance to this point:

But such is the perverseness of our nature,

That if we once but fancy levity,

(How antic and ridiculous soever

It suit with us) yet will our muffled thought
Chuse rather not to see it than avoid it," &c.

Ben Jonson had self-knowledge and self-reflection enough to apply this to himself. His tenaciousness on the score of critical

* Chapman's Hymn to Pan.

objections does not prove that he was not conscious of them himself, but the contrary. The greatest egotists are those whom it is impossible to offend, because they are wholly and incurably blind to their own defects; or if they could be made to see them, would instantly convert them into so many beauty-spots and ornamental graces. Ben Jonson's fugitive and lighter pieces are not devoid of the characteristic merits of that class of composi tion; but still often in the happiest of them, there is a specific gravity in the author's pen, that sinks him to the bottom of his subject, though buoyed up for a time with art and painted plumes, and produces a strange mixture of the mechanical and fanciful, poetry and prose, in his songs and odes. For instance, one of his most airy effusions is the Triumph of his Mistress:' yet there are some lines in it that seem inserted almost by way of burlesque. It is, however, well worth repeating.


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"See the chariot at hand here of love

Wherin my lady rideth!

Each that draws it is a swan or a dove;

And well the car love guideth!

As she goes all hearts do duty
Unto her beauty:

And enamour'd, do wish so they might

But enjoy such a sight,

That they still were to run by her side,

Through swords, through seas, whither she would ride.

Do but look on her eyes, they do light

All that love's world compriseth!
Do but look on her hair, it is bright

As love's star when it riseth!

Do but mark, her forehead's smoother
Than words that soothe her:

And from her arch'd brows, such a grace
Sheds itself through the face,

As alone their triumphs to the life

All the gain, all the good of the elements' strife.

Have you seen but a bright lily glow,

Before rude hands have touch'd it?

Ha' you mark'd but the fall of the snow

Before the soil hath smutch'd it?

Ha' you felt the wool of beaver?
Or swan's down ever?

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