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Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Now every lad is wondrous trim,
Young men and maids and girls and boys
And you anon shall by their noise
Rank misers now do sparing shun,
And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
The country folk themselves advance,
Ned Swash hath fetched his bands from pawn, And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
With droppings of the barrel.
And those that hardly all the year
The wenches with their wassail-bowls
Our kitchen-boy hath broke his box,
Then wherefore in these merry days
To make our mirth the fuller;
WHEN WE ARE UPON THE SEAS.
I On those great waters now I am,
Should wonders there behold.
Be present, Lord, with me;
2 A stirring courser now I sit,
The softest whistling of the winds
Doth make him gallop fast;
And as their breath increased he finds
3 Take Thou, oh Lord! the reins in hand, Assume our Master's room;
Vouchsafe Thou at our helm to stand,
Trim Thou the sails, and let good speed
Sound Thou the channels at our need,
4 A fit and favourable wind
And let it wait on us behind,
From sudden gusts, from storms, from sands,
From shallows, rocks, and pirates' hands,
5 Preserve us from the wants, the fear, And sickness of the seas;
But chiefly from our sins, which are
FOR SUMMER TIME.
I Now the glories of the year
Sweetly smelling plants and flowers
3 Walks and ways which winter marr'd
4 Other blessings, many more,
Grant that this my free oblation
THE PRAYER OF OLD AGE.
[Third part of Hallelujah.]
As this my carnal robe grows old,
Soil'd, rent, and worn by length of years, Let me on that by faith lay hold
Which man in life immortal wears :
So sanctify my days behind, So let my manners be refined, That when my soul and flesh must part, There lurk no terrors in my heart.
So shall my rest be safe and sweet
Their essence then shall be divine, This muddy flesh shall starlike shine, And God shall that fresh youth restore Which will abide for evermore.
[BORN about 1588, died 1623. Christ's Victory and Triumph in Heaven and Earth over and after Death was published in 1640.]
Giles, the brother of Phineas, and cousin of John Fletcher, is one of the chief poets of what may be called the Spenserian School, which 'flourished' in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Spenser and Chaucer were the supreme names in nondramatic poetry till Milton arose; and in the Jacobean period the Plantagenet poet was eclipsed by the Elizabethan; and thus it was Spenser that the lesser poetic spirits of the age looked up to as their master, and upon their writings his influence is deeply impressed. Amongst these retainers of 'Colin' must be counted Milton when young, before he had developed his own style and become himself an original power, himself a master ; and not the least of the interests that distinguish Giles Fletcher and his fellow Spenserians is that Milton extended to them the study and attention which he gave with no ordinary sympathy to 'our sage and serious Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus and Aquinas.'
These words of Milton's suggest some leading characteristics of the Spenserian school. It too proposed to be 'sage and serious.' It inclined indeed to be didactic. In that notorious production, 'The Purple Island,' we have in fact a lecture on Anatomy. More commonly its purpose was directly ethical; and it must be allowed that the artist is at times lost in the moralist.
Giles Fletcher is eminently a religious poet—in the technical sense of the word, as happily also in the more general sense. He deals with Christian themes: 1' Christ's Victory in Heaven,' I 'Christ's Victory on Earth," Christ's Triumph over Death, Christ's Triumph after Death'; and it is his special distinction, that in handling such themes he does not sink into a mere rhyming dogmatist, but writes with a genuine enthusiasm and joy. For certainly what has commonly been written for 'religious' poetry has been 'religious' rather than poetical. Its orthodoxy may have