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instance of piagiarism, and serves to show us how little
Ere lotig they came where that same wicked wight,
Dark, doleful, dreary, like a greedy grave,
That still for carrion carcascs doth crave. The other plagiarism is found in the dress of despair ; but the value of the “ragged clouts," and the thorns that fastened them, is very small, and forms no material feature of the picture. Spenser partly borrowed his own description from Sackville. Fletcher, who was a most diligent student of the works of Spenser, had his great prototype continually before his eyes, and his sweet words floating in his ears. In reading the description of the Cave of Dispair, I have been reminded of one or two passages in the Faerie Queen ; in the second book, where Mammon conducts Guyon to see his treasure, we find "sad Celeno sitting on a clifte."
Into this cave " the serpent woo'd him with his charms" to enter, but without success. Our Lord is next transported to
The sacred pinnacles that threat
ing closer to the scriptural account, has produced a sublimer effect. The “specular mount," from whence are beheld all the cities and empires of the East, Niniveh and Babylon, and Ecbatana, and the city of the Hundred Gates, is a magnificent picture.
When Presumption has in vain endeavoured to tempt the Saviour to throw himself from the mountain, in rage and despair," herself she tumbled head-long to the floor," while a choir of angels receives our Lord, and bears him to an "airy mountain." Suddenly an enchanted garden springs up in that cold solitude,
As if the snow had melted into flowers. The following stanza might have flowed from the "golden mouth" of Milton.
Not lovely Ida might with this compare,
Nor Rhodope's nor Tempe's flowery plain,
Adonis' garden was to this but vain, Though Plato on his beds a flood of praise doth rain. The aspect of the garden is described in a line breathing the glowing beauty of oriental pretry ;
The garden like a ladie fair was cut,
That lay as if she slumbered in delight. Upon a “hilly bank" was built “ the bower of VainDelight," and through this false Eden, the “first destroyer," led our Saviour. Throughout this canto, Fletcher evidently had the pictures of Spenser before his eyes; the fount of silver, the "plump Lyæus," and the shadows of the “ drunken elms," all whisper of the
great author of the Faerie Queen. But if Fletcher borrowed from Spenser, he in turn has been imitated by Milton. We are reminded of the
Table richly spread, in regal mode,-(Par. Reg. b. 2.) which Satan caused to rise up in the desert before Jesus, with the attending Naiades bearing “fruits and Aowers from Amalthea's horn," and the fair “ladies of the Hesperides." Milton does not, indeed, like Fletcher, employ them as objects of temptation, an assumption not sanctioned by the Evangelists; but (as Bishop Newton has remarked) with greater propriety makes them the subject of debate among the wicked spirits themselves. The hand of Milton, at least in a sacred theme, was always guided by a religious fear and awe.
The song put into the mouth of the Sorceress by Fletcher, is an excellent specimen, the only one extant, of his lyrical talents; and probably furnished Herrick with a hint for his beautiful little poem-Gather ye Rosebuds.
The third book is entitled Christ's Triumph over Death, and commemorates the crucifixion of our Lord.. I have already alluded to Fletcher's want of art in the composition of his poern, and of order in the narrative. The third book is particularly open to this objection : some parts are, however, very sublime. The traitor Judas, suffering under the horrors of an accusing conscience, is worthy the pencil of Michael Angelo.
When wild Pentheus, grown mad with fear,
With eyes flung back upon his mother's ghost,
That with infernal serpents all imbost,
And clasps the yielding pillow half asleep,
And as from heaven it tumbled to the deep, Feels a cold sweat through every member creep. Euripides might have written these stanzas in the season of his solemn inspiration. In the " staring Orestes," we seem to behold the wretched mourner burst from the enfolding arms of the weeping Electra, and fleeing in horror from the furies surrounding his couch*.
The poet describes Joseph of Arimathea at the cross. The still grief of the humble and affectionate mourner is very affecting
But long he stood in his faint arms upholding
Thus spend we tears, that never can be spent
Here bury we
The fairest Shepherd of the fairest sheep.
• Tus aipatu Tous Spaxortuduos sepas.-Euripid. Orest. I. 250.
Fletcher dwells upon the resurrection of our Saviour,
No sorrow now hangs clouding on their brow,
No fear of death the joy of life devours,
No unchaste sleep their precious time deflow'rs, No loss, no grief, no change, wait on their winged hours. And the next is little inferior : the picture of the cloud has exceeding delicacy of fancy; it is like a sketch from the pencil of Claude.
And if a sullen cloud, as sad as night,
What lustre superexcellent will He
Lighten on those that shall his sunshine see, In that all glorious court, in which all glories be? The impersonation of the Deity is in the true spirit of Hebrew poetry, or rather, perhaps, in the conclusion at least, of that beautiful mysticism of which Taylor, in his majestic prose, has furnished such splendid examples :
In midst of this city celestial,