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That hath no eyes to see, nor ears to hear,
Yet sees and hears, and is all eye, all ear,
Swift without motion, to whose open eye
The hearts of wicked men unbreasted lie,
And yet it is a kind of inward feast,
A harmony that sounds within the breast, An odour, light, embrace, in which the soul doth rest. Although several poems had appeared in Italy, founded upon the life and temptation of our Saviour, Fletcher claims the merit of having been the first in our own country who strung his 'lyre to so noble a theme. In the management of the subject he was naturally influenced by the genius of the Faerie Queen, a new edition of which had been published in 1596. Spenser died in 1598-9. At this time Fletcher could scarcely have been more than eleven or twelve years old; but it is evident that his study of Spenser's poem commenced at a very early period. In the foregoing remarks it has been sometimes necessary to bring Fletcher into direct comparison with Milton. The Paradise Regained terminates with the temptation of our Lord, and cannot, therefore, be said to possess that completeness expressed in the title, and demanded by the nature of the subject. I am aware that
this opinion is at variance with that of far better and abler judges, but I shall endeavour to support it at a more convenient season in the life of Milton.
The peculiar excellencies of the Paradise Regained and Christ's Victorie, are not difficult to define.
In Scriptural simplicity of conception, and in calm and sustained dignity of tone, the palm of superiority must be awarded to Milton; while in fertility of fancy, earnestness of devotion, and melody of expression, Fletcher may be said to stand, at least, upon an equality with him. Christ's Victorie is rather a series of pictures than a poem; it is deficient in unity, and that concentration of interest essential to the success of such a composition.
The power of the writer comes out in occasional touches of great vigour and beauty, indeed, but rendered comparatively ineffective by their uncertainty. His poem, to employ his own magnificent image, does not fling out
Such light as from main rocks of diamond,
Shooting their sparks at l'hebus, would rebound. It has not the lustre of one great luminous whole, unbroken in the purity of its splendour; its brilliancy is dazzling, but fragmentary,
Mr. Headley calls Christ's Victorie a rich and pic. turesque poem, though unenlivened by impersonation. The author of Select Specimens bas received the full meed of praise for talent and ingenuity; his accuracy is not always unimpeachable. If Presumption, Vain Glory, The Sorceress, The Spirit of Evil, &c., are not impersonations, then there are no impersonations in the Faerie Queen.
I will not protract these remarks any longer; enough has been said, I hope, to induce the reader to examine the poem for himself, and Christ's Victorie only requires to be known, that it may be appreciated.
One of the most popular works of the reign of James, was SYLVESTER's translation of The Divine Weeks of Du Bartas, The first part was published in 1598, but the folio edition appeared in 1621, recommended by eulogistic verses, by Daniel, Ben Jonson, Hall, and others. Jonson afterwards told Drummond, “that he wrote his verses before it, ere he understood to confer." But he need not have retracted his praise on the score of Sylvester's unfaithful translation; for the principal merit of the work consists in the occasional beauty and originality of some of the epithets and images.
Du Bartas was highly esteemed in England. Sir John Melvil mentions him in his memoirs :~"The Ambassadours were not well embarked when M. Du Bartas arrived here to visit the King's majesty, who, he heard, had him in great esteem for his rare poesy, set forth in the French tongue." In five or six years the editions of Du Bartas' poems exceeded thirty, and yet his name has now passed into a proverb in France to express la barbarie et le mauvais gout de style. Goëthe has truly observed that the just appreciation of what is pleasing with reference to the country, to the period, and the moral state of a people, constitutes taste properly so called, and instances Du Bartas, who has received in Germany the appellation of King of the French poets.
Wood says that Sylvester was an accomplished scholar. In addition to his versions from Du Bartas and Pibrac, whom Montaigne called bon M. de Pibrac, and whose Quatrains have been rendered into all languages, he made some translations from the Latin of Fracastorius, the learned friend of Cardinal Bembo*.
Bishop Hall seems to have entertained a very favourable opinion of Sylvester's religious poetry. In alluding in his Epistles to his own
He died at Middleburgh, in Holland, after a life of adversity, on the 28th of September, 1618, in the 55th year of his age. 'By what circumstances he was induced to quit his native country," says Mr. Chalmers, "we have not discovered." From Coie's MS. collections we learn that he was Secretary to the Company of Merchants in Middleburgh, in 1617, and it was probably with a view of obtaining this situation that he left England*. Poor Sylvester had few inducements to remain in his own country; his poetical talents only procured him fame and Aattery, and on this dict, like many of his brethren, he found it very difficult to subsist.
Mr. Dunster, in his considerations on Milton's early reading, has very ingeniously, and in many instances successfully, endeavoured to prove the obligations of the writer of Paradise Lost to the poems of Sylvester. Syl. vester undoubtedly enriched our language with some picturesque epithets. His characteristics of the sweetnumbered Homer, the clear styled Herodotus, and the choicetermed Petrarch, are not more gracefully poetic than critically correct. The melody and richness of some of his pictures of nature entitled him to the appellation bestowed by his contemporarics, of the "silver-tongued." The rose-crowned Zephyrus, and the saffron-coloured bed of Aurora, are worthy of Theocritus or Anacreon. Perhaps the whole range of our poetry does not present a more exquisite descriptive couplet than the following:
Arise betimes, while th' opal-coloured morn
In golden pomp doth May-day's door adorn. metrical versions from the Psalms, after praising the "two rare spirits of the Sidneys," he observes, " our worthy friend, Mr. J. Sylvester, hath showed me how happily he hath sometimes turned from his Bartas to the sweet singer of Israel."
la Brit. Mus., No. 5880, p. 89. Cole ascertained this circumstance from the list of subscribers to Minshicus' Dictionary, in 1617.
DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN.
IN 1623 appeared the perfect edition of DRUMMOND'S Flowers of Sion, or Spiritual Poems. Drummond, of Hawthornden, is endeared to our remembrance by his loyalty, his learning, and his poetry. The unhappy termination of the life of King Charles, to whom he was devotedly attached, is thought to have hastened his own dissolution. Mr. Gifford has very severely commented upon what he calls Drummond's hypocrisy towards his friend, Ben Jonson; but it should be recollected, that the journal in which the objectionable remarks were entered, was strictly private, and never intended by the author to have seen the light. But if Drummond's opinion of Jonson's character was incorrect, Jonson's estimation of his friend's poetical talents was equally illfounded. If Drummond's verses
“ smelled” of the "schooles,” they were generally the schools of nature *. Not onc of his contemporaries had a heart more susceptible of her music, or looked out upon her beauty less frequently through the "spectacles of books." His pe. tition to his Lute appears to have been answered, and she often discoursed to him with the sweetness of that pastoral tone when she dwelt with her "green mother, in some shady grovet."
The following specimen is not selected for its superior excellence, but on account of its being less 'frequently quoted than others. It breathes a high and moral dignity, and is remarkable for the ingenuity with which the original metaphor is preserved :
Of this fair volume which we World do call,
Jonson said, that Drummond's verses "smelled too much of the schooles."
See the sonbet to his Lute.