Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

the equally beautiful and fantastic visions of Miltu and Cowley. Structures like these, raised in the tra quillity of an enthusiastic mind, can only retain the purity and lustre in the serene and unclouded atm sphere of truth and virtue.

With the Perpetual Parliament was printed the Da Lantern. Finding the season to be one of considerab danger, he availed himself of his Lantern, which enable him to walk out without being seen, and to afford lig wherever he found it desired. About the same time put into the hands of Cromwell a Declaration tending the settlement of the Government. Of our poet's pol tical intimacy with the Protector, a curious and interes ing account is contained in the Cordial Confection. Afte alluding to the Declaration, he thus goes on with th narrative :

"This overture being made at a time when his fear and hazards were very great, though that Discourse wa very large, he, with much seeming contentment, heard m read it over to the last word; and then protested, accord ing to his usual manner, that it answered to his hear as the shadow of his face in the glass (then hanging befor him in the room) answered to his face; and pretende that he would publish that Declaration, and act accord ingly, as soon as he, with one in whosc discretion b much confided, had considered what alteration it migh need (or words to that effect), and then received it o me, promising to return it, with his final resolution within a week.

“At the week's end, or thereabout, he or Mr. Thurloe then Secretary (who seemed also to approve thereof) delivered back unto me my papers, and the Protector? answer, which then was, That he himself, together

GEORGE WITHER.

the equally beautiful and fantastic visions of Milton
and Cowley. Structures like these, raised in the tran-
quillity of an enthusiastic mind, can only retain their
purity and lustre in the serene and unclouded atmo-
sphere of truth and virtue.

With the Perpetual Parliament was printed the Dark
Lantern. Finding the season to be one of considerable
danger, he availed himself of his Lantern, which enabled
him to walk out without being seen, and to aford light
wherever he found it desired. About the same time be
put into the hands of Cromwell a Declaration tending to
the settlement of the Government. Of our poet's poli-
tical intimacy with the Protector, a curious and interest-
ing account is contained in the Cordial Confection. After
alluding to the Declaration, he thus goes on with the
narrative :-

"This overture being made at a time when his fears
and hazards were very great, though that Discourse was
very large, be, with much seeming contentment, beard me
read it over to the last word; and then protested, accord.
ing to his usual manner, that it answered to his heart
as the shadow of his face in the glass (then hanging before
him in the room) answered to his face; and pretended
that he would publish that Declaration, and act accordo
ingly, as soon as he, with one in whose discretion be
much confided, had considered what alteration it might
need (or words to that effect), and then received it of
me, promising to return it, with his final resolution,
within a week,

"At the week's end, or thereabout, he or Mr. Thurloe,
then Secretary (who seemed also to approve thereof),
delivered back unto me my papers, and the Protector's
answer, which then was,-'That be himself, together

with the said Secretary and myself, would within a few days examine it over to see what verbally might require alteration, or what addition would be necessary; and that being done, he would then, without fail, make order for the publication thereof.' But afterwards he aposta. tized from that resolution, to his own disadvantage, and the occasion of what hath since befallen to the public detriment; yet pretended many months together a firm adherence to what he had scemingly resolved on, keeping me all that time in attendance; gave me the key of his closet at the end of the Shield Gallery in Whitehall (wherein his books and his papers lay) to retire unto when I came thither; carried me often to his own table; frequently discoursed with me concerning my proposal, and appointed many set days wherein to review the said papers, but failed always in performance; wherewith I, being a little discontented, told him I thought his mind was changed, and giving him back the key of bis closet, purposed never to wait again upon him, in relation to that business. He then, with very respective words to me, excusing his delays, assured me that at six of the clock next morning, he would send for his Secretary and despatch that which he intended, before he would admit any other person into his presence. I came before the appointed hour, but was then also put off until a little past three in the afternoon; at which time I attended till past four, and then hearing that be and his Secretary were gone forth in a coach to take the air, I purposed to depart and lose no more time on that occasion; and as I was leaving the room, one informed me that about the same hour in which I was appointed to attend him and his Secretary, their necks were both in hazard to be broken by the Protector's usurping the office of his

x 2

[ocr errors]

coachman, and that they were both brought in so hu that their lives were in danger. Of that imprudent, not disgraceful, attempt, misbeseeming his person, endeavoured to prevent as much dishonour as I mig by a little poem, as I thought it my duty, in regard ! executed the supreme office at that time."

This little poem was the Vaticinium Casuale, or a Raj ture for the late Miraculous Deliverance of his Highnes the Lord Protector from a desperate danger.' The poe who felt the ludicrous situation of his hero, attempte to elevate the dignity of the modern coachman by comparison with the charioteer of the Olympic game But his Rapture contained something more valuabl than flattery. He did not hesitate to remind Cromwe of the nature of his office, and of the penalty which woul hereafter be exacted for every act of injustice.

“After this," continues Wither, "he (Cromwell) calle on me again, as if his mind had not been wholly change and referred the said Papers to his Privy Council, wl referred them to a Sub-Committee, of which Sir Gilbe Pickering being one, gave it a high approbation, and wi pleased to say he did not flatter me; but from that tin forward I heard no more of it. Another service I di which much tended to his and the public safety, wheret Sir Gilbert Pickering is privy likewise; and in con sideration of the fore-mentioned services, the said Pre tector, having without my asking that, or any thing els (but to be relieved according to justice from my oppre: sions which I could not obtain) gave me the Statute Offic and afterwards made it of little worth unto me, because as I conceive, I exprest my thankfulness for it by de claring unto him those truths which he was not willin to hear of."

GEORGE WITHER.

coachman, and that they were both brought in so burt that their lives were in danger. Of that imprudent

, if not disgraceful

, attempt, misbeseeming his person, I
endeavoured to prevent as much dishonour as I might
by a little poem, as I thought it my duty, in regard be
executed the supreme office at that time."

This little poem was the 'Vaticinium Casuale, or a Rap.
ture for the late Miraculous Deliverance of his Highness
the Lord Protector from a desperate danger.' The poet,
who felt the ludicrous situation of his hero, attempted
to elevate the dignity of the modern coachman by a
comparison with the charioteer of the Olympic games.
But his Rapture contained something more valuable
than flattery. He did not hesitate to remind Cromwell
of the nature of his office, and of the penalty which would
hereafter be exacted for every act of injustice.

After this, "continues Wither," he (Cromwell) called
on me again, as if his mind had not been wholly changed,
and referred the said Papers to his Privy Council, who
referred them to a Sub-Committee, of which Sir Gilbert
Pickering being one, gave it a high approbation, and was
pleased to say he did not flatter me; but from that time
forward I heard no more of it. Another service I did,
which much tended to his and the public safety, whereto
Sir Gilbert Pickering is privy likewise; and in con-
sideration of the fore-mentioned services, the said Pro.
tector, having without my asking that, or any thing else.
(but to be relieved according to justice from my oppres-
sions which I could not obtain) gave me the Statute Ofice,
and afterwards made it of little worth unto me, because,

Sir Gilbert Pickering was one of the Protector's council, but he is remembered with more interest as the kinsroan and early patron of Dryden. During Wither's frequent visits to the closet at Whitehall, and the table of Cromwell, it is not improbable that he may have met the illustrious Milton, who had been made Latin Secretary in the spring of 1649, and his connexion with Sir Gilbert Pickering was likely to introduce him into the society of Dryden. No mention of either, however, occurs in any of his works.

The poem called the Protector, published in 1655, in which Wither illustrated the dignity of the office, and, as he thought, “rationally" proved it the most honour. able of all titles, contributed to awaken the gratitude of Cromwell. Of this poem, we discover from a MS. note, a second impression enlarged appeared in 1656, probably containing a tribute of thanks to Oliver for the appointment to the Statute Office. Of the nature of this situation I am not able to give any account; it was, I conclude, synonymous with the Record Office bestowed upon Prynne after the Restoration.

The titular distinction of the New Governor is known to have been the subject of frequent discussion; and Wither, on the 7th of October, 1657, attempted to clear up the difficulty by a Suddain Flash, showing why the style of Protector should be continued. Our poet was not the only offerer of this grateful incense. Waller had already hailed the elevation of the “ Lord Protector" with what has been pronounced by Johnson, with little justice, his famous panegyric. Of the author of the Ram''er, it is the writer's wish to speak with the respect due to his lofty intellect, his Christian philosophy, and his dignified morality; but from some of his poetical

as I conceire, I esprest my thankfulness for it by declaring upto him those truths which he was not willing

[ocr errors]

decisions he may be pardoned for appealing. Wal has long enjoyed a prominent place among the Briti poets, to the exclusion of more deserving candidatPrior had said, that Denham and Waller improved o versification, and Dryden perfected it; and subseque critics have admitted the assertion without hesitatio Yet Wither showed a mastery over the language lou before Denham or Waller had printed a line; and eve from his most negligent works might be extracted lin equal, if not superior, to any thing in Waller's panegyr

If we may credit Wood, the favour of Cromwell w not limited to the gift of the Statute Office. The il natured antiquary says, that he made the poet Majo General of all the horse and foot in the county of Surre in which employment "he licked his fingers suf ciently, gaining thereby a great odium from the generou loyalists." The institution of Major-Generals, and th division of England and Wales into districts immediatel under their military jurisdiction, was a scheme worth

From the decrees of these martia judges there was no appeal. They sent whom the pleased to prison, says one of their founder's warmer admirers, and confined them where they pleased Among the victims of this oppressive regulation, wa the celebrated Jeremy Taylor, who suffered a confine ment of some months in Chepstow Castle. But Wood' statement respecting Wither is unfounded. If thc poe “ licked his fingers," it was not in the capacity of : Major-General. Colonel Kelsey was appointed Major General of Kent and Surrey, and Colonel Goffe filled the same situation in Hampshire. On the 3rd of September, 1658, Cromwell died, and

• Godwin's History of the Commonwealth, vol. iv., p. 242.

of the usurper.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »