Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

197

FRANCIS QUARLES.

It has been the misfortune of this poet to realize his
own aphorism, that Shame is the chronical disease of
popularity, and that from fame to infamy is a beaten
road." The favourite of Lord Essex, and the "some.
times darling," of the plebeian judgments *, " is now
known to many only in the ridicule of Pope. But
Quarles will live in spite of the Dunciad. His manly
vigour, his uncompromising independence, his dis
interested patriotism, and his exalted piety, cannot
be entirely forgotten. These are flowers whose blos-
soms no neglect can wither,

Francis Quarles was born in the spring of 1592, at
Stewards t, in Romford Town Ward, in the county of
Esser. He was descended from a family of great re-
spectability, and possessing estates in the adjoining
parishes of Hornchurch, Dagenham, &c. His father,
James Quarles, was Clerk of the Green Cloth and
Purveyor of the Navy to Queen Elizabeth. He died,
November the 16th, 1642, and bis death is registered
in the church of Romford. Our poet received his
early education at a school in the country, probably in
the neighbourhood, and is said to have "surpassed all
his equals." He was subsequently entered of Christ's
College, Cambridge, but whether he took any degree,
I have not been able to discover with certainty. He
ras a resident member of the University in 1608.
From Cambridge he went to Lincoln's Inn, where for

Anthony Wood.
A manor purchased by his father in 1588.

some years, as we are informed by his widow," he studied the laws of England, not so much out of desire to benefit himself thereby, as his friends and neighbours, but to compose suits and differences between them ;" so early did the love of peace and virtue awake in his bosom. As he grew older, his attachment to the serene pleasures of a quiet life increased. “He was neither so unfit for Court preferment, nor so ill-beloved there," says his widow, “but that he might have raised his fortunes thereby, if he had had any inclination that way: but his mind was chiefly set upon devotion and study, yet not altogether so much but that he faithfully discharged the place of Cup-bearer to the Queen of Bohemia." appointment to this office, I have not met with any contemporary account, Miss Benger, in her amusing Memoirs of Elizabeth, does not even mention his name. Quarles may have been an actor in the splendid pageant prepared by the members of Lincoln's Inn, in honour of the nuptials of the Princess, and which is said by Win. wood to have “ given great content." The fancy of the youthful poet could hardly fail of teing fascinated by one who was beautiful enough to win the heart, and accomplished and amiable enough to retain it. Her name was dear to all the poets of the age. That lovely Carzo of Sir Henry Wotton, beginning, “You meaner beauties of the night," was composed to grace" this most illustrious Princess ;" and Donne, when he visited her in Holland, derived "new life” from the contemplation of the happiness of "his most dear Mistress." How long Quarles continued with the Queen is uncertain, Mr. Chalmers conjectures that he left her service on the ruin of the Elector's affairs, and went over to Ireland. This seems probable, for we find him in Dublin in the

[ocr errors]

spring of 1621, from which place he dates his Argalus and Parthenia, on the 4th of March in that year.

His connexion with the learned Usher may have commenced at this period, although we possess no information on the subject.

In his youth, Usher had cultivated the Muse, and we may conclude, from the interesting anecdote communicated to Aubrey by Sir John Denham, that he had been acquainted with the author of the Faerie Queen. When Sir William Davenant's Gondibert appeared, Denham asked the Bishop if he had seen it. Out upon him with his vaunting preface," he replied; "he speaks against my old friend, Edmund Spenser." But Quarles had qualities more calculated than a poetical fancy to attract the great Prelate's regard; unaffected piety, unwearied industry, and much rapidity and excellence in prose composition. When he published the History of Argalus and Parthenia, Usher was only recently returned to Ireland, on his elevation to the see of Meath; and in the preface, the poet speaks of the work as the "fruit of a few broken hours." It is clear, therefore, that he was employed in severer studies. The poem, he tells us, was “a scion " lately taken out of Sir Philip Sidney's orchard, and " grafted on a crab-stick of his own." The fruit in Sidney's Arcadia has been oftener praised than tasted, and Quarles's "scion" has shared a similar fate. Yet the Fair Parthenia must have been favourably received, for the poet's son, John, published a continua. tion of it in 1659*.

But this was not his first production : he had before • There was also a play of the same name. Pepys says in his Diary, January 31, 1660, To the theatre, and there sat in the pit among the company of fine ladies, and the house was exceeding full to see Argalus and Parthenia, the first time that it bath

been acted."

[graphic]

199

spring of 1621, from which place he dates his Argalu
and Parthenia, on the 4th of March in that year. His
connexion with the learned Usher may have com-
menced at this period, although we possess no informa.
tion on the subject

.
In his youth, Usher had cultivated the Muse, and we
may conclude, from the interesting anecdote commu.
nicated to Aubrey by Sir John Denham, that he had
been acquainted with the author of the Faerie Queen.
When Sir William Davenant's Gondibert appeared

, Den-
ham asked the Bishop if he had seen it "Out upon
him with his haunting preface," he replied;" he speaks
against my old friend, Edmund Spenser." But Quarles
had qualities more calculated than a poetical fancy to
attract the great Prelate's regard; unaffected piety, un.
wearied industry, and much rapidity and excellence in
prose composition. When he published the History of

Argalus and Parthenia, Usher was only recently returned
to Ireland, on his elevation to the see of Meath; and
in the preface, the poet speaks of the work as the "fruit
of a few broken hours." It is clear, therefore, that he
was employed in severer studies. The poem, be tells
us, was “a scion " lately taken out of Sir Philip Sidney's
orchard, and grafted on a crab-stick of his own." The
fruit in Sidney's Arcadia has been oftener praised than
tasted, and Quarles's "scion " has shared a similar fate.
Yet the Fair Parthenia must have been favourably re-
ceived, for the poet's son, John, published a continua.
tion of it in 1659 *.

But this was not his first production : he had before
• There was also a play of the same name. Pepys say in his Diery,
January 31, 1660,-"To the theatre, and there sat in the pit among the
company of fine ladies, and the house was exceeding full to see Argalus
and Parihenia, the one time that it hath been acted.

written the Feast of Worms, or the History of Jorah, which must have been the earliest effort of his pen, for he calls it his “Morning Muse." In this singular poem, his merits and defects are curiously mingled; there is the same strength, frequently degenerating into coarseness, and the same freedom of touch, and breadth of colouring. The sleepy man whose arms

Enfolded knit A drowsy knot upon his careless breast ; and the herd of deer, which startled

at the fowler's piece, or yelp of hound, Stand fearfully at gazeare natural and pleasing images.

About the same time he wrote the Quintessence of Meditation, and the History of Queen Esther.

His next work was a paraphrase upon Job, interspersed with original meditations. Of this composition, Fuller, the church-historian, thought very highly. The author ir. his preface calls it a "work difficult and intricate;" and in the imitative parts he was less successful than in those more strictly original. Passages in the Meditations read like fragments from an uncorrected copy of Pope's Essay on Man; they have the strength and roughness which we may suppose to have existed in the draught of that poem, before it grew into perfect harmony beneath the lingering hand of the writer. In the midst of much that is valueless, the mind of the reader is continually startled by pictures of fearful magnificence, or refreshed by touches of pure and gentle description. The fine fable of the Gorgon's head has never been more grandiy applied than in these verses, addressed to one deprived of a dear friend.

Advance the shield of Patience to thy head,

And when Grief strikes, 'twill strike the strikor dead. And the comparison, in the third Meditation, of the long-suffering of God to the affectionate care of a nurse is tenderly worked out:

Even as a nurse whose child's imperfect pace
Can hardly lead his foot from place to place,
Leaves her fond kissing, sets him down to go,
Nor does uphold him for a step or two:
But when she finds that he begins to fall,
She holds him up, and kisses him withal ;-
So God from man sometinies withdraws his hand
Awhile, to teach his infant faith to stand,
But when he sees his feeble strength begin

To fail, he gently takes him up again. The plague in 1625, bereaved our poet of one of his best and most esteemed friends, the son of Bishop Aylmer, and he honoured his memory with a collection of Elegies, which must ever be numbered among the most precious tributes of sincere affection, to be found in our language. He gave them the quaint title of "An Alphabet of Elegies upon the much and truly lamented death of that famous for learning, piety, and true friendship, Doctor Ailmer, a great favourer and fast friend to the Muses, and late Archdeacon of London."

Imprinted in his heart, that ever loves his memory. They are introduced with this short and affecting address :

'Readers -Give me leave to perform a necessary duty, which my affection owes to the blessed memory of that reverend Prelate, my much honoured friend, Doctor Ailmer. He was one whose life and death made as full and perfect a story of worth and goodness, as

« FöregåendeFortsätt »