« FöregåendeFortsätt »
sacrifice, and to ascend out of this desert like a stem (steam?) of perfume out of burned spices."
The poems of Southwell, like the Canticles of Racine, have few adornments of fancy. They possess all the simplicity of truth. In the dedication to his “Loving Cousin," prefixed to St. Peter's Complaint, he objects to the “idle fancies" with which the “devil possesses most poets,” and limits his ambition to the weaving a “new web in his own loom,” for which purpose he laid “a few coarse threads together:" Many of these threads have wound themselves round the heart. I ought not to forget the affectionate memorial of Southwell by Ben Jonson, who told Druminond of Haw. thornden, " that so he had written that piece of his, the Burning Babe, he would have been contented to have destroyed many of his." Jonson, who had himself become a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, may be supposed to have felt acutely the unhappy termination of Southwell's existence; but I think his admiration of the Burning Babe scarcely supported by the merit of the composition, many other poems more deserved the eulogy; to employ Southwell's own affected, but expressive phrase, some of his "tunes are tears."
The lines Upon the Picture of Death, are very simple and touching:
Before my face the picture hangs,
That daily should put me in mind
That shortly I am like to find :
Do think thereon, that I must die.
I often look upon a face,
Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin;
Where eyes and nose have sometimes been.
The gown which I do use to wear,
The knife wherewith I cut my meat,
Which is my only usual seat:
And many of my mates are gone ;
And can I think to 'scape alone?
If rich and poor his beck obey,
Then I to 'scape shall have no way.--
My life may mend sith* I must die. The allusions in the third stanza may, to some readers, appear even too natural, but the student, who has been accustomed to regard the old table upon which he writes with an affectionate interest, and to associate its "familiar face" with some long-cherished task, will appreciate the domestic pathos of the imagery. Mr. Ellis, upon the authority of Anthony Wood, assigns this poem to Simon Wastell, a native of Westmoreland, and a member of Queen's College, Oxford, in 1580. Wood
• Since. A word ia general acceptation among all the elder poets.
fell into some strange errors with respect to Southwell; he positively asserts that St. Peter's Complaint was written by John Davies of Hereford, although the evi. dence of its being the composition of Southwell is very satisfactory*. Dr. Bliss, in his improved edition of the Athena Oxonienses has corrected this mistake.
The admirers of Southwell's poetry will not withhold their sympathy from the Divine Centurie of Spiritual Sonnets, by his contemporary BARNABE BARNES. This little collection of poems, originally published in 1595, has been reprinted by Mr. Park in his Helicaria, but, owing to the very expensive form of the work, without adding much to their popularity. Barnes, upon whom the flattery of friendship bestowed the appellation of Petrarch's scholar, while it elevated him to an equality with Spenser, was the subject of frequent satire during his life. Few particulars of his history have been preserved. He was a younger son of Dr. Richard Barnes, Bishop of Durham, and was born about the year 1569. At the age of seventeen he became a student of Brazen. nose College, Oxford, but left the university without a degree. "What became of him afterwards," says Wood, “I know not." He appears, however, to have accompanied the expedition sent to France by Elizabeth, in 1591, under the command of Devereux, Earl of Essex. He was then in his twenty-second year, and he probably remained in that country until 1594.
Nash accuses him of running away from battle, and of subsequently disgracing himself still more, by robbing
• Edmund Bolton, an old English critic, in his Hypercritica, has this notice of Southwell: “Never must be forgotten Șt. Peter's Complaint, and those other serious poems said to be Father Southwell's, the English whereof, as it is most proper, so the sharpness and light of wit is very rare in them.”
a nobleman's steward of a gold chain. But these charges rest upon no foundation, and were probably the result of malignity on the part of Nash, who remembered that Barnes had sided with Gabriel Harvey in one of the numerous quarrels which, at that period, agitated, in no very decorous manner, the literary public*.
The sonnets, we are told by the author, were composed during his travels in France, and seem to have been viewed by him in the light of religious exercises. He speaks of them as "prescribed tasks.” No person can read them, I think, without feeling his thoughts calmed, and his faith strengthened. The piety of the writer does not chill us with the austerity of its features; it is humble, joyful, and confident. In the ninety-second sonnet he says, alluding to the earnestness of his devotion,
On my soul's knees I lift my spirit's palms. And this prayer may incline the reader to acknowledge the truth of the assertion.
O benign Father ! let my suits ascend
And please thy gracious ears from my soul sent,
Even as those sweet perfumes of incense went
• Thomas Nash was the contemporary of Greene, the dramatic poet, at Cambridge, and took his B. A. degree at St. John's, in 1585. His name is familiar to all students of our old poetry, as the bitter antagonist of Gabriel Harvey. This singular man, who united to ripe scholarship a very ridiculous propensity for writing verses, enjoyed considerable popularity in his day. He was the friend of Spenser, with whom he became acquainted at Cambridge, and to whose Farry Qrcen he prefixed the sweetest lines he ever wrote. But llarvey's vanity surpassed all his other qualifications. Upon his return from Italy he dressed him. self in the Venetian costume, and was remarkable for the uncommon richness and costliness of his attire. The circumstance, however, of his father having been a rope-maker at Saffron Walden, seems to have im. bittered his life. Hence arose his enmity to the unhappy Greene, who some weeks before his death published a traci containing reflections upon rope-makers in general.--See the very able and careful edition of the works of Robert Greene, by the Rev. Alexander Dyce, vol.i., p. 84, &c.
Thy nostrils to that myrrh which they did send,
Even as I now crave thine ears to be lent.
My soul, my soul is wholly bent
To flee for refuge to thy wounded breast,
In sweet repose to take eternri rest,
Said my proud sinful soul in vain aspir’d. If Ben Jonson, as we are told by Drummond, “cursed Petrarch for redacting verscs into sonnets," which he compared to that “ tyrant's bed where some who were too short, were racked, others, too long, cut short," the sonnets of Barnes could not have escaped his censure. They are written with an almost constant adherence to the returning rima of the Italian sonetto, but Barnes frequently continues the sense beyond the termination of the line-a practice considered by Warton deserving of commendation.
When Dr. Bliss published his edition of Anthony Wood's Athena Oxonienses, the following address to Content was the only poem by Barnes with which he was acquainted, but it certainly justified his desire to know
Al! sweet Content, wliere is thy mild abode ?
Is it with shepherds and light-hearted swains,
Which sing upon the downs and pipe abroad,
In heaven with angels which the praises sing
Or Him that made, and rolls at his behest,