Specimens with Memoirs of the Less-known British Poets, Complete
Part 10 out of 20
And his long half in painted folds behind him drew:
Upwards his threatening tail he threw,
Upwards he cast his threatening head,
He gaped and hissed aloud,
With flaming eyes surveyed the trembling crowd,
And, like a basilisk, almost looked the assembly dead:
Swift fled the amazed king, the guards before him fled.
Jannes and Jambres stopped their flight,
And with proud words allayed the affright.
'The God of slaves!' said they, 'how can he be
More powerful than their master's deity?'
And down they cast their rods,
And muttered secret sounds that charm the servile gods,
The evil spirits their charms obey,
And in a subtle cloud they snatch the rods away,
And serpents in their place the airy jugglers lay:
Serpents in Egypt's monstrous land
Were ready still at hand,
And all at the Old Serpent's first command:
And they, too, gaped, and they, too, hissed,
And they their threatening tails did twist;
But straight on both the Hebrew serpent flew,
Broke both their active backs, and both it slew,
And both almost at once devoured;
So much was overpowered
By God's miraculous creation
His servant Nature's slightly wrought and feeble generation.
On the famed bank the prophets stood,
Touched with their rod, and wounded all the flood;
Flood now no more, but a long vein of putrid blood;
The helpless fish were found
In their strange current drowned;
The herbs and trees washed by the mortal tide
About it blushed and died:
The amazed crocodiles made haste to ground;
From their vast trunks the dropping gore they spied,
Thought it their own, and dreadfully aloud they cried:
Nor all thy priests, nor thou,
O King! couldst ever show
From whence thy wandering Nile begins his course;
Of this new Nile thou seest the sacred source,
And as thy land that does o'erflow,
Take heed lest this do so.
What plague more just could on thy waters fall?
The Hebrew infants' murder stains them all.
The kind, instructing punishment enjoy;
Whom the red river cannot mend, the Red Sea shall destroy.
The river yet gave one instruction more,
And from the rotting fish and unconcocted gore,
Which was but water just before,
A loathsome host was quickly made,
That scaled the banks, and with loud noise did all the country invade;
As Nilus when he quits his sacred bed,
(But like a friend he visits all the land
With welcome presents in his hand,)
So did this living tide the fields o'erspread.
In vain the alarmed country tries
To kill their noisome enemies,
From the unexhausted source still new recruits arise:
Nor does the earth these greedy troops suffice;
The towns and houses they possess,
The temples and the palaces,
Nor Pharaoh nor his gods they fear,
Both their importune croakings hear:
Unsatiate yet they mount up higher,
Where never sun-born frog durst to aspire,
And in the silken beds their slimy members place,
A luxury unknown before to all the watery race.
The water thus her wonders did produce,
But both were to no use:
As yet the sorcerer's mimic power served for excuse.
Try what the earth will do, said God, and lo!
They struck the earth a fertile blow,
And all the dust did straight to stir begin,
One would have thought some sudden wind had been,
But, lo! 'twas nimble life was got within!
And all the little springs did move,
And every dust did an armed vermin prove,
Of an unknown and new-created kind,
Such as the magic gods could neither make or find.
The wretched shameful foe allowed no rest
Either to man or beast;
Not Pharaoh from the unquiet plague could be,
With all his change of raiments, free;
The devils themselves confessed
This was God's hand; and 'twas but just
To punish thus man's pride, to punish dust with dust.
Lo! the third element does his plagues prepare,
And swarming clouds of insects fill the air;
With sullen noise they take their flight,
And march in bodies infinite;
In vain 'tis day above, 'tis still beneath them night;
Of harmful flies the nations numberless
Composed this mighty army's spacious boast;
Of different manners, different languages,
And different habits, too, they wore,
And different arms they bore:
And some, like Scythians, lived on blood,
And some on green, and some on flowery food,
And Accaron, the airy prince, led on this various host.
Houses secure not men; the populous ill
Did all the houses fill:
The country all around,
Did with the cries of tortured cattle sound;
About the fields enraged they flew,
And wished the plague that was t' ensue.
From poisonous stars a mortal influence came,
(The mingled malice of their flame,)
A skilful angel did the ingredients take,
And with just hands the sad composure make,
And over all the land did the full viol shake.
Thirst, giddiness, faintness, and putrid heats,
And pining pains, and shivering sweats,
On all the cattle, all the beasts, did fall;
With deformed death the country's covered all.
The labouring ox drops down before the plough;
The crowned victims to the altar led
Sink, and prevent the lifted blow:
The generous horse from the full manger turns his head,
Does his loved floods and pastures scorn,
Hates the shrill trumpet and the horn,
Nor can his lifeless nostril please
With the once-ravishing smell of all his dappled mistresses;
The starving sheep refuse to feed,
They bleat their innocent souls out into air;
The faithful dogs lie gasping by them there;
The astonished shepherd weeps, and breaks his tuneful reed.
Thus did the beasts for man's rebellion die;
God did on man a gentler medicine try,
And a disease for physic did apply.
Warm ashes from the furnace Moses took,
The sorcerers did with wonder on him look,
And smiled at the unaccustomed spell
Which no Egyptian rituals tell.
He flings the pregnant ashes through the air,
And speaks a mighty prayer,
Both which the minist'ring winds around all Egypt bear;
As gentle western blasts, with downy wings
Hatching the tender springs,
To the unborn buds with vital whispers say,
Ye living buds, why do ye stay?
The passionate buds break through the bark their way;
So wheresoe'er this tainted wind but blew,
Swelling pains and ulcers grew;
It from the body called all sleeping poisons out,
And to them added new;
A noisome spring of sores as thick as leaves did sprout.
Heaven itself is angry next;
Woe to man when Heaven is vexed;
With sullen brow it frowned,
And murmured first in an imperfect sound;
Till Moses, lifting up his hand,
Waves the expected signal of his wand,
And all the full-charged clouds in ranged squadrons move,
And fill the spacious plains above;
Through which the rolling thunder first does play,
And opens wide the tempest's noisy way:
And straight a stony shower
Of monstrous hail does downward pour,
Such as ne'er Winter yet brought forth,
From all her stormy magazines of the north:
It all the beasts and men abroad did slay,
O'er the defaced corpse, like monuments, lay;
The houses and strong-bodied trees it broke,
Nor asked aid from the thunder's stroke:
The thunder but for terror through it flew,
The hail alone the work could do.
The dismal lightnings all around,
Some flying through the air, some running on the ground,
Some swimming o'er the waters' face,
Filled with bright horror every place;
One would have thought, their dreadful day to have seen,
The very hail and rain itself had kindled been.
The infant corn, which yet did scarce appear,
Escaped this general massacre
Of every thing that grew,
And the well-stored Egyptian year
Began to clothe her fields and trees anew;
When, lo! a scorching wind from the burnt countries blew,
And endless legions with it drew
Of greedy locusts, who, where'er
With sounding wings they flew,
Left all the earth depopulate and bare,
As if Winter itself had marched by there,
Whate'er the sun and Nile
Gave with large bounty to the thankful soil,
The wretched pillagers bore away,
And the whole Summer was their prey;
Till Moses with a prayer,
Breathed forth a violent western wind,
Which all these living clouds did headlong bear
(No stragglers left behind)
Into the purple sea, and there bestow
On the luxurious fish a feast they ne'er did know.
With untaught joy Pharaoh the news does hear,
And little thinks their fate attends on him and his so near.
What blindness and what darkness did there e'er
Like this undocile king's appear?
Whate'er but that which now does represent
And paint the crime out in the punishment?
From the deep baleful caves of hell below,
Where the old mother Night does grow,
Substantial Night, that does disclaim
Privation's empty name,
Through secret conduits monstrous shapes arose,
Such as the sun's whole force could not oppose;
They with a solid cloud
All heaven's eclipsed face did shroud;
Seemed with large wings spread o'er the sea and earth,
To brood up a new Chaos his deformed birth;
And every lamp, and every fire,
Did, at the dreadful sight, wink and expire,
To the empyrean source all streams of light seemed to retire.
The living men were in their standing houses buried,
But the long night no slumber knows,
But the short death finds no repose.
Ten thousand terrors through the darkness fled,
And ghosts complained, and spirits murmured,
And fancy's multiplying sight
Viewed all the scenes invisible of night.
Of God's dreadful anger these
Were but the first light skirmishes;
The shock and bloody battle now begins,
The plenteous harvest of full-ripened sins.
It was the time when the still moon
Was mounted softly to her noon,
And dewy sleep, which from Night's secret springs arose,
Gently as Nile the land o'erflows;
When, lo! from the high countries of refined day,
The golden heaven without allay,
Whose dross, in the creation purged away,
Made up the sun's adulterate ray,
Michael, the warlike prince, does downwards fly,
Swift as the journeys of the sight,
Swift as the race of light,
And with his winged will cuts through the yielding sky.
He passed through many a star, and as he passed
Shone (like a star in them) more brightly there
Than they did in their sphere:
On a tall pyramid's pointed head he stopped at last,
And a mild look of sacred pity cast
Down on the sinful land where he was sent
To inflict the tardy punishment.
'Ah! yet,' said he, 'yet, stubborn King! repent,
Whilst thus unarmed I stand,
Ere the keen sword of God fill my commanded hand;
Suffer but yet thyself and thine to live.
Who would, alas! believe
That it for man,' said he,
'So hard to be forgiven should be,
And yet for God so easy to forgive!'
He spoke, and downwards flew,
And o'er his shining form a well-cut cloud he threw,
Made of the blackest fleece of night,
And close-wrought to keep in the powerful light;
Yet, wrought so fine, it hindered not his flight,
But through the key-holes and the chinks of doors,
And through the narrowest walks of crooked pores,
He passed more swift and free
Than in wide air the wanton swallows flee:
He took a pointed pestilence in his hand,
The spirits of thousand mortal poisons made
The strongly-tempered blade,
The sharpest sword that e'er was laid
Up in the magazines of God to scourge a wicked land:
Through Egypt's wicked land his march he took,
And as he marched the sacred first-born struck
Of every womb; none did he spare;
None from the meanest beast to Cenchre's purple heir.
The swift approach of endless night
Breaks ope the wounded sleepers' rolling eyes;
They awake the rest with dying cries,
And darkness doubles the affright.
The mixed sounds of scattered deaths they hear,
And lose their parted souls 'twixt grief and fear.
Louder than all, the shrieking women's voice
Pierces this chaos of confused noise;
As brighter lightning cuts a way,
Clear and distinguished through the day:
With less complaints the Zoan temples sound
When the adored heifer's drowned,
And no true marked successor to be found:
While health, and strength, and gladness does possess
The festal Hebrew cottages;
The bless'd destroyer comes not there,
To interrupt the sacred cheer,
That new begins their well-reformed year.
Upon their doors he read and understood
God's protection writ in blood;
Well was he skilled i' th' character divine,
And though he passed by it in haste,
He bowed, and worshipped as he passed
The mighty mystery through its humble sign.
The sword strikes now too deep and near,
Longer with its edge to play,
No diligence or cost they spare
To haste the Hebrews now away,
Pharaoh himself chides their delay;
So kind and bountiful is fear!
But, oh! the bounty which to fear we owe,
Is but like fire struck out of stone,
So hardly got, and quickly gone,
That it scarce outlives the blow.
Sorrow and fear soon quit the tyrant's breast,
Rage and revenge their place possess'd:
With a vast host of chariots and of horse,
And all his powerful kingdom's ready force,
The travelling nation he pursues,
Ten times o'ercome, he still the unequal war renews.
Filled with proud hopes, 'At least,' said he,
'The Egyptian gods, from Syrian magic free,
Will now revenge themselves and me;
Behold what passless rocks on either hand,
Like prison walls, about them stand!
Whilst the sea bounds their flight before,
And in our injured justice they must find
A far worse stop than rocks and seas behind;
Which shall with crimson gore
New paint the water's name, and double dye the shore.'
He spoke; and all his host
Approved with shouts the unhappy boast;
A bidden wind bore his vain words away,
And drowned them in the neighbouring sea.
No means to escape the faithless travellers spy,
And with degenerous fear to die,
Curse their new-gotten liberty:
But the great Guide well knew he led them right,
And saw a path hid yet from human sight:
He strikes the raging waves; the waves on either side
Unloose their close embraces, and divide,
And backwards press, as in some solemn show
The crowding people do,
(Though just before no space was seen,)
To let the admired triumph pass between.
The wondering army saw, on either hand,
The no less wondering waves like rocks of crystal stand.
They marched betwixt, and boldly trod
The secret paths of God:
And here and there, all scattered in their way,
The sea's old spoils and gaping fishes lay
Deserted on the sandy plain:
The sun did with astonishment behold
The inmost chambers of the opened main,
For whatsoe'er of old
By his own priests, the poets, has been said,
He never sunk till then into the Ocean's bed.
Led cheerfully by a bright captain, Flame,
To the other shore at morning-dawn they came,
And saw behind the unguided foe
March disorderly and slow:
The prophet straight from the Idumean strand
Shakes his imperious wand;
The upper waves, that highest crowded lie,
The beckoning wand espy;
Straight their first right-hand files begin to move,
And with a murmuring wind
Give the word march to all behind;
The left-hand squadrons no less ready prove,
But with a joyful, louder noise,
Answer their distant fellows' voice,
And haste to meet them make,
As several troops do all at once a common signal take.
What tongue the amazement and the affright can tell,
Which on the Chamian army fell,
When on both sides they saw the roaring main
Broke loose from his invisible chain?
They saw the monstrous death and watery war
Come rolling down loud ruin from afar;
In vain some backward and some forwards fly
With helpless haste, in vain they cry
To their celestial beasts for aid;
In vain their guilty king they upbraid,
In vain on Moses he, and Moses' God, does call,
With a repentance true too late:
They're compassed round with a devouring fate
That draws, like a strong net, the mighty sea upon them all.
This remarkable man was born in Hampshire, at Bentworth, near Alton, in
1588. He was sent to Magdalene College, Oxford, but had hardly been
there till his father remanded him home to hold the plough--a reversal
of the case of Cincinnatus which did not please the aspiring spirit of
our poet. He took an early opportunity of breaking loose from this
occupation, and of going to London with the romantic intention of making
his fortune at Court. Finding that to rise at Court, flattery was
indispensable, and determined not to flatter, he, in 1613, published his
'Abuses Whipt and Stript,' for which he was committed for some months
to the Marshalsea. Here he wrote his beautiful poem, 'The Shepherd's
Hunting;' and is said to have gained his manumission by a satire to
the King, in which he defends his former writings. Soon after his
liberation, he published his 'Hymns and Songs of the Church,' a book
which embroiled him with the clergy, but procured him the favour of King
James, who encouraged him to finish a translation of the Psalms. He
travelled to the court of the Queen of Bohemia, (James's daughter,) in
fulfilment of a vow, and presented her with a copy of his completed
In 1639, he was a captain of horse in the expedition against the Scotch.
When the Civil War broke out, he sold his estate to raise a troop of
horse on the Parliamentary side, and soon after was made a major. In
1642, he was appointed captain and commander of Farnham Castle, in
Surrey; but owing to some neglect or cowardice on his part, it was ceded
the same year to Sir William Waller. He was made prisoner by the
Royalists some time after this, and would have been put to death had not
Denham interfered, alleging that as long as Wither survived, he (Denham)
could not be accounted the worst poet in England. He was afterwards
appointed Cromwell's major-general of all the horse and foot in the
county of Surrey. He made money at this time by Royalist sequestrations,
but lost it all at the Restoration. He had, on the death of Cromwell,
hailed Richard with enthusiasm, and predicted him a happy reign; which
makes Campbell remark, 'He never but once in his life foreboded good,
and in that prophecy he was mistaken.' Wither was by no means pleased
with the loss of his fortune, and remonstrated bitterly; but for so
doing he was thrown into prison again. Here his mind continued as active
as ever, and he poured out treatises, poems, and satires--sometimes,
when pen and ink were denied him, inscribing his thoughts with red ochre
upon a trencher. After three years, he was, in 1663, released from
Newgate, under bond for good behaviour; and four years afterwards he
died in London. This was on the 2d of May 1667. He was buried between
the east door and the south end of the Savoy church, in the Strand.
Wither was a man of real genius, but seems to have been partially
insane. His political zeal was a frenzy; and his religion was deeply
tinged with puritanic gloom. His 'Collection of Emblems' never became so
popular as those of Quarles, and are now nearly as much forgotten as his
satires, his psalms, and his controversial treatises. But his early
poems are delightful--full of elegant and playful fancy, ease of
language, and delicacy of sentiment. Some passages in 'The Shepherd's
Hunting,' and in the 'Address to Poetry,' resemble the style of Milton
in his 'L'Allegro' and 'Penseroso.' His 'Christmas' catches the full
spirit of that joyous carnival of Christian England. Altogether, it is
refreshing to turn from the gnarled oak of Wither's struggling and
unhappy life, to the beautiful flowers, nodding over it, of his poesy.
FROM 'THE SHEPHERD'S HUNTING.'
See'st thou not, in clearest days,
Oft thick fogs could heavens raise?
And the vapours that do breathe
From the earth's gross womb beneath,
Seem they not with their black steams
To pollute the sun's bright beams,
And yet vanish into air,
Leaving it unblemished, fair?
So, my Willy, shall it be
With Detraction's breath and thee:
It shall never rise so high
As to stain thy poesy.
As that sun doth oft exhale
Vapours from each rotten vale;
Poesy so sometimes drains
Gross conceits from muddy brains;
Mists of envy, fogs of spite,
'Twixt men's judgments and her light;
But so much her power may do
That she can dissolve them too.
If thy verse do bravely tower,
As she makes wing, she gets power!
Yet the higher she doth soar,
She's affronted still the more:
Till she to the high'st hath past,
Then she rests with Fame at last.
Let nought therefore thee affright,
But make forward in thy flight:
For if I could match thy rhyme,
To the very stars I'd climb;
There begin again, and fly
Till I reached eternity.
But, alas! my Muse is slow;
For thy pace she flags too low.
Yes, the more's her hapless fate,
Her short wings were clipped of late;
And poor I, her fortune ruing,
Am myself put up a-muing.
But if I my cage can rid,
I'll fly where I never did.
And though for her sake I'm cross'd,
Though my best hopes I have lost,
And knew she would make my trouble
Ten times more than ten times double;
I would love and keep her too,
Spite of all the world could do.
For though banished from my flocks,
And confined within these rocks,
Here I waste away the light,
And consume the sullen night;
She doth for my comfort stay,
And keeps many cares away.
Though I miss the flowery fields,
With those sweets the springtide yields;
Though I may not see those groves,
Where the shepherds chant their loves,
And the lasses more excel
Than the sweet-voiced Philomel;
Though of all those pleasures past,
Nothing now remains at last,
But remembrance, poor relief,
That more makes than mends my grief:
She's my mind's companion still,
Maugre Envy's evil will:
Whence she should be driven too,
Were 't in mortals' power to do.
She doth tell me where to borrow
Comfort in the midst of sorrow;
Makes the desolatest place
To her presence be a grace,
And the blackest discontents
Be her fairest ornaments.
In my former days of bliss,
His divine skill taught me this,
That from everything I saw,
I could some invention draw;
And raise pleasure to her height
Through the meanest object's sight:
By the murmur of a spring,
Or the least bough's rustling;
By a daisy, whose leaves spread,
Shut when Titan goes to bed;
Or a shady bush or tree,
She could more infuse in me,
Than all Nature's beauties can,
In some other wiser man.
By her help I also now
Make this churlish place allow
Some things that may sweeten gladness
In the very gall of sadness:
The dull loneness, the black shade
That these hanging vaults have made,
The strange music of the waves,
Beating on these hollow caves,
This black den, which rocks emboss,
Overgrown with eldest moss;
The rude portals, that give light
More to terror than delight,
This my chamber of neglect,
Walled about with disrespect,
From all these, and this dull air,
A fit object for despair,
She hath taught me by her might
To draw comfort and delight.
Therefore, then, best earthly bliss,
I will cherish thee for this!
Poesy, thou sweet'st content
That e'er Heaven to mortals lent;
Though they as a trifle leave thee,
Whose dull thoughts can not conceive thee,
Though thou be to them a scorn
That to nought but earth are born;
Let my life no longer be
Than I am in love with thee!
Though our wise ones call it madness,
Let me never taste of gladness
If I love not thy madd'st fits
Above all their greatest wits!
And though some, too seeming holy,
Do account thy raptures folly,
Thou dost teach me to contemn
What makes knaves and fools of them!
THE SHEPHERD'S RESOLUTION.
1 Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman's fair?
Or make pale my cheeks with care,
'Cause another's rosy are?
Be she fairer than the day,
Or the flowery meads in May;
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be?
2 Shall my foolish heart be pined,
'Cause I see a woman kind?
Or a well-disposed nature
Joined with a lovely feature?
Be she meeker, kinder, than
The turtle-dove or pelican;
If she be not so to me,
What care I how kind she be?
3 Shall a woman's virtues move
Me to perish for her love?
Or, her well-deservings known,
Make me quite forget mine own?
Be she with that goodness blest,
Which may merit name of Best;
If she be not such to me,
What care I how good she be?
4 'Cause her fortune seems too high,
Shall I play the fool and die?
Those that bear a noble mind,
Where they want of riches find,
Think what with them they would do,
That without them dare to woo;
And, unless that mind I see,
What care I how great she be?
5 Great, or good, or kind, or fair,
I will ne'er the more despair:
If she love me, this believe--
I will die ere she shall grieve.
If she slight me when I woo,
I can scorn and let her go:
If she be not fit for me,
What care I for whom she be?
THE STEADFAST SHEPHERD.
1 Hence away, thou Siren, leave me,
Pish! unclasp these wanton arms;
Sugared words can ne'er deceive me,
Though thou prove a thousand charms.
Fie, fie, forbear;
No common snare
Can ever my affection chain:
Thy painted baits,
And poor deceits,
Are all bestowed on me in vain.
2 I'm no slave to such as you be;
Neither shall that snowy breast,
Rolling eye, and lip of ruby,
Ever rob me of my rest:
Go, go, display
Thy beauty's ray
To some more soon enamoured swain:
Those common wiles
Of sighs and smiles
Are all bestowed on me in vain.
3 I have elsewhere vowed a duty;
Turn away thy tempting eye:
Show not me a painted beauty:
These impostures I defy:
My spirit loathes
Where gaudy clothes
And feigned oaths may love obtain:
I love her so,
Whose look swears No,
That all your labours will be vain.
4 Can he prize the tainted posies
Which on every breast are worn,
That may pluck the virgin roses
From their never-touched thorn?
I can go rest
On her sweet breast
That is the pride of Cynthia's train:
Then stay thy tongue,
Thy mermaid song
Is all bestowed on me in vain.
5 He's a fool that basely dallies,
Where each peasant mates with him:
Shall I haunt the thronged valleys,
Whilst there's noble hills to climb?
No, no, though clowns
Are scared with frowns,
I know the best can but disdain;
And those I'll prove:
So will thy love
Be all bestowed on me in vain.
6 I do scorn to vow a duty
Where each lustful lad may woo;
Give me her whose sun-like beauty
Buzzards dare not soar unto:
She, she it is
Affords that bliss
For which I would refuse no pain:
But such as you,
Fond fools, adieu!
You seek to captive me in vain.
7 Leave me then, you Siren, leave me:
Seek no more to work my harms:
Crafty wiles cannot deceive me,
Who am proof against your charms:
You labour may
To lead astray
The heart that constant shall remain;
And I the while
Will sit and smile
To see you spend your time in vain.
THE SHEPHERD'S HUNTING.
Cuddy tells how all the swains
Pity Roget on the plains;
Who, requested, doth relate
The true cause of his estate;
Which broke off, because 'twas long,
They begin a three-man song.
WILLY. CUDDY. ROGET.
Roget, thy old friend Cuddy here, and I,
Are come to visit thee in these thy bands,
Whilst both our flocks in an enclosure by
Do pick the thin grass from the fallowed lands.
He tells me thy restraint of liberty,
Each one throughout the country understands:
And there is not a gentle-natured lad,
On all these downs, but for thy sake is sad.
Not thy acquaintance and thy friends alone
Pity thy close restraint, as friends should do:
But some that have but seen thee for thee moan:
Yea, many that did never see thee too.
Some deem thee in a fault, and most in none;
So divers ways do divers rumours go:
And at all meetings where our shepherds be,
Now the main news that's extant is of thee.
Why, this is somewhat yet: had I but kept
Sheep on the mountains till the day of doom,
My name should in obscurity have slept,
In brakes, in briars, shrubbed furze and broom.
Into the world's wide care it had not crept,
Nor in so many men's thoughts found a room:
But what cause of my sufferings do they know?
Good Cuddy, tell me how doth rumour go?
Faith, 'tis uncertain; some speak this, some that:
Some dare say nought, yet seem to think a cause,
And many a one, prating he knows not what,
Comes out with proverbs and old ancient saws,
As if he thought thee guiltless, and yet not:
Then doth he speak half-sentences, then pause:
That what the most would say, we may suppose:
But what to say, the rumour is, none knows.
Nor care I greatly, for it skills not much
What the unsteady common-people deems;
His conscience doth not always feel least touch,
That blameless in the sight of others seems:
My cause is honest, and because 'tis such
I hold it so, and not for men's esteems:
If they speak justly well of me, I'm glad;
If falsely evil, it ne'er makes me sad.
I like that mind; but, Roget, you are quite
Beside the matter that I long to hear:
Remember what you promised yesternight,
You'd put us off with other talk, I fear;
Thou know'st that honest Cuddy's heart's upright,
And none but he, except myself, is near:
Come therefore, and betwixt us two relate,
The true occasion of thy present state.
My friends, I will; you know I am a swain,
That keep a poor flock here upon this plain:
Who, though it seems I could do nothing less,
Can make a song, and woo a shepherdess;
And not alone the fairest where I live
Have heard me sing, and favours deigned to give;
But though I say't, the noblest nymph of Thame,
Hath graced my verse unto my greater fame.
Yet being young, and not much seeking praise,
I was not noted out for shepherds' lays,
Nor feeding flocks, as you know others be:
For the delight that most possessed me
Was hunting foxes, wolves, and beasts of prey;
That spoil our folds, and bear our lambs away.
For this, as also for the love I bear
Unto my country, I laid by all care
Of gain, or of preferment, with desire
Only to keep that state I had entire,
And like a true-grown huntsman sought to speed
Myself with hounds of rare and choicest breed,
Whose names and natures ere I further go,
Because you are my friends, I'll let you know.
My first esteemed dog that I did find,
Was by descent of old Actaeon's kind;
A brach, which if I do not aim amiss,
For all the world is just like one of his:
She's named Love, and scarce yet knows her duty;
Her dam's my lady's pretty beagle Beauty,
I bred her up myself with wondrous charge,
Until she grew to be exceeding large,
And waxed so wanton that I did abhor it,
And put her out amongst my neighbours for it.
The next is Lust, a hound that's kept abroad,
'Mongst some of mine acquaintance, but a toad
Is not more loathsome: 'tis a cur will range
Extremely, and is ever full of mange;
And 'cause it is infectious, she's not wont
To come among the rest, but when they hunt.
Hate is the third, a hound both deep and long.
His sire is true or else supposed Wrong.
He'll have a snap at all that pass him by,
And yet pursues his game most eagerly.
With him goes Envy coupled, a lean cur,
And she'll hold out, hunt we ne'er so far:
She pineth much, and feedeth little too,
Yet stands and snarleth at the rest that do.
Then there's Revenge, a wondrous deep-mouthed dog,
So fleet, I'm fain to hunt him with a clog,
Yet many times he'll much outstrip his bounds,
And hunts not closely with the other hounds:
He'll venture on a lion in his ire;
Curst Choler was his dam, and Wrong his sire.
This Choler is a brach that's very old,
And spends her mouth too much to have it hold:
She's very testy, an unpleasing cur,
That bites the very stones, if they but stur:
Or when that ought but her displeasure moves,
She'll bite and snap at any one she loves:
But my quick-scented'st dog is Jealousy,
The truest of this breed's in Italy:
The dam of mine would hardly fill a glove,
It was a lady's little dog, called Love:
The sire, a poor deformed cur, named Fear,
As shagged and as rough as is a bear:
And yet the whelp turned after neither kind,
For he is very large, and near-hand blind;
At the first sight he hath a pretty colour,
But doth not seem so, when you view him fuller;
A vile suspicious beast, his looks are bad,
And I do fear in time he will grow mad.
To him I couple Avarice, still poor;
Yet she devours as much as twenty more:
A thousand horse she in her paunch can put,
Yet whine as if she had an empty gut:
And having gorged what might a land have found,
She'll catch for more, and hide it in the ground.
Ambition is a hound as greedy full;
But he for all the daintiest bits doth cull:
He scorns to lick up crumbs beneath the table,
He'll fetch 't from boards and shelves, if he be able:
Nay, he can climb if need be; and for that,
With him I hunt the martin and the cat:
And yet sometimes in mounting he's so quick,
He fetches falls are like to break his neck.
Fear is well-mouth'd, but subject to distrust;
A stranger cannot make him take a crust:
A little thing will soon his courage quail,
And 'twixt his legs he ever claps his tail;
With him Despair now often coupled goes,
Which by his roaring mouth each huntsman knows.
None hath a better mind unto the game,
But he gives off, and always seemeth lame.
My bloodhound Cruelty, as swift as wind,
Hunts to the death, and never comes behind;
Who but she's strapp'd and muzzled too withal,
Would eat her fellows, and the prey and all;
And yet she cares not much for any food,
Unless it be the purest harmless blood.
All these are kept abroad at charge of many,
They do not cost me in a year a penny.
But there's two couple of a middling size,
That seldom pass the sight of my own eyes.
Hope, on whose head I've laid my life to pawn;
Compassion, that on every one will fawn.
This would, when 'twas a whelp, with rabbits play
Or lambs, and let them go unhurt away:
Nay, now she is of growth, she'll now and then
Catch you a hare, and let her go again.
The two last, Joy and Sorrow, 'tis a wonder,
Can ne'er agree, nor ne'er bide far asunder.
Joy's ever wanton, and no order knows:
She'll run at larks, or stand and bark at crows.
Sorrow goes by her, and ne'er moves his eye;
Yet both do serve to help make up the cry.
Then comes behind all these to bear the base,
Two couple more of a far larger race,
Such wide-mouth'd trollops, that 'twould do you good
To hear their loud loud echoes tear the wood.
There's Vanity, who, by her gaudy hide,
May far away from all the rest be spied,
Though huge, yet quick, for she's now here, now there;
Nay, look about you, and she's everywhere:
Yet ever with the rest, and still in chase.
Right so, Inconstancy fills every place;
And yet so strange a fickle-natured hound,
Look for her, and she's nowhere to be found.
Weakness is no fair dog unto the eye,
And yet she hath her proper quality;
But there's Presumption, when he heat hath got,
He drowns the thunder and the cannon-shot:
And when at start he his full roaring makes,
The earth doth tremble, and the heaven shakes.
These were my dogs, ten couple just in all,
Whom by the name of Satyrs I do call:
Mad curs they be, and I can ne'er come nigh them,
But I'm in danger to be bitten by them.
Much pains I took, and spent days not a few,
To make them keep together, and hunt true:
Which yet I do suppose had never been,
But that I had a scourge to keep them in.
Now when that I this kennel first had got,
Out of my own demesnes I hunted not,
Save on these downs, or among yonder rocks,
After those beasts that spoiled our parish flocks;
Nor during that time was I ever wont
With all my kennel in one day to hunt:
Nor had done yet, but that this other year,
Some beasts of prey, that haunt the deserts here,
Did not alone for many nights together
Devour, sometime a lamb, sometime a wether,
And so disquiet many a poor man's herd,
But that of losing all they were afeard:
Yea, I among the rest did fare as bad,
Or rather worse, for the best ewes I had
(Whose breed should be my means of life and gain)
Were in one evening by these monsters slain:
Which mischief I resolved to repay,
Or else grow desperate, and hunt all away;
For in a fury (such as you shall see
Huntsmen in missing of their sport will be)
I vowed a monster should not lurk about,
In all this province, but I'd find him out,
And thereupon, without respect or care,
How lame, how full, or how unfit they were,
In haste unkennell'd all my roaring crew,
Who were as mad as if my mind they knew,
And ere they trail'd a flight-shot, the fierce curs
Had roused a hart, and thorough brakes and furs
Follow'd at gaze so close, that Love and Fear
Got in together, so had surely there
Quite overthrown him, but that Hope thrust in
'Twixt both, and saved the pinching of his skin,
Whereby he 'scaped, till coursing o'erthwart,
Despair came in, and griped him to the heart:
I hallowed in the res'due to the fall,
And for an entrance, there I fleshed them all:
Which having done, I dipped my staff in blood,
And onward led my thunder to the wood;
Where what they did, I'll tell you out anon,
My keeper calls me, and I must be gone.
Go if you please a while, attend your flocks,
And when the sun is over yonder rocks,
Come to this cave again, where I will be,
If that my guardian so much favour me.
Yet if you please, let us three sing a strain,
Before you turn your sheep into the plain.
I am content.
As well content am I.
Then, Will, begin, and we'll the rest supply.
Shepherd, would these gates were ope,
Thou might'st take with us thy fortune.
No, I'll make this narrow scope,
Since my fate doth so importune
Means unto a wider hope.
Would thy shepherdess were here,
Who belov'd, loves thee so dearly!
Not for both your flocks, I swear,
And the gain they yield you yearly,
Would I so much wrong my dear.
Yet to me, nor to this place,
Would she now be long a stranger;
She would hold it no disgrace,
(If she feared not more my danger,)
Where I am to show her face.
Shepherd, we would wish no harms,
But something that might content thee.
Wish me then within her arms,
And that wish will ne'er repent me,
If your wishes might prove charms.
Be thy prison her embrace,
Be thy air her sweetest breathing.
Be thy prospect her fair face,
For each look a kiss bequeathing,
And appoint thyself the place.
Nay pray, hold there, for I should scantly then
Come meet you here this afternoon again:
But fare you well, since wishes have no power,
Let us depart, and keep the 'pointed hour.
 'Ewes:' hopes.
SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT,
The author of 'Gondibert,' was the son of a vintner in Oxford, and born
in February 1605. Gossip says--but says with her usual carelessness about
truth--that he was the son of no less a person than William Shakspeare,
who used, in his journeys between London and Stratford, to stop at the
Crown, an inn kept by Davenant's reputed father. This story is hinted at
by Wood, was told to Pope by Betterton the player, and believed by Malone,
but seems to be a piece of mere scandal. It is true that Davenant had a
great veneration for Shakspeare, and expressed it, when only ten years
old, in lines 'In remembrance of Master William Shakspeare,' beginning
'Beware, delighted poets, when you sing,
To welcome nature in the early spring,
Your numerous feet not tread
The banks of Avon, for each flower
(As it ne'er knew a sun or shower)
Hangs there the pensive head.'
Southey says--'The father was a man of melancholy temperament, the mother
handsome and lively; and as Shakspeare used to put up at the house on his
journeys between Stratford and London, Davenant is said to have affected
the reputation of being Shakspeare's son. If he really did this, there
was a levity, or rather a want of feeling, in the boast, for which social
pleasantry, and the spirits which are induced by wine, afford but little
He was entered at Lincoln College; he next became page to the Duchess of
Richmond; and we find him afterwards in the family of Fulk Greville, Lord
Brooke--famous as the friend of Sir Philip Sidney. He began to write for
the stage in 1628; and on the death of Ben Jonson he was made Poet Laureate
--to the disappointment of Thomas May, so much praised by Johnson and
others for his proficiency in Latin poetry, as displayed in his supplement
to Lucan's 'Pharsalia.' He became afterwards manager of Drury Lane; but
owing to his connexion with the intrigues of that unhappy period, he was
imprisoned in the Tower, and subsequently made his escape to France. On his
return to England, he distinguished himself greatly in the Royal cause; and
when that became desperate, he again took refuge in France, and wrote part
of his 'Gondibert.' He projected a scheme for carrying over a colony to
Virginia; but his vessel was seized by one of the Parliamentary ships--he
himself was conveyed a prisoner to Cowes Castle, in the Isle of Wight, and
thence to the Tower, preparatory to being tried by the High Commission. But
a giant hand, worthy of having saved him had he been Shakspeare's veritable
son, was now stretched forth to his rescue--the hand of Milton. In this
generous act Milton was seconded by Whitelocke, and by two aldermen of
York, to whom our poet had rendered some services. Liberated from the
Tower, Davenant was also permitted, through the influence of Whitelocke,
to open, in defiance of Puritanic prohibition, a kind of theatre at Rutland
House, and by enacting his own plays there, he managed to support himself
till the Restoration. He then, it is supposed, repaid to Milton his
friendly service, and shielded him from the wrath of the Court. From this
period Davenant continued to write for the stage--having received the
patent of the Duke's Theatre, in Lincoln's Inn--till his death. This event
took place on April 7, 1668. His last play, written in conjunction with
Dryden, was an alteration and pollution of Shakspeare's 'Tempest,' which
was more worthy of Trincula than of the authors of 'Absalom and Ahithophel'
and of 'Gondibert.' Supposing Davenant the son of Shakspeare, his act to
his father's masterpiece reminds us, in the excess of its filial impiety,
of Ham's conduct to Noah.
'Gondibert' is a large and able, without being a great poem. It has the
incurable and indefensible defect of dulness. 'The line labours, and the
words move slow.' The story is interesting of itself, but is lost in the
labyrinthine details. It has many lines, and some highly and successfully
wrought passages; but as a whole we may say of it as Porson said of
certain better productions, 'It will be read when the works of Homer and
Virgil are forgotten--but _not till then_.'
FROM 'GONDIBERT'--CANTO II.
The hunting which did yearly celebrate
The Lombards' glory, and the Vandals' fate:
The hunters praised; how true to love they are,
How calm in peace and tempest-like in war.
The stag is by the numerous chase subdued,
And straight his hunters are as hard pursued.
1 Small are the seeds Fate does unheeded sow
Of slight beginnings to important ends;
Whilst wonder, which does best our reverence show
To Heaven, all reason's sight in gazing spends.
2 For from a day's brief pleasure did proceed,
A day grown black in Lombard histories,
Such lasting griefs as thou shalt weep to read,
Though even thine own sad love had drained thine eyes.
3 In a fair forest, near Verona's plain,
Fresh as if Nature's youth chose there a shade,
The Duke, with many lovers in his train,
Loyal and young, a solemn hunting made.
4 Much was his train enlarged by their resort
Who much his grandsire loved, and hither came
To celebrate this day with annual sport,
On which by battle here he earned his fame,
5 And many of these noble hunters bore
Command amongst the youth at Bergamo;
Whose fathers gathered here the wreaths they wore,
When in this forest they interred the foe.
6 Count Hurgonil, a youth of high descent,
Was listed here, and in the story great;
He followed honour, when towards death it went;
Fierce in a charge, but temperate in retreat.
7 His wondrous beauty, which the world approved,
He blushing hid, and now no more would own
(Since he the Duke's unequalled sister loved)
Than an old wreath when newly overthrown.
8 And she, Orna the shy! did seem in life
So bashful too, to have her beauty shown,
As I may doubt her shade with Fame at strife,
That in these vicious times would make it known.
9 Not less in public voice was Arnold here;
He that on Tuscan tombs his trophies raised;
And now Love's power so willingly did bear,
That even his arbitrary reign he praised.
10 Laura, the Duke's fair niece, enthralled his heart,
Who was in court the public morning glass,
Where those, who would reduce nature to art,
Practised by dress the conquests of the face.
11 And here was Hugo, whom Duke Gondibert
For stout and steadfast kindness did approve;
Of stature small, but was all over heart,
And, though unhappy, all that heart was love.
12 In gentle sonnets he for Laura pined,
Soft as the murmurs of a weeping spring,
Which ruthless she did as those murmurs mind:
So, ere their death, sick swans unheeded sing.
13 Yet, whilst she Arnold favoured, he so grieved,
As loyal subjects quietly bemoan
Their yoke, but raise no war to be relieved,
Nor through the envied fav'rite wound the throne.
14 Young Goltho next these rivals we may name,
Whose manhood dawned early as summer light;
As sure and soon did his fair day proclaim,
And was no less the joy of public sight.
15 If love's just power he did not early see,
Some small excuse we may his error give;
Since few, though learn'd, know yet blest love to be
That secret vital heat by which we live:
16 But such it is; and though we may be thought
To have in childhood life, ere love we know,
Yet life is useless till by reason taught,
And love and reason up together grow.
17 Nor more the old show they outlive their love,
If, when their love's decayed, some signs they give
Of life, because we see them pained and move,
Than snakes, long cut, by torment show they live.
18 If we call living, life, when love is gone,
We then to souls, God's coin, vain reverence pay;
Since reason, which is love, and his best known
And current image, age has worn away.
19 And I, that love and reason thus unite,
May, if I old philosophers control,
Confirm the new by some new poet's light,
Who, finding love, thinks he has found the soul.
20 From Goltho, to whom love yet tasteless seemed,
We to ripe Tybalt are by order led;
Tybalt, who love and valour both esteemed,
And he alike from either's wounds had bled.
21 Public his valour was, but not his love,
One filled the world, the other he contained;
Yet quietly alike in both did move,
Of that ne'er boasted, nor of this complained.
22 With these, whose special names verse shall preserve,
Many to this recorded hunting came;
Whose worth authentic mention did deserve,
But from Time's deluge few are saved by Fame.
23 New like a giant lover rose the sun
From the ocean queen, fine in his fires and great;
Seemed all the morn for show, for strength at noon,
As if last night she had not quenched his heat.
24 And the sun's servants, who his rising wait,
His pensioners, for so all lovers are,
And all maintained by him at a high rate
With daily fire, now for the chase prepare.
25 All were, like hunters, clad in cheerful green,
Young Nature's livery, and each at strife
Who most adorned in favours should be seen,
Wrought kindly by the lady of his life.
26 These martial favours on their waists they wear,
On which, for now they conquest celebrate,
In an embroidered history appear
Like life, the vanquished in their fears and fate.
27 And on these belts, wrought with their ladies' care,
Hung cimeters of Akon's trusty steel;
Goodly to see, and he who durst compare
Those ladies' eyes, might soon their temper feel.
28 Cheered as the woods, where new-waked choirs they meet,
Are all; and now dispose their choice relays
Of horse and hounds, each like each other fleet;
Which best, when with themselves compared, we praise.
29 To them old forest spies, the harbourers,
With haste approach, wet as still weeping night,
Or deer that mourn their growth of head with tears,
When the defenceless weight does hinder flight.
30 And dogs, such whose cold secrecy was meant
By Nature for surprise, on these attend;
Wise, temperate lime-hounds that proclaim no scent,
Nor harb'ring will their mouths in boasting spend.
31 Yet vainlier far than traitors boast their prize,
On which their vehemence vast rates does lay,
Since in that worth their treason's credit lies,
These harb'rers praise that which they now betray.
32 Boast they have lodged a stag, that all the race
Outruns of Croton horse, or Rhegian hounds;
A stag made long since royal in the chase,
If kings can honour give by giving wounds.
33 For Aribert had pierced him at a bay,
Yet 'scaped he by the vigour of his head;
And many a summer since has won the day,
And often left his Rhegian followers dead.
34 His spacious beam, that even the rights outgrew,
From antler to his troch had all allowed,
By which his age the aged woodmen knew,
Who more than he were of that beauty proud.
35 Now each relay a several station finds,
Ere the triumphant train the copse surrounds;
Relays of horse, long breathed as winter winds,
And their deep cannon-mouthed experienced hounds.
36 The huntsmen, busily concerned in show,
As if the world were by this beast undone,
And they against him hired as Nature's foe,
In haste uncouple, and their hounds outrun.
37 Now wind they a recheat, the roused deer's knell,
And through the forest all the beasts are awed;
Alarmed by Echo, Nature's sentinel,
Which shows that murderous man is come abroad.
38 Tyrannic man! thy subjects' enemy!
And more through wantonness than need or hate,
From whom the winged to their coverts fly,
And to their dens even those that lay in wait.
39 So this, the most successful of his kind,
Whose forehead's force oft his opposers pressed,
Whose swiftness left pursuers' shafts behind,
Is now of all the forest most distressed!
40 The herd deny him shelter, as if taught
To know their safety is to yield him lost;
Which shows they want not the results of thought,
But speech, by which we ours for reason boast.
41 We blush to see our politics in beasts,
Who many saved by this one sacrifice;
And since through blood they follow interests,
Like us when cruel should be counted wise.
42 His rivals, that his fury used to fear
For his loved female, now his faintness shun;
But were his season hot, and she but near,
(O mighty love!) his hunters were undone.
43 From thence, well blown, he comes to the relay,
Where man's famed reason proves but cowardice,
And only serves him meanly to betray;
Even for the flying, man in ambush lies.
44 But now, as his last remedy to live,
(For every shift for life kind Nature makes,
Since life the utmost is which she can give,)
Cool Adice from the swoln bank he takes.
45 But this fresh bath the dogs will make him leave,
Whom he sure-nosed as fasting tigers found;
Their scent no north-east wind could e'er deceive
Which drives the air, nor flocks that soil the ground.
46 Swift here the fliers and pursuers seem;
The frighted fish swim from their Adice,
The dogs pursue the deer, he the fleet stream,
And that hastes too to the Adriatic sea.
47 Refreshed thus in this fleeting element,
He up the steadfast shore did boldly rise;
And soon escaped their view, but not their scent,
That faithful guide, which even conducts their eyes.
48 This frail relief was like short gales of breath,
Which oft at sea a long dead calm prepare;
Or like our curtains drawn at point of death,
When all our lungs are spent, to give us air.
49 For on the shore the hunters him attend:
And whilst the chase grew warm as is the day,
(Which now from the hot zenith does descend,)
He is embossed, and wearied to a bay.
50 The jewel, life, he must surrender here,
Which the world's mistress, Nature, does not give,
But like dropped favours suffers us to wear,
Such as by which pleased lovers think they live.
51 Yet life he so esteems, that he allows
It all defence his force and rage can make;
And to the eager dogs such fury shows,
As their last blood some unrevenged forsake.
52 But now the monarch murderer comes in,
Destructive man! whom Nature would not arm,
As when in madness mischief is foreseen,
We leave it weaponless for fear of harm.
53 For she defenceless made him, that he might
Less readily offend; but art arms all,
From single strife makes us in numbers fight;
And by such art this royal stag did fall.
54 He weeps till grief does even his murderers pierce;
Grief which so nobly through his anger strove,
That it deserved the dignity of verse,
And had it words, as humanly would move.
55 Thrice from the ground his vanquished head he reared,
And with last looks his forest walks did view;
Where sixty summers he had ruled the herd,
And where sharp dittany now vainly grew:
56 Whose hoary leaves no more his wounds shall heal;
For with a sigh (a blast of all his breath)
That viewless thing, called life, did from him steal,
And with their bugle-horns they wind his death.
57 Then with their annual wanton sacrifice,
Taught by old custom, whose decrees are vain,
And we, like humorous antiquaries, that prize
Age, though deformed, they hasten to the plain.
58 Thence homeward bend as westward as the sun,
Where Gondibert's allies proud feasts prepare,
That day to honour which his grandsire won;
Though feasts the eyes to funerals often are.
59 One from the forest now approached their sight,
Who them did swiftly on the spur pursue;
One there still resident as day and night,
And known as the eldest oak which in it grew:
60 Who, with his utmost breath advancing, cries,
(And such a vehemence no heart could feign,)
'Away! happy the man that fastest flies!
Fly, famous Duke! fly with thy noble train!'
61 The Duke replied: 'Though with thy fears disguised,
Thou dost my sire's old ranger's image bear,
And for thy kindness shalt not be despised;
Though counsels are but weak which come from fear.
62 'Were dangers here, great as thy love can shape,
And love with fear can danger multiply,
Yet when by flight thou bidst us meanly 'scape,
Bid trees take wings, and rooted forests fly.'
63 Then said the ranger: 'You are bravely lost!'
(And like high anger his complexion rose.)
'As little know I fear as how to boast;
But shall attend you through your many foes.
64 'See where in ambush mighty Oswald lay!
And see, from yonder lawn he moves apace,
With lances armed to intercept thy way,
Now thy sure steeds are wearied with the chase.
65 'His purple banners you may there behold,
Which, proudly spread, the fatal raven bear;
And full five hundred I by rank have told,
Who in their gilded helms his colours wear.'
66 The Duke this falling storm does now discern;
Bids little Hugo fly! but 'tis to view
The foe, and timely their first count'nance learn,
Whilst firm he in a square his hunters drew.
67 And Hugo soon, light as his courser's heels,
Was in their faces troublesome as wind;
And like to it so wingedly he wheels,
No one could catch, what all with trouble find.
68 But everywhere the leaders and the led
He temperately observed with a slow sight;
Judged by their looks how hopes and fears were fed,
And by their order their success in fight.
69 Their number, 'mounting to the ranger's guess,
In three divisions evenly was disposed;
And that their enemies might judge it less,
It seemed one gross with all the spaces closed.
70 The van fierce Oswald led, where Paradine
And manly Dargonet, both of his blood,
Outshined the noon, and their minds' stock within
Promised to make that outward glory good.
71 The next, bold, but unlucky Hubert led,
Brother to Oswald, and no less allied
To the ambitions which his soul did wed;
Lowly without, but lined with costly pride.
72 Most to himself his valour fatal was,
Whose glories oft to others dreadful were;
So comets, though supposed destruction's cause,
But waste themselves to make their gazers fear.
73 And though his valour seldom did succeed,
His speech was such as could in storms persuade;
Sweet as the hopes on which starved lovers feed,
Breathed in the whispers of a yielding maid.
74 The bloody Borgio did conduct the rear,
Whom sullen Vasco heedfully attends;
To all but to themselves they cruel were,
And to themselves chiefly by mischief friends.
75 War, the world's art, nature to them became;
In camps begot, born, and in anger bred;
The living vexed till death, and then their fame,
Because even fame some life is to the dead.
76 Cities, wise statesmen's folds for civil sheep,
They sacked, as painful shearers of the wise;
For they like careful wolves would lose their sleep,
When others' prosperous toils might be their prize.
77 Hugo amongst these troops spied many more,
Who had, as brave destroyers, got renown;
And many forward wounds in boast they wore,
Which, if not well revenged, had ne'er been shown.
78 Such the bold leaders of these lancers were,
Which of the Brescian veterans did consist;
Whose practised age might charge of armies bear,
And claim some rank in Fame's eternal list.
79 Back to his Duke the dexterous Hugo flies,
What he observed he cheerfully declares;
With noble pride did what he liked despise;
For wounds he threatened whilst he praised their scars.
80 Lord Arnold cried, 'Vain is the bugle-horn,
Where trumpets men to manly work invite!
That distant summons seems to say, in scorn,
We hunters may be hunted hard ere night.'
81 'Those beasts are hunted hard that hard can fly,'
Replied aloud the noble Hurgonil;
'But we, not used to flight, know best to die;
And those who know to die, know how to kill.
82 'Victors through number never gained applause;
If they exceed our count in arms and men,
It is not just to think that odds, because
One lover equals any other ten.'
FROM 'GONDIBERT'--CANTO IV.
1 The King, who never time nor power misspent
In subject's bashfulness, whiling great deeds
Like coward councils, who too late consent,
Thus to his secret will aloud proceeds:
2 'If to thy fame, brave youth, I could add wings,
Or make her trumpet louder by my voice,
I would, as an example drawn for kings,
Proclaim the cause why thou art now my choice.
* * * * *
3 'For she is yours, as your adoption free;
And in that gift my remnant life I give;
But 'tis to you, brave youth! who now are she;
And she that heaven where secondly I live.
4 'And richer than that crown, which shall be thine
When life's long progress I have gone with fame,
Take all her love; which scarce forbears to shine,
And own thee, through her virgin curtain, shame.'
5 Thus spake the king; and Rhodalind appeared
Through published love, with so much bashfulness,
As young kings show, when by surprise o'erheard,
Moaning to favourite ears a deep distress.
6 For love is a distress, and would be hid
Like monarchs' griefs, by which they bashful grow;
And in that shame beholders they forbid;
Since those blush most, who most their blushes show.
7 And Gondibert, with dying eyes, did grieve
At her vailed love, a wound he cannot heal,
As great minds mourn, who cannot then relieve
The virtuous, when through shame they want conceal.
8 And now cold Birtha's rosy looks decay;
Who in fear's frost had like her beauty died,
But that attendant hope persuades her stay
A while, to hear her Duke; who thus replied:
9 'Victorious King! abroad your subjects are,
Like legates, safe; at home like altars free!
Even by your fame they conquer, as by war;
And by your laws safe from each other be.
10 'A king you are o'er subjects so, as wise
And noble husbands seem o'er loyal wives;
Who claim not, yet confess their liberties,
And brag to strangers of their happy lives.
11 'To foes a winter storm; whilst your friends bow,
Like summer trees, beneath your bounty's load;
To me, next him whom your great self, with low
And cheerful duty, serves, a giving God.
12 'Since this is you, and Rhodalind, the light
By which her sex fled virtue find, is yours,
Your diamond, which tests of jealous sight,
The stroke, and fire, and Oisel's juice endures;
13 'Since she so precious is, I shall appear
All counterfeit, of art's disguises made;
And never dare approach her lustre near,
Who scarce can hold my value in the shade.
14 'Forgive me that I am not what I seem;
But falsely have dissembled an excess
Of all such virtues as you most esteem;
But now grow good but as I ills confess.
15 'Far in ambition's fever am I gone!
Like raging flame aspiring is my love;
Like flame destructive too, and, like the sun,
Does round the world tow'rds change of objects move.
16 'Nor is this now through virtuous shame confessed;
But Rhodalind does force my conjured fear,
As men whom evil spirits have possessed,
Tell all when saintly votaries appear.
17 'When she will grace the bridal dignity,
It will be soon to all young monarchs known;
Who then by posting through the world will try
Who first can at her feet present his crown.
18 'Then will Verona seem the inn of kings,
And Rhodalind shall at her palace gate
Smile, when great love these royal suitors brings;
Who for that smile would as for empire wait.
19 'Amongst this ruling race she choice may take
For warmth of valour, coolness of the mind,
Eyes that in empire's drowsy calms can wake,
In storms look out, in darkness dangers find;
20 'A prince who more enlarges power than lands,
Whose greatness is not what his map contains;
But thinks that his where he at full commands,
Not where his coin does pass, but power remains.
21 'Who knows that power can never be too high;
When by the good possessed, for 'tis in them
The swelling Nile, from which though people fly,
They prosper most by rising of the stream.
22 'Thus, princes, you should choose; and you will find,
Even he, since men are wolves, must civilise,
As light does tame some beasts of savage kind,
Himself yet more, by dwelling in your eyes.'
23 Such was the Duke's reply; which did produce
Thoughts of a diverse shape through several ears:
His jealous rivals mourn at his excuse;
But Astragon it cures of all his fears,
24 Birtha his praise of Rhodalind bewails;
And now her hope a weak physician seems;
For hope, the common comforter, prevails
Like common medicines, slowly in extremes.
25 The King (secure in offered empire) takes
This forced excuse as troubled bashfulness,
And a disguise which sudden passion makes,
To hide more joy than prudence should express.
26 And Rhodalind, who never loved before,
Nor could suspect his love was given away,
Thought not the treasure of his breast so poor,
But that it might his debts of honour pay.
27 To hasten the rewards of his desert,
The King does to Verona him command;
And, kindness so imposed, not all his art
Can now instruct his duty to withstand.
28 Yet whilst the King does now his time dispose
In seeing wonders, in this palace shown,
He would a parting kindness pay to those
Who of their wounds are yet not perfect grown.
29 And by this fair pretence, whilst on the King
Lord Astragon through all the house attends,
Young Orgo does the Duke to Birtha bring,
Who thus her sorrows to his bosom sends:
30 'Why should my storm your life's calm voyage vex?
Destroying wholly virtue's race in one:
So by the first of my unlucky sex,
All in a single ruin were undone.
31 'Make heavenly Rhodalind your bride! whilst I,
Your once loved maid, excuse you, since I know
That virtuous men forsake so willingly
Long-cherished life, because to heaven they go.
32 'Let me her servant be: a dignity,
Which if your pity in my fall procures,
I still shall value the advancement high,
Not as the crown is hers, but she is yours.'
33 Ere this high sorrow up to dying grew,
The Duke the casket opened, and from thence,
Formed like a heart, a cheerful emerald drew;
Cheerful, as if the lively stone had sense.
34 The thirtieth caract it had doubled twice;
Not taken from the Attic silver mine,
Nor from the brass, though such, of nobler price,
Did on the necks of Parthian ladies shine:
35 Nor yet of those which make the Ethiop proud;
Nor taken from those rocks where Bactrians climb:
But from the Scythian, and without a cloud;
Not sick at fire, nor languishing with time.
36 Then thus he spake: 'This, Birtha, from my male
Progenitors, was to the loyal she
On whose kind heart they did in love prevail,
The nuptial pledge, and this I give to thee:
37 'Seven centuries have passed, since it from bride
To bride did first succeed; and though 'tis known
From ancient lore, that gems much virtue hide,
And that the emerald is the bridal stone:
38 'Though much renowned because it chastens loves,
And will, when worn by the neglected wife,
Show when her absent lord disloyal proves,
By faintness, and a pale decay of life.
39 'Though emeralds serve as spies to jealous brides,
Yet each compared to this does counsel keep;
Like a false stone, the husband's falsehood hides,
Or seems born blind, or feigns a dying sleep.
40 'With this take Orgo, as a better spy,
Who may in all your kinder fears be sent
To watch at court, if I deserve to die
By making this to fade, and you lament.'
41 Had now an artful pencil Birtha drawn,
With grief all dark, then straight with joy all light,
He must have fancied first, in early dawn,
A sudden break of beauty out of night.
42 Or first he must have marked what paleness fear,
Like nipping frost, did to her visage bring;
Then think he sees, in a cold backward year,
A rosy morn begin a sudden spring.
43 Her joys, too vast to be contained in speech,
Thus she a little spake: 'Why stoop you down,
My plighted lord, to lowly Birtha's reach,
Since Rhodalind would lift you to a crown?
44 'Or why do I, when I this plight embrace,
Boldly aspire to take what you have given?
But that your virtue has with angels place,
And 'tis a virtue to aspire to heaven.
45 'And as towards heaven all travel on their knees,
So I towards you, though love aspire, will move:
And were you crowned, what could you better please
Then awed obedience led by bolder love?
46 'If I forget the depth from whence I rise,
Far from your bosom banished be my heart;
Or claim a right by beauty to your eyes;
Or proudly think my chastity desert.
47 'But thus ascending from your humble maid
To be your plighted bride, and then your wife,
Will be a debt that shall be hourly paid,
Till time my duty cancel with my life.
48 'And fruitfully, if heaven e'er make me bring
Your image to the world, you then my pride
No more shall blame than you can tax the spring
For boasting of those flowers she cannot hide.
49 'Orgo I so receive as I am taught
By duty to esteem whate'er you love;
And hope the joy he in this jewel brought
Will luckier than his former triumphs prove.
50 'For though but twice he has approached my sight,
He twice made haste to drown me in my tears:
But now I am above his planet's spite,
And as for sin beg pardon for my fears.'
51 Thus spake she: and with fixed, continued sight
The Duke did all her bashful beauties view;
Then they with kisses sealed their sacred plight,
Like flowers, still sweeter as they thicker grew.
52 Yet must these pleasures feel, though innocent,
The sickness of extremes, and cannot last;
For power, love's shunned impediment, has sent
To tell the Duke his monarch is in haste:
53 And calls him to that triumph which he fears
So as a saint forgiven, whose breast does all
Heaven's joys contain, wisely loved pomp forbears,
Lest tempted nature should from blessings fall.
54 He often takes his leave, with love's delay,
And bids her hope he with the King shall find,
By now appearing forward to obey,
A means to serve him less in Rhodalind.
55 She weeping to her closet window hies,
Where she with tears doth Rhodalind survey;
As dying men, who grieve that they have eyes,
When they through curtains spy the rising day.
DR HENRY KING.
Of this poetical divine we know nothing, except that he was born in
1591, and died in 1669,--that he was chaplain to James I., and Bishop of
Chichester,--and that he indited some poetry as pious in design as it is
pretty in execution.
Like to the falling of a star,
Or as the flights of eagles are;
Or like the fresh spring's gaudy hue,
Or silver drops of morning dew;
Or like a wind that chafes the flood,
Or bubbles which on water stood:
Even such is man, whose borrowed light
Is straight called in, and paid to-night.
The wind blows out, the bubble dies;
The spring entombed in autumn lies;
The dew dries up, the star is shot:
The flight is past--and man forgot.
1 Dry those fair, those crystal eyes,
Which like growing fountains rise
To drown their banks! Grief's sullen brooks
Would better flow in furrowed looks:
Thy lovely face was never meant
To be the shore of discontent.
2 Then clear those waterish stars again,
Which else portend a lasting rain;
Lest the clouds which settle there
Prolong my winter all the year,
And thy example others make
In love with sorrow, for thy sake.
1 What is the existence of man's life
But open war or slumbered strife?
Where sickness to his sense presents
The combat of the elements,
And never feels a perfect peace
Till death's cold hand signs his release.
2 It is a storm--where the hot blood
Outvies in rage the boiling flood:
And each loud passion of the mind
Is like a furious gust of wind,
Which beats the bark with many a wave,
Till he casts anchor in the grave.
3 It is a flower--which buds, and grows,
And withers as the leaves disclose;
Whose spring and fall faint seasons keep,
Like fits of waking before sleep,
Then shrinks into that fatal mould
Where its first being was enrolled.
4 It is a dream--whose seeming truth
Is moralised in age and youth;
Where all the comforts he can share
As wandering as his fancies are,
Till in a mist of dark decay
The dreamer vanish quite away.
5 It is a dial--which points out
The sunset as it moves about;
And shadows out in lines of night
The subtle stages of Time's flight,
Till all-obscuring earth hath laid
His body in perpetual shade.
6 It is a weary interlude--
Which doth short joys, long woes, include:
The world the stage, the prologue tears;
The acts vain hopes and varied fears;
The scene shuts up with loss of breath,
And leaves no epilogue but Death!
This author was of the age of Spenser, and is said to have been an
acquaintance and friend of that poet. It was not, however, till 1683
that good old Izaak Walton published 'Thealma and Clearchus,' a pas-
toral romance, which, he stated, had been written long since by John
Chalkhill, Esq. He says of the author, 'that he was in his time a man
generally known, and as well beloved; for he was humble and obliging
in his behaviour--a gentleman, a scholar, very innocent and prudent,
and indeed his whole life was useful, quiet, and virtuous.' Some have
suspected that this production proceeded from the pen of Walton himself.
This, however, is rendered extremely unlikely--first, by the fact that
Walton, when he printed 'Thealma,' was ninety years of age; and,
secondly, by the difference in style and purpose between that poem and
Walton's avowed productions. The mind of Walton was quietly ingenious;
that of the author of 'Thealma' is adventurous and fantastic. Walton
loved 'the green pastures and the still waters' of the Present; the
other, the golden groves and ideal wildernesses of the Golden Age in
'Thealma and Clearchus' may be called an 'Arcadia' in rhyme. It
resembles that work of Sir Philip Sidney, not only in subject, but in
execution. Its plot is dark and puzzling, its descriptions are rich to
luxuriance, its narrative is tedious, and its characters are mere
shadows. But although a dream, it is a dream of genius, and brings
beautifully before our imagination that early period in the world's
history, in which poets and painters have taught us to believe, when the
heavens were nearer, the skies clearer, the fat of the earth richer, the
foam of the sea brighter, than in our degenerate days;--when shepherds,
reposing under broad, umbrageous oaks, saw, or thought they saw, in the
groves the shadow of angels, and on the mountain-summits the descending
footsteps of God. Chalkhill resembles, of all our modern poets, perhaps
Shelley most, in the ideality of his conception, the enthusiasm of his
spirit, and the unmitigated gorgeousness of his imagination.
Arcadia, was of old, a state,
Subject to none but their own laws and fate;
Superior there was none, but what old age
And hoary hairs had raised; the wise and sage,
Whose gravity, when they are rich in years,
Begat a civil reverence more than fears
In the well-mannered people; at that day,
All was in common, every man bare sway
O'er his own family; the jars that rose
Back to Full Books