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vanced age; was a most exquisite poet and an unrivalled historian. This information, which the editor has dignified with the title of “ Memoirs," is nearly all that is known of the author. He appears, from his Apology for Rhyme, addressed to William, Earl of Pembroke, to have been educated under the patronage of that family. Speaking of his application to the study of poetry, he says :
“ Having been first encouraged and framed thereunto by your most worthy and honourable mother, and received the first notion for the formal ordering of those compositions at Wilton, which I must ever acknowledge to have been my best school, and thereof always am to hold a feeling and grateful memory. Afterward, drawn farther on by the well-liking and approbation of my worthy lord, the fosterer of me and my muse, I adventured to bestow all my whole powers therein, perceiving it agreed so well, both with the complection of the times, and my own constitution, as I found not wherein I might better employ me.”
He was entered a commoner of Magdalene Hall, Oxford, which he quitted at the end of three years, without taking a degree. His poetical works consist of fifty-seven sonnets : The Complaint of Rosamond, The Letter of Octavia to Mark Antony ; Hymen's Triumph, and The Queen's Arcadia, two pastoral tragi-comedies; Cleopatra and Philotas, two tragedies; The History of the Civil War, Musophilus, or a General Defence of Learning, and some epistles and miscellaneous poems. The sonnets were his first compositions, and were well received, but the reputation he gained by them he lost by his historical poem : falling from public favor to neglect, in his lifetime. With a longing after fame, Daniel saw that reputation gradually sinking into indifference and decay, and himself passing from the power of delighting, and the receipt of homage, to the censure of the critic, and the forgetfulness of the public. Finding his dearest hopes thus dying away, well might he exclaim, in the bitterness of his sorrow :
“But years have done this wrong,
a longing from pubined by ions, and in
His favorite and most elaborate work is, The History of the Civil Wars between the Houses of York and Lancaster; the unfinished state of which he frequently laments. He spent many years in the composition of this poem, on which his hopes of fame chiefly depended ; but which only affords another proof of the incapacity of authors to judge of their own productions. The subject itself was ill chosen, and this
defect is, by no means, counterbalanced by the excellence of the execution. The author has, in fact, confined himself to the dry narrative of history, into which he has occasionally, though seldom, attempted to infuse a portion of the spirit of poetry; but he has failed in awakening any feeling of pathos or sympathy. It has been generally said, indeed, by those who have touched on Daniel, that pathetic passages are dispersed through his poem of The Civil War. We have looked for them in vain, and if we were to form our judgement of his poetical powers from this work alone, we should be disposed to concur in the much reprehended opinion of Ben Jonson, that he was not a poet. Eulogy, it seems, as well as censure, is frequently bestowed on the faith of common rumour; they descend unquestioned from one generation to another, until some prying critic chooses to read and judge for himself. Nothing, in fact, can be more tiresomely monotonous, more dry and antipoetical, than this rhyming chronicle. The merit of simple diction and harmonious cadence cannot be denied ; the presence of good sense and unexceptionable fidelity, and the absence of any thing positively offensive against good taste, must be allowed it. Beyond this praise we cannot go, for it is embellished neither with beauty of description, nor the rapid narrative of passion. It is a fraud upon the reader to hold it out as a poem, and it is a round-about way to get at the facts of history.
His dramas are equally jejune and unimpassioned. Daniel's genius certainly was not calculated for dramatic composition : indeed we learn, from the Dedication to Cleopatra, that if he had followed his own inclination, he would have been contented to sing of Delia; but he was induced, by Mary, Countess of Pembroke, to cultivate an acquaintance with the tragic muse; “To sing of state, and tragic notes to frame.” Because he had succeeded in writing agreeable sonnets, it was taken for granted that he must be capable of higher things. Without the solicitation or encouragement of friends, he would, probably, never have attempted so high a flight; for as he says of himself, “irresolution and a self-distrust were the most apparent faults of his nature.” He was, indeed, as modest in his estimation of himself, as he was amiable in his disposition and blameless in his writings. Tragedy, however, he tried, and failed. Adhering, in a great measure, to the form of the Greek tragedy, but destitute of its poetry, his plays have not the spirit-stirring dialogue, the interest, or the reality of the modern drama. He was, apparently, afraid of trusting himself too far with dialogue, lest he should mismanage it; and he has, therefore, thrown almost the whole of his tragedies into the shape of narrative, and that too sufficiently long and
tiresome. They consist in the representation of a single event, and are written in alternate rhymes, a mode of composition which he afterwards thought was not so well calculated for dramatic works as blank verse.
“ I must confess,” he says, in his Apology,“my adversary hath wrought this much in me, that I think a tragedy would, indeed, best comport with blank verse, and dispense with rhyme, saving in the chorus, or where a sentence shall require a couplet.”
As to his pastoral dramas; The Queen's Arcadia, which was presented to her majesty, by the University of Oxford, in 1605, is a satire on the vices and follies of the times, shadowed under that name; a design singularly ill-calculated for dramatic representation, and it is, in fact, a very puerile performánce. Hymen's Triumph is more dramatic, both in construction and character ; but almost the only scene susceptible of genuine passion (and which is related by a spectator) is totally spoiled. There is a quiet charm about the Complaint of Rosamond, without its being distinguished by any very poetical imagery or poetic touches; but Cleopatra's Letter is intolerably dull-if it had been sent to a man kept from home by weaker ties than Mark Antony, it would never have brought him back. In praise of his minor pieces little can be said, except of those which will be quoted in the course of this article. So that, after all, Daniel's fame must depend upon what first introduced him to the world as a poet-his sonnets. These productions, unfortunately, all turn on the passion of love; and many of them of love in its coldest aspect and most metaphysical character. We say unfortunately; for Daniel, though generally timid and unaspiring, is sometimes spirited into nobleness and elevated into enthusiasm. These, it is true, occur only at long intervals, and appear rather the consequence of a lucky disposition of mind a brief inspiration, than of general power. But his sonnets were the first, and in point of diction and rhythm, are the most finished of his works; and being written in the first working of his mind and May of his blood, have more of the essence of poetry than his later productions; and if they had been on different subjects, would have been much more likely to have realized the author's aspirations after fame than his present productions.
We shall commence our extracts with a few of the sonnets distinguished by their simplicity and elegance.
Her smiles are lightning, tho' her pride, despair ;
And her disdaips are gall, her favours honey. A modest maid, deck'd with a blush of honour;
Whose feet do tread green paths of youth and love! The wonder of all eyes that look upon her:
Sacred on earth ; design'd a saint above !
Live reconciled friends within her brow:
Then who had heard the plaints I utter now;
XII. My spotless love hovers with purest wings, About the temple of the proudest frame; Where blaze those lights fairest of earthly things,
Which clear our clouded world with brightest flame. M'ambitious thoughts confined in her face,
Affect no honour, but what she can give ::
I weigh no comfort, unless she relieve.
Holds in her fairest hand what dearest is;
Whose rolling scarce deigns once a turn of bliss.
XXIV. These sorrow'ng sighs, the smoak of mine annoy; These tears which heat of sacred flame distils ; Are those due tributes, that my faith doth pay
Unto the tyrant, whose unkindness kills.
At her proud feet, and she respects not it:
And winter woes, for spring of youth unfit.
And so with looks prolongs my long-look'd ease :
Yet must that bliss my hungry thoughts appease.
Shall fail in force, their working not so strong:
Whose glorious blaze the world doth so admire,
Then fade those flow’rs that deck'd her pride so long; When if she grieve to gaze her in her glass,
Which then presents her winter-wither'd hue;
For what she was, she best shall find in you.
That full of beauty, time bestows upon her.
But straight her wide-blown pomp comes to decline;
So fade the roses of those cheeks of thine !
Dissolves the beauty of the fairest brow.
And straight 'tis gone, as it had never been.
Short is the glory of the blushing rose :
Yet which at length thou must be forc'd to lose.
Shalt bend thy wrinkles homeward to the earth ;