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Sonnets, 1595, which are not the most perfect of his minor poems ;
“Like as the culver, on the bared bough,
Sits mourning for the absence of her mate,
And in her songs sends many a wishful vow
For his return, that seems to linger late:
So I alone, now left disconsolate,
Mourn to myself the absence of my love;
And, wandering here and there all desolate,
Seek with my plaints to match that mournful dove.
Ne joy of ought that under heaven doth hove,
Can comfort me, but her own joyous sight:
Whose sweet aspect both God and man can move,
In her unspotted pleasance to delight.
Dark is my day whiles her fair light I miss,
And dead my life, that wants such lively bliss."
Richard Barnefeilde enjoyed great popularity dur-
ing his time.* The following lines are from his
Cynthia, With Certaine Sonnets, 1595: better
, specimens of his talent as a Sonnetteer might have been given, but for reasons which may be gathered from the note at p. Ixxxiii. I did not choose to exhibit them :
" It is reported of fair Thetis' son,
Achilles, famous for his chivalry,
His noble mind, and magnanimity,
That when the Trojan wars were new begun,
Whos'ever was deep-wounded with his spear,
Could never be recured of his maim,
Nor ever after be made whole again,
Except with that spear's rust he holpen were:
• See p. 262 of Shakespeare's Poems.
Even so it fareth with my fortune now,
Who being wounded with her piercing eye,
Must either thereby find a remedy,
Or else to be reliev'd I know not how.
Then, if thou hast a mind still to annoy me,
Kill me with kisses, if thou wilt destroy me."
From the Chloris of William Smith, 1596:
"My love, I cannot thy rare beauties place
Under those forms which many writers use.
Some, like to stones compare their mistress' face,
Some in the name of flowers do love abuse;
Some make their love a goldsmith's shop to be,
Where orient pearls and precious stones abound:
In my conceit these far do disagree,
The perfect praise of beauty forth to sound.
O Chloris, thou dost imitate thyself!
Self-imitating passeth precious stones;
For all the Eastern-Indian golden pelf,
Thy red and white with purest fair attones.
Matchless for beauty Nature hath thee fram’d,
Only unkind and cruel thou art nam’d.”
What follows is from Diella, Certaine Sonnets, adioyned to the amorous Poeme of Dom Diego and Gineura, by R. L. Gentleman, 1596:
" When love had first besieg'd my heart's strong wall,
Rampir’d and countermur'd with chastity,
And had with ordnance made liis tops to fall,
Stooping their glory to his surquedry;
I call'd a parley, and withal did crave
Some composition, or some friendly peace:
To this request he his consent soon gave,
As seeming glad such cruel wars should cease
I. nought mistrusting, open'd all the gates,
Yea, lodg'd him in the palace of my heart;
When lo! in dead of night he sechs his mates,
And shows each traitor how to play his part;
With that they fir'd my heart, and thence 'gan fly,
Their names, sweet smiles, fair face, and piercing eye."
From the Fidessa of R. Griffin, 1596 :
“Care-charmer sleep, sweet ease in restless misery,
The captive's liberty, and his freedom's song,
Bum of the bruised hear, man's chief felicity,
Brother of quiet death, when life is too too long;
A comedy it is, and now an history,
What is not sleep unto the feeble mind?
It easeth him that toils, and him that's sorry
It makes the de:lf to hear, to see the blind.
Ungentle sleep, thou helpest all but me,
For, when I sleep, my soul is vexed most:
It is Fidessa that doth master thee,
If she approach, alas, thy power is lost!
But here she is-see, how he runs amain;
I fear at night he will not come again."
From the Aurora, of William Alexander, Eari of Sterline, 1604.
“I swear, Aurora, by thy starry eyes,
And by those golden locks whose lock none slips,
And by the coral of thy rosy lips,
And by the naked snows which beauty dyes;
I swear by all the jewels of thy mind,
Whose like yet never worldly treasure bought,
Thy solid judgment and thy generous thought,
Which in this darken'd age have clearly shin'd;
I swear by those, and by my spotless love,
And by my secret, yet most fervent fires,
That I have never nurst but chaste desires,
And such as modesty might well approve.
Then, since I love those virtuous parts in thee,
Should'st thou not love this virtuous mind in me?'
The greater portion of Shakespeare's Sonnets is addressed to a male object; and the kind of exaggerated friendship which some of them profess, can only surprise a reader who is unacquainted with the manners of those days. It was then not uncommon for one man to write verses to another in a strain of such tender affection, as fully warrants our terming them amatory ;
100 " Abraham Fraunce," says Warton," in 1591 translated Virgil's Alexis into English hexameters, verse for verse, which he calls The lamentation of Corydon for the love of Alexis. It must be owned, that the selection of this particular Eclogue from all the ten for an English version, is somewhat extraordinary. But in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, I could point out whole sets of sonnets written with this sort of attachment, for which, perhaps, it will be but an inadequate apology, that they are free from direct impurity of expression and open immodesty of sentiment. Such at least is our observance of external propriety, and so strong the principles of a general decorum, that a writer of the present age who was to print love-verses in this style, would be severely reproached, and universally proscribed. I will instance only in the AFFECTIONATE SHEPHERD of Richard Barnefielde, printed in 1595 There, through the course of twenty sonnets, not inelegant, and which were exceedingly popular, the poet bewails his unsuccessful love for a beautiful youth, by the name of Ganimede, in a strain of the most tender pas sion, yet with professions of the chastest affection. Many descriptions and incidents which have a like complexion, may be found in the futile novels of Lodge and Lilly.” Hist. of English Poetry, iii. 405.
In an address “ To the curteous Gentlemen Readers' prefixed to Barnefielde's Cynthia, with Certaine Sonnets, &c, 1595, he speaks thus of his former production, noticed in the preceding remarks of Warton: "Some there were that
and even in the epistolary correspondence between two grave and elderly gentlemen, friendship used frequently to borrow the language of love.
Who was the object in question, the commentators of Shakespeare have unsuccessfully laboured to discover; of their various conjectures on this point, I shall only mention two; the one remarkable for its ingenuity, the other for its absurdity. Tyrwhitt, putting together the initials W. H. in the Dedication to the Sonnets, and the following line of the xxth Sonnet, given thus in the original edition,
A man in hew all Hews in his controlling"
did interpret the Affectionate Shepherd, otherwise then (in
truth) I meant, touching the subject thereof, to wit, the love
of a Shepherd to a boy; a fault, the which I will not ex-
cuse, because I never made. Only this, I will unshaddow
my conceit: being nothing else but an imitation of Virgill
in the second Eglogue of Alexis.” I may add, that at a
considerably later period, Phineas Fletcher (one of the purest
of poetical spirits) in his first Piscatory Eclogue, introduces
Thelgon lamenting the inconstancy of Amyntas; and that in
a short copy of verses “ To Master W. C.” by the same
writer, is the following stanza:
“Return now, Willy; now at length return thee:
Here thou and I, under the sprouting vine,
By yellow Chame, where no hot ray shall burn thee,
Will sit, and sing among the Muses nine;
And safely cover'd from the scalding shine,
We'l read that Mantuan shepherds sireet complaining,
Whom fair Alexis griev'd with his unjust disdaining."
See his Piscatorie Eclogs, and other Poeticall Miscellanies,
(appended to The Purple Island,) 1633, p. 1, and p. 60.