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You violets that first appear,
By your pure purple mantles known, Like the proud virgins of the year, 1 As if the spring were all your own! What are you, when the rose is blown? So, when my mistress shall be seen
In form and beauty of her mind; By virtue first, then choice, a Queen! Tell me, if she were not design'd Th' eclipse and glory of her kind?
A Farewell to the Vanities of the World. Farewell, ye gilded follies, pleasing troubles; Farewell, ye honour'd rags, ye glorious bubbles! Fame's but a hollow echo; gold pure clay; Honour the darling but of one short day; Beauty, th' eye's idol, but a damask'd skin; State but a golden prison to live in, And torture free-born minds; embroider'd trains Merely but pageants for proud swelling veins; And blood allied to greatness, is alone Inherited, not purchased, nor our own: Fame, honour, beauty, state, train, blood, and birth, Are but the fading blossoms of the earth.
Welcome, pure thoughts, welcome, ye silent groves,
The Character of a Happy Life. How happy is he born and taught, That serveth not another's will; Whose armour is his honest thought, And simple truth his utmost skill! Whose passions not his masters are, Whose soul is still prepared for death, Untied unto the worldly care Of public fame, or private breath; Who envies none that chance doth raise, Or vice; who never understood How deepest wounds are given by praise; Nor rules of state, but rules of good:
Who hath his life from rumours freed,
SHAKSPEARE, as a writer of miscellaneous poetry, claims now to be noticed, and, with the exception of the Faery Queen, there are no poems of the reign of Elizabeth equal to those productions to which the great dramatist affixed his name. In 1593, when the poet was in his twenty-ninth year, appeared his Venus and Adonis, and in the following year his Rape of Lucrece, both dedicated to Henry
Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. I know not,' says the modest poet, in his first dedication, 'how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burthen; only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after ear [till] so barren a land.' The allusion to idle hours' seems to point to the author's profession of an actor, in which capacity he had probably attracted the attention of the Earl of Southampton; but it is not so easy to understand how the Venus and Adonis was the first heir of his invention,' unless we believe that it had been written in early life, or that his dramatic labours had then been confined to the adaptation of old plays, not the writing of new ones, for the stage. There is a tradition, that the Earl of Southampton on one occasion presented Shakspeare with L.1000, to complete a purchase which he wished to make. The gift was munificent, but the sum has probably been exaggerated. The Venus and Adonis is a glowing and essentially dramatic version of the well-known mythological story, full of fine descriptive passages, but objectionable on the score of licentiousness. Warton has shown that it gave offence, at the time of its publication, on account of the excessive warmth of its colouring. The Rape of Lucrece is less animated, and is perhaps an inferior poem, though, from the boldness of its figurative expressions, and its tone of dignified pathos and reflection, it is more like the hasty sketch of a great poet.
The sonnets of Shakspeare were first printed in 1609, by Thomas Thorpe, a bookseller and publisher of the day, who prefixed to the volume the following enigmatical dedication:- To the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets, Mr W. H., all happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet, wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth, T. T.' The sonnets are 154 in number. They are, with the exception of twenty-eight, addressed to some male object, whom the poet addresses in a style of affection, love, and idolatry, remarkable, even in the reign of Elizabeth, for its extravagant and enthusiastic character. Though printed continuously, it is obvious that the sonnets were written at different times, with long intervals between the dates of composition; and we know that, previous to 1598, Shakspeare had tried this species of composition, for Meres in that year alludes to his sugared sonnets among his private friends.' We almost wish, with Mr Hallam, that Shakspeare had not written these sonnets, beautiful as many of them are in language and imagery. They represent him in a character foreign to that in which we love to regard him, as modest, virtuous, self-confiding, and independent. His excessive and elaborate praise of youthful beauty in a man seems derogatory to his genius, and savours of adulation; and when we find him excuse this friend for robbing him of his mistress-a married female-and subjecting his noble spirit to all the pangs of jealousy, of guilty love, and blind misplaced attachment, it is painful and difficult to believe that all this weakness and folly can be associated with the name of Shakspeare, and still more, that he should record it in verse which he believed would descend to future ages
Not marble, not the gilded monuments Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme. Some of the sonnets may be written in a feigned character, and merely dramatic in expression; but
in others, the poet alludes to his profession of an
That time of year thou may'st in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou seest the twilight of such day, As after sun-set fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou seest the glowing of such fire, That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire, Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by. This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long. He laments his errors with deep and penitential sorrow, summoning up things past to the sessions of sweet silent thought,' and exhibiting the depths of a spirit 'solitary in the very vastness of its sympathies.' The W. H.' alluded to by Thorpe, the publisher, has been recently conjectured to be William Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pembroke, who (as appears from the dedication of the first folio of 1623) was one of Shakspeare's patrons. This conjecture has received the assent of Mr Hallam and others; and the author of an ingenious work on the sonnets, Mr C. Armitage Brown, has supported it with much plausibility. Herbert was in his eighteenth year, when Meres first notices the sonnets in 1598; he was learned, of literary taste, and gallant character, but of licentious life. The sonnets convey the idea, that the person to whom they were addressed was of high rank, as well as personal beauty and accomplishments. We know of only one objection to this theory-the improbability that the publisher would address William Herbert, then Earl of Pembroke, and a Knight of the Garter, as Mr W. H.' Herbert succeeded his father in the earldom in 1601, while the sonnets, as published by Thorpe, bear the date, as already stated, of 1609.
The composition of these mysterious productions evinces Shakspeare's great facility in versification of a difficult order, and they display more intense feeling and passion than either of his classical poems. They have the conceits and quaint turns of expression, then common, particularly in the sonnet; but they rise to far higher flights of genuine poetry than will be found in any other poet of the day, and they contain many traces of his philosophical and reflective spirit.
[The Horse of Adonis.]
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
1 To bid the wind a base: i. e. to challenge the wind to contend with him in speed: base-prison-base, or prison-bars, was rustic game, consisting chiefly in running.
[Venus's Prophecy after the Death of Adonis.]
It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud,
It shall suspect, where is no cause of fear;
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
Most true it is, that I have look'd on truth
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
No longer mourn for me when I am dead,
Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now while the world is bent my deeds to cross, Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, And do not drop in for an after-loss;
Ah! do not, when my heart hath 'scaped this sorrow,
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
From you have I been absent in the spring,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lilies white,
My love is strengthen'd, though more weak in seeming;
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight. Therefore, like her, I sometimes hold my tongue, Because I would not dull you with my song.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken ;
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Fear no more the heat o' th' sun,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke; Care no more to clothe and eat,
To thee the reed is as the oak. The sceptre, learning, physic, must All follow this, and come to dust. Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor th' all-dreaded thunder stone; Fear not slander, censure rash,
Thou hast finished joy and moan. All lovers young, all lovers must Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
[From As you Like it."] Under the green-wood tree Who loves to lie with me, And tune his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither;
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
Who doth ambition shun,
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
SIR JOHN DAVIES.
SIR JOHN DAVIES (1570-1626), an English barrister, at one time Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, was the author of a long philosophical poem, On the Soul of Man and the Immortality thereof, supposed to have been written in 1598, and one of the earliest poems of that kind in our language. Davies is a profound thinker and close reasoner: in the happier parts of his poem,' says Campbell, 'we come to logical truths so well illustrated by ingenious similes, that we know not whether to call the thoughts more poetically or philosophically just.
The judgment and fancy are reconciled, and the imagery of the poem seems to start more vividly from the surrounding shades of abstraction.' The versification of the poem (long quatrains, was afterwards copied by Davenant and Dryden. Mr Southey has remarked that 'Sir John Davies and Sir William Davenant, avoiding equally the opposite faults of too artificial and too careless a style, wrote in numbers which, for precision, and clearness, and felicity, and strength, have never been surpassed.' The compact structure of Davies's verse is indeed remarkable for his times. In another production, entitled Orchestra, or Poem of Dancing, in a Dialogue between Penelope and One of her Wooers, he is much more fanciful. He there represents Penelope as declining to dance with Antinous, and the latter as proceeding to lecture her upon the antiquity of that elegant exercise, the merits of which he describes in verses partaking, as has been justly remarked, of the flexibility and grace of the subject. The following is one of the most imaginative passages:
[The Dancing of the Air.]
And now behold your tender nurse, the air,
And common neighbour, that aye runs around,
For what are breath, speech, echoes, music, winds,
Now in, now out, in time and measure true; And when you speak, so well she dancing loves, That doubling oft, and oft redoubling new, With thousand forms she doth herself endue:
For all the words that from your lips repair, Are nought but tricks and turnings of the air. Hence is her prattling daughter, Echo, born,
That dances to all voices she can hear :
And yet her hearing sense is nothing quick,
For lo, the sea that fleets about the land,
And like a girdle clips her solid waist, Music and measure both doth understand: For his great crystal eye is always cast Up to the moon, and on her fixed fast:
And as she danceth in her pallid spheres
Sometimes his proud green waves in order set,
He oft doth lay aside his three-fork'd mace,
The poem on Dancing is said to have been written in fifteen days. It was published in 1596. The Nosce Teipsum, or Poem on the Immortality of the Soul, bears the date (as appears from the dedication to the Queen) of 1602. The fame of these works introduced Sir John Davies to James I., who made him successively solicitor-general and attorney-general for Ireland. He was also a judge of assize, and was knighted by the king in 1607. The first Reports of Law Cases, published in Ireland, were made by this able and accomplished man, and his preface to the volume is considered the best that was ever prefixed to a law-book.'
[Reasons for the Soul's Immortality.]
Again, how can she but immortal be,
All moving things to other things do move
And as the moisture which the thirsty earth Sucks from the sea to fill her empty veins, From out her womb at last doth take a birth, And runs a lymph along the grassy plains,
Long doth she stay, as loath to leave the land,
Yet nature so her streams doth lead and carry As that her course doth make no final stay, Till she herself unto the sea doth marry, Within whose wat'ry bosom first she lay.
E'en so the soul, which, in this earthly mould,
At first her mother earth she holdeth dear,
Yet under heaven she cannot light on aught That with her heavenly nature doth agree; She cannot rest, she cannot fix her thought, She cannot in this world contented be.
For who did ever yet, in honour, wealth,
Then, as a bee which among weeds doth fall,
So, when the soul finds here no true content, And, like Noah's dove, can no sure footing take, She doth return from whence she first was sent, And flies to him that first her wings did make.
[The Dignity of Man.]
Oh! what is man, great Maker of mankind! That thou to him so great respect dost bear; That thou adorn'st him with so bright a mind, Mak'st him a king, and even an angel's peer? Oh! what a lively life, what heav'nly pow'r, How great, how plentiful, how rich a dow'r What spreading virtue, what a sparkling fire,
Dost thou within this dying flesh inspire! Thou leav'st thy print in other works of thine, But thy whole image thou in man hast writ; There cannot be a creature more divine,
Except, like thee, it should be infinite: But it exceeds man's thought, to think how high God hath rais'd man, since God a man became ; The angels do admire this mystery,
And are astonish'd when they view the same: Nor hath he given these blessings for a day,
Nor made them on the body's life depend; The soul, though made in time, survives for aye; And though it hath beginning, sees no end.
JOHN DONNE was born in London in 1573, of a Catholic family; through his mother he was related to Sir Thomas More and Heywood the epigrammatist. He was educated partly at Oxford and partly at Cambridge, and was designed for the law, but relinquished the study in his nineteenth year. About this period of his life, having carefully considered the controversies between the Catholics and Protestants, he became convinced that the latter were right, and became a member of the established church. The great abilities and amiable character of Donne were early distinguished. The Earl of Essex, the Lord Chancellor Egerton, and Sir Robert Drury, successively befriended and employed him; and a saying of the second of these eminent persons respecting him is recorded by his biographers-that he was fitter to serve a king than a subject. He fell, nevertheless, into trouble, in consequence of secretly marrying the daughter of Sir George Moore, lord lieutenant of the Tower. This step kept him for several years in poverty, and by the death of his wife, a few days after giving birth to her twelfth child, he was plunged into the greatest grief. At the age of forty-two, Donne became a clergyman, and soon attaining distinction as a preacher, he was preferred by James I. to the deanery of St Paul's; in which benefice he continued till his death in 1631, when he was buried honourably in Westminster Abbey.
The works of Donne consist of satires, elegies, religious poems, complimentary verses, and epigrams: they were first collected into one volume by Tonson in 1719. His reputation as a poet, great in his own day, low during the latter part of the seventeenth, and the whole of the eighteenth centuries, has latterly in some degree revived. In its days of abasement, critics spoke of his harsh and rugged versification, and his leaving nature for conceit: Dryden even hints at the necessity of translating him into numbers and English. It seems to be now acknowledged that, amidst much rubbish, there is much real poetry, and that of a high order, in Donne. He is described by a recent critic as 'imbued to saturation with the learning of his age,' endowed with a most active and piercing intellect -an imagination, if not grasping and comprehensive, most subtle and far-darting-a fancy, rich,