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The better cheeses, bring them, or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands; and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves, in plum or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know!
Where comes no guest but is allow'd to eat
Without his fear, and of thy lord's own meat:
Where the same beer, and bread, and self-same wine
That is his lordship's shall be also mine.
And I not fain to sit (as some this day
At great men's tables) and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups; nor, standing by,
A waiter doth my gluttony envy:
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat;
He knows below he shall find plenty of meat;
Thy tables hoard not up for the next day,
Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray
For fire, or lights, or livery; all is there,
As if thou, then, wert mine, or I reign'd here.
There's nothing I can wish, for which I stay.
This found King James, when hunting late this way
With his brave son, the Prince; they saw thy fires
Shine bright on every hearth, as the desires
Of thy Penates had been set on flame
To draw no envy, Shakspeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such
As neither man nor Muse can praise too much.
'Tis true, and all men's suffrage. But these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise;
For silliest ignorance on these would light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urges all by chance;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it seem'd to raise.
But thou art proof against them, and, indeed,
Above the ill fortune of them, or the need.
I therefore will begin: Soul of the age!
The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!
My Shakspeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further off, to make thee room:
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still, while thy book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses,
I mean with great but disproportion'd Muses:
For if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd or Marlowe's mighty line.
And though thou had small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee I will not seek
For names; but call forth thund'ring Eschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To live again, to hear thy buskin tread,
And shake a stage or when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all, that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury, to charm!
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines!
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of nature's family.
Yet must I not give nature all; thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion; and, that he
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses' anvil; turn the same,
And himself with it, that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel, he may gain a scorn;
For a good poet's made as well as born.
And such wert thou! Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well turned and true filed lines:
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our water yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza and our James!
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanced, and made a constellation there!
Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage,
Which since thy flight from hence hath inourned like
night, And despairs day, but for thy volume's light!
On the Portrait of Shakspeare.
[Under the frontispiece to the first edition of his works: 1623.]
This figure that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakspeare cut,
Wherein the graver had a strife
With nature, to outdo the life:
O could he but have drawn his wit,
As well in brass, as he hath hit
His face; the print would then surpass
All that was ever writ in brass:
But since he cannot, reader, look Not on his picture but his book.*
*This attestation of Ben Jonson to the first engraved portrait of Shakspeare, seems to prove its fidelity as a likeness. The portrait corresponds with the monumental effigy at Stratford, but both represent a heavy and somewhat inelegant
RICHARD CORBET (1582--1635) was the son of a man who, though only a gardener, must have possessed superior qualities, as he obtained the hearty commendations, in verse, of Ben Jonson. The son was educated at Westminster and Oxford, and having taken orders, he became successively bishop of Oxford and bishop of Norwich. The social quali
ties of witty Bishop Corbet, and his never-failing vivacity, joined to a moderate share of dislike to the Puritans, recommended him to the patronage of King James, by whom he was raised to the mitre. His habits were rather too convivial for the dignity of his office, if we may credit some of the anecdotes which have been related of him. Meeting a balladsinger one market-day at Abingdon, and the man complaining that he could get no custom, the jolly doctor put off his gown, and arrayed himself in the leathern jacket of the itinerant vocalist, and being a handsome man, with a clear full voice, he presently vended the stock of ballads. One time, as he was confirming, the country people pressing in to see the ceremony, Corbet exclaimed-Bear off there, or I'll confirm ye with my staff.' The bishop and his chaplain, Dr Lushington, it is said, would sometimes repair to the wine-cellar together, and Corbet used to put off his episcopal hood, saying, "There lies the doctor;' then he put off his gown, saying, There lies the bishop;' then the toast went round, 'Here's to thee, Corbet;' 'Here's to thee, Lushington.' Jovialities like these seem more like those of
figure. There is, however, a placid good humour in the expression of the features, and much sweetness in the mouth and lips. The upper part of the head is bald, and the lofty forehead is conspicuous in both, as in the Chandos and other pictures. The general resemblance we have no doubt is correct, but considerable allowance must be made for the defective state of English art at this period.
the jolly Friar of Copmanhurst than the acts of a Protestant bishop, but Corbet had higher qualities; his toleration, solid sense, and lively talents, procured him deserved esteem and respect. His poems were first collected and published in 1647. They are of a miscellaneous character, the best known being a Journey into France, written in a light easy strain of descriptive humour. The Farewell to the Fairies is equally lively, and more poetical.
[To Vincent Corbet, his Son.]
What I shall leave thee none can tell,
But all shall say I wish thee well:
I wish thee, Vin, before all wealth,
Both bodily and ghostly health;
Nor too much wealth, nor wit come to thee,
So much of either may undo thee.
wish thee learning not for show,
Enough for to instruct and know;
Not such as gentlemen require
To prate at table or at fire.
I wish thee all thy mother's graces,
Thy father's fortunes and his places.
I wish thee friends, and one at court
Not to build on, but support;
To keep thee not in doing many
Oppressions, but from suffering any.
I wish thee peace in all thy ways,
Nor lazy nor contentious days;
And, when thy soul and body part,
As innocent as now thou art.
There is a lanthorn which the Jews, When Judas led them forth, did use,
It weighs my weight downright: But, to believe it, you must think The Jews did put a candle in't,
And then 'twas very light.
There's one saint there hath lost his nose:
Another 's head, but not his toes,
His elbow and his thumb.
But when that we had seen the rags, We went to th' inn and took our nags, And so away did come.
We came to Paris on the Seine, "Tis wondrous fair, 'tis nothing clean, "Tis Europe's greatest town. How strong it is, I need not tell it, For all the world may easily smell it, That walk it up and down.
There many strange things are to see, The palace and great gallery,
The Place Royal doth excel: The new bridge, and the statues there, At Notre Dame, Saint Q. Pater, The steeple bears the bell.
For learning, th' University;
And, for old clothes, the Frippery;
The house the Queen did build.
Saint Innocents, whose earth devours
Dead corps in four-and-twenty hours,
And there the King was killed:
The Bastille, and Saint Dennis Street,
The Shafflenist, like London Fleet,
The arsenal no toy.
But if you'll see the prettiest thing,
Go to the court and see the king,
O, 'tis a hopeful boy.*
He is, of all his dukes and peers,
Reverenc'd for much wit at 's years,
Nor must you think it much:
For he with little switch doth play,
And make fine dirty pies of clay,
O never king made such !
Farewell rewards and fairies,
Good housewives now may say, For now foul sluts in dairies
Do fare as well as they.
And though they sweep their hearths no less
Than maids were wont to do, Yet who of late, for cleanliness, Finds sixpence in her shoe?
Lament, lament, old Abbeys,
The fairies lost command;
They did but change priests' babies,
But some have changed your land;
And all your children sprung from thence
Are now grown Puritans;
Who live as changelings ever since,
For love of your domains.
At morning and at evening both,
You merry were and glad,
So little care of sleep or sloth
These pretty ladies had;
When Tom came home from labour,
Or Cis to milking rose,
Then merrily went their tabor,
And nimbly went their toes.
Witness those rings and roundelays
Of theirs, which yet remain,
Were footed in Queen Mary's days
On many a grassy plain;
But since of late Elizabeth,
And later, James came in,
They never danc'd on any heath
As when the time hath been.
By which we note the fairies
Were of the old profession,
Their songs were Ave-Maries,
Their dances were procession:
But now, alas! they all are dead,
Or gone beyond the seas;
Or farther for religion fled,
Or else they take their ease.
A tell-tale in their company
They never could endure, And whoso kept not secretly Their mirth, was punish'd sure; It was a just and Christian deed,
To pinch such black and blue: O how the commonwealth doth need Such justices as you!
SIR JOHN BEAUMONT-DR HENRY KING.
Among the numerous minor poets who flourished, or rather composed, in the reign of James, were SIR JOHN BEAUMONT (1582-1628) and DR HENRY KING, bishop of Chichester (1591-1669). The former was the elder brother of the celebrated dramatist. Enjoying the family estate of Grace Dieu, in Leicestershire, Sir John dedicated part of his leisure hours to the service of the Muses. He wrote a poem on Bosworth Field in the heroic couplet, which, though generally cold and unimpassioned, exhibits correct and forcible versification. As a specimen, we subjoin Richard's animated address to his troops on the eve of the decisive battle:
My fellow soldiers! though your swords
Are sharp, and need not whetting by my words,
Yet cal! to mind the many glorious days
In which we treasured up immortal praise.
If, when I served, I ever fled from foe,
Fly ye from mine-let me be punish'd so!
But if my father, when at first he tried
How all his sons could shining blades abide,
Found me an eagle whose undazzled eyes
Affront the beams that from the steel arise;
And if I now in action teach the same,
Know, then, ye have but changed your general's
Be still yourselves! Ye fight against the dross
Of those who oft have run from you with loss.
How many Somersets (dissension's brands)
Have felt the force of our revengeful hands?
From whom this youth, as from a princely flood,
Derives his best but not untainted blood.
Have our assaults made Lancaster to droop?
And shall this Welshman with his ragged troop,
Subdue the Norman and the Saxon line,
That only Merlin may be thought divine?
See what a guide these fugitives have chose!
Who, bred among the French, our ancient foes,
Forgets the English language and the ground,
And knows not what our drums and trumpets sound!
Sir John Beaumont wrote the heroic couplet with great ease and correctness. In a poem to the memory of Ferdinando Pulton, Esq., are the following excellent verses:
Why should vain sorrow follow him with tears, Who shakes off burdens of declining years?
Whose thread exceeds the usual bounds of life, And feels no stroke of any fatal knife? The destinies enjoin their wheels to run, Until the length of his whole course be spun. No envious clouds obscure his struggling light, Which sets contented at the point of night: Yet this large time no greater profit brings, Than every little moment whence it springs; Unless employ'd in works deserving praise, Must wear out many years and live few days. Time flows from instants, and of these each one Should be esteem'd as if it were alone The shortest space, which we so lightly prize When it is coming, and before our eyes: Let it but slide into the eternal main, No realms, no worlds, can purchase it again: Remembrance only makes the footsteps last, When winged time, which fixed the prints, is past. Sir John also wrote an epitaph on his brother, the dramatist, but it is inferior to the following:
On my dear Son, Gervase Beaumont.
Can I, who have for others oft compiled
The songs of death, forget my sweetest child,
Which like a flow'r crush'd with a blast, is dead,
And ere full time hangs down his smiling head,
Expecting with clear hope to live anew,
Among the angels fed with heavenly dew?
We have this sign of joy, that many days,
While on the earth his struggling spirit stays,
The name of Jesus in his mouth contains
His only food, his sleep, his ease from pains.
O may that sound be rooted in my mind,
Of which in him such strong effect I find!
Dear Lord, receive my son, whose winning love
To me was like a friendship, far above
The course of nature, or his tender age;
Whose looks could all my bitter griefs assuage:
Let his pure soul-ordain'd seven years to be
In that frail body, which was part of me-
Remain my pledge in heaven, as sent to show
How to this port at every step I go.
Dr Henry King, who was chaplain to James I., and did honour to the church preferment which was bestowed upon him, was best known as a religious poet. His language and imagery are chaste and refined. Of his lighter verse, the following song may suffice:
Dry those fair, those crystal eyes,
Which, like growing fountains, rise,
To drown their banks: grief's sullen brooks
Would better flow in furrow'd looks;
Thy lovely face was never meant
To be the shore of discontent.
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.
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:
Ev'n such is man, whose borrow'd light
's straight call'd in, and paid to-night.
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 enroll'd.
It is a dream-whose seeming truth
Is moralis'd 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.
It is a dial-which points out
The sun-set, 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.
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.
FRANCIS BEAUMONT (1585-1616), whose name is most conspicuous as a dramatist, in union with that of Fletcher, wrote a small number of miscellaneous pieces, which his brother published after his death. Some of these youthful effusions are witty and amusing; others possess a lyrical sweetness; and a few are grave and moralising. The most celebrated is the letter to Ben Jonson, which was originally published at the end of the play Nice Valour,' with the following title: Mr Francis Beaumont's letter to Ben Jonson, written before he and Master Fletcher came to London, with two of the precedent comedies then not finished, which deferred their merry meetings at the Mermaid.' Notwithstanding the admiration of Beaumont for Rare Ben,' he copied Shakspeare in the style of his dramas. Fletcher, however, was still more Shakspearian than his associate. Hazlitt says finely of the premature death of Beaumont and his more poetical friendThe bees were said to have come and built their hive in the mouth of Plato when a child; and the fable might be transferred to the sweeter accents of Beaumont and Fletcher. Beaumont died at the age of five-and-twenty [thirty]. One of these writers makes Bellario, the page, say to Philaster, who threatens to take his life
"Tis not a life,
'Tis but a piece of childhood thrown away.
But here was youth, genius, aspiring hope, growing reputation, cut off like a flower in its summer pride, of like "the lily on its stalk green," which makes us
repine at fortune, and almost at nature, that seem to set so little store by their greatest favourites. The life of poets is, or ought to be (judging of it from the light it lends to ours), a golden dream, full of brightness and sweetness, lapt in Elysium; and it gives one a reluctant pang to see the splendid vision, by which they are attended in their path of glory, fade like a vapour, and their sacred heads laid low in ashes, before the sand of common mortals has run out. Fletcher, too, was prematurely cut off by the plague.'*
[Letter to Ben Jonson.]
The sun (which doth the greatest comfort bring
To absent friends, because the self-same thing
They know, they see, however absent) is
Here, our best haymaker (forgive me this,
It is our country's style) in this warm shine
I lie, and dream of your full Mermaid wine.
Oh, we have water mix'd with claret lees,
Drink apt to bring in drier heresies
Than beer, good only for the sonnet's strain,
With fustian metaphors to stuff the brain,
So mixed, that, given to the thirstiest one,
Twill not prove alms, unless he have the stone.
I think, with one draught man's invention fades:
Two cups had quite spoil'd Homer's Iliades.
Tis liquor that will find out Sutcliff's wit,
Lie where he will, and make him write worse yet;
Fill'd with such moisture in most grievous qualms,
Did Robert Wisdom write his singing psalms;
And so must I do this: And yet I think
It is a potion sent us down to drink,
By special Providence, keeps us from fights,
Makes us not laugh when we make legs to knights.
'Tis this that keeps our minds fit for our states,
A medicine to obey our magistrates:
For we do live more free than you; no hate,
No envy at one another's happy state,
Moves us; we are all equal: every whit
Of land that God gives men here is their wit,
If we consider fully, for our best
And gravest men will with his main house-jest
*Lectures on the Age of Elizabeth, &c., p. 227.
Scarce please you; we want subtilty to do
The city tricks, lie, hate, and flatter too :
Here are none that can bear a painted show,
Strike when you wink, and then lament the blow;
Who, like mills, set the right way for to grind,
Can make their gains alike with every wind;
Only some fellows with the subtlest pate,
Amongst us, may perchance equivocate
At selling of a horse, and that's the most.
Methinks the little wit I had is lost
Since I saw you; for wit is like a rest
Held up at tennis, which men do the best,
With the best gamesters: what things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid; heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life: then when there had been thrown
Wit able enough to justify the town
For three days past; wit that might warrant be For the whole city to talk foolishly
Till that were cancelled; and when that was gone,
We left an air behind us, which alone
Was able to make the two next companies
Right witty; though but downright fools were wise. When I remember this, *
I needs must cry; I see my days of ballading grow nigh; I can already riddle, and can sing Myself to speak the hardest words I find Catches, sell bargains, and I fear shall bring Over as oft as any with one wind, That takes no medicines, but thought of thee Makes me remember all these things to be The wit of our young men, fellows that show No part of good, yet utter all they know, Who, like trees of the garden, have growing souls. Only strong Destiny, which all controls, I hope hath left a better fate in store For me, thy friend, than to live ever poor. Banish'd unto this home: Fate once again Bring me to thee, who canst make smooth and plain The way of knowledge for me; and then I, Who have no good but in thy company, Protest it will my greatest comfort be, To acknowledge all I have to flow from thee, Ben; when these scenes are perfect, we'll taste wine; I'll drink thy muse's health, thou shalt quaff mine.
On the Tombs in Westminster.
Mortality, behold and fear,
What a charge of flesh is here!
Think how many royal bones
Sleep within these heap of stones:
Here they lie, had realms and lands,
Who now want strength to stir their hands;
Where, from their pulpits seal'd with dust,
They preach-in greatness is no trust.
Here's an acre sown indeed
With the richest, royal'st seed,
That the earth did e'er suck in
Since the first man died for sin :
Here the bones of birth have cried,
Though gods they were, as men they died:
Here are wands, ignoble things,
Dropt from the ruin'd sides of kings.
Here's a world of pomp and state
Buried in dust, once dead by fate.