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But here was youth, genius, aspiring hope, growing reputation, cut off like a flower in its summer pride, or 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
By special Providence, keeps us from fights,
For we do live more free than you; no hate,
Lectures on the Age of Elizabeth, &c., p. 227.
Scarce please you; we want subtilty to do
Since I saw you; for wit is like a rest
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
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;
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.
Unless for war, in charity
From lawless fire remain'd as free
in tasteless conceits, even on grave elegiac subjects. In his epitaph on the daughter of Sir Thomas Wentworth, he says
THOMAS CAREW (1589-1639) was the precursor and representative of a numerous class of poetscourtiers of a gay and gallant school, who to personal accomplishments, rank, and education, united a taste and talent for the conventional poetry then most popular and cultivated. Their influence may be seen even in Cowley and Dryden: Carew and Waller were perhaps the best of the class: Rochester was undoubtedly the most debased. Their visions of fame were in general bounded by the circle of the court and the nobility. To live in future generations, or to sound the depths of the human heart, seems not to have entered into their contemplations. A loyal panegyric was the epic strain of their ambition; a 'rosy cheek or coral lip' formed their ordinary theme. The court applauded; the lady was flattered or appeased by the compliment; and the poet was praised for his wit and gallantry; while all the time the heart had as little to do with the poetical homage thus tendered and accepted, as with the cold abstractions and 'rare poesies' on wax or ivory. A foul taint of immorality and irreligion often lurked under the flowery surface, and insidiously made itself known and felt. Carew sometimes went beyond this strain of heartless frivolity, and is graceful in sentiment as well as style-piling up stones of lustre from the brook;' but he was capable of far higher things; and in him, as in Suckling and Sedley, we see only glimpses of a genius which might have been ripened into permanent and beneficial excellence. Carew was descended from an ancient Gloucestershire family. He was educated at Oxford, then travelled abroad, and on his return, obtained the notice and patronage of Charles I. He was appointed gentleman of the privy chamber, and sewer in ordinary to the king. His after life was that of a courtierwitty, affable, and accomplished-without reflection; and in a strain of loose revelry which, according to Clarendon, the poet deeply repented in his latter days. He died,' says the state historian, with the greatest remorse for that license, and with the greatest manifestation of Christianity, that his best friends could desire.'
The poems of Carew are short and occasional. His longest is a masque, written by command of the king, entitled Calum Britannicum. It is partly in prose; and the lyrical pieces were set to music by Dr Henry Lawes, the poetical musician of that age.* The short amatory pieces and songs of Carew were exceedingly popular, and are now the only productions of his which are read. They are often indelicate, but rich in expression. Thirty or forty years later, he would have fallen into the frigid style of the court poets after the Restoration; but at the time he wrote, the passionate and imaginative vein of the Elizabethan period was not wholly exhausted. The 'genial and warm tints' of the elder muse still coloured the landscape, and were reflected back in some measure by Carew. He abounded, however,
*Of the peculiar composition called the masque, an account is given in the sequel.
Most fleeting when it is most dear;
And think, before the summer's spent,
And yellow spread where red once shin'd;
He that loves a rosy cheek,
Or from star-like eyes doth seek
Kindle never-dying fires.
My resolv'd heart to return; I have search'd thy soul within,
And find nought but pride and scorn;
I have learn'd thy arts, and now
[Approach of Spring.]
Now that the winter's gone, the earth hath lost
But the warm sun thaws the benumb'd earth,
PHINEAS AND GILES FLETCHER.
These brother poets were sons of Dr Giles Fletcher, and cousins of Fletcher the dramatist; both were clergymen, whose lives afforded but little variety of incident. Phineas was born in 1584, educated at Eton and Cambridge, and became rector of Hilgay, in Norfolk, where he died in 1650. Giles was younger than his brother, but the date of his birth has not been ascertained. He was rector of Alderton, in Suffolk, where he died, it is supposed, some years before his brother.
deserving of much praise; they were endowed with minds eminently poetical, and not inferior in imagination to any of their contemporaries. But an injudicious taste, and an excessive fondness for a style which the public was rapidly abandoning, that of allegorical personification, prevented their powers from being effectively displayed.' Mr Campbell remarks, They were both the disciples of Spenser, and, with his diction gently modernised, retained much of his melody and luxuriant expression. Giles, inferior as he is to Spenser and Milton, might be figured, in his happiest moments, as a link of connexion in our poetry between these congenial spirits, for he reminds us of both, and evidently gave hints to the latter in a poem on the same subject with Paradise Regained." These hints are indeed very plain and obvious. The appearance of Satan as an aged sire slowly footing' in the silent wilderness, the temptation of our Saviour in the 'goodly garden,' and in the Bower of Vain Delight, are outlines which Milton adopted and filled up in his second epic, with a classic grace and force of style unknown to the Fletchers. To the latter, however, belong the merit of original invention, copiousness of fancy, melodious numbers, and language at times rich, ornate, and highly poetical. If Spenser had not previously written his Bower of Bliss, Giles Fletcher's Bower of Vain Delight would have been unequalled in the poetry of that day; but probably, like his master Spenser, he copied from Tasso.
The works of PHINEAS FLETCHER Consist of the Purple Island, or the Isle of Man, Piscatory Eclogues, and miscellaneous poems. The Purple Island was published in 1633, but written much earlier, as appears from some allusions in it to the Earl of Essex. The name of the poem conjures up images of poetical and romantic beauty, such as we may suppose a youthful admirer and follower of Spenser to have drawn. A perusal of the work, however, dispels this illusion. The Purple Island of Fletcher is no sunny spot amid the melancholy main,' but is an elaborate and anatomical description of the body and mind of man. He begins with the veins, arteries, bones, and muscles of the human frame, picturing them as hills, dales, streams, and rivers, and describing with great minuteness their different meanderings, elevations, and appearances. It is admitted that the poet was well skilled in anatomy, and the first part of his work is a sort of lecture fitted for the dissecting room. Having in five cantos exhausted his physical phenomena, Fletcher proceeds No Syrian worms he knows, that with their thread to describe the complex nature and operations of the Draw out their silken lives: nor silken pride: mind. Intellect is the prince of the Isle of Man, and His lambs' warm fleece well fits his little need, he is furnished with eight counsellors, Fancy, Me-Not in that proud Sidonian tincture dyed: mory, the Common Sense, and five external senses. No empty hopes, no courtly fears him fright; The Human Fortress, thus garrisoned, is assailed by Nor begging wants his middle fortune bite : the Vices, and a fierce contest ensues for the posses- But sweet content exiles both misery and spite. sion of the human soul. At length an angel interposes, and insures victory to the Virtues, the angel Instead of music, and base flattering tongues, being King James I., on whom the poet condescended Which wait to first salute my lord's uprise; to heap this fulsome adulation. From this sketch The cheerful lark wakes him with early songs, of Fletcher's poem, it will be apparent that its worth And birds sweet whistling notes unlock his eyes: must rest, not upon plot, but upon isolated passages In country plays is all the strife he uses; and particular descriptions. Some of his stanzas Or sing, or dance unto the rural Muses; have all the easy flow and mellifluous sweetness of And but in music's sports all difference refuses. Spenser's Faery Queen; but others are marred by His certain life, that never can deceive him, affectation and quaintness, and by the tediousness Is full of thousand sweets, and rich content: inseparable from long-protracted allegory. His fancy The smooth-leaved beeches in the field receive him was luxuriant, and, if better disciplined by taste and With coolest shades, till noon-tide rage is spent ; judgment, might have rivalled the softer scenes of His life is neither toss'd in boist'rous seas Spenser. Of troublous world, nor lost in slothful ease: GILES FLETCHER published only one poetical Pleas'd and full blest he lives, when he his God can production of any length-a sacred poem, entitled please. Christ's Victory and Triumph. It appeared at Cambridge in 1610, and met with such indifferent success, that a second edition was not called for till twenty years afterwards. There is a massive grandeur and earnestness about 'Christ's Victory' which strikes the imagination. The materials of the poem are better fused together, and more harmoniously linked in connexion, than those of the Purple Island. Both of these brothers,' says Mr Hallam, are
Happiness of the Shepherd's Life.
Thrice, oh thrice happy, shepherd's life and state!
His bed of wool yields safe and quiet sleeps,
[Decay of Human Greatness.]
[From the same.]
Fond man, that looks on earth for happiness, And here long seeks what here is never found! For all our good we hold from heav'n by lease, With many forfeits and conditions bound; Nor can we pay the fine, and rentage due : Though now but writ, and seal'd, and giv'n anew, Yet daily we it break, then daily must renew. Why shouldst thou here look for perpetual good, At ev'ry loss 'gainst heaven's face repining? Do but behold where glorious cities stood, With gilded tops and silver turrets shining; There now the hart fearless of greyhound feeds, And loving pelican in fancy breeds : There screeching satyrs fill the people's empty stedes. Where is the Assyrian lion's golden hide, That all the east once grasp'd in lordly paw? Where that great Persian bear, whose swelling pride The lion's self tore out with rav'nous jaw? Or he which 'twixt a lion and a pard, Through all the world with nimble pinions far'd, And to his greedy whelps his conquer'd kingdoms
Hardly the place of such antiquity,
And life itself 's as flit as is the air we breathe.
[Description of Parthenia, or Chastity.] With her, her sister went, a warlike maid, Parthenia, all in steel and gilded arms; In needle's stead, a mighty spear she sway'd, With which in bloody fields and fierce alarms, The boldest champion she down would bear, And like a thunderbolt wide passage tear, Flinging all to the earth with her enchanted spear. Her goodly armour seem'd a garden green, Where thousand spotless lilies freshly blew ; And on her shield the lone bird might be seen, Th' Arabian bird, shining in colours new ; Itself unto itself was only mate; Ever the same, but new in newer date : And underneath was writ 'Such is chaste single state.
Thus hid in arms she seem'd a goodly knight,
But when she list lay down her armour bright,
Choice nymph! the crown of chaste Diana's train,
A bed of lilies flow'r upon her cheek,
[From the Temptation and Victory of Christ. By Giles
High in the airy element there hung
And that black vulture,2 which with deathful wing
As though his purer waves from heaven sprung,
Whose sweet aspect would force Narcissus seek
To such a fair, which none attain, but all admire!
A troop of pearls, which march in goodly row:
That ebb'd and flow'd as wind and season would;
Yet strange it was so many stars to see,