« AnteriorContinuar »
That we one jot of former love retain.
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.” HARTLEY. That is beautiful indeed. When Drayton wrote that sonnet he must have been in one of his happiest moods—plaintive rather than sorrowful, and not altogether despairing of the love, for the recovery of which he prescribes so infallible a remedy. Drayton's fame in his own age appears to have been much greater than at any subsequent period. Perhaps Sir Walter Scott echoed the opinion of Winstanley, who exclaims, "He had drunk as deep a draught at Helicon as any in his time ; for fame and renown in poetry he is not much inferior, if not equal, to Spenser."
Talbot. His day is passed, however, and one cannot believe that any change in our national taste will ever revive it again. Drayton will always be read by the patient student of poetry, as well as by the antiquary, and topographer ;* but I cannot see how his works could be dealt with, in a modern edition of the English poets. It would be imperative to abridge his poems, and that in no slight
* Charles Lamb has a loving glance at Drayton in his “Notes on the Dramatists,” as the panegyrist of my native earth; who has gone over her soil in the Polyolbion) with the fidelity of a herald and the painful love of a son; who has not left a rivulet (so narrow that it may be stepped over) without honourable mention, and has animated hills and streams with life and passion above the dreams of old mythology."
HARTLEY. The poet whose works will bear abridgment almost merits oblivion. As for old Drayton, though I shall never read all his poems, I should be sorry not to have them in their completeness, for he is one of our English worthies. If he is diffuse, has not Edmund Spenser been oftentimes accused of the same defect?
TALBOT. But not with equal reason, HARTLEY. Very beautifully has Professor Wilson defended the copiousness and redundancy of Spenser. I will read you the passage:
“Spenser's style is said to be diffuse. So is the style of a river when it chooses to become a lake. But a river never chooses to become a lake without a sufficient reason for such change of character. It keeps a look-out how the land lies, and adapts its career to circumstances all its way down from source to sea. There you see it shooting straight as an arrowhere you might mistake it for a mighty serpent uncoiling in the sun—there you almost wonder why it is mute—till you gaze again, and are ashamed of yourself for having expected voice from one so still and deep—and here you see the old tops of trees swinging in the storm, but hear not the branches creak because of the thunder of the cataract. Just so with Spenser. One hour you see him—that is his poetry-carelessly diffused in the sunshine, and enjoying the spirit of beauty in which he lies enveloped as in a veil of dreams—another he winds away lucidly along flowery banks, with a sweeter and yet sweeter song, as he nears the bowers on the borders of Paradise—now, as if subdued by a sudden shadow, his brightness grows a glimmer, and the glimmer a gloom-and, wondering what noise it is you hear, you catch a sight through the mist, of white tumbling waves, and recoil in alarm from a monstrous sea."
So writes Christopher, and the defence is well conceived ; only, as he liked best himself to run riot, and to
It is a
thoughts in a style which is oftentimes provokingly luscious and flowery, he was not likely to detect a similar defect in the “Faerie Queene,” if it is to be found in that poem.
STANLEY. Enough of critics and of poetry. glorious evening-bright with moonlight and tranquil as sleep. Shame would it be to let such beauty pass unheeded; so, ere we part for the night, I suggest that we have a quiet and half-silent stroll, through the Valley of Rocks.
HARTLEY. First of all, however, let us invoke the creature comforts, since alas ! even sentiment wanes when the stomach is empty; for if, like Fletcher's “Elder Brother,” we could " walk a turn or two in Via Lactea,” and have a “six hours' conference with the stars,” we should scarce consent with him “ to breakfast off Aristotle, dine with Tully, drink tea with the Muses, or sup with Livy."
Fondlings! keepe to th’ citty,
Two or three days elapsed before our next meetingglorious summer days they were, the sky unflecked by a cloud, the hot July sun crowning the woods and hills with a dazzling splendour, the sea calm as a lake, and so clear that you could see the fishes, darting hither and thither in the blue depths. In such weather, and in such scenes existence is a luxury. All intellectual doubts and spiritual perplexities are for awhile forgotten. To lie on the soft grass in the shadow of the trees, to listen to the sweet voice of the Lyn, to float idly in a boat upon the sea, was enough for me. Simple pleasures like these are ever the most satisfying; and, when they are fairly earned as a relief from labour, they are blessedness itself.
STANLEY, who had visited a relative at Bristol, returned to Lynmouth in the steamer, and on the evening after his arrival, our conversation commenced as follows :
HARTLEY. Our earlier poetic literature is loaded with wretched eclogues, piscatory and pastoral; and the fact that Pope commenced his career as a writer of pastorals,
proves how strong a hold that style had upon men of genius even in his day.
STANLEY. Gay, a native of Barnstaple, was born in 1688, the birth-year of Pope, and the two poets were warm friends through life. You will remember that it was at Pope's request that Gay wrote “ The Shepherd's Week,” in order to ridicule the pastorals of Ambrose Philips. Gay's work produced a greater effect than ' either Pope or its author had anticipated. “The Shepherd's Week” was intended for a burlesque; but it formed in reality a new style of pastoral, which ultimately proved the destruction of the harsh, stilted eclogues that had formerly been in fashion. Southey writing of these poems of Gay says:
“With bad eclogues I am sufficiently acquainted from Tityrus and Corydon, down to our English Strephons and Thirsisses. No kind of poetry can boast of more illustrious names, or is more distinguished by the servile dullness of imitated nonsense. Pastoral writers, more silly than their sheep, have, like their sheep, gone on in the same track one after another. Gay struck into a new path. His eclogues were the only ones which interested me when I was a boy, and did not know they were burlesque."*
* The pastorals of Ambrose Philips, which Gay undertook to ridicule, were highly successful in his own day, and are neither better nor worse than most compositions of the kind. Pope, indeed, was so irritated by the praise bestowed upon Philips in the Guardian, that the two poets are said to have lived “in a perpetual reciprocation of malevolence.” I do not know that Gay's poems were opened in the course of our discussions ; but, as Southey's opinion of his pastorals was read, I am tempted to extract a passage from one of them. In the burlesque which I have selected, a forsaken maiden, whose