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When now the cock, the ploughman's horn,
Thy harvest-home, thy wassail bowl,
happy life ! if that their good
Of all the old poets Herrick is, perhaps, the most modern in point of style. Several of his poems, with the alteration of a word or two, might be taken for the productions of a living author, if, indeed, there be any poet amongst us, save Tennyson, who can write so simply and so músically. To see Herrick in his best and most modern garb, however, it is necessary to turn to his love songssuch as “Cherry Ripe," the lines “To Anthea," the “Night Piece," the “Protestation to Julia," and the “Dialogue between the Poet and Amarillis." In these he is free from all quaintnesses and quibbles ; in the descriptive pieces he writes with less ease, and they have consequently more of an antique character. There are several of these poems which I might legitimately read ; but Herrick's claim on our attention has, I take it, been sufficiently honoured.
TALBOT. To judge from his portrait, Herrick must have been one of the ugliest of poets. In his face there is no redeeming feature ; coarse, sensual, malevolent, and
animal-like-one turns from it with disgust. Much of his poetry creates the same repulsion ; but there are a few pieces, besides those mentioned by STANLEY, which deserve to exist in perpetuity. The poet who wrote the lyric “ To Daffodils," and the plaintive little poem on “Blossoms," had a right to exclaim with Horace, “Non omnis moriar."
• Who will not honour noble numbers when
So sang Herrick; and with this couplet, the truth of which has been proved by this evening's conversation, we may say good night to the “ Hesperides."
Talbot. And good night also to each other.
OUR evening readings were occasionally delayed by those agreeable hinderances which the friendly intercourse of society placed in our way. Hartley had several friends in the neighbourhood-pleasant, sensible, and unaffectedjust such friends, indeed, as a man might desire whose circle of affection, required only a small addition to render it complete. To the literary man, an easy interchange of thought, or of the common civilities of life, affords the best antidote against the evils induced by solitary study. He is often prone to isolate himself from the world, and to gather his knowledge of it exclusively from books. He is apt to judge of life as it reveals itself to him from the teeming brain of a Shakspeare, a Moliere, or a Scott, instead of studying it at first hand from the men and women around him. This plain portrait of life may be deemed unattractive by the superficial observer ; but a thoughtful spectator will be glad to look at it before it has been coloured, knowing that, although the effect may
be less brilliant, the features will be more accurately preserved.
Southey, in one of the happiest of his occasional poems, tells us that his days are passed among the dead, who are
his never-failing friends, and it is doubtless no small happiness to have a close fellowship with such men as Milton and Spenser, Dante and Schiller, Pascal and Jeremy Taylor; but Southey would have done his heart good, and would have left a still worthier name, if instead of linking himself to his bookshelves by a life-long chain, he had gone more into the thoroughfares and bye-ways of ordinary life ; if he had sat a welcome guest within the cottage porch, or spoken words of surest comfort by the bedside of the sick and dying. This, however, is not a vocation for which all good men are qualified ; and Southey, feeling his unfitness for such labour, perhaps acted wisely in abstaining from the attempt. If so, this very sense of unfitness might have proved helpful by showing him the limits of his power. But these remarks are irrelevant.
My notes of our next conversation are as follows :
TALBOT. If I remember rightly, about sixty years elapsed between the appearance of the “ Paradise Lost' and the publication of “ The Seasons"-a space of time that has left no landmarks in the region of rural poetry. The men of greatest power during that interval were not, with one splendid exception, great as poets, although their biographies find a place with those whom Johnson calls - the most eminent."
STANLEY. Who is the splendid exception ? Butler, Waller, or Dryden ?”
Talbot. Not Butler, certainly ; for the publication of the first and second parts of “ Hudibras” preceded the “ Paradise Lost;' and certainly not Waller, for he also published his best poems at an earlier period; and, moreover, had it been otherwise, I should not have spoken thus