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every Muse that he courted; and that he has rivalled the Ancients in every kind of poetry but tragedy.
It may be affirmed, without any encomialtick fervour, that he brought to his poetick labours a mind replete with learning, and that his pages are embellished with all the ornaments which books could supply; that he was the first who imparted to English numbers the enthusiasm of the greater ode, and the gaiety of the less ; that he was equally qualified for spritely fallies, and for lofty flights; that he was among those who freed translation from servility, and instead of following his author at a distance, walked by his side; and that if he left versification yet improvable, he left likewise from time to time such specimens of excellence as enabled succeeding poets to im
W ALLE R.
W ALL E R.
EDMUND WALLER was born on the third of March, 1605, at Colfhill in Hertfordshire. His father was Robert Waller, Erquire, of Agmondesham in Buckinghamshire, whose family was originally a branch of the Kentish Wallers; and his mother was the daughter of John Hampden, of Hampden in the same county, and sister to Hampden, the zealot of rebellion.
His father died while he was yet an infant, but left him an yearly income of three thousand five hundred pounds; which, rating together the value of money and the customs of life, we may reckon more than equivalent to ten thousand at the present time.
He was educated, by the care of his mother, at Eton ; and removed afterwards to King's College in Cambridge. He was sent to parliament in his eighteenth, if not in his fixteenth, year, and frequented the court of James the First, where he heard a very remarkable conversation, which the writer of the Life prefixa ed to his Works, who seems to have been well informed of facts, though he may
times err in chronology, has delivered as indubitably certain.
“ He found Dr. Andrews, bishop of Win" chester, and Dr. Neale, bishop of Durham, “ standing behind his Majesty's chair ; and “ there happened something extraordinary,” continues this writer, “in the conversation " those prelates had with the king, on which “ Mr. Waller did often reflect. His majesty “ asked the bishops, “ My lords, cannot I
take my subjects money, when I want it, “ without all this formality of parliament?" “The bishop of Durham readily answered, “ God forbid, Sir, but you should: you are is the breath of our nostrils.” Whereupon " the king turned and said to the bishop of " Winchester, “ Well, my lord, what say
you ?” « Sir, replied the bishop, I have no “ skill to judge of parliamentary cases.” The
king answered, “ No put-offs, my lord ; “ answer me presently.” “Then, Sir, said he, « I think it is lawful for you to take my
bro“ ther Neale's money; for he offers it. Mr. “ Waller said the company was pleased with “ this answer, and the wit of it seemed to af“ fect the king; for, a certain lord coming in “ soon after, his majesty cried out, " Oh, my “ lord, they say you lig with my lady.” “ No,
Sir, says his lordship in confusion, but I “ like her company, because she has so much ** wit.” Why then, says the king, do
you “ not lig with my
lord of Winchester there? Waller's political and poetical life began nearly together. In his eighteenth year he wrote the poem that appears first in his works, « the Prince's Escape at St. Andero;" a
piece which justifies the observation made by one of his editors, that he attained, by a felicity like instinct, a stile which perhaps will never be obsolete; and that, “ were we to
judge only by the wording, we could not “ know what was wrote at twenty, and what
at fourscore.” His versification was in his first essay, such as it appears in his last performance. By the perusal of Fairfax's translation of Tasso, to which, as Dryden relates, he confessed himself indebted for the smoothness of his numbers, and, by his own nicety of observation, he had already formed such a system of metrical harmony as he never afterwards much needed, or much endeavoured to improve. Denham corrected his numbers by experience, and gained ground gradually upon the ruggedness of his age; but what was acquired by Denham, was inherited by Waller.
The next poem, of which the subject seems to fix the time, is supposed by Mr. Fenton to be the Address to the Queen, which he considers as congratulating her arrival, in Waller's twentieth year. He is apparently mistaken; for the mention of the nation's obligations to her frequent pregnancy, proves that it was written when the had brought many children. We have therefore no date of any other poetical production before that which the murder of the duke of Buckingham occasioned: the steadiness with which the king received the news in the chapel, deserved indeed to be refcued from oblivion.