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Who ever dare
P. 63, No. lxx.—Castara, to whom these beautiful lines are ad. dressed, was a daughter of William Herbert, first Lord Percy, and either was already, or afterwards became, the wife of the poet. There are no purer and few more graceful records of a noble attachment than that which is contained in the poems to which Habington has given the name of the lady of his happy love. Phillips, writing in 1675, says, “His poems are now almost forgotten.' How little they deserved this, how finished at times his versification was, lines such as the following—they are the first stanza of a poem for which I could not find room—will abundantly prove. It is headed, Against them who lay Unchastity to the sex of Women.
*They meet with but unwholesome springs,
And summers which infectious are,
And only see the falling star,
Affirm no woman chaste and fair.' P. 76, No. lxxviii.—Milton's English Sonnets are only seventeen in all :
'Soul-animating strains, alas ! too few.' They are so far beyond all doubt the greatest in the language that it is a matter of curious interest to note the utter incapacity of Johnson to recognize any greatness in them at all. The utmost which he will allow is that three of them are not bad ;' and he and Hannah More once set themselves to investigate the causes of their badness, the badness itself being taken for granted. Johnson's explanation of this contains an illustration lively enough to be worth quoting :
Why, Madam,' he said, “Milton's was a genius that could hew a Colossus out of a rock, but could not carve heads on cherry-stones.'
P. 76, No. lxxix.--I have obtained room for these lines by excluding another very beautiful poem by the same author, his Song of the Emigrants in Bermuda. To this I was moved in part by the fact that the Song has found its way into many modern collections; these lines, so far as I know, into none; in part by my conviction that we have here a poem which, though less popular than the Song, is of a still higher mood. If after this praise, these lines should, at the first perusal, disappoint a thoughtful reader, I would ask him to read them a second time, and, if needful, a third. Sooner or later they will reveal the depth and riches of meaning which under their unpretending forms lie concealed.
P. 78, No. lxxx.—This poem will acquire a profound interest, for those at least who count there is something better in the world than Art, when we read it in the light of the fact mentioned by Lord Clarendon in his History of the Rebellion about its author,
namely, that after fifty years spent with less severity and exactness than it ought to have been, he died with the greatest remorse for that license, and the greatest manifestations of Christianity that his best friends could desire ; ' so that in the end the hope which he ventures here timidly to utter was fulfilled, and one thorn from the dry leafless trunk on Golgotha’ did prove to him more precious “than all the flourishing wreaths by laureates worn.'
P. 82, No. lxxxiv., 1. & : Campbell has transferred the world's gray fathers ' into his poem on the Rainbow; but has no more to say for the author of these exquisite lines and of three other poems as perfect in form as in spirit which enrich this volume than this, • He is one of the harshest even of the inferior order of the school of conceit, but he has some few scattered thoughts that meet our eye amid his harsh pages, like wild flowers on a barren heath.'
P. 83, No. lxxxv. 1. 133, 134 : These lines are very perplexing. Milton's lines on Shakespeare abundantly attest that the true character of the greatness of England's greatest poet rose distinct and clear before the mind of him who in greatness approached him the
But in this couplet can we trace any sense of the same discernment? Fancy's child'may pass, seeing that 'fancy' and
imagination’ were not effectually desynonymized when Milton wrote ; nay, \fancy' was for him the greater name (see Paradise Lost, v. 100–113). Sweetest' Shakespeare undoubtedly was, but then the sweetness is so drawn up into the power, that this is about the last epithet one would be disposed to use about him. And then what could Milton possibly have intended by his native woodnotes wild'—the sort of praise which might be bestowed, though with no eminent fulness, upon Clare, or a poet of his rank. The Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It are perhaps the most idyllic of his plays ; but the perfect art controlling at every step the prodigality of nature, in these as in all his works, takes away all fitness from language such as this, and I can only wonder that of all the commentators on Milton not one has cared to explain to us what the poet here meant.
P. 87, No. lxxxvi. 1. 18: Memnon, king of Ethiopia (nigri Memnonis arma, Virgil), who according to the cyclic poets was slain before the walls of Troy by Achilles, is described in the Odyssey, xi. 522, as the most beautiful of the warriors there. A sister of his might therefore be presumed to be beautiful no less. Milton did not, as some say, invent the sister. Mention is made of her, her name is Hemera ('Huépa), in Dictys Cretensis. It is she who pays the last honours to the ashes of her brother.—1. 19 : Cassiopeia, starred' as having been translated into the heaven, and become a constellation there. She offended the Nereids by contesting the prize of beauty with them. Milton concludes that as an Ethiopian she was
black, but this is nowhere said. —1. 108–115: Milton does not introduce Chaucer in his Allegro, but in his Penseroso ; seeing in him something beside the merry bard, which is all that Addison can see in the most pathetic poet in the English language.-1. 116-120 : Spenser is here alluded to, of course- our sage and serious poet, Spenser,' as Milton loved to call him. Contrast his judgment of Spenser's allegory, as being something
Where more is meant than meets the ear;' with Addison's,
'The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
P. 92, No. lxxvii.—Wordsworth in the Preface to an early edition of his works calls attention to Cotton's well-nigh forgotten poetry, some of it abundantly deserving the oblivion into which it has fallen, but some of a very rare excellence in its kind. This he does, quoting largely from his Ode to Winter, mainly with the purpose of illustrating the distinction between fancy, of which these poems, in his judgment, have much, and imagination, of which they have little or none. They have a merit which certainly strikes me more than any singular wealth of fancy which I can find in them; and which to Wordsworth also must have constituted their chief attraction, namely, the admirable English in which they are written. They are sometimes prosaic, sometimes blemished by more serious faults ; but for homely vigour and purity of language, for the total absence of any attempt to conceal the deficiency of strong and high imagination by a false poetic diction—purple rags torn from other men's garments, and sewn upon his own—he may take his place among the foremost masters of the tongue. Coleridge has said as much (Biographia Literaria, vol. ii. p. 96): 'There are not a few poems in that volume [the works of Cotton] replete with every excellence of thought, image, and passion which we expect or desire in the poetry of the milder Muse, and yet so worded that the reader sees no reason either in the selection or the order of the words why he may not have said the very same in an appropriate conversation, and cannot conceive how indeed he could have expressed such thoughts otherwise, without loss or injury to his meaning.' I will add that this poem is drawn out to too great a length for its own interests, or for my limited space; and several stanzas toward the close have been omitted.
P. 95, No. lxxxviii.—Johnson has justly praised the 'unequalled fertility of invention displayed in this poem, and in its pendant, Against Hope. To estimate all the wonder of them, they should be read each in the light of the other. In some lines of wretched criticism, which Addison has called An Account of the greatest English Poets, there is one exception to the shallowness or falseness
of most of his judgments about them, namelyin his estimate of Cowley, which is much higher than that of the present day, though not too high; wherein too he has well seized his merits and defects, both of which this poem exemplifies. These are the first six lines :
Great Cowley then (a mighty genius) wrote,
P. 96, No. lxxxix.--It is evident that in this Prologue and in that which follows Dryden is on his good behaviour; he has indeed so much respect for his audience that in all the eighty-five lines which compose them he has not one profane, and, still more remarkable, not one indecent allusion. Neither are the compliments which he pays his hearers, as is too often the case, fulsome and from their exaggeration offensive, but such as became him to pay and them to receive, and there is an eminent appropriateness to the time and place in them all. Though no very accurate scholar, he is yet quite scholar enough to talk with scholars on no very unequal footing ; while the most eminent of those who heard him must have felt that in strength and opulence of thought, and in power of clothing this thought in appropriate forms, he immeasurably surpassed them
all. P. 99, No. xci.—Barten Holyday, Archdeacon of Oxford, and translator of Juvenal, published in 1661 his Survey of the World, which contains a thousand independent distiches, of which these are a favourable sample. Nearly all which I have quoted have more or less point-to my mind the distinction between the two chief historians of Greece has never been more happily drawn—and some of them have poetry as well. Yet for all this the devout prayer of the author in his concluding distich,
'Father of gifts, who to the dust didst give
Life, say to these my meditations, Live,' has not been, and will scarcely now, be fulfilled.
P. 103, No. xcv.-This is nothing more than a broad-sheet ballad published in 1641, the year of Strafford's execution, with the title Verses lately written by Thomas Earl of Strafford. Two copies, of different issues, but of the same date, and identical in text, exist in the British Museum, while in The Topographer, vol. ii. p. 234, there is printed another, and in some respects an improved text. The fall of the great statesman from his pride of place has here kindled one with perhaps but ordinary gifts for ordinary occasions to a truly poetical treatment of his theme; as to a certain extent it has roused another, whose less original ballad in the same year and on the same theme, bearing the title, The Ultimum Vale or Last Farewell of Thomas Earl of Strafford, yields as its second stanza these nervous lines :
'Farewell, you fading honours which do blind
Which are but poison hid in golden pills ?' P. 108, No. xcix. - These spirited lines were found written in an old hand in a copy of Lovelace's Lucasta, 1679. We have in them no doubt a Cavalier Song of our Civil Wars.
P. 108, No. c.—Davenant is scarcely known except by his strong-thoughted but heavy poem of Gondibert ; and very little known, I should suppose, by this. But three of his poems, this and Nos, cvii. and clii., show that in another vein, that of graceful half play, half earnest, few have surpassed him. I know nothing in its kind happier than clii., which by an oversight has been placed somewhat too late in this volume.
P. 11, No. ci. l. 43-48: Cicero (De Nat. Deor. 3, 28, and elsewhere) refers to the remarkable story of Jason, tyrant of Pheræ, whom one would have stabbed, but did in fact only open a dangerous ulcer in his body.-1. 59 : 'Adainant' is here used in the sense of loadstone ; as in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, 2, i.
‘You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant,
And yet you draw not iron.' P. 112, No. cii.— I have dealt somewhat boldly with this poem, of its twenty-four triplets omitting all but ten, these ten seeming to me to constitute a fine poem, which the entire twenty-four altogether fail to do. Few, I think, will agree with Horace Walpole that the poetry is most uncouth and inharmonious ; ' so far from this, it has a very solemn and majestic flow. Nor do I doubt that these lines are what they profess to be, the composition of King Charles; their authenticity is stamped on every line. We are indebted to Burnet for their preservation. He gives them in his Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton, saying, 'A very worthy gentleman who had the honour of waiting on him then [at Carisbrook Castle), and was much trusted by him, copied them out from the original, who avoucheth them to be a true copy.'-1. 2: A word has evidently dropped out here, which is manifestly wanted by the metre, and, as it seems to me, also by the sense. I have enclosed within brackets the • earthly' with which I have ventured to supply the want.
P. 113, No. ciii.-Marvell showed how well he understood what he