« AnteriorContinuar »
critics of his time, and died at last in the utmost distress.* There are some quotations brought in proof of this, from a poem called the Purple Island, which, as the reader may have never seen, we shall beg leave to transcribe. “ The poet had been speaking of the discouragements attending learning and the
But wretched we to whome these iron daies
“• Witnesse our Colin; whom though all the Graces
And all the Muses nurst; whose well taught song,
And all the learn'd, and all the shepherds throng;
Discourag'd, scorn'd, his writings vilifi'd:
“And had not that great Hart (whose honor'd head
Ah! lies full low), piti'd thy wofull plight;
Unblest, nor grac'd with any common rite:
Beneath his mountain tombe, whose fame shall stink,
Which cannot slumber in thy sheets of lead :
* [“ Spenser died broken-hearted at London, in January 1599. He was buried, according to his desire, near the tomb of Chaucer, and the most celebrated poets of the time (Shakspeare was probably of the number), followed his hearse, and threw tributary verses into his grave.-CAMPBELL, Brit. Poets, vol. ii. p. 176.)
Let thy abused honor crie as long
As there be quills to write, or eyes to reade:
Oh may that man that hath the Muses scorn'd,
“The reader will excuse our tempting his curiosity by adding, that the author of these agreeable lines is Phineas Fletcher, nephew to Richard Fletcher, bishop of London. As we have taken the liberty to introduce on this occasion this poet so little known, we cannot but add, that he seems to be of Spenser's own turn of mind. At Hilgayt 'tis most likely this ingenious and good man passed his days, privately and humbly, and with all the modest sentiments with which he every where abounds. We cannot but think of him and love him, when he mentions
the blushing strawberries, Which lurk close shrouded from high-looking eyes, Showing that sweetness oft both low and hidden lies :'
* [“ Under the auspices of the Earl of Essex, Spenser received from Queen Elizabeth a pension of £50 yearly. It is supposed that some passages in his poems drew down upon his head the wrath of the great Burleigh; the effects of which continued to attend him through life. The striking lines, describing the miseries of a suitor for court favor, have been always understood to refer to his own disappointment:
Full little knowest thou, that hast not tried,
Sir Walter Scott, Prose Works, vol. xvii. p. 91.) + (Phineas Fletcher held the living of Hilgay, in Norfolk, for twentynine years. He died about the year 1650.]
“And we cannot but revere and envy him, when giving us advice :
· Would'st thou live honor'd ? clip Ambition's wing ;
To Reason's yoke thy furious passions bring:
The notes to this edition are mostly imitations or various readings, and sufficiently evince the editor's industry, though they contribute little to enlighten the reader. There is also a glossary of the obsolete terms which are not explained in the notes; and, in short, such helps as are sufficient to understand the poet, without any ostentation of learning in the learned editor.
XVI.-LANGHORNE'S “ DEATH OF ADONIS, FROM THE GREEK
[From the Critical Review, 1759. “ The Death of Adonis ; a
Pastoral Elegy, from the Greek of Bion. By the Rev. John Langhorne."* 4to.]
Of all the different kinds of poetry, elegy has been least cultivated since the revival of letters. We have seen the ancients rivalled, sometimes excelled in the epic, the ode, or the pastoral; but in elegy they still remain without competitors, and the at
(The translator of Plutarch, and author of “ Letters of Theodosius and Constantia,” “Fables of Flora,” &c. &c. “He was,” says Mr. Campbell, “an elegant scholar and an amiable man. He gave delight to thousands, from the press and the pulpit. Yet, as a prose writer, it is impossible to deny, that his rapidity was the effect of lightness more than vigor ; and, as a poet, there is no ascribing to him either fervor or simplicity.”—British Poets, vol. vi. p 365.]
tempts of Biderman, Fontaine, Deshouliers, and Hammond, serve only to evince their inferiority. This may seem the more surprising, as there is scarcely a beauty in poetry, that elegy is not capable of admitting ; sometimes replete with pathetic simplicity, sometimes even assuming the bold metaphors of resentment, and often borrowing every ornament that art can bestow : in a word, is tender, passionate, or graceful, by turns. Elegy may be distinguished into three different kinds, as either of them happens to prevail. It is Love, and not the poet, who speaks : like a true boy, he is easily enraged, and as easily appeased; now exulting with success, again melting into tears of disappointment; when angry, threatening impossibilities; when appeased, repenting his insolence with the most abject humility. But whatever the pretences of the moderns, or even of the Latins, may be to this beautiful species of poetry, the little poem before us bears away the prize, and is incontestably the finest production of the elegiac Muse, if we except that of Euripides, in his Apdromache. We shall not enter into a disquisition with the grammarians, whether it be an elegy or not, as it wants what they term the characteristic difference of this species of poesy; viz. an alternate succession of hexameters and pentameters : be it sufficient to observe, that it unites every charm that a beautiful passion can suggest, and though simple, yet is is simplex munditiis. Some modern critics, it is true, have asserted, that plaintive elegy should be entirely unornamented: it might be sufficient to answer, that the practice of the ancients is against them; but nature itself also opposes this doctrine. A despairing lover, it is true, has no occasion to be tricked out like a beau, but yet should be sufficiently beautiful to interest the spectators with favorable sentiments, sufficiently ornamented to seem still desirous of pleasing. Elegy should in some measure resemble the poet's mistress.
Purpureo jacuit semisupina toro
“ Stretched on this mountain thy torn lover lies;
Weep, queen of beauty! for he bleeds-he dies.
There is no species of poetry that has not its particular character; and this diversity, which the ancients have so religiously observed, is founded in nature itself. The more just their imitations are found, the more perfectly are those characters distinguished. Thus the pastoral never quits his pipe, in order to sound the trumpet; nor does elegy venture to strike the lyre. It is indeed passionate, but has nothing terrible; nor is there, in the wildest rage of a lover, aught that can excite a stronger emotion than pity.
“ But streaming when he saw life's purple tide
Stretch'd her fair arms, with trembling voice she cried ;
Let it not be thought that emotion alone will suffice for making an elegy, and that love will make a greater poet than study and genius. Passion alone will never produce a finished piece;