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The season pricketh every gentle heart,
This maketh Emily have remembrance
Bright was the sun, and clear that morwéning"
[How finely, to our ears at least, the second line of the couplet always rises up from this full stop at the first !]
"Bright was the sun, and clear that morwéning,
Was in her walk, and roaméd up and down."
passage before us, and Dryden's version of it, that "the modern must yield the palm to the ancient, in spite of the beauty of his versification.” We quote from memory; but this is the substance of his words. For our parts, we quite agree with them, as to the consignment of the palm, but not as to the exception about the versification. With some allowance as to our present mode of accentuation, it appears to us to be touched with a finer sense of music even than Dryden's. It is more delicate, without any
* These additional syllables are to be read slightly, like the e in French verse. + Saw.
| The shining.
inferiority in strength ; and still more various.
At the same time, we do not quote Sir Walter for the purpose of differing with him. We would only show the more fashionable part of our readers what their favourite writer thinks of Chaucer; and we would also take another opportunity of contrasting some opinions of ours, exaggerated by party feeling and a young thoughtlessness, when Sir Walter wrote nothing but criticism and poetry, with our sense of his extraordinary merits as a novelist. But more of these in another place. Of politics also we say nothing here. There ought to be some places in the world of letters, where men's thoughts of each other, like the knights of old, may
“In weeds of peace high triumphs hold."
But now to our other portrait. It is as sparkling with young manhood as the former is with a gentler freshness. What a burst of radiant joy is in the second couplet ! what a vital quickness in the comparison of the horse, "starting as the fire !” and what a native and happy ease in the conclusion !
The busy lark, the messenger of day,
And loud he sung against the sunny sheen
The versification of this is not so striking as the other ; but Dryden again falls short in the freshness and feeling of the sentiment. His lines are beautiful ; but they do not come home to us with so happy and cordial a face. Here they are. The word “morning” in the first line, as it is repeated in the second, we are bound to consider as a slip of the pen; perhaps for "mounting,"
“ The morning-lark, the messenger of day,
Saluted in her song the morning grey;
His vows address'd, within the grove he stray'd."
with a lusty heart”! How inferior the commonplace of the "fiery
steed," which need not involve any actual notion in the writer's mind, to the courser “starting as the fire ” !-how inferior the turning his face to “the rising day” and “raising his voice,” to the singing “loud against the sunny sheen”! and lastly, the whole learned invocation and adjuration of May, about guiding his “wandering steps” and “so may thy tender blossoms," &c., to the call upon the fair fresh May, ending with that simple, quick-hearted line, in which he hopes he shall get "some green here ;” a touch in the happiest taste of the Italian vivacity. Dryden's genius, for the most part, wanted faith in nature. It was too gross and sophisticate. There was as much difference between him and his original, as between a hot noon in perukes at St James's, and one of Chaucer's lounges on the grass of a May-morning.
All this worship of May is over now. There is no issuing forth, in glad companies, to gather boughs; no adorning of houses with “ the flowery spoil ;” no songs, no dances, no village sports and coronations, no courtly poetries, no sense and acknowledgment of the quiet presence of nature, in grove or glade.
" () dolce primavera, o fior novelli,
O aure, o arboscelli, o fresche erbette;
“O thou delicious spring, O ye new flowers,
O airs, () youngling bowers ; fresh thickening grass,
U quiver'd virgins bright, Pans rustical,
This time two hundred years ago, our ancestors were all an. ticipating their May holidays. Bigotry came in, and frowned them away ; then Debauchery, and identified all pleasure with the town;
then Avarice, and we have ever since been mistaking the means for the end. Fortunately it does not follow that we shall continue to do
Commerce, while it thinks it is only exchanging commodities, is helping to diffuse knowledge. All other gains,-all selfish and extravagant systems of acquisition,-tend to overdo themselves, and to topple down by their own undiffused magnitude. The world, as it learns other things, may learn not to confound the means with the end, or, at least (to speak more philosophically), a really poor means with a really richer. The veriest cricket-player on a green has as sufficient a quantity of excitement as a fundholder or a partisan ; and health, and spirits, and manliness to boot. Knowledge may go on; must do so, from necessity; and should do so, for the ends we speak of: but knowledge, so far from being incompatible with simplicity of pleasures, is the quickest to perceive its wealth. Chaucer would lie for hours, looking at the daisies. Scipio and Lælius could amuse themselves with making ducks and drakes on the water. Epaminondas, the greatest of all the active spirits of Greece, was a flute-player and dancer. Alfred the Great could act the whole part of a minstrel. Epicurus taught the riches of temperance and intellectual pleasure in a garden. The other philosophers of his country walked between heaven and earth in the colloquial bowers of Academus; and “the wisest heart of Solomon," who found everything vain because he was a king, has left us panegyrics on the Spring and “the voice of the turtle," because he was a poet, a lover, and a wise man.