« PrejšnjaNaprej »
the poems of SIR JOHN DAVIES, a learned lawyer and statesman, and Attorney General for Ireland. He has left two works of unusual merit and originality, on subjects apparently so widely different that their juxtaposition looks like a ludicrous paradox. The subject of one of these, Sir John Nosce Teipsum (1599), is the immortality of the (1587-1626). soul ; of the other, Orchestra (1594), the art of dancing-not, indeed, the frivolous science of the jig and coranto, but the rhythmical standard to which all the motions of our life, in Davies' opinion, should be adjusted. Davies' style was pure and masculine ; his versifica- Teipsum” tion was graceful and melodious; and considering and 07the nature of its subject, Nosce Teipsum is really a very successful poem. Orchestra, in its turn, is dignified by a singular amount of learned and classical allusions. Hallam gave great praise to the Nosce Teipsum. “Very few," he said, " have been able to preserve a perspicuous brevity without stiffness or pedantry (allowance made for the subject and the times) in metaphysical reasoning, so successfully as Sir John Davies.” The metre of the poem is the four-lined heroic stanza, which was afterwards adopted by Sir William D'Avenant for his Gondibert, and borrowed in turn by Dryden for the Annus Mirabilis. The Orchestra is composed in a peculiarly constructed stanza of seven lines, extremely well adapted to express the ever-varying rhythm of those dancing movements which, by a thousand ingenious analogies, the poet traces through all nature. Davies also wrote a series of acrostics in honour of Elizabeth which he called Astræa, and a book called A Discovery of the Causes of the Irish Discontent (1612), dealing with a subject which he was peculiarly fitted to handle.
(iv.) The general admiration of his contemporaries placed the genius of JOHN DONNE, Dean of St. Paul's, in one of the foremost places among the men of letters of his day. Modern criticism, however, has so many dif- JOHN DONNE ferent opinions to give on the subject, and Donne's
(1573-1631). modern admirers have said so much of him that is extravagant, that a little depreciation is perhaps justifiable. The true story of his life and the strange paradox of his character, which was unsuspected by his biographer, Izaak Walton, have been at length revealed (1899) by the efforts of Mr. Edmund Gosse and Dr. Jessopp. In his youth Donne was remarkable for his wit and gaiety; he seems to have embraced several professions, and to have drunk deeply of pleasure. His extraordinary accomplishments made him another Pico della Mirandola or Admirable Crichton. When entering upon his career in the public service, as secretary to the Lord Keeper Egerton, he made a secret marriage with a lady whom he had long ardently loved, a daughter of Sir George More and niece of Lady Egerton. The violent displeasure of her family afterwards involved him in serious persecution. In later life, under the influence of deep religious conviction, he took Holy Orders (1615), and, as Dean of St. Paul's (1621), became as remarkable for his intense piety as he had been for his gallantries and escapades. His writings are very voluminous, and consist of love-verses, epigrams, elegies, and of those satires on which, in spite of the declarations of his more intimate admirers, his fame is chiefly built.
His sermons, with their heightened, ponderous style, their long periods, and their wealth of intricate allusion, are as remarkable,
in their way, as his poetry. As an amatory, poet, Donne's style.
although his imagination is voluptuous and even
sensual, Donne has very rightly been placed by Johnson among those poets whom he calls metaphysical writers, that is to say, in whom the intellectual faculty obtains an enormous supremacy over sentiment and feeling. Donne is always on the watch for unexpected and ingenious analogies; an idea is racked into every conceivable distortion; the most remote comparisons are discovered ; the most obscure recesses of historical and scientific allusion are ransacked to furnish - sometimes only to shadow forth illustrations which no reader could possibly suggest to himself. The effect of all this upon the reader is curious : he is at once astonished and, at the same time, ashamed to see these strained postures --the clever but puerile conjuror's antics. It is evident that, in this cultivation of all that is odd, unexpected, and unnatural, the poet becomes perfectly indifferent to the natural graces of emotion in its more simple forms; and, in his incessant search after epigrammatic turns of thought, cares very little whether reason, taste, and propriety be violated or not. Donne's versification is singularly harsh and tuneless; his command of form is very slight ; and the contrast between the far-fetched ingenuity of his thought and the ruggedness with which he expresses it adds to the peculiarity of the effect upon the mind of the reader. Nevertheless, there are passages in which a single phrase of two or three words redeems a vast amount of obscurity and conceit, and justifies for the moment that hyperbolic admiration which these poems have received. In Donne's seven Satires and his Epistles to his friends we naturally find less of this portentous employment of intellect to a rather insignificant end, for the nature of satires and epistles implies that they are written in a more easy and colloquial strain ; and Donne occasionally, and happily, adapted the suggestions of Persius, his chief model, to the manners of his own time and country. His works were not published, so far as we know, till 1633, but they found, in after times, many admirers ; and, even before our own century developed a certain enthusiasm for the lyric Dean, Pope had translated some of the satires into the elegant language of his own time, under the somewhat invidious title of “ The Satires of Dr. John Donne, Dean of St. Paul's, versified."
(v.) The Latin models of satire, which were to be applied immortally to English verse by Dryden and Pope, were first adopted -at least in print-by the eminent JOSEPH HALL, Bishop of Norwich. This very distinguished ornament of early Puritan theology was born at Bristow Park, near
(1574-1656). Ashby-de-la-Zouch. He became a fellow of the Puritan college of Emmanuel at Cambridge, then very recently founded, and, taking Holy Orders, became, in process of time, a canon in St. Peter's church at Wolverhampton. He held in succession the sees of Exeter (1627) and Norwich (1641), and, as a prelate, was remarkable for his learning, dignity, and piety. He was a member of the Synod of Dort, and, in his general theological attitude, was opposed to the Laudian school of thought ; but, politically, he held to the King's side, and was, in consequence, deprived of his see. The heroic resignation with which he supported poverty and persecution is a matter of history. He died during the Commonwealth in the suburbs of Norwich. With his theological work, which belongs to the Caroline period of literature, and is somewhat bald in its style, we have here nothing to do. His satires are the work
satires. of a very young man, and definitely belong to the Elizabethan era, having been written while he was a student at Cambridge. They form a complete collection of six books, under the title Virgidemiarum (i.e. a harvest or collection of rods, modified from the similar term Vindemiarum, i.e. vintage). They were not, however, all published at the same time. The first three books, quaintly entitled by their author Toothless Satires, appeared in 1597 ; the other three, designated Biting Satires, a year later. Some of them attack the vices and affectations of literature, while others are of a more general moral application. They are certainly very clever and vivacious ; but Hall dealt his blows rather too liberally and, for so young a man, with inordinate presumption. As curious pictures of the manners and society of the day, they are very interesting in themselves, and throw frequent light upon obscure passages of contemporary drama. Hall, whose chief model, like Donne's and Marston's, was Persius, often employs a peculiar artifice which gives additional force to the piquancy of his satire-viz. by making his secondary allusions or illustrations themselves satirical. Some of these satires are extremely short, occasionally consisting of only a few lines. Hall's versification is always easy and often elegant ; his style is at once concise and conversational, and is more readable than Donne's. Hall's work should be compared with the inferior satires of the dramatist John Marston, of whom we shall say something in a succeeding chapter.
$ 11. Space will permit only a rapid allusion to two admirable secondary poets of this vigorous and variously en
PHINEAS dowed era. PHINEAS FLETCHER (1582-1650) and and Giles GILES FLETCHER (d. 1623) were brothers, both Cam- FLETCHER,
bridge men, and both in Holy Orders. Giles was at Trinity College, and held the living of Alderton in Suffolk ; Phineas was at King's College, and was rector of Hilgay, near Downham Market. Both were followers and imitators of the great master of allegory, Spenser, and in the work of both we see traces of Spenser's rich and musical diction as well as of his lofty and philosophical tone. Giles' work is a poem in four cantos, called Christ's Victory and Triumph (1610): Phineas produced a far more curious poem called The Purple Island (1633), a minute description of the human body, with all its anatomical details, followed by an equally searching delineation of the intellectual faculties. The names of the Fletchers are only two out of many, and a short account of some of the lesser poets will be found in the notes immediately following. It is difficult to select from the poetry of an age which was instinct with poetry of the highest kind-an age whose study to the literary student is a revelation of inexhaustible wonders.
NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS. A.-THE MIRROR FOR
with no sufficient reason, assigned MAGISTRATES (1559).
the idea of the work to him. The
publication of the poems was for some The history of this work, which is time hindered by the Chancellor, the most important poem in English Bishop Gardiner, who appears, as literature between Surrey and Spen- censor, to have seen some danger ser and was very popular in its day, hidden in Sackville's contribution, deserves a few words. Lydgate's and so the first edition did not Falls of Princes was in great de- appear till 1559. Sackville's poems mand down to the end of Mary's were not included in this. Baldwin reign, not because of its literary wove a kind of framework round the merits, but as a manual of history stories, representing the shades of and morality; and The Mirror for the unfortunate celebrities as comMagistrates was projected to supply plaining to the poet, and each story a similar series of stories from Eng- ihus forms part of a whole. His lish history, which Lydgate's original, chief helper was GEORGE FERRERS Boccaccio, had neglected. The idea (d. 1579), a Cambridge Bachelor of was probably the publisher's: the Law and then member of Parliament editor seems to have been WILLIAM for Brackley, who had been, like BALDWIN, an Oxford man, who, in Baldwin, a stage-manager at Court 1549, had dedicated a metrical version entertainments, and was Lord of of Solomon's Song to Edward VI, Misrule at the royal revels held at and had been stage-manager of the Greenwich in 1553. The other poets Court interludes, Baldwin, about were four in number, the best known 1557, brought together a group of among them being Phaër, the transpoets for his work, the chief of lator of Virgil. The material of the whom was THOMAS SACKVILLE, stories was taken chiefly from the afterwards Lord Buckhurst. We newly published chronicles of Fabhave already said something of the yan and Hall; and the wars of York part which this illustrious person and Lancaster were the chief retook in the Mirror ; his work so source of the poets. eminently constitutes the value of In 1563, when the danger of an. the book from its purely literary other prohibition seemed unlikely, side, that subsequent editors have, Baldwin brought out a second and
much augmented edition, to which critics imagine that Historical Plays Sackville's Induction was prefixed. owed their origin to this collection. This, describing the poet's descent At least it is certain that the writers into Hell under the conduct of of this Mirror were the first who Sorrow, gives a motive to the story made a poetical use of the English which knits the poems together. chronicles recently compiled . The Complaint of the Duke of which opened a new field of subjects Buckingham appeared also in this, and events, and . produced a and, among the other poets who great revolution in the state of put their hand to the work, we may popular knowledge.".
One may, mention Thomas Churchyard. The without much difficulty, trace the design did not stop with this edition ; genealogy of Shakespeare's great another appeared in 1571, and, in tragedy of the houses of York and 1574. JOHN HIGGINS, an Oxford Lancaster, from its groundwork in man who had compiled some school- the three parts of Henry VI, through books, wrote an entirely new series the intermediate stage of The True of stories, beginning with Albanact, | History of the Contention, back to the younger son of Brutus and first its
source in The Mirror for king of Albanie, or Scotland, and Magistrates. going down to the Emperor Caracalla. Higgins' performance had an induction of its own in the octave B.-MINOR POETS OF THE stanza : its most striking feature is ELIZABETHAN PERIOD. the story of Lear's youngest daugh.
It is impossible to give any accuter, Cordelia. In 1587 the Mirror
rate classification of the innumerable assumed its final form by the union
poets who flourished during the of Higgins' series of narratives, to
“Eliza and our James." which twenty-three more were added, with Baldwin's; but it was yet Hallam, "that nearly one hundred
" It was said by Ellis,” remarks again to be recast (1610) with new additions by an insufficient and mis- reign of Elizabeth might be enumer
names of poets belonging to the leading editor, RICHARD NICCOLS ated, besides many that have left no (1584-1616). It continued to enjoy memorial except their songs. This greai popularity until it was super- however was but a moderate comseded by a new poetical chronicle, putation. Drake (Shakespeare and entitled Albion's England, which his Times, i. 674) has made a list had been first published in 1586.
of more than two hundred," and, The Mirror for Magistrates was in the present activity of Elizabethan a grave and moral work, fraught, in studies, new names are constantly a very disturbed order of things, being unearthed. with lessons to princes; and the writers, especially Sackville, the
(1.) The Miscellanies. author of a very severe and ele. vated tragedy, took themselves very Some of the most valuable work seriously. They were the last of the of the lesser poets may be gathered poets whom Boccaccio's lesson on from the numerous miscellaneous the fleeting nature of human pros. collections of the age. We spoke perity moved deeply; they were, in of Tottel's Miscellany in the notes short, moralists before they were to the last chapter. None of the poets. The literary importance, succeeding miscellanies can comthen, of The Mirror for Magistrates | pare with it: the poets who figure in is that it is the last word of the them rose only here and there to the Chaucerian school. At the same high level of lyric poetry. But the time, as Warton says, its publica. fact that they were from time to time tion " enriched the stores, and ex- thus inspired, so that even the dullest tended the limits of our drama. of them, if only by a single song, These lives are so many tragical left his mark upon English literature, speeches in character. They sug- is one of the distinguishing features gested scenes to Shakespeare. Some of this greatest of all literary periods.