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And whan he was from every mannis sight
This song, when he thus songin had, ful soon He fell agen into his sighis olde: And every night, as was his wonte to done, He stodė the bright moonè to beholde And all his sorrowe to the moone he tolde, And said: I wis, whan thou art hornid newe, I shall be glad, if al the world be trewe!
Another exquisite master of this species of style, where the scholar and the poet supplies the material, but the perfect well-bred gentleman the expressions and the arrangement, is George Herbert. As from the nature of the subject, and the too frequent quaintness of the thoughts, his Temple, or Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations are comparatively but little known, I shall extract two poems. The first is a sonnet, equally admirable for the weight, number, and expression of the thoughts, and for the simple dignity of the language. (Unless, indeed, a fastidious taste should object to the latter half of the sixth line.) The second is a poem of greater length, which I have chosen not only for the present purpose, but likewise as a striking example and illustration of an assertion hazarded in a former page of these sketches: namely, that the characteristic fault of our elder poets is the reverse of that, which distinguishes too many of our more recent versifiers; the one conveying the most fantastic thoughts in the most correct and natural language; the other in the most fantastic language conveying the most trivial thoughts. The latter is a riddle of words; the former an enigma of thoughts. The one reminds me of an odd passage in Drayton's Ideas :
I will resolve you : I am lunatic !
O how my mind
Not a thought,
All to nought !
Immediately after these burlesque passages I cannot proceed to the extracts promised, without changing the ludicrous tone of feeling by the interposition of the three following stanzas of Herbert's :
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
For thou must dye.
And thou must dye.
And all must dye.
The Bosom Sin:
A SONNET BY GEORGE HERBERT. Lord, with what care hast thou begirt us round, Parents first season us; then schoolmasters Deliver us to laws; they send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers, Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow dogging sin,
Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in, Bibles laid open, millions of surprizes ; Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness,
The sound of glory ringing in our ears :
Without, our shame; within, our consciences; Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears !
Yet all these fences and their whole array
LOVE UNKNOWN. Dear friend, sit down, the tale is long and sad : And in my faintings, I presume, your love Will more comply than help. A Lord I had, And have, of whom some grounds, which may improve, I hold for two lives, and both lives in me. To him I brought a dish of fruit one day, And in the middle placed my HEART. But he
(I sigh to say) Look’t on a servant, who did know his eye, Better than you knew me, or (which is one) Than I myself. The servant instantly, Quitting the fruit, seiz'd on my heart alone, And threw it in a font, wherein did fall A stream of blood, which issued from the side Of a great rock: I well remember all, And have good cause: there it was dipt and dyed, And washt, and wrung : the very wringing yet Enforceth tears. “Your heart was foul, I fear.' Indeed 'tis true. I did and do commit Many a fault, more than my lease will bear; Yet still ask'd pardon, and was not deny’d. But you shall hear. After my heart was well, And clean and fair, as I one eventide
(I sigh to tell) Walk'd by myself abroad, I saw a large And spacious furnace flaming, and thereon A boiling cauldron, round about whose verge Was in great letters set AFFLICTION. The greatness shew'd the owner. So I went To fetch a sacrifice out of my fold, Thinking with that, which I did thus present, To warm his love, which, I did fear, grew cold. But as my heart did tender it, the man. Who was to take it from me, slipt his hand,
And threw my heart into the scalding pan;
(I sigh to speak)