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Fifth Series, 3
No. 1572. – Ju
S From Beginning, ? Vol. CXXII.
195 . 208 . 215
Downs. Part VI., . . . . .. Blackwood's Magazine, .
Victoria Magazine, • .
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“ Black care,” so sings our Horace,"sits Hark, the great owl cries again, Behind us still,” and all our wits
With an echo in the brain, Are tasked, its weight to bear;
And the dark Earth in her sleep
Stirs and trembles, breathing deep.
Sleep on thine eyes, peace in thy breast !
Fold thy hands and take thy rest; And then those songs of yours you trill
All the night, till morning break,
Spirits walk and lovers wake!
Without here night is growing,
And a chill wind is blowing.
Strange shapes are stirring in the night To all their scoffs you pay no heed :
To the deep breezes' wailing, You mind them not a rush.
And slow, with wistful gleams of light, Nor lose in peace of mind or cash
The storm-tost moon is sailing. Though they should growl your songs are trash :
Sleep sweet, beloved one, sleep sweet!
Föld thy white hands, my blossom !
Thy hands upon thy bosom.
Though evil thoughts may walk the dark, You too, perhaps, may have your care
Not one shall near thy chamber, And trill with anxious mind;
al But dreams divine shall pause to mark Your thrushship, perhaps, may be hen-pecked
Singing to lutes of amber.
Sleep sweet, beloved one, sleep sweet!
Though on thy bosom creeping, There may be feathered cares and woes
God's hand is laid to feel the beat Unnesting nature never knows;
Of thy soft heart in sleeping. We judge but as we can ;
The brother angels, Sleep and Death, And you there, jolly as you sing,
Stoop by thy couch and eye thee; May think your lot not quite the thing,
And Sleep stoops down to drink thy breath, And long to be a man.
While Death goes softly by thee!
From The Cornhill Magazine. tails, its matter-of-fact lines. The poetENGLISH LYRICAL POETRY.
artist who designs a vast work knows MR. PALGRAVE, in the introduction to that it cannot be of sustained excellence his admirable volume, the Golden Treas- throughout. If his eye roll in a fine ury of Songs and Lyrics, observes that frenzy at one part, it is certain to grow he is acquainted with no strict and ex- dim and sleepy at another ; he cannot be haustive definition of lyrical poetry, and always sublime, and if he could his read. he is content to point out a few simple ers would grow weary. His imagination principles which have guided him in his must inevitably flag as he pursues a task work. We think that Mr. Palgrave is which requires time as well as genius, right, and that he has judged wisely in and the utmost he can do is to make his not giving a definition which must have coarser workmanship serve as a foil to proved at best partial and unsatisfactory. that which is more delicate. This has To say what lyrical poetry is not, is an been done with consummate art by Mileasy task, to express in a brief sentenceton, whose sense of fitness and congruity what it is, so that if the question be put is as remarkable as the lovely harmony the answer, like a reply in the Catechism, of his versification. Lyrical poetry, on may be instantly forthcoming, is wellthe other hand, will not admit of aught nigh impossible. And the reason is that that is of inferior quality. Like the the lyric blossoms and may be equally sonnet, it should be perfect throughout beautiful and perfect under a variety of -in form, in thought, in the lovely marforms. The kind of inspiration that riage of pure words, in the melody that prompts it is to be found in the Ode and pervades the whole. The lyric at its in the Song, in the Elegy and in the Son-best- as in the songs of Shakespeare net. Its spirit is felt sometimes where it and some of the old dramatists, in the is least expected, its subtle charm is per- “Epithalamium” of Spenser, a poem of ceived occasionally in almost every kind almost unequalled loveliness, in the of poetry save the satirical and didactic. pretty love-warblings of Herrick, in the Like life, like light, like the free air of the artful music of Collins and of Gray, in mountains, the lyric is enjoyed, as it the ethereal melody of Shelley, in the imwere, unconsciously. We brush the passioned songs of Burns - belongs to the bloom off fruit when we handle it too highest order of poetry. It is the noblest roughly, and there is perhaps a danger inspiration of the poetical mind, its lest, in attempting to criticise lyrical po-choicest utterance, the expression of its etry, the critic, by his precision and care-profoundest feeling. With the excepful attention to rules, should destroy some tion of Shakespeare and Milton, each of of its beauty. We have learnt, however, whom, be it remembered, in addition to of late years what was not understood as his dramatic or epic genius, is a supreme century ago, that the critic's office is to master of the lyric, the greatest poets of follow the poet, not to require that the this country belong to the lyrical class, poet should follow him. The poet in- Moreover, the poems which live in the deed, like all artists, must be obedient to memory and which take most hold upon law, but his genius is less likely to lead us, are essentially lyrical in character. him astray than the critic's book-knowl. Not that the most precious of our lyrics edge, and of the lyric poet especially it are generally the most popular. The may be safely asserted that the lack of finest literary work, no matter what the conventional restraint, the freedom to department may be, will never be the sing his own song to his own music, is most sought after. It is for the appreciaessential to success. In building the tion of the few rather than for the delight lofty rhyme of the epic, in the long nar- of the many. Mr. Tupper has more readrative poem, in the drama, in the satire, ers than Spenser, Dr. Cumming than some of the material must necessarily be Jeremy Taylor, and there is many an of a common-place order. No great poem essayist of the day whose writings are but has its weak points, its prosaic de- better known than the essays of Lord
Bacon. We are accustomed to regard beauty of women, and his fine ear for poetry as a kind of inspiration, and so music, was not likely to be wholly deficient no doubt it is. The gift, like the gift of in this branch of the poetical art. A deliwisdom, cannot be purchased. The poet,' cious simplicity, a joyous humour, a skill like all artists, may enlarge his range and of delineating character, a manly grasp of perfect his skill by labour and intense his subject — these are among the more study, but the power comes from Nature, prominent features of this great poet's and even when the power is possessed it work, but in much of it we may detect can only be exercised at certain periods. the spirit of the lyric poet, although the Dr. Johnson indeed in alluding to this form of the lyric is wanting. notion, as held by Gray, calls it a “fan-! For our purpose, however, and indeed tastic foppery,” but Johnson, it has been for any notice of English lyrical poetry well said, “ made poetry by pure effort of that is not severely critical, the sixteenth diligence as a man casts up his ledger;" century is the period in which it seems in other words he was a clever versifier, natural to commence our survey. With not a poet, and the conditions upon the splendid exception of Chaucer (for which poetry is produced surpassed his the works of Gower, Surrey, Wyatt, and comprehension.
others are comparatively of small acPoetry is not a profession, and the count), it may be said that our poets perpoet who dreams of immortality cannot formed their first achievements in that write as Dr. Johnson seems to have wonderfui age. And what they did, in thought, and as Southey thought, a given the dawn of our poetical literature, renumber of lines a day. Verses written to mains a living power, so that their words order are as worthless as most prize and thoughts influence us and delight us poems. They may display ability, but still. The greatest poets then used the genius never. The mechanical art of the drama as the vehicle of their art, and the verse-maker is, however, often mistaken lyric, although largely employed, was genfor the noble labour of the poet, and in erally made subordinate to the requireJohnson's tiine especially the one was ments of the dramatist. Not always, constantly confounded with the other. however, and some of the loveliest lyrics We laugh at the old Cumberland dame of that age, although the work of dramwho on hearing of Wordsworth's death atists, had no place in their dramas, exclaimed “Ay! it's a pity he's gane ;/while much sweet lyrical poetry is to be but what then? I'se warn't the widow found in Elizabethan poets who never can carry on the business aw t' seame ;” catered for the stage. If we ask the but something of the like feeling existed reader to spend a few minutes with us among the poetasters of the eighteenth while we open some of these old poets, it century, and is perhaps not quite extinct is not from any doubt that the best which even in our day.
they have written is already familiar and The great age of Elizabeth — an age as beloved. Those who know it best, howremarkable for noble deeds as for noble ever, will be perhaps the best pleased to words - may be taken by the student of refresh their memory, and that they may our poetry as the birth time of the lyric. do so, allusion will often serve the purSome sweet snatches of lyrical verse were pose of quotation. Of course, the first produced indeed before that period, and name we think of is that of Shakespeare, in Chaucer, the first splendid name in our who is not only the greatest of dramatists literary annals, there may be frequently but stands in the front rank of lyrical poets. detected, under the narrative form, marks But of Shakespeare, simply because he is of the bounding spirit and sweetness so great and because his words are so well which delight us in a lyric poetry. Poets known to all who read the English tongue, indeed who sing of love can scarcely fail it is scarcely needful to say anything. to fall into the lyrical strain, and Chaucer, There is nothing in poetical literature with his healthy vigorous nature, his love more entirely lovely, more delicately fraof all outward beauty, especially of the grant, more dainty in form, more like
music which once heard must be re- To rear him hillocks that shall keep him membered alway, than the songs or snatches of song scattered through the | And (when gay tombs are robb'd) sustain no works of Shakespeare. They are as fresh
harm; as roses just bursting into bloom, as
But keep the wolf far hence, that's foe to men, grateful as the perfume of violets, or the
For with his nails he'll dig them up again. scent of the sea when the wind blows the This song is entitled by Mr. Palgrave foam in our faces. And we are content A Land Dirge,” and with good judg. to enjoy them without criticism as we en-I ment he places it on the same page with joy the warmth of the sun or the soothing the sea dirge sung by Ariel. A lovely sound of running waters. There seems little song of somewhat similar character no art in these little pieces, which appear by Beaumont and Fletcher might have to fall from the poet like notes from a aptly followed these two famous pieces. ird, so consummately is the art conaled.
Lay a garland on my hearse * Full fathom five thy father lies ;”
Of the dismal yew ; nder the greenwood tree ;” “When
Maidens, willow branches bear,
Say I died true. icicles hang by the wall ; " " When daisies pied and violets blue;" “Where the
My love was false, but I was firm bee sucks ;” “ Fear no more the heat From my hour of birth. o' the sun ;” “Come away, come away, Upon my buried body lie Death :" - it is enough surely to quote
Lightly, gentle earth! in this way the first line of a Shakespea
In their lyrics these twin-poets aprian song in order to recall it to the mem
proach sometimes very near to Shakeory, and to convince a forgetful reader
speare - so near indeed that it might that the charm of musical song is as much one of Shakespeare's gifts, as the
seem as if they had caught the very echo dramatic strength and the superlative
of his verse; and we think that Hazlitt
is correct in his judgment that, while as imagination which enable him to see
dramatists they rank in the second class, through the deeds of men. Several of
they belong to the first order as lyrical the Elizabethan dramatists show an ear
and descriptive poets. If we may judge for melody, and a knowledge of lyrical
from the Faithful Shepherdess, Fletcher's form which gives an abiding vitality to
genius as a lyrist surpassed that of Beautheir verse. Webster, one of the most
mont, and it is infinitely sad that so lovely powerful, although far from the most
a lyrical drama should be deformed by pleasing, of Shakespeare's contempora
gross coarseness and by passages which, ries, throws his grim strength into trage
viewed simply from the artist's standingdy which sometimes borders on the gro
point, are out of place in such a poem. tesque. He heaps horror upon horror with
Coleridge wished that Beaumont and a vehemence of language which enchains
Fletcher had written poems instead of the reader while it appals him, but this
plays. Had they done so, instead of pangloomy poet does now and then venture
dering as they too often did to the corupon a lyrical strain, sad indeed, accord
rupt tastes of the town, we might have ing to his wont, but at the same time
had lyrics from these brother-poets beautiful. Here, for instance, are ten
worthy of a place with the youthful quaint lines worthy almost of Shake.
poems of Milton. There is a little poem speare: –
ascribed to Beaumont, although it appears
in a play of Fletcher's, which must have Call for the robin-redbreast and the wren,
suggested the “Il Penseroso." So perSince o'er shady groves they hover, And with leaves and flowers do cover
fect is its beauty, so delicious its music, The friendless bodies of unburied men.
that it is not surprising it laid hold of Call unto his funeral dole
Milton and prompted him to utter on a The ant, the field-mouse, and the mole, like subject his own beautiful thoughts.