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A MESSAGE-AN ANSWER. | When on my window-sill I heard the moan
Of a meek dove, that in sad undertone
Complained most piteously. “O dove !” I I HEARD that life was failing thee; and sent
said, A rose, the Chalice of Love's Sacrament, “Torment me not, for friends have been unThinking that the sweet heart of her should true, show
And Love in dying slayeth friendship too, How one remembers thee, that long ago And faith of mine is buried with my dead.” Had steeped the rose in tears, long dried, long spent.
| But then it seemed God touched my stubborn
ear, Not that my messenger should stir thy breast. | And all my soul awoke, and I could hear Or passion move thee, that for only guest
Divinest answer coming in the moan. Should have the Lord of Life, thy soul to
“O friend!” the answer said, “ thou falsely guide
true! Through the Death-valley to the other
Thou stirrest ever my repose anew.” side
(And then there came a thrilling in the tone,) — Thy only love be now the First and Best
“What tidings wouldst thou have? From me But that before the awful shadows creep
to thee Across thee, and thou fall indeed asleep,
Never can message come o'er land or sea.
Living I found no speech to frame my soul, Thy whitening fingers once might wander in
And all my soul is thine! And entered The petal's depths; and thou, remembering,
here, Mightst send some token to a friend to keep.
I find it even so. In this pure sphere
Love rangeth ever, knowing no control,
“But that which thou didst know of old on And glories fail from off the earth and sea,
earth But what shall hinder us, if unto me
Is born again; and from the second birth Thou say, — "I am thy friend, and thou art Stands measureless of stature, grown divine !
If on the earth and in my dying hour
Words none had I, nor yet could find a Love halteth trembling at the Gates of Life,
flower Afraid to enter, since her heat is strife,
To take a message to one friend of mine, And she transfusèd is with earth's unrest; But for us, friend, it hath long since been “How shall it be that this unfathomed Love best, –
Should find its token in the heaven above, Love past a long while since, when Love was Or in the earth beneath me, or the sea ? rife.
We lived long years of silence there below,
O be content! and for thy healing know
Silence alone hath voice to answer thee!” O friend ! — they say that thou art drifting
C. C. FRASER-TYTLER. past – Let but a whisper from thy lips be cast,
And I will thither come with eager feet, And search about thee, dead, for that one sweet, —
SONNET. And know that it is mine, and hold it fast !
I FELT a spirit of love begin to stir
Within my heart, long time unfelt till then ; Trouble thee would I not, that know, dear And saw Love coming towards me, fair and friend;
fain Only before the silence of the end
(That I scarce knew him for his joyful cheer), Speak! since forevermore mine ear must be Saying, “ Be now indeed my worshipper ! " Racked with the silence of Eternity!
And in his speech he laugh'd and laugh'd And I, - I have but this pale rose to send !
again. Then, while it was his pleasure to remain, I chanced to look the way he had drawn near,
And saw the Ladies Joan and Beatrice At night, as I lay still upon my bed,
Approach me, this the other following, Weary of thinking of a friend long dead,
One and a second marvel instantly. And of a message that I sent to him, — And even as now my memory speaketh this,
Of the no-answer that he, passing, sent Love spake it then : “ The first is christened Of the all-darkness of the way he went,
Spring; Tears, spent for friendship, made mine eyes The second Love, she is so like to me." grow dim, —
Dante, Translated by Rossetti.
From The Quarterly Review. Ithe volume that heads our list, has exENGLISH VERS DE SOCIETE.*
panded a similar view with copious illusThe writer of vers de société (for which tration. He is careful to remark that we have no corresponding term in the while in this species of verse “a bouEnglish language) stands in the same doir decorum is or ought always to be relation to the audience of the salon and preserved, where sentiment never surges the club as the ballad-writer to that of into passion, and where humour never the alehouse and the street. The one overflows into boisterous merriment," it circle is more cultivated than the other, “need by no means be confined to topics but the poet must equally reflect its tone, of artificial life, but subjects of the most exthink its thoughts, and speak its language. alted and of the most trivial character may Not a few of the brightest specimens of be treated with equal success," provided this poetry are of anonymous authorship. the conditions of the art be duly observed. Many of its best writers whose names What those conditions are he proceeds have been recorded were not professed to show. His definition of them is poets, but courtiers, statesmen, divines, straiter than Isaac D’Israeli's, and somesoldiers, wits, or “men about town," who what too exacting, for it would be easy to combined with their intimate knowledge prove that many of the poems admitted and quick observation of the world a suf-into his collection do not unreservedly ficient facility in the production of easy comply with them. A certain “conversparkling verse to win the ear of their sational” tone, as he notes, generally percircle. Whenever, as has often been the tains to the best vers de société, The case in our literary history, a poet of high qualities essential to the successful congenius or graceful accomplishment has duct of conversation will accordingly be cultivated this branch of the art, he has observed in them, – savoir-faire, sprightnot failed to enrich it with his own pecu- liness, brevity, or neatness of expression. liar charm. But, as Isaac D’Israeli has Humour, the salt of well-bred conversapointed out in his essay on the subject, tion, is one of their commonest characterthe possession of genius is “not always istics ; and egotism, a soupçon of which sufficient to impart that grace of amen- is never grudged to an agreeable talker, ity” which is essentially characteristic frequently lends them flavour and piof verse “consecrated to the amusement quancy. But these are not indispensable of society. Compositions of this kind, lingredients. Such verse is as often effusions of the heart and pictures of the purely sentimental, and may at times be imagination, produced in the convivial, tinged, although not too strongly, with the amatory, and the pensive hour," de- the emotion of which sentiment is but the mand, as he goes on to show, rather the mental simulacrum. No precise definiskill of a man of the world than a man of tion, indeed, is possible of a poetry so letters. “ The poet must be alike pol- volatile, a wind-sown seed of fancy, for ished by an intercourse with the world as which circumstance serves as soil and with the studies of taste, one to whom opportunity as sun, and that varies with labour is negligence, refinement a science, the nature of its subject, the disposition and art a nature." +
of its writer, and still more the temper of Mr. Locker, in his admirable preface to its age.
This brings us to what we deem the * 1. Lyra Elegantiarum; a Collection of some of special feature that distinguishes it from the best Specimens of Vers de Société, &c. Edited by Frederick Locker. London, 1867.
Tother branches of the art, its representa2. Ballads. By W. M. Thackeray. London, 1856. tive value as a reflection of history. To 3. London Lyrics. By Frederick Locker. Sixth this aspect of the subject upon whic
er. Sixth this aspect of the subject, upon which we Edition. London, 1873.
4. Verses and Translations. By C. S. C. Second doubt if sufficient stress has yet been Edition. Cambridge, 1862.
laid, the following observations must 5. Fly-leaves. By C. S. C. Cambri 6. Vignettes in Rhyme and Vers de Société. Byl Austin Dobson. London, 1873.
made respecting the living interest of the + " Literary Miscellanies” (Edition of 1863), p. 308. I poetry of society applies with equal force
to its historical interest. Since the days into which our poetry burgeoned under of Horace and Martial it has owed this its radiance, in an atmosphere purified by less to the genius and culture of its au- the Reformation of religion, is favourthors, great as they have often been, than ably illustrated in the specimen-lyrics to the abstract merit of its faithfulness here given of the Elizabethan era. Of as a contemporary mirror and chrono- the manifold elements which then congraph of manners. We use the word tributed to the abounding wealth of namanners here in its largest sense, as the tional life, not a few are thus represented. external index of the moral and intellec- The courtesy and constancy of which tual, religious and political standards ac- Sidney was the foremost type are as mancepted at a given epoch. How strongly ifest in his love-songs (** The Serenade" imprinted upon the face of a literature and “A Ditty') as in the career which are the characteristics of the national life closed so gallantly at Zutphen. Raleigh's whence it has sprung; how closely inter- philosophical “ Description of Love," and woven with its fabric are the beliefs and “ Nymph's reply to the passionate Shephabits, the aspirations and tendencies, herd,” reminds us that the brilliant courwhich have acquired for the people that tier and adventurous voyager was at the produced it their particular place in his- same time the historian of the world. tory, has been demonstrated by such | The verses attributed to Shakespeare, to critics as M. Taine from abundant re- which the latter poem is a reply, “ My sources upon an extensive scale. The flocks feed not,” and Breton's charming same thesis, however, may admit of illus-madrigal, “ In the merry month of May," tration within the limits of a province so introduce us into the fictitious Arcadia restricted as that of vers de société; and created by Spenser and Sidney, which, in the volume which we have selected as however graceful in its origin as an idyllic a text-book, the materials have been so reflection of the chivalric revival, subseskilfully brought together, that the task quently degenerated into so poor a sham. of assortment for this purpose is com- | There is a truer ring, an unaffected paratively easy. The development of our smack of the soil, in such poems as Robnational character during the last three ert Greene's “Happy as a Shepherd ” centuries, the changes which the canons and “ Content," wherein the healthy ideal of literary taste, the standards of social of a country life, for which Englishmen morality, the relations of the sexes, and have ever cherished an avowed or a sethe equilibrium of political forces, have cret yearning, is depicted in admired conseverally undergone in the interval, may trast with the delights of a palace. There here be traced with the least possible fa- is scarcely a period in our literature when tigue by the light of the most fascinating the lips of courtiers and statesmen, wits of studies.
and worldlings, have not, in some form If the lines of Skelton ("* Merry Mar- or other, echoed the sentiment of these garet ''), with which the “Lyra Elegan- lines :tiarum ” fitly opens, quaint with insular | The homely house that harbours quiet rest, mannerism and racy of Chaucer's Eng- The cottage that affords no pride nor care, lish, mark the stagnant condition of our The mean that 'grees with country music best, literature since the impulse imparted to The sweet consort of mirth and music's fare; that master's genius by the dawning Obscured life sets down a type of bliss. of the Renaissance in Italy, the accom- A mind content both crown and kingdom is. panying lines of Surrey (“ The means to The rough strength and unspoilt grace aitain happy Life") and of Wyatt (" The which were so kindly tempered in Ben one he would love ') owe their thoughtful Jonson by the addition of classical culcalm and grave sweetness to the influ-ture, make themselves felt in such lyrics ence of that revival at its noontide, and as “ To Celia ” and “ Charis," more than a closer study of those Italian models one counterpart to which the Editor which were still the criterion of literary might have extracted from “ The Forest" art in Europe. The luxuriant verdure and “ Underwoods.” The conceits of Carew, on the other hand (" Ask me no into the grossest sensualism, his robust more," &c.), seem to betray his infection English instincts, his refined classic culo with the false taste which the “ Euphues” ture, his absorption in the pursuit of inof Lyly has the discredit of introducing dividual pleasure and blindness to the into Elizabethan English. The contem- signs of national distress, he aptly exporary poems of Sir Robert Ayton are ad-emplifies a party whose aspect of moral mirable examples of that purer style and intellectual paradox is its distinguish-. which had arisen with Surrey and was to ing note in history. Of the disastrous culminate with Milton. Their burden defeat which, owing to this instability, of woman's inconstancy and man's self-his party suffered at the hands of the respecting dignity (“ I loved thee once," earnest, strait-laced Puritans, “men of and “1 do confess thou’rt smooth and one idea," Herrick bore his full share. fair") is a favourite theme with the poets Had his political sympathies been less of this period, and marks a reaction pronounced than they were, such an against the exaggerated ideal of woman- amorous bacchanalian priest would never hood, which, among other incidents of have been allowed to hold the cure of the Neo-chivalry, Spenser, Sidney, and souls at Dean Prior while a “painful their fellows had loyally striven to re- preacher of the Word ” could be found store. George Wither's “Shall I, wast- to take his place. To the pressure of ing in despair," which breathes of the poverty consequent upon his superseswriter's ante-Puritan days, is the best- sion and exile in London, we owe the known embodiment of this reactionary publication of his “ Noble Numbers,” a spirit. It is but a mild prelude to the collection exclusively sacred, in 1647, and tone of jovial recklessness and de haut en his “Hesperides," a collection miscellabas gallantry running through the lyrics neously profane, in 1648. It is signifiof Sir John Suckling. No more charac-cant of the writer's character that the teristic vers de société than his “ Careless former opens with his prayer for the DiLover," " Why so pale ? ” “ Out upon it, vine forgiveness of the very I have loved,” “ The Siege," and "Love
unbaptized rhymes and Debt," are to be found in the lan- Writ in my wild unhallowed times, guage. The opening verse of the latter,
which in the following year he permitted with its pious aspiration
himself to include within the latter. That I were fairly out of debt
“ Unbaptized,” in the strictest sense of As I am out of love,
| the word, many of these verses assuredly echoes the living voice of the roistering are. The poet in his distress seems to cavalier, as light-hearted in the day of have raked together every scrap that he prosperity as he was free-banded. The had written, and mingled the freshest loyal devotion of which that type was ca- tokens of his inspiration with the sicklipable in the crisis of adversity imparts est and the foulest records of his bad the glow of inspiration to the exquisite taste, without any attempt at assortment. poems of Lovelace. His “ Tell me not, / Whatever drawback be allowed for the Sweet, I am unkind,” and “ To Althæa inconsistency of the poet and the inefrom prison,” familiar as a household quality of his verse, the “Hesperides” word in every line, are instinct with that will still be cherished among our most charm of emotional nobleness of which precious lyrical treasures. Herrick is the thousandth repetition never makes us eminent among those poets of society weary.
| whose art has a special charm irrespecMore completely representative of the tive of its representative or historical inCavalier poets is Herrick, of whose de- terest. That quality which is universally licious lyrics this volume affords many recognized as grace, undefinable but unexamples. Alike in his chivalrous loyalty mistakable as an aroma, seldom deserts avowed the most openly when Fortune him even when his theme is the coarsest. was the least favourable to his cause, his In choice simplicity of language and oroutbursts of devotional feeling, his lapses derly freedom of versification few of our
highest poets have equalled him. These historical significance greater than would merits are most observable in the poems otherwise belong to it. that approach nearest to classic models ; The excess of the carnal over the as, for example, the idyll of “ Corinna's spiritual element in the prevalent concepgoing a-maying,” and the elegiac verses tion of love, may explain the degenera. * To Perilla ;" * but his least studied tion of feeling into sentiment, and of effusions bear marks of the same train- fancy into ornament, that characterizes ing. Take, for instance, these lines “ To the erotic poetry of the Restoration. Dianeme :"
Sedley, Rochester, and Etherege scarcely Sweet, be not proud of those two eyes
pretend to passion, and are content to Which, star-like, sparkle in their skies;
display their skill in concealing its ab. Nor be you proud, that you can see
sence under the glitter of verbal smartAll hearts your captives, — yours yet free: ness. One unique example, Waller's Be you not proud of that rich hair,
charming poem on a girdle, redeems the Which wantons with the love-sick air; cycle of contemporary love-verse from a Whenas that ruby which you wear,
wholesale charge of insincerity : – Sunk from the tip of your soft ear, Will last to be a precious stone
That which her slender waist confined When all your world of beauty's gone.
Shall now my joyful temples bind ;
No monarch but would give his crown In his erotics, which form nine-tenths
His arms might do what this has done. of the “Hesperides,” tender feeling and delicate fancy are too often tainted with It was my heaven's extremest sphere, an impurity that it is difficult to eliminate,
The pale which held that lovely dear. but there are a few like the following,
My joy, my grief, my hope, my love
Did all within this circle move !
A narrow compass! and yet there
Dwelt all that's good, and all that's fair ;
Give me but what this riband bound,
Take all the rest the sun goes round.
Lord Dorset's “ Phillis, for shame!” But to show thee how, in part,
has also an echo of truth in its tone of Thou my pretty captive art ?
grave remonstrance with a half-hearted But thy bond-slave is my heart. 'Tis but silk that bindeth thee,
mistress, while his spirited lyric, “ To all Snap the thread, and thou art free ;
you Ladies now on Land," written on the But 'tis otherwise with me :
eve of a naval engagement with the I am bound, and fast bound, so
Dutch, affords a rare glimpse of the That from thee I cannot go :
healthy English temper which not all the If I could, I would not so !
corruption of Court-life and the decaAlthough as a painter of manners Her-Idence of statesmanly honour under the rick has left no single sketch so com
| later Stuarts had been able to vitiate. plete as Suckling's famous “ Ballad on a
Of the greatest poets of the age we find Wedding." his profuse allusions to con- but scanty record in the “ Lyra.” Milton temporary customs, games, articles of is wholly absent. Dryden is only repredress, furniture, and viands, afford ample sented by two frigid pieces of sentiment materials from which a picture of his a
vis and one fine fragment, “Fortune," times may be constructed. The lewdness wbich scarcely belongs to the category of that had been fatal to him under the vers de société. Cowley, however, appears Commonwealth was no doubt the ground
to better advantage in his graceful poem, of his popularity under the Restoration ;
“ A Wish," wherein the ideal of rural a popularity to which no consideration of contentment, so dear to the national imthe obligations involved in his calling in
agination, reappears under conditions as can be supposed to have offered any little favourable as possible to its birth hindrance. His poetry thus acquires an
The influence that has left most trace * The description of morning-dew in the former,
upon the social poetry of the next gen“Take no care
eration is that of the sovereignty which For jewels for your gown.or hair ...
France imposed upon our morals and The childhood of the day hath kept
taste at the very time when we had deAgainst you come soine orient pearls unwept;". and the phrase applied to death in the latter,
| throned her from the empire of land and “The cool and silent shades of sleep,'
sea. The prevalence of a cynical, selfish záy serve as illustrations of his exquisite diction. | view of life, of a practical contempt