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study divided with a due attention to breakfast. They who read Reviews for a “ précis” of the last new book, that they may appear to have read it, without having seen it, will skim over our “contents” with sovereign disdain. We can tell them of none, save those whom they might have known long since, and whom they will get no credit for knowing now.
We have been insensibly rled into these observations by a feeling, something like what is called, in philosophy, the“ attraction of repulsion.”—We had been copying the title of a book, which we knew to be the extreme opposite of that which is calculated to please a modern palate. Here is a book which none but they of simple unsophisticated taste may relish-they, whose plain appetites would lead them to drink of the rill, and feast upon rustic fare, may expect a considerable portion of pleasure from the pastorals of the gentle shepherd, William Browne. We hope with“ neat hand” to cull a few, not insipid herbs, for the lovers of nature; but away, ye profane! pampered and highfed, who“ dine with aldermen."
William Browne wrote his poems, when a very young man : filled with pleasing recollections of his native county of Devon, and, apparently, captivated with the poems of Spenser, which had just then appeared, and with the works of the “divine Astrophel,” he deserted the law for “ the muses.” Young, and ignorant of life and manners, well skilled in classic lore, and ardently in love with nature, Spenser, and Sidney, we might easily have imagined the class of poetry, which he was likely to pursue.-He took to writing pastorals, and has composed a series of poems, which, though abounding with pleasing passages, are devoid of all interest or passion, and frequently of all propriety of character or subject. -He seems to have commenced writing, without any object and without any guide, except the assumed character of a shepherd, which he takes no other care to preserve, than by calling his pen a“ pipe," and his readers “ sheep.” We have no subject, story, or plan, from one end to the other of the two long books, or ten songs, of the “ Britannia's Pastorals,” though there are frequent beginnings, and a constant introduction of characters, if they may be so called, who are expected, but in vain, to commence or carry into effect some projected design.—The persons too which are introduced, are the faintest and most indistinct visions of character that ever floated before the eye of a poetical dreamer; and the story, if story may be discovered, is as faint and indistinct as the characters themselves. The whole poem, indeed, gives you the idea of a faded landscape in water colours, found on some damp neglected wainscot, where the original painting has melted away to indistinctness; and in which, the persons of the piece have lost all traits of individuality, and almost all appearance of life and action; and where every thing is tame and
dull, save here and there a bright green hillock, a flourishing
tree, or perhaps in some corner a vivid glimpse of country which
remains miraculously preserved in its pristine hues. Or perhaps
we should convey a clearer idea of these singular volumes, if we
were to compare them to the recollection of a dream—the scene
of which has been laid in the country, and peopled with shep-
herds sitting on green banks,“ piping as if they would never
grow old,”and scornful shepherdesses crossing neatly-cropped
meads, with stately step and disdainful air.—Now, let this vision
be dulled, as dreams usually are before the light of morning, and
let it be mingled with the usual share of absurdities and impro-
babilities which are created and annihilated, one does not know
how, in all dreams, and the reader will have a correct notion of
the Britannia's Pastorals.—There are, however, bright and plea-
sant things even in dreams, which do not share the usual fate, of
fading into frigid inanity on waking; and so it is also in the
poems of William Browne. Though we have now a “seely shep-
herd, seelier than his sheep”—now an elegant young lady
bemoaning herself, in the weeds of a shepherdess-now an alle-
gorical and now an impossible person—now Limos, who is per-
sonified Hunger, running away with Marina,who is intended to be
flesh and blood; and now Riot, who is an allegorical creation,
changed by metanoia into Amyntas, a beautiful young man, for
no earthly purpose—and a thousand other absurdities which have
not even the merit of being laughable-yet there are many parts of
true nature, and of a pleasing order of poetry.
. It will not be expected, after what we have said, that we
should attempt to give any account of the story or substructure
of these pastorals.-The book is one which we can hardly ex-
pect any one else to read, though it does appear to have been a
favorite with many individuals of taste, so that we think it a
favorable subject for our method of exhaustion. We shall
therefore think ourselves at liberty to take up the book, and intro-
duce the only really good passages, or at least those which are
alone worth quoting, in the order that may best suit us.
He opens the first song in this simple strain-
“ I that whileare neere Tavie's stragling spring,
Unto my seely sheepe did use to sing,
And plaid to please myselfe, on rusticke reede,
Nor sought for baye, (the learned shepheard's meede,)
But as a swayne unkent fed on the plaines,
And made the Eccho umpire of my straines :
Am drawne by time, (altho' the weak’st of many)
To sing those layes as yet unsung of any.
What neede I tune the swaines of Thessaly?
Or, bootelesse, adde to them of Arcadie ?
No: faire Arcadia cannot be compleater,
My prayse may lesson, but not make thee greater.
My Muse for lofty pitches shall not rome,
But homely pipen of her native home:
And to the swaynes, love rural minstralsie,
Thus, deare Britannia, will I sing of thee."
Marina, who is the first shepherdess introduced to us, is described in the following extract, which contains some animated lines, as about to drown herself through despair.
“ Here is a mount, whose toppe seemes to despise
The farre inferiour vale that under lies:
Who, like a great man rais'd aloft by fate,
Measures his height by others' meane estate:
Neere to whose foote there glides a silver flood,
Falling from hence, I'll climbe unto my good :
And by it finish love and reason's strife,
And end my misery as well as life.
But as a coward's hartener in warre,
The stirring drumme keepes lesser noyse from farre,
So seeme the murmuring waves, tell in mine eare,
That guiltlesse bloud was never spilled there.
Then stay awhile; the beasts that haunt those springs,
Of whom I heare the fearefull bellowings,
May doe that deede, (as moved by my cry)
Whereby my soule, as spotlesse ivory,
May turne from whence it came, and, freed from hence,
Be unpolluted of that foule offence.
But why protract I time? Death is no stranger,
And generous spirits never feare for danger: .
Death is a thing most naturall to us,
And feare doth onely make it odious.
As when to seeke her foode abroad doth rove
The Nuncius of peace, the seely dove,
Two sharpe-set hawkes doe her on each side hem,
And she knowes not which way to flye from them :
Or like a shippe, that tossed to and fro
With winde and tyde, the winde doth sternely blow,
And drives her to the maine, the tyde comes sore
And hurles her backe againe towards the shore ;
And since her balast and her sailes doe lacke,
One brings her out, the other beates her backe;
Till one of them encreasing more his shockes,
Hurles her to shore, and rends her on the rockes :
So stood she long, twixt love and reason tost.”
The deity of a spring thus resents the insult of some substance being thrown into his stream.
“ the God below,
Starting, to wonder whence that noyse should grow :
Whether some ruder clowne in spite did fling
A lambe, untimely falne, into his spring :
And if it were, he solemnely then swore
His spring should flow some other way: no more
Should it in wanton manner ere be seene
To writhe in knots, or give a gowne of greene
Unto their meadowes, nor be seene to play,
Nor drive the rushy-mils, that in his way
The shepheards made: but rather for their lot,
Send them red waters that their sheepe should rot,
And with such moorish springs embrace their field,
That it should nought but mosse and rushes yeeld.
Upon each hillocke, where the merry boy
Sits piping in the shades his notes of joy,
He'd shew his anger, by some floud at hand,
And turne the same into a running sand.
Upon the oake, the plumbe-tree and the holme,
The stock-dove and the blackbird should not come,
Whose muting on those trees does make to grow
Rots curing hyphear, and the misseltoe.”
The God, finding that it is a beautiful female who has fallen into his domains, makes love to her in the following strain, which flows as smoothly as his spring.
“ Would she be wonne with me to stay,
My waters should bring from the sea
The corrall red, as tribute due,
And roundest pearles of orient hue:
Or in the richer veines of ground
Should seeke for her the diamond.
And whereas now unto my spring
They nothing else but gravell bring,
They should within a myne of gold
In piercing manner long time hold,
And having it to dust well wrought,
By them it hither should be brought;
With which ile pave and over-spread
My bottome, where her foote shall tread.
The best of fishes in my flood
Shall give themselves to be her food.
The trout, the dace, the pike, the breame,
The eele, that loves the troubled streame,
The miller's thombe, the hiding loach,
The perch, the ever-nibling roach,
The shoales with whom is Tavie fraught,
The foolish gudgeon quickly caught,
And last the little minnow-fish,
Whose chiefe delight in gravell is.
In right she cannot me despise
Because so low mine empire lyes,
For I could tell how Nature's store
Of majesty appeareth more
In waters, than in all the rest
Of elements. It seem'd her best
To give the waves most strength and powre;
For they doe swallow and devoure
The earth; the waters quence and kill
The flames of fire: and mounting still
Up in the aire, are seene to be,
As challenging a seignoree
Within the heavens, and to be one
That should have like dominion.
They be a seeling and a floore
Of clouds, caus'd by the vapours' store
Arising from them; vitall spirit
By which all things their life inherit
From them is stopped, kept asunder.
And what's the reason else of thunder,
Of lightning's flashes all about,
That with such violence breake out,
Causing such troubles and such jarres,
As with itselfe the world had warres ?
And can there any thing appeare
More wonderfull, than in the aire
Congealed waters oft to spie
Continuing pendant in the skie?
Till falling downe in haile or snow,
They make those mortall wights below
To runne, and ever helpe desire
From his foe element the fire,
Which fearing then to come abroad
Within doores maketh his aboade,” &c.
The reader will observe, in the following passage, some proofs of Browne's having taken his observations upon nature