Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

gentle and equable flow of melodious verse. Some of the stanzas are tame and weak, and others disfigured by conceit-but, in nearly all those we shall quote, he may have been supposed to have begun "wrapt in a pleasing fit of melancholy, to meditate his rural minstrelsy."

“Under an aged oke was Willy laid,

Willy, the lad who whilome made the rockes
To ring with joy, whilst on his pipe he plaid,
And from their masters woo'd the neighb'ring flocks :

But now o're-come with dolors deepe

That nie his heart-strings rent:
Ne car'd he for his silly sheepe,

Ne car'd for merriment.
But chang'd his wonted walkes

For uncouth paths unknowne,
Where none but trees might hear his plaints,

And eccho rue his mone.
Autumne it was, when droopt the sweetest floures,

And rivers, swolne with pride, ore-look'd the banks,
Poore grew the day of Summer's golden houres,

And void of sap stood Ida's cedar-rankes,

Against the broad-spread oke,

Each wind in furie beares:
Yet fell their leaves not halfe so fast

As did the shepheard's teares.
As was his seate, so was his gentle heart,

Meeke and dejected, but his thoughts as hie
As those aye-wand'ring lights, who both impart
Their beames on us, and heaven still beautifie.

Sad was his looke,

Broke was his tuneful pipe

That charm’d the christall floods.
And thus his griefe took airie wings

And flew about the woods.

O what is left can make me leave to mone!

Or what remains but doth increase it more?
Looke on his sheepe: alas! their master's gone.
Looke on the place where we two heretofore

With locked armes have vow'd our love,

It solitarie seemes.

Behold our flowrie beds; Their beauties fade, and violets

For sorrow hang their heads.
'Tis not a cypresse bough, a count'nance sad,

A mourning garment, wailing elegie,
A standing herse in sable vesture clad,
A toombe built to his name's eternitie,

Although the shepheards all should strive

By yearly obsequies,
And vow to keepe thy fame alive

In spight of destinies,
That can suppresse my griefe:

All these and more may be,
Yet all in vaine to recompence

My greatest losse of thee.
Cypresse may fade, the countenance be changed,

A garment rot, an elegie forgotten,
A herse 'mongst irreligious rites be ranged,
A tombe pluckt down, or els through age be rotten:

All things th' unpartial hand of fate

Can rase out with a thought:
These have a sev'ral fixed date,

Which ended, turne to nought.
Yet shall my truest cause

Of sorrow firmly stay,
When these effects the wings of time

Shall fanne and sweepe away.
Looke as a sweet rose fairely budding forth

Bewrayes her beauties to th' enamour'd morne, Untill some keene blast from the envious north, Killes the sweet bud that was but newly borne, .

Or else her rarest smels delighting

Make her herselfe betray,
Some white and curious hand inviting

To plucke her thence away.
So stands my mournfull case,

For had he been lesse good,
He yet (uncorrupt) had kept the stocke

Whereon he fairely stood.
In deepest passions of my griefe-swolne breast

(Sweet soule !) this onely comfort seizeth me,

That so few yeeres should make thee so much blest,
And gave such wings to reach eternitie.

Is this to die? No: as a ship

Well built, with easie wind
A lazy hulke doth farre out-strip,

And soonest harbour find:
So Philarete fled,

Quicke was his passage given,
When others must have longer time

To make them fit for heaven.

Then not for thee these briny teares are spent,

But as the nightingale against the breere,
'Tis for myselfe I moane, and doe lament,
Not that thou left'st the world, but left'st me here:

Here, where without thee all delights

Faile of their pleasing powre;
All glorious daies seeme ugly nights,

Methinkes no Aprill showre
Embroider should the earth,

But briny teares distill,
Since Flora's beauties shall no more

Be honour'd by thy quill.

This said, he sigh'd, and with o'er-drowned eyes

Gaz'd on the heavens for what he mist on earth ;
Then from the earth full sadly gan arise
As farre from future hope, as present mirth,
Unto his cote with heavy pace

As ever sorrow trode,
He went, with mind no more to trace

Where mirthful swaines abode,” &c.

The Inner Temple Masque has also been thought to have suggested the Comus of Milton. Here, again, it is true that there are some touches which remind the reader of Milton, and the subjects are very similar-being the tempting of Ulysses by Circe, who uses similar inducements and incantations with her son Comus, followed by similar effects. But, as in the case of the Lycidas, the Musque of Comus is, perhaps, the finest poem, of its length, in this or any language; while that of Browne is a meagre sketch, containing but a few lines of poetic beauty. The Syren's song, which they sing to induce Ulysses and his companions to come on shore, has been much commended by Warton.

It has been observed by Mr. Chalmers, that this masque must have been represented when Milton was only twelve years of age, and it was not printed till many years after his death; so that the chance of his having seen it, is even less than the chance of his having imitated it. Inquiries of this nature are, however, otherwise of no importance than as they indicate the steps which a great poet took to nourish and educate his own genius. For, let all be traced to its source which Milton owed to all the books he ever studied, (and there are frequent marks of Browne having been a considerable favourite,) his glory would not be diminished a scruple.

We can, however, afford no more space to the task which we have been attempting, of restoring William Browne to the possession of the bays which flourished brightly on his brow during his life-time, but quickly withered and have never since revived. We have extracted a sufficient portion from his works to enable all to form their own judgments of his merits. We have claimed no very lofty praise for him ; but some share of the attention of the lovers of English poetry, and of those interested in the history of our noble language, we are sure he deserves. He is merely a descriptive poet, and has not attempted to reach the higher walks of poetry. There is no passion of any kind in his productions, nor is there either pathos or humour. His invention, which is esteemed the soul of poetry, gives birth to but a tame and languid progeny of characters and incidents. Yet, with all this, he is a pleasing and amiable poet in his way, and his faults and vices are chiefly attributable to the want of taste, judgment, and knowledge of mankind, incident to the very early age at which he wrote. He seems to have observed the face of nature with the quick eye of a lover, and the scenes and incidents which he could draw from actual experience he has developed with a natural and lively pen. Had he trusted to nature more confidently, and more implicitly followed the bent of his own genius, strengthened by time, he would have excelled in the ethical cast of poetry in which Cowper is so eminent a master, and would, like him, have made his rural observations the ornaments and not the staple of his poetry-On the contrary, we have a bald and spiritless imitation of the descriptive and allegorical parts of Spenser-and what Spenser, with all the richness and vigour of his genius, failed to render an animated creation, Browne could only be expected to produce lifeless and naked. In the commencement of this article, we observed that he had not succeeded in preserving the character of a shepherd, and it is true so far that the real poet is constantly appearing, and that he is put to most awkward expedients to describe the persons and habits of those he introduces, frequently his contemporaries, as guardians of their flocks; but the truth is, the whole poems very much bear the appearance of being written by one who had led a shepherd's life, and sang his song to “ sounds of pastoral reed.” A young shepherd ignorant of the world, of simple manners, and with a deep love and knowledge of the country, would have written with the same want of taste, the same inipotent conception of character, in the same artless and somewhat puerile style of the pastorals of William Browne. There is the same tastelessness, the same want of condensation, and of vigorous and manly dashes of genius, that we should expect to meet with in the amiable, simple, and innocent youth, who had been from his infancy leading his flock from plain to plain, and

"telling his tale

Under the hawthorn in the dale," far from the haunts of men. Ben Jonson, in a eulogium prefixed to these pastorals, has dealt out to our poet a modicum of sturdy praise. Had he been asked in private, we think, he would have said something like what St. Aubert emphatically observed of Valancourt in the Mysteries of Udolpho, “ That young man has never been at Paris.” On the whole his muse cannot be said to possess either the soaring ambition of the eagle, nor yet the equable dignity of the majestic swan ; but she is not without the meek and placid beauty of the dove, and, like her, affects the woods, and sends from their recesses many a deep and tender note.

ART. IX. Various Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Provi

dence ; London, 1761.

Mr. Wallace, the author of the work before us, was of the number of those speculators who have delighted to form schemes of ideal felicity for their species. Men of this class, often despised as dreaming theorists, have been found among the best and wisest of all ages. Those, indeed, who have seen the farthest into their nature, have found the surest grounds of hope even for its earthly destiny. Their gentle enthusiasm has been, at the least, innoxious. The belief, that humanity is on the decline—that the energy of man is decaying—that the heart is becoming harder—and that imagination and intellect are dwindling away-lays an icy finger on the soul, confirms the most debasing selfishness, and tends to retard the blessedness which it denies. We propose, therefore, in this article very

« ПредишнаНапред »